Friday, January 15, 2010

Making Lemonade

One of the perks of living on Guam is making your own lemonade. I prefer using calamansi lemons, tiny tart lemons that grow in abundance on island. Alas, we have no calamansi tree in our new yard so I have to rely on the kindness of water aerobic buddies who give me bagfuls of  Guam lemons.


Here is Cassie diligently squeezing the lemons for me.  I love the Pampered Chef citrus press!


Eric contemplates the lemons.


Ya gotta put muscle into it.

After squeezing the lemons we had 1/2 bowl of lemon juice. Mixed with a pitcher of cold water, sugar to taste (a lot less than my kids would have liked!) and you have the best tasting lemonade in the world.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

25 years ago….

I gave birth to my first son, Kevin. Where has the time gone? It is hard to believe that the first baby I ever had is now 1/4 century old.

Kevin was due on December 30th and I was slightly hoping to have the new year’s baby with him. But he chose to remain inside for another 13 days and emerged into our world a day before his daddy’s birthday. It was a hard labor, I pushed for 4 hours straight and finally he was born with the aid of forceps. Back in those days a very acceptable birthing tool. Poor baby had a cone head for the first few days. He also had a head of amazing “orange” colored hair. I remember being wheeled to my room and passing some nurses in the hall and they said to me “oh are you the mom with the new little red head? His hair is gorgeous!”

Kevin was my experimental baby. Being my first born I was determined to be all natural with him.Read to him in the womb, played soothing music for him in utero that later we used to help him sleep.  Nursed him on demand, made my own baby food, co-slept, carried him around in a snuggly (no slings back then that I knew of), and his first birthday cake was made from the La Leche League Whole Foods for the Whole Family cookbook – a pumpkin cake with crumb topping – no sugar laden icing for this boy.  This sugar free lifestyle lasted until his second Easter when he was given a chocolate bunny from his grandma. All my grand schemes went out the door from that moment on.

Kevin was an inquisitive child, who spoke early, walked on his first birthday, was fascinated with books and reading and taught himself to read by the age of 3. I remember his first interest in letters and the sounds they made – at 18 months! He was constantly asking me what words said, what letters meant and he’s the one that put the connection together that there were sounds associated with the letters.

Kevin was the reason I discovered homeschooling. By the time he was old enough for school I sent him off like a diligent mom. I didn’t know I had an option. He hated kindergarten. he had spent three years hanging out with me at various preschools and daycares I worked at and he told me kindergarten was just like preschool. They don’t even know how to read!  We made it through K and 1st grade and then I found out about homeschooling. By then the damage had been done to my son though. He had lost his love for learning and  his desire to write. it took another 7 years before he once again realized he could be creative. Sad that it took that long.

We had many challenges with Kevin. He was stubborn, opinionated, highly intelligent and thus too smart for his own good most of the time. We totally exploited him at 14 and made him the webmaster of a Web design business that fed our family for 2 years. But it was hard working with a rebellious teen and all his moods.

By 17 he thought he knew everything and moved out on his own. I was busy with 3 other children by this time, and though I regretted having this strained relationship I knew he was up for any challenge that faced him.

Now at 25 he is a productive member of the US Air force. and we are very proud of how he has turned out. He left Guam saying he would never come back or call. But he does call on occasion, and if we call him is always willing to chat.

He’s an amazing young man with a lot of potential. I believe he will go far in life.

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Many Marvels of the DSi

These hand held video game devices are all the rage. Yesterday when I took two of my children to Wendy’s for lunch after church I counted no less than 5 DS’s on the surrounding tables. One was being used by a grandma! Truly marvelous devices. The newest hand held game system from Nintendo is the DSi. It has internet capabilities with WiFi connection and a built in camera that takes fairly good quality pictures.

We first bought one of these for Cassie for her birthday in November. Eric already had the regular DS,well used. Of course the day she opened her new toy, Eric’s game system had mysteriously disappeared and remained lost until two days before Christmas. By that time we had caved in and bought him his own DSi. The lost one was found buried under garbage in the door of the truck.

Cassie has become quite the photographer with her DSi. It can hold 400+ photos and she has already maxed out her memory card. I enjoy browsing her photos and seeing the world through her eyes. There are also embellishments and effects that can be done to the photos and she has been quite creative with these.  The coolest feature is the direct link to facebook. I was able to upload some of the better pictures to my facebook account and share them with my friends.

Eric discovered Flipnotes on his DSi. It is an animation program that allows you to create little animated movies out of your drawings. Perfect for my little budding comic book creator. And he discovered you can add sound to your videos too! Since the photo program had an upload feature to the internet I looked at the flipnotes program and discovered the same. Today I’ll be emailing in permission for Eric to upload his animations to a special website so that  I can share his creations with his fans. Check back later and I should have a link posted.

So if you were concerned that DS’s were nothing but time wasters, think again. They are doorways to your child’s creative side.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Cassie’s Story

Around 10:30pm last night Cassie was industrially working away on a piece of paper writing or drawing something. Every once in a while she would ask me if something spelled something, just to verify she was getting it right.

“Does T-H-E spell the?” for example. Which she knows perfectly well it does. She just lacks confidence sometimes. So anyway, the only word she really needed help with was Dance (with a “c” not an “s” her brother corrected her). And the word “night”, which I just casually recite to her and explain that “igh” makes the long “i” sound sometimes. She always thinks it’s funny when there are weird combinations of letters to make certain sounds in words.

Her final paper read:




She also started one about the Dog and Me. We shall have to wait and see just what the dog will do with her.

Cassie is 7 and my late bloomer when it comes to reading. All the rest of my children learned to read by the time they were 6, some earlier (Kevin at 3 and Stephanie at 5). But Cassie enjoys being read to and I highly suspect she wants to hold onto that privilege just a little longer. Even though I have explained that I will always enjoy reading to her.

I’m not worried though. Her comprehension and understanding of plot subtleties in books and movies prove to me that reading is only one aspect of language arts. She can sit and watch an episode of Lost and remember 2 seasons back what the reference is. I have to ask her to explain situations to me sometimes on these shows!

What I love the most about this little story writing episode is the spontaneity of it and the self directed learning that takes place. It really helps the child retain what they are learning when it is child directed learning.  Without a doubt I know she now knows how to spell “night” and I expect to see it appear in future daily writing activities.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Blogging for a New Year

I’m tempted to change the name of my blog to better reflect what purpose it has. I started this blog when I was teaching in a private school. And then when that teaching year ended, I continued to use it to blog about unschooling my children. There have been times when I’ve deviated even from that purpose and just written a post for the sake of venting, or airing my feelings on a certain subject.

Recently it has been brought to my attention that blogging is not about freedom of speech but about making sure not to offend anyone. Yikes. I  can’t agree with this. My blog is my personal space where I have the freedom to write whatever I so chose. I try to be careful. I don’t use names if I can help it. I have no qualms about using my own children’s names on my blog. I know some bloggers who give their children nicknames  for the sake of privacy. I can respect that. And if I write about something I have read in the paper or an anecdote that happens to me or to someone I encounter, I will keep it anonymous. But I refuse to apologize for saying what I feel and think.  And if the person I’m referring to happens to stumble across my blog  and recognizes themselves in the words that I have written, I hope they will be brave enough to ask me what I meant by what I wrote, or to clarify my position. Sometimes I’ll take a situation and expand on it to include the generic “we” or “you” or '”they” and maybe what I write doesn’t come across the way I had intended. Alas, I’m far from perfect and don’t claim to be.  And I will be brutally honest when it comes to critiquing a book or curriculum. I probably won’t get any curriculum review contracts out of the deal though.

So should I change the name of the blog? It is my memoirs and I am an unschooling teacher/parent. I believe in this method of teaching and in general most of my posts will be about my children and the things they learn. Occasionally I will digress and write about something completely random and strange. But that is my prerogative.

And to anyone who reads themselves into any of my past posts, understand that I’m only using you as an example and I have no personal agenda against you. I may not understand where you are coming from. You may make me question my religion, my beliefs and my overall view of humanity. But I do not dislike you, nor wish to cause you offense. I am thinking out loud, here on my blog, my own personal space in cyberspace. And that is what blogging is all about.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Reflections on 2009

This past year has been a tough year economically for the majority of the world. I feel guilty for what I am about to say. This has been a great year for our family. How dare I admit that when so many of my friends are losing their homes, been jobless or lost jobs this year and have had to suffer untold loses and stress? My prayers go out to all those who have suffered this year.

But reality is, it was a GOOD year for our household. We have had our trials and struggles and looking back I wonder if God smiled down on us this year because we have already “been there, done that” and paid our dues. Is it bragging to say that? Or should I have a more thankful tone? Because truly I am grateful and thankful and am blessed that I can say “it was a good year”.  After all we have suffered in years past, I truly am thankful that God said, “Well done my good and faithful servant. Be blessed.”

2009 started with Les beginning work for a new wedding company. This move doubled the amount of weddings he officiated for the year as well as earned him a position as assistant manager. He has enjoyed this career move.

With Les busier, I have had to take a stronger lead in the driving school business and face my fears and actually get out on the road and teach some students the practical lessons. I’m still not confident enough to deal with the brand new drivers, but am an expert at teaching parallel park! Both offices have done well this year. We also gained a little fame with some media reviews – both radio and newspaper and even a short TV interview!

The kids have all thrived and grown as well. Kevin almost 25 is still serving in the Air Force and stationed at Travis AFB in California. He recently moved into his own two bedroom apartment and has been promoted again. He also completed his Associated Degree, mostly via CLEP testing. Our unschooling success story, I like to say.

Adam,,21 continues to manage our northern office and compose and write music.  Though he keeps to himself, he is an invaluable asset to our family, helping with the business and the running of our home. And he still manages to be creative in his spare time. One of our goals for 2010 is to figure out how to get his music noticed by those of influence.

Stephanie,15,  had a wonderful opportunity this summer to spend two weeks in Hawaii with her best friend Miki. Her first solo plane flight. Mom was a tad nervous while her baby was away, but Steph had a great time and proved she is mature enough for more travel adventures. She continues to perfect her artistic skills drawing anime and writing stories to accommodate her drawings. Stephanie is also a member of the Guam Homeschool Academic Challenge Bowl high school team, which currently has lost only 2 matches this season. She has also been actively involved with her church youth group, enjoying paintballing among other activities.  She has grown into a mature young woman and we are so proud of her sensitive nature, strong character and loving spirit. My favorite memories this year include the many times I have caught her reading stories to the “babies”, as she affectionately calls her younger siblings.

Eric, 10, has definitely grown up this past year. Many of the concerns I had with his schooling have been for naught as he has once again proved how unschooling can work, especially for boys. Eric has always been my “all boy” boy with his zest for life and enthusiasm for everything.  We had issues with his spelling and number writing at the beginning of the year but now he has finally “got” it.  Other homeschooling moms ask me what we did to help him improve, but to be honest the answer is nothing. He just had to reach a maturity level where these things mattered to him. He continues to create comics and his humor amazes us.

Cassie, 7, has finally declared her independence and we have seen it displayed over and over this year. Our “princess” struggles with being a princess or a tomboy,and could be seen preening in front of mirrors in pretty dresses, or running down the beach in nothing but shorts, sporting self inflicted tattoos and muddy feet.  She continues with the weekly Guam Skipjacks jump rope class  and has shown great improvement in her jumping skills.

One major change for us this year was to move from our cute beach house cottage to a larger house in southern Guam. Our living quarters doubled in size with the move, while our daily commute was increased ten-fold. But the longer drive is well worth the increased living space. We have a nice 4 bedroom ,3 bath concrete home with a large extension that is our library/craft/ exercise room.  Stephanie finally has her own room and bathroom too!

Our final blessing of the year was the purchase of a third vehicle – a truck – for Les. A man has to have a truck you know! And last but not least, we had a chance to reconnect with old friends and join a new church – Firestarters Discipleship Center – with Pastor Brad and Jessica Dunagan.   God has been good in leading us to a new church home without conflict with our old. We continue to pray for the Calkins our former church and pastor who has had many health issues this year.

It truly has been a blessed year for us. Weather has been good. Health has been good. Business has been good. Though the world has been in turmoil, God has smiled down on us and we are very grateful for His abundant blessings.

May 2010 be such a year for all our friends and family.