Monday, August 28, 2017


I changed my weigh-in day from Monday to Saturday.  The very good thing about that is that if I go to a party over the weekend, I have a whole week to make up for any indulgences.  Yesterday I went to a lovely party where I found out that my nephew is having a baby girl and he proposed and is now engaged to his girl friend.  So, I'm very happy for them.  My niece made a delicious cake, and I had a piece.  I was bound and determined not to extend the celebration beyond the celebration, and I haven't.  I logged everything I ate at the party, and have been keeping pretty active.  I do need to go back to the gym.  I've been so bad about going.  My knees and hips hurt so badly.  My physical therapist husband is going to put together a rehab program for me so I can get them back.  Losing weight will most definitely help as well.  It's slow, slow, slow, but I'm still on track for losing a pound a week.  When I get my program, I'll post it here and I will do it.  My tracker from My Fitness Pal is so cute.  I've lost 16 lbs., so now I only have 110.4 pounds to lose.  Ugh, that's a big number. Well, it was 126.4.

Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Contemplating Marie Ponsot and Teaching Writing Again

Marie Ponsot, just as I remember her, quiet and gentle. She is 96 now.

When I was in college, I taught writing.  I was supposed to be a team teacher with a professor, but both of her parents tragically passed away, so I taught the entire semester on my own.  I loved it.  The professor in charge of the team teachers was Marie Ponsot.  She was a wonderful teacher.  She was a teacher, a writer, and a poet.  I read her teacher's handbook and used the text.  It was a great way to teach writing because it gave the students the freedom to write without fear of failure.  By the time it was time to hand in an essay to be graded, they had already worked and reworked it in class, and really learned how to write an essay, so they did very well.
My daughter is in a home school co-op, and I'm going to be teaching some writing classes there.  I repurchased those books from a used book store since I couldn't find my own.  It's been so nice to revisit Professor Ponsot's writing again.  I've been going through the exercises myself as well to be sure I remember how to do everything.  Then I have to modify the program from a college level course to a middle school/high school level.  I'm also going to be working with the younger kids on creative writing.  I think what I'll do is have them compose the story with each child taking turns for each sentence.  I'll write them all down and have the children illustrate their sentences and then make it into a book that they wrote themselves.  For the middle schoolers, we'll work on a few different types of poetry so they have some structure to follow and then see that they can all write a poem.  We can go through an exercise to describe in word pictures where they are right then...what they see, feel, hear, and maybe I'll bring in something so they can describe a scent too.  If the weather is nice, we will do this outside.  The older kids will learn how to write and compose an essay.  I think I'll teach them how to write a sonnet as well since they will be able to understand rhythm and rhyme schemes.
I'd love to give them some passion for writing and the confidence that they can do it.

Marie Ponsot's "The Green Dark" contains a poem about a place where she just sat and noticed what was around her like I do with my daughter when sketching/writing.  It is a place that was meaningful for me while growing up in Queens.  "Jamaica Wild Life Center, Queens, NY" is where I went for many walks with my father and grandmother and later took my nephews...I still have yet to take my children there.  The other poems are wonderful too...raw and honest describing her experience at her mother's grave, the truth that God's plan of sex is tender, nothing like the distorted view presented in pornography, and in fact, common speech, and experiencing strained relationships between parents and children. She chose some of these poems, purposely I think, to present to her college level poetry class, to have us reevaluate ideas presented to us in the present age and in the arena of a liberal college.  What a joy it was to be taught poetry by its author, and someone so honest and good.

Jamaica Wild Life Center, Queens, NY
Marie Ponsot 

On a south wind the sea air off
the flats and inlets of Jamaica Bay
mirrors as they do,
almost wavelessly, space recast as
flatness, long
diminishings of blue
borne lightly in toward earth colors, steel-lit ochres,
rose-mucky brown, greens.

I am a window that takes this in
like a door, or mouth.
I spit nothing out. 
I wait --like the egrets, 
egrets spread on distant trees
like a wash of table-linen
for the sun to dry.

Were I a room I'd be stuffed
by what windows admit
I transfigure
to the bite-sized images
intelligence eats & eats

Splotches of white
contract, lift
into springing figures; bird.
One by one, one is a leader, up
off the green dark
they go into sun.
They are coming this way 
to lunch in the shallows.
I too am good at hunger;
it never deserts me.
I admit as I am able
frank delight
in the deaths and decisions 
of visible appetite.
Deep delight;
it is for--not of--myslelf,
it is for you
I write
of the storage and freshness
of keepers
of the lfe
of appetite. 

Copyrite 1988 by Marie Ponsot

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Great American Eclipse 2017

The Great American Eclipse of 2017 was a great science lesson, but we weren't going to be in the path of totality, and we couldn't get to a place that was, so we were excited but reserved.  We were invited to a party, but yet again, we couldn't go someplace because DS was sick...with an oozing infection that knocked him out.  Anyway, DD and I made some eclipse viewers, which was fun.  We watched the news coverage to see what it looked like in areas where there was totality.  We got to see the corona and learned about the sun.  We marveled out how beautiful it was, and how awesome it is that God created a moon that was 400 times closer than the sun and 400 times smaller than the sun.  Cool.  So, it was a beautiful day, and we had fun looking through the eclipse viewer, but it didn't seem to work well...I don't know why.  We followed the directions.  Anyway, DH called to tell us that someone from his job had brought in eclipse glasses, so we quickly went over there...too quickly.  Half way there, my daughter said, "Mommy, I'm hungry."  That was no surprise because her lunch was still in the oven at home.  So, we made a U-turn, I ran into the house, took her lunch out of the oven, put it onto a plate, turned off the oven, ran back out, and off we went again.  We arrived, my daughter no longer hungry, and by then we were really excited to get a good look after our failure at home.  We all got a turn to look through the glasses, and it was just beautiful.  It was so much more beautiful than I anticipated...even without the full coverage.
So, the next total solar eclipse is going to be in April 2024, and I hope we can get to the path of totality should be pretty easy, since we'll only have to travel 5 or 6 hours instead of a day.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Great American Eclipse of August 21, 2017...Well, No, Actually Just a Great Big Tangent About This Difficult Past Year

Well, we had been invited to an eclipse pool party, but DS got sick yet again.  He had a nasty staph infection in his knee that was draining all over the place and it made him terribly tired.  Saturday we went to the doctor to have it cultured to make sure he didn't have MRSA since this was his second abscess in two months.  He was prescribed a sulfa antibiotic and an antibiotic ointment.  The antibiotic had to be taken with 12 oz. of water, which I couldn't get him to drink.  Sometimes it's important to exactly follow the directions, and sometimes it's not.  However, sulfa can cause kidney failure and other lovely fatal side effects, so I decided to just use the ointment since the wound was draining anyway.  We had another doctor's appointment yesterday, so I figured if it wasn't clearing up by then, I'd just ask for another antibiotic.  However, the ointment worked great.  Yesterday was DS annual physical.  He really hasn't grown or gained weight all year.  I'm not surprised.  Last year, the poor kid aged into middle school through BOCES special education program, so he was going to middle school as a perpetual four year old.  I tried to dress him like a middle schooler and Grandma bought him a really nice backpack from LL Bean in his favorite color, red.  However, he really didn't fit in.  He was put into a class with kids with multiple disabilities instead of autism.  He is classified as a student with multiple disabilities since he has developed cerebral palsy like symptoms from the medications we give him to keep him from banging his head so hard that he kills himself or becomes so aggressive he kills someone else.  It's a horrible choice, but a clear one.  So, my son, who is Mr. Social was in a class with non-verbal kids who kept very much to themselves.  He regressed so far by December, meetings were being called by his teacher.  I had been getting good notes home, so I didn't know that he was having so much trouble until they told me in December that they wanted to call a meeting to decrease his goals.  I was very upset because I wondered if he just wasn't doing the work or if he truly regressed.  He had gone from writing in script, working on reading comprehension exercises, parts of speech, multiplication, and fractions to either refusing or being unable to do anything.  So, I used my daughters math manipulatives at home to see if he could still perform multiplication equations or not, and he could.  So, he just wasn't doing the now the question was why?  So we had our meeting, and I refused to allow them to decrease his goals.  I thought the problem was that they had taken him out of the program he had been in that was specifically for students with autism.  He had been in that program with the same kids for six years.  There was no space in that class, but they agreed to put him back in for a short time in the afternoon to be with his friends again.  At this time I also found out that they had been sending him home a half hour early.  They told me that the bus had to come early to get him because they had to go to another school afterward to pick up more kids.  I called the bus company, furious.  They told me that the school had requested that they come at that time, and that my son was the only student on that bus...there were no other students being picked up at another school.  So now I knew the school was lying to me.  Then my son, who had always loved to go to school started having anxiety attacks and meltdowns because he didn't want to go to school anymore.  He would try to get sick so he didn't have to go.  If he did go to school, he would make himself vomit in order to be sent home.  I knew it was behavioral because as soon as he knew I was coming, he was absolutely fine.  But he was having these episodes constantly.  Then when winter came, he got strep throat and the flu at the same time.  He was very sick.  By the time we finally cleared up the strep and the flu had passed, he came down with strep throat again.  All this time he'd had no appetite and was losing weight.  After his second round of antibiotics, he developed thrush.  Despite treatment, he could not eat or drink anymore.  His body was so weak at this point, I was afraid he was going to die.  He was 47 pounds (at 12 years old), and couldn't even drink water.  He would wind up gulping so hard the water just came out of his nose and mouth.  He had a choking episode at school that resulted in his being rushed by ambulance to the hospital, but they wouldn't admit him.  I had been trying to get the GI doctor to admit him, but she wouldn't.  Finally the pediatrician helped us to get him admitted to Maria Ferreri Children's Hospital.  He was there for ten days.  He started to gain some weight back, but as soon as he returned to school, the vomiting began again and he developed diarrhea as well.  I had been trying to find out what was going on by talking to his teacher, his aide, and his psychologist, but nobody could tell me that anything was wrong except that he wouldn't do his work.  We had more meetings, and I was trying so hard to get him out of his class and into the class where he had been and where he had done so well. There was still no room this year or next, and the teacher told me that anyway, he wasn't socializing with the kids in the class...the kids with whom he was friends for the past six years.  That made no sense, and I said so.  So they asked, "How do you know he was socializing with these children before?"  Well, because I used to go to the class often for class parties and open houses and I WITNESSED it!  I guess they thought I was just making it up.  In April, the teacher sent home a list of field trips that the kids would be going on.  I thought that would be great for him.  They said that the only way he could go is if I went with him, because nobody else at school felt that they would be able to help him enough.  So, I signed the permission slips and sent them in, and agreed to go on all the field trips.  Then I got a phone call that he had a major meltdown in shop class.  They removed all the other kids, but they couldn't touch him to remove  him from a room full of tools.  Then they told me that because of this bad behavior, he couldn't go on the first field trip.  I was furious again because they left him in this dangerous situation, and then they were punishing him for autistic behavior, and calling it bad behavior.   I tried to fight it, but I lost.  Then the next field trip came, and I went.  My son behaved beautifully.  My daughter was also there since I home school her.  I hoped that they would see that it could be done with just some gentleness and patience.  However, I did see how the teachers treated the other kids.  Every little thing they did seemed like a big deal and was met with reprimands and removals.  It really bothered me.  But, we had a good time.  Then we went on the next field trip.  We had fallen so far behind in home school because my son was home so often, so I told them I would send my son to school, meet the bus at the field trip location, and then my son would go back to school on the bus and then on to his after school program so I could continue lessons with my daughter.  Nobody really interacted with my son during the trip, and when it was time to go on the bus, the teacher of the class I had been trying to get him into came and told me that she couldn't allow him on the bus because he was a safety hazard.  He had been kicking and hitting during the bus ride.  Usually my son is great on the bus, so I don't know what prompted him to behave that way.  Also, If he's on a school bus, buckled in, with an adult or nobody sitting next to him, how could he be a safety hazard?  Anyway, they wouldn't let him back on the bus and told me that I had to take him home myself.  The teacher spoke in such a cold way about my son, and his usual teacher just stood there not defending him in the least.  Then I understood.  They didn't like him, and they didn't want him there.  No wonder he had been acting the way he was all year.  When I told him I understood, his face lit up.  We immediately started looking for another program, and I had the psychiatrist write a letter to have him withdrawn from school early.  He was so happy when I told him he would never, ever have to go back to that school again.  We eventually got him admitted into a program in a very small, not for profit school where he will be in a class where the teacher to student ratio is nearly 1:1.  There will be six children, one teacher, and three assistant teachers.  They will be using the TEACCH method, which is the same one that he had done so well with before.  The school is very familiar with physical disabilities, so his issues are no issue for them.  They have feeding specialists, since he never regained all of his chewing and swallowing skills after he got sick...he even lost the ability to drink through a straw.  They also have behavioral specialists there, and his own behavioral therapist will be making 20 visits during the year as well.  They have a sensory gym full of swings and all sorts of other stuff.  The classrooms have play areas, quiet areas, and toys.  There is a brand new playground that was just built over this summer.  When we went to visit, everyone was so kind, and when my son found out that would be his new school, he jumped, and laughed, and danced, and sang.  I wonder why God allowed him to go through such a miserable year, but maybe it was because there had to be no question that it was time to make a huge change.  He's so happy that now he can use his emergency vehicle backpack again.  So, we're very grateful and looking forward to a much better year.  This is a picture of the sensory gym:

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Vacation Bible School

Well, I missed four days!  My intention was to write every day...oh well!  :)  Moving on...I also missed last Monday's weigh-in.  I now have only 111 pounds to lose.  So, I am keeping up with my 1 pound a week weight loss.  Painfully slow, but that's the right way to do it...and not to give up, which is easy to do.
This past week my kids were in vacation Bible school (VBS), and I stayed with my son the whole time so that he was able to participate.  We all had so much fun.  The music was great, the lessons were great, and my son really enjoyed being in the kindergarten class.  It was perfect for him.  He even fit his body into one of their little driving toy cars...he couldn't get his legs in, so his lanky legs were out the side door, and he kicked himself along that way.
The church was raising money for special needs kids in Africa, so they had the three of us get up and answer questions about my son, his challenges, and how we handle them.  We were able to share about how kids should not be afraid to ask special needs kids and their parents questions so they can get to know them...that it's so much better to do that than to avoid them and be afraid.  The kids in the kindergarten class asked lots of questions...why does he look dead, why can't he talk, why can't he use crayons, why can't he keep his balance, why does he act like a little kid when he's so big... So I answered, hoping they would be able to understand...that when they want to say something, their brain sends a message to their mouth, and the words come out...Jeffrey's mouth doesn't do what his brain tells it to do.  When they want to walk, run, or pick something up, their body does what they want it to do.  Jeffrey's doesn't.  We're not exactly sure why.  Then I pointed out things the kids had in common, and after a couple of days, he was just part of the group.
We also got to share how because we love God, he will use all things for good...even the hard stuff, even the sad stuff.  Finally, we talked about my experiences with special needs kids while I was growing up and how I was just nice to them...and that people remembered that many years later.  So, just be kind.
My daughter, who is introverted and painfully shy participated in the dancing and singing on stage and even got up to tell a joke to everyone using a microphone.  She participated in a "secret mission" where she had to talk into the microphone in front of everyone too.  I am so proud of her.  Now she's letting people see how awesome and wonderful she is.
Best of all, God used this time to bring a good friend back to the church.  My son's nurse of six years has been recovering from an injury for the past year, and she's been looking for a church.  I was able to invite her to see my son ,with whom she worked all those years, dance and sing. I was also able to introduce her to all the nice folks at the church, including my aunt and uncle.  So, I hope she felt welcome and that she goes back again.  It was a lovely day.
After all that, my aunt and uncle treated us all to a delicious lunch that we ate outside with the beautiful sunshine, breeze, and a few obnoxious wasps.  :)  What a blessed week we had!

These are the songs my kids sang and danced to at the show on Friday for the last day of VBS.
God is Over the Moon

Sin Messed Everything Up

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Lost Art of Letter Writing

While we were camping this summer, DD met a young girl from Oregon.  Her mother and I exchanged addresses so the girls could be pen pals.  Also, one of DD's good friends moved to Wisconsin, so she will start writing to him too.  Since then, I have been looking for a stationery set.  I remember when I was a kid, there were so many great stationery sets.  My cousin and I used to send stickers back and forth...often we would send the same stickers back and forth to see how long they would last.  They lasted a long time!  Also, a very good friend of mine spent the summer with his grandmother in Puerto Rico, and we wrote the whole summer.  I had writing paper with pictures of ice cream cones, and it smelled like ice cream.  So, I was really excited to go see what was out there now....DD and I went from store to store looking, and there was absolutely nothing.  There were notepads and decorated paper for printers, but no writing paper with envelopes.  Then I started looking on the computer, and it took me awhile, but I finally found something wonderful.  It's from an Etsy store, and I can't wait for it to come.  I told the pen pals' parents about these wonderful sets too.  They're a little pricey, but they seem to be good quality and there wasn't much to choose from. Even if there were, I have a feeling we would wind up getting this one anyway because it's so cute. The name of the store is Sea Urchin Studio.  She has another wildlife one with hedgehogs on the paper, one with unicorns, one with mermaids, one with dinosaurs, and one with monsters.  They're all really cute. Again, this is just stuff we like.  So I hope my daughter comes to appreciate the fun of having a letter in the mail from a friend and how much fun it is to write a letter over more than just a minute or two like an email or post.
Here is the link in case you're interested.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Master Camping List

This is the list we use to pack and check everything off when we go camping.  If you're new to camping, it's a pretty comprehensive list to start with.  :)

Master Camping Packing List
2 gallon bags (we put an outfit and pajamas in each one for each day...this way, if it falls in mud, it's still dry.  It's also easy to just take out four bags for everyone to dress for the day instead of rummaging through a bunch of clothes)
air mattresses
air pump
bbq tools
bungee cords
camp chairs
citronella candles
clean clothes/underwear
clothes pins
coleman fuel
coleman stove
coolers (with shelves to keep food out of the ice water)
directions and reservation information for campsite
dish basin
dish drain
dish soap
dish sponge
fire gloves
fire starter
firewood (we don't get this until we're near or at the campground because it's dangerous to surrounding trees to move wood from one area to another due to bug or disease infestation)
first aid kit
food bin
hamper (we have a collapsable one)
hand sanitizer
hand soap
insect repellent
jackets & hats
laundry rope
life vests
light sticks (glow necklaces for night lights)
marshmallow sticks
mattress mats
mountain pie makers (we like the toas-tite pie iron)
paper towels
plastic clips
portable toilet
sandals for camp
shower soap, shampoo, conditioner, scrubbers
sleeping bags
table cloth
table cloth clamps
tea pot
tin foil
toilet bags
toilet paper
tooth brushes toothpaste
trash bags
trash can
waffle iron
walkie talkies
water dispenser
wet wipes

Monday, August 14, 2017

A Song Without Music

You Pull Me Back Up Again

I always want so much to please you

But I get so caught up in the world

I worry and feel that my faith is so weak

How can anyone see you in me

I just keep failing over and over again

I don’t feel your hand upon mine

Although I know that it’s there

I struggle to feel like I’m closer to you

Although I know you’re right here

I just keep failing over and over again

But you You pull me back up again

Every time that I fall

Yes, you pull me back up again

No matter how often I call

All I can see are my failures

I can’t be who you want me to be

All that I do is the wrong thing

There is no goodness in me

I just keep failing over and over again

Sometimes I feel like I just can’t go on

I forget to use your strength, not mine

So many days I feel tired and alone

I forget that you’re here by my side

I just keep failing over and over again

But you pull me back up again

Every time I hit the wall

Yes, you pull me back up again

No matter how often I call…

yes, every single time that I call.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Dutchess County Airport

The airport supports an enormous sky
that cradles creek ripple clouds.
Light from the absent sun bends through air and water;
these God's hand uses as His delightful palette
to create this evening's landscape.
Cricket calls are carried on the night's breeze
and rise above the din of traffic.
Electric light shines from the hangar of helicopters
whose propellers wilt sadly, like flower petals;
they must wait to regain their place in the sky.
The parked planes nestle for the night, and
the small, blue lights illuminating the taxiways and runways
look like fairies scattered over the field.
A flashing light in the distance announces an approaching plane
that seems to move so slow as to hover.
It begins to sink lower in the sky,
but instead of approaching, it disappears behind a hill.
The longing runway must wait for another arrival;
this promise of plane was not meant to be.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Rocking on My Porch

The outline of the billowy cumulus clouds,
announcing fair weather,
mimic the line of tree tops
across the sky.
An accidental splatter of orange
tinges the top of one tree,
heralding the arrival of
meteorological autumn.
The black-eyed Susans gather
so densely around the base of
my mailbox that they could almost be mistaken
for a cheetah lounging in the warm, filtered sun.
The sound of songbirds is absent among the
call of the last few cicadas longing for a mate.
One at a time, three monarchs flutter
south on their way to Mexico
as crows discuss their plans for fall
among the canopy of the trees,
and the crickets sing their daytime lullaby.
The cool breeze animates the leaves
to add their rustle to the symphony,
and a flash of red heralds the arrival of two cardinals
offering percussive tweets.
And here am I rocking on my porch,
being blessed by it all in a rare solitary moment
already interrupted by my son's
heartbeat rhythm stomping
onto the wood,
asking for his sister and rattling along with his
toy John Deere key set, pretending to drive.
The trick is trying to recapture the moment -
but it's slipped away.
No matter,
I'm enjoying the moment that's come.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Camping Gear We Use

This is just stuff we's not a sponsored post.

The first time I went tent camping was 26 years the day this year.  I went with my boyfriend and some of his friends from college...and we had a girl's tent and a boy's tent.  The camping bug bit me big time.  I loved waking up in the fresh air of the outside, the smell of the campfire lingering on my clothes, and the fun food we made to eat, and life surrounding me everywhere (especially wooly aphids, which although they are pests, look like tiny flying sheep).

I started a camping list then of recipes and what to bring, but I only got to go camping one more time after that before I was married...that camping trip was awful.  It stormed, and it rained so hard that people came up to our tent in a canoe to see if we were okay.  We spent the rest of the day at the laundromat.  Not fun.

Of course, from that I learned that it's wise to choose a campsite at the top of a hill, and not the bottom.  My husband and I got a great big tent and the first year we brought our nephews.  That was a lot of fun.  Four years ago we started camping with our own children, and we've managed to get things down to a science...including what sort of tent works well...not the first one we bought.  So, I will share what we do!

We initially had a Coleman Weathermaster Tent, which we bought back in 2004.  It leaked, no matter how well we took care of it, or how much we sprayed the seams to waterproof them.  The rain fly only covered the top of the tent, so water ran down the sides and through the seams.  Also, the little roof outside the front door caught rain and channeled it into the tent too, which made a royal mess.  It seems as if the newer models are getting good reviews, so I assume Coleman made some improvements over the past 14 years, although it still looks like the rain fly still doesn't cover the whole tent.
Our most recent tent we have is an REI Kingdom 8.  During our last camping trip, it poured almost every day, and we were warm and dry inside the tent.  The rain fly goes all the way down to the ground, there is a garage attachment that keeps a large area outside the entrance to the tent dry, so there's someplace to take off your shoes before you go into the tent, and you don't have to stand out in the rain.  Also, it's a space that's big enough to set up chairs, so the days when it poured all day, we sat in our camp chairs in the garage reading and playing games.  Inside the tent there is a room separator that we never use, but you can make two rooms.  There are pouches all over the tent to store all sorts of stuff.  There is plenty of room for a queen size mattress and two twin mattresses with plenty of room in between where the kids can play, or where you can walk across the tent from the front to the back.  The rain fly folds back so the front room becomes a screen room when the weather is nicer.  The front and back doors open up to let lots of fresh air get through.  In the back is also a little vestibule area, which is just the right size for a port-a-potty set up, so we don't have to go out in the rain to go to the bathroom.  It isn't difficult to set up (much easier than the old Coleman we had), and it's easy to take down.  It's a great tent.  The only drawback is that the material seems to get caught in the zippers all the time.  REI has come up with a new design for the Kingdom 8 too.  We got the old model on clearance with gift cards we earned with reward points from our debit card.  I expect it to last a long time.  A new Kingdom 8 with the footprint (which is a custom tarp to go underneath), and the garage (an extra outdoor room big enough for four chairs) would be about $700.
This is a view of our tent front to back
This is a view of our tent back to front

This is a picture I took from Google Images of a family using the garage as we did.

This is what the tent looks like with all the rain flies closed.
We use a Reliance folding portable toilet with disposable bags filled with gelling powder in the little bathroom area.  We turn a crate upside down as a table with hand sanitizer and also as a place to put a lantern, and we hang a roll of toilet paper from a bungee cord that is hooked into the holes on the crate.  That was DH great idea!
This is another picture I took from Google images of a nice lady showing what a Reliance Fold-n-Go toilet looks like in an REI Kingdom tent's vestibule...the vestibule completely closes over as you can see in the upper picture.
Oh!  Most important, put down a camp mat to insulate you from the cold ground, and use a sleeping bag appropriate for the temperatures you'll be sleeping in.  The first year we camped in the Catskills we had neither of these and we were freezing at night.  Now we're very husband is even a little too warm.  :)  Air mattresses and pillows from home make sleeping really comfy, but you can get away with just an insulating pad and sleeping bag.

We also used an Ozark Trail slant leg canopy, which we got at Walmart for $40.  It's so much cheaper than any other we looked at, and we weren't sure it would even last through one camping trip, but it did.  It did a great job of keeping our table dry when it rained and shady on the one day it didn't rain.  It was very easy to set up and very easy to take down.

We put all our kitchen gear into a plastic bin that we turn sideways like a cupboard while we camp. I used a shelf to make two levels, and I used two baskets so I could pull them out like drawers.  I used even smaller baskets to make one of the baskets two levels so I could put gadgets and serving utensils underneath and the silverware on top. We put the dish drain on top.  We use the same white shelving in the coolers to keep the food up away from the ice so it's not floating around in the ice water when it melts.

For night lights, nothing beats glow necklaces from the dollar store.  They are bright enough to help you find your lantern, but not so bright that they keep you up.
The last big item we got is a boat called the Intex Excursion 4.  It folds up into a small, portable bag, the oars come apart to fit, and it comes with a foot pump.  It took about a half hour to inflate all the parts, but once we did, it was very sturdy.  All four of us fit comfortably in the boat and my husband expertly rowed us around the lake.  It was really lovely.  Then we deflated it, and put it away.    It costs about $40 more now than when we bought it, but it's still very reasonable at $124 on Amazon.
I have a master camping list that we use to get everything together and then as a final checklist, as well as a shopping list for the food we usually eat, as outlined on the menu.  It's not fancy...the first year we went camping I went fancier, but my kids are such picky eaters that it was a lot of work for just two people.  I'll put that stuff in another post, along with recipes for Dough Boys, Hobo Burgers, and Mountain Pies.

Three Gifts of Metal

I am thankful for three gifts of metal: my wedding ring, our reliable cars, and my stainless steel carafe that keeps my coffee hot all morning.  :)

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Hard Eucharisteo---Finding Thankfulness and Joy When It's Hard

As Christians, we are called to be grateful in all circumstances. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says that we are to do this because this is God's will for us in Jesus Christ.  So, in the Joy Dare for today, it says to be thankful for three hard Eucharisteos.  That means being grateful and joyful even when it's really hard. Thinking of the hard times is easy.  Being truly grateful and joyful during those hard times is not.  Joy is not just happiness when things are going well.  Joy is knowing that Jesus is with you no matter what, and that no matter what, you are never alone, you are always loved, and there is always hope.  It's a decision to pay attention to that and believe it.
Last night my brother called me.  We don't talk on the phone often, but I just love talking to him.  I'm not sure about where he stands with God...he told me once he was an atheist, but I wonder as time goes on, if he's thinking more about it.  I talk about Jesus all the time with him, but I don't ask him what he thinks.  I feel like my job is to love him no matter what, and to share as much about Jesus in my life as I can.  I only hope that I let Christ shine through me to others who aren't sure about him, or don't believe in him at all.  The Bible says that they will know we are Christians by our love...not by our pointing fingers, our opinions, or our judgment.  Anyway, I don't call my siblings or my friends very often because I don't want to complain, and I feel like I don't have much to say when they are talking about their vacations, purchases, parties, travels, or how great their kids are doing because I feel like I have nothing to say besides how it rained on our camping vacation, that my son is sick again, that we're tired, that our budget is stretched to the limit, and that we have no travel plans ever.  I feel like a downer.  I try to sound upbeat and strong, and I truly try to be grateful no matter what, but so often, I just feel like I have nothing good to say.  That's why I started writing here again.  I get it all out, and people can read it or not.
Anyway, here are things that bring me joy...
My kitties

My little vegetable and herb garden

My pretty bathroom with a cabinet built by DH

My pretty kitchen refinished by my DH
My kids playing in the driveway

My kitties

My DH and DD building a snowman in the front yard

Baking with my DD

A bee hive pinata built by DD and me
So, for hard eucharisteo, I am grateful that we don't have much money because I have learned to bargain and haggle and budget.  I am grateful that my son has so many health and behavioral problems because the constant struggle has formed a lot of patience in me, and I am very good at handling stressful situations because I have to do it every day.  I am grateful that we don't get to go away many places because we get to spend a lot of time in our home together with our cute kitties.
I never did come up with hole, whole, and half...I guess I'm grateful for the hole of my wedding ring so it can go around my finger, I look forward to spending my whole life with my wonderful husband, and I'm grateful that now I've known him for nearly half my life.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Home School/New Special Ed School/Gratefulness

Last night was the first local LEAH meeting (Loving Education At Home), and it was nice to see everyone and get encouraged for the upcoming year.  I've been going through our curriculum, working to get the first few weeks planned out.  We use Math U See , All About Reading, All About Spelling, which are all multi-sensory programs that use concrete methods to teach abstract concepts. We also use My Father's World Exploring Countries and Cultures, and Explode the Code. Explode the Code follows the same sequence as All About Reading, but doesn't teach each step explicitly; so we use it to reinforce the concepts we've covered.   It also includes all the books we need.   I love My Father's World because it plans out everything for me and schedules when everything should be done. It gives spaces for Math, Spelling, and Reading, which are the subjects that need to be supplemented.  I tried in first grade working without a curriculum and just doing unit studies, but it really was a disaster.  So, now as we approach 4th grade, we're just sticking with what works.  We started out with a strict schedule, a uniform, a room decorated like a classroom, and a very structured environment.  I wanted to give DD a private education experience because I couldn't afford to give it to her, but I could give it to her myself.  It was a complete fiasco.  My daughter craves freedom, and over the years I've tailored our home school to suit her.  That's the beauty of home school.  When math comes easy, we speed through the mastery program.  When reading and writing are slow, we are pokey through those subjects and approach the other academic areas using oral methods so that the intellect is the same but the process is different.  We start a little later in the morning, or not until the afternoon, sometimes wear pajamas, sometimes get dressed, sometimes do school at home on the couch, in the dining room, in the kitchen, on the porch, or away from home in a park or someplace like Panera.  She can get up and walk around while she does her work.  She can attach her work to the fridge with magnets and work upside down.  Sometimes I put on music and sometimes it's quiet.  Whatever works is what we do.  We also belong to a co-op that offers art, music, and gym, which is great because those are my weak spots.  So, now that we're starting year 5, I'm confident with what will work, what not to worry about, and that I'm doing what I'm supposed to do.

DS is also starting a new school in September.  Last year was horrible, so I'm truly hoping that this year will be much better.  It's a tiny school with very small classes.  There is a regular gym and a sensory gym full fo swings and other stuff to stimulate the senses.  There's a brand new playground.  There are toys in the classrooms.  There is a dining area with  a stoves and sinks and a washer and dryer for activities of daily living.  The people there seem to be very nice.  It's a not for profit organization for kids with lots of needs.  DS will also be getting physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, feeding therapy, and behavioral therapy.  I'm just praying that he is where he is meant to be.  We all had a good feeling when we went to visit the school.  It's in God's hands.

So, today DS is feeling better, so we went out to the park to get some sunshine and fresh air.  I feel better, and the kids are happier.

Today's gratefulness challenge is to think of three things I'm grateful for that are hole, whole, and half.  Hmmmm.  I have to think about this one.  A hole...we have groundhog holes in the yard, wasp nest holes, and we have holes in the walls of our home from DS banging his head...I'm not really grateful for any of those...I have no idea.  I'm going to have to really think about this one...I'll get back.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

New Blog Title? No. Gratefulness.

I'm thinking it's time to change the name of my blog to Dr. Mom's Whining Spot.  Ugh.
No.  It's time to be grateful.  There is no snapping out of a stinky state of mind, but this is where to start.  Always.  Ann Voskamp asks us to take the Joy Dare.  Every day we have to think of three things for which we are grateful in the categories she gives.  You can find it here:
Today it is three things summer...So:
!. Watching my parent bluebirds feeding their babies in their bluebird house.
2. Being home and getting to enjoy the change of seasons instead of being stuck inside a corporate environment all day.
3. The sound of insects singing at night.

4 am Bathroom Cleaning/Making a Plan

DS gets sick very often.  He doesn't make it to the toilet many times, and that results in me cleaning the bathroom and him in the middle of the night very often.  I am a horrible mother at 4 am.  I am impatient and unhappy about having to clean everything up and get my son changed and knowing that I am now up for the rest of the night/morning.  Either it's sprayed feces or urine depending on what doesn't make it into the toilet.  There always seems to be something new too.  As of today, my DS either turns around while getting on the toilet or doesn't direct the urine into the toilet when he is sitting...I don't know.  But at 4 am today, I stepped into a puddle on my way to take care of him and was not patient because he wanted me to take care of him, but I really need to clean the floor first so that he doesn't get messier than he already is.  I wish I were more patient.  I wish I could be fresh and sweet and not mind.  He can't help it.  I'm pretty good when it's not the middle of the night woken from a dead sleep, but the poor kid can't help it.  So, that's another prayer for me to be more patient.  Of course, praying for patience just gets you more things to have to be patient about.  This also interrupts any plans for the rest of the day that I may have because then DS is home from school.  In the summer, it doesn't matter as much, but during the year I hesitate to make any plans because I know that they can be cancelled at any moment.  I've even had to leave a funeral.

So I'm whining again, and the whole purpose of today's post is supposed to be about making a plan about all the stuff we need to do.  So, I wrote down all the stuff we need to fix in the house, tried to form a budget of approximately how much each thing will cost, and then looking for information about how to do it.  My sister redid a whole bathroom on her own.  There are all sorts of women on television who tackle entire house flips on their I should be able to do it too.  It looks awfully daunting to me, though.  I'm hoping DH will be able to take some time off to help, and than DS will actually be in school and not sick.

Other things I am doing are reading the Bible every day and praying all the time.  I'm trying very hard to trust in God's plan, His timing, His way of doing things.  I surrender to Him over and over, wanting Him to make me into who He wants me to be.  And then I fail over and over and over again.  I ate too much yesterday, I was impatient yesterday and already today, and it's only 5:53 am.  I'm not active enough.  My house is messy despite working at it every day.  I keep underestimating things that I need to budget and feel absolutely overwhelmed because no matter how well I try to budget, we keep getting all these wonderful surprise bills, car problems, stuff that happens in life to everyone, I guess.  I get tired of having all the neighborhood kids over all the time because I feel like I can't keep up with what I need to do myself, and then I have extra kids to watch and feed.  Of course, if God is sending them to me, then this must be a ministry, and I should be practicing hospitality.  The truth is, I often keep the shades down and avoid going outside to try to hide from them.  It's awful, I know.  Two of them are also ADD/Autistic on top of my own kid, and I feel like I'm giving their parents respite all the time and I don't get any myself.  There are days when I send them away, and then I feel guilty because I'm sure that's not what God wants me to do.  So, I'm still whining.

My husband and I are always so stressed and tired...we have no babysitter, we have no real time alone.  There is no door on the bathroom and our bedroom door is broken.  There is no privacy.  I'm sure people lived that way for eons, but I still wish I at least had a door I could lock for a little while.  DH is exhausted too, and feeling just as down as I am.  We were hoping for at least a restful vacation, and we didn't.

Also, my son is all over me all the time when he's home.  Constantly snuggling, which I know is a wonderful thing.  But I just want to not be touched all the time.  I want him to not touch my nose and ear, and flick my hair into my face over and over and over and over and over and over and over again...and lay on me, and drool on me all day... to dive onto me, to lay across me, to interrupt me constantly.  Even now I've been up and down getting this or that for him, and his elbow is dug deep into my upper arm.

Nobody wants to hear this, and I have it much better than many, many people, but this is just how I feel right now and pray that God will help me to readjust my attitude.  Where is my gratefulness?  Where is my worship?  This is not who He wants me to be.  This is not how I should be.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Monday Weigh In

Well, I was hoping to lose more weight in the first week, but I lost 2 lbs.  So, now I only have 113.4 lbs more to lose.  At least I didn't stay the same and I didn't gain, so I'm grateful for that.  I have not eaten processed sugar for 7 days now.
Today's weather is much like that of Tuesday two weeks ago when I was camping...rainy and a high only in the 60's.
My main goal is not to feel discouraged.  This is going to be a long, slow process.  The truth is, this whole past year has been discouraging.  A little over a year ago, my husband left his job and got another job that paid much less and had terrible benefits.  So, for that whole year, we really didn't have enough money to pay the bills.  We had no more savings, and the medical bills keep coming because the medical insurance was dismal.  The furnace doesn't work, our shades are broken and need to be replaced, the hall bathroom is gutted with no plan of repair right now, the porch needs to be repaired and painted, the side stairs need to be repaired, wasps moved into the sandbox in the yard, our kitchen is not finished, our walls are full of holes from my son putting his head through them, all the doors inside our house are broken and need to be replaced, we have what was gutted from the bathroom lying in the side yard because we have no bulk pickup and no way to get the stuff to the dump, and we still have an autistic kid who has meltdowns often, who has been sick for months at at time over the past year, and we are just so very tired.  My husband did finally get a better job...his old job with a raise, but to catch up on everything from the past year is seeming impossible.  I finally saved some money, but we needed nearly $3,000 worth of work on our cars, so there went all that money.  Our tax returns went to one weekend away at at B&B for Jeff and me to try to keep our relationship strong, and then to paying for bills we'd been sitting on, buying stuff for the kids that they'd needed, and I don't remember what else...some to the cars.  I send lunch in for Jeff and Jeffrey every day.  We have Tracfones and one step above basic cable.  We are on budget payments for oil blend, propane, and electricity.  We go camping once a year for $144 for the week.  I shop at Aldi's and have a very limited food budget and meal plans.  I'm just not sure where to shave anything else off.  We've got pretty much everything at a bare minimum and still can't seem to keep our heads above water...right now I'd settle for just our nostrils or at least a snorkel.
I am trying not to think about how unfair things seem and how it seems like everyone else has it easier, because everyone has their own set of problems.  To covet is a sin.  I am trying to be grateful for all we do have, and not to worry, because God knows what we need, and he promises to provide us with what we need.  He says do not be discouraged, do not be afraid.  So, I"m going to just trust him and keep plodding along.