April 26, 2008

Summer is here...


I am thoroughly enjoying these last wonderful days of Spring. The overall daytime high temperatures have been under 90 degrees and the evenings have been cool and breezy. It has been such a treat for us and we are going to miss this spring-like weather come next week. The forecasters are telling us to expect 100 degrees beginning mid-week. It has been several years since we last had cooler temps right on through the start of May. We have been lucky to hold off the century mark some years until mid April. This year, however, we will probably make it all the way to the first week of May. I know...for those of you who live in the North or back east (or even to the West of us), I sound crazy! A 90 degree day IS SUMMER!! Yes, but for the desert SW, our summers peak anywhere from 109-120 so a 90 degree day (with little humidity) is PERFECT!

I have only had my shorts on once so far this month (again unusual -- by mid-March I am in shorts). I have jeans on today and just was thinking that at 77 (current temp), I might even need my sweatshirt for my son's recital today. Laugh if you want...but those of us with thin-blood find 90 degree days cold!

April 24, 2008

Five weeks and counting...

It is hard to believe but we are down to our last five weeks of school. I have our lessons planned out through the end of May and then scheduled us off for the entire summer. In year's past, we have chosen to home school year round, but this year I decided to move us onto a more traditional schedule so that my son would have more high school opportunities to be with friends (camp and such).

I pretty much have our 10th grade curriculum set. I haven't bought anything yet, but have made my list and know what I want us to use for next fall. I am still wavering on a few items, mostly foreign language, but have everything else selected and even bookmarked (online sites).

One thing we will continue to do is create our schooling online. I made a virtual schedule for my son two years ago (8th grade) and found that it was easiest for me to do. Since I am a website designer, I find working in this medium the fastest way for me to get my ideas and concepts down and published. This past year, I switched us back to a paper system and found that we fared no better in getting everything done on time. My son actually became less independent and would wait for me to tell him what to do. With our electronic schedule, he has access to everything he needs. If he is to read a book online, the link takes him right to the page. If he is to listen to composer music, the link downloads a MP3 file for him to listen to in iTunes. Cool, huh? The only downside is that I don't have a way to actually track what we are doing each day -- I have to keep a paper system for record keeping -- but hey -- I would have to do that any way.

I hope to start working on our new schedule soon. DS has asked if there is a way to do it completely virtual with a tracking system built-in. I don't think so...at least I don't have the software to do that. Good idea though...that kid is always thinking such BIG thoughts!

April 19, 2008

Recital

DJ performing a Mazurka by Chopin
April 19th, 2008


Mrs. Mackin and DJ
Macklin Music Studio

April 17, 2008

Country Cats

I never thought I would become enamored with cats again -- not after our recent go round with watching our beloved aged ones pass on. In the past 9 years we have buried 4 of our 5 family friends (in the backyard). Our lone remaining cat, a black burmese named Zachary, turns 18 this August. He is crippled with arthritis, but still manages to get around and have a rather chippy disposition. I was bound and determined NOT to have any more cats, not after the sadness of dealing with cancer and other serious illness in our cattery. It is a hard thing to watch a pet die, especially, when it is a terminal illness and there is little that can be done, but to humanely euthanize them.


Gus

But, I relented last summer, after the umpteenth plea from son, then age 13, to have a "pet of his very own." He had been pestering me for a cat for a long while and my answer had been the same -- not until Z passes away. We, both DH and I, felt it wasn't right to bring another animal into the home while Z, being aged and crotchety, was still alive. It had been a year and a half that Z was alone. He had never been alone before as he was the last of the kittens born to our stray Burmese mama back when we lived in San Jose, CA. He survived being abandoned by his mum (who was killed one morning), being dumped into a family of four very social cats (living with us in a tiny 2-bedroom apartment) and then being scooped and moved to a new home, not 2 weeks later. He was frantic, terrified and psychotic (nicknamed -- Z the Psycho cat). He did become less feral over time, but was the least friendly of all our cats. When we made the decision to move to AZ, we couldn't leave him behind so he got packed up with the rest of the cats (and a 2 year old toddler) and whisked 700 miles away to Phoenix. He then got re-acclimated to life in the desert. Three more moves and he has survived them all (one from a rental condo to a rental house and finally to our own home).


Winston

So, last year, the very last thing on my mind was adopting another cat. No, no, no. Don't get me wrong, I love cats and have always had them in my home (some 40 years). I just was ready for new furniture and no kitty litter! SIGH! I also wanted to sleep without any fetters upon my feet nor hear the purr, purr, purr of a cat perched atop my head each night. I really wanted my own life, one where I could go where and when I wanted and where I didn't have to think about feeding or scooping poop anymore.


The Boys - usually asleep

Well, I relented, we adopted a stray kitten whom we affectionately called Winston. He will be a year old in June and I must say has charmed us all. He is a beautiful and loving cat -- very calm and very sweet. He is playful, but just a bit timid so he prefers to watch for a while before jumping in. Our Z took to him right off. I think he was sad and lonely and longed for a friend. They are not best-buds, but they get along. They sleep together, eat together and occasionally clean each other's ears (always a sign of affection). Moreover, Z has stopped the lonely crying and has mellowed a bit more (mostly he sleeps).


The epitome of Happy Cat

Shortly after getting Winston (aka, The Poohster) we adopted a second kitten, named Gus. Gus came to us at 3 weeks of age and required a great deal of hand-raising. We got him, mostly to spare his life, but also to save my legs (which Winston particularly enjoyed scratching). Gussy will be 1 in August and is comical and theatrical (we named him Asparagus after TS Eliot's Gus the Theater Cat). He cracks us up all the time -- he steals things and hides them away. He plays with just about anything he can find and often can be seen carrying his toys in his mouth. He and Winston are buddies -- snuggling and cleaning one another. They keep each other company and they are both gentle with Old Z.



April 10, 2008

Teens in the Media...Again!

I was shocked when I saw the video of the Florida teen being beaten by "supposed" girlfriends on TV the other day. I couldn't believe that "friends" would lure this teen girl to their home and then beat her mercilessly and inflict such terrible harm. I know, I know...it is the state of affairs in our 21st century...but still, one does wonder why these girls would even think to do such a horrible thing? The parents of the girls are shocked, of course, and simply cannot believe that their teen would do such a thing. I want to know why they are shocked because this type of behavior doesn't just show up one day. One day, your girl is playing Barbie's and the next day she is beating a teen senseless. No, no, no.

Today, I read on Fox News that the victim will be home schooled through the end of her high school years (guessing two more). What a said turn of events. This girl now must be home schooled to protect her safety as well as to help her recoup some measure of security. I am sure the anti-home school league will rise up and make some sort of comment about why this is not a good solution to the problem and those on the left will decry that more money given to education would have helped prevent such a beating.

The problem as I see it is a lack of character education at both home and school. One hundred years ago, students were taught that character did indeed count. The virtues of honor, integrity, and kindness were highly valued and students who exhibited such "character" were lauded and praised. We no longer consider these to be valuable assets in education. Parents are not teaching their children right from wrong and schools are no longer allowed to instill values or morals in the classroom. Why? Simply because we now live in a "relative" society and what is good for you, may not be good for me. If we do not embrace one system of societal values, a general assumption of what is good and bad, then we cannot expect our children to develop attributes that reflect these values in the choices they make, in the friends they keep, and in the way they choose to live their lives.

At one time, the general guiding force in America was founded on Judeo-Christian values. The Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule -- "do unto others as you would have others do unto you" (a corruption of Jesus' words to Love your neighbor as yourself") used to form the basis of our value system. In the last 60 years, our country has been attacked by people who do not share these same values. They instead want a country that is value-less. It is impossible to judge another person if you have no established sense of value.

The truth is that we are living in the light of this core value change. We have seen a generation or two grow up without any values and as such they are living examples of what kinds of people are created when there is no "right" or "wrong."

The Definition of Character Education

Character education involves teaching children about basic human values including honesty, kindness, generosity, courage, freedom, equality, and respect.

The goal is to raise children to become morally responsible, self-disciplined citizens. Problem solving, decision making, and conflict resolution are important parts of developing moral character. Through role playing and discussions, children can see that their decisions affect other people and things.

Source: From The Language of Learning: A Guide to Education Terms, by J. L. McBrien & R. S. Brandt, pp. 17-18, 1997, Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

There is a push on now to try and put character education back into the public school system. Non-partisan programs such as Character Counts are popping in schools throughout the country. The problem is that these programs teach that the outcome of character training -- the end result -- can come through mental assent and training of the will. They leave out the fundamental ingredient which is a change of heart. Without a heart bent towards mercy and graciousness, the resulting actions simply are "put on" and not inwardly or foundational motivations. Why should I be nice to you, if you are not going to be nice to me?

The Bible speaks of this type of love between friends -- a love that seeks it's motivation in a returned response. I will help you because you have helped me. I will be kind to you because you have been kind to me. The problem is that this kind of affection or attitude only works so long as both parties are equally sharing the responsibility and tending to the needs of the other. It is a very idealistic type of love -- the one Thomas More wrote about in his work, Utopia. The kind of love that many sincere secular and religious people still believe is possible and that can indeed reshape and redevelop our world.

The Bible, however, is clear that while this kind of love is a good thing, it is not the kind of love that really can reshape and redevelop our world at all. No, the kind of love that can do this is the love shown by our Creator and by His Son, Jesus. Agape love is the only kind that truly can impact and change our world. It happens one heart at a time and it requires more than simply "choosing" to do the right thing. It requires a heart that "knows and understands" what the right thing is and chooses to do it -- no matter if the other person or circumstance warrants it. It is not "I'll help you if you help me" -- it is "I'll help you because you need my help." This kind of love can only spring forth from a heart that has experienced it first hand. The only way to do this is to encounter the God of Love and to receive His blessing freely. A changed heart will engender changed attitudes and changed actions. Only the Lord above has the power to change hearts and to change minds set on destructive behavior. Only the Lord can forgive the sinner, pardon the sin, and create newness where there was once only deadness and rotten matter.

Oh how our children need character training now -- but not the kind the public schools are teaching. We need Biblical character training -- the kind Jesus taught -- the kind that can only be taught by the Lord and through His word.

April 9, 2008

Hallelu Yah!


Psalm 115:14-18

14 May the LORD make you increase,
both you and your children.

15 May you be blessed by the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

16 The highest heavens belong to the LORD,
but the earth he has given to man.

17 It is not the dead who praise the LORD,
those who go down to silence;

18 it is we who extol the LORD,
both now and forevermore.
Praise the LORD.


I will Praise the Lord for He is good. His mercy endures forever!

April 2, 2008

Summer Planning


My BIL and SIL recently visited us (over Easter) and invited us to stay with them this summer in a rental house up in Aspen, Colorado. Their middle daughter attends a running camp in Ft. Collins each summer, and last year, my SIL made the initial 8-hour drive while another Mom made the pickup trip. This year they decided to take advantage of a friend's offer and use their summer home in the mountains. They have invited us along with my PIL (parents-in-law). We are thinking it over and might just venture to make the trip up from Arizona. We visited friends who lived near Aspen, in Eagle, a few years back and it was a great trip. However, with gas prices being so high, it is hard to say whether a driving trip is a good investment this year. Then again...August in Arizona, is just about enough heat for anyone and a trip north into the cool mountain air might just be worth the extra expense of getting there. Oh well...nice to think about it. We have until July to make a decision so plenty of time to get really annoyed and irritated by the long hot summer!