Friday, February 24, 2012

James' New Bamboo Art Tablet-- posted by Mom

Capt. America / Steve Rogers by ~Jambalaya95 on deviantART

Sports -- posted by George

Yesterday we played softball again and James and I were on a team playing against Mom, John, and Richard.

I hit the ball so hard, not caring where it would go, until I hit Mom in the back. Since Mom can't see as well as she used to, she pitches the ball, and if we hit it really hard, she turns around and covers her head because she knows she can't catch fast ones. I hit her hard twice, and believe me, softballs aren't soft! She said, "OW!" but she kept playing. She loves playing softball with us!

We only played one inning. Mom's team went first and got 14 runs. When James and I were up we got 25 points and then we had to stop because Mom got very tired. We all got tired! James kept hitting the ball over the fence toward the goat pen and they had to jump the fence, run through blackberry brambles in shorts, and jump back over the fence. I had to chase the ball too when they batted.

Mom has to look up the rules because she can't remember them all, but she thinks there is a time limit. We were hitting the ball over the fence for ages so they got tired chasing it, and we got tired running the bases!

We never learned the sport before because my mom doesn't like watching it, only playing it. It's the same with basketball. She was on the basketball, softball, and volleyball teams in high school, and she was a cheerleader, but she only likes watching football. Dad was on the tennis and the cross-country teams in high school. He also played a lot of backyard football. He was also on the wrestling team. He also took Judo for a while. Still, we like watching football and we watch soccer when we go to the pub and watch Billy's team. The Guinness chocolate cake there is really good, and The British Bulldog Pub isn't as loud as The Carolina Ale House.

John and I took all-American sports, and Richard took gymnastics a few years ago. Some of us took tennis lessons and we have rackets. We all love archery and we have nice bows of different kinds. We also have guns and enjoy shooting. We have skates and street hockey sticks. We love to swim, and we love to fish. We have a pond.

We have bikes, and now that we bought one for Mom for her birthday, we ride after school. Richard, John, and I race and time each other to see who's the fastest. The weather has been so nice all winter that we have been able to ride a lot. Mom drills us on our multiplication tables as we ride. We also talk about all sorts of things while we ride and sometimes we sing.

Mom says I'm athletic and I know I love playing sports. My favorite is football, but softball is a lot of fun too! I am having so much fun!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

My Valen Times -- posted by Richard

I meant to tell you about Valentine's Day-- it was GREAT! I gave Sarah Grace and Mom two books. The one that I gave Sarah is called Thinking of You, and the one I gave Mom is Love and Promises. They are books with quotes and Bible verses about love.

We all gave Sarah a huge box of chocolates and we gave Mom a huge waffle iron because she makes waffles on the weekends and it takes a long time with the regular size one. They were so happy!

Mom and Sarah gave us boys each a little box of Whitman's chocolates and little box of the heart candies with messages. We also got a baseball, a neon green softball, and best of all we got the Lady and the Tramp DVD! And guess what we had to eat on the bella notte when we watched Lady and the Tramp? Mom and Sarah made us a nice spaghetti supper!

Mom wanted us to have the balls because she is teaching us to play baseball and the one we have has a rip in it. We Young Guns had never played before, and we didn't know the rules. Today we played with Mom and James. It was so so fun! Mom and John beat the rest of us 18 to 9. We only played one inning, but we will get them next time! Even though Mom was on the softball team in high school, James asked her if she knew we let her win. Mom just laughed and laughed.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day, FedEx!: Part 2 -- posted by Sarah Grace

So here’s the REST of the story *a la Paul Harvey*. Billy’s Valentine’s gift to me finally arrived during the afternoon of the 15th. Unlike Quiniece’s claim to Mom about there not being a phone number for the sender, I’ve seen with my own eyes Billy’s number being written not once, but TWICE on the customs label. There is also written, as clear as day, the contents of the item: 1 mirror, 1 card.

Because Billy had mailing issues during Christmas as well, he made sure that he had the man at the post office look over everything he wrote on the customs label so that there wouldn’t be a problem. After the man at the PO went over the entire label line by line, he assured Billy that everything was in order. NOWHERE on the customs form does it ask for the dimensions of the item, nor is there even a PLACE where such information might be added. But apparently, according to Patty at Customer Advocate, the people at customs have the right to ask for any information they want on the spur of the moment, and can withhold delivery if such information isn’t provided. Never mind that the package in which Billy sent the mirror is only a 7x10 jiffy bag, but you could easily feel the mirror inside! Did they honestly need to know the thing was exactly 7cm?! IS NOT HAVING THAT INFORMATION A THREAT TO NATIONAL SECURITY OR SOMETHING?!

Doubt it.

But no. Little Miss FedEx Lady called me, the recipient of the gift, told me what its contents were, and asked me, the recipient of the gift, to explain further.

Now, even though Billy and I are no longer a romantic couple, we’re still best friends, and obviously we wanted to make Valentine’s Day special for each other. Needless to say, Billy was thoroughly disappointed and upset when -- after he went to extra trouble and expense to make sure my gift arrived on time – the package not only arrived late, but the surprise was ruined for me in the meantime, AND my mother had to spend Valentine’s morning wrestling with FedEx stupidity.

Unfortunately for Billy, his misery didn’t even end there. All the while he was dealing with the FedEx debacle, he said that in the back of his mind he thought, “Well even though this has happened, hopefully the flowers she receives will soften the disappointment.” Then, on that very afternoon, he received an email from stating that they were unable to deliver the flowers he ordered, but to get in touch with them if he’d like them delivered at a later date. Poor Billy wrote back demanding why the flowers – FLOWERS HE ORDERED ON THE 2nd OF FEBRUARY -- couldn’t be delivered. Four days later, they still haven’t answered, and the flowers are still undelivered.

Perhaps iFlorist is owned by FedEx.

P.S. However, I did receive a beautiful arrangement on the 16th, which Billy ordered that very day from Arena Flowers.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Food Gestapo -- posted by Mom

Did y'all see this? From what I've found this is a true story of a little girl in NC whose mommy packed her lunch with a turkey and cheese sandwich, a banana, apple juice, and chips. A state agent who inspected her lunch decided it didn't meet the federal nutritional guidelines because it was missing a vegetable and milk. The official then charged the family $1.25 for the school cafeteria lunch that was provided for the girl, from which the child ate three chicken nuggets.

The little girl's mother stated that since her daughter doesn't like vegetables, she serves them at home so she can watch her and see that she has, indeed, consumed them. Naturally the mom is livid that her daughter was told her mommy didn't pack her a healthy lunch.

Oh Lord, another bee in my bonnet.

Yahoo News

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day, FedEx! -- posted by Mom

Bright and early this morning we received a phone call from FedEx inquiring about a package Billy sent from the UK to Sarah Grace for Valentine's Day. The representative, Quiniece, proceeded to ask Sarah about the sender of the package because she thought it said Billy Love. Sarah told her his name is Billy Lane and he is her best friend. Then Quiniece said, "It says it is a mirror card. What is that?" Sarah said she supposed it was a Valentine's Day gift from Billy. Quiniece said, "Yes I know that, but what's in it?" Sarah said she didn't know, but perhaps her mom knew more, and she passed the phone to me.

When I took the phone, haughty Quiniece explained that they needed to know what was in the package. I explained that Sarah is the recipient of a gift, and asked her how we should know. She said the customs label said mirror card and she asked what that was. I said I presumed it was a mirror and a card. She then proceeded to ask me the dimensions of the mirror. Again, I explained to uppity Quiniece, the bully with an over-blown sense of authority, that we are the recipients of a gift and she should CALL THE SENDER FOR THIS INFORMATION.

As the conversation continued with me trying to get to the bottom of the "so, what?" over the dimensions, she gave me a typical bureaucratic response that the dimensions were of the highest importance and customs couldn't release the gift without the dimensions. I asked her why FedEx accepted the package AND TOOK BILLY'S HARD EARNED MONEY WITHOUT REQUIRING THE NECESSARY INFORMATION. My good mind of Christ told me the dimensions of the mirror were probably close to the package size, and I couldn't figure out what the big damn deal was about. She then told me that I could go online to the customs website and read all about it. With that, I was convinced that once again I was the victim of the rampant racism we deal with constantly. Quandra and Tamekia at Walmart love giving us the runaround over minutia, and seem to relish wasting our time. I see the pattern. There is a profile. So, for my own knowledge, I asked her if she was black. Of course she hung up on me. I expected that; I wanted her to know I get it, and I've had enough.

Meanwhile, I emailed Billy and told him what was going on. Mind you, he had emailed me a couple of days earlier and asked me to intercept the package and remove the customs label so it wouldn't spoil the surprise. In order to goad him to action, I asked him if they took his hard earned money to get the package here on time. This was his response:

Oh no I can't believe it! The PO this end never mentioned anything about the dimensions being necessary… I even asked the man to look over the form for me (I was talking about the previous debacle with the Christmas present) and he said it was fine! And anyway, the package is only so big, you can feel the thing inside it!

And no, the money left my account the second I finished keying in my pin number on the card reader pretty much! Oh I'm so annoyed, I paid extra to guarantee it gets there BEFORE V-Day, and I'm so upset they told her what it was as well. Oh this has ruined my day. Is she okay?

I know asking Quiniece if she was black is politically incorrect; I don't live under a rock, you know. We get this junk shoved down our throats not only in January and February but all year long! Americans are so scared of the accusation of being racist that they turn a blind eye to a pattern that is clearly evident! People, the emperor wears no clothes!

Yeah, yeah, I know this declaration supposedly makes me a racist. Never mind that one of the most godly women I know of is black; I have deep admiration and genuine love for Tracy. And yet, when we profess such a truth it is mocked for being further evidence of racism! And never mind that my father evicted me from my home when I was in my 20s because I went to a church that had a black member. I stood up to racism to my own hurt! But none of that counts when I state the truth that in my experience a large percentage of black women have an axe to grind, and treat white women with disdain.

Many thanks to Patty, a customer advocate who seems to have common sense, but unfortunately doesn't have any authority over Quiniece. She explained that the declared value of the gift was so high it got attention from customs. Evidently once you pass a certain amount, it automatically gets flagged. Hopefully Sarah's gift won't be sent back to the UK.

Nevertheless FedEx has not heard the last of me on this. I told the Lord that I intend to scandalize these businesses that have nonexistent customer service. There is an epidemic of lazy American workers of all races. They constantly drop calls they don't want to deal with, and most people don't want the hassle of demanding justice. Shame on them! They allow themselves to be stolen from and just take it!

And to my sons, take note that the only people I know personally who gird their loins and fight this kind of abuse are women. Mary Lucia and Jo are pit bulls and I thank God for them, but WHERE ARE THE MEN?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Girl Has A New 'Do -- posted by Mom

...only it looks better in real life. It's more flippy-uppy than it looks here.

Now she is officially one of those people who takes pictures of themselves in mirrors. o_0

(Okay, I made her.)

Monday, February 6, 2012

Chartwell -- posted by Mom

Since Billy is only minutes from Winston Churchill's homeplace, Chartwell, AND SINCE HE HAS NOT YET BEEN THERE, he's going for us after they reopen in March. We'll even let him do a guest Show and Tell post for being such a good boy!

Also, y'all click the link and check out Churchill's studio on the slideshow.

Thanks again Billy!

Friday, February 3, 2012

US Citizenship Test -- posted by Mom

Hey Kiddos

Take this US citizenship test and make note of which ones you miss... except for George and Richard... unless y'all want to.

Christian Science Monitor US Citizenship Test

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Churchill's Paintings -- posted by Sarah Grace

I found an online gallery of 121 of Churchill's paintings. Click on the first one and watch it as a slideshow. Some are really wonderful with an intuitive eye for light.

Churchill's Paintings

For Our Fellow Homeschoolers -- posted by Mom

One thing we homeschool teachers have learned over the years is that even if we’re no great scholars ourselves, that doesn’t necessarily prevent us from being great teachers. I like to call myself a facilitator rather than a teacher, because it’s more honest, and yet it gets the job done. Since the Lord charges us with educating our own children, I’ve always been secure in knowing he would help, supernaturally, if need be.

As a veteran homeschool mom, I can handle anything in the lower grades (yay me!) but I still need help when my students reach high school. Now that I’ve completed high school several times, I’ve gained more confidence, although I still shrink back at the prospect of teaching higher math or writing. Bill is in charge of higher math, which left me searching for a writing curriculum that would hit the spot. If your homeschool is like ours, you may try different things year to year to find what suits your fancy, or student, at the mo. We’ve especially enjoyed a video series by Andrew Pudewa over the years, and lately we’ve been watching lectures from The Great Courses. Our instructor, Dr. Dorsey Armstrong, is an Associate Professor of English and Medieval Literature at Purdue University. The name of the course is Analysis and Critique: How to Engage and Write about Anything.

The Teaching Company, later known as The Great Courses, was founded in 1990 and uses professional recruiters to identify the top 1% of professors in the country based on teaching awards, published evaluations, newspaper write-ups, etc. They have an audition process and a jolly big to-do in choosing their professors. These professors are chosen from the Ivy League, Stanford, Georgetown, and other leading colleges and universities.

I often use The Great Courses; we own dozens of them, but I’m reluctant to promote them to homeschoolers since it’s obviously a secular company, and you have to be very careful with the dastardly worldview of those dastardly Ivy League Collectivist Factories. Although, by the time my children reach high school, they are sufficiently brainwashed—squeaky clean—and they can usually spot the telltale signs themselves. When it was mentioned that Dr. Armstrong had credentials in some kind of medieval women writer thus-and-such, and then when she had us examine the short story The Yellow Wallpaper, which is a piece of feminist literature, some of the kids looked over and gave me the all-knowing nod and raised eyebrow. And although we probably part ways on certain issues (and I wouldn’t want them to watch this course without me present) we love Dr. Armstrong, and we’ve learned a lot.

Except for a handful, most of the courses are college level, but since we don’t have testing (sans the pressure), and we watch them at our leisure, it works for us. My goal has always been for them to be lifelong learners, and the fact that they will pop in a lecture for fun suggests I’m having some success.

The children’s preferred professor far and away is Dr. J. Rufus Fears. In fact, meeting him is on their bucket list! I think we own all of his courses. He is a fantastic storyteller and we can’t get enough of him. We are currently watching his course on Winston Churchill, and Will comes in from work thoroughly annoyed if we’ve watched it without him. I’ve tried to explain that we can’t do school around his work schedule, especially since he is currently working three jobs.

Dr. Fears is a perfect example of how important parenting is during the formative years. Dr. Fears admires Abraham Lincoln as a statesman and a man of integrity, as most of us have, but based on our study and values, we hold a very different view. (See The Real Lincoln) Nevertheless, Dr. Fears, affectionately known as “Rufie” around here (but we’re sworn to never slip up and call him that to his face), is a favorite lecturer, like a beloved uncle of academia.

Fortunately for Will, we have saved watching The Everyday Guide to Spirits and Cocktails: Tastes and Traditions with him since he is one of only four in the house of legal drinking age. Nice of us, huh? Our professor is Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan, and she has really packed in the information in this short eight-lecture course. It’s not a mixology course, although in each lecture we are shown by a bartender how to make a few classic cocktails for each individual spirit. I wish I had found this earlier, it would have made a great Christmas present, along with her course The Everyday Guide to Wine. If you click the links to each of those courses, you can see a preview of each one.

I should mention that apart from The Everyday Guide to Spirits and Cocktails: Tastes and Traditions, I never pay full price for the courses, as everything goes on sale at least once a year. I normally buy the courses for at least 70% off! I only bought the spirits teaching at full price because it was about 30 bucks. I usually watch their sales and pick up courses when I can. Again, beware of subject matter that usually has an all-out assault on matters of faith. I don’t buy any science courses, or anything that typically has a post-Christian worldview.

When it comes to certain subject matter, I am extremely controlling like a good parent should be. But it’s not like they are sheltered from knowing what the world teaches. For example, I encourage them to read Darwin, and we simply let the scriptures make a fool of him along the way. I could never delegate the education of my impressionable children to anyone else, even a trusted friend, much less a stranger.

Although Sarah Grace is finished with her formal schooling, she’s making her way through The Great Books of the Western World. The other night I walked past her room and she was in bed reading aloud to Richard (9). They were all clean and cuddled up in crisp bedclothes with the warm lighting of her bedside lamp-- a rather inviting scene. It was a toasty picture of an older sister taking time to read, perhaps, one of our favorite classics to her youngest brother. “Maybe Winnie-the-Pooh or Wind in the Willows,” I thought snugly. Imagine my surprise when they reported they were reading The Communist Manifesto! And they were enjoying it! Sarah would stop to explain words like “proletariat,” and Richard would say, “I know, the working class.” (This, coming from a boy who still calls his splinters blisters!) So, with all grades going on at the same time, in this one-room schoolhouse of ours, they pick up certain things because they are present for discussions or lectures, and consequently I rarely know what grade my kids are really in… except for math, we don’t get ahead of ourselves there obviously.

Speaking of math, we are watching an awesome course from The Great Courses called, Secrets of Mental Math. Oh please check out the preview! I can’t believe how easy it is to do certain calculations that I could only do on paper before-- like multiplying three digit numbers by three digit numbers. Oh how I wish I had seen this course when I was still in school! It would have saved me YEARS of frustration and embarrassment. The younger children could only handle it for the first three lectures because he then started teaching how to do multi-digit division in your head, and it was beyond them, since they aren’t able to do it on paper yet. We’ll pick it back up for them later. The older kids are still going at it, though. It is just fascinating to have your eyes opened, and what seemed so hard, is now so easy!

Honestly, I’m hopeful I might gain from this writing course we’re taking. I’ve wanted to be able to write since I got the new birth, now that I finally have something worthwhile to say! Sometimes I wonder if I’m too old to learn, though. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’m not fishing for sympathy or feigning inanity for encouragement. I just know I make the same errors repeatedly. When you carry the titles of Little Miss Run-on Sentence, or Queen Non Sequitur, it doesn’t take long to realize it just isn’t sinking in. Truth is, I love run-on sentences. Unfortunately, so do some of my children. Some of us speak in beautifully exuberant run-on sentences! Who knows, the Lord may just want to continue to use me as a fab-a-lous speaker. We’ll see.

For somebody who can’t write, I just spent ages pecking this out for what reason I can't even remember. And now I have to cook supper. Ha.

P.S. I meant to praise The Great Courses customer service, specifically, Evelyn Mayfield, in customer relations. In this age of non-customer service, Ms. Mayfield was incredibly accommodating when I placed my most recent order. After I had clicked "place order," I continued to browse around the site and noticed the Churchill teaching by Rufus Fears was on sale. Since I had a coupon code, I decided to also order it. For some reason, the coupon worked on the order page, but didn't show up on the final transaction page. Although the coupon was only for 5 bucks, I was annoyed, because I wasn't even planning on ordering it except for the coupon. Normally I don't do such a thing (having a husband unemployed for seven months will make you do strange things!), but I emailed customer service asking if they could apply the coupon after all. Ms. Mayfield was incredibly gracious during the subsequent emails and applied the coupon for me after getting the necessary information. It blessed my heart that this busy woman took so much time to accommodate me and my 5 dollars! And if she ripped her hair out, I never knew it!