Thursday, May 21, 2015

Shameless Pleasures

The phrase "guilty pleasure" does not apply as I feel no guilt over enjoying the following this last week.
*I cranked my music up as loud as I wanted and not once did someone ask me to turn it down or turn it off.
*I spent two hours chatting with a friend over hot chocolate and essential oils. It fed my soul. Thanks Laura!
*One morning I went back to bed after dropping the kids off to school.
*A long relaxing bath.
*I took a moment to listen to the birds sing at the garden.
*I played Farm Heroes and not once did the internet go out because too many users were trying to use the same signal.
*The cat curled up to me and no one stole her from my arms.
*The dog has been my shadow, my protector.
* I have knocked things off my to-do list. While work may not sound pleasurable, during the month of May Madness (gardens, theatre, dance, and choir) time is precious and things often go undone. Seeing them done is rewarding. 

Next up: Lunch with my girl Mindy.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Transitions

As I type the cat is lying at my feet so I am not alone, but the house is empty of all human companions. This morning for the first time in his 14 years of life my son entered the public school system as a student. It appears that our homeschooling days have officially come to an end.
God has been preparing me for this moment for awhile now. At times it seemed the day would never arrive and that we would keep my boy home throughout high school. Yet, I sensed that the transition was coming. While he is in no way excited as his sister was, he too is ready. I am sure he will do fine. Some have asked, why start at the end of the year? It is a valid question. When we finally made the decision I sat down with the dean to go over our options. We both felt it best to start now for a couple of reasons. At their school they do placement tests three times a year. His class is scheduled for these two test this week. So he will be taking them right alongside his peers. This will help us determine many things. Where is he at academically? Their school has three tiers for placement; novice, grade level and honors. They also offer summer school for those currently behind. Since he is more hands on and mechanically minded, there is a possibility he will need some assistance to get up to speed in some areas. Or, he could be totally on track. It is hard to say. The test will tell. Another reason to start now is to ease any anxiety. The end of the year is more relaxed which will give him a chance to make a few friends, get to know the routine and get his mind around all things school. Anyone can do just about anything for 4 weeks. This will help over the summer too as he will not be worried about transitioning in the fall. He will know what to expect.

So what about me? What do I do now that both kiddos are in school? Career? College? Continue with community involvement? As it will only be four weeks until summer break, I am not making any decisions right now. I will take the time to relax, clean, set up some routines, visit with friends and spend time at the garden. I will take a moment to breathe. Maybe I will finish going through the math program or read a whole stack of books. Maybe I will go on long hikes and soak in the sights and sounds of nature. Maybe I will blog more. Oh the possibilities.

I don't know completely what next year will look like and that is okay. I am trusting that is the right thing for now. I am trusting that God has a plan for me and my house. He's got this and we have Him.

Lord, as we walk through this transition be with us. Guide us through the unknown. Bring my boy, your perfect peace that surpasses all understanding. Help him to make friends. Help him to focus on the tasks given. Help him to thrive and succeed, in whatever or wherever he is. Protect him and keep him safe. Be with me and help me to know what I am to do. Guide my steps as I pursue my future. Help me to not rush the process but be content with each day. I thank you for the many wonderful years we had together. All the adventures. The memories. The blessings. I thank you! May my children continue to find favor, now and forever. In Jesus Name. AMEN!

Friday, May 15, 2015

A Long, Rewarding Day

I forgot my camera so I will have to record the day with my words.

I arrived at the apartment complex at 9am. Summer Place. It is a place of diversity and refuge. All of its 130 families that reside there are refugees from countries all over the world. English is not their native tongue. For all but the young English is their second language.

For the last week I had been knocking on doors and filling out garden registration forms. For nearly all the residents, the desire for a garden is strong. For many it is coming back to their farming roots. Generations of farmers, now in a new land, longing to connect to the land. Others it is a place of community respite, a fresh breath of air, new life, hope. Yet others still, it is survival, sustenance for their families. 

The field lay freshly plowed. The people gathered in expectation and excitement. Garden day had arrived.

Measurements were taken. Multiplied and divided. A plan was drawn out. Pathways devised. Considerations made. Trying to be as fair as possible on a piece of land that was not a perfect rectangle, rather odd shapes pieced together. Yet a plan was made, plots for all 96 registered gardeners were determined. Measuring tapes came out as stakes went in and the plan was put into action. Words of encouragement as the plots came into being, quarter of the way, half way, almost finished. As the plotting was finalized the gardeners lined the sides in anticipation.

I sat down for a few moments to draw up a map which I used to put family names and apartment numbers on. It serves as the main tool to keep the peace and eliminate boundary disputes. It was also the last time I sat down for a long time.

With map in place and eager residents. I began the monumental task of assigning all 96 plots to the people. I had a few special request during registration, which I honored. Then I had people stand next to the plot they desired and from one end of the property to the other, we filled in the spots. With an amazing Americorp member, Hilliary, by my side. She marked the stakes as I marked the map. Slowly, deliberately, we made our way. After our first time through, we stopped for a brief drink, then went back over it again.

Just as we finished our second pass, with a large majority of gardeners placed, the compost arrived. I have witnessed this event before, yet it always makes me smile. As the property manager describes it, "All the worker bees are at it." For the next six hours, the property was abuzz with activity.

The sun beat down. People beat the earth with maddock, hoes, and shovels. Compost was added. Boundary lines more clearly defined. Some with string; others with trenches.

I witnessed the human condition; compassion, greed, cultural divisions, cultural unity, team work, resourcefulness, hard work, satisfaction.

I settled disputes as they came. One woman insisted she have the plot already assigned to another family. Over and over she insisted. Over and over I insisted that she could choose any other plot not yet assigned, one directly next to the plot she so insisted she have. In the end she relented and took the spot I recommended. 

Another came over a cultural difference. An elderly African woman had asked her friend, A Burmese if he would help her grow food, as he had previous years. When the other African women saw that he had plotted their spots together they were furious. The women told me to change the boundary without her present, yet I had witnessed the exchange in the morning. The women herself had said to give her spot to the man, explaining the arrangement. I refused to do anything without the women's direct consent. When she came, they tried to convince her that he had stolen from her. He had not, for he is a man of integrity and great compassion. When the man arrived, with such kindness and gentleness, he defused the situation. All was well. He was growing her food, he would share all that he had. Later, in the day I found out he is well known in his country. A famous poet. A man whose words have caused revolutions, resolve and change. Although at a price, he has been imprisoned three times and is currently in exile. I am thankful he has found refuge here in Lansing.

As the hours ticked by I was brought gifts of bananas and oranges. Much appreciated as I did not pack any food. I sat with a young woman and had hand-ground tea of fresh herbs and spices on her porch.

As soon as the school bus came, the grounds were overflowing with children. Many went to work in the garden with their parents. A small group of them gave me hope for the future. An Iraqi boy, whose parents were still working, claimed their families spot. He had the desire to get their spot ready as he was witnessing all those around him doing. After being chased out of the compost by a well-meaning woman, I encouraged him it was fine to take some for his family. As soon as this happened. A group of 7 or 8 kids of four ethnicities, came to help him. For nearly an hour, the small group worked together, ages most likely between 9-12, encouraging each other, smiling and laughing as they worked. It was beautiful.

Some residents came hoping to get a spot at the garden. This is always hard. I worked so hard throughout the week to make sure everyone was given a fair and equal opportunity to get a spot. I knocked on every door at least twice, sometimes three times. I drew up forms with final notice stamped on it in red explaining they must register by Weds. May 13. Yet still, people came saying they did not have a spot. I wonder if some of these were people who refused to open the door and no matter how many different ways I tried to explain the garden, they said no. I do not want. I do not need. Only to find out that yes, they do want. They do need. Language barriers are tricky. For those who did not receive, they will wait one week to see if other spots go unclaimed. If all are claimed they will be given a raised bed on the other side the property. Thankfully we have this option.

The day went on. So much was accomplished in such a short time. I was fed rice with bean soup for dinner. My daughter came and entertained the younger crowd while their parents toiled in their gardens. She taught them how to do somersaults, cartwheels and back bends. They played hide and go seek. Between her and my mother they had the littles laughing and having fun.

At 7:30pm, our family friend arrived to return the tools back to our garden.  It was a long, rewarding day. I arrived home, exhausted with a sunburn. I arrived feeling accomplished and grateful for the time well spent.

Kudos to the property manager, Ray, for providing the space, resources and opportunity for the garden. I know his passion to reach this community of refugees is greatly appreciated. Also, thanks to the Garden Project for the support in placing the garden plots, seeds, plants, compost and encouragement. My mother, whose presence is always appreciated. Bob for transporting tools. My kids for their help at various times of the day. And the people of Summer Place. As I see your faces, learn your names, hear your stories, and fellowship with you whether at the table or the garden, my heart grows with love and appreciation. THANK YOU!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

In Which I Reflect

I have one foot in the home school world and another in the foot of public school. One child still educating at home while the other is enrolled at a local charter academy. It makes me reflect on many things, evaluate.

Mommy wars: I never have liked them. My philosophy is every one is doing the best they can with the circumstances and resources they have. I am uber grateful that I have not faced any (known) backlash in the homeschool world for our decision to enroll DD. For all I know we are being talked about behind our backs but I choose not to dwell on that. I think about all the years we have homeschooled and while we have faced curiosity and questions, I don't recall people being mean or judgmental about our decision.
Hey Mommas! Don't let others determine your happiness. Stand by your choices for your children. Stop the mommy wars. Stop comparing your child and choices to others. It can start in pregnancy and follow you all the way through your life if you let it. Midwife or hospital. Circumsision or uncircumcised. Breast fed or bottle. Vaccinations or non-vac. Work or stay at home. Cry it out or co-sleep. Organic. Public school, private school, home school, or boarding school. What books your kids are allowed to read. Allowances. Privileges. Oh, stop already.
As for me and my house. That is my philosophy. My husband and I make our decisions based on what is right for our family. That is all.

What to do with the boy? I am really trying to sort this out right now. What is best for him? I seem to be at war with myself. Keep him at home and work with him one on one. Help him in his areas of struggle and keep plugging away even though at times it is difficult. Or, enroll him too. Allow him to experience answering to multiple teachers, homework, class room dynamics, different set of distractions.  He already has two teachers besides myself, science and writing, that he receives weekly homework from. Honestly, he has struggled. Would I be setting him up to fail? My boy struggles to stay on task. Or would the school be able to get him to respond in ways he has not been able to for me? It is an inner war that I have not yet determined the answer.

Homeschool mommas, Don't beat yourself up! I know the struggle of am I doing enough. You are!

Yesterday, as I was driving home from school with my daughter she was sharing with me her day. Not sure if you heard all of the meaning in that last sentence. We had an awesome conversation.  She shared a synopsis of what they were working on in each class. Her conclusion, "Mom I  already know most of this stuff." Halleluiah, she is not behind, she is ahead. Social studies is taking a different approach then we have previously used so she opened up her social studies notebook and read me all of her notes! I was really excited about that. She liked what she was learning so much that she had to share it with me. I was able to connect the links of what she previously knew about the subject matter and the new stuff she had just learned. It would be fair to say that History was her least favorite subject while at home but she knows I love it. So she shared it with me. :) My mother was right! She told me that with her away all day she is going to have so much more to talk about. This momma is thankful!


I don't have all the answers. I have a God that does. I am trying to listen to His voice and do the best I can. I trust that everything is going to work out just fine.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

I Can't Believe She Just Went There

With public school comes homework. It is a reality for middle school students everywhere. Homework!
Since she had multiple productions of her show this weekend, homework was put off until tonight. Not an overwhelming amount. One math review page and her vocabulary workbook. Not a big deal, right? Wrong! Apparently it was enough to send my daughter over the edge. She insisted that she was unable to do her Math problems. I showed her how to do one, went over the review problems, wrote out the steps to take and told her to finish the work. She escalated. I calmly replied. She did a couple with me talking her through step by step. Then I asked her to do the rest. To which she escalated again. I decided to leave the room before I freaked out on her. I knew the issue was not that she was incapable of doing the work, she simply was not trying to.
I decided to escape to a different room and relax. Through the door she cries out, "You don't even care about my education!"
Oh! No! She! Did! Not!
"I absolutely DO care about your education!
I home schooled you because I care about your education.
I provided opportunities and resources throughout your life because I care about your education.
I supported your decision to try public school because I care about your education.
I sat down with the Dean to find the best possible solutions because I care about your education.
I contacted teachers to make sure your transition was as smooth as possible because I care about your education.
I always have and always will care about your education!
I will be your advocate because I care about your education.
Until I take my last breath on this earth I will help you to be a life long learner because I CARE!
Do not tell me I don't care."

So when you are ready to listen:
You are loved.
You can do whatever you make up your mind to do.
There are steps you can take to be successful. Take the steps.
Don't freak out, it's going to be okay.
Oh and to find the answer to percentages of a number.
First, change the percentage to a decimal.
Next, multiply the decimal and the whole number.
Count your decimal places.
Finally, write your answer in your workbook.
It looks like this:
40% of 60
.40 * 60
= 24
Love,
Mom

Friday, February 06, 2015

The All Star's First Week

 My sweet daughter was all set to begin school on Monday when this happened:
 I had originally put an exclamation point at the end of the message but she erased it. She was not so excited for it to be a Snow Day, she was ready to start school. Tuesday came and it was another Snow Day.
 She was not impressed.
Then Wednesday:
Yeah!!! Finally, she had school. A first official day. Off she went with a smile. As for me? I was smiling too. No tears. No fears.

Her initial response to public school was, ""Good first day of school. It's really loud though." Ha!

Her second day she was relaxed and happy at pick up. Excitedly telling me about her day.
At 4:30pm her teacher called me. The best teacher phone call in history. He explained that each month, a student from each homeroom is given the All-Star Award for showing exemplary behavior and the character virtue of the month. The virtue? Courage.

My sweet girl walked into that school with her head up, ready to learn. Taking what could be a very daunting transition and doing it with ease and grace. My sweet girl had courage. :)

He went on to say she is a great kid and a wonderful addition to the school. Yeah!!!

So this morning I attended my first ever school assembly as a parent. As soon as I walked into the gym I was instantly chocked up. I had managed to escape tears all week up until that point. In my defense I am often choked up by kids; parades, singing in church or concerts, whenever I see kids doing big things, or a sentimental commercial. So it was not really a surprise to feel that wave of emotion. I did however have to pull it together before the kids came in. Which I mostly did. ;)

Receiving her award.
  
My All-Star! Barely entertaining my request for a picture. ;)
Needless to say, this momma is super proud!

Friday, January 30, 2015

Quick Update

Do you know how difficult it is to find school uniforms in January? It appears that only khaki pants can be found at this time of year. To remedy the situation we went online to order direct from French Toast. In the meantime she is going to have to make the most of the one uniform we have.
We met this morning with the middle school dean. I could not have asked for a better meeting. Questions were answered, a course of action was made, and this Mama was reassured that everything is going to be alright.
She is going to have four main teachers, three of which will be male. Apart from a gym teacher in first grade, she has always had female teachers. I am very happy about this, I think DD will respond well. She will also have two electives, Art and Intro to Office. Also, great fits. No foreign language which means we can continue to work on Nepali at home, in her own way and time. :)
Also, after bawling my eyes out yesterday, I did not cry once today. Progress. Peace.
A good day.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

In a Foreign Land

My friend Rebecca was born and raised in Namibia, Africa. One of my favorite stories of her transition to America was when she asked for a pencil eraser during class because she had made a mistake on her paper. Her request, "May I have a rubber, please?" elicited many laughs as American English and British English collided. Even though she grew up speaking English her whole life she still encountered awkward moments as she applied it in a new and foreign land.
My baby girl is on her way to her own foreign land next week, public school. As I process all the changes that will take place, I can not help but wonder what awkward moments await my daughter as she enters this new and unfamiliar territory. The truth is she is speaks the language of school. She has been learning her whole life so the concepts of math assignments, reading and writing are not new. What will be new is what all that means within the confines of a 8am-3pm class room. Will she embarrass herself by not following the norms of school protocol? Maybe.
I am trying not to overwhelm her with a list of dos and don'ts. I am trying to let her experience this in her own way and time. At the moment she is excited. Willing to put her best foot forward and try her best.
This is also new territory for me. In writing that, the tears are filling my eyes overflowing. While I am excited to see my girl stretch her wings and fly. I am sad. Yesterday, she said ever so sweetly, "Mom, your going to miss me." and I started to sob ugly cry. Absolutely I am going to miss her. This sweet precious girl of mine and I have always been close. At times she has been my shadow. We have lived the first 11 years of her life always within arms reach, rarely out of earshot. I have often said, "The blessing of homeschooling is that you are always together." I have experienced each and every first. I know her strengths, her weaknesses. I know what brings her joy and what makes her angry. I know my daughter. And I know she is ready for this next step in her journey. But that does not mean it will be easy to let her go. I am going to have to trust. Trust God. Trust the school. Trust her teacher. Trust my daughter, which I do.
I have a feeling inquiring minds want to know, why. Why am I sending her to public school? Truth, we have had a great run of homeschooling. We have done some amazing things. I guess it boils down to this; adolescences is a hard time.  Rather than see us growing closer I have seen our relationship stressed. Ironically, the best thing about homeschooling can also be the hardest part. You are always together. An annoying classmate is one thing, but when you never get away from it, it's hard. I sense she needs a space of her own. Something to call her own. A reprieve from the current frustrations she is facing. Will it be forever? I don't know. I am looking it as the right decision for now. For the next 4 and a half months, this is what needs to happen. I just know that I love her enough to let her go and I have a God who is big enough to be with her wherever she goes.
Boxes of tissue appreciated as well as your prayers.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

What Brought You Here?

In this life we are all on a journey. For some it has been a journey with many challenges. Hardships. Barriers. Uncertainty. Fear. Unknown territory. How we adjust to each of these challenges determines our happiness in life as well as our future security.
I have watched many of my refugee friends as they have faced many of the above. New in an unknown land, with language barriers. I have watched as they apply for jobs; bought homes and cars. I have seen them in the garden, connecting to the land, providing for their families, hope in their eyes. I have sat in their living rooms and listened to their language and taught them mine. I have seen the determination in both young and old to make a good life here in America.
Today, I found myself at the Gerald Ford Auditorium for the naturalization ceremony as a couple friends became United States citizens. A beautiful moment in their journeys.
Just before the court came to order a man came to the front to give some general instructions regarding the day. He noted what to do and not to do with their certificates. He went over the basics of applying to vote, and how to change their status to citizens. But there was one moment that caught me off guard and brought me to tears. Two rows in front of me was a husband and wife along with their three children. The man announced that once the parents are citizens that all children under the age of 18 and under their green card will also at that moment be citizens. The joy and emotion on this families faces was absolutely touching. A family all becoming citizens together.
The court came to order, the Honorable Judge Neff presiding. She shared with us that the new citizens came from 38 countries from around the world; near and far. Lands of peace and others of turmoil and strife. She read the 81 names of the new citizens and each came forward to receive their certificates. Such pride and joy on each face. Happiness. Happy to belong to this great country.
The Star Spangle Banner was sung. The Pledge of Allegiance recited. Each new citizen responding to the oath. The singing of God Bless America. Then the colors were retired and court was adjourned.
Much joy, clapping, hugging and handshakes as congratulations went around the room.
Then another moment, that tugged at my heart. A woman sobbing, a joyous happy sob as she exclaimed, "Now no one can take him from us. He is here to stay!" A fear released. New hope.
As I scanned the room I realized, each individual had a story. How I would love to sit down with each of them and ask, "What brought you to America?" "Welcome!"
May you find peace and happiness in your new land.
Mero bahini United States citizen ho. Congratulations!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Hami Nepali Sikdaichhau.

Simply translated; we are learning Nepali.

It is not an easy language to learn. It uses the Devanāgarī alphabet which is more like symbols than letters. It has 36 consonants and 12 vowels. But the hardest part is not that it is so very different from English, it is the lack of resources. This is the only worksheet I have found. Nepali Alphabet with worksheets It is an excellent worksheet for practicing writing. Since we spend about 30 minutes a day studying Nepali I have had to create many of my own resources and methods in order to teach the kids. 

We are currently working on the following:


आज ___________________ हो ।

Aja ___________________ ho. (Today is____.)



हिजो ______________________ थियो ।

Hijo ______________________ thiyo. (Yesterday was___.)



भोलि ______________________ हो ।

Bholi _____________________ ho. (Tomorrow is___.)



फर्सी _______________________हो ।

Pharsi ____________________ ho. (Two days out is__.)



Yo mahina ______________ho. The month is_________.



Sunday: आइतबार (aitabaar)

Monday: सोमबार (sombaar)

Tuesday: मंगलबार (mangalbaar)

Wednesday: बुधबार (budhabaar)

Thursday: बिहिबार (bihibaar)

Friday: शुक्रबार (shukrabaar)

Saturday: शनिबार (shanibaar)

hapta-week

I am going to take a similar approach to what we did when the kids were in first grade Math. Each day that had a simple routine that covered the date, counting, patterns, and weather. Using an empty hundred chart we will fill in one number each day and count to that number. We will start with 20 as they have already mastered one through twenty. We will say the above sentences regarding the days of the week as well as the date. Eventually we will add the weather or a different subject we are studying.

We are also just starting barakhadi, combining the consonants with the vowels. It looks like this:
क, क, का, कि, की, कु, कू, के, कै, को, कौ, कं कँ, कः

When it comes to nouns we do fairly well. Having been exposed to the language for three years now, we have acquired a decent vocabulary. For instances I can easily tell you every vegetable that grows at the garden. Where I struggle is with the verbs; making complete sentences.

Verbs! There are days that I wonder if I will every conquer them. There are so many to learn. They have so many forms. Similar to Spanish they have different endings depending on whom you are referring to. Add in past, present, active present, future tense, and injunctives and you have 40 ways to say each verb. Yikes! Yet learn them we will. I am slowly grasping the present tense.

I have a whole new appreciation for my gardeners learning a second language. It is hard. This last weekend I was at one of my friends homes and was awkwardly practicing my first ten verbs, as I struggled at times they would gently correct me. Then a relative that is currently working on her English came and we studied together. I would say a word in Nepali and she would say it in English and we would help each other with the correct pronunciation. It was very productive for both of us. This is the best resource I have, native speakers that are patient with me.

I think the snipping tool is about to become my new best friend as I piece together English and Spanish worksheets to come up with my own Nepali practice papers. If anyone knows of any handy resources that will help us on our quest to becoming fluent Nepali speakers, please comment below. 

Lastly, a huge thanks to my mom for getting me a Nepali dictionary for Christmas complete with Devanāgarī. It has been an immense help.