Saturday, February 27, 2010

When the Boys Fixed the Sewing Machine

In the fall of 2006, I was in the middle of finishing a quilt for Xavier's kindergarten class, for a silent auction.  Since I was using my sewing machine almost every minute of every day, I left it set up on a table in our den.  This was my precious sewing machine that had finally allowed me to remember how much I loved sewing.  It is amazing how much more enjoyable sewing is when you don't have to fight with your sewing machine.

One day, I went upstairs to take a shower, leaving the two little boys watching t.v.  They were 6 and 3.  They decided to take that opportunity to investigate the forbidden fruit.  After all, what mechanically minded 6 year old can resist a machine full of buttons.  (For the record, he still loves it- he just uses it for what it's meant for, now.)  As they opened drawers, and flipped the top up and down, they saw a small bottle of oil.  They took out the small brush that came with the machine, and proceeded to 'fix' the sewing machine with the oil.  They just dumped it all down the inside.  Mind you, this sewing machine is computerized.  When they realized that they couldn't clean up the oil with a rag, they ran into the kitchen and got a liter size cup, filled it with water, and dumped it down the top of the sewing machine to clean up the oil.

In the words of Dominic, "It went fzzzz pop!"  *sigh*

There I was with a half finished quilt and a sewing machine that was not going to run.  My two boys were crying (I hadn't even said anything to them, yet) and apologizing.  My wonderful husband stopped on his way home from work and bought me a cheap sewing machine.  I proceeded to curse my way through the rest of that quilt.

A friend advised me to let the sewing machine completely dry out and then try it out again.  So, 6 months and one move later, I took it out of its case and plugged it in.  It worked!  I did a happy dance and forgave my children.  Well, really, I had forgiven them the same day they did it.  I was very upset with them.  After all, they knew they were not supposed to be touching it.  That's the whole reason they tried to wash away the oil.  They were trying to get rid of the evidence.  But, they were so contrite.  And, they have not touched my sewing machine without permission since then.

Things are better now.  They know how to use my machine.  While I still insist on supervision, they are allowed to use it.  I believe it is always better to have an appreciation for what something is actually for than to abuse it and ruin it.

Friday, February 26, 2010

My New Space

When we first moved into our house, I thought that this hallway was a huge waste of space.  I still think that they could have designed the basement much better, but we are slowly remodeling the spaces.  Sometimes, we are ripping out walls and building new ones to make the space better.  In this instance, I have just repurposed it.  I originally planned to put shelves under the stairs to hold books and board games, then add a reading nook.  After all, this hallway is a good five feet wide.  Surely, something could be done to make it useful!  I am all about not wasting space.

Originally, we were using it as storage space.  We just had this bureau, which I use to store my craft supplies.  However, when Gary started remodeling the dojang, this space suddenly became a mess of storage.  This is after I had started organizing.

This picture was taken mid-organization.  

You must understand that I organize in a specific way.  First, I take everything out.  Then, I slowly put it all back in, or throw it away.  This way, everything gets put away nice and neat.  Unfortunately, this is a very long (did I mention slow?) process.  Anytime a member of my family (starting with my grandparents, all the way down to my smallest cousin) hears that I'm organizing, they know that my house will not be available for company for some time to come.

After approximately two months weeks, I got the space completely cleared out.  We went to my mother's for Thanksgiving.  We drove our gas guzzling beauty to Oklahoma, because we knew we would need the room on the way home.  We barely fit everything in the back of that thing.  Two of the things we came home with are my grandmother's sewing desk, and her sewing machine, both of which were damaged in a house fire.

The sewing machine will have to be cleaned.  I just don't know how to do it.  I don't know if it can be repaired, so right now, I am just using it as decoration.  Let's face it, I would probably never use it, anyway.  I love my sewing machine.  (Remind me to tell you the story of Xavier and Dominic 'fixing' my sewing machine someday.  It's one for the history books!)  However, the sewing desk needs to be stripped and re-stained. 

You can see where something was sitting on top of it, and all the smoke damage around it.  The drawers will need to have shelf liner put into them, as they just leach soot.

Since I didn't want to mess up anything I was sewing, but I wanted to start using the sewing desk immediately, I covered it with an old sheet.  It will work for the nonce.  When the weather gets better, I'll take it out in the garage and teach the boys how to strip, something I learned in my dad's piano workshop.

I needed shelving in my 'sewing room', so I rounded up some old shelves that we've had for 9 years.  I sincerely never expected them to last this long.  They are very cheap particle board that have held everything from clothing, to toys, to tools, to food, to sewing supplies.  They have resided in 5 states.  They have survived 7 moves.  I am actually very impressed.  They don't look great, but they are still functional.  And, since I was trying to make something out of nothing...

I decided to use all those little precious objects that had no particular space in my home, to decorate with.  The objects all have special meaning to me, but were getting lost in my house.

Above, you can see two pictures taken at the fair when Gabriel was a baby.  The one on the left was taken when he was only a month old, and the one on the right was taken when he was a year old.  The two dolls on the sewing machine were made by Gabriel and my nephew, Alex, at Silver Dollar City.  The elephant, Elly, was my favorite stuffed toy as a girl.

These two little fellows also have special meaning.  The Thumkey was another childhood toy.  Yanis is on the right.  Gary won him at a street fair, in Greece, while we were dating.  He was our first child.  We named him Yanis, because it seemed that half the men we met in Greece were named Yanis.

Finally, at the top of the wall, I strung a wire, and have started hanging the kids' artwork from it.  Soon, it will be full, and I'll have to start paring down again.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

My Favorite Motormouth

There is a girl that I have come to know moderately well.  We'll call her A.  She just turned 10 years old.  Due to the fact that we both spend much of our day waiting at taekwondo, we have had many conversations.  Well...  Really, she's talked and I've listened.  There have been those times when she has asked me endless riddles, but other than that, I have not been required to do much talking.

A is an adorable, beautiful girl.  She also likes to talk.  There is usually little rhyme or reason to the things she tells me.  She flows from one subject to the next in quite ADDish fashion.  My mind understands how hers works, so she chose her listening partner well.  I'm not saying that she actually chose me as a listening partner.  In fact, we were just sort of thrown together by circumstances.  I was there for my children, and she was there for her cousin.

One of the first conversations I can remember having with her went something like this:

"A, is Mr. D. your Uncle?"
"No.  He's my cousin.  I don't know why everyone thinks he's my uncles.  *huh*"

It was quite obvious that she was disgusted by this question.  Never mind that it was a valid question, since he is 14 years her senior.  Of course, I also understand her pique.  Most of my cousins on my father's side have children my age.  Plus, I have witnessed this exact conversation happen again and again.  Poor girl.  They should probably post the words "Mr. D's Cousin" under her picture to help her out.

But, what has endeared her the most to me is her unfettered joy in just letting it all hang out.  That girl has told me things that I'm sure would have her mama throttling her for.  I know that because if one of my children let out some of the confidences A has graced me with, I would blow a gasket.

I have come to realize, through this happenstance relationship, that most people don't really care what your children tell them.  If your child lets slip that you didn't get up until 11 that day (totally not what she has said, but definitely what MY children have told people before), it really doesn't matter.  The fact is that your friends, and the friends of your children really won't care.  They love you for who you are.  If they don't, it's really not worth getting upset by their disapproval anyway.  So, if you happen to overhear my children say something about the state of my household, take it with a grain of salt.  It's probably true.

Monday, February 22, 2010


"Wow.  She is really weird.  I know she's our mother, but man."  (Gabriel)
"I know.  She's even weirder than the rest of our family."  (Dominic)
"She's even weirder than me."  (Xavier)
"Mmhmm"  (Dominic)

Is this disrespect, or a comfortable knowledge that their mother doesn't mind being weird?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

History is Fun

Who knew?  I remember very little of the history I learned in school.  I can guarantee you that it was the absolutely most boring subject we studied.  It was not until I was in college that I got a professor that made history interesting.  Really, though, even he did not make it nearly as interesting as what my children are experiencing.  he was one of the most dreaded professors at the university I attended because his classes were very difficult, but they were basic courses required for all majors.

Now, I am finding that history really is a story, actually many stories combined to create one lone story.  This is how my children are learning history.  They are reading amazing books and stories.  These books are slowly becoming some of Xavier's and Dominic's favorite books.  Gabriel has always been a history nut.  Xavier and Dominic are much more into science.  It makes my day when my 9-year-old son selects, as a book to occupy time while waiting, one of the history books on our shelves.

Because we love them so much, and want everyone to know what they are, here are a few of our favorites.  (Many of these are books that were required reading for either Sonlight or Ambleside Online. Ambleside Online has contributed the most to our favorite reading lists.  Even if you don't use their curriculum, their reading lists are worth checking out!)  Many of these books are available in the public domain.  If you have an iPod touch, or iPhone, you can download a couple apps that allow you to download many of these books for free- two of my favorite are the Kindle App-also available as a PC download (Amazon has many classics available for free as Kindle downloads!), and the Stanza app (all those Project Gutenberg books are available through this one!).

Our Island Story by H.E. Marshal - Also available free as part of the Baldwin Project, and an audio download in two parts.
Fifty Famous Stories Retold by James Baldwin- Also available as a Kindle download for $1, and for free on the Baldwin Project.  (Dominic's favorite book!)

The Discovery of New Worlds  by M.B. Synge - Baldwin Project
The Little Duke by Charlotte Yonge (Xavier had a hard time getting into this one, but by the time he finished it, he was ecstatic with it.) - available as a free download on Project Gutenberg (which can be downloaded to an iPod/iPhone!)
Joan of Arc (We love ALL of Diane Stanley's books!)
Michelangelo by Diane Stanley
Good Queen Bess : The Story of Elizabeth I of England by Diane Stanley

The New World by Winston Churchill- This book is, sadly, out of print.  I got lucky and found the set of four for $25.  I asked at a local used book store, and she searched until she found it for me at a reasonable price.  Gabriel said The Birth of Britain was okay, but he absolutely loves this book.
A Patriot's History of the United States: From Columbus's Great Discovery to the War on Terror  by Larry Schweikart and Michael Allen- This is Gabriel's favorite history books, hands down.
Voyage of the Armada by David Howarth- It looks like this book may be out of print.  We were able to check it out from the library.  Gabriel got so excited by this book that he came upstairs and gave Xavier a one hour lecture on the Spanish Armada.

So, those are our favorite history books, for now.  I'm sure that before the end of the year, we'll have more, but these are all excellent books worth your time.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


I am allergic to latex.  It is a mild allergy, and one I don't think of much.  However, I recently discovered that I am also mildly allergic to acrylic.  The only place it causes problems is on my forefinger, where my yarn rests while I am knitting.  This also happens to be the place I have psoriasis.  The acrylic yarn causes my psoriasis to act up, resulting in swelling and blisters.  (probably those weak genes again)

Now, normally, I don't like to knit with acrylic.  I prefer natural fibers.  My favorite fiber is wool, and cotton is nice, too.  I recently acquired some alpaca that I love.

A friend gave me a large amount of acrylic yarn, and I am attempting to use it.  In order to use it, I place a bandage over my finger, so that the yarn doesn't come in contact with my skin.  This has worked out great, until last night.

Last night, I put on a bandage and went about my business of knitting.  This morning, at about 5, I woke up because my hand was itchy.  I kept rubbing it on the sheets and scratching it.  Finally, I realized that I had put on a latex bandage.  *sigh*

This is not the first time I have used a latex bandage without thinking about it.  I am presently going through my house getting all the latex bandages and putting them aside for kid-only use.  Maybe that will keep me from screwing up and using them again.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Strong Opinion

One of the things I require Gabriel to do is write a paragraph three days a week, and an essay once a week.  Really, his writing needs a lot of work.  However, the exercise is more about getting comfortable with writing, than it is about mechanics.  His paragraphs can either be copied from his reading, or composed.  I am way  behind on grading, and just sat down to grade his past work.  This was the second paragraph I came across.

     I hate "How to Read a Book."  It tells me things that I already know.  Take that chapter on careful reading.  I learned that 5 years ago.  Also, I already know that the most important part of a book can be in a single sentence and not a paragraph.  It acts like I'm less comprehensive than I am.  That book just drives me crazy."

I may have to analyze whether "How to Read a Book" is a necessary part of his homeschooling.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Beauty of Learning

Last week I found this quote.  "The joy of learning is as indispensable in study as breathing is in running." - Simone Weil French philosopher and social activist 1909 - 1943  

Apparently, the love of learning is alive and well in our house.  Tonight, while I was putting Dominic to bed, I told him that there was school tomorrow.  (We're on a four day school week, since Gary has a four day work week.)  The tired little gamer, who is usually anxious for the weekend to commence, since they are only allowed to play video games on the weekend, told me he was okay with that.  "Because," he whispered, "I like school as much as I like video games, maybe more."  I am one happy mama.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Free Thinkers

I just want to lay to rest, once and for all, the idea that homeschooling brain washes/stifles/or otherwise forces children to think just like their parents.  This is an argument I hear frequently.  "Well, if they are homeschooled, they don't get the opportunity to hear the opposing view.  They only hear what their parents want them to hear.  They don't learn anything different.  They don't have the opportunity to make up their own minds."

First, let me say that I don't let my children blindly believe the same things I do.  If my children express a political view, I automatically take the opposing view, even though they know I agree, so that they have to come up with reasons, logical or emotional, for their views.

Gary and I are anti-enviromentalists.  If you want to know more about that, see this post.  I've written about it on my political blog (which, unless you're wild, crazy, and willing to get in a good fight- I can guarantee you won't agree with everything I say- I'd suggest that, in general, you stay away from it.  But in this case, if you're wondering how I could be anti-environmentalist, I'd check it out.)

Our oldest son has always been a strong environmentalist, in his need to protect the land and animals.  I can certainly empathize with this, especially since he's not hugely preachy about it.  For years, he wanted to live on a nature preserve and protect the animals.  He's recently decided to be a history professor, instead.  I think that's a better fit for his personality, but  it's his profession to choose.

Today, Xavier said to me, "I think I want to protect the land when I grow up."  I asked what brought that on.  His reply, "Well, when I was walking in the woods, yesterday, I really enjoyed it.  I want to make sure that is available forever.  I want to protect nature.  It is so amazing.  I want it to be around forever."

Well, I can completely understand, and totally agree with them.  But, it's not something I've taught them. It's not something I've talked to them about.  In fact, I've spoken out quite vocally about the global warming debate.  So, you can stop believing that homeschooled children are being brain washed.  Most of the time, they're just being taught how to think, and to think for themselves.  Imagine that.


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