Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Birthday Project

My birth date, December 30th, has long been riddled with problems my entire life.  If you have a birthday between Christmas and New Year's then you know what I am saying.  Expectations are always set for a great day, but they never seem to materialize.  People forget, gifts are combined with Christmas, no one is in town, the plans of New Year's Eve the next night supersede any focus on celebrating with me.  I have even been given guilt trips because of how terribly timed my birthday I had any control over that.  I am understanding, but it still stinks.  Or rather, it always used to stink until this year. 

About a month ago, I discovered "The Birthday Project."  Immediately, I knew this was how to transform the negativity often associated with my birthday into something completely different.  Instead of focusing on me on my birthday, I was going to focus on others.  Instead of receiving gifts, I was going to give gifts.  Some of the ideas were small, some of the ideas were larger, some cost money and some only took my time.  Some of them touched people in my immediate circle, but more went to those I did not know at all. It turned out to be the BEST. BIRTHDAY. EVER.

Here is what I did, in the order in which it happened:

1.  At the gas station, I bought the drinks for the man behind me in line.  He just stared at me like I was a lunatic.  I loved it!
2. Stopped by my Mom's house and gave her lots of hugs and told her how much I love her and cherish her.  She is the best mom in the world, people.  I am so blessed!
3. Gave a dog treat for a dog being walked in the neighborhood.  Surprised look and a big thank you.
4. At the bank, put quarters in all of the gumball machines.  Told the teller all about the Birthday Project which inspired her to the same on her next birthday.
5. A person in the parking lot of the bank had a dog in her car, and I offered a dog treat.  She gave me a big smile, a thank you and a SURE!
6.  At Costco, I let the person behind me get in front of me.  Who doesn't appreciate that!  They did!  Thanked me multiple times as the lines were really, really long!
7.  I gave some money to a homeless woman at the light.
8. I taped 6 bags of popcorn to the RedBox movie box with a note that said, "Free Popcorn for your movie.  Take one and enjoy this random act of kindness"
9. Gave out bottles of water and handwarmers to other homeless people collecting money around the Wendover/I-40 area. Amazed at the appreciation and thanks.
10. Gave a new friend a small bouquet of flowers.  What a way to brighten a day!
11. Gave an old friend a small bouquet of flowers.  Got the best, longest hug!
12.  Stood in the lobby of Target and with permission, gave out single dollar bills to kids coming in so that they could pick out some little treat from the Dollar Section.  Parents thought it was great, no one told me "no," and the kids' grins were priceless.  Got lots of "Happy Birthdays," too!
13.  Distributed 37 handwarmers to men outside of the Open Door Shelter, with the remaining given inside to be distributed.
14. Handed out 22 bottles of water at the Main Bus Terminal in town.  Oh my, the elderly African-American ladies were unbelievably sweet! They give the best hugs! Everyone wished me a happy birthday, too!
15.  Stopped to check on a driver whose car was in distress.
16.  Dropped by the Salvation Army and delivered 36 various chocolate candy bars.  I explained what I was there to do and this was the response, "Wait.  Let me get this straight.  It is your birthday and you are giving US chocolate?  YOU ROCK! What an awesome idea!"  The kids went nuts, by the way.
17.  A lady walking with 3 kids under the age of  8 was walking towards the Salvation Army and I gave her a bouquet of flowers. Oh, the look on her face!  Was it the most practical thing I could have done for her? Probably not. She said, "Who are these for?"  I said, "You!  Everyone deserves something beautiful."  She started crying.  Oh my!
18. Let several cars into a long line of traffic due to road construction.
19. Paid for a man's lunch in the drive thru at McDonald's.
20.  On our last stop, we surprised my 85-year old grandmother.  We gave her 25 yellow roses.  As predicted, she cried.  She always cries over anything slightly emotional, so this was a Niagara Falls moment.

Twenty collective acts that translated to touching over 130 people.  Were these earth-shattering acts? Absolutely not.  Did it brighten someone's day unexpectedly?  I am positive it did so for one person - me!  Will I do it on my birthday next year?  No.  That is because I don't plan on waiting so long to do it again.  I plan on making a conscious effort to do something every single day moving forward, not just on my birthday.  Let the planning begin!

This is not a post about how great Kelsey Dumoulin is because she did this on her birthday.  This project is not about me.  I certainly don't own the creative rights to it. It is about looking outward on day that is usually very self-focused and at times greedy.  This is a post to inspire you to consider The Birthday Project on your special day.  What if everyone did it?!?

Monday, December 05, 2011

Well, hello there little blog.  It has been a while, my friend.  No documenting of our lives has occurred in nearly three months and that just has to be ok with me. A quick list of things that have happened in the last few months that should have warranted some mention, but just haven't:

1. Lily had eye surgery to correct her accommodating esotropia in November.  The muscle located in the inner corner of each eye was cut and shortened in order for the eyes to stay aligned.  Amazing procedure, amazing results.  She did great - better than I would have thought.  Recovery was a snap and she looks "great" as she says.  She will still need glasses, but in time will get wear contacts and later, lasik surgery.

2.  Sadie is no longer swimming.  She is happy; we are happier.  Well, I take that back.  I wish she were swimming because she is good at swimming when she cares about it.  Actually, she is great at swimming, but it isn't interesting to her anymore. She is thinking about a running club, tennis, soccer, horseback riding, and sewing lessons.  Obviously, we are not doing all of that, but it is nice to see that she is curious about many things.

3.  We are raising chickens.  Yes, chickens.  Who would have thought?  It was all Sadie's idea, of course.  We have 1 crevecoer rooster and 2 hens; 1 polish rooster; 3 silkie hens, 1 silkie rooster and 12 silkie chicks of unknown sex.  Jay finally broke down and has purchased a really nice shed to hold the lawnmower, ATV, bikes and I would imagine "chickens and chicken gear."  He re purposed the fort to the old playset and the chickens have quite a nice coop.  Sadie has been diligent in feeding, watering and putting them up in their coop each night.  We are concerned with the amount of predators in the area - hawks, dogs, raccoons, foxes and coyotes.  It is an adventure and sometimes one that I do. not. have time for.  I also do not like Bob, who loves to crank out the cockle-doodle-doos at 4:15 am some mornings.  We haven't gotten any eggs, yet, but are hopeful the girls will start cranking them out soon!

4.  In October, we went on a very last minute trip to the Dominican Republic as a family.  Ethan and Jay spent most of the time scuba diving.  After much coaxing and some freak-out, Lily learned to love snorkeling.  I loved it too as soon as I realized that with Lily practically pushing me under water the entire time, I needed a life vest while she was with me. Sadie just took off with the snorkeling and I spent time trying to keep an eye on her.  I took the girls horseback riding and now all they want to do is take lessons.  Might be a good Christmas idea for them - an intro lesson down the street.  The weather was a great while we were there, the rooms wonderful and food decent.  It was interesting to see Lily struggle with all of the changes.  I thought it would run a little smoother with her, but she didn't quite know how to adjust at times.  Her response was that she wanted to go home, but I track much of this up to the need for more sleep and the over stimulation and activity.  She fell asleep on the beach, one time literally, three of the afternoons.  All in all, a fantastic family trip.

5.  The trip to the DR threw us off in our homeschool schedule and routine more than I thought it would.  I am not sure that I would choose to take an unplanned week off of school again.  It was tough to get the girls back on track and figure out how to rework schedules.  We made it through three continents and basic world geography before I realized it was too much in our daily schedule.  We stopped it after we returned from our trip.  I hope to pick it up over Christmas break...we'll see how that goes.  I had to find a new bible book for Lily because the 3-5th grade book we were using was just too heavy in subject matter.  I still have to make some decision on science and reading for the second half of the year, but for in general feel quite confident where we are in our studies.

6.  I am struggling with how much to push Ethan in school.  I feel he is capable of all As, based on teacher feedback and previous test scores.  He received all As in the first quarter, but I can see that the attention to math detail is a problem for him.  It is stressful to always be teetering at that 92 mark wondering whether he can bring it up in time.  I am sure I impart this stress onto him.  I finally told him that if he did his best, then ok.  What do you do?  Push him, or let him find his way.  Take away television or screens so he can devote more time in practice, or be satisfied with a B?  What am I teaching him?  Still in prayer over this one.

7.  We are still attending morning swim practices.  Ethan and I have adapted quite well, in fact.  I get my workout in and he feels extra energetic with morning practices.  He has made such strides in his swim times this year.  I know he is pleased.  I hope the trend continues.  Last year, we saw a near complete halt to any drops in time after Christmas.  He is working hard, but at times just wants to do noth-ing - no school, no work, no chores, no lego robotics, noth-ing.  I have thought about if he is over scheduled, and am considering some changes in the first of the year.  In addition, I have completed the requirements to become a Stroke & Turn Judge for USA Swimming.  It took some effort and I am pleased to have accomplished it.

8.  It is Christmas time.  Too many things going on and trying as every year to create the magic of the holidays for the kids.  I love traditions and I love seeing my kids get excited to relive our favorite ones, even if it drives me a little batty.  We do gingerbread houses, craft Saturday (where we make ornaments), Bags for the Bus Stop, driving to look at Christmas lights with family, our church Christmas performance, and finally hosting a Christmas party.  Right now, I don't foresee being able to get it all done, but you never know.  Sometimes things just magically fall into place.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Day in the Life...and it is killing me.

You know when you have a day where it seems every minute is planned?  I had one of those days today.  In fact, every day since school began has been those days.  I wanted to document just one day in order to remember when I am old, the kids are gone, and I am retired and I declare to my now adult children, "I am so busy!"

4:45 am  Alarm goes off.  I lie there for a couple of minutes, debating whether I am actually going to get up or not. I do this almost every morning I have to use an alarm clock.  I don't know why I do it.

4:48 am  Crawl into Ethan's bed to wake him up, secretly hoping he says he can't possibly go to swim practice so I can return to bed.

4: 50 am Throw on work-out clothes and walk to kitchen to discover Ethan has forgotten to pack a lunch so I throw a sandwich, some grapes and a granola bar in a bag.  I remembered to have Ethan take all school and swim stuff into the car the night before - score one for me.

5:00 am  Head out to swim practice.  Notice that my left pinkie, end digit is very sore.  Wonder if it is possible to sleep the wrong way on your the end digit of your pinkie.  Realize that it is a ridiculous thought and I must be tired if I am spending time on it.

5:05 am Realize Ethan is wearing flip flops and has not packed his tennis shoes in his swim bag, return home because he cannot wear flip flops to school

5:12 am Head back out to swim practice

5:29 am Arrive at practice nearly 15 minutes late.  Chat briefly with another swim mom (commiserating, really) and head to the treadmill

6:15 am End work out, head to car to get gas and coffee

6:30 am Sit in lobby of sports center and work on homeschool planning for October in history and science.

7:25 am Ethan finishes practice, showers and we head to school

7:40 am  Help Ethan into school with large backpack, lunch in a plastic grocery bag because he forgot his lunch box the day before, trumpet case, and large cardboard box covered in black paper to look like a car for a skit he had later today.  We slapped it together last night as that was when I was notified of the need.

8:00 am Return home to find girls in kitchen finishing up breakfast and Jay in the shower.  On the way home receive call from my mother reminding me that she would not teach Sadie Latin later today.  I laughed at her "reminder" because I hardly remembered our initial conversation.  Think to myself that it is probably a good thing that she doesn't have Latin because I can use that extra time to get a lot of things done.  That ended up being a misconception that I will note further in the day.

8:15 am Change out laundry, check email, squawk at girls to head upstairs to get dressed and head to the bonus room to being school.

11:15 am  Several moments of huffing and puffing/borderline fits and school is done.  I realize that although Sadie does not have Latin, they still have piano at 1 pm and I don't have the 3.5 hours I thought until I had to pick up Ethan.  I really only have 2.

Tell the girls to finish getting ready, crush their teeth, grab some lunch. I jump into the shower.  While half-dressed, I call the vet to see I can drop off our dog, Bobo, our one-eyed, thirteen-year-old, almost deaf mutt.  He has about eaten himself up with his annual dermatitis/allergies and needs a steroid shot.  I also note in my call history that the Honda place had returned my call from the previous day.  I had completely forgotten I made the initial call to drop my van by for some repairs. 

11:55 am  Throw 2 girls, 2 piano bags, and one mangy looking dog into the van.  Start to pull out of the garage when I realize that I need to unload the van as the dealership might have it for several days.  Start dumping contents of the trunk of my car (swim bags, etc.) onto the floor of the kitchen.

12:10 pm Arrive at vets.  As always in September, I am appalled at the "look" of my dog, Bobo, when I have to take him in.  Half the hair on his back is gone and there is always one or two really nasty looking spots.  He can accomplish this look in about 3-5 days and the vet assures me that it is ok.  While waiting for the vet tech to come collect Bobo for his medicated bath and shot, another man waiting in the lobby said, "Got werms?" in a very southern drawl.  I said in a tad of a prideful voice, "Oh no, he just has allergies.  We have to come every September to get this done."  The man replied, "Well, a wer-em just came outta he-is butt."  Sure enough. Indeed, there was a small worm hanging from you know where.  Ugh!  My dog had tape worms from a flea he ingested somewhere between a month or six months ago.  My thoughts raced to the fact that we have had him indoors a lot lately. 

12:30 pm Call Honda to make sure a shuttle was available to take us to the office once we dropped off the car. En route to the Honda dealership, some ding dong was riding his bike without a helmet on Westchester Drive.  Not only did he not have a helmet, but I think his brakes didn't work.  He tried to use his feet as brakes on a steep incline while riding in the gutter and nearly fell off his bike and into my path.  I said lots of prayers, slammed on the brakes, and emitted a slight shriek.  Thankfully, he recovered control of his bike and then looked at me as if I had done something wrong.

12:40 pm Arrive at Honda.  List the myriad of issues with my car.  Making sure they noted that the passenger sliding door has still had plenty of problems despite me randomly bringing by and leaving it to their disposal (once for 4 days) to repair.  It had never malfunctioned in their care.  I was redeemed this time because it didn't open when I pushed the button.  Yes!  Call Jay to tell him to have the spare car ready at the office.  He said he didn't have time because his conference call with the Employment Security Commission was in 10 minutes for a former employee who quit his job and was trying to collect unemployment.  Hope for the best as we are shuttled to the office with 2 girls, 2 piano bags, my overloaded pocket book and a booster seat.  For once, I remembered to grab the garage door opener!

12:54 pm Arrive at Jay's office.  Note the spare car out front.  Yay for Jay!  Run into to collect keys.  Have girls dump all things into the car.  Realize that the last person to use the radio was listening to a rap station.  The radio is slow to respond to the controls, and I was afraid we were going to have to listen to it for the remainder of our drives.  However, it finally responded to my repeated turning of the volume and power switch.

12:55 pm Run to piano, knowing we will be about 5 minutes late. Lily works on her piano theory while we wait and I eat chocolate dusted almonds.  I realize it was the first thing I have eaten all day.  I have had 2 VERY large cups of coffee, however.  Receive text from a friend who inquires if I want to get botox with her.

1:30 pm Sadie returns to the car and Lily goes in.  I think I have enough time to run to Staples to pick-up Ethan's student council poster.  He was willing to pay the $8 for the print-out with his own money.  I uploaded it last night.  As I leave the piano teacher's house, I receive a call from Staples that they had problems all morning with their computers and had not printed the poster.  However, they wanted to confirm one thing before they did.  I told them I was on my way and they said they would have it ready.

1:42 pm  Arrive at Staples.  Sadie runs to the bathroom.  I collect the poster and am happy to hear they will not charge me the standard $5 rush fee since I requested to have it completed prior to 24 hours.  I didn't know about the fee, so their computer glitch turned out to be a blessing.  By this time Sadie arrived at the print counter with some more mechanical pencils.  I told her no.  She retreated and returned with the lead refills.  That purchase made us late to return to the piano teacher's house and I was irritated.

2:05 pm Arrive at piano teacher's house to see Lily sitting on the front porch.  I see her mouthing the words, "Why are you late?"  Before she gets in the car, I tell Sadie she has to tell her why.  When Lily hops in the car, Sadie offers her some Sour Patch Candy straws as a peace offering.  She also offers Lily 2 candy dots.  Lily offers her the sucker she has just picked from the goodie box at piano.  After Lily gets the 2 candy dots, she reneges on the sucker.  An ensuing tiff begins in the back seat.  In the end, Lily takes one lick of the sucker and gives it to Sadie who happily finishes it.

2:30 pm  Arrive at school to pick-up Ethan.  Have poster in hand.  Ethan takes it to show his class mates in the pick-up line and is thrilled with it.  We take it upstairs to his homeroom so it is ready to hang.  I make Ethan look for the Student Council application in his locker which he hasn't been able to locate.  We don't find it, so we grab another copy from his teacher's desk.  I connect with the Language teacher who prints out a final make-up quiz Ethan needs to take.  Then I connect with the Spanish teacher as we are leaving who indicates Ethan will have a make-up quiz on Friday on material he knows nothing about.  Great.

3:00 pm  Leave the school, calling to see if Bobo is ready for pick-up and most importantly, if he has been de-wormed.  He is ready.  Also note that I have once again missed the call from Honda.  Returning their call, I learned that they have discovered my problem with the door is a latch issue.  They also said the terrible rattling in my steering wheel when braking is from warped rotators.  I need a brake job.  Ka-ching.  I turn down the 90,000 mile service checks as most had either been done or to me could wait.  They did say that I needed a steering wheel flush/change and something else I can't recall.  I opted for those two as they never offer me services like that.  Finally, and the best of all...they are going to shampoo my carpets for me...FOR FREE!!!! I don't care if it was out of pity - as I am sure it was - I feel so blessed!  The car will probably be ready late Friday or Monday, depending on parts.

3:15 pm  Pick-up Bobo, pay $74.  One more medicine dose and the worms are history.  Listen to the kids crack up about the "wer-ems in your butt" story the entire way home and finally banished that line altogether for the rest of the day.

4:00 pm Arrive home,  Ethan begins homework.  Chores doled out and I decide to lie down for just 30 minutes because I cannot think straight.  Check email, and return several.  Five minutes after I am settled into bed, I hear Jay is home. Decide to nap anyway even though it is already 4:30 pm 

5:15 pm Wake-up in a complete pool of drool.  Realize that I don't have the motivation or time to make stuffed peppers.  I have never made that recipe before, nor have I ever eaten them.  I just have a TON of green peppers from my garden and need to do something with them.  Decide to make a quick, homemade soup instead and beg forgiveness. 

6:00 pm  Eat dinner, clean-up kitchen, start dishwasher, check-in with Ethan who is working on his Student Council application.  Change out laundry.  Fold laundry while sitting with family while watching River Monsters.  Totally didn't like that show.  Jay sends Lily to take a shower.  I dole out the final "clean-up your rooms, stairs, and shoes" warnings.  I end up having to help Lily with her shower and brush her hair.

7: 30 pm Last details of clean-up chore gets done.  Lily requests a desert and a little tv time.  Sadie still puttering around upstairs.  Ethan is done and has some computer time. 

8:15 pm Everyone sent to bed.  Ethan begs for some more time as he is in 6th grade.  Jay indulges and tells him he must be in bed by 9 pm - his responsibility to keep up with the time and there are consequences if he isn't in bed by then.  Jay asks me if he should go ahead and give him his punishment now.

8:30 pm  I am in bed writing this blog.  I am reminded about my sore pinkie.  I ask Jay what he thinks.  He comes up with some ridiculous response and I realize that asking him was about as stupid as thinking about it this morning at 5:00 am.

Is this a normal day for most moms?  I mean...this is every day for me.  How to stop this out of control train?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

This is how life is rolling these days at the Dumoulin house...

Last week, I went to 7 doctors appointments. One for Ethan, one for Lily and 5, yes, 5 for me.

Ethan's appointment was to confirm no additional complications from a marathon viral infection that lastest 12 days, missing 6 days of school. This week he is finally recovering some of his energy he lost from a constant fever for that long. He has just stopped falling asleep mid-day, yet still has a random cough that produces gags.  He is slowly returning to normal.

Lily's appointment was in Greensboro with her pediatric opthamologist. She will have eye surgery sometime in the next month for her accomodating esotropia. Her very strong glasses are not fully correcting her vision issues, so they will cut the muscle to tighten it. This procedure is done at a day surgery center and lasts about 20 minutes. I believe there is some discomfort the first day or two and then a week of a bloody looking eye, reminiscient of the worst pink eye you have seen.  Poor Lily.

My situation was a little more complicated, but the results were very positive. I had an MRI and mammogram and an appointment with my OB-GYN all in the same day (3 appointments right there). Talk about being exposed, poked, and prodded. I felt just one step away from porn status, really. As usual with my situation, I am declaring war with my insurance company over the MRI which is recommended by every medical board with my life-time risk of breast cancer being over 20%. It is actually 26%, but when you get over 20% does it really matter? Regardless, they won't cover it, which means $1,400 out of pocket for me each and every time. Aren't they gems?

The remaining two appointments were because they found some area of concern on my MRI. This the third time this has happened. Their recommendation was to biopsy the area assisted by MRI. After the procedure I was sent for another mammogram to note the location of an injected clip. The clip is used to mark where they collected the tissue. All very heavy and all very irritating at the same time. Not too emotional this go around, but more like, why is this happening again? At what point will I not have any tissues left to take? My MRI tech was quite a "McDreamy" making it all very interesting to be sitting there with the front of my gown open, exposing one side. However, my doctor pretty much destroyed that enjoyment by squeezing my boob as if checking to see if the melon were ripe...right in front of him. To be more accurate, I should say squeezing like a peach, as she tried to control the bleeding of the biopsy entry point. Nothing says "hot" like having steri-strips and neosporin gooped on the side of you, while incoherently saying you are fine with a gigantic red mark on your forehead from laying face down on your stomach for 30-45 minutes. The bottom line and fantastic news is that the results were negative for anything cancerous. Now, I just need to decide how much it is worth to continue with these "recommended" tests.  I am also reconsidering genetic testing although that isn't fool-proof either.
Ethan is running for student council, thinking about a hip hop dance class and participating in Cotillion. For those not in the south, Cotillion is a class that teaches manners, etiquette, and basic dance skills. Ironically, we were 30 minutes late to the first class as I wrote the time down incorrectly. Who is late for a class on etiquette?  The Dumoulins. 

The hip hop dance thing is unsettling to me. I know I am being ridiculous, but sometimes I just live in the 19th century, ok? He even said he was ok with taking jazz or tap if he had to as he might "enjoy" that. Gosh, I hope he really wants to do this because he knows he can meet some girls. Either way, as this "interest" sinks in, we will play the waiting game on exploring our options.

We, meaning Ethan, resumed morning swim practices today. I am most thrilled to report that our gracious coach has delayed the start of practice by 15 minutes. Now, I only have to have Ethan at the Sports Center at 5:15 am instead of 5:00 am. Nice. Wake-up time is an easy 4:45...still considered to be the night before, not this morning by me. When I returned home at 8 am, I had taken Ethan to practice, worked-out (translation: walked on a treadmill for 30 minutes at 3.5), made a run to Wal-Mart (NO ONE is at Wal-Mart at 6:15 am), grabbed a cup of coffee at Chik-fil-a, picked Ethan back up and hauled him to school. Of course, he left his gym clothes in the car which meant another trip to the school. However, I thought my productivity prior to 8 am was pretty admirable considering I can easily sleep until 9:30 or 10 am on weekends. Deep down, could I be a morning person? No. It is all because I love my son. It is now 12:30 pm as I type this and I can hardly keep my eyes open. Did I say how much I love my son? By the way, it was a first for me to go into a Wal-Mart while it was dark, only to exit when it was getting light. I thought people only did that when they went to bars in Europe.

Lily has taken to shouting out random math problems throughout the day.  Yesterday afternoon, as she lounged on our oversized chair in the kitchen, she announced that 700 plus 600 equals 1300.  Cuddling up with me before bed, she did a borrowing subtraction problem with 3-digit numbers out loud, without paper. If you don't know what that is, I think it was something like 318-189=129.  She is nutso over math and I do not get it at all.

What other ridiculousness is going on our family, you ask? Well, homeschool, of course. How does one homeschool when at at doctor's office more than her own house? Well, she doesn't. Complete fail last week for the most part. Here's another eye opener...using the instructor's manual is actually a helpful thing when teaching math. Sometimes I wonder how my children know anything. For the first time in our brief homeschooling journey, I have given up on a curriculum choice for one of my girls. The bible course I used with Sadie during 3rd grade is just too difficult for Lily. Words like attributes, polytheism, and atheist are not ones Lily can retain. At. all. Time to do some research.  Today we had some success with two little experiments in science.  One was throwing marbles in bowls of flour to demonstrate how craters are made and the impact they have on a planet's surface.  The other was melting butter to pour over custard bowl which was covered in four.  This was to mimic a volcanic eruption.  The key part to this was that when the butter cools, it hardens up a bit like the lava does when it cools. 

I have found that here is little substitute for the retention of information than hands-on study and/or video enforcement.  To compliment our study of Australia, our family watched a great documentary about Australia Saturday morning.  The kids squawked a bit through it and I threatened to give them a pop quiz.  Afterall, I am the teacher.  I can do that sort of thing.  In the end though, we all learned a lot and each child could give me 2-3 different facts about Australia.  Netflix has become our greatest ally in this type of teaching. Once we complete our notebook section on Australia, they might be ready to go eat some vegemite!  Next up...AFRICA in our semester of World Geogrpahy!  I have about 6 movies in the queue.  That will probably send them over the edge. 

As I down my third cup of caffiene today, I wonder how I will get anything else done.  The projects just keep piling up and home maintenance keeps getting shoved farther and farther down the list.  My view is that if God wanted me to get them done, then He would give me the time.  Right?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

There are times in your life, moments really, when you know what you are experiencing can only be the work of God. I am in one of those moments.  There have been four of these clear touches over the last two weeks.  It has left me stunned. 

I had been struggling with several situations over the past month or so.  I could not let the emotions of the situations go.  They circled my brain constantly and I allowed them to taint other relationships.  I allowed them to control me.  It made me angry and bitter. Angry because of how people were behaving and angry because I allowed it to impact me.  Bitter because their behavior was negatively impacting those I loved and bitter because I couldn't make it right.

My relationship with God has been rather lax over the past 4 years.  Sure, there have been moments of clarity, but largely murky and undefined.  My purposeful commitment, my focus, my drive were simply missing.  Someone told me that it takes fives years to "recover" from a traumatic life event.  I have experienced that, as I round into the 5th anniversary of my sister's passing.  I can recognize this same journey in another friend who is about 1-2 years behind me.

Over this past month, I was so mired and wrapped up in such mess that I could not think straight.  I could not release it.  At the bottom of the pit, I had a confront the issue head on which would have resulted nothing short of total disaster, permanently destroying relationships.  OR, I could turn it all over to God. 

It was late, late one night in August as I was trying to fall asleep. Future confrontational conversations were swirling and playing out in my head as it had for nearly a month.  I felt my shoulders tense, my head began to pound, my anger rose.  At that moment, I was utterly defeated.  I let out an audible sigh.  Then, I slowly and timidly slid my toe into the waters of forgiveness and restoration.  My conversation was brief, yet to the point. Take it all, God, take it all from me.... take the thoughts, the irritations and bitterness, and take my hurt.  Help me to forget this.  Help me to stop the negative feelings.  Remove it all.  I woke up several times during the night and prayed the same prayer.  Take it ALL.

From that time forward I have continued to receive confirmation that God is at work.  Little signs that may appear to be insignificant alone, but together you just know.  The timing of these moments are so perfect in their execution that they are the work of the perfecter of my faith.  The all-consuming thoughts have now been reduced to fleeting moments.  The time spent dwelling replaced with praise and prayers.  My vision to this journey is that I used to have a little piece of yarn running between God and me, thin and a little limp. Now, I have this thick cord, strong, full of lots of little cords all woven together. 

My gratitude has been so overwhelming that I nearly fell to my knees at one point.  Not only do I see the impact in my own heart, I see it in my family.  Sadie brought me her bible last night which she had marked in several places.  She wanted to discuss some of what she read.  The others have amped up their praying, though I have not prodded them.  My own focus has been in growing in Him, trusting Him. 

I am in awe.  I would even go so far as to say shocked.  I don't know why I am as He has never left me.  He has always been there.  My eyes were elsewhere so I did not see or feel His presence.  Lord, give me the strength to never let my eyes stray again.  Life is too good where I am now.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Where Was I?

I was seven months pregnant and had an early morning ob-gyn appointment.  I left the appointment and headed to my job as an Account Manager for a publication serving the home furnishings industry.  As I pulled into the parking lot, I remember distinctly, the radio dj announcing that a "small plane, like a cessna" had hit one of the World Trade Towers.  At that point, it appeared to be an errant plane and I was amazed that a building could withstand a plane hit and not collapse.  As I made my way to my cubicle, I noticed my colleagues crowded into my boss's office glued to the television, silent.  I walked in and was quickly given the update.  One large plane into one of the towers.  As we sat there, we watched the next plane fly into the other tower.  I remember being completely stunned. The pit in my stomach growing as each minute passed.  Watching the faces of those in NY, everyone trying to make sense of it all.  I remember being the only one who could actually access CNN online.  I don't know how or why, but I was.  Then, the plane hit the pentagon.  I recall telling this news to some colleagues on the floor below us.  Their reaction full of fear and disbelief.  I wondered if this meant we were at war and with whom.  I wondered what this meant for my 15 month old and my unborn daughter. The first tower fell and the inescapable moans and "oh no, no, nos" of those watching these events around that small television added to the tension and panic in the air. Out of our office windows, we watched plane after plane being diverted to our airport.  There was no work to do that day as everything in the world seemed insignificant to what was unfolding on the television.  Local news alerted us to heightened security around the large propane gas field directly across the street from our office complex.  We were told to go home. I am sure that I made phone calls to family and friends, glued to the television the rest of the day at home, but honestly, the rest of the day is lost.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Things I Find Fantastic

1. Fishing
2. Kettle Chips
3. Alone time with my family of five
4. Teaching History
5. Chicken Curry dish at Saffron India Restaurant
6. Researching chickens- as in raising them
7. Homemade French Toast with real french toast
8. Decorative edge paper punches
9. Duck Tape crafts
10. Foreign language films, particularly the run of Dutch ones Jay has played every night

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Not Today.

I am hiding in my room.  Yes, hiding.  For the moment I cannot deal with my middle child, my stomping, slinging, irritated, grumpy, frustrated middle child.  All of this energetic display over...long division.  She knows how to do it, but just doesn't want to do it.  Can I blame her?  I hated it.  Yet, the workbook pages are there, empty, waiting.  Not only does she not want to do it, but she doesn't want to keep the problems "in line."  She wants to do it her way and wants to understand fully why she must keep it looking orderly.  I am not about to explain dividing decimals to her at this point.  She just doesn't like how it looks to have a remainder dangling out there in space, not above a line.  I just walked out of the room.  Not going to entertain her today.  Not going to give her an excuse as to why she is still at her desk after we have picked Ethan up from school.  Not going to argue or console or assist her to the point of doing the work for her.  Not going to do it today.  The burden is hers, not mine.  So, I hide.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Two Lessons from an Eleven Year Old

Having faith like a child. It has been more than that from my oldest. He has become the teacher. It has caused me to think deeply about many of my positions and statements. It has been humbling.
This year, the eldest has taken a vested interested, rather, determined to be friends with everyone in his class, from the quasi-bully to the meek to the semi-irritating. This is a trait he exhibited a bit last year. I have been highly supportive of this effort. That is, until he determined himself to be closely associated with the child that might be deemed "troubled." He began to tell me the story of how he realized this boy didn't have many friends and was seldom alone in class, the lunchroom, etc. I began questioning him if that were such the wise choice. I thought, "Oh no, the other boys will no longer want to be his friend. He will be assumed to be along the lines of this boy. He will lose his position in class." I began to question him to help him see the light. it was my job to help him navigate the tricky social waters of middle school. He need to make sure to rotate through all the boys, not lingering with this one too long. Then, my wise son said, "Mom, why do you not want me to sit with him? Isn't that the first place Jesus would sit? You know, Mom, this boy is actually really nice. I feel blessed to have been able to sit with him the past couple of days. He doesn't care about being popular, or being cool. He is real, Mom." I sat there with my head very low. He was right. He was doing what mattered. My position was completely and totally wrong. Lesson #1

The eldest is going through his first 12 week band rotation. All the kids were able to try out various instruments and then list their first and second choices down on paper. A few days later instruments were distributed much to the delight and dismay of their new owners (or rather renters as the school owns the instruments). My son proudly popped into the back seat of the car with...a trumpet. Thrilled at the prospect of the instrument that he had in his possession, he quickly undid the case, put the trumpet together and blared a half-way decent note in the car. Ouch to my ears, but he was clearly over the moon. Later that evening, his father learned of the trumpet. Unbeknownst to the rest of the family, Jay has always had a desire to blow a trumpet and learn to play. He had the eldest to bring the trumpet to him. Jay picked it up, took one big breath and...nothing. Over and over again Jay tried to create any sort of sound roughly related to the horn to come from the trumpet Nothing. Ethan patiently advised him, encouraged him, and cheered him on. Ethan held onto the sides of his mouth where air was escaping. Still, nothing. I found the entire situation rather amusing. I don't recall ever having seen Jay not be able to achieve something he wanted. My laughter was fairly continuous. Ethan, however, settled me down and continue to "work" with Jay. Seeing Ethan so patiently and encouragingly deal with Jay stopped me in my tracks. This is how God intends us to train our children. In the end, Ethan didn't ridicule his father for being such a failure at the instrument, but offered up that maybe Jay's lips were just too big and that one day he just knew he would do it. Lesson #2

Sunday, August 28, 2011

End of School Year Review

School ended.  It ended nearly 2 months ago and I let it slip by with nary a mention.  Ideas for this blog come and go as I go about my days, but they don't find their way onto this screen.  My picture taking is down, my scrapbooking nonexistent, documentation of the little things is dwindling.

As I type this, I am sitting in the car heading home from our week at Ocracoke Island.  What a wonderful thing technology is that I have Internet access on a laptop in a moving car.  It certainly helps pass the time.

Ethan is now a middle schooler. Sixth grade looms ahead in the fall.  I remember those sticky middle school years and it makes me long for the next three tumultuous years to pass quickly.  He ended the year with an all A average. He had 2 Bs throughout the year, but they were both one point away from an A, so it wasn't too difficult to turn those into all As for the year. He had some pretty fantastic remarks from his teachers as well, so I feel good about where he is headed.  Stanford scores, once again, qualify him for the Duke Tip program in several areas. He begged to do Math Camp at school this summer...who am I to turn that down?  He still has some maturing to do in regards to goofiness and blabbering, but sometimes I think I am too hard on some naturally occurring irritations of an 11 year old boy.  He is still swimming and enjoying it, but I believe that the craziness of this activity has subsided.  This will be a nice addition to his high school transcript, but he is more likely to benefit from his academic gifts in the future, than he ever will in sports.

Sadie finished our first year of homeschool.  We struggled a bit in the end with completing work and our enthusiasm for learning. However, she learned what she needed and then some.  She showed strong gains overall in her Stanford Testing scores with the exception of Math.  It wasn't as high as last year, but still higher than her class average.  Reading was fantastic and Listening showed a tremendous gain.  Her scores qualify for the Duke Tip program in several areas, too.  I tribute that to the necessity of focusing on me, her teacher, at all times.  The environment of homeschool does not allow for daydreaming.  Although most school work comes easily for her, she just doesn't care about it.  I don't know if it is boredom, or lack of motivation, but rarely do I see Sadie "tackle" school work with keen focus on accuracy and completing her task to the best of her ability.  She would much prefer to be outside, collecting animals to care for and to learn about.  She dawdled about with swimming this year.  Some days she cared, some days she could have cared less.  Considering she probably put forth about 40% effort total for the year, she did all right.  One area in which I never had to prod her was with her piano and participation in the arts (drama and dance).  She practiced without any reminders and seemed always to enjoy being on stage.  I always wonder what Sadie could actually achieve in academics, sports, whatever, if she actually put forth what I see is her total potential.  I don't think this is something I can teach her, but is something she has to figure out herself.  However, I also believe that happiness and joy are always going to be more important to her than success.  Should I really complain about that?  Shouldn't we all be that way?

Lily finished her 1st grade year with very high marks, a perfect report card.  Considering she is one of the youngest in her class and that we were advised to consider holding her back in school, I am pleased.  I think the biggest shocker to me, however, were her Stanford scores.  Not only did she vastly improve her scores over last year, her reading lexile score was 900 (about a 6th grade level).  What a little sneaker!  She can act so incapable of everyday tasks sometimes that I think there might be an issue.  Now, I realize that she just likes to act like a baby.  She still has this amazing sense of imagination and ability at creative play.  She loves to do summer work and learn. In fact, she brought her summer workbook with her to a swim meet to pass the time. She is not necessarily the most coordinated child, so swimming is a good sport for her. It forces her to work on that aspect of her body.  Also, she can go at her own pace and I would venture to guess that we may still only have three legal strokes at the end of this year.  She, too, loved piano and any sort of musical activity she was involved in.  She received the "Friendliest" award this year for her class.  Her enthusiasm for new things never wavers and she is the first to bring along her friends who might not feel as confident.  Lily has no clue she might not be "good" at something, an attitude I hope remains for a very long time. 

It was a solidly successful year for the Dumoulins.  We are incredibly blessed to have been given these three precious gifts.
If you could understand the motives of my heart.
If you could understand the depth of my concern and love for you.
If you could understand that seeing your world start to crumble is nearly as painful for me as it is you. 
If you could understand that I am willing to damage and possibly sacrifice my relationship with you for you.
If you could understand that I was coming from a place of truth and true compassion and worry. 
If you could understand that I have been there. 
If you could understand that I know what you are running from. 
If you could understand that I know that most of your justifications help mask the hurts you have had.
If you could understand that the others in your life deserved more from you.
If you could understand that the commitment you made to others is more important than yourself.
If you could understand that.
You would understand why.

Love = service + sacrifice

Monday, August 22, 2011

First Days of School

We have rounded the corner into another school year.  Ethan took off yesterday as a middle schooler.  Jay took him to school for the first day without me.  It didn't help that Ethan announced that I was sometimes embarrassing with my photo taking. (gee, thanks, Ethan)  I am still wrapping my mind around his entry into middle school.  I remember those years full of social challenges and meandering foci.  My prayers is for him to be a tad more guided and focused as he navigates the hormone-infested waters that is the middle school pool.  This is the first year that he will change classes throughout the day, garnering a new set of classmates in each class.  In some ways this is a good thing in that issues going on throughout the day are not festered by being in the same environment.  However, he isn't around some of his friends for much of that day.  All in all, he seems very determined to have a banner year.

We began homeschool yesterday, although Sadie was sick.  I wasn't pushing too much with her, but went head-first with Lily. Lily was pretty enthusiastic, particularly with math.  She kept wanting to do more and more, asking when she would get to her times tables.  We still have to tackle subtraction with renaming before we get to that.  She is a girl who is constantly drilling in on patterns and sequences.  I love to see how her mind works as she discovers and creates these strings of order throughout her day whether in a store, nature, or her room.

Sadie had been running a fever for several days, but finally seemed to be coming out of it yesterday.  My kids are so rarely sick that on the rare times that they are, I am needlessly worded.  However, as the day wore on, she drifted into the bonus room and settled in to start some work...without being asked.  What a turn around from last year! I think having Lily at home is definitely going to be a huge encouragement.

Here is our plan for the first half of the year with the girls:

Sadie 4th Grade
Language - Abeka, Language A
Easy Grammer 5 for reinforcement and extra practice
Reading Comprehension - Jacob's Ladder- It is a very challenging program for gifted kids, so we are starting with 2nd-3rd grade level to get the swing of things. 
Writing - Daily 6 Trait Writing. 
Math - Singapore 4A, however I realized yesterday that we need to do about 2 weeks of 3A/3B review before moving to new material. 
Spelling - Spelling Workout, Level E
Geography - Around the World in 180 Days.  We will do an overview of World Geography for the first half of the year.  This is a great series because it offers several levels within the same book, meaning you can revisit it a couple years, drilling down deeper each time.
Science - Astronomy by Apologia. 
History - A Story of the World, Part 1.  We did this out of order last year, beginning with Part 4 which was a 4th - 8th grade level.  I am discovering that Part 1 will be a piece of cake for Sadie after doing Part 4. It is history through the last Roman Emperor.
Bible/Worldview - Who Am I?  by Apologia.  They have created a journal to go along with this series.  Can not wait to delve into it.

P.E.  Swimming 2x a week, Soccer
Arts:  Drama, Dance, Piano, Cake Decorating
Extras:  Lego Physics

Sadie has pretty decent handwriting, so I am not going to push her to do this every day.  It will probably be something I use as filler when we have a light day.  I also picked up some fun brain teaser books to break up the monotony of schedule.

Her goals for the year include:
1. Having a great attitude
2. Increasing accuracy in all her work.
3. All written work to completed in complete, grammatically correct sentences

She would also like to plan, shop for and cook an entire dinner this year. She is very excited about this.

Lily 2nd Grade

Language - Abeka, Language 2

Writing - Writing with Ease 2, which also serves as reading comprehension practice
Math - Singapore 2A, which I suspect she will fly through based on yesterday's work.
Spelling - Spelling Workout, Level C
Geography - Around the World in 180 Days.
Science - Astronomy by Apologia, in conjunction with Sadie
History - A Story of the World, Part 1.
Bible/Worldview - Who Is God? by Apologia.
Handwriting - Transitions

P.E.  Swimming 2x week, Soccer
Arts:  Piano, Dance, Music class
Extras:  Lego Physics, Marvels of Nature

Lily's handwriting and fine motor skills are pretty atrocious.  I am trying not to get too freaky about them, but know we have got to get serious about them.  She cannot tie her shoes yet, so obviously this is where we start to work.

Her goals this year include:
1. To become more independent
2. To learn to control her emotions
3. Read, read, read

I also want Lily to fix and clean-up breakfast for Sadie and Ethan, learn to ride her bike without training wheels, and tie her shoes (as mentioned above).

Here we go!

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Homeschooling 2.0

A year ago, I embarked on a journey to unfamiliar territory.  I became a homeschooler.  I knew that it was the path chosen for me and my middle one, but the map was out of focus and the destination unknown.  I could only see Day 1, but not any farther.  Now, I type this entry heading into year 2.  I will homeschool my middle one again, but this year, I will add the youngest one into the mix.  Homeschooling 2.0 for 2.  More uncharted territory, but definitely not as overwhelming or daunting.

I enjoy answering questions about homeschooling.  Why do we do it?  How do we do it?  It is fun to talk about something that you are enthusiastic about and something you truly feel called to do.  I have had the privilege of guiding a couple of families who are new to homeschooling this year.  I pass the credit along to my mentor and great friend, Angela, who supported me throughout my first year.  I know her experiences and knowledge were a huge part of the success of this first year.  I feel I need to pay it forward as more families decide to join the adventure.  I have answered more than my share of phone calls this year of families just toying with the idea.  Often, I share the same information and thoughtt I could finally put it on paper, or screen, or blog, or post, or whatever.

Here is my "Top 5 Advantages to Homeschooling" list:

1.  FREEDOM.  I can't say this enough.  There is so much freedom in homeschooling.  Freedom to work at your own pace, freedom to experience hands-on learning, freedom to explore more areas of interest, freedom with scheduling.  When we were in a traditional school setting, the kids would be in school from 8 - 2:30.  We would leave school for an after school activity - swimming or piano or guitar or whatever.  We would head home, eat dinner, get homework/projects/tests done, get showers, get ready for the next day and then go to bed. I found the time to interact with my kids on a meaningful, impactful level to be in short supply.  Scheduling in shopping trips, hair cuts, doctor's visits, etc., just ate away at what little time I had. The time for them to just "be" was almost non-existent. 

2.  THE EXTRAS:  For the fact that our school day is usually over by 11:30 or noon, we can participate in more areas of interests  This year, my daughters will take the following courses with our local homeschool group, High Point Home Educators:  Dance, Drama, Music Maestros, Lego Physics, Marvels of Nature and Cake Decorating.  They go every Monday from noon - 4.  By the way, there are over 175 kids signed up for the various courses they are offering this year.  They put on a fantastic end of the semester program to showcase what they have learned. I would stack up Sadie's dance routine to "Fabulous" against any local dance studio.  It was simply, well, fabulous. We are also exploring the option of joining our local 4H club, which will be exploring Astronomy this fall.  The girls will take piano from 1-2 on Thursday this year, which meant we didn't have to fight for an after school spot. Sadie will take Latin on Thursday mornings during the lunch hour with my mom, a certified Latin teacher for 20 + years.  The girls will also swim two afternoons a week and possibly continue to participate in our local rec soccer league.  All the while, we aren't panicked about school work, projects, juggling school paperwork and they get to bed on time, by 8 or 8:30.

3.  COURSE CHOICES.  Anyone that has ever tinkered with the idea of homeschooling knows that the selection of textbooks and curriculum is overwhelming.  Actually, that is an understatement.  It is ridiculous.  If it weren't for books like Cathy Duffey's "Top 100 Picks for Homeschool Curriculum," navigating would be a nightmare.  Some books have the lesson scripted out word for word for the teacher, while some allow the instructor to have a free hand.  Some are project driven; some are workbook driven; some are all-inclusive, meaning you buy one set and they learn all their subjects around a chosen topic.  It is simply unlimited what you can do.  The North Carolina Home Educators' (over 45,000 students strong!) have a fantastic conference every year which includes a book fair. I spent 4 hours looking through books, materials, classroom guides, etc.AND, I had most of my subjects already picked out prior to going!  However, all these choices mean that you can customized your child's education to fit their learning style.  Here's a shocker, not everyone learned effectively by working through a textbook and workbook!  Last year, Sadie was all about birds.  I found a science textbook called, Exploring Creation with Zoology 1: Flying Creatures of the 5th Day by Apologia. Naturally, this is was what she looked forward to every day. It is a comprehensive look at birds, bats, insects and even the flying creatures of the dinosaur times.  It is jammed packed with true scientific experiments and a journal in which to record your notes, too. 

Sadie is chronologically a 4th grader.  However, she does 5th grade grammar and spelling, 4th-5th grade math, did a history course designed for 5th - 8th graders last year, and reads books on the latter middle school level, yet we still can and do choose books for her grade level, not ability, at times.  Some days we return to some basics when I think she is struggling. Other times we sail through some lessons because they are too elementary.  We don't have to spend a month on one particular topic when she catches on in a week. Customizing and flexible learning equates to effective learning.

4.  TIME.  I touched briefly on this in my first point, freedom.  I have time with my children - time to enjoy them, teach them life lessons, address discipline issues in a deliberate and calm manner.  I am not frantically shouting at my kids as we race to the next destination. Ok, who am I kidding?  That still happens sometimes.  I, too, am a work in progress.  This yea, Sadie learned how to cook eggs, make all sorts of baked goods (much to the chagrin of my waistline), and how to use most kitchen appliances.  She has time to complete chores, pack her bags for her classes, manage her own school schedule each day, train her dog, and explore nature (her passion).  I have time to immediately correct her work ethic (or lack thereof), improve her accuracy and attention to detail, teach goal setting and understanding the satisfaction when achieved.  There can be no slackness or laissez-faire attitude in our homeschool because it is one-on-one. You can't get away with anything, a positive for the child who has the propensity to be a little sneaky.

Continuing along this thread, I'll tackled the most common statement I hear from other parents.  "I could never homeschool my kids because....  (insert one of the following) 1. I need time away from children 2. We would kill each other 3.  I don't have enough patience  4. My child would never learn from me.  Not everyone is called in this season to homeschool.  However, everyone is able.  Trust me.  I would put Sadie Dumoulin against any strong-willed (spirited, tenacious, intelligent, curious, amazing) child and feel 99% sure she would come out the winner.  Kids like Sadie need more time with their parents.  They need more personal instruction and they need more love.  Sure, we butt heads and it has not all been smelling like roses, but the changes in her behavior and the growth in her maturity have been tenfold. I discovered that shuffling Sadie off to let someone else take care of the discipline problems for a while didn't solve anything.  It is my responsibility to teach and train her, not my local educational system.  The more I am around Sadie, the more I appreciate and am in awe of her.  That would have gone unrecognized and undiscovered had we continued down the path we were previously.

5.  LOVE OF LEARNING This is one of two general goals I set for our homeschool.  To instill the virtue of a thirst for knowledge will always benefit my children.  In my adulthood, I have forgotten how much fun it is to learn!  The history course Sadie took was better than any I took prior to college.  Amazing stuff. I learned more about birds than I thought I could.  I am now a "birder." For example, did you know that hummingbirds are the only birds that can fly backwards?  Pretty cool when you see them in action.  I also watched eaglets being born in Iowa on an internet camera.  Unbelievable.  I never want to be satisfied with my current state of knowledge again!  Hopefully, this year, my grammar and writing skills will be polished as I am reminded of the proper use of commas, semi-colons, dangling participles and the difference between "lay and lie" as I navigate through Sadie's 5th grade grammar course.

Lest anyone think that I am completely against traditional school, my eldest will return to our school of choice for his 6th grade year.  His education has been superb and he is very content there.  We decide everything on a year-to-year basis, even leaving open the option of putting one of ours back in mid-year.  We are flexible, just like our educational choices.

I didn't delve into our biblical teaching, but it is central to every school day in the Dumoulin house.  The hows, whys, and the impact of this type of targeted teaching really deserves it own post.

There you have it. My personal (meaning not everyone feels this way, nor do I think it should be adopted by everyone) thoughts on the benefits of homeschooling.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Interviewing the Kids

An interview with the kids on July 11, 2011:


1. What do you want to be when you grow up:  I want to be a preacher, but I don't know that it will happen. You just have to go with God's plan.

2. What is your favorite subject in school:  Bible

3.  What is your favorite food?  Burritos

4.  What do you enjoy doing?  Playing video games

5.  Where do you want to go on vacation?  The Caribbean

6.  What is your favorite color?  Blue

7, What is your favorite animal?  Armadillos (because they can roll themselves into a ball and roll around)

8.  What is one thing in the world that you could change? The mean attitudes in our family, so we could be all happy.

9.  What is your best feature? Compassion and giving (Dad helped with this one)

10.  What is your worst feature?  Being annoying


1. What do you want to be when you grow up?  I don't know, yet.  Maybe a veterinarian, or animal psychologist

2. What is your favorite subject in school?  Science

3. What is your favorite food?  Eggs and bacon (breakfast).  Pineapple and Strawberries

4. What do you enjoy doing?  Going to Ocracoke and petting the feral cats. Exploring nature and playing with animals

5. Where do you want to go on vacation?  Hawaii

6. What is your favorite color?  Neon Lime green

7, What is your favorite animal?  Anything baby

8. What is one thing in the world that you could change? I would be a grown-up so I can do what I want.

9. What is your best feature? My intelligence

10. What is your worst feature?  self-control


1. What do you want to be when you grow up? a teacher

2. What is your favorite subject in school?  Math

3. What is your favorite food?  Fruit, especially blueberries

4. What do you enjoy doing?  Snuggling with Mommy

5. Where do you want to go on vacation?  Ocracoke Island

6. What is your favorite color?  Yellow

7, What is your favorite animal?  Puppy

8. What is one thing in the world that you could change? That everybody would be sweet to me.

9. What is your best feature? That I am friendly to everybody.

10. What is your worst feature? I whine all the time.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Lily discovered the Sunday comic section at my mother's house this weekend. Slightly obsessed, she carried it into the car, into the restaurant, into her bed. The next morning I caught her "reading the paper" on the front porch while she waited for our carpool. She looked like a little grown-up.

I just checked my voice mail and there was a message from Sadie. She attempted to disguise her voice as deeper and more sophisticated. Always a hoot to hear what she thinks is a professional voice and what she decides to say. This time she was someone from the children's book store calling for me. I must call her back, her message said and she included a fake number, too.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Today, after school, we went to the half-priced book fair held in the school library.  I sent the girls on ahead of me while I waited for Ethan.  I had already informed them there would be no buying "trinkedy-dinkedies" as well call them around here.  That is code for the pencils, erasers, pointy fingers, lip gloss, etc. that all stores try to get you to "add on."  You know, what's another 50 cents or dollar?  By sending the girls on ahead, they were to have their selections done so that we would only be waiting around for Ethan.  I didn't have much hope in what they would pick, but thought maybe one book would pass the litmus test.

However, sometimes a mom can be pleasantly surprised!  Sadie picked out two fantastic chapter books, including a book we had mentioned earlier that day, A Crooked Kind of Perfect, and a biography.  The picture of legs and feet covered in toe socks sealed the deal on that book.  Lily had one great book and one so-so dinky book.  We replaced it with a Geronimo Stilton book and she was content.  Ethan picked out two great chapter books, one is historical!  We picked up a couple more books since it was a buy-one, get-one free sale and headed out the door.  This is our summer reading.  I have found that library books are often late in the summer due to travel and often not read.  This system works like a charm for us.  The entire process of purchasing was completely painless, no whining (well, slightly from Lily about that dinky book), it didn't take very long and we were out the door.

The ride home was precious.  Each child was immersed in his/her book of choice.  It was quiet and lovely.  Later that afternoon, I was looking for Ethan and Sadie who seemed to have disappeared.  I looked out the back window and there they were, lying on a blanket, reading their new books.  Actually, Sadie was reading a book she began a couple of days ago.  Either way...fantastic!  The afternoon was so peaceful.  Lily stayed on the sofa in the kitchen to read her book, which she finished!  No arguments, no loud brain-reducing television, no issues.  Jay arrived home from work early to find them reading on a blanket.  I could see his smile from the kitchen window.  I must remember this moment and make sure it is not the last one of its kind. 

Here are the books the children selected:
Escape:  Children of the Holocaust by Allan Zullo
The Hunter Games by Suzanne Collins
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (the second book in the series)
The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger

Miss Spitfire, Reaching Helen Keller by Sarah Miller
A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban
Ruby's Slippers by Tricia Rayburn
Piper Reed, Navy Brat by Christine Davenier

Best Friends in Fairyland by Daisy Meadows (already finished)
Pink Princess Rules the School by Alyssa Crowe
Weird Stores from the Lonesome Cafe by Judy Cox
The Karate Mouse by Geronimo Stilton (I think that is the author's name as well as the main character in the book)

I also picked up The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary and Flawed Dogs by Berkeley Breathed.  I'll admit the funny looking dachshund on the cover prompted me to purchase latter of the two books.  I am such a sucker for books.

I have a couple of book sales I want to attend this May, so hopefully, I can get some deals on historical books that cover the first historical period, our focus next year in homeschool.

Friday, May 06, 2011

There are moments as a mother that I want to capture for the remainder of my part in this life.  They represent success, at least defined by what I pray and hope for my children.  They are the chunks I hold onto when the going gets tough and I think everything I do is a failure.  Here is one of them:

There is a boy in Ethan's grade who has always struggled with behavior and getting along with other children. I don't know his full story as we have not been in his class until this year.  However, his reputation as a big problem in the classroom did preceed him.  Somewhere along the holidays, this boy decided that he was tired of always being in trouble, ready to change his reputation and learn to be friends with his classmates.  He wanted a complete "do-over."  Therefore he chose to stand in front of the entire grade and ask for their forgiveness and ask for them to allow him to start again.  Just typing this portion of the story brings me to tears.  What a brave, brave young man.

The teachers knew of his plan, but they were very nervous of the reaction of some 50 other kids.  They weren't sure how it was going to play out and how to conclude it.

After this boy finished his spiel, Ethan, my Ethan, raised his hands.  His teacher called on him and according to the teacher, he said something like:  I think I we can all agree that we really need to apologize to you, too.  We haven't always been the friend you needed or treated you fairly.  So please forgive us.

Ethan never said a word about this entire event to me.  The principal and his teachers did.  They were impressed by the maturity of his response.  I was pretty surprised as well.  However, if I think deeply, I shouldn't have been.  His heart has always been sweet and full of compassion for others.  This was a day that it shined just a little brighter.
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a piece that brought me so much satisfaction.  I didn't notice there was an error in blogger's automatic saving mode.  When I clicked "Publish Post," there was an error.  At that moment I knew.  It was lost.  It hadn't saved and therefore, when I tried to return to the post, it was gone. 

It is defeating to me when that happens.  I don't write nearly as often as I would like and when I don't for a while, the words to do not flow.  I can not craft the exact sentiment I am trying to express.  For some reason, however, this one just flowed from my fingertips and left me completely spent.  Oh well.  I have to move on.
Oh my goodness, I love my kids.  When they are budding with creativity, or when they are behave like spoiled little boogers.  When they backtalk me with such vile that I could sew their mouths up forever, or when they excel at some endeavor that even they are shocked.  That is how our days have been lately.  The highest of highs and the lowest of lows.  Determining our determination is a good summary, actually.  Each little being in our house deciding just which battles they want to have - be it a good battle of academics or sports, or a bad battle between siblings and the fairness of life.

At 6, Lily has declared she is writing a book all about MATH!  Unbeknownst to me, Lily took her journal out and began writing math facts about adding the same number together.  She started by writing 1+1=2, 2+2=4, etc.  She is now somewhere in the 150s (152+152=304).  Her self-determined goal:  1,000.  I shouldn't really be surprised by this as she has always had an interest in patterns.  As a toddler, I would often find her sorting her blocks into colors or shapes.  She would always string beads along in a pattern.  Her enthusiasm is a bit contagious, I admit.  I have already thought about teaching her the very basic concept of multiplication in order for her to write her tables down in her journal.  She will be able to understand the pattern of that, even if she doesn't memorize them.  Maybe a goal for the summer?

Sadie has been somewhat of a brutal force on the soccer field in the latter half of the spring season.  She hasn't played in 2 or 3 years and yet, has found this determination in her spirit to come away from the pack with the ball.  Most often, she succeeds, even against some bigger boys.  She just doesn't give up!  She had a a nasty fall in the driveway that resulted in a few extra layers of skin on her knees.  The next day at her game she fell a few times going after the ball and was kicked in the knee as well.  Despite blood being drawn and keeping her hands in little fists from the pain, she refused to come out of the game and continue to push forward.  One the flip side, Sadie is once again asserting her independence and not really holding back verbally when she is not exactly thrilled at the request being given to her.  In fact, she has been downright rude and mouth.  Poor thing...hardly has any privileges left to take away.  Her favorite line lately, "You are so mean!"  UGH! I sense, however, we might be turning the corner.

Ethan is pushing past the boredom that May can sometimes bring with swimming.  Short-course season is over; school is ending. Things seem to be ending everywhere, except in swimming. He was finding some issues with the authority at swimming, but I told him he simply needed to buck up. This wasn't about them, it was about him.  Make these practices all about getting himself better, improving his skill, soaking it all in, working hard when a lot of other swimmers were in slow motion just getting ready for summer leagues. I haven't heard much more complaining since that conversation.  As far as his usual banter/fighting/animosity toward Sadie, I have overheard him say two times, "Sadie, let's just stop.  It isn't worth it."  Time away from the material object of their desire can do wonders to an attitude.

We are moving through May at lightning speed.  Two weeks and 3 days until the end of school. 

Monday, April 25, 2011

Updates and Conversations...

Sadie:  How do you get to work in the White House, Mom?
Me:  Well, you have to decide that is your goal.  You have to go to college and probably major in something like political science.  Then, you have to work pretty hard to get there.
Sadie:  Mom, I meant like a housekeeper.  I am only interested in that.

We were dyeing Easter eggs.  Upon removing Lily's egg from a mixture of colors,
Lily announced:  That looks like vomit.  I think she didn't like how it looked.

What I learned on our trip to Washington, DC:

Traffic in the city stinks.  Traffic in the city stinks.  Traffic in the city stinks.  We traveled 14 miles for 4 hours.  I wanted to hurt someone. Jay and I decided not to speak to each other at one point as there was nothing pleasant that was coming out and we were so on edge.  It was just terrible and there was no way around it in order to get to the Embassy where we were trying to renew his Dutch passport.

Museums are really cool.  However, Sadie is just as happy playing in the park by the hotel chasing disease infested birds.  Ethan is at the age where he appreciates what he is seeing and doesn't complain.  Lily does not like to walk, often announcing her legs are tired.

Sadie can charm anyone when she so desires.  She learned to haggle on her own for an aquarium at a yard sale this weekend.  Pretty impressive.  She also lasted at a dinner with fairly decent behavior for about 1.5 hours with some friends of mine.  She lost it in the last half hour, however. 

For as long as Lily did not have her front teeth, I expected them to slowly emerge.  However, they pushed forth over our break rather quickly.  She now has "half teeth" showing on top. This makes for a mouth that is scant of any normal looking teeth, gaps and an non-uniform looking smile.  It is the most jumbled mess of teeth, but her smile is still priceless to me.

Ethan loves to hang with me.  He usually takes my side when we are deciding what we are going to do on a given day.  He is trooper on trips like this, always wanting to explore and experience more.  Well, except for the First Ladies of the White House exhibit.  He was not too keen on that one.

My kids are terrible at self-entertaining when they need to sit still and be quiet without the use of personal electronics.  Maybe they aren't different than most kids, but it is quite problematic to me.  Actually, I should clarify.  Lily is pretty decent at descending into her own world.  However, Sadie is horrible at conforming when she does not want to.  I mean, horrible.  I have devised a training program that will begin this summer.  We'll see how it works.

There is nothing that brings me more happiness to my entire self than hearing my children laugh.  Lily has a belly giggle that in unmatched.  Ethan can fall into fits of uncontrollable laughter.  And, Sadie has a sinister, yet lovable laugh that is usually the result of successfully carried out plans.  I heard their laughter many times this past week and it was never tiring.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

In the world of competitive parents...

Every 6 months or so I rebel. I think it is a natural inclination as a mother to throw my hands up in the air and declare, "Whatever. I am done." I had one of those days on Sunday. The attitude of the culmination of 2 weeks with my mother-in-law, a week of living in my car more than my bed and a weekend where I shuttled kids to 2 birthday parties, 2 soccer games, 1 swim practice, a church directory picture, and a sleepover. Not to mention what goes along with those activities, which I will list anyway - 2 birthday presents wrapped, one swim bag packed, 2 soccer uniforms clean and ready and preparation for the directory picture so that at minimum we look like we pondered the merits of personal hygiene on a weekly basis.

Per my usual fashion of inssurection, I start trying to dump any commitments that I have in order to simplify my life. It usually comes at my own expense because what is easiest to let go are the ones that no one else cares about...mine. My kids and my husband won't complain if I put a halt to bible study or some coffee breaks with my friends. However, knowing this ultimately results in hurting myself and building resentment, I refrained for once. Instead, I begin scurrying around looking for some non-existent solutions and blame everyone at tearing at the last remains of my sanity.  Ranting never works; I should know that by now.

Yet, this entire cycle of constant activity and its ramifications would not leave my brain. This continuous analysis was compounded by a chapter in my current bible study on resting and why God asks us to do it. The residuals of the Chinese Mothers saga and a few run-ins with uber competitive parents has forced me to ask this one question about my life: What is my motivation with all this running around?

I always said that I wanted my kids to have a sport they love, a musical instrument they could play and learn to contribute to the world in a socially conscious way, not to mention the academic goals which include all three of them being admitted to Carolina (just kidding, or am I?). That is a lot of expectation when you are mother of three - three who are still pretty dependent on motivation, transportation and logistics. Lest I forget the most important aspect of mothering for me...their spiritual journey. Nothing like the weight of that on your shoulders. I know God is ultimately the One who will see that one through, but it is my responsibility to rear them in His way.

With those "goals" in my head, I charted our paths towards success! Please note the use of heavy sarcasm in that sentence. We have dabbled in piano and guitar lessons, swim teams, soccer teams, gymnastics, art camps, cheerleading, sporatic dance classes, basketball for a season or two, scouts, and a type of girl scouts, and horseback riding. Through homeschool classes Sadie is learning dance, drama, music, art, and even sign language.

In comparison, by the end of my 5th grade year, I could chalk up two years of piano and a season or two of community girls softball. That was it. Something has changed within one generation and I want to know what. What is in the heart of the thousands of parents toting kids to soccer fields on a Saturday, to pay costly fees for special clinics and spend hours sitting around in camping chairs, on bleachers and even better, in our cars waiting for our special blessings to become the next Mozart, Beckham, van Gogh or Phelps.

Well, I have looked deep and I know my motivation is not founded where it should be. I am going to be very real here. I do all these things because I don't want my kids to be left behind. I don't want them to miss out on any fulfilling any gifts and talents they may have. I fear that they will not have every opportunity open to them when they are grown because I did not push them. I worry that my kids will be just average - really not "good" at anything. Did I just write that? Pitiful, just a pitiful comment on me.  What is the craziest part of this I know I don't have very little control on how my kids turn out, yet I continue to push forth.

With very few exceptions, most kids under the age of 10 are participating in sports because they love being around other kids. The actual activity in which they are participating in is somewhat a moot point. Although, I know Ethan is developing a greater love of the actual sport of swimming this year. Sadie, however, is no longer swimming. The competition, the pressure, her desire to do well churned her insides into an emotional mess. Taking time away has been a great thing and if she ever decides to go back to year round swimming, it will be on a non-competitive level.

Yesterday, I also spoke with several other moms regarding this issue. They, being further along the mothering role than I, did affirm that there was something crazy about these toting around years. However, they assured me that it settles down. It is just a season. Parents become a little less crazy, everyone's expectations lower and most allow the kids to drive the show. The world of opportunity begins shrinking as they discover, and thus hone in on, what they are passionate about. That was affirming to hear.

I am still working through this from a biblical standpoint. The priorities in life should be God, spouse, family and then work. Yet, I know valuable life lessons have been learned through my kids' involvement in sports and extra-curricular activities. Perseverance, showing grace, encouragement, forgiveness, and dealing jealousy are just a few of the key lessons I can quickly list. Where is the balance?

So, what is the take away from all this?

1. It is a season. Sit back and enjoy the ride.

2. Fun should always be the first and only priority. Kids put themselves under enough pressure as it is.

3. If you become mad, yell or cry regarding your child's performance, then it has stopped being about your child and more about you. Crying for happiness because of your child's happiness does not count although it is hard for me to relate because I am not a "cryer."

And finally,

4. God created your child, giving him special gifts and abilities. No one and nothing will stand in the way of God seeing these worked out in his life in the way God knows best, no matter how hard a parent tries.  He is a sovereign God.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Note Written by Lily

rules up stars

1. No food alode (allowed) atershool
2. No stiling toys wihtout asking
3. No going in Sadie room without asking.
4. No fiting a lode.
5. No going in Ethan room without asking.
6. No going in Lily room without asking.
7.  Listen to mom.
8. Listen to dad.

March 16, 2011

Two months have slipped through my fingers and what have I accomplished? A whole lot of nothing, really. The usual running around, the random curve ball shaking up the daily grind, and the feeling like I am just marking the days off the calendar. Despite all of this, when I look closely at the details of the past couple of months, there are some noteworthy developments and here are the details.

Ethan competed in the school science fair in February. He was only a handful of 5th graders to volunteer for this project. He competed against the entire 6th grade and won. He went on to the district competition and again came home with a blue ribbon. It was a great amount of work, much more than what I remember doing as a 5th grader, but maybe that is because my mother was also an integral part of the process. The project was on how temperature affects magnets. It was a fun and very interesting project in that the results proved something opposite of scientific research. However, it helped Ethan understand that scientific research is full of variables that must be controlled. I think that is what impressed the judges the most in the interview - the understanding of the scientific process.
Ethan continues to mature at a rate much faster than I would like. He is a delight to spend time with and I find that our discussions are often very deep and meaningful. His humor is fantastically witty and he can send me into stitches for several days. He works hard at school and in swimming; the end results however, are not always how he would like them to be. It has been tough to realize that sometimes you don't always get what you want no matter how hard you try. His perseverance is growing and I see that life lessons and personal values are being developed. It warms my heart when he still requests time to talk with me on my bed. These days are numbered, so I never turn them down.

The social circumstances in which he found himself this school year has been a struggle. He had to muddle through the different boys in his class, discovering for himself just who he was and who were real and true friends. He has found a comfortable spot with all the boys in his class, able to move with ease throughout the various groups. He has also learned a lot about what it means to be true to yourself and comfortable in your own skin. This is a great platform to build upon as we head into the tumultuous middle school years.

Sadie is Sadie. Life is never bland or mundane in her world. We plod through homeschool every day - some with success and some that could stand to be a bit better. Some days I could throw the books out the door and her along with them. Thankfully, my feelings are fickle and an hour later, I feel satisfied with our progress. I have not had the frustration of her not "getting" the material, it has been more the frustration of her attitude. I guess I can not expect her to throw herself into her work with excitement and vigor, because some days as an adult I do not want to accomplish what I must. However, a little more consistency would be a blessing.

There are moments in this year that my heart swells with love for this little crazy being. She is a task master when she wants to be, serving others with such joy and love. On the weekends, it is not unusual for her to make my coffee and breakfast (eggs and toast). She carefully arranges it on a bamboo tray, complete with napkins, silverware and appropriate condiments and delivers it with a love note and smile to my bedside. Some days she would rather clean and organize my car inside and out, than sit for two hours doing schoolwork. She has a developing spirit of mothering and keeps reminding me that in three years she can become an official babysitter. I have no doubt that she will be a wonderful housekeeper as she grows older. For the time being, she maintains piles of trinkets, mementos and paper giblets in her room.

One major change for Sadie has been her commitment to swimming. After a fairly disappointing season and a very emotionally volatile swim meet in March, we decided to let Sadie have a break from swimming. She has been all over the place regarding her enjoyment of the sport, sometimes living only for it and sometimes pitching a fit about it. At her last meet she swam the 50 free in 50 seconds (10 seconds slower than her personal best) and then the next day swam it in 36 seconds (a personal best by 4 seconds). There is absolutely no logic in her inconsistency. We could only guess that she is over thinking and vacillating between drive and defeat. Unfortunately, the connection with her coach this year has not been what she needed and therefore she was not given the encouragement she needed. The final nail on the coffin was her verbalization of feeling like she was not a very good swimmer and felt as if she were one of the worst in her division. Once we pulled her, she was quite emotional - crying about wanting to continue. However, we are forcing her to take at least a month or two off in order to decide if she really wants to go back. My guess is that she will want to go back, but we will limit it to only one or two days and swim only seasonally, meaning no meets. She definitely wants to swim on our summer league team. My hope is that she will discover the fun of the sport again and move past the competition of it all.

I write about this next item very, very carefully and with much trepidation. Sadie announced to me in the car one day a couple of weeks ago that she has a dream. "Mom, I have this dream and I know it is going to happen. I am going to be a superstar." I turned it into a talk about working for hard for big dreams which she did not fully appreciate. Anyway, in order to say that I have at least made one attempt to help her with this "dream," I sent a few pictures in to a very reputable modeling agency. One attempt and then I can say I "supported" her vision. Well, we got a call yesterday. They want to see Sadie. Sigh. Not sure how I really feel about all of this, but we haven't committed to anything at this point and there is no job that has been booked. Taking it one step at a time, knowing they and I can pull the brakes at any moment. Enough about that.

Lily is her usual happy-go-lucky little self. She is oblivious of any of her shortcomings which I completely LOVE. She wants to try everything and thinks she is good enough to continue with everything. She is not the athlete, but that doesn't stop her from playing soccer again. This week, one of the coaches took some time out to work with her one-on-one on her kicking skills which are a bit sub-par compared to the other children. Add that to my to-do list in the coming weeks.

She walks through life excited about everything. It is such a blessing to have a child who skips through life and is not prone to crying and fits. Sure, she complains and whines at times, but we are working towards ending that habit, using time out on the stairs and practice using her words with a normal tone.  She is also everyone's friend.  She makes them easily and seems to enjoy just about every other child her age.

Her two front teeth are STILL missing after 9 months! I can see the very tips of the new teeth, but they have yet to break the gum. In the meantime, she has lost another tooth on the bottom. She spends her time swimming two days a week, playing soccer and taking piano lessons. She is also an avid reader. At night I often have to take her books away from her because she will read until way past her bedtime. She still shares a unique relationship with Ethan. He is her protector and consequently his friends are often her biggest fans.

I write this on the heels of a two week visit from Oma. I feel like the kids have had very little time with her this go around which makes me sad. School, activities, etc. along with their independence makes it difficult. It is nice to hear Oma speak of the changes she notices between her visits. I felt some surprise when she said it is much calmer with the children around. She said she notices it the most with Sadie. That was very pleasing to hear. She commented that the children are all much more independent, requiring a lot less of my energy, which has been replaced by my taxi services. And, on a funny note, she noticed that the music selections have been changed in the car from children's music to pop music. That actually made me sad and I scrounged around the car for some Veggie Tales, much to the protests of Sadie and Ethan.

After one more school quarter, I will have a middle schooler. I just can not believe it. It is time for us to make next year's school decisions. FOr sure, Ethan will return to HPCA for middle school. For sure, Sadie will remain at home for 4th grade, although it was a very, very tough decision because the possible teachers are phenomenal. What is up in the air is Lily. She has asked to be homeschooled for 2nd and 3rd grade. I can see it being a great fit for Sadie to have her home. I don't think I have any doubt that she will be focused and eager. But, can I handle two at the same time? Will Sadie's temporal rotten attitude for getting her work done be a diversion? Would it cause me to mentally go over the edge? Things to ponder and pray over. Decisions need to be made fairly soon.

I hope this long entry means that I will be back to writing. I was very encouraged by my mother-in-law who picked up my blog books while she was here. She kept commenting on her reading enjoyment. I must carve out the time to write. This entry was not easy and I know it is because I am a little rusty. The words do not flow and I omit the emotions of the events in our lives when it comes to these summary-type entries.