Sunday, July 6, 2014

A Jam-Making Non-Tutorial

This was originally posted July 2011.  Have I really been blogging this long?  Look at the wittle kiddies in the pictures.  That sound you hear is my heart breaking.  They are all turning into wonderful and smelly teenagers.  It only gets better, honestly.  A lot has changed in those 3 years - but I do happen to have a flat of berries I picked up today that need to be made into jam... Happy Sunday!


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I don't know about you, but my house is usually a direct reflection of my brain.

Yesterday, my brain looked a lot like this:

Not pretty - it freaks out my boys, and makes my girl run and hide for calmer, more personal messes in her room.

Things usually get to this state of disarray, well, every 28 days, but I also seem to get a few extra Hurricane Karina's that pass through my house - and it seems to always be just as I'm getting ready for Nathan's birthday.  I'm willing to admit it:  I make messes, but I also can't stand living in chaos, so suffice to say I make a lot of extra work for myself.

It probably happens because it's that time of year where we make the transition from a school-year schedule to a summer schedule. Transitions are good - but they take a few weeks to find that comfortable groove around here.  It may also be because in addition to having two of my kid's birthdays ten days apart in July, the berry season is in full swing, and there is something about the berry/fresh fruit season that revs up my inner hyper-productivity genes like nothing else.

So anyway I have both of the genetic traits of fun and hyper-productivity in spades - and in many ways they live at peace with each, but every so often they create the perfect storm, which always equals a HUGE mess.

The problem with all of these messes and things that get added to my mental (and I mean mental) to-do list, is that they are all things I want to do.  I honestly look at a flat of berries and say "wouldn't it be fun to make jam and pies!", forgetting in that moment that I have to sing at church on the weekend, and have a couple of birthday celebrations that I have to prepare for. Even if I remembered that - the berries are only around for a week or two, and I tend to think of it late in the season, so, busy wins again.

It's a disease, really.

I am getting better - but then there are days like Friday.  It's semi-dangerous getting in the way of Hurricane Karina,  and I'm truly hoping that making fun of myself is the first step to recovery.  I have to believe there is hope, and that one day I will be okay with just doing nothing on a Friday afternoon.

First the title...

I have decided that I am going to use the word "rustic" as often as possible when I describe my activities in the kitchen.

Rustic, if you haven't already figured out, is cook-slang for "lazier".  However, when women all over the world see the word "rustic" they all ooh and ahh and are willing to pay five times the price for something "rustic" whether it's a reject barn-wood shelf, or, in this case - jam.

Also, it's worth noting that while I haven't made jam save for a few times - I always find a way to make it without adding pectin, and do a lower sugar variety.  That's mostly to do with the fact that I never have pectin in the house and when I decide to do something I don't want to wait, plus I'd like to think it's possible to make jam that tastes more like the fruit in it, rather than sugar - so without further adieu, here is:

Rustic Low-Sugar Pectin-Free Strawberry Jam - 
Yield:  8 perfect pints, plus two teaspoons for testing - and maybe a couple for eating right away.


Ingredients:
12 cups (ish) hulled strawberries, measure first, mash second - no cutting - it's rustic!
7 apples, blossom and stem ends removed - roughly chopped (including seeds etc)
1 1/2 lemons, roughly chopped (including peel and seeds)
6 cups sugar (I can hardly believe that's low sugar,  but believe me, it is!)
8 pint jars, lids and rings
canning supplies
very large pot... I'm not kidding.

Place apples and lemons in large pot, just cover with water.  Simmer for 20 minutes till nice and soft.  Drain, press through sieve or run through food mill.  Better yet, make one of your kids do it!

Mash the dickens out of the strawberries.  Better yet, make one of your kids do it! (Did I say that already?)

Choose the right kid to help though - or you may find a lot of taste testing happens.  Don't worry - we'll boil all the germs out of it.  Two year old germs are kind of cute, anyway.


Realize that while you could go all day without eating or peeing while fixated on a project, your kids are not the same.  Make them the quickest variation of carbs and cheese you can manage.

You do know it's impossible to make lunch without carbs and cheese, right?

Feel guilty that, in addition to mostly ignoring them for the morning, you are only feeding them carbs and cheese, and make a fruit smoothie to assuage your guilt. That's much better.

Add the strawberries to the strained apple/lemon mixture.  Make sure there is a lot of room in the pot because it will expand and bubble quite a bit.  Boil for 20 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent burning.

At twenty minutes take a heaping teaspoon of glory from the pot and place it on a plate and put in the freezer for 5 minutes.
Hint - set a timer or you WILL forget, because you will start trying to clean your kitchen in that five minutes!

At five minutes run your finger through the blob - if it stays separated well, then it's done, if not keep boiling, stirring and checking till you're happy with it. Mine took about 25 minutes.

Ladle jam into the washed pint jars.  You will have one jar that doesn't need processing in the canner - it can go directly into your fridge.  The other seven will need to be processed so they can last for months!  Wipe the rims clean to ensure a good seal.  Place a lid, that has had the seal properly softened in hot water, on the jar, tighten with ring until finger-tip tight.  Over-tightening can cause jars to break while processing, and that will make you cry.   And it's really gross to clean up.

What?  You don't have a magnetic lid lifter?  It only costs a few dollars, but is worth a million when it comes to canning - run to your nearest Home Hardware and get one now!

Place into canner that is half-full with boiling water, making sure the jars stay upright.

(When canning pints in my quart canner - I don't lift the grate and then drop it in once full - the jars tip & move around too much. So I submerse the grate and carefully place pint jars in the bottom. )

After burning your hands a few times trying to sneak the jars into the bottom of the canner, realize you are not invincible and it's not saving you any time, so start using the jar lifter.

You're welcome.

Place the lid on the canner, bring water back to a boil, and then keep at a rolling boil for 10 minutes.  use the handy dandy magnetic wand to lift the hot handles out of the water, then raise the jars out.  let cool for just a few minutes then place on your counter for 24 hours before you start pressing and poking the tops to see if they actually sealed.

Realize that your house is in such disarray now, you may have an apoplectic fit.  Convince the kids it's in their best interest to help you do a 15 minute shakedown to make the house look better. Whatever doesn't get put away in that time, get's put into a laundry basket to deal with tomorrow.

There.  You feel much better.  AND, you just made jam.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Misadventures in Labelling

Have you ever had the feeling that the purpose of your life was to serve as a warning to others?  Or at least to make other people feel better about themselves and their abilities relative to yours?

Just me?

I have many faults, among them - not labelling things I put in the freezer for later consumption.  I overinflate my mental abilities when Josh asks me - everytime - "Are you sure you don't want to write down what that is?"  And I look at him like he just landed here from Ork and cheerily quip : "Nah, it'll be fine" and chuck it in the freezer completely confident that I will a) remember what said nebulus reddish/orangey/saucy dish is in the ziploc bag relative to all the other nebulus reddish/orangey/saucy dishes it sits beside in the deep freeze and b) I will accurately recall how well the original dish was received by the whole of Team Loewen and if it needs any adjusting the next time around.

Truth alert:  I rarely remember either.  And yet I'm not sure after nearly 20 years of married life I'm apt to change this habit.

So for your viewing pleasure - I give you a shot of the mystery dinner I just plunked in the crock pot.  Does it need rice, noodles or bread to go with it? Salad or hot vegetables? Is it spicy or sweet?  I think Gus Portokalos put it best when he said:  "I don' know, I don' know, I don' know!!"


I need help.

Anyone want to come for dinner?


Friday, June 6, 2014

Dear Teachers

Hey there.

I'm not sure where exactly to start.  Our province is in the middle of some nasty negotioations with your union.  As parents we are stuck in the middle of a maddeningly toxic game of "he said-she said" with no happy conclusion in sight.  I don't know how to solve the problem, and I suppose at this point if it were simple, a deal would have been reached already.  It seems both sides are yelling at each other while covering their ears and assigning the worst motives possible to their adversaries.  I don't like it, nor do I understand a way out.

So what I want you to know is this:  I believe you when you say you don't want the kids to get caught in the middle of this - even though, they essentially are.  I wonder, if you aren't a little caught too? What else can you do that might maybe, somehow, get boths sides to actually begin to do what you try so hard to teach your students- our kids- day after day:  to listen, to believe the best in each other, to put aside differences, find common ground and try to work it out.  I know how frustrating it is as a parent to have each week look different because of job action- but how much more is it for you? A day of job action is an inconvenience for me, but it actually messes with your whole learning plan, and yet - you manage to find a way, even with limited planning and communication time.  You are rock stars! Seriously!

I think perhaps if I was in your shoes, I might be doing exactly the same thing.  Your working conditions are my kids' learning conditions.  So they matter. The number of students in a class matter.  Proper special ed support matters.  That you get paid enough to live comfortably, so you can be well-rested, well-planned, and well-equipped to do what most of us cannot imagine doing day after day is important to me.  I don't think I have to agree with the way either side is going about this whole thing to say that I appreciate what you are trying to accomplish on behalf of yourself and my kids.

I do know a lot of you who are with our kids for 30-plus hours a week and I have to say, I haven't met a bad one yet! :) I want to step outside of this conflict for a moment, and just speak to you -YOU- the very real person who is in the middle of this day after day.

I see you and I want you to know - you matter!

I see you each morning, despite all the limitations and rhetoric from both sides that you have to wade through, open the doors to our kids with a smile.  "It's gonna be a great day! Welcome here!" You say. And I know you mean it.

I see you still putting out your own money, despite pay cuts, for extra-special crafts and gifts made with love to be sent home with our kids. I know you believe in teaching them that creating art is important. I see that you notice how they run to us with faces beaming because you believed they could make something fantastic- and they did! Thank you for that.

I see your love for your students come out in the way you plan units that are so much more than just "fill in the blanks" and "copy questions 1 - 12" because you care so much that our kids actually LEARN something, not just become proficient regurgitators for high marks on mandatory testing. That time you spend makes a difference to their learning and I know it takes much more than a few minutes a day to make that happen.  I see the effort you put into it.  Again - I thank you.

I see you, despite the many distractions, notice my completely average kid who is having a hard day and magically find time to help him see where he can improve and where he is having success.  You walk this tightrope between molding their abilities and encourging them to be their best without breaking their spirits with such finesse because you are skilled at this - this is what teaching is all about, isn't it? That tightrope walking is a skill that we as parents try and walk ourselves - we appreciate that it isn't always easy - but you do it, and we notice.

Is see that this teaching and shaping of growing minds and characters is what you love, it's what drives you to do what you do with such care and concern for our kids.  It's why you're willing to put up with so much crap and bad press because you believe your job is not in vain.  I'm here to stand with you today, and agree - you are important.  Our kids are learning because of you not in spite of you! You do so well what so many of us cannot or would not do.  You do it despite the mudslinging and political spin from both sides of the fray.  I want you to put a gold star on your "yay me!" chart tonight because you totally deserve it! This letter is me cheering for you from the sidelines!

I see you despite all that is going on, still trying to find ways to do the impossible - to still pull off the year-end musical, to do those extra-special projects, to start new learning initiatives, to meet learning outcomes in ways that are meaningful to your students.  What you are doing is difficult - but you ARE doing it.  So I want to say - Well done.

I see you also doing the back and forth dance of balancing the time spent planning, reporting and communicating on behalf of my kids, while trying to have a life of your own.  You have relationships, kids, parents, friends -lives outside of teaching that also need care and attention in order for you to be a balanced and well-rounded member of society.  I am thankful that you do not eat, sleep and breath education exclusively, thought I know you do it a lot.  It's important to me that you take time for your life as well as what you do for a living.  This is a good thing, and I hope you find joy in all areas of your life!

I know you aren't perfect.  I want to extend grace on those bad days, just like you try and extend grace and compassion to myself and my kids when we are less than our best.  I promise I won't define you by the worst of your profession, I know you do the same for me. I will believe and promote the best of who you are because I see it over and over again, in classroom after classroom, school after school.

I don't know how this is all going end. I am a little concerned that the worst isn't over yet. But I never want to forget that you are a real person and you are trying in an imperfect system to do the best you can for the benefit of my kids.  I want you to know no matter what happens, I believe what you are doing is important and I believe in you!

Hang in there teacher-friends! We need you!

*i have disallowed blogger comments on this because I want this only to be an encouragment to my many friends who are teachers or are married to them, I have no intention of having politcal commentary play out in the comment section!  I can't disallow the FB comments, but from this post they will be moderated! Happy Friday everyone! :)

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Do it Now

Guys, I hereby interrupt this blogging hiatus with a really important task for you to do.

1) Buy a perfectly ripe avacado and an equally perfect Atulfo Mango -the yellow, not red ones - they are in all ways superior, just trust me on this.

2) Slice and dice both into perfectly sized amuse-bouches.

3) Splash with equal parts of the nectar of heaven, aka balsamic vinegar,  and  lime juice.

4) Add a few dashes of freshly ground pepper.  Mix.

5) Inhale.

6) Wipe up the remaining dressing in your bowl with a torn half of a butter croissant.  Which is kind of redundant - Like saying add an orange orange to your recipe, but whatever.  It's totally worth it.

Realize this practically non-recipe was so good that you want to share it and wish you had taken a picture, but all you have is an empty bowl, a full stomach, and a lovely taste lingering in your mouth.

7) Don't judge me for eating lunch at 10:15.  I have a busy day, and if I do one thing it's eat three squares a day.

Here's a pretend abstract imagine-it-could-be-in-your-mouth photo.  Another way to remind you that photography is not in my skill set, and I'm ok with that.  Also - it's the other half of the croissant - I'm gonna eat it once I hit publish.  I have no shame.

Happy Spring People!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Don't Let The Door Hit You On The Way Out aka - A Final Installment

In case you've missed out on the compelling and thrilling first and penultimate installements on the church leaving blogs I've written I give you Thing 1 and Thing 2.

Before I dive into the likely last post on church-leavership (you heard me) I want to make something clear, if it wasn't already abundantly obvious.  I don't have all this answers. Please.  Don't fall out of your chairs.

This post will not address everyone's situation. I'm speaking from a North American paradigm where in most places you will have many options for a house of worship.  Also, I'm in no way equipped to address what to do if your church falls into the "abusive/dogmatic/scandalous" category  except to say I'm so sorry that's what you're going through, God is better than that, and I recommend you find a good counselor.  Even that is probably missing the boat on some or perhaps many levels.  

The main question I want to address is this: How can we, as leavers and stayers in a church, do a better job so that the awkwardness and hurt that it seems is so often associated with leaving is at the very least minimized?

My answer is really a page out of a Relationships 101 class - but I think sometimes we forget that the church should primarily be a family - a great big group of diverse relationships -and an organization second.  Don't forget to remember that people always come before programs.

Onto the good stuff:

Stuff for Everyone: 

Could we agree that belonging to a specific church is not a lifetime contract, and that ebb and flow is a reasonable and natural part of growth and change in our churches?  Just a thought, really.

This of course needs to be balanced with the truth that there is no perfect church this side of heaven. Every church goes through seasons of abundance and seasons of difficulty.  Not everyone gets to stay through the blessing.  Not everyone is meant to stay through the hard times.  If we could believe this first, I think it would be easy to find a better balance between tribalism (you're either for us or against us) and undercommitment (wish I could think of a better word!)

Stuff For Leavers:

Realize that people might feel personally rejected when you leave.  Do your best to assure them of your friendship and continued care for them. I had not thought of this before, but it makes total sense. Remember - you're dealing with people, so however you have to address the truth of your leaving, do so in love.

If at all possible, work to resolution, or at least understanding before you leave.  Personally, I found that once I acheieved understanding my frustration over certain differences were gone.  We still left, but we didn't leave angry, and I'd like to think that's better. :)

If there hasn't been a true scandal, you have likely left over differences: differences in passion, mission, calling, style etc.  If this is you, do NOT bad mouth the church and try to create scandal in order to help you feel better about leaving.  Don't pretend we don't do it either.  Differences are not the same as abuse.  Speak the best possible about the church you have left, and own the differences as just that - differences. "We felt we could better serve in a church with a different focus on..." make it about YOU and not about the church.  Just remember, wherever you go - there you are, and if the churches you go to always seem to end in scandal every other year, the problem might be in the mirror and not the behind the pulpit.

Don't stop talking to people once you announce you're leaving.  Yes, it can be awkward, but be the better person and say something.

Stuff For Stayers:

Understand that for most people, the decision to leave is a very difficult one, made usually over the course of many weeks, months, even years.  You are usually only privileged to the final decision, not the process it took them to get there.  Be careful to be kind when asking questions about "Why?"

This isn't even something we've personally experienced, but could we please lose the "church shoppers" language?  It's couched in shame and it needs to end.  It bothers me because it can sound like false-piety, as though if those church shoppers were truly spiritually mature as you, they would stay as you have done, and like the way your church does church, and be passionate about what you're passionate about.  We're called to diversity and unity - not sameness and conformity. One church will not likely fit the bill for every Christian - and thank God for that! Admit that your church isn't perfect, because it isn't, and release them and pray for God's best as they look for a place to grow and serve.

Assume the best motives in those who leave - ie - don't create scandal over their leaving any more than you want them creating scandal about the church you're staying in.  You don't know their whole story.  It's possible people aren't making the best decision, but give them the benefit of the doubt.  Speak well of them and if you don't know or understand why they left - ASK THEM.

Don't stop talking to people once you hear they're leaving.  Yes, it can be awkward, but be the better person and say something.

Stuff for Leadership:

If it's possible try and find out why people, especially those who have been plugged in and involved, have left. Take the time to listen.  Hear their story- first hand.  The purpose in this isn't to try and change their minds, but to hear them, to gain understanding and to release them in love.  Many people expressed disappointment that nobody in leadership seemed to care that they left.  They didn't want the church to stop in it's tracks, I think they just wanted to be heard.   The other benefit to doing this is that it can help you see if their are unhealthy patterns and practices emerging within different areas of the church.  It might be that everyone is leaving your church just over differences, but it's also possible that something bigger and potentially more damaging is at play.  Care for you sheep, even when they're transitioning to another field.

Perhaps relationships, even church relationships are best summed up in a two step process:

1) Love first
2) Ask questions later

What do you think?

Monday, February 24, 2014

Silencing the Inner Critic - Homeschoolers Edition

*This article was originally intended to be shared specifically with those in the homeschooling community.  However we decided to post it here and share with everyone.  I think the main ideas are universal and I hope that it encourages and inspires you!  Happy Monday everyone!*

Let's take a peek inside the head of a homeschooler, shall we?


"Are they learning enough?  Should we switch from Classical to Charlotte Mason?  I'm not even sure what a Charlotte Mason is, I'm clearly not smart enough to educate my kids! My baby won't sleep through the night, I need 6 cups of a coffee and toothpicks to hold my eyes open while I drag myself through another Sit By Me book.  I'm sure Hannah Homeschooler down the road NEVER has that trouble.  Am I messing them up?  Does homeschooling really make kids weird? I read 13 blogs last night written by moms with 8 kids who are doing amazing hands-on learning units and they have charts and their house looks clean and their 8 year old speaks fluent Latin...I can't even get my laundry folded and two worksheets done with my 5 year old in a morning. Something is definitely wrong with me.  Am I messing them up?  I.  AM.  SO.  TIRED. but if I complain I just know, that my mother-in-law/neighbour/friend/husband will tell me I should never have pulled them from the classroom.  Why does everyone else have it all together? I don't think I'm cut out for this but I really want to make it work. And one more thing...am I messing them up?"

Ever had any of these thoughts or ones like them? Sometimes, the battle for our hearts and minds comes from people and circumstances around us,  but I have found that the critical voices that talk  loudest & longest come from within.  Learning to silence the Inner Critic can be an ongoing struggle for many of us, and homeschooling Moms are no different. We spend a lot of time trying to make our system, our lives and our curriculum perfect, hoping we can silence those nagging thoughts that keep us from enjoying the beauty and joy of the educational choice we've made.

I haven't mastered my Inner Critic, but it is a lot quieter than when I started this journey of homeschooling 7 years ago.  Here are some truths I've learned along the way - maybe one or two will ring true and help you realize that you are indeed, a wonderful Mom, who is capable of educating her children and finding joy in the journey along the way.

1) People don't think about you nearly as much as you think they do.

When I started homeschooling I was fairly convinced that people spent all their free time talking to everyone around them about what a mistake I was making by choosing to educate our kids at home. I have discovered that this is not true. The truth is some people won't agree with your decisions, but they are far too concerned with their own lives to obsess greatly over yours.

2) When people do criticize it's  usually because of a lack of confidence in their decision that is different from yours.

People that are confident in their choices don't spend a lot of time tearing down others over choices they make.  They recognize the abundance and freedom that life offers and find ways to support and encourage people.  As I have silenced my Inner Critic, I've found other negative external opinions don't carry the same weight they used to.

3)Even if you do find the perfect system, teach it perfectly, and your children respond perfectly to your perfect teaching, you will not be guaranteed to raise perfect children who will always make perfect choices that you perfectly agree with.

We need to understand that our influence only goes so far. Our kids were created with the same free will that we are.  We can do everything right and our kids can still make wrong choices -the way you educate them isn't going to change that. Once I came to terms with this it actually freed me from the shackles of perfectionism and control and helped me relax and enjoy teaching my kids and their unique personalities a lot more. It also has helped build much needed humility in regards to others - we're all doing the best we can-  let's cut each other some slack, and just be encouragers whenever possible.  It's a lot easier to extend grace if we loosen the chains of perfectionism on ourselves first.

4) It's important to find a group of people, or a person who you can be totally real with.

It might not be "safe" to vent every frustration that comes with homeschooling (because they DO exist!) to every person you meet, but it is important to find a place where you can be open and honest.  Being understood by someone else and knowing you are not alone in  your struggles goes a long way to keeping that Inner Critic quiet.

5) Social Media in all forms are poor yardsticks for comparing your life vs. others

Author Jon Acuff said "Stop comparing your behind-the-scenes footage to someone else's highlight reel."  Social media can be a lot of fun,  just remember that things aren't always as good or as bad as people make them out to be online.  That is the truth.  Don't let yourself believe anything different!

Secondary to that would be realizing that while there might be some amazing "do it all" homeschooling moms out there, they are an exception and not the rule.  I like to think of them like I do Supermodels - they represent about 2% of the population - it doesn't mean they aren't real, or should be shamed for being exceptional at something, but they aren't typical and no matter how I try, I can't be 6 feet tall and a size 4.  However, there might be some good ideas that I can modify and use for myself in my very real almost-5'6"-and-not-quite-the-size-I'd-like-to-be life.

6) Sometimes you need to let something go

Can we just admit that life doesn't always cooperate?  Sometimes you start a fantastic unit on Dinosaurs and the flu visits your house and it's two weeks before the barf buckets and tylenol can be put away and now your perfect schedule is "behind"- right?  A wise person once said "When things aren't adding up in your life, start subtracting."  There's wisdom there.   I found when I held all my plans for schooling a little more loosely and said yes to things because they actually worked best for our family, not because I was trying to prove I could do it all, or that homeschooling was "better" I wasn't nearly as frustrated with myself when I had to adjust those plans along the way.

This list isn't nearly exhaustive, but maybe it's a good place to start.  Moms of all walks of life love their kids so much and want what's best for them.  Don't make your job harder by believing the lies you tell yourself.  When it comes down to it, the only thing we have control over is ourselves and how we react and respond to life.  Speak truth, embrace grace, and set yourself free.  It changes everything.


What things have you done that have helped to silence your Inner Critic?  Share your story in the comments below!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Pack Your Denim Jumper in Your Old Kit Bag

And smile...smile...smile.

Life is never static.  We use a lot of lovely metaphors for this - journey, seasons, pathway, dessert buffet...ok maybe the last one is my own.  Wouldn't that be great if we treated life like a dessert buffet? Different flavours and finishes, but all delicious and divine. And hello - if everything is dessert, that means that in some way it's great, right?

In five days we will start a new season, take a new path, begin a new journey, put down the delightful chocolate mousse we've been eating for the past 7 years and go crazy for the cheescake that's been placed in front of us:  ALL of the kids will be in school.  I will let go of my responsibilities as teacher-mom and embrace all the good, bad and beautiful that sending kids to brick and mortar schools entails.

It's been a "slow leave" over the past month as it's taken time for the schools we have chosen to have room for each of the boys, but in a sense that has been nice. Morgan already started at highschool this September, so her transition was more typical than the boys has been.  This staggered entry has allowed me time to focus on transitioning to one school at time. Currently we are at four schools, on two different campuses - a leetle bit crazy, but it seems to be working - so far, and next year should be a bit better.

This staggering also allowed the one student who wasn't thrilled with the idea at first to experience what homeschooling was going to look like with just him and me, and let's just say when we got the last phone call this week, he was more than ready to give it a try. (Proof that I'm really not that interesting to hang out with all day, every day!)

To answer the What are you going to do with yourself? question: I personally plan to do nothing but sign notices, sit through homereading and make lunches for my youngest two for at least a month.  Then, as they say in Botswana, we'll make a plan. ;)

We've all had our moments of nervousness and big questions. Learning a new system, being the new kid and making friends is a slow and sometimes difficult process, but we are ready...I think. At any rate, we are going to go for it.

I've loved my years in the homeschooling community.  It's a beautiful way of learning and life.  For sure, it has it's plusses and minuses but I would highly, highly recommend it to anyone who wanted to give it a try. I'm going to miss a lot of things about it.

However, it's time to start something new, and I'm pretty sure this cheesecake is going to be awesome.