Tuesday, October 25, 2022

10/25/22 By way of explanation for a random post in a dead blog, I just want to share the link to this years-old draft with my kids. On Facebook. So I'm finally publishing it. Done. ...I should come back...

2014 Random stuff, and not in order of importance.
This is something I saved from early in the fall, a sample of one daughter's Bible study.  Love this method.

School stuff:
You know I am always threatening to be a radical unschooler, and I did come close to making that jump this year. But this is Amy's last year of  "school", and even though she practically unschools already, Amy didn't want to mess it all up with something new. (We did mess it up anyway, but not with unschooling.) Betz is just starting her high school career, and, having a fuzzy long term idea about working in health services ?? someday, she wanted to just do "school" the way that it's commonly accepted. And Emily, well, Emily is, sorry to say, just subject to whatever I choose for her. So the unschooling idea was abandoned, and we went for a compromise of structure:  academic co-op.

It was time. The ACE/School of Tomorrow stuff we were using was what the kids called "copy and paste" school -- read the selection and answer the questions, questions which are given in the exact same wording and in the same order that they are given in the reading. That was easy and came in handy when we were in a hurry to get school "done" and run out the door, but not a whole lot was sticking. For us it was busy-work and an insult to kids' capabilities and creativity. Maybe we weren't doing it right. (Probably not.)

But ACE gave us some other problems. One, there was very little critical thinking involved. So the first (and second, and third) time we were asked to do something that required a bit of thought, a mutiny nearly took place. I actually heard accusations -- from my sweet children! -- of torture and such like atrocities! It was very difficult for them to get over being spoon-fed information and being asked to regurgitate it back in the same form. Another problem -- I also felt the need to try to cut the spending. We already have a good library and plenty of educational stuff around here -- math books, English books, great Bible and Baptist (church) history stuff -- so we limited our school spending to just science and social studies and one elective.

Enter co-op. Our co-op costs only $50 per family per semester, plus books, which we'd have had to buy anyway. The older girls are taking a tough Notgrass U.S. Government class and Total Health, plus a creative cooking class. Emily has ancient history, physical science, and art. The kids have essays, presentations, reports, speeches, and demonstrations to do. We are completely out of our copy-and-paste ACE-school element, and waaay out of our comfort zone! The sense of torture is real!  And not just for the students -- the mother also feels tortured!!! Due mostly to the dreaded essay questions, all three kids have begged to be allowed to quit co-op. One even went so far as to ask what terrible thing she could do to be expelled. (The answer was, "Nothing.")

But it got better. That same child, in the middle of yet another anti-co-op rant, told me recently that she'd be really angry at me if I did let her quit. :)  (I knew it.)  And so we continue to be stretched beyond the place we thought we could stand it, and -- we can do it!  We're growing!  The essays, torturous as they are, are actually being completed on time and are getting good grades! 

And of course it's not all bad.  It's actually quite good. Each Thursday the kids are excited to leave the house for co-op. They love every moment they are there. They love the activity with other kids in their age group. They're being given the opportunity to use their creativity and use whatever media they are comfortable with to do their speeches and demos and reports -- YouTube videos, PowerPoint presentations, even writing a 1666 newspaper article on Sir Isaac Newton's legendary discovery of gravity. They love giving their teachers the impression that they are top students. :) 

And I love the fact that they are responsible to someone else for part of their school work. For I have discovered that turning that accountability over to someone else's mom (for all of the classes are taught by moms), the girls have really become accountable to themselves. And isn't that one of the reasons why we homeschool, anyway?  Ah.  Success.  It doesn't come easy, but it's sweet when it does come.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Ah, Blogging. I've Missed You. Sort of.

Certainly I am the only person who is still subscribed to this poor, piece-meal journal of life in this Johnson home, but I persevere under the gentle persuasion of my dear old blogging friend, Shani, who recently asked me to pleeeease start blogging with her again. I don't know if I can do it regularly, but I had this old draft here that I can update, or try to update. Not even sure I know how to do this anymore. Here goes:

The big event this year was the marriage of our daughter Amy to her friend and beau James. The two of them have known each other since they were little kids. James's dad prayed his son would marry Amy, and her dad prayed he'd have James as a son-in-law. Who can resist the power of prayer? These two were divinely destined to be married. 😊 They are a great match, but we are all having to get used to the quiet without Amy around, as she has become a traitor to Minnesota Kansan. But we do love James, and I love being able to say the words "my son-in-law."

Our beautiful Alison has been teaching private piano and violin lessons and has 30+ students in our tiny town. She's also serving up coffee, sandwiches, and conversation at a local cafe. She's busy and organized and dedicated and well-loved. She's serving the Lord with her musical skills, playing for congregational singing and conducting our children's choir. She runs and reads non-fiction and lightly keeps a finger on Israeli politics. I think she's eventually going to become an east coast person... she keeps making trips in that direction. In God's time, she's very ready to have her own home and family. Soon...I'll let you know in my next post, maybe in 2021!
Elisabeth is happily working at an assisted living facility while going to school for her AAS in  medical assisting. She is a dependable and valuable worker in a field that has a desperate need for compassionate and committed employees. Last spring Betz arranged her passage on a evangelistic medical missions trip to Ghana and had her horizons vastly broadened! She's my verbal one, a good critical thinker and analyzer and my conversation partner.

Emily has one or two years of high school left, which will most likely be accomplished via PSEO, or dual credit. (Maybe we should finish this year's math first? Emily?) Since I'm the principal, I get to decide. 😊 I'm not too worried. It seems all of us have learned more AFTER high school than we ever did while we were in school. Her current goal is a culinary diploma, but since the school is some distance from home, that will take the Lord's doing. Em's currently a fine sandwich artist at Subway and official landscape manager for our home and for Liberty Baptist Church, where we enjoy her regular piano and organ contributions. If she gets her way, there will be a dog living here someday...

After ignoring a lump in his neck for several years, Gary got to experience the doctor's office for the fourth time more than 32 years and had a quick surgery. No longer delivering sundries as a courier driver, he is now delivering children. Gary's working for the school district, driving children who, shall we say, are no longer allowed to ride the schoolbus. He gets to answer questions like, "Is God the same as Jesus?" and, "Have you ever been in a nuclear bomb?" 😂 There's always a story to tell! He's also faithfully pastoring our little church in the middle of Minnesota and keeping a record of God's many answers to his many prayers. I'm so very blessed to have him, for I reap the benefits of his faithfulness to the Lord.

Me, except for the fact that Walmart Grocery Pick-up has changed my life 😄, I just keep on doing the same old thing, helping to teach at our homeschool co-op, driving Emily to work, teaching Sunday school, trying to be intentional about friendships. After many years of avoiding CHANGE, I finally did it. I got a continual glucose monitor. There has been amazing progress in diabetes technology in recent years, with a major step towards a closed-loop system, almost an artificial pancreas, just last month. Now I'm in line for an upgrade to my insulin pump, which will soon either suspend insulin or deliver extra when my blood glucose is too low or too high. In the meantime I almost enjoy the challenge of keeping a straight line, which is really unrealistic, because even non-diabetics have spikes. I'm thanking the Lord for my good health and for his multiplied mercies on me.

We made many trips to the airport this year to drop off and pick up girls traveling to Kansas, California, Ghana, New Jersey, and other destinations. Went to family camp. Traveled to California to see my family. Saw Michigan, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and places in between, where we saw friends and more Johnsons. Every year my husband says THIS is the year we are NOT going anywhere! And every year, we go everywhere.

We have a busy house. Someone is always going to work or getting off work. I never know how many people will be home for supper, and it's always a nice surprise to find out there will be five of us. I'm learning just how precious these days are, for soon and very soon all of these girls will be up and gone.

But my home won't be empty; it will still be full of love.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Diamonds Still in the Rough in 2018

Apparently I didn't pay any attention to that little email from Photobucket announcing that they would be charging a fee for third party hosting, soooo, there went all my blog photos. Seriously. I need work on just appreciating the fact that they did it for free for ten years, right?

Here we all are in 2018, with the exception of my mom's favorite son-in-law. He would not be caught dead in a coffee shop, so he didn't get to be in the photo. No, the truth is he's working hard today, making deliveries of just about anything you can think of: flowers, paychecks, tires, pallets of paint buckets, live birds, building supplies. He's the best.

Alison has been home from TN for almost a year already. She's our fabulous church pianist and organist and is otherwise busy teaching music lessons and working at the local elementary school as a one-on-one para. She loves coffee and blingy stuff and high heels and a really good guy named Daniel. 💝

Amy is also a para, but of the kindergarten classroom variety, and she LOVES her job. She's always organizing something or building or creating something, in fact, today she's in the garage disassembling a junk table and chairs and transforming them into something usable for the yard. She played the piano for the school musicals two years in a row, once practically sight-reading at the last minute. She's amazing. She's also not available, but we aren't allowed to say anything. 😉

Having completed her CNA classes, Betz is now working hard on her medical assistant degree, getting her driver's license, and just being the best sandwich artist ever. I think we'll call her a graduate this year. (Or last year? When you homeschool, who cares?) Last year Betsy co-wrote and implemented a preschool curriculum. She assisted in a kids' ASL class at our homeschool co-op this year and handled wiggle time for the young ones. Betz has big ideas and wants to do some exotic and adventurous traveling in the near future.

LAST year. We just had 10" of snow, remember?
Emily will be starting her sophomore year in high school this fall and is well on her way to graduating me out of a job as homeschool mom. She is our amazing church landscape technician. Emily loves piano and cooking and algebra (ha ha, just kidding, Em!) and is getting ready to run her first ever 5K in a couple of weeks. She has amazed her family with her determination! Go Emily!

The man of the house still enjoys conquering mountains. Why? Because they're there. He has a very strong gifts-of-service love language and is sure to be the one to have done all the big and little things that need doing around here. His love for God's word hasn't changed a bit in all these years, and he's still teaching and preaching God's truth. I admire him greatly for his unwavering faithfulness.

We moved a few miles to even more rural Minnesota two years ago, and we will probably be the new family for the next 30 years. 😊 God graciously and generously supplied us with a house and church building, and that is quite a story, maybe the subject of a later blog post. (Did you see that "maybe" written in teeny tiny letters? Right now I think I'm doing well to post something every two years or so.) 

I am contemplating who I am now that my family doesn't really need me except to make supper. 😁 I took a huge step out of my comfort zone this year and held a report-writing class for local homeschoolers, using curriculum from Institute for Excellence in Writing. The older I get, the smaller my comfort zone gets, and isn't that backwards? Shouldn't I be gaining confidence with experience? 

And now it's time to make that supper. Maybe I'll be back. To anyone out there who might have accidentally run across my post, I hope all is well with you and yours, as well. God is good.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Recalled to Life

I forgot all about this post! If I knew when it happened, I could put it in order. Must be about four years ago. Posting for memories' sake.
Our friend, Winter, at the Minnesota History Center
Wow, what a week! All the activity coincided with El Grande Allergy Headache, but I couldn't let that thing stop us from experiencing some fun,educational stuff. The snow isn't even gone, and the allergens are out already. You would think that Minnesota could have one nice month without snow, bugs, or allergens, wouldn't you? No. That is not reality. We must have at least snow, bugs, or allergens, or this would not be Minnesota. But we love it, right?

The maple sap started running earlier this week, and we were invited to see our friends' syrup operation. I expected we were going to see something like Ma Ingalls' big syrup cauldron boiling away over an open fire. That mental image was shattered by the more modern method. The sap was collected and poured into a large vat that was sunk into a makeshift wood stove.
Collecting sap.

View of MN State Capitol from History Center
Breaking up the Minnesota prairie with "oxen"
Happy miners on the Iron Range

Enjoying a good old fashioned soda fountain

Celebrity Betz returning from long journey, c. 1950
Alison and her friend, Grace, getting ready for a ride in the snow/slush/mud

Driving the four-wheeler to pick up sap buckets

Amy's first attempt at chopping wood.  I think she broke off a little chunk. :)

Emily making friends with Henny

Shooting the .22.  Emily needs longer arms!

My turn.  Haven't shot a gun since I was... nine?

Enthusiastic moms conduct rabbit dissection.  Kids not so enthusiastic. :)

Rabbit's dismembered body, donated to science.  Can you identify the organs?

Monday, March 21, 2016

Sometimes life takes a wild turn.

There was a little commotion at the front door on Thursday at suppertime, and, busy at the sink, I assumed that it was my dear husband coming in with his arms full after a long day at work. Amy looked in the direction of the door and cried, "What?? What is this?" And I thought maybe Mr. Diamonds was hauling in the biggest ever bouquet of roses. I turned to see, and no, it was a sight much lovelier than roses! Alison, our daughter whom I just told you would not be home until next Christmas, had waltzed through the door ahead of her dad! We girls all had a happy and teary reunion! It is so wonderful to have Alie home, even if it's just for a very few days. ♥♥♥

Help Me Remodel.

So we now have a parsonage to paint and do magic remodeling tricks on. Anyone care to offer suggestions for this east-facing kitchen? I think we'll be putting in some darkish wood-looking floor surface, something not shiny. What would that be? What's like laminate, but not shiny? And not expensive? Someone said we could paint the kitchen cupboards with chalk paint. I like that idea--there's very little prep work involved and the paint goes on easily, so they say, but I've never done it. Also need an idea for a light fixture replacement. And what about that part of the wall/ceiling above the cupboards? Do we paint that a different color? Do we paint the ceiling? What should I do with the window?

I'd love to pull out that bank of glass door cupboards and possibly the counter and cabinets underneath, for more flow into the living area, and replace them with a big island with storage and stools. This is just not my thing. I want a professional to come do it all, but that's not going to happen, so I'm relying on you all. Make it pretty, please.

And what about this living room? It faces east and south. What's a good color in that sort of lighting? I'm thinking something neutral but warmish, and NOT yellow-to-gold. There's enough of that in the church building. Window coverings? Do we paint all the trim white (what a job)? Or leave it? This area will have the dark flooring, too, and we will need a way to break up the crazy visual length of the house. Area rug?

So there you have it. Please submit your ideas in the comments. Lots of them, please. If I use your idea, I'll take you to Caribou and buy you a coffee. :)

Saturday, March 12, 2016

The Years in Review

Hello. My name is Sally. Remember me? Back in the days when I had a brain and a measure of creativity, I used to write here, back when we used to live in the desert, where everything was a novelty to us. You know, all the extremes. Extremely hot. Extremely windy. Extremely dry. Extremely different from what we were used to. Extremely fun to brag about. There was a lot of blog fodder in our previous locale.

Then we moved to the Midwest. This place has its own extremes. It's extremely friendly. Extremely do-gooder-ish. Extremely traditional. Extremely homey. We love it here. But somehow I lost my ability to write about it. My family has missed nearly four years of mom's blog escapades, and I feel as if I have let everyone down.

Where do I begin with The Years in Review? Those of you who used to follow me (when I was going somewhere) will remember that I used to regularly post the Month in Review. The last time I did that was in... 2012. So let's see, that would be 48 months to make up... it's a lost cause. (Yes, I know no one subscribes to this blog any more. This is just for posterity.)  Here's the more recent summary of our lives:

Mr. Diamonds is busy busy, being a husband and dad, pastoring our small church family, and driving hither, thither, and yon for a courier delivery company. He needs a break, but that is not likely to happen soon. Even our vacations are mostly ministry-oriented and require unpaid time off work and rushing home to return to said work. I would like to kidnap him and take him away somewhere where he could focus all of his attention on ME. :)  It has been fun to watch the Lord work in his life and force him to grow in areas I never thought would change. I hope he can say the same for me. The Lord has given me a good man. Not a day goes by that I don't feel grateful for his character.

Alison is away at school and loving every moment of class, ministry, music, Bible instruction, and fellowship. Proud mom moment: She made the school record high score on a 167-question Bible knowledge test. That kind of knowledge is gained by reading the Book over and over again, and I'm so grateful for that good foundational habit in her life. She's teaching women in the prison, playing her violin, singing in an advanced choral ensemble, and being big sister to her dorm mates. I miss her like crazy and can't wait to go out for coffee again with my adult daughter friend. Alison will be accompanying a music group on tour in the South this summer, so we won't see her at home again until next winter. Boo hoo.

Amy is spread thinly among four or five families, one of them being her own. We do see her occasionally... She has a new PCA charge (not the kid in the photo) and is learning all sorts of things about autism, special needs kids, and large family logistics. She will never lack for work, as there is a list of moms who would pay dearly to have her help. Amy is our church piano player, sound man, janitor, and kitchen coordinator. It is a blessing to have kids who know they are an important part of the ministry. Amy's calendar is full of remodels, play dates, overnight babysitting escapades, homeschool co-op classes, visits with loved ones in other states, and get-togethers with friends. Amy's somewhat recent gluten and dairy intolerance combined with my new eating strategy is a serious challenge to a mom who never makes a meal plan.

Elisabeth (but we call her Betz) is a diligent, hard-working student in our homeschool co-op. She meets deadlines, gives complete, educated-sounding answers, and strives for 100% or better. She is a principled young woman with some strong opinions and some rigid self-expectations. More introspective than her sisters, Betz thinks harder and writes more than the rest of us combined. Her new blog, which I'm not sure I've been cleared to share here, is a window into her soul. She has no use at all for literary analysis or geometry but thinks chemistry is easy. I'm thinking her talent with office applications and her love for old folks may have her instructing them in the world of technology someday(?). Betz has a spirit of adventure and she has enjoyed some new outdoor experiences this year. A big one coming up is a camping and canoe trip in the BWCA with the girls in her chem class. Hopefully the mosquitoes won't carry them away. These days I really enjoy our mostly grown-up discussions centering on principles, paradoxes, and personalities.

Emily is almost a teenager. (Can that be right?) Because she has had no good friends in the neighborhood, I am grateful for some of the great families in our co-op. Em spends as much time as she possibly can with her friend Winter, and she even agreed to clean house with her once a week in order to spend more time together. The offer of a wage helps, too. :) Her environmental science class has challenged her in some good ways this year, and we have seen great strides in maturity. She loves on our old people at church and takes care of the young'uns, too. Em is excelling like crazy at the piano; just think how far she'd be if she actually practiced! She loves to cook and create in the kitchen. A good gift idea for her would be a Ninja blender, since she is wearing out my cheap smoothie maker. She is looking forward to family camp and all of the excitement that the early summer promises for our family.


Shortly we will begin updating the parsonage that the Lord gave us with our new church building. Since we will no longer live two minutes from Walmart (we call it home), I am going to have to learn to do meal planning. House cleaning will be a new thing too, since we will be likely to receive more surprise visitors than we currently do. ...I've heard that a house building or remodeling project is one of the events most likely to destroy a marriage and family, and when we all walked through the house last week to make a list of all the needed upgrades, I realized that rumor may be true. Our marriage survived the first onslaught of polar opposite opinions (and exasperation between one party who has strong opinions and one who has none at all), but the parent/children relationship may have suffered a bit that day. I resolved on the long drive home that I would firmly choose my paint colors and then stay out of the rest of it. The girls are anxious to make choices and get started and create something. They are not at all interested in planning carefully or counting the cost; their parents think MUCH too slowly for their liking. However it turns out will be fine; I've lived in an apartment over a storefront, an old mousy farmstead, a too-small travel trailer, and in a house with NO built-in storage, and I survived. I will make do. Having my druthers may never happen this side of heaven, and that's okay. Sometimes I don't even know what my druthers are. I will have a roof over my head and the people I love close by.

 More to follow, and that's a promise. For someday. :)

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Generation Abyss

Welcome me to the 21st century! I finally got a touch-screen phone. My "old fashioned" Walmart Trac-Fone was an embarrassment to my children. While I am really happy now to have something that doesn't make a beep every time I touch a key and can supposedly text photos (so far it doesn't), I do find myself in yet another steep learning curve. Is any other human being mocked, as a mother is, for her technological ignorance?

Daughter #3: "Mom, you hold your phone like an old person. Teens hold it like THIS."
(Mother meekly adopts more youthful phone handling technique.)

Daughter #2: "Mom are you seriously texting me from the bathroom?? You act just like a teen!" (Yes, I was texting her from the bathroom. I'm finding that sending my kid a text is a really good way to get her attention.)

Hey. Am I supposed to text like a teen or not??

*   *   *

I find myself behaving just like I did when we first got an email account, checking for mail every three minutes. The phone is with me at all times, and if it hasn't notified me in a while, I turn the screen on just to be sure I haven't missed a text or anything.

*   *   *

I'd very much like to go back to the day when all you had to do to contact someone was pick the telephone receiver up from the wall phone and dial. Now you have to remember which of your friends still answer the phone, which ones only text, which friends can only be contacted via Facebook, which ones still actually read email, and which of them are likely to have lost their phone entirely.

*   *   *

Via Google, I did come across a helpful list of texting shortcuts for old people:  
ATD - At the Doctor's
BFF - Best Friends Funeral
DWI - Driving While Incontinent
FWIW - Forgot Where I Was
LOL - Living on Lipitor
OMSG - Oh My! Sorry, Gas
WAITT - Who Am I Talking To?  

Google is awesome. Google knows everything, even how to find the elusive emoticons on my particular phone. Google plus daughter #3, that is. Me having a new techie gizmo and expecting to make sense of it by myself is a lot like moving to a new planet and trying to communicate vital info to aliens. I'm totally helpless--totally and insufferably helpless. **Feels steam building...**

*   *   *

Yes, I must admit my fault, this new phone does gives me "moments" (ref. Moms' Night Out).  That is why I bought that cute and happy protective case. I hope it will be strong enough to keep my phone from being damaged in the event I should throw it against the wall. Because I've been really tempted to do just that.

*   *   *

The attitude here will probably improve a little bit when the sun comes out or when I am surprised by a clean kitchen or someone takes the trash out without being asked. ...Now that I found my emoticons, because I need at least the happy and sad smileys and one heart, I am feeling a little bit better. Still can't text a photo, though... and would I care if the phone wasn't supposed to text photos? No. But it is. I think you should get what you pay for. ...Which is probably exactly what I got!

First world problems...

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