Saturday, March 28, 2015

Boob Tube Homeschooling

Our Alaskan sun begins shining through the windows again in February and stirs desires for planting and prettiness that the horrors of breakup ice and mud thwart. Because I get a little burned out (actually, probably just lazy with lessons) from February to April 'ish, I purchase Shiny Things for the children to plug into the boob tube, then send them off on inspired, educational rabbit trails. This is not because I want to lock them in the den and do my own thing; quite the contrary, as I watch with them. They love that part. It is because I'm tired of last August's perfect plans. After math (I never renege on math), here is what I've bought the past three years, and some of the activities that sprang from them:

Fantasia 2000 spurred an idea to separate the kids into different corners with a sketch pad and colored pencils. While a piece of classical music played (not one from the film), I told them to draw anything that came to mind (not one from the film). Some drew designs, some drew scenes, and some drew monsters.

Reading Rainbow DVD on music got the kids creating their own version of Stomp. Loud but lovely. Also, the conductor from the orchestra segment said something profound about each musician holding back a bit of breakout talent for the ordered beauty of the orchestra. Made me think about reigning in a bit for the good of the family.

Liberty's Kids spawned writing assignments. Whom did you like the best ~ John Paul Jones? Van Steuben? Dr. Warren? Why? What was he like? Plus so much role-playing.

Schoolhouse Rock. They sing all the songs. That's enough and that's awesome.

Beatrix Potter short films bring to life her little books. They are sweet, proper, a bit naughty, and never crass. I had the children do some nature journaling every day for a week in the same spot, hoping to foster some observation. Some drew bugs, some drew our farm animals, some made up stuff, and one cried that he didn't see anything.

National Geographic VHS tapes (What? You don't have a 23 year old TV bomb with a VHS player? I guess you'll have to stream or something!) from a nice lady at church has been wonderful. Find the place on maps and globes, draw the outline of the land and animal, and write three facts you learned.

Animated Hero Classics are thirty minute sketches of heroes from across time and space that incorporate clear examples of a defining virtue, as well as important facts. The set includes downloadable activity books with crossword puzzles, secret codes, coloring pages, etc. Just too easy.

(Since we homeschool under the state's umbrella, all of these are reimbursable educational expenses.)

So yes, the boob tube helps me homeschool through May, when things turn green up here and I let the earth do its teaching throughout the summer.

Happy mud, friends. Enjoy your boob tubes!
Love, Allison

Friday, March 6, 2015

Bad News ~ Good News

A cheery picture with bad news. The kids made
all these hearts to decorate for Addie's St.
Valentine birthday.
 A week after Addie turned three, we received the dreaded pseudomonas call. Her throat, and probably lungs as well, was growing a bacteria described as a "free ranging, oportunistic human pathogen." It is strong, adaptable, and everywhere. It particularly likes CF lungs with all the extra mucus and inflammation and weakened system. When it's been there a while --scientists think over six months-- it forms a biofilm around its community (I hate that they use such a human word for this nasty creature) that is impenetrable. If it gets stirred up at this point, all antibiotics can do is to knock it down; so far, no one has figured out a way to dissolve the biofilm and kill the bug. This is, of course, my layperson's understanding from a doctor that has drawn diagrams on paper towels for me for years.

 But since this is her very first positive culture for pseudomonas, she is eligible for a new drug study that tests whether or not hitting her body with two different antibiotics, one inhaled directly into the lungs and one swallowed, will eradicate it, at least for a little while. Dr. Bonnie Ramsey runs the OPTIMIZE study, funded by the NIH (yes, the feds). So now we've added another nebulized medication twice daily and another liquid medication to be given three times a week (Oh Brain, please remember). We're now in the market for a car- battery-electricity-adapter-thingy so that we can hook up the compresser and administer the meds while out and about.

So. Breathe baby.
I hate making cupcakes, you guys.
But she loved them.

And you are three!

You wanted lemon cupcakes and lemon ice cream. You got a bright doll, a tea set, and another paint book. One brother crocheted you a scarf and others made you paper puppets. Everyone was thrilled to make colored
hearts and decorate spaces with them. You slept in your purple jammies from your grandparents in your pretty tent from your godparents. You bestowed favor upon your adoring subjects by choosing who was allowed to join you in the tent. I had to make a chart, friends, to make sure no brother was left out and no brother got extra time (Clare's too big to sleep in it.). Goodness.

The wall over the mantle.
 You are our sparkling jewel and our softest sweetie. Your laughter brightens everyone's day, your smile is contagious, and your kisses are from heaven. We are so proud and grateful to be your parents. Happy birthday, Adah Marie.
Puppets made by Luke and Joseph.
The scarf made by Ian (my favorite gift!).

Love, Allison

Friday, January 30, 2015

What My Heart Wants Most

"And may the gods grant you what your heart wants most,

a husband and a home, and may there be

accord between you both: there is no gift

more solid and more precious than such trust:

a man and woman who conduct their house with minds in deep accord, to enemies

bring grief, but to their friends bring gladness, and --

above all -- gain a good name for themselves."

(Odysseus to Nausicaa)

January 31, 1990 ~ the day Ken proposed marriage ~ twenty-five years ago. The day that began our solid and precious trust. The day my heart was granted what it wanted most.

(I wrote the story last year.)

May all our hearts be granted wishes,
Love, Allison

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Yucky, Lucky

Addie makes adorable speech mistakes. Yesterday, she was walking around, pointing at various items and places, declaring, "Dat lucky." From the crusty bean pot on the stove to the messy space in front of the heater to her own diaper that missed the trash bag to the candy wrappers left over from the gingerbread house (She seems to be kind of a neat-nick). Took me a minute to realize that what she really meant, of course, was, "yucky."

Then I was tired and stretched out on the couch with her. Then I was feeling all anecdotal and spiritual and thought that those things really are lucky for us:

We're lucky to have a huge crock pot of beans to keep us full and healthy;

We're lucky to have space for stuff to get strewn about and messed;

We're lucky to have enzymes to help her digest her food and keep her plumbing in order.

We're lucky to have extra money for something as frivolous and marvelous as a candy-coated gingerbread house.

Have a yucky, lucky week, friends!
Love, Allison

Friday, November 7, 2014

Two Birthdays

Monday is not only the 239th birthday of the United States Marine Corps (Semper fi!), it is also the 20th birthday of our first child (Yay Rees!). Since my husband was an active duty Marine when he was born on November 10, 1994, he was the subject of much good-natured ribbing by his squadron: What a perfect devil dog to command his wife to give birth on the 10th; No one loves the Corps as much as Howell; Think you’ll make rank quicker now; How come you weren’t at the ball? While I am crazy-proud that he served for eight years, I am also crazy-happy that he got out. We esteem the Marines this day, but our wonderful son even more. I would consider it a great honor if any of my children wears the uniform.

While Rees is not allowed to serve, he has grown into a strong young man who is gung-ho about his life. He has adopted the military code of conduct to the best of his civilian abilities. Simply put, it is ~

* Be prepared to give your life
* Never surrender to the enemy
* Always plan an escape from the enemy
* If captured, keep the faith with fellow soldiers

He applies this to his life as a Catholic, a friend, an employee, and a student. I am crazy-proud of him.

From the Marine’s Prayer:

“Almighty Father, whose command is over all and whose love never fails, make me aware of Thy presence and obedient to Thy will. Keep me true to my best self, guarding me against dishonesty in purpose and deed and helping me to live so that I can face my fellow Marines, my loved ones, and Thee without shame or fear. Protect my family.

If I am inclined to doubt, steady my faith; if I am tempted, make me strong to resist; if I should miss the mark, give me courage to try again.

Guide me with the light of truth and grant me wisdom by which I may understand the answer to my prayer.”

Happy birthday to the USMC, America’s protectors and defenders.

Happy birthday to my boy, a good man.

Yikes, I'm the mother of a twenty-year-old!
Love, Allison

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Howell Girls

My girls at the same age ~
Clare at 2 1/2

Addie right now, at 2 1/2

So different; so connected. Love them!
Allison at about 4.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A Little Peace, a Lot of Hope

Only Clare and I went to church this past Sunday morning (Ken took the others to our usual service Saturday evening but we were tired of people from two outings that day). A minute after settling into a pew, a lady slid into the space directly in front of me and I clenched my teeth. She is publicly, happily pro-choice, once announcing that she finally became Catholic when she found out that she could be pro-choice and Catholic (oh yay). How can I possibly concentrate on Jesus with this person in view? Mass is ruined now. Then something worse dawned on me. Since we are not acquainted and she does not know of my disgust, she was probably going to turn around and extend her hand toward mine to wish me the Peace of Christ and I'd be expected to clasp hers and wish her the same thing. What to do? Where to go? How to avoid this? Going to the ladies' room wouldn't work because I'd visited right before church and Clare knew it and I did not want to explain to her that I was not going to shake that lady's hand. I thought about coughing here and there throughout the liturgy so that when the time came for the sign of peace, I could smile and shrug while mouthing, Coughing; but again, bad example to Clare. Plus I didn't want to smile. So I stewed.

I'd love to say that the Scripture readings and psalm singing convicted me to kindness.

I'd love to say that my beautiful surroundings soothed me to sweetness.

But it was a reminder of the prayers from a fiery priest that I'd spent the previous day with  in a mini retreat that spurred me on to a better way. He called it "Healing Litanies" and it took us an hour to read through together. There were about fifty ladies, from young women in their twenties to white-haired grannies, all murmuring these words ~ most of us on our knees (Father Shields has pastored in Siberia for twenty years and told us that the Russians "love to suffer on their knees," so we competitive Americans remained on our knees!

Some of the statements we prayed:

A Confession of Faith that included ~
* Lord Jesus I trust in You
*Lord Jesus I believe that out of love for me, You saved me
*Lord Jesus I believe that Your gift of life brings peace

 Please forgive ~
*My doubt
*My hatred
*My indifference

Please heal ~
*My mental anguish
*My fears
*My pain

I ask You, Lord ~
*To open my heart
*To forgive others
*To desire Your will

I am sorry for ~
*The times I have turned away from You
*The times I have held resentment in my heart
*The times I was not Your instrument of peace

I seek refuge ~
*As I abandon my aggression
*As I abandon my fears
*As I abandon my worries

Jesus, let Your cross be my joy ~
*When I am tempted
*When I am not confident in Your mercy
*When I am in misery

Holy Spirit ~
*Fill us
*Transform us
*Comfort us

Grant us a compassionate heart, Lord ~
*For the poor and homeless
*For victims of war and epidemics
*For those whose faith is tested

(There were many more prayers under each heading. It was sobering, yes, but also hopeful to be a part of a large group of women praying to love Jesus more, to love His people more, to love all people more. The simmering pentecostal in me was very close to hollering some "Amen's" and "Yes Lord's!")

Back in Mass, I realized that I had already prayed for this lady the day before. That Jesus loved this lady. That she was sitting with me in church and we were connected. That shaking her hand did not mean that I loved abortion. That I absolutely did wish the peace of Jesus to be with her. 

When she turned around and held out her hand, mine was already stuck out to meet her, my smile was totally genuine, and I practically shouted, "Peace of Christ be with you!"

There is hope in peace. Even such a little bit of peace as a handshake. For the times I have not been an instrument of Your peace, Lord forgive me. He does and there is peace.