Sunday, October 31, 2010


When I was very young, I lived in a small town outside of El Paso, TX. I remember, vaguely, trick or treating (I think I remember being Barbie one year and Popeye another). We moved from the small town when I was six, almost 7. We moved from suburbia to "way out in the boon docks". My dad bought a biggish piece of property (4 1/2 acres...about). It was pretty remote and so my days of trick or treating ended. No tricks. No treats. No costumes. Due to our remoteness, we did not get trick or treaters either. Halloween faded into a holiday that I watched on TV, but did not experience. I could care less...I do not remember having any ill feelings and as an adult, gave little thought to the holiday.

When we became parents, all things holiday took on new meanings. Christmas, which is always fun, became SO MUCH BETTER (we did opt out of doing the Santa thing...Matt is avidly against lying to his kids). Halloween, though, that became a controversy.

I became a Christian when Sierra was just a couple months old. In my church, especially in my group of friends, I came to understand the origins of Halloween. It is the celebration of all things evil. It's the Devil's night. It is dark. Well, I couldn't have any of, we made the decision that we would not participate in Halloween. It was easy, at first...Sierra was just a baby. When she got a little older, we found out about church festivals on that oh so evil night, so we would go (but no way would we dress up for it). We would see all the kids at the festivals having SO MUCH FUN in their princess costumes, pirate costumes, super hero costumes, etc and something would twitch inside.

As the years progressed, we began letting Sierra dress up for Halloween, but only for fall festivals and only in something positive. I was one of those parents that was at the school protesting anything Halloween (if you, as a teacher, are reading a Halloween book, than give Sierra an activity to do elsewhere). We would cover our windows, making our house very dark so Trick or Treaters would pass our house by. Oh yeah...I was shining my light for Jesus as I hid in the dark.

It occured to me, one day. The origin of Christmas. God didn't just call down to Earth one day and say, "Thou shalt celebrate the birth of my son on the 25th of December every year!" This holiday began as a pagan holiday...Winter Solstice (I believe). It was a holiday that the Catholic Priests abhorred and decided the best thing to do would be to begin to celebrate the birth of Christ at the same time and try to win the Pagans over with stories of His birth.

Same thing with Easter. It is a Pagan Holiday and the Catholic priests did the same thing only this time to celebrate the Resurrection of Christ. As we now know, both holidays are celebrated world wide and most know the root of the holidays (though many may not celebrate it this way) as religious holidays. But their roots lie in Pagan rituals. Do we decide to just stop celebrating these holidays based on their origins?? Do we decide to stop putting up a Christmas Tree when we discover that that, too, was based in Pagan rituals??

So, that brings me to Halloween. When I see little kids running down the street in excitement in their Princess costumes...or their Iron Man costumes....are they celebrating a holiday of evil and death, or one of fun and imagination?? Do they even know what that means?? Or are they having fun....being told how cute they are.....going from house to house asking for candy?? Oh yeah, that is some evil doings there. And what am I doing when I am out with a smile on my face greeting those little charmers and showing them love as well as enjoying my kids joy?? Am I not showing Christ??

So, we celebrate Halloween. Let's face it...most of the characters out there are make believe!! I think we give Satan more power than he deserves or has!! I wonder how much victory he gets in our intolerance vs. being one who chooses to be out among the crowds, talking with neighbors you would NEVER meet otherwise!! Poor Sierra, she only got 3 years of trick or treating due to my intolerance.

Friday, October 29, 2010

"You Again"

So, my husband called me this morning, around 10:30. He said "Get Sierra, get in the car right now, and go to the movies to see "You Again". He knew I had cabin fever since I stayed close to home this week, Sierra's first week of homeschooling. I took advantage of the time to keep the house clean and making yummy food for us to enjoy, but today is a beautiful day here in The Woodlands, TX and he knew I wanted to be free.

I thought...why not. So, I shouted to Sierra to be ready in 2 minutes (not hard since I make her get dressed and get ready as if she were in school everyday) cause we were going to the movies. We pulled off to a convenient store for goodies (cause I am NOT paying for movie goodies) and off we went.

This movie is an odd's PG. Do you know how many PG comedies there are out there?? The precentage MUST be in the LOW single digits. Not only was it PG, but it was a GOOD PG. Sadly, the best comedies are the ones filled with vulgarity and promiscuity...and thus we don't get to see them. This one was a bit on the cheesy side (what comedy isn't?), but it was VERY enjoyable. I laughed a LOT and was uncomfortable in all the right parts (those scenes where the actor is making a fool of him/herself). The reviews for the movie weren't the best...but, as a friend had told me, it was definitely worth watching (and supporting....there are not enough of these clean movies out there).

The interesting thing about this movie was the relatability of the main character to my own HS years. You see, it is about a girl, Marnie, whose HS years were spent in a constant state of awkward, from her braces, to her glasses, to her acne filled face. She was clumsy, somewhat nerdy, and singled out as an outcast by all. Her brother, who was beloved by everyone, gave her the pep talk that allowed her to make it through HS and go on to not only become successful in life (career) but also in her looks (long stringy hair gone, beautiful blonde now...braces replaced by straight, white teeth.....glasses replaced by contacts....and acne replaced with creamy skin.......awkward to beautiful and confident). She finds out that her brother is marrying her arch nemesis from HS, the girl who tortured her for 4 long years and she finds herself obsessing over acknowledgement and redemption for her wronged past.

I was that girl. My torture began in 6th grade. I was always quiet and kept to myself...and then my father and step-mother decided to paint a bullseye on me! It began with rollers. You know the kind...sponge My stepmother would put about 100 on my head each night. In the morning, she would pick the curls out to a FRO and than would slick my hair down to my ears and pin I would have a ring of tight curls going around my head!! SICK, right??? It gets worse. As if that wasn't bad enough, they didn't want the curls to I had to wear a HAIR NET!!! Oh, they tried to ease the blow to my self esteem by getting me ones with BEADS in it. if my FIERY RED HAIR wasn't bad enough (at the time...I LOVE it now), now I had frizzy curly hair with a hair net!!

To make matters worse?? My step-mother decided to make me dresses. Now, I thought they were pretty, but I soon discovered they were not (I remember one girl telling me that her mom would not buy the class picture because of my red picnic tablecloth was a red and white plaid, not checkered, and had a red bib and red was my favorite dress until that moment).

So, there I was.....a small, skinny, pale red haired girl with frizzy, curly hair in a hair net, bad clothes, and I was shy....oh, and I always had my nose in a book. Yep...a combination for instant ridicule and so the fun of school begun.

I endured this ridicule, often to a HIGH level of pain and/or humiliation, for 7 years of school.

I have often thought how awesome it would be if even one of my tormentors apologized. Just one. I have played it out in my mind. Oh how great it would be. To only be told "I am so sorry". That has not happened, of course. I doubt it will. My husband has said he would like to beat up all my former schoolmates for the damage done to my self esteem.

But this isn't boo hoo on Sandra time. A lot has happened in the 18 years since graduation (18 years? wow!). I had to stay in the town I lived in (a small town, much like the one in the movie, except MUCH dingier) for a year after graduation due to a surgery I had scheduled (jaw), but the first chance I got, I left. It was a liberating feeling, striking out on my own. As I drove myself from that small town to college (Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, TX), I remember laughing and smiling...determing that the shy, geeky self was gone. By the time I pulled up to my dorm, I had taken off the old and put on the new. I became outgoing and friendly. I quickly gained a gaggle of friends and over the next few years, began to try to patch up the holes in my the time with band-aids and duct tape (I was not as quick a study as Marnie in the movie).

Than I met my husband. He didn't know he was a construction worker, but he is. He brought with him morter to fill in the holes, trying to remove the band-aids that I had haphazardly placed there, though residue stuck around. With him, sitting on his shoulder waiting for me to invite him to finish off the repairs, was Jesus. He washed the residue clean, reinforced the mortar that Matt had used, and than covered it all in His love and mercy.

I am human. I would still love to be able to hear those words..."I'm sorry, Sandra"...but I don't need them. I do not depend on them. I do not expect them. I did take some satisfaction of Marnie sitting on a floor with her arch-nemesis, Joanna, as Joanna looked her in the eye and apologized for all she had done. Ok...let's be honest....I took satisfaction out of Marnie exposing Joanna for her past, though I did feel in my gut that her past should be her past and her present self should speak for itself.

So..."You Again" is a funny movie. I was glad to see it...and even glad to experience it...but even more glad to be OVER it (by it, I mean my past). My past made me who I am today. I have scars. Sometimes, I have the voices of the past trying to still beat me down. BUT, I have Christ who banishes those thoughts and tells me I am more than that. I have a husband who sees me as a beautiful woman and not an awkward, skinny red head with bad hair and braces...who loves me unconditionally. I have a GREAT life. Who knows who or what I would be without these experiences. God directs my footsteps. It was no accident that I went through that time in my life.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Cry For Help

A couple days ago, my daughter uttered a cry for help. It was a cry I had heard before, a few times over the course of the last year. We would listen to her thoughts and would, as any parent would do, come up with a solution, assuring our daughter that her health (physically and mentally and emotionally) and well-being were our utmost priority.

Her cry?? She asked us to homeschool her. Now, I am one of those parents that sees the ups and downs of homeschooling, public schooling and private schooling. I truly believe that each individual family should make that decision on their resources, their familial life, and their kids.

From an ethical stand point, I have never worried much for Sierra. I believe that we have laid a good moral, Christian foundation into her PLUS Sierra is her own person. Anyone who knows her knows she is not easily influenced into doing something she does not want to do. She has NEVER had the desire to be a part of the "in-crowd". She does not like anyone who thinks more of themselves than they should. She is very open to us, me, and I trust her implicitly that she will stay on the right course for her better future.

From a social stand point, I have been worried only that she can be shy. She is not incredibly shy, like I was in school (and am still). She is quiet in class...a teacher's dream. She has her friends that she can be silly with. She is a bit more mature than most of the kids her age. She, long ago, stopped playing with toys. She is not a giggly girl who loves silly things like the Jonas Brothers, Hannah Montana (Miley Cyrus) or (thank GOD) Justin Bieber. She has a mind of her own and tends to not plug into what ever invisible force field most kids plug their brains into each day. Her tastes differ vastly from the norm. She loves Christian Rock, especially Flyleaf and Skillet. Most of her friends like Kei$ha and Lady Gaga and Eminem...all of which she would not be allowed to listen to even if she wanted to, which she doesn't.

Academically, she is on track. She puts a lot of pressure on herself to make all A honor roll, something she has not yet accomplished, though she has come very close. She beats herself up for not making those grades (though she is currently bringing in As and some STRONG Bs). Her teachers love her and I think she beats up on herself far more than she needs to. School is hard this year, though. She gets homework every night, including weekends. Math, in particular, is going at lightning speed (much faster than what I had...they are doing algebra now). She feels like she is getting lost.

When Sierra approached us with homeschooling last year, we pinpointed the issue...Math. She felt like she was getting buried in Math. We asked her...if we get a tutor, would that change your mind? She sighed in great relief...YES. So, she got a tutor for the whole of summer and felt at the end of summer ready to tackle 6th grade.

But 6th grade is far different from 5th. She got approached by a kid in her class a few days ago...this kid asked her if she had ever considered suicide or cutting. This shook her up. She tells me about all that she hears each day and how uncomfortable she is. She used words like "I just don't feel safe at school" and "No one gets me there". She also used words like "I feel overwhelmed at school", "They just go to fast"...and even, with tears filling her eyes "I just want to die sometimes". NOW, I KNOW girls can be dramatic...even my girl (especially my girl), but I have to take these things seriously.

Anyone who knows me KNOWS I research...I research and research and research. So, this is what I did. I sat and started digging. I looked up curriculums to see what we could do. I looked up homeschooling sites...looking at pros and cons lists. I emailed friends who homeschool.

Here's the thing. I live in Texas...a mostly Conservative and Christian State. I was not surprised to find out that we have in our area a HUGE Christian Homeschool Group. This group has activities for kids her age and for parents. The information out there is incredible. And, being in such a Conservative and Christian community, the level of support I received, whether we decided to homeschool or not, was those who do homeschool and those who do not. Most, it seems, are like me and believe it is a case by case issue.

One thing I read from a pros and cons site I was on was that many will argue that kids need to learn how to deal with bullies, or mean kids, or whatever. The point brought on by this was (and I know this to be true from my own issues with bullies growing up) that when the kid graduates from high school, when does that kid ever deal with this again. Getting that degree is like a magic paper that all the sudden ends all these issues. Kids go their seperate ways and grow up. Sure, there are still snotty adults out there, but we do not have to deal with them if we do not want to. What an interesting perspective....not that Sierra was being bullied. If anything, everyone wants to be her friend.

So, I researched homeschooling. I researched curriculums. I listened to my daughter tell me the reasons why she should be homeschooled...some of them ridiculous (she had one about her hair that was just some of them I could not ignore. After careful thought and consideration, Matt and I finally agreed, that under certain conditions, we would pull her out of school:

1) She finish the grading period she is in at ends Friday, so not a hard task. I check on her grades online almost daily. She is pulling in a strong AB honor roll.

2) She had to understand that this would not be a hole she could crawl into. She would have to work HARD...harder than she did at school. She would have to dig in and study and work. She would also need to understand that she could not use this as a way to hide. It would be so easy for her to just be with me all the time and never her peers. Most parents want their kids to be closer to, both my kids want to be with me always (well, Daniel finds it a bit easier to go out and play....let's face it, he is all boy and all play). She had to know she would have to put herself out there socially...become part of some clubs and activities.

3) She wouldn't just roll out of her bed and wear pjs all day, every day. She would have to get dressed, brush her hair (duh, she is OBSESSED with her hair), brush her TEETH, and even, (yes, really) exercise daily. This would not be a license for her to just slob out. No sleeping until 10 am and than working. She will get to sleep in a little later, but not much...and still to bed each night at a decent time.

4) She would need to be open to instruction. She can be hard headed, though she has mellowed out as she has matured.

and 5) We would take this on a year by year basis. We would feed her needs each year and evaluate whether she needs to be here or if she needs to be in public school. We have to do what is best for her.

Everyone agreed to the stipulations. We ordered the curriculum. She has a couple days of school left. We are buying her a desk this weekend and Monday, she starts here, at our home school. I told her she could name the school...we would get a mascot and I will design a "crest". Sierra and I are creative and I am trying to feed it.

I would be lying if I said I was completely happy about this. I enjoy my days of peace in my house...husband at work, kids at school, and me with the animals. It is a vital part of my makeup to have time to myself. It is how I recharge. I have been VERY recharged in the last couple months. I also have the pressure of her education and socailization on my shoulders. I have to do all I can do for her success. And, I KNOW her school is an EXCELLENT schools and my teachers were no where NEAR this level of excellence.

BUT, I need to do what is best for my daughter....I need to answer her cry for help. I have heard many of my family's and friends personal stories of how they had wished they had listened to their kids cries for help. It is these stories and my own convictions that makes the other things get squashed down. I am mom. I am here to raise up my kids to the best of my ability. I can sacrifice some personal time (I have already told her much of her learning will be self-taught...and she will do it in her room.....for me and for her). I am mom...and she is my daughter. She cried and I answered.

And, just for added fun...Daniel. I had no doubt that he would be fine with this arrangement...Sierra at home and he in school. He is thriving in school. He is reading like no body's business, his teacher is EXCELLENT in every way....and he's in Kindergarten, the negative influences are minor. He's a good kid. AND, when asked if homeschooling sounds like fun, he quickly answered "NO!". He loves school. For now (and maybe for his whole time in school), he will remain in public school. As I said, I believe it is a case by case basis.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Homeschool or Not?

At the end of 5th Grade, Sierra begged me to homeschool her. My reaction...sheer PANIC!!! What!!??!!!!! It can't be so!!

After a very heart wrenching discussion, I nailed down the problem. We agreed to get a tutor for the summer to get her confidence with math up!!

Today, she brought up homeschooling again. She feels strongly that she wants to be homeschooled again. Her grades are up...she is doing better. But, she feels lost.

#1 -- 6th Grade is hard. They are going super fast and she has constant quizes, tests, homework nightly and weekends, etc.

#2 -- Maturity level of the kids. She is definitely more mature than most kids her age. She is not into the normal kid's things (Bieber FEVER...NO THANKS). lol She is not into silly girl stuff like gossiping.

#3 -- Relatability. She likes Christian Rock. Everyone she knows likes Kei$ha and Lady Gaga. She feels like she has nothing in common with her peers. She has lots of friends...but...

I don't know. I have to take this VERY seriously. She is struggling emotionally and mentally. As a mom, I have to take EVERYTHING into consideration. If she feels lost in her studies, I need to find out what she needs to succeed. If she feels lost socially, I need to find out the best way to feed that.

Can you say SCREAM!!! Who said being a mom is for the weak at heart!!??!!

To Homeschool or NOT?? I had my own struggles in school, and so I have DEFINITE sympathy for her and know the IMPORTANCE of taking this VERY seriously.