Sunday, May 14, 2017

Happy Mother's Day!

It is a precious gift, this job of mothering. There is no work, in thought or deed, that connects a woman more to all the creatures in the world, all the other women or to God than the work of mothering. Enjoy your babies, no matter how grown, how near or far away. Thank you for all the mothering. Enjoy the day!

Happy Mother's Day!

Saturday, April 1, 2017

A Big Decision

Our beautiful daughter, Adah, has always loved to dance. She is also a talented and accomplished athlete.

She has been surrounding by the athletic prowess of her older brothers and has done an amazing job of keeping up with them in their activities. In physical activities like running, skating, volleyball and skateboarding with them, she has consistently held her own. She drew the line at participating in any organized way on a baseball diamond and left the hitting and pitching to the boys.

Her individual athleticism expressed itself through gymnastics. Gymnastics gave her a significant physical challenge with a bit of artistic expression thrown in. It also offered her some girl time with teammates who were likewise driven. With high achievement goals, the expectations she placed on herself and the demands of gymnastics practice, she was forced to leave formal dance training in the wings while she pursued her sport at a competitive level.

                          Gymnastics at Virginia Beach. USAG Eastern Nationals 2016.

Regional and national competition participation is an achievement. Adah accomplished both for several years. We traveled, we cheered. Her performances at meets were excellent. We were proud and we were all (athlete and parents) stretched in many ways. Then we began to be stretched, too thin.

Participating in competitive gymnastics is exceptionally demanding and as a family we began to reconsider the path our daughter was on. During that process, I wrote about those demands in this blog. After years of daily intensive practice and seasonal competitions, we began to re-evaluate her participation in such an intense sport. We enrolled her in a once a week dance class to determine if her love of the art remained and we watched, and we waited, and when we began to discuss the possibility of making changes, the tears began to flow. She admitted to the chronic physical pain that many gymnasts experience. She shared her questions and her fears of injury and uncertainty of being offered a college scholarship on one hand and of leaving so much accomplishment behind on the other. She also revealed her desire to have an opportunity to pursue training in dance.

At the age of 14, our daughter was making a long term life decision. She had already invested a lifetime into one endeavor. She had acquired skills and techniques reserved for the talented and dedicated. Fortunately, acquiring those skills and competing them had only resulted in one "minor" injury (a broken thumb) for her during years of participation. Unfortunately, it was taking its toll in many other ways. After years of investment, we pulled the plug on our daughter's pursuit of gymnastics.

Learning and moving in a whole new setting.

Hinsdale Dance Academy

Like many important decisions in life, the way was not crystal clear in advance. The decision to change directions was difficult and sad, as well as exciting and hope filled. This spring we are coming to the close of one full competitive season following this momentous choice and so far, so good. This season, Adah is dancing. It is an art that suits her. When asked, she has not shared any misgivings about moving on from gymnastics, not even in the midst of hearing of the competitive accomplishments of former teammates.

Adah is a beautiful dancer. There is joy in what she is doing and it shows. Of course, as her mother, I will always think that she is an amazing dancer, was an amazing gymnast and most importantly is becoming a most amazing woman.

So far she says she has no regrets. For that, we as parents, are grateful.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Jobs for Teens

Each of my three children have always been interested in earning their own money. We have always expected each of them, as family members, to contribute by helping with household chores. Those chores have been based on their age and ability and we have never actually given them an allowance for helping around the house. As a result, they have all been especially eager, to get jobs somewhere, to earn a pay check. Simple enough, I thought. Not so, it seems. Jobs for teenagers are harder to come by, then when I was a kid. An after school position, or even a summer job, isn't as easy as just asking at the local grocery store anymore. In Illinois, where we live, anyone under sixteen is required to have a work permit. Those permits are issued by the local district school superintendent.

First employment - at the sandwich shop.

As a homeschooling parent, I'm a bit miffed by the requirement to ask permission from the district superintendent for my children to work an actual job. It adds one more hoop to jump through and in my opinion, gives undo authority to district schools over a teen's earning potential. There are, however, "jobs" for teens that are not required to have permits - sports officiating (umpires at the local baseball field) is one, delivery of newspapers or caddying at the golf course are others. So without wandering to far off into the political weeds....

My oldest's first experience with earning his own money, came as a newspaper deliverer. At that time, a local community newspaper gave each edition to every residence in the community, delivered to each door by a local teen. This provided an excellent first "job" opportunity for preteens and teens in our neighborhood. These first opportunities were coveted in our town. Other families in our vicinity held the same positions, handing them down from one sibling to the next for many years. Unfortunately, the newspaper made the decision to end direct delivery and eliminated the jobs held by young people. Since then, most of the earning opportunities for my teens have come privately from neighbors and friends. Many based in the connections my oldest made as a delivery person.

The next ongoing, lucrative opportunity, came as a dog walker. Everyday, during the school year, my son walked a beautiful German Shepard whose owner had long work days and wanted her pet companion to have much needed daily exercise while she was at work. My younger son filled in on days when the primary dog walker had a schedule conflict. Dog walking was an excellent way for both of them to spend time with a canine friend without our family having to make the commitment to dog ownership. The bond established between boy and dog was, none the less, significant and meant a positive pet experience for both of them as well as earning money.

The pet care opportunities have expanded and my daughter has enjoyed taking care of a neighbor's ducks when their young family needs assistance. More challenging then poultry care, she has also had the opportunity to babysit and more recently she has become an assistant in a gymnastics program for beginning gymnasts. All of these experiences are leading toward a greater understanding of making a contribution in return for financial rewards.

Pet sitting includes feathered friends.

Besides the financial benefit, the experience of accepting responsibility has been extremely beneficial for for my teen-aged children. Having the reinforcement of a paycheck from outside of our family emphasizes the importance of creating value, doing a job well and responsibility. Having teenagers in our family, who hold part-time jobs, requires me to add to my own responsibilities. Scheduling family meals is more complicated and driving them to and from jobs has been added to my to-do list. However, the benefits of them increasing their financial literacy and learning about employment is well worth the effort.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Happy Valentines Day!

Celebrate the art of love with these free Fine Arts Pages from Enrichment Studies.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Learning to Read

I will never forget - the joy of watching my children learn to read!

Curious and eager, children are little learning machines. They readily absorb the information around them and want to actively participate in the world of the people they know and love. As we all know, acquiring the skill of reading is fundamental and essential for participation in that world. Giving them an environment rich in print, teaching them basic phonics skills and offering them encouragement and modeling, they will become readers and participate in our world of written words.

Teaching a child to read.

Teaching reading isn't really that hard. Especially, if as parents, we are aware of the range of readiness in our children. Not all children are early readers. If a child begins to read "late" as defined by our current education system, it doesn't mean that they won't become excellent readers. As a child, I was an early reader myself. Attending kindergarten was a disappointment for me because I thought I was going to school to learn, not to play in a playhouse and take naps. However, my early reading as a child did not predict early reading in my own children, as I expected it would. It was my misplaced expectation that threw my family's reading enjoyment off track for a period of time. Oops! Thankfully, we had already chosen to home school and also, fortunately, I was able to pay attention to my child and set my early reading expectations aside. I had to regroup and trust. Our focus was to enjoy words, stories, reading and books with my children.

It worked. A little instruction. Lot's of reading together. They became readers.

Encourage your children to become readers, the basics:

  • Read aloud with your children.
  • Provide a print rich environment.
  • Carve out silent reading times for your family.
  • Make sure your children see you reading on your own.
  • Explore the places that offer the adventure of reading.

Some of the best reading resources that I am aware of:

Excellent reading resources at Old Schoolhouse Teachers

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Sunday, January 29, 2017


Create something of value for someone everyday and you will always be wealthy!

An idea I try to convey to my kids in word and deed.

The thing, I think, is to keep creating - create something, produce something, instead of, or at least in addition to  - consuming, It may not always be something as tangible as a piece of art or a product to sell. It may be something quite intangible - the beginning of a friendship or a plan for a beautiful event.

Create something for someone else to have, or hold, or view, or respond to. It could be a painting or a poem. It could be something more immediately useful. It may be only a seemingly mundane thing; like a clean load of laundry, or a just mopped shiny kitchen floor, or a joke. No matter where you are, where you live, you can create something useful, something of value or lasting beauty. Something that will please someone, or make them think, or not think so much.

What ever it is..

Create something today to encourage a smile on the face of another.
Create something that will feed the body, soul or mind of someone you love.

Create something, then create and eat your lunch!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Traveling with Young Athletes

Our teenagers participation in sports has sometimes required us to travel long distances to events. So far, this has always been because they have achieved entry into a level of competition that they worked hard to accomplish. A regional or national competition is a big deal and something we felt deserved our commitment as parents to assist them in participating in.

Needless to say, travel is expensive. Our family vacations have predominantly been budget conscious adventures, tent camping, lots of sandwiches on the road, etc. So our earliest sports travel expenses were quite a shock. Fun and exciting, but did a number on our budget! I began to explore options and ways to reduce the expense. One wonderful discovery was of Airbnb. Not only did Airbnb save us money but the accommodations were actually beneficial in many ways, especially for our daughter, as she competed at gymnastic meets.

Staying in the hub (the designated host hotels) of competition excitement can be invigorating but it can also be distracting and overwhelming for an athlete as they prepare for high level competitions. In the case of gymnastics there are often many athletes of varying ages with different needs and expectations. The activity level can be distracting. Socializing looks more fun than getting rest, eating well and staying focused. The food choices, especially if your funds are limited can be restrictive.


Healthy nutrition is an important component for competing athletes. Eating on the road is typically more restrictive and finding good nutrition on the road is difficult without over spending. It can be difficult to maintain a healthy diet especially one required by a young competing athlete while traveling. Staying with Airbnb hosts has been amazingly beneficial for us, in this regard. We have been able to find accommodations that have provided access to complete use of a kitchen, allowing us to prepare food for ourselves instead of eating out or resorting to packaged items. In one case we were asked by our host in advance, what items we would like to have available for breakfasts. When we arrived we were greeted by a well stocked supply of appropriate, start your day right, meal choices.

Share the Expense 

Trying to keep costs down, we have organized with other families, to share the expense. Due to different competition levels, schedules and needs of the athletes, arranging to share accommodations can be helpful or honestly, only add to the level of stress. We have at times been fortunate to have teammate families that have been willing to share travel and/or accommodations. Depending on the location and distance, sharing driving especially, can be much more cost effective than air travel.

We have shared both hotel rooms and airbnb accommodations.  The advantage to sharing an Airbnb is the wide range of options available. There are whole houses, or single rooms. There are luxury accommodations, or bare bones facilities. In one situation, we shared with another gymnast and her mom, we had two lovely bedrooms (the girls shared one, us moms the other), The downside of this arrangement was the chatting that went on into the night, infringing on sleep. And it wasn't the girls who were up late into the night chatting and losing sleep. We have always had access to a kitchen when staying in an Airbnb.  As a result, we have been able to provide the best nutrition and cook up some great meals. After one meet we were able to share a wonderful meal of celebration with our hosts. You never know where support for your young athlete and your family will come from.

Pineapples are symbols of hospitality. Airbnb hosts deliver.

Visit Airbnb

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Building an Ice Rink in the Yard

Every October, my husband starts to get antsy about an annual household project that needs to be completed before the first freeze. It's not winterizing our home for optimal heating indoors. It's not preparing our cars for the snow and ice we can expect in Chicagoland, equipping them with snow tires or checking the anti-freeze. It's not hauling winter boots, coats, hats and mittens out of their summertime attic storage. Nope, it's none of those only slightly necessary preparations that he begins to focus on when the leaves begin to turn and fall.

It's something much more vital to the wintertime existence of this homeschooling family. To meet the needs of winter survival and sanity of physically active children and stir crazy adults, my husband begins to turn his attention to the building of an ice rink in our suburban yard. It is not a difficult process but it is a labor of love.

Usually a chilly half day project, every year they hope to begin the process before the ground freezes. My husband and the boys haul the systematically stored boards and stakes out of the garage.

The boards are laid out in the yard in their eventual order of placement, set up with stakes and held in place with brackets and screws.

The boards are draped with a very large piece of plastic (construction grade), obtained from our local Home Depot. One hundred feet long, the cost of the plastic is $80.00. It is cut in half for use over two years, one half per year. Attached with a staple gun to the boards the plastic covers the ground and the inside of the boards.

Once the task of adding the plastic cover is complete, the weather watching begins. They begin looking for the inevitable report of the first freeze. The rink is filled with water (minimum 3" deep at the shallowest point) using the outdoor faucet and the garden hose. The frozen rink requires some maintenance. If it snows, the ice needs to be cleared. If the weather warms, melting can cause rough spots, adding water again before a refreeze can help smooth the surface. From my observations of the skaters in our family, watching the weather, the maintenance of the rink and skating day and night, is all a part of the joy of winter.

After the freeze the skating begins.
Late one night as I was saying goodnight to our youngest, I heard sounds outside...
Looking out the upstairs window, I was delighted to see the source; my husband enjoying the fruits of his labor, enjoying a late night skate on the ice in his own backyard! I captured it on the video below, perhaps not very exciting viewing for all, but the scene and the sound of my husband's skate blades on the ice warms my heart!