Random Shorts (in other words #myunfilteredlife)

A random collection of short burbs from my life of late. Mostly unfiltered.

–Last night, I started dinner by cutting up chicken, getting out the pan, putting a tbsp or two of oil in the pan and turning on the burner. I began wondering what they smell was, and why wasn’t my oil in the pan looking hot. It was nearly 5 minutes later when I realized I’d turned on the wrong burner. I’d turned on the burner that I’d set the plastic oil bottle on… I lost about 1/2 gallon of oil to the top of the stove, which, luckily, has sides high enough to contain most of the oil. I’m grateful we live in a place such that the loss of so much oil was disappointing and a stink to clean up, but it did not limit my ability to cook or provide food, nor will it.

–We have learned that water balloons last longer in a pool of water than not.  Of course, if you leave the balloons in the pool all day, they all deflate. Though if that is due to osmosis or weaking of the latex, I don’t know.

water balloons in the pool

water balloons in the pool

— I was walking across the yard when I realized on particular step sounded like I was stepping on plastic. The step felt like it, too. So I stooped to look and poke at the ground. Sure enough, there was a bottle buried in the yard. Several years ago I found a spark plug while digging up the garden. Not sure if I should thank the owners of the land from before the house was built or the construction crew or, perhaps both. I’m guessing the previous owners provided the spark plug and construction crew provided the bottle formerly containing Mountain Dew.

what I found in the yard

what I found in the yard

— When Little Man and I head outside, I usually imagine I will sit and read. But I always find something else to do. Most recently, I took apart our 8 year old box fan and cleaned it. Oh, it was gross.

 a distraction from reading

a distraction from reading

— Earlier this week, I was chatting with a friend about raising a little boy and she mentioned “It sounds like he’s bored, really.” It was like a light bulb. So, I got more sand for our sand bin/table. He will happily play for an hour… quiet… as in not talking… and I get to read, quietly, without distraction. Why did I let the sand run out and not get more? Oh, yeah, teaching conservation….

how I find quiet time

how I find quiet time

— I found myself reflecting on my general inability to keep my dining room table cleared off. My mom had us clear the table off *every day* for dinner. And we put all the stuff away *every day*. I think I might be physically incapable of such a feat.  I am thankful we have a large enough table that we can just move most of the stuff to the far end and sit at the near end to eat. (this is a picture after I’d been working on clearing if off for 10 minutes or so.)

Why can I not keep my dining room table cleared off?

Why can I not keep my dining room table cleared off?

— Little Man is into ‘creating creations’. Yes, those are his works to describe a particular painting of his. This is a recent duplo creation. I didn’t think to have him tell me about it at the time, so we can only guess what he was thinking of.

creations. by Little Man

creations. by Little Man

— More fun “science”: rooting an avocado seed.

'growing' avacado

‘growing’ avocado

— And we played with modeling clay. He started out making ‘snakes’, but they became snails soon after. Family member might begin receiving clay snail when they finally dry. 😀

making snails

making snails


— Really, life is going well. I’m getting reading done and enjoying. I’m exploring new ideas, and reviving old ones (got my sewing machine fixed!).

An end, or a means to an end?

Its been a week or more since the Hubby and I talked about this, but its been on my mind. In education these days, or at least this is the way it seems to me, reading, writing and math are taught as the goal of the teaching. A young man stopped by a week or so ago trying to sell us books to teach Little Man to read… they were colorful, bilingual and relevant topics (supposedly — shapes, colors, dinosaurs). But the goal was teaching reading. For car trips, I’ve picked up ‘preschool’ level books, with space to color and stickers to stick on for ‘A, B, Cs’ and ‘Math!’. The goal is to teach reading, writing and math.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. But it lessens the value of these subjects. Alone, what is it worth to just write? or just do sums? or just read? Okay, I get great pleasure from merely reading, but then it is mostly entertainment.

The value could be so much more, though. If we, as we teach, approach teaching these subjects as means to greater ends, however, their value increases exponentially. One caveat though… the greater ends must be worthy in themselves.

Yeah, gotta bring it back to ‘unschooling’. Its all about approach. After we seek to teach our children about how to BE, then we can teach our children how to DO. And its about doing something. Perhaps it is finding pleasure and entertainment in reading that we are teaching. Perhaps it is about becoming a better person, knowing human nature, or knowing God. Perhaps it is running a household or keeping track of spending, income or investments.

Anyhoo, that’s it. Lets change our approach. Don’t teach reading, writing and math as the end, but as the means to a greater end.

the start of an answer: unschooling, faith and academics

What is ‘unschooling’? I can see this question in people’s faces regularly when I mention it. A young man stopped by last week to try and sell us books “designed” to keep your child interested in reading and learning. When I said, “well, we prefer to have living books around here that we learn from. So, I don’t think your books are a good fit for us right now.” I also name dropped “Charlotte Mason” in there, and the poor young man was very quick to leave at that point. I never mentioned ‘unschooling’ to him, but that might have made him run from our home even faster.

I had a friend write me what ‘unschooling’ is and how its different from self-directed learning and traditional schooling. That is a huge question, and I’m not sure I’m qualified to answer it…. yet.

Here is the beginning of an answer.

In the book “Unschooling Rules: 55 ways to unlearn what we know about schools and rediscover education”, Clark Aldrick argues that we must first teach children how to BE. Then, we can teach them to DO, and after that we can teach them to KNOW. (Generally, these days, education seems to be all concerned about what children KNOW, but doesn’t address the first two.) I think he’s got something very right here, but as he expands the idea he sets the bar awfully low. Aldrick states that learning to BE is about learning what you love, what you are good at, what you dream, and your role in a group (or larger society, even?). Really, though the question(s) could be much bigger… ‘Who am I?” “Who am I made to be?” “Where do I find my worth?” “From what place do I interact with others and how does that affect how I should treat others?”

Who do I want my child to be? I want my children to grow to be upright, God-fearing members of society (moral development!). I want them to be emotionally healthy members of society (emotional development). Whether any of my children got to college, or beyond, is more about what they choose and I will strive to provide the foundation so they can go in whatever direction they want, but, really, that is secondary (intellectual/academic development). I think ‘unschooling’ addresses the intellectual/academic development properly, letting children work in a way that is more self-directed, at their own pace, and according to their own interests.

How does this work in real life? Seriously, what three year old actually has any idea of what they want to learn about? If he had his druthers he’d sit around watching movies and eating peanut butter and candy canes (and starbursts and chocolate chips… you get the idea). Really, he isn’t going to learn to be a God-fearing, upright member of society on his own. Some teaching of some kind is needed, I think. There are certain things that I think are necessary things for a child to learn, and other things that are truly optional. Character is necessary, academics are optional.

It all comes down to being intentional. I don’t expect a child to just pick up good character and faith in God, especially not if I’m not living it. And I can’t expect my child to listen to my words if my life doesn’t reflect the same message. The book “Sticky Faith” discusses this extensively, and its not my purpose to retell what that books has to say (its worth reading as a parent or grandparent who desires to see an active faith passed on). A very simplified version is “live it out, talk about it, invite them along for the ride”.

Academics work the same way. If I’m not living a life of learning, how can I expect my child to? The best way to educate my child is to live it out, talk about it, and invite him along for the ride. No, this doesn’t mean I have to be all into mud like my child is. But it does mean he should be seeing me read, seeing me study, watch me be a learner. Then, I can talk about what I’m learning (no, he’s not interested in the history of the Renaissance era), and how I’m enjoying it. I can also talk about what we might do, like build a fort, blow bubbles or do paper mache. And then I invite him to do it with me. We practice taking turns as we take turns with the different items used to blow bubbles. We learn to work together as he wields the glue and I put down the craft sticks. Honestly, I’m not sure I’m brave enough to invite him to do paper mache with me, that will be very messy.

This is unschooling. Live a life of learning. Talk about it. Invite others along for the ride. This is how faith is passed on. Live a life of faith. Talk about it. Invite others along for the ride.

A week in review, June 23 to 29

A fun week. A full week. I hope not every week is this busy.

We built a fort from ‘craft sticks’. Yes, Little Man wielded the glue for most of the building.





Towards the end, I just let him build it himself. It has a very creative design, I must say.

The fort.

The fort.

He decided at one point that he didn’t have enough blocks.

Look at what I built!

Look at what I built!

We tried some ‘giant bubble solution’. It might be because I wasn’t using actual blue Dawn, but they most all popped as soon as they came off the bubble blowing device. The string-straw device didn’t work all that great, though perhaps my straws were wimpier than the ones another blogger used.

string and straw bubble blowing

string and straw bubble blowing

The PVC pipe made the best bubbles and was easiest to use. I knew I was keeping that short bit around for some reason!

PVC pipe bubble blowing

PVC pipe bubble blowing

Standing on ones hands has become a key skill to be developed in our house these days.

I LOVE standing on my hands!

I LOVE standing on my hands!

I finally got *both* of my sewing machines in for repairs. Though while checking them in at the store, I found that one machine didn’t have a pressure foot. So, back the next day we went to drop off the pressure foot. We had some time, so we stayed to look. I was totally eyeing up a serger and the gal offered to demonstrate it for me. Little Man wasn’t being the most cooperative, so she said to an early-teens-or-so gal to go get the box of toys. Then the gal sat down and played with Little Man while her mom, turns out, demonstrated the use of the serger. When the gal got bored, her brother stepped in and he and Little Man built trucks, trains and buildings from duplos. And I got to see a new serger in action. If you are in Waco, and are in need of sewing machine service or are wanting to buy a machine, go to the Bernina store on Waco Drive. I was very impressed with their service.

I ended up tossing the water bottle. I found a crack along the bottom, which sealed its fate. :::sigh:::

A Eulogy to a water bottle

This water bottle has been with me for 15 years. I purchased it, emblazoned with an OMF International logo on it, in June 1999… on my way to mainland China for the summer. In Hong Kong, I scratched the logo off, for, hopefully, obvious reasons.

the beloved bottle

the beloved bottle

I love this water bottle. I like the small neck and the short size. It is easy to drink from, and fits in most bags easily. The fatness of the bottle makes it hard to fit in cup holders, but that is more a nuisance than a problem. Yes, it was full of BPA, but noone new any better back then, and the bottle has been through. (Though I heard via my sister that I someone decided that BPA-free bottles aren’t good for you either. I like the idea of glass, but not for my three year old.) And finally, it has suffered a fatal injury — at the hands of a three year old. Its amazing what else this water bottle has survived, but, apparently, the rough housing of a little boy was too much for it.

The fatal injury

The fatal injury

This crack leaks, and has been leaking lightly for several months. But now it now leaks rather copiously, as I discovered at the zoo today from the amount of water in my bag. If you happen to drink with the crack down, it will leak water down your chin, which is just no fun. I hate to throw out such a loved item, so I’m trying hard to think of an alternative use for it, since it just won’t work as a traveling water bottle any more. I know I need to give myself a deadline… if I don’t figure out a use before [set a date], it gets thrown out. I think I’ll give myself a week. I’ll let you know what I come up with. 😛

Cycles in daily life

I have a post about unschooling and its underpinnings brewing in my head and in evernote, but that’s going to take a bit of work to finish. And a bit more reading.

Today, I realized that my life (daily life, weekly routines/rhythm) runs in a predicable cycle. Something like this….

life cycle

Now, this more reflects my feelings and my own perception of the situation, not the true fact of the situation. I suspect that someone who is not me would say that nothing actually changes.

Usually, there is some event that precipitates the change from ‘coasting’ to ‘ugh’. Perhaps it a busy week or two, or an illness that slows us all down. It could even be as simple as me forgetting to do something, or a day when I just want to read all day and do nothing else… anything that ‘throws me off my rhythm’.

Having realized this (yes, just today…) I’m thinking I need to figure out how to take the throwing off moments in stride, or working through those stages of ‘ugh’ in the matter of an afternoon (or, be all kinds of supermom and work through the ugh stages in my head in a matter of minutes!).

I’m interested to hear if others experience this kind of cycle or rhythm in their lives and how they deal with it (or perhaps you don’t — oh, to be able to live in such a natural state). How does one deal with children who’s demands don’t fluctuate on the same schedule? Is this a product of my own personality or the way to do things?

and of course, it could be that I’m over thinking all of it.

This week’s ‘science’ activity

I mentioned in my last post that I hadn’t figured out a good ‘science’ activity for this week, yet. Well, one sorta got sprung on me. See if you can figure out what ‘science’ is going on here:

a bit of sand....

a bit of sand….

carry it carefully...

carry it carefully…

put into water

put into water

observe effects on how the water pours

observe effects on how the water pours

see how the water falls on the sand in the water....

see how the water falls on the sand in the water….

Good thing sand is 'cheap'! (at least I'm not buying it, Mom-mom is.)

Good thing sand is ‘cheap’! (at least I’m not buying it, Mom-mom is.)

That evening, I told Hubby “Our science activity today just happened on a whim. We observed the effects of sediment on the flow of water.”

“You mean you made mud?”


turn your back for one minute….

We are still finding our summer rhythm… 5 weeks into our ‘summer’. The Hubby finished with his teaching duties back in the beginning of May, but with moving people out of houses and apartments and just general life, we never found ‘normal’. This week is finding a ‘normal’. And its so refreshing and nice.

Apart of finding normal is figuring out our daily rhythm when we are at home all day (Little Man and I, that is. Hubby is going into school to read and write that dissertation — home stretch!). This morning, Little Man declares he wants to finger paint. I’m totally good with this — fine motor skill development, creativity, a sensory experience and who-knows what other benefit is to be found in finger painting. He started smearing the paint up his arms (yes, I can handle this…) and I decided we’d go outside to clean up. I step away for about a minute (maybe 2) and come back to find….

Look what I can do!

Look what I can do!

Paint in his hair and all over his face. :::sigh::: After I took the picture he says “I want to see it!” Its a bit scary how much he knows about how the camera and phones work.

Last summer, we spent a lot of time out under the trees. These are huge Live Oak trees and they tend to sprawl outwards as much as upwards. And they cast a deep, deep shadow on the area underneath, which can easily be 5 to 10 degrees cooler than the areas in the sun. After the rain we got on Sunday morning and 2 cool nights, the breeze is still cool, which makes sitting out under the trees a very enjoyable experience.

Summer days

Summer days

I’m thinking through what ‘science’ activity we might do this week. Maybe we will just focus on the general experience and less on any sort of discovery. I picked up to browse “The Well-trained Mind: A guide to classical education at home”. Its been good to read and remind myself of what is come and general expectations (knowing it could easily be a year or two off for any one child). At the same time, I picked up Natural Born Learners (free from amazon kindle last week. $3.99 now), which is a series of essays on unschooling. I’m philosophically attracted to both theories, and there seems to be one, very important, underlying assumption that is different between the two. In fact, I think its the assumption that sets unschooling apart from every other educational philosophy. The assumption is about how children learn (of course!), unschooling assumes that a child will learn. You put the information out there, you provide some interesting question and a child will learn. No teaching needed, no special methods needed, no formal sit-down-and-work needed. Children will learn whether you want them to or not. Every other philosophy assumes that if you (or someone) doesn’t “teach” it, the child won’t learn it. How you “teach” it varies from theory to theory. I put ‘teach’ in quotes because in some theories, its not what we imagine when we use the word ‘teach’, but its some form of active presentation of the material to the child. I suspect that I’m drastically simplifying the assumptions here and it might be that this basic assumption creates a continuum along which philosophies lie — some at extreme ends of you have to beat it into a child and the other end of not being intentional about presenting any new material. As I explore this, I hope to write about it. I feel like there is plenty written about all these things so I don’t need to add it, but I have this quite voice in my mind saying I can present a different view point which might help someone. Who knows… though we will find out!

Of course, the book I’m currently devouring is ‘The History of the Renaissance World’, but S.W. Bauer (same author as well-trained mind). I totally plan on purchasing all her history books… Ancient, Medievel and Renaissance is out. I’m hoping “modern” or some version is to be out soonish. Though it will take me a while to get through these three. The Renaissance book is *fat* at about 2 inches thick and 688 pages of text. The last 1/2 inch is notes, works cited and index.

And, if you are on goodreads.com, look for me (https://www.goodreads.com/friend/i?i=LTM2MDQ2MTUzNTg6MzY1) and if you aren’t on goodreads.com — you should be as its a great way to keep track of what you’ve read, what you want to read and what you are currently reading.



You might say that summer snuck in and surprised us. We knew it was coming, but we didn’t reach 100′ at all in May. And now, several days into June, and no 100′ days yet. Yes, we are seeing mid-90s regularly…. but is that summer? We are in central Texas after all, where our non-growing-seasons are July and August (not Dec – March, like most areas of the country) and its for the heat and sun, not the cold and snow. But when the a/c kicks on at 11 am, you know it must be summer, even if the thermometer is still suggesting that its spring.

The last several months have been busy and good. We traveled, we garage saled, we saw friends, we said good-bye to friends (both permanent-for-this-life and moving-away goodbyes). We helped friends move/pack up a truck. We are looking ahead to say good-bye to more friends as they move off to new jobs (ah, joys of grad school). We continue to wait. We are in the ‘approved and waiting’ stage for adopting an infant domestically, which means we wait. We are trying to wait well: with intentionality and expectation, while still living in this moment not in some future possible moment. The March, April and May in my flylady calender have very little white space left on them. June still has a fair bit and I hope to keep it that way.
I do have a few goals/hopes for the summer. First to work faithfully through “The Well-trained Mind: the classical education you never had”. I found that I really miss academics, so I decided to bring academics to me. If there is anyone interested in working through this with me, please let me know! I’d love to have a friend to talk with about the material (I’m delving into the history/politics chapter right now).
Second, I want to be more intentional about doing *stuff* (some might call it ‘school’, but my plans are so loosy-goosy, I’m not willing to use that word. Maybe ‘activity’ is a good word?) with Little Man. He turned 3 (!) in May, and is asking so many questions about so many things. He is all kinds of interested in stars, dinosaurs, what things eat, and what/who is a person. Its so exciting to see him exploring these various ideas, and I want to give him the fodder for further explanation.
For our first activity, we read a book about digging up dinosaurs and putting them together again (from the library). I had seen this activity as a pre-schooler fun activity, and a week or so ago, I froze 5 plastic dinosaurs in a bucket of water. I set Little Man up in the back yard with the block of ice in our water/sand table (emptied of water and sand!) with some water and salt (table salt and rock salt). I showed him how the salt causes the ice to melt and how the liquid water helps the the salt do its thing, and set him free. It was nearly 2 hours later before we got the first dinosaur out, and the others came quickly after. At the end, Little Man asked “can we dig more dinosaurs out?” He enjoys the activity, gets some good sensory and thought provoking play and I get a bit of on-my-own time to read or do my own thing. I’m always looking for these win-win activities.

Getting started.


salt.. and more salt... and more salt. Mommy, can I have more salt?

salt.. and more salt… and more salt. Mommy, can I have more salt?


This little thing doesn't hold much water....

This little thing doesn’t hold much water….

Almost there

Almost there

Free at last!

Free at last!

Quite the week

There are weeks when I’m thankful the weekend has come, and then there are weeks, like this one, when I recognize I NEED the weekend to recover from the week.

–The Hubby-man dashed up north to visit his family. Found a great ticket price with car rental, and it seemed quite worth it. It just meant dropping him at the airport (almost 2 hour drive, one way) then picking him up. It just meant a late night Monday.

–Tuesday Hubby-man and I went to the Mission Waco Banquet. It was great to hear the stories of how people have turned their lives around, gotten off the streets, have become ministers themselves. We left Little Man with a… wait for it… babysitter! At someone else’s house, no less! He had a great time, we had a great time. But, another ‘late’ night. (around here, ‘late’ means out past Little Man’s normal bedtime)

–normal day Wednesday.

–On Thursday, Little Man and I did what only crazy people do. Drive to downtown Austin at 5 pm. We ventured down that way to attend the book signing for “Notes from a Blue Bike” by Tsh Oxenreider, founder of theartofsimple.net. It was a ton of fun, nothing like what I expected.

Driving into Austin, at a crazy moment

Driving into Austin, at a crazy moment

Can you see my "I'm meeting a published author!" look?

Can you see my “I’m meeting a published author!” look?

The Palm Door, where the book signing was hosted.

The Palm Door, where the book signing was hosted.

–Today, we are taking it easy. Watching a bit too much TV. Tomorrow will be the same. Rest. Then, into the next week!

Finding my stride

This is a major thing for me these days… finding my stride. I’m not a runner, yet this running analogy really seems to work for me. I’ve run enough to know what it feels like when I find that stride or pace that lets me get in the zone. I do swim, or at least try, regularly, and I know that feeling of ‘the zone’, where I’ve found the pace, the rhythm that I can let just take over my movements.
I pick up a new work project and I need some focused time to ‘find my stride’, which means I’ve figured out the paradigms of the project, I’m able to move through the steps easily and smoothly.
I’ve nearly completely lost my stride in writing, shown by how sparse my posts are. More on this later.
I’m always thinking that with a bit of focused time I’ll find my stride in scheduling, housekeeping, parenting (which includes getting Little Man to sleep, or play on his own, or not scream/yell at me, or whatever), exercise, sewing, and anything else that life brings along. It took a few years of focused effort to find my stride in menu planning and cooking daily dinners.
But, of course, something happens, my stride is broken and the process of finding it starts over. Most recently, Little Man decided to sprout some new molars. At least, I can see buds on the bottom jaw, though nothing on the top, and this clingy, weepy, grumpy boy has been around for several days already. Or I have a few crappy days (or just one), or we get a bit busy, or someone gets sick (croup cough at 2 am… yeah, that not just breaks my stride but knocks me on my butt) and the stride is broken.
I don’t think this is a bad process or a misguided analogy of living life, but I do think sometimes I lack perspective on it. Most things in life are cyclical, think sweeping the floor, vacuuming or laundry. As soon as its done, it needs to be done again (esp with a 2 1/2 year old running around the house!). And the rest of the things in life are ‘this too shall pass’ kinds of things (good or bad). A little focused time and finding my stride for the daily ins and outs of life and life just runs better.
And then there are the really important things: reading the Bible, praying to the God of the universe, seeking Christ-likeness, loving Hubby, loving Little Man, loving people. And these are not things that are put down on the to-do list, nor checked off in a ‘I’m done!’ kind of way. These things don’t lend themselves to finding a stride in. These things are not about moving forward… they are more about standing still and being fully present in the here and now.
Finding my stride in the dailies (or weeklies?) does seem to help me stand still for these really important things. Maybe this is a part of living intentionally, or living simply. Or maybe its that the ‘stride’ for the really important things is of a different kind than the ‘stride’ for the dailies.
I’m still exploring this, thinking through it, and trying to understand this dynamic of daily ins and outs.
How about you? Does this even feel like your life?

2013 reflections

Well, my hopes at getting back to blogging didn’t pan out. But its my own fault, I just had no initiative to write. I know that something like writing is some thing you do when you want to and when you don’t want to, but at the same time, I’m writing this blog for friends and family… not to generate income, or create a business base, but to encourage, enlighten, and inform. And sometimes, you just gotta let it all lie dormant for a bit.

I started to look back at my 2013 posts, but there are an awful lot of them. The first post of the year, however, was a fun one, and I thought I’d do something like that. A few pictures, a few reflections…

G&G Younger Visit

Feb 2013

March 2013

April 2013

May 2013

June 2013

July 2013

August 20131

Sept 2013

Oct 2013

Nov 2013

Dec 2013


2013 was a good year in many ways. We’ve had a ton of fun with Little Man as he grows and develops. It was also a hard when we lost Kiddo in June (an early miscarriage), but we have great hope to comfort us in that loss.

Its exciting to look ahead at 2014. I see the potential of lots of exciting things! Or perhaps normal things… I plan to do laundry today. 😛