Sunday, July 26, 2009

A Small Fashion Critique

I don't usually pay much attention when the mail comes in. Somebody, other than me, brings it in, sorts out our mail from my mom's mail, and then leaves it on the kitchen table. As we were eating lunch after church today, I noticed a clothing catalog called North Style, so I picked it up and began thumbing through it. I'm not sure why my mom received this magazine, but I'm really hoping she didn't order anything out of it. For your viewing (and my writing pleasure), I've included some selections of their "Fashion Favorites." (Note: if you're reading this on Facebook and can't see the pictures, you're missing out. You'll have to go to my blog, to view the pics.)

Bear with me; I'm going to be a little sarcastic.

This "Fashion Favorite" is known as Chickadee Sanctuary. I don't know about you, but I've never met a chickadee who would want to be displayed this way.

And this is the matching tee to go underneath Ugly Chickadee Sanctuary Sweater.

Although Independence Day has passed for this year, you could always get yourself a patriotic sweater for next year. And wear it in Alaska. Because where else in the U.S. is it cold enough for a sweater on the 4th of July? Warmth issues aside, who buys this kind of stuff??

I have no commentary on this one, other than that it is probably the ugliest cardigan I've seen since 1992.

Denim acid wash pockets on a sweater. Seriously? It should also be pointed out that this sweater was featured under North Style's "Unique Gifts" section. Along with these:


This is the best pair of granny panties I've ever seen in my life. I bet these would do wonders for my tummy!

This one is known as the "Mixed Blend Knit Jumper." It's $119. $119! I can think of so many other things to spend $119 on.

This 1995 beauty is made of gingham and seersucker. It's on sale for $27.99. If it weren't for the seersucker, I could use it as a tablecloth for our next picnic. However, the fabric is not the best part of this dress; check out that belt buckle.

And this, dear friends, is the manifestation of my mental image of the stereo-typical homeschooling mother's attire: the denim jumper. (Amy, this one's for you.)

Really? Are ladies still buying A-line button-down dresses with pockets on the boobs?
I suppose this also could be considered a homeschooling mother's wardrobe staple.

I had to include these since I've already shared with you all my affinity for Christmas Sweaters.

Ok, I'm done now. In browsing their online catalog I found so many more "Fashion Favorites", but I think you get my point: whatever you do, please don't shop at North Style. I really am curious to know how they stay in business. And, because I just couldn't resist, I leave with you what could possibly be my favorite of all...

Capri overalls with bandana trim!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Why Homeschool?

Please be advised: this is going to be a LONG post, and if you are not at all interested in homeschooling, I suggest you go read Pioneer Woman's recipes instead. (Smile.)

In the short 5.5 years David and I have been parents, we've made LOTS of decisions. Some of our decisions have been on-the-spot ("Mommy, can I watch TV?" Ryan asks daily. "No, you may not," I respond 50 times a day), while others have been carefully thought over and prayed about until an agreement was reached (to vaccinate or not to vaccinate, for example). The decision to homeschool is one of those carefully-thought-out, praying-lots-of-prayers, having-heated-debates decisions.

In case you haven't figured it out from reading my blog (or from knowing me, if you do), I'm a planner. I like to know when, what, who, why and what to bring on just about everything from playdates to church to what I'm going to do next year. So, right around the time Ryan turned three, I logically thought, "Oh my goodness! It's time to start thinking about school!" I mentioned in a previous post how, when I was holding the just-hours-old Ryan in the hospital, I thought of the day when he would turn five and I would lovingly pat him on the back as I walked him into his first day of Kindergarten. I don't know why that thought came into my head; but like I said, I'm a planner, so maybe that has something to do with it. There were times in his first few months of life, when I was sleep-deprived and my shirts wouldn't go over my milk-enlarged chest (sorry, men), that I thought about how wonderfully nice it would be to send him off to school so that I could have some much-needed time to myself.

After his third birthday however, I thought that thought again, and realized that was the wrong reason to send my child to school. It was then that I seriously began examining the possibility of home educating my children. Was my sole motivation for sending them to school selfish on my part? I had to ask myself that question over and over until I was finally able to give an honest "yes" as the answer. If I were to send my kids to school, the whole reason behind it would be so that I could have days and days to myself. What they would learn or rather, not learn, never crossed my mind as a deciding factor.

Secondly, I read Dr. James Dobson's book Hide or Seek. It was originally published in the 1970s and has nothing to do with homeschooling. God used this book, which talks about the brutality of the school environment, relationships of young children with their parents, and why children don't thrive in unhealthy environments of either, to completely change my mind about home education. I suddenly realized that I could not pat my kids on the backs and send them into that competitive, peer pressure-filled, standardized testing-driven environment and expect them to flourish.

And speaking of standardized testing... This, too, is one of the major deciding factors in our reasoning for home education. There are so many interesting things that children aren't able to study or learn about in school because it isn't going to be on the TAAS/TAKS/TEKS test. Our teachers don't even get to teach what they enjoy anymore because their job performance is rated on how well or how poorly their students score. Many schools aren't able to receive much-needed and well-deserved funding unless a certain percentage of their students perform well on these tests. I can remember studying something in school, and before I even felt like I had scratched the surface, the teacher informed us that we would be studying something else. Why did we only scratch the surface? Because that's all the knowledge you're allowed when teacher and student are forced to stay on a standardized testing schedule for lesson plans. How much knowledge are children being cheated out of because our government regulates what they must or must not know? David and I decided that we want our kids to have a deep knowledge of many subjects, not just surface-level, textbook knowledge.

Another main, and probably most important, reason for our decision to homeschool is regarding our spiritual beliefs. First of all, I want my children to be taught about the Lord and the Bible and have a deep knowledge of Him and His Word from an early age. I don't want them to learn about their Creator only from Sunday School; I want them to live it, breathe it, see it in action every day of their lives. They're definitely not going to get that in a classroom. In fact, they get the exact opposite. Even several private schools no longer place a strong emphasis on God's Word, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. There is one Christian school right here in the Panhandle that only has chapel services for its students once a week! If I want my kids to get a Christian education in a private school, I would expect them to have chapel every single day, especially since I'm paying big bucks for that "private, Christian education." Of course, even if my kids were in school, we could still have family Bible-reading and prayer time in the evenings, but I also want the Bible to be a school subject in our homeschool. Additionally, there are hundreds of things going on in all schools that we flat out don't want our kids exposed to. All other reasons aside, the immorality in schools today is enough to convince me that homeschooling is the best choice for our family.

Our next deciding factor has to do with classroom size and student-to-teacher ratios. I cannot imagine how overwhelmed teachers are today with anywhere from 25-40 kids in their classes. It's no wonder kids are graduating high school without being able to read; their teachers never had a chance to spend one-on-one time with them to teach them! It makes me uneasy to think about all the kids out there with tons of potential and ability waiting to be coaxed out of them, if someone simply had the time to help them use that potential and ability. How many kids are put into "special" classes simply because their learning style requires individualized instruction rather than group teaching? How many students are desperately struggling in school because they are kinesthetic or visual learners but are taught with an auditory style? Recognizing that my children are different and therefore learn differently is extremely important to how I teach them. A school teacher can't possibly teach something five different ways, although the odds are great that she'll have five different learning styles amongst all the kids in her classroom.

Those are a few of the main reasons we have chosen home education for our children. Although I believe this is the best decision for our family, I do not believe it is the best decision for all families. Like ministry, homeschooling your children is something the Lord must call you to do. You can't just wake up one day and say, "Hey, I think I'll homeschool." I also think that having godly children in public and private schools is so important. Please don't feel condemned if you're a parent whose kids are in school--their school needs them to be shining lights for Jesus! Their friends need them to be godly examples. Maybe, if you're considering home education, this post has given you some more to think on, or even some confirmation for or against your decision. No matter what your decision is for your children's educations, I pray they are happy, flourishing, and learning whether that's in their fourth grade classroom or at the kitchen table!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Dear Addilyn

To my Lovey,

I cannot believe you are four years old today! It seems like it was just a few months ago that you were learning how to walk and talk. I am so proud of the beautiful little girl you are becoming. There are so many things I love about you, Addilyn. I love your girlishness--how you love to wear dresses and dress-up clothes, how you have an affinity for cute shoes and high heels, that your favorite colors are pink and purple. I adore your personality, all the ways you're growing into your own person who thinks and feels and has compassion (and sometimes an attitude).

Seeing you grow and change from a baby into a toddler and now into a lovely little girl has been amazing. In so many ways I am sad that you're not a baby anymore, but more than being sad, I am treasuring all the things about you that make you the young lady that you are. I love that we have conversations now. I love your opinions, your vocabulary, your questions, and your drama.

You are becoming so interested in being a lady. You love to help Mommy cook and clean. You enjoy pretty things like jewelry, flowers, and (again) shoes. You have such a motherly touch with younger kids and babies. You are so smart! Sometimes, when I think you're not paying attention, you can quote almost word-for-word what I say. You catch on to everything and, like your Momma, you're a multi-tasker! You are your brother's best friend, your Daddy's princess, and Mommy's dream come true.

One thing I know for sure is that God has awesome plans for your life. Even at four years old, you are so curious to know about God and who He is. I pray every day for His perfect will to come to pass in your life, and I know that it will. It's so exciting to think that He is going to use YOU, our baby girl, to change lives and impact the world! I pray blessings, protection and favor over you every day of your life, and I know that the Lord has answered those prayers already.

I cannot imagine what our lives would be like without you. You have completed our family and brought us indescribable joy. When I prayed for God to give me a baby girl, I had no idea that He would give me a daughter as special, precious, and beautiful as you. I love you, Addilyn Belle. Happy Birthday, Lovey!


Friday, July 17, 2009

When He Is Silent

"I believe in the sun even when it is not shining, in love even when I am alone, and in God even when He is silent."

This quote was found etched into the stone walls of a Nazi concentration camp after the camps were closed. Obviously, a Jewish victim of the Holocaust had carved it into the wall, desperately waiting for an answer from his God.

I will in no way compare my life or circumstances to a holocaust, but I do sometimes feel like God's silence in certain areas of my life is deafening and unending.

Am I the only one who feels like this?

Lord, I still believe. Even when You're silent.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Dietz Friday

Once upon a time, long, long, ago, our family lived in Hereford, Texas. We had an awesome church and fabulous friends, but our best friends were the Ramirezes--Juan and L'lani and their girls, Zabrina, Xandria (a.k.a. Nini), and Alana. We first met this precious family at our church. I didn't know L'lani very well, but right after Addilyn was born, I was plagued with a nasty case of post-partum depression; and L'lani showed up at my doorstep one afternoon and offered to watch her so I could take a shower. I gladly took her up on her offer! A few days later, she called and asked if she could watch Addie at her house for an hour so I could have some time to myself--another offer I gladly accepted. She did this about once a week for several weeks, and then one evening as I picked Addie up, I told her I would like to have her family over for dinner as a thank-you to her for sacrificing her time so I could have some of my own.

That Friday, their family came over for homemade lasagna, salad, bread, and dessert. We had the best time, laughing, telling jokes and funny stories, watching their girls play in our backyard, and right before they went home, David and Juan had a cigar together on our front porch. As they were getting in their car to go home (at approximately 11:00 p.m.) they invited us over for dinner the following Friday. L'lani made tacos and REAL Mexican rice, and Juan requested the dessert I had made when they were over for dinner--a pudding/pie sort of dessert called "Texas Delight." Before we left, David and Juan smoked cigars together on their back porch.

Those two Fridays kick-started what became a weekly tradition known as Dietz Friday. They came up with that name, not us. Every week we alternated houses. When it was my turn to cook, I always made lasagna; and when it was her turn, L'lani always made tacos and Mexican rice. The two things that never changed were the dessert and David and Juan sharing a cigar on the back porch. We enjoyed Dietz Friday every Friday for over a year, and then we sold our house and moved to Dallas. We were so sad to leave our precious friends. L'lani had become the best friend I'd ever had because, unlike so many other "girlfriends" in the past, she saw me at my worst and loved me and sacrificed herself for me anyway. Juan and David also became the best of friends and were able to share their hearts and ideas with one another without shame. Over the course of that year, a lasting love between our two families was cemented, and it still exists to this day.

Ever since we've been back in Amarillo, we don't make trips to Hereford, and usually only talk to the Ramirezes through texting or the occasional phone call. But tonight, we are making the trek to Hereford for Dietz Friday! L'lani is making her tacos and rice, and I have the dessert all ready to go. I'm so excited!

After everything we've been through, it's so comforting to know that, although we may not see them or talk often, our friendship is the kind that just picks up right where it left off. Friendships like that are one in a million.