Land of 10,000 Lakes & 10,000 Laughs

May 2, 2016

Late Sunday night I returned from speaking at the Minnesota homeschool convention exhausted and contented after being inspired by 4,000+ homeschool peeps looking to do the best for their kids. So many young families! So many large families filling their quivers with arrows for the battle to come. It truly inspired me. Truly!

Previously I have spoken in my other homeland, Canada, which borders Minnesota to the north (in case you went to public school!), and foolishly I assumed the folks in the North Star State might be a bit reserved and not highly responsive as an audience. Oh, was I ever off base in that assumption. They are my new favorite people on planet earth. The whole planet. Truly. (With the exception of my other favorite people.)

The adventure started with my side-kick, Nancy, and myself trying to check-in to the wrong hotel. That was fun. They had the same name…. kind of… with the exception of several words. But still. I wasn’t totally out to lunch. Two words were the same! CANAL PARK. Bam. I’m not completely losing it. (yet.)

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Upon arriving at the correct hotel, __________  __________ Canal Park, I went inside to check in while our chauffeur helped unload our bags onto the luggage cart… on their wheels. Not the smartest move in the Midwest. My side-kick then proceeded to drive the cart with the rolly suitcases to the very far away ramp that led to the front door where I was impatiently waiting. Behind a large hedge out of my view, it seems the suitcases rolled right off the cart. Each suitcase, by the way, weighed 50 lbs. on the dot. It took her FOREVER to reload!

When the cart eventually arrived at the double doors, I set down my very heavy bag of water bottles and Coke Zero to aid Nancy with maneuvering the cart through the doors. Thankfully there was a stranger among us who saved the very heavy bag of beverages from being run over by the cart when we eventually got it through the doors.

Whew. The elevator ride was painless. The walk down the hall to our room was not. Half way between rooms 320 and 352, the very heavy drink bag became too heavy for me. Without any warning at all, I set it down and announced that I was indeed done carrying it. Sweet little Nancy, the ever-loving problem solver, replied, “Here, I’ll move my computer bag from this hook and we’ll hang it up there.”

Sounds all easy peasy, but no. Nancy is not tall. I knew I couldn’t lift the bag up to the 5’6″ hook, and I am nine inches taller than Nancy. But she had this solution stuck in her head as she grabbed the very heavy bag and proceeded to lift it up to 5’0″ and there it froze in mid-air at the end of her arm reach. We both burst out laughing. The bag once again landed on the floor.

While we were trying to recover from hysterics, a family began emerging from the room we were right in front of. Of course they did. Immediately we both bent down to pick up the beverage bag and scoot out of the way, but we slammed our foreheads together and the laughter erupted to an even greater magnitude than the short little arm display. Perfect. The strangers moved around us because it was obvious that we were crazy and incoherent and not moving and quite possibly recent escapees from an insane asylum.

And the MACHE conference only got better from there! Imagine the joy and laughter!

Throw Back Thursday

April 21, 2016

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If there is one picture of the Crosby family that sings “Homeschoolers R Us” … THIS IS IT!

The whole set up makes me laugh. I believe this was 2002 or 2003, back when I only had three kids. The electricity was out in our neighborhood, so we all climbed into my daughter’s bed to stay warm and to read Julie of the Wolves. You can imagine how cold it was in Phoenix, Arizona! FREEZING! (I still cannot believe that I lived for three years in Fort Vermilion, Alberta, Canada. Look it up!) To top off the homeschoolish vibe, we are all still donning our jammies. Perfection! This is what all the neighbors think we do every day… and we finally did it!

The climax of the picture for me is my nine-year-old son, Austin, KNITTING! Just brings a smile to my mama-of-boys face. Larisa and I decided it was necessary to our existence to learn how to knit. So we did what every good homeschooler in the early 2000’s did, we went to the library and checked out a book on knitting for dummies. That was so yesterday. Today we google it.

We found a book with good instructional pictures and we were off and running with needles clicking away. Then Austin decided since he played hockey, he should be able to knit his own toque. (That’s a ski hat in Canadian language.) He was a quick study with needle crafts as he is quite talented with anything having to do with his hands. A true hands-on learner! Made this mama proud, my son creating clothing for himself for chilling times to come.

My favorite part of his knitting adventure was when he asked if he could bring his knitting TO THE AIRPORT when we were going to pick up his father. “Oh sure, honey! You bet you can!” was my sinister reply because I knew this would make my manly-hockey-playing-hair-on-his-chest husband cringe.

It worked. (Nerds R Us!)

From the beginning of time, by that I mean 1993 when I bore my first child, I decided that my kids would all learn to take care of themselves whether it be in a household, the forest wilderness or when a flat tire introduces an opportunity to grow! Never in my planning-ahead mind did I add knitting to the list, but I see now that I should have had broader horizons for my sons. This homeschool thing is a learning game for ALL of us!

The Year of Figgy Pudding

April 16, 2016

In our family, Christmas cooking was territory mainly reserved for the women. Only those of the manly persuasion who bore confidence beyond the garage would dare to enter the hallowed kitchen at holiday time. My Dad was one such warrior.

As a five year old I remember being impressed that my Dad knew how to make popcorn. This was before hot-air poppers and microwave popcorn… real men used oil, kernels, a pot and a stick of butter. Dad also made Sunday morning breakfast to entice us to get out of bed and get ready for church. Every Sunday we were awakened by him yelling up the stairwell, “Breakfast is now being served in the dining car.” This wasn’t donuts from a box or a choice of Rice Krispies, Cheerios or Trix. Dad perfected Mickey Mouse shaped pancakes, Jimmy Dean sausage and scrambled eggs with tiny pieces of bacon mixed in. We knew Dad could handle himself in the kitchen… at least before 9:00 a.m.

It was a surprise to us, however, when Dad decided one holiday that we were going to have figgy pudding… whether we wanted to or not. I think it was so we could sing with meaning, “Now bring us some figgy pudding. Now bring us some figgy pudding. Now bring us some figgy pudding and bring is right here.” Dad had never contributed to the Christmas dessert smorgasbord with the exception of holding the title Chief Taster of Pumpkin Pie. In fact, figgy pudding had never made the holiday menu at our house. Dad figured that we didn’t know what we were missing, and it was time to find out.

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Mid-December, Dad searched the web for figgy pudding recipes finally selecting one that contained a few short cuts. There would be no removal of stems from a pound of dried figs at our house. Instead there would be the sound of cellophane being removed from the Fig Newton cookies. The recipe called for a special glass bowl with a plastic seal-able lid. The week before Christmas while most shoppers were gathering last minute gifts, my father was locating and purchasing the exclusive figgy pudding bowl.

Christmas morning was filled with the traditional stocking opening and cinnamon buns. Shortly after the socks were emptied Dad slipped into the kitchen to start preparing his wonder dessert. As the heavenly aroma of molasses, buttermilk and cinnamon filled the air we began singing, “We won’t go until we get some. We won’t go until we get some. We won’t go until we get some, so bring it right here.” Even with short cuts, it was one of those all-day recipes that had the chef glued to the clock most of the day. Personally, I was salivating by the time dessert rolled around, but my three kids were highly unimpressed with the brown goop that Grandpa had concocted.

The final step before we could indulge in the brown delicacy was the beating of the whipped cream to top off the figgy pudding. As Dad jostled the electric hand mixer, our children began pleading to be excused from Grandpa’s figgy pudding. No way. Everyone at the table would be partaking. It was sort of a bloodline requirement.

Much to our amusement, the hand mixer died mid-whip. Smoke escaped from the slits above the power cord and there were no stiff peaks in sight. If the figgy pudding killed the mixer, what will it do to us? We all wondered in silence. The mixer was thrown in the garbage yet the mission continued.

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Not to be defeated, Dad put away the dessert plates and retrieved bowls from the cupboard. He scooped the brown chunky, air-pocketed glop and topped each mound with runny, half-beaten whipped cream and served them with glee.

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My children are usually quite fearless when trying new delicacies, but I don’t think Grandpa’s figgy pudding was a contender in that category. In turn, each one took a bite and made the most contorted facial expression possible while trying to swallow without chewing. We laughed until tears dripped off our cheeks into the soupy bowls before us.

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My husband, who has a stomach of steel, did finish his serving but profusely refused a second helping… over and over again. My mother wasn’t able to stomach her entire bowl of brown goodness, but smiled sweetly as always. Dad and I were the only ones who LOVED the stuff. We were secretly glad that no one else liked it, all the more for us. For the next five days Dad and I sang together with gusto, “Now bring us some figgy pudding and bring it right here,” as we enjoyed his extraordinary holiday dessert.

Thanks, Dad, for that happy Christmas memory!

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Half a Century (Fiddy Cen)

April 8, 2016

Honestly, turning fifty…. FIFTY! wasn’t nearly as bad as I anticipated. I still feel the same as I did yesterday. It’s going to be okay. Five-Oh sounds really old to me, I mean, I was just turning 40 a few weeks ago. Seriously. That was the fastest ten years ever!

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I declined having a party. I requested a dinner with my husband and in-state children, albeit, it has to be postponed for three days to get all the kids available on the same night. Glad I turned fifty so I could still plan my life around my kids.

My baby son, who is 17, brought me flowers this morning. Ahhhhh. My eldest son, who is 19, called from California and sang a bday song for me. My baby girl, who is 12, made  a giant card for me. For reals. It’s four feet by two-and-a-half feet. My married daughter, who is 22 and in Oklahoma, sent me texts and called and wrote the sweetest words on facebook. My husband, who acts like he’s 14 sometimes, took me out to dinner and told me he was ordering a salad at a Mexican restaurant so I could be proud of him. Then his chimichanga showed up. He makes me laugh.

My family asked what gifts I might like this year… the monumental year when I turn fifty. I mentioned that a backyard swing would be nice. We used to have one, but years and years in the Arizona sunshine fried it to pieces, literally. Nora told her daddy that I wanted a swing set for my birthday. Just trying to be young again!

We picked out the swing tonight. The selling feature, even though it is brown with a red striped canopy (I don’t do red.), was that it lies flat into a bed. SOLD! So now I’m trying to find cute pillows on Amazon that bring cute colors into the red/brown non-cute theme. Currently the swing is in a big box in the middle of the dead winter grass in the backyard. I would be out there assembling it, but it’s dark and I need help getting the piece out of the box. No one will help me at 10:44 p.m., even though it’s my birthday and I am old enough to apply for AARP now. Sheesh!

Happy day of my birth to all of you! I hope you feel as loved as I did today!

 

Credit Card Issues from the NEW BANK!

March 29, 2016

I am on credit card Candid Camera. I’m sure of it.

With all the issues from our current bank with debit and credit card issues and address changes, we applied for a credit card from another institution, hoping and praying for better results.

There is no balance on the card…. it is for emergencies only.

Today I got a call saying that my payment was late and I needed to make a payment of $75 right now to set my account straight. Um…. $75 for what? I was on my way into an appointment, so I told the proper English-as-a-second-language fellow that I would call later and get to the bottom of this. He kept yammering. I said BYE! and hung up. See? I was nice and signed off.

I called later to get to the bottom of this. (Push 1 for English. Enter last four of SS#. Push 0 to speak with a live person. Hello! Name as it appears on the card. Last four of SS#. Full card #. Whew.)  I asked what my balance was. $59. …. $59 for what? (And what happened to $75? Should I hang up and call back for a lower amount again?) I asked them to check what the charges were. Seems there is an annual fee that they break up and charge monthly. (That info was probably detailed in that really long paper they gave me with font size 3 writing…) And we missed a payment. And now two month’s payments are due plus a late fee.

I told the kind man, who was probably in India taking my call, that I would not be paying the late fee for monthly charges that I did not realize were going on the account monthly. BAM! Last I knew the balance was ZERO.

He quickly took off the late charges (probably sensing my superpowers) and then……..  we were disconnected. Perfect.

Call #3 (Push 1 for English. Enter last four of SS#. Push 0 to speak with a live person. Hello! Name as it appears on the card. Last four of SS#. Full card #. Whew.) I got to chat with a kind lady… and had to explain everything that just happened again. I told her I was calling to make the payment, minus the late fee. She told me that she could see a credit for the late fee, but that the charge would not come off until next month. Seriously? However, she would be happy to take my payment, but there is a $9.95 fee for paying over the phone. Oh.My.Stars. Not happening.

My husband did not relish hearing this story (except the part where I refused to pay the late fee) and asked me to call back and tell them we want to pay the yearly fee one time. I did. (Push 1 for English. Enter last four of SS#. Push 0 to speak with a live person. Hello! Name as it appears on the card. Last four of SS#. Full card #. Whew.)They won’t. I asked kind-man-from-India-#3 if we could just pay the yearly fee and have a positive balance on the card and the monthly fee would be taken out each month.

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I had to go on purgatory hold while he checked with a supervisor. Of course I did. Well, it seems that we CAN have a positive balance but our credit score will go down if we don’t use the card and pay it off monthly.

I think we accidentally got the credit card for kindergartners.

Today’s Divine Appointment

March 23, 2016

I love it when that happens!

Early in the morning at 9:00, (for a homeschool mom anyway!) I was sitting in my van outside the house where Nora has a class for an hour. My computer was open and I was proofreading a PowerPoint for a seminar I give on choosing homeschool curriculum. I came to a slide where I have photos of different unit studies for comparison. One photo was the sole example I could find online of the contents of a unit study on Obedience by my all time favorite curriculum, Konos. The photo was blurry and pathetic, however I justified it by noting how many different colored blurry indistinguishable items there were… showing volume…. not detail… AT ALL. I recalled scouring the web for a better picture to no avail. Small size it is almost clear, but blown up on a big screen, it’s horrid. That’s the gospel truth. Here it is:

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When Nora was done, we drove downtown and visited my friend, Ana, who is the kind soul who processes all the homeschool affidavits for Maricopa County. (Can I just say that the view from her 12th story office facing north was FANTASTIC including a community garden, three beautiful brick Catholic schools and Camelback Mountain! WOW!) As we were chatting I noticed a brochure on her desk for the Covenant Homeschool Resource Center, which I knew was also downtown. Mentioning that I had never been there (not mentioning that this is my 15th year homeschooling) she drew me a map and insisted that I go, as it was only three blocks away. Perfect!

Nora and I found the little hole-in-a-wall resource center and ventured inside. To say that it is crammed to capacity of curriculum and books and resources is the understatement of the century. Fuller than a centipede’s sock drawer.

Right away we found Nora’s science books for next year and then I started chatting with my friend, Janet, who runs the place. (She’s probably the one who crams all the books on those sagging shelves!) I inquired about her married daughter and come to find out, her and her new husband are living in Lynden, WA. Being very familiar with Lynden as we used to live right across the border in Canada, I remarked about how beautiful it is there. But that’s not all, Janet’s son-in-law is working at Trinity Western University… where Rick and I met and went to college. What a small world. (Sing with me, “It’s a small world after all… It’s a small world after all…)

Oh, it even gets better. As we were commenting about the coincidence of that, over her shoulder I spied the curriculum box for Obedience… the one in my blurry photo from earlier that morning! I promise you, I heard angels singing. She let me take it down and set it all up pretty and she even took the photo with her camera and emailed it to me. Here it is:

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I love it when that happens! Thank you, God, for answering a prayer that was a desire of my heart, that I didn’t even pray. Amen and amen.

Don’t You EVER Look at Me?

March 19, 2016

Through the years, I have uttered these words to my sweet husband more than I can count on all my fingers. Just to name a few memorable moments, once I made it to church and through the service and into the bathroom afterward… only to have a caring woman tell me that the neck lining to my dress at the back was hanging out like a huge tongue. Nice. “Don’t you ever look at me?” was asked of my dear husband.

Then there was the baby spit up on my sweater. Then there was pink eye in both eyes. Then there was the drastic haircut that I got earlier this week that went unnoticed until my sweet Nora asked her daddy, “Do you like mom’s hair?” That translated in my mind to “Don’t you ever look at mom?”

But today, the tables were turned. It was $5 16 oz. day at Yogurtini and my darling husband, Nora and I were basking in the balmy Arizona March evening, when my handsome husband turned to me and used MY LINE, “Don’t you ever look at me?” I chuckled and looked at him… nothing. I had given him a terrible haircut a few weeks back when he asked for a cut at 11:30 p.m…. and I wondered if he went and had it fixed. Nope. I chuckled some more, “That is my line. Why are you saying that?” He just kept looking straight at me with his chin tilted up slightly.

Then I saw it. His soul patch was missing. I have never loved the 1/2″ square of facial hair that he has sported under his lip since 2007 or 2008. But I am not the boss of him. Here I found a picture for proof from his 2009 birthday. (Our photos are sadly missing from 2006 – 2008… don’t ask.)

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Right outside Yogurtini, with my mint-colored plastic spoon in my hand, I could not stop laughing. Oh, my baby-face husband had returned without me even noticing. I think I have blocked the little hairy patch for so many years that I trained my mind not to look at his chin. Yeah, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

“It’s been gone since Tuesday,” he reported. It’s Saturday night. Oh boy.

Seems that his employment change brought on a more strict facial hair rule. Thank you State of Arizona. Reason #2,727 that I am glad we moved here 19 years ago.

 

Rock On, Rickey!

March 9, 2016

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Last night in the dark of the master bedroom way past midnight I apologized to my sweet husband for not doing anything for his 49th birthday. The special day when he entered our world is Feb. 3rd, but he was in Kansas City learning how to use the new glass cockpit on the King Air 250. Flight training trumps birthdays, obviously. And truthfully, I don’t think I could have come up with something to beat his enjoyment level of time in the flight simulator.

The nice people at Flight Safety realized it was Rick’s birthday when they copied his passport for identification. They gave him a Flight Safety polo shirt, a mug and a basket of goodies! See? He wasn’t entirely forgotten. Sheesh.

We couldn’t celebrate early because I was visiting my sister for 13 days, then Rick and I saw each other for two hours before he left for five days in KC. I have no excuse that I can remember for when he got home, but I know we were really busy. REALLY busy.

As our son, Austin, knows from experience, if you travel and are gone on your birthday it is forgotten. Period. He did ask me two months later if I would buy him a new Bible for his two-months-ago special day. I did. I’m the nice mom, remember?

After my apology, Rick replied, “Don’t worry about it, Honey. It’s okay.” My response surprised him as I said, “Okay. Thank you. … … … Don’t EVER forget my birthday!

We shared a belly laugh and he summarized the comments, “And THAT is the difference between us!”

Happy belated birthday, Rickey! I love you!

Go to the River!

March 6, 2016

the river

(Photo courtesy of Simona, the mom with the phone.)

If you have been to any of my seminars for homeschooling, you are well aware that the river is my escape from schooling when it isn’t exactly working out as planned… and my fill-in for science. Look, plants! Look, frogs!

Homeschooling is hard, friends. But God made rivers and saw that they were good.

When kids can’t read when they “should”… go to the river.

When kids can’t remember the math operations you taught them yesterday… go to the river.

When children born in America who only have one language can’t seem to speak or spell their native tongue… go to the river.

See? It works wonders in multiple situations. We have been going to the Verde River in north east Scottsdale for 15 or 16 years. When we discovered it, it was an undeveloped reedy wonderland of huge stones, polliwogs and secret tunnels in the cattails. My kids LOVED it. I loved it, who are we kidding here?

Our minivan braved the rocky banks many times before the Tonto National Forest folks paved most of the road, cleared the rocks for a parking lot, put up barriers so you can’t accidentally drive into the river, and placed porta-potties for our general convenience. It is still just as grand and adventurous as the days of old… minus the standing water filled with frogs eggs. I miss that.

Phoenix has met or broken more heat records this year in the last month than I remember in all 19 years that we have lived here. It was 91 on Friday, MARCH 4th so I summoned some homeschool peeps and we went to the river. In the shade of the buzzing trees (Bees were very busy collecting pollen!  Science… check!) it was ideal for us moms to sit and relax in our camping chairs.

The water, however, was straight from high country snow melt and had the 17-year-old almost-men screaming like little girls because of the chill. My brave little Colombian princess was the first one all the way under… which is a BIG deal because she only went in up to her ankles for the first hour. I think her feet went numb and her brain froze and then she went all the way in.

As usual science naturally occurred. The kids gathered flowers for me when they saw my nature journal. The boys picked cattails and had sword fights. Several kids discovered a dead possum and examined its claws and teeth. Most importantly, they enjoyed being out in God’s creation and so did every one of the moms.

Please, go to the river. You need it. Your kids need it. Consider it Spring Break.

 

Here’s Your Sign

March 5, 2016

We did two u-turns to take this picture. You just don’t see signs on the side of the road every day that screams your name. So we stopped. Yes, we did.

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