Sunday, September 28, 2008

Peregrin House

Our homeschool has a name!

Peregrin House

Peregrin is a Latin word for "Pilgrim," and, of course, it is also the name of one of the hobbits in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy. It is close to the Spanish word for pilgrim, perigrino, and it captures how we think of school as a journey, a pursuit of truth and knowledge.

I like the "homey" sound of "house," as opposed to "school" or "academy," or even "homeschool." I've always like the way the Montessori school refer to the Kindergarten House. It gives the feel of something small, eclectic, & real life, which is exactly what we are.

So, there you have it. Thanks for reading.

Friday, September 26, 2008


I have resisted writing about this for a long time because I'm really resistant, in general, to the way women talk about losing weight, dieting & exercise ALL THE TIME. For as long as I can remember, this is something that occupies the time and space of the lives of women, especially in America, WAY TOO MUCH. We could be doing other things, people. Saving the world, for example.

But I cannot hide my head in the sand and pretend 1) that the problem doesn't exist, or 2) that it doesn't affect me. The truth is that the problem exists in a horrifyingly big way in our culture. When someone tries to talk my 17-yr old, beautiful, soccer-playing, bike-riding, healthy, active, and incredibly strong daughter into dieting, I KNOW this culture has a problem. Do we even remember that women are supposed to have curves? That a little belly pooch means that our bodies have enough stored fat to carry babies, the way we were designed?

Yes, yes, I totally understand the flip side of this. I understand that obesity is an issue, that fast food, junk food, soda, candy, and huge portions are also an out-of-control problem in our society. I understand that people watch too much TV and play too many video games, which means they aren't getting the exercise they need.

We have a real crisis, though, when it's ok to eat junk and lie on the couch as long as you're skinny. See, the way I see it, people are only responding the the trouble with fast food and candy in as much as it applies to obesity. Very few people are actually talking about health. And when we talk about health, we act as though the only way to be healthy is to be thin.

I'd like to see the day when our standards of beauty embrace people of all kinds of shapes and sizes. And I'm making a concerted effort to at least set a different standard for beauty in my own home. We talk about being healthy, eating healthy, exercising to keep us strong and alert and happy, and taking care of our bodies in a way that makes us feel good about who we are (whether that's clothes or lotion or perfume or jewelry, whatever...). What I'd really like to do is think about some artwork that reflects real beauty. AND, I need to guard carefully the way I talk about myself because it affects my whole family.

You see, I'm really ok most of the time. I know that I haven't gotten enough exercise when I start complaining about the way I look because I feel pretty much ok when I'm healthy and active. When I'm not healthy and active I start to feel bad, and then I complain about how I look. And it's easy to go there because I grew up being told I was fat. It's really hard to let go of that. And now I'm watching my daughter go through it.

You know how they say that we all need 10 positive comments for every negative? One negative comment about appearance is SUCH a set-back for women. It takes so much reassurance to believe the people who say we're beautiful. It seems only natural to assume that the people who say the less pleasant things are the ones who are telling the real truth. In the area of beauty, though, it's more often that the people with the negative commentary have been brainwashed by our culture and are trying to feel better about themselves (by putting other people down or getting others to join them in their mostly unhealthy dieting plans).

Why is it that diet plans are so often completely unhealthy anyway?

What is it that I'm getting at? I'm trying to brainstorm how to protect my children from this mindset. If we work on this one household at a time, maybe we can save the world, eh?

And I want to put it out there that I'm on a quest for health. I've been dragging a little lately because moving to the new place has meant that I've gotten less exercise. Less exercise makes me want to exercise even less. Then I feel blah and depressed. Then Vespera gets depressed because I'm depressed and Mango gets worried and Mane gets crabby. AND, winter is coming, which means that we cannot afford to get all depressed now. We have a hard enough time getting through winter without all that.

I'm on a quest for health so that we can all make through the winter alive and joyful, healthy and strong, and feeling beautiful! This is going to involve some mental work as well as some physical work and a great deal of creativity. I'm ready to tackle it, though. Starting now. With me and my little family.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Homeschool Update 9/22

Not a lot to advertise about last week's homeschooling endeavors. We're not getting serious until October when soccer season is over. So, we're easing our way in slowly.

We flew through a couple more math lessons. Mane will take the test for chapter 12 today. We slogged through a couple more reading lessons. I don't remember what number we're on, but it's still somewhere in the 40's. We read Owl Moon by Jane Yolen, and the unit study adventures began! We talked about (and read about) the moon, owls, and famous naturalists (Henry David Thoreau & Rachel Carson). Mane wrote her own nature counting book and sat at the window in the sunroom/library observing & drawing nature pictures.

We watched and played a lot of soccer, played Swap at a coffee shop, went to the Walker library, and took a couple of long bus rides.

That's our week in a nutshell. Stay tuned for future updates.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Old Friends

"Make new friends, but keep the old.
One is silver, and the other's gold."

Last night I had the great pleasure of being in the company of some of my golden friends, old friends from college. On polite days, we called ourselves the "Lounge Crowd" when we all went to Bethel College together. On less particular days we were the "Lounge Rats." Our theme song was,

"Brave rebels are we
Born to be free
Like fish in the sea"

We loved each other genuinely and without pretense. We tucked people in for naps on the couch, smoothed back hair when someone was sick, argued philosophy, theology and feminism together, edited each other's papers, gave honest opinions, supported each other in not caving to the COOL crowd. We read Winnie the Pooh stories and took many brief trips out for bagels and coffee when the rest of campus was attending chapel. We did a lot of other silly and attention-grabbing things. One friend chewed on pant legs, and she baaah-ed like a sheep whenever tour groups went by. There were some who climbed on the ledge above the lounge and shot peas down on everyone. We were all different from the mainstream crowd and fairly different from each other, and we were all very, very driven.

We were drawn together either by being post-secondary students or commuters or both. We "lived" in the lounge. During finals week we joked that we should pitch a tent. As it was, there were always one or two of us hanging around while others were in class, and there was always a pile a coats and winter boots and/or books, backpacks, and half-finished projects.

We counseled each other through relationships, caffeine withdrawal, and faith crisis. We were not always right, and we definitely weren't perfect...though I think all of us had some perfectionist tendencies. Looking back we see ourselves more clearly and smile wryly sometimes. We weren't who we are now...people who have experienced lots of growth and change, who have developed a better sense of direction and more defined values. But there's still this thread of genuineness, of honest integrity and appreciation of and for each other.

I hope that I can look back at other points in my life and see that I've developed friendships as solid and beautiful as the old ones. It seems that I have a couple of good friends from each "era" of my life...early childhood, high school, college. It seems that it's gotten harder as I've gotten older. Maybe there's just less time for staying up late or for running off to get coffee and bagels. Maybe I have to be more intentional because life is different. But friends definitely make my life richer. Last night was like being wrapped in a warm, familiar blanket. I'll be smiling about our little reunion for a long time.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

35W Bridge

The new 35W bridge in Minneapolis opened this morning, just a little over 1 year from the time the old bridge collapsed last August. This is big news at our house because we live just minutes from the bridge. I didn't expect to find myself teary-eyed over it, but I couldn't help getting a little bleary-eyed as I opened the link in our local newspaper this morning. As many of you know, my neighbor's daughters were on the bus that was on the bridge when it collapsed last year. All of the children were ok, but many other people were not. It has been an emotional year for our community.

Today is a day to celebrate, though. It's interesting that the newspaper used the words "Made Whole" in the headlines because it's actually an all new bridge, but it feels like they're speaking of the piece of healing that can now take place in all of us with a new bridge in place.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Difference Between Boys and Girls

While waiting at the bus stop yesterday Mane & a little boy were observing two birds flying around in the sky.

The boy said, "I bet they're fighting. I think they're fighting."

Mane said, "I don't think so. I think they're marrying."

There you have it people - the primary difference between boys and girls. ;)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Homeschool Check-In

First off, our homeschool needs a name. Then this can be something other than the "Homeschool" Check-In. For now, though, it's my intent to post the highlights of the past week in my blog sometime in the following week. We'll see if I can narrow it down to a particular day eventually.

So, last week Mane finished chapter 9 in her math book (Alpha by Math U See). I ordered the teaching DVDs to see what I've been missing up until now, and, after looking through Alpha, I think we'll be ordering Beta about halfway through the year. Mane LOVES math, and she could totally play games surrounding math concepts all day.

We began reviewing reading concepts after a pretty significant summer break. I KNOW I should have had her practicing all summer, but the truth is that reading is tough for her, and I took the summer to evaluate how I want to approach reading. I really, really don't want to turn it into a battle. I loved to read as a child, and I want so badly to pass that joy on the Mane. Mango struggled with reading, though, and it looks like Mane is following a similar pattern. Fortunately, she loves stories and could listen to reading for hours, with or without pictures.

I struggle, personally, with Mane's reading, though. It's something I want to work for her so badly, and it's probably the first thing where I've really had to recognize that she isn't going to just pick it walking and talking and math. Heck, even potty training with easy with this kid. People tell stories about kids who just start reading on their own without formal teaching, and I imagined that it would be like this with Mane, but it hasn't been. It's funny the dreams we have that we have to release.

So, I picked up the book The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading, which we borrowed from the library for much of last spring, and we'll be working and struggling and braving our way through it for the rest of this year. We did lessons 42 & 43 today. The plan is to go through 2-3 lessons a day (one or two review and one or two new).

We also listened to lesson one of Pimsleur Spanish AND both Beth Manners Spanish CDs that we have. I am determined to work on Spanish this year. Determined, I tell you. I go through horrible periods of guilt at having not begun speaking Spanish to Mane from the time she was born. I feel ridiculous about it, but it's something I've continued to drag my feet about for the last two years of home pre-schooling and kindergarten. This year I want to really tackle it. Perhaps this blog will hold me accountable.

We'll be "rowing" the Five in a Row book Owl Moon this week and next, learning about owls and the moon (obviously), along with some various other things that pop up along the way. If you've never read it before, it's a sweet, sweet story about a father and child going to watch for Owls at night in the snow.

If you made it this far, thanks for reading.

And if you have a name suggestion, please post!!

Friday, September 05, 2008

Mane: On the presidential election...

"Why don't they just give them all a turn?"

I guess maybe she has learned something about sharing. ;)

Thursday, September 04, 2008

The New House

So, this is day 5 in the new place. I think there are less than 10 boxes left to unpack - mostly office stuff, pictures to hang on the walls, Mane's toys, and some other fragile decorative items.

Anyway, remember what I said about my family being my home? Well, it's a good thing it is that way because moving has been WAY harder than I thought it would be. I miss our other house. I miss th view out the windows. I especially miss old kichen & bathroom, though the ones here are getting a makeover in the next month. I told Mango the other night that I'm ready for this vacation to be over. It's time to go back home now. Yikes. I thought I'd be totally happy to be here. Our little, solid family made a unified decision to move, and now we're finally here. Maybe we had anticipated it being much more wonderful than it is in reality. The reality is that this new house has a lot of dirt, needs a lot of cleaning and paint, and is organized in a completely different way than the old place. It feels unfamiliar. It makes us homesick.

It's amazing what place can mean to we humans. I just finished reading Esperanza Rising (a book I'd totally recommend, by the way), and in the first chapter Esperanza lies on the ground next to her father to hear the heartbeat of the earth at their ranch in Mexico. People are tied to place in a profound way. I used to say that I left a piece of my heart in Mexico after my first trip there. In an odd sort of way, it came back to me through Vespera. I don't feel a pull toward the country any more, but I certainly feel a connection. Novio, on the other hand, feels a profound sense of loss at having left his homeland. The ocean, the cliffs, the sky. He talks about them all, and the voice of his heart was written all over his face while he watched the waves in Duluth.

When we moved into our old house, I said then that I'd never move again. I didn't realize how much I sunk my roots into that place or what a profound sense of loss I'd feel upon leaving. We still own the house, but other people are living there now. The world has tilted under my feet. I need to find the heartbeat of the new place.

In the meantime, my family carries me through. We shoulder this burden of change together. Even Novio brings his quiet reassurances, telling us it will be fine. We'll be ok. He knows, maybe much more deeply than the rest of us, that we'll be ok. We will find joy in the new.

We wil find joy in the new. May we turn our faces toward change together and open our hearts to joy.

Monday, September 01, 2008


We are finally all moved into our new house. Well, I mean, all our stuff is here, and I'm not sure how everything fit into a smaller house, as it doesn't seem to fit into this MUCH larger house.

I can't believe how much I felt the similarities between moving and childbirth. Maybe it's because I'm a childbirth educator that I see the parallels. But, first, there was the waiting. We knew approximately when we'd be moving but not the specific date. In the week leading up the the tentative date, I talked with my mother and my mother in law almost every day and assured them that I'd let them know as soon as I knew anything. When the time finally came, I called up my good friends, and everyone came over to help. At first it felt ok, and I was moving things slowly on my own & with my good friend, checking in with Mango,Vespera & Mane every now and then. Then, suddenly, a whole crew of help showed up so fast that I couldn't keep up. I felt swallowed by the process. There wasn't enough of me to go around because everyone wanted to know this or that or something else. Finally, my good friend & my mom told me to sit down and relax and they'd help me. My anxiety level was through the roof as the boxes kept piling up in the front room. I told Mango I didn't want to move any more, that the old house was just fine, that I wanted to close my eyes and have it disappear. Sounds oddly like what we call "transition" in childbirth, the point at which you're almost done, but things are so intense that you talk about quitting, about wanting to be done, about changing your mind about this whole birth thing, as if you could go back. Then came the last load of boxes, my good friend's husband got the beds put together. My mom and my friend helped me make the bed. Novio, who had been helping with the move went in to help Vespera through a similar crisis. Things slowed WAY down, and then everything was here. I still felt overwhelmed and exhausted, but as soon as everyone left I regained some focus and was able to empty a number of boxes and see how everything was eventually going to fit together. We had ice cream and went to bed. So, life in the new house began.