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Eclectic Thoughts from a Homeschool Mom » 2008 » April

Curly had it right

April 19th, 2008

Do you remember the movie City Slickers? It had Billy Crystal and Jack Palance in it. It was popular when it came out, but it wasn’t the comedy that made an impact on me. It was one small set of lines that Jack Palance’s character, Curly, made. Here it is:

Curly: Do you know what the secret of life is?
[holds up one finger]
Curly: This.
Mitch: Your finger?
Curly: One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don’t mean sh*t.
Mitch: But, what is the “one thing?”
Curly: [smiles] That’s what *you* have to find out.

My family has gone out of town for an annual event and left me alone for 4 days. While they were gone, I have hand-tilled and planted a garden, painted Mother’s Day gifts, caught up on all filing, cleaned my office, framed some art, and managed to clean the house from top to bottom.

While I was planting the garden today, I thought about Curly’s words. The one thing. I think that statement is really true for everyone. Not to say that everyone is content with their one thing. So many people want tons of things like money, fame, big house, fast cars, etc. However, what is the one thing that really gives their life purpose?Curly from City Slickers

I think I realized what my one thing was while I was planting those little seeds. It is about giving back. In my life, when I have given freely, it has ALWAYS come back to me. Whether it is providing care for an ill relative, volunteered when no one else would, worked an extra shift for a stressed boss, etc. I think my one thing is “giving back”. I think that God would like to hear my epiphany. Who knows? Maybe that one thing works for many of us? It would be a better place to live if it were. Wouldn’t it?

Spring gardening uncovers interesting critters

April 14th, 2008

I decided yesterday to break down and mow the lawn for the front and back yard. Thankfully in Texas, we really only have to mow for about 7 months of the year. I hadn’t mowed the lawn since November, so I thought it was time. The lawn was getting long at about 7″.

Our trusty lawnmower started right up and I was off to mow the back first. As we have a pretty big backyard, I knew it was going to take a while to get the job done. Our yard has several pecan trees in it so, I had to stop here and there and pick up fallen branches (not to mention tennis balls used as dog toys, a forgotten frisbee, a garden tool or two, and some water shoes forgotten after Slip ‘N Slide fun).

I had gotten about 3/4 of the yard done, when I realized that I needed to move some fence boards. We had had one side of our fence replaced at the end of summer and the installer had propped up some planks at my request. The winter winds had blown them down in the corner of the yard. As I was transporting some of the planks from one side of the yard to the other, I heard my son say: “Mom, I found a snake.” Eeek! I have a healthy respect for snakes. I give them their space and they don’t bite me. It is a mutual thing.

Snake in our yardI ran over to the other side of the yard just in time to see the snake bury itself into our lawn. It was gone – JUST LIKE THAT. We looked for a few minutes, but couldn’t find the little guy. I remember it being a bit of a brownish, gray with no markings. I had never seen one before.

I continued to mow the lawn on the far side of the yard after a short break. As I was maneuvering around the garden, I saw ANOTHER snake. This guy was just like the first one, but longer. I immediately turned off the lawn mower and looked down to the the little guy disappear into our lawn again. Wow! They are fast little critters. I decided to take a typical homeschooling moment (“I don’t know what it is, let’s go look it up on the computer!”). We found out that our snakes are Plains Blind Snakes (Leptotyplops dulcis dulcis). These little guys look like earthworms, but are actually snakes. They are harmless (unless you are a tasty termite or ant). Whew!

As I mowed, I noticed that the female Grackles followed me as if I were the Pied Piper. Any grasshopper that jumped out of the way of my mower, was an hot lunch for the following birds.Jewel Spider in our yard

Other favorite spring critters are Golden Orb Weaver and Jewel Spiders (to the right), June Bugs, and Ladybird Beetle larvae. We also enjoy hearing the Cicadas sing to one another. Ah…Spring in Texas. What a joy.

Update on neighbor who needs respect lessons

April 11th, 2008

First of all, my neighbor is FAR more assertive then I could ever be. I think that I would’ve let the issue with the dog dropping “drop” (LOL). I have a non-confrontational side that would rather make peace, not war. However, there are times when I can get into someone’s face if they are hurting my family or someone that can’t defend for themselves.

My neighbor saw last night that the garage was open where the rude, young man lived. She saw his mother taking out the trash can to the curb. She walked up the street and said: “Excuse me, can I talk to you for a minute? Are you the mother of the young man that lives here?” The woman said “yes” and my neighbor started to relay the events that happened the day earlier. Just then, the young man and several of his friends came out of the garage. The young man said: “Don’t listen to this F…B…. She is crazy! The cops told me that my dog could take a S…. wherever he wanted and no one could do anything about it!”

My neighbor looked at the young man and told him that she was speaking to his mother and to please leave the conversation. The young man got very upset and started to let the F-word phrases fly. My neighbor looked at the mother and said: “Could you please ask your son to leave?” The mother (in a nervous voice) said: “Christopher, Christopher….Christopher…could you please go inside?” My neighbor said that the woman sounded almost frightened to ask the young man to leave the conversation. Then, my neighbor said that she had not seen the young man around and wanted to know if he would be “living in the neighborhood for long”. The woman said that her son had been “gone for a while” and would be living there until further notice.

I guess the conversation ended there, but not before my neighbor said that she did not want the man on her property, around her property, or around her family. (I know I couldn’t have said something like she did, but she stands up for herself much better than most do.)

I mentioned the situation to my husband on the phone and he reminded me of something from last year. We went out to dinner early last year and noticed that there were several police cars in front of the young man’s house when we got home. They took him away in handcuffs. Hmmm…..maybe the reason my neighbor hadn’t seen this young man was because he was in jail? Maybe his mother IS AFRAID of him and won’t ask him to change his attitude towards her neighbors? Snowflakes to Avalanches

As for me, I will continue to pick up after other people’s dogs. I take a bag with me when I walk my own. Not everyone does that. That is the world we live in. However, it just takes a snowflake to start an avalanche. Should more of us show respect & courtesy, we sure could make an amazing avalanche.

Respect. A thing of the past.

April 10th, 2008

I came home from a busy day to a neighbor that was in a fuss. She wanted to warn me about what went on while we were out. Here is her version of how things went.

She happened to look out the window around 4pm and saw a young man and his dog on my front lawn. The dog repeatedly did “his business” and the owner just let him do it. When the dog was done, the pair started walking up the sidewalk. My neighbor quickly went outside and asked the young man if he lived in our neighborhood. He said that he lived just up the street and wanted to know what business it was of hers.

ProfanityOur neighbor asked him not to let his dog defecate on her or my lawn. She was tired of having to pick up after other people’s dogs. Could he please use a bag? She asked if he had a bag as she would be happy to give him one. He proceeded to blast her with phrases formed around the F-word and yelled at her at the top of his lungs. He said he didn’t need a *-bag. He had just taken his *-dog to the *-park across the way and didn’t use a *-bag there (great, folks at the park always love stepping in dog droppings).

Our neighbor is far more outspoken than I am, so she didn’t put up with his language. She told him: “Don’t you DARE speak to me that way. I asked you to pick up after your dog. You don’t need to be so incredibly rude.” The man gave a recognizable gesture and continued to call her colorful names all the way up to his home. His home was two houses up from ours.

Our neighbor was so flustered that she called the police about his behavior (I would’ve just let it go). When we got home, a police car was just leaving the man’s house. My neighbor said that she felt that she needed to watch out for us and wanted to make sure that people picked up after their dogs. She thought that an officer might drop by and ask questions. No one came over.

This whole situation made me wonder where respect went. Do parents & schools not teach that any longer? I would have NEVER called an adult or teacher names when I was a kid. I don’t do it now. I would never tell a stranger off with the F-word flying. If I were truly angry, I would be much more of an adult and use proper language. To me, when you start hurling profanity, it just shows stupidity on your part. An intelligent individual doesn’t need to spit out vulgarity to get their point across.

What ever happened to “Yes, Ma’am” or “No, Sir”? No wonder older folks think that the world is crumbling. When people don’t speak with respect to one another, how can they ask for respect in return? I wonder if the police officer mentioned that hurling profanities at our neighbor is considered harassment? I wonder if he would care if it were.

Teenagers – Can’t live with them….

April 9th, 2008

I said it once before: “The terrible-twos are nothing compared to the the terrible teens”. The teen years are difficult for everyone. Believe me, I have had the pounding headaches to prove it. For a growing youth, reaching the title of teenager, is a big deal. The prospect of: more freedom, a driver’s license, a part-time job, and adulthood are more tempting than anything they have ever experienced. As quoted by Uncle Ben in Spiderman: “With great power, comes great responsibility”. These words are so true when it comes to being a teenager. Uncle Ben (Stan Lee) must have lived with a teenager. Teen Spiderman must’ve been a handful.

Our society encourages children to grow up fast. I constantly see kids with cell phones, high heels, large hoop earrings, and a “go to Hades” attitude. Why is that? It is almost as if something was slipped into their chocolate milk one day and they turned into monstrous beasts because of it. They go from respectful, trusting people, to rebellious and contradictive individuals. Our harmonious homes are turned upside down by “teen tantrums” and sulking. Our intelligent child becomes preoccupied and can’t focus. They stop communicating and start keeping more to themselves.

Teenage ProblemsAs a parent, I find that I miss the days when my child asked me for advice or some worldly secret. I want so much to make this difficult transition easier for everyone. I remember being a frustrated teen and thinking that “no one understands how I feel”. The funny thing is that most adults DO UNDERSTAND how a teen feels. We have felt just the same as they do once before. A teen’s hormones are playing havoc with their personality, their bodies, and their outlook on the world. They start to question their purpose in life.

On one hand, they want so much to be on their own and have endless freedoms. On the other hand, they are still immature and need reassurance that they are walking the right path. They might not ask their parent/mentor for advice, but they still need it. As a parent, it is hard to know when I can offer advice. It is like walking a tightrope at times.

I have made jokes in the past that it would be so nice if each child came with an “owner’s manual”. Reading the bible gives me hope that this part of the road is bumpy, but it WILL get smoother. I know that. However, there are times when this road is full of pot holes.

I recently said to my son: “I am not here to be your friend. I am here to teach you to be an intelligent man. A good man. A man that honors God and that loves others. I am here to help you be a good: son, father, husband, friend, citizen, and employee one day. You might hate me right now because I am firm with you. I don’t care about that. You can come back to me later and we can be friends. For now, I am doing my job of being your mother, teacher, and guide. God gave me this job. I plan on doing it to the best of my abilities. If you don’t like it, tough.”

I know, that sounds harsh. So many parents want to be their child’s friend. A good parent can’t be their child’s friend (at least not until they are an adult). A child won’t respect a parent if they are on friend terms. Can you respect someone that lets you do whatever you want and lets you walk all over them? I can be my son’s friend when he is grown and has learned about life. For now, I am a guide, teacher, and mentor. There are many years ahead when we can be friends. Until then, we will travel this pot hole filled road together.

Yup, the teen years are DEFINITELY harder than the “terrible twos”. Anyone who thinks differently, adopt a teenager for a year. You will change your mind within one week. One.

Conversations at the gas pump

April 9th, 2008

I had read somewhere that you should put gasoline in your car early in the morning. It has something to do with temperature and gasoline density. I don’t know if that is true, but it stuck in my mind. As our daily calendar was packed, I wanted to get gas first thing in the morning. I guess you could say that I wanted to get the most out of my $3.23/gal. gasoline.

As I pulled up the nozzle to fill my car, the man next to me (in his late 50’s) said “Good Morning. That’s a nice car you have there.” As my car is approaching 9 yrs. old, I took that as a compliment. I did just wash it and it was looking its best. I thanked him and kept pumping gas. Apparently, this man needed to chat (I get that alot. Folks just love telling me things about themselves. I guess I have that kind of: “Sure, tell me about your gastro-intestinal plight. I’m here for you” sort of face.

Gas pricesThe man was talking about OPEK and how they have overflowing pockets. He went on and on about how everything costs so much in the U.S. right now. He mentioned that Congress should: “Get off their butts and do something about alternative fuels”. He was really getting worked up about the state of things.

Then, he said: “I’ll tell you where it really hurts me and my family, at the grocery store. We have 5 members in our family. With the way the country is, we are having to eat cheap food like pinto beans, brown rice, and chicken. I know that stuff isn’t good for you, but what can you do when the economy is so bad?”

I just smiled at him and told him I had to go. Honestly, I was laughing on the inside and almost showed it to this man. Didn’t this guy realize that those “cheap foods” are what is HEALTHY for him and his family? Do Americans think that if they can’t afford that Super-Sized Big Mac Meal or 64 oz. Slurpee as often, then the world is coming to an end? That missing going out to dinner 3-4 times a week is a catastrophe?

I learned a long time ago (from living through something like 6 lay-offs in 10 yrs.) that going through hard times can be a blessing in disguise. Having to cut back on spending due to finances can make a person or family reevaluate priorities. For us, we learned that eating ground turkey or chicken instead of beef is cheaper, and much lower in fat. We learned to buy fruits/vegetables in season. We learned that board games, hiking, Geocaching, gardening, and renting from movies Netflix are great ways to entertain and not spend a fortune. Buying books, clothing, and craft items at garage sales or thrift stores saves a TON of money. We learned to repair our appliances or buy used ones from Craig’s List.

When I talk to my father, who lives in California, about how many people have foreclosed on their homes, I wonder. Did those people over-extend themselves? Was it necessary for them to have a home full of new furniture, a brand new car, the newest fashions, the best schools, or eating in the finest restaurants? So many of us feel that we HAVE to have more. It used to be that people didn’t buy something unless they absolutely needed it AND they had the money to buy it. With the world of credit, it is so much easier to slap down a plastic card and worry about making payments later. Sadly, that is how so many of us wind up in front of a judge. We over-extend ourselves into bankruptcy.

As for the man that knew that “cheap food” wasn’t good for his family, think again buddy. Rough times just might help you to eat better, learn that your family is fun to be around, and make you stretch your paycheck just a bit better. You might think that the economy is “in the dumps” right now. That may be so. Why not use this time to pull back a bit and manage your life better? Do you really need that Super-Sized Big Mac meal anyways?

NOTE: I have made a long list of ways that we have saved money over the years. It is under “Ways to Save Money” on the home page. Please feel to read them.

1 Word of Advice: FLOSS

April 7th, 2008

We haven’t had dental insurance in something like 4 years. When my husband got his new job and we found out that we could have dental insurance, we jumped at the chance. We all needed cleaning (which hadn’t been done in 4 yrs.) and I know that my husband and I both have cavities (mine are in my wisdom teeth).

My son and I went to the dentist this morning. We were there for 2.5 hours. *sigh* The good news is that my son’s teeth are doing great. No cavities. Whew! The bad news? I have Periodontal Disease. Wait! I am 38 yrs. old. How can I have Periodontal Disease? Apparently, you can get it at any age. I also need to have my 3 remaining wisdom teeth pulled.

There is a treatment for Periodontal Disease (which is an infection in your gums that untreated could lead to tooth loss, illness, etc.). I will have to do 4 consecutive “deep cleaning” visits with the Hygienist. I am SO NOT looking forward to that. The accountant at the window showed me the estimated cost for the four procedures – around $2100. Holy guacamole!!! Thank goodness for dental insurance. If our insurance approves the procedures, we will be about $300 out of pocket. That figure is so much easier to take.

I also need my 3 remaining wisdom teeth pulled. Two of them have cavities and the dentist thinks it is best to get them outta there. I agree. The up side is that my tooth roots are long (at least, the Hygienist said that was good). I can’t imagine how much it will cost to have 3 teeth pulled. Yikes! One step at a time.Remember to Floss

I plan on investigating dental procedure costs this week. I know all this work won’t be cheap. That’s what I get for not seeing the dentist in almost 4 years.

Oh, as for my advice: FLOSS….the Hygienist said that Periodontal Disease can be avoided by many by flossing daily. She also said to scrub your teeth AND gums for 3 minutes, 2x a day. I do brush 2x a day. I just HATE to floss. Doesn’t everyone? To avoid costly dental bills and future pain, FLOSS!!!

Don’t you just love Spring?

April 5th, 2008

The windows of the house are open. The male Grackles are serenading females on the lawn (You canDo a Little Dance Grackle almost here Casey and the Sunshine Band singing: “Do a little a dance. Make a little love. Get down tonight.”) The garden centers are full of starter tomatoes, corn, flowers, and a rainbow of other flora. Ahhh…I just love spring.

I love all the seasons in Texas. No, we don’t have turning leaves or consistent snow (ok, we very rarely get snow). Texas can be so hot and humid in the Summer. Thank goodness for air conditioning, iced tea, and public swimming pools. Fall is glorious as it is a welcome change to the heat. Pecan trees drop their leaves all over the place (I am sure the trash men love all those bags full of leaves). Winter is rainy and full of craft festivals and holiday events. Spring is a time for decluttering and starting fresh.

It is time to clean the house, make donations, fill up my cart at the garden center, and wonder if I will fit into my swimsuit for Summer. Ahhh….wonderful Spring.

Climbing trees, Skinning knees, not to be.

April 4th, 2008

I was out in the yard yesterday raking leaves from my oak trees. While I was doing this relaxing chore, I noticed that our son was climbing his favorite tree in our yard. From this tree, he feels like the “king of the yard” and can see 360 degrees into our neighborhood. You could tell by the smile on his face that he was happy to be…a kid.

As I looked at the joy on his face, I had a strange thought. I don’t see kids being KIDS much any longer. Sure, you see kids on their bikes, but they always seem to be going somewhere. ThereChildren at Play signage aren’t kids running around in our neighborhood playing ball. You don’t see kids drawing on the sidewalk with chalk or playing hopscotch. You barely ever see kids playing at our local playground on the weekends. No one is jumping rope or playing tag. Why is that? Some of my best memories as a kid where the times when I was doing just those things mentioned. I was outside, using my imagination, getting dirty, and loving it.

My husband sent me a recent article that I would like to share. This article states:

“…are concerned that children now have fewer opportunities than ever to play outdoors thanks to over-zealous health and safety crackdowns and a “no ball games here” culture.
Research has found that the average age at which children are allowed outside without adult supervision has risen from around seven years in the 1960s and 70s to just over eight years now.
One in three parents will not even allow older children, aged eight to 17, to play outside the house or garden.
The Children’s Society, which is holding a major inquiry into the state of childhood, has warned that youngsters are missing out on forming crucial early friendships because they are no longer meeting playmates outdoors.”

As our world changes daily with technology, we are more aware of the DANGERS in life, than of the adventure. Before reading this article, I was aware that many parents aren’t letting their children be KIDS. I once had a daycare where I let the kids play outside and get dirty. I had a mother tell me Playground equipmentthat she didn’t let her son outside as he might become injured. When are children allowed to experience life? If they don’t learn at an early age about their limitations, when will they? Will these same children wind up being adults that are afraid to try something new?

If play equipment like monkey-bars, jungle gyms, merry-go-rounds, and slides are so “unsafe”, how did WE survive childhood? By taking away recess (come on…1 hour of P.E. a week? PLEASE!) and play equipment that encourages imagination/exercise, are we raising future generations of scared & overweight adults?

For me, I want to encourage my son to float boats down the storm drain, make mud pies, play tag, swing on a tire, slide backwards down the slide, hang from the monkey-bars, and GET DIRTY. I don’t want him being afraid of life. I want him to live it.

Put down the Game Boy. Let’s go outside and play.

Anyone else sick of Politics?

April 1st, 2008

I grew up in a Democrat household. I married into a Republican household. My husband and I are pretty much Libertarians. Does that mean that I know who to vote for in the elections? Nope.

Maybe it is just me, but I am really burned out on mud-slinging and politics. It is emotionally draining to hear politicians slander one another and become wishy-washy with where they stand on a subject. Politicians are full of promises when the elections are coming. Sure, everyone wants: lower taxes, lower fuel costs, good health care, a strong military, and to enjoy the freedoms that make this country great. Those are things that Americans have wanted throughout the years.Politician Cartoon

I just get so tired with the “She did this” or “He said that”. Whatever happened to telling the truth, admitting that your past wasn’t perfect, believing in our country, supporting our military, and standing firm on beliefs? Reading up on all the current “big party” candidates, they ALL have skeletons in their closets. Whether it be White Water, not saying the Pledge of Allegiance, having ties with folks that are racist, talking bad about our military, completely changing their stand on an issue…they all have something that they should be ashamed about. It is so much easier to name call then come out and say: “I have made some BIG mistakes in my life. I haven’t always told the truth. If I were elected to office, I can’t guarantee that I will do everything right. However, I will give it my best.”

Everywhere you turn, you hear nastiness in this world. The media loves to sensationalize war, death, starvation, drugs, and horrifying statistics. Why can’t we come together as a nation and say: “This is what is important to us. We need to work out our problems. We need to respect our differences and
move on. Let us focus on America and stop bickering.”

My ideal president would be:

  1. Honest about their past
  2. Follow the laws given by our Founding Fathers (no lying under oath, thanks)
  3. Stand firm on their beliefs (whether religious, political, social, etc.)
  4. Love their country and be proud to say the Pledge of Allegiance and support our military
  5. Look within our country for power resources (i.e. wind, solar, oil within OUR country, etc.)
  6. Be strong enough to let the world know that America isn’t the “World Police” (Don’t call us when you need help and then bad-mouth us later)
  7. Stop looking at polls and worrying about approval ratings. Get in there and DO THE JOB. Have a backbone and do what is right for our country.

I haven’t seen a candidate with these qualities yet. I’m still waiting for “Prince/Princess Charming President” to show up. I’ll let you know when they arrive. I think it will be a L-O-N-G wait.

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