Saturday, January 30, 2010

R.I.P. Gateway J., 2006-2010

Gateway J., the beloved laptop computer of Joanna J., died suddenly on January 30, 2010.  She was only 3 1/2 years old.  

Adopted from the local Best Buy store, Gateway J. grew up in a loving home.  She was not the fastest and most technically advanced of her peers, but she faithfully tackled every job given to her.  Her lifetime accomplishments include record-keeping for growing Avon and EBay businesses, family photo storage, and protection of an extensive recipe collection.  Even at the end of a hard workday, Gateway J. was always willing to play a friendly game of Spider Solitaire.  It is because of Gateway J. that this blog, Grace In The Home, came into existence.

Gateway J. was often seen as a companion for Joanna J.  She loved to travel in a stylish bag and she enjoyed being seen at local Starbucks and Barnes & Noble stores.  Her cheery desktop backgrounds always made people feel happy.  She loved to entertain her big sister, Grace J., with preschool websites and activities.

Although her last year was spent in poorer health, Gateway J. had no interest in retiring.  Her last official duty was publishing the blog article Kindergarten Contemplations.  

A brief memorial service was held today in the Geek Squad waiting room, presided over by Gary, Senior Geek Squad Technician.  In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Gateway Motherboard Research Center.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Kindergarten Contemplations

It’s hard to believe that I’m even writing this post because I am having difficulty with the fact that my baby will soon be old enough for school.  It really doesn’t seem like five years since Todd and I held her in our arms and thanked God for her miraculous birth!  And I’ve heard it only gets faster…

We have some big decisions coming up in the next couple of months about Grace’s education.  There are so many things to consider.  Of course, each option has both pros and cons, and we are prayerfully seeking the best choice for us.

Side note:  This post is not meant to criticize any school or program.  A parent’s right to determine the best education for their child(ren) is a highly personal and subjective matter.  There is no right answer for everyone!

Todd and I have not made a final decision yet, but here are the options that are available and my thoughts on the matter:


PROS:  I am a former employee of the current district in which we reside.  I know a lot of people and I have a high level of confidence in the kindergarten program in our neighborhood school.  This is obviously the easiest option for us to choose because it is FREE and CONVENIENT (a short walking distance from our home).  It would be quite easy for me to become involved in the school.  A few of Grace’s friends from church will be beginning this school in the fall, so she will see some familiar faces.  It would also be nice to be a part of the local community in which we live.

CONS:  The class size is large (up to 21) and Grace has a tendency to get lost in the crowd.  She is rather quiet and reserved (until you get to know her), and she doesn’t bring a lot of attention to herself.  I’m afraid that she might not get as much academic attention as she would in another option.  Also, I’ve been in a lot of kindergarten classes and I’ve seen a lot of shocking things.  Regardless of how excellent the teacher is, in a public classroom, Grace will be exposed to things I would rather her not see.  I have no desire for her to grow up in a bubble, completely shut off from reality, but Todd and I have a responsibility to protect her as best we can.


PROS:  Smaller class sizes and an emphasis on spiritual growth are the biggest advantages to this option.  The academic rigor is also well-known.  Many of our church friends attend and/or work in this school.  The location is convenient (about 2-3 miles), and the area is very safe.  Most of the families/employees in this school share similar values and I know it would be a great place for us to get involved and make new friends.

CONS:  The main problem is cost.  Private school is quite expensive, and in order for Grace to attend this school, I would need to go back to work.  This is something that we are considering, but it is not ideal.  When I resigned from public education three years ago to become a full-time homemaker, we realized that it was exactly what our family needed.  That topic warrants an entire post, but everyone is happier since I stepped out of the workforce.


PROS:  This is a relatively new charter school with an excellent reputation.  The kindergarten class size is only 12, and there is an emphasis on fine arts:  ballet, music, and art.  This is right up Grace’s alley.  Instead of one ballet class per week, she would receive classical ballet four days per week.  The academic rigor is respectable as evidenced by high testing scores.  The convenience is good (about 5 miles away) in a safe area.  I have friends who have put their children in this school and are very happy.  I am looking forward to a tour with the principal next Tuesday where I can learn more about the curriculum and see the learning in action.  Another wonderful benefit is that this is a FREE option! 

CONS:  It is still a public school venue, and many of the challenges would be the same as in our local public school option.  And, since Todd and I were both former fine arts teachers in a public school setting, I can say with some level of experience that artsy people are different.  World views, philosophies, values, etc. are not always going to be consistent with what we are teaching her in our home.  That’s not necessarily all bad, because it will provide opportunities for us to talk and teach her things from a biblical perspective.  But we also feel a responsibility to surround Grace with like-minded friends and teachers to give her a solid foundation before she spreads her wings and flies off into the world!


This is the option that both excites and scares me the most.  There are moments when I think, “I can do this!  It’ll be fun!”  And there are other moments when I tell myself, “No way.  What if I do a terrible job?  What if I forget to teach her something?  What if …?  What if…?”  Anyway, here goes:

PROS:  I honestly believe this is what Todd wants.  For whatever reason, he thinks I will do a good job. I also believe that Grace would love it.  She enjoys our times of reading and learning that we do together now, and I think that it could naturally progress into a more structured homeschool setting.  The most obvious advantage to homeschooling is that Todd and I make the decisions about what and how to teach her: spiritually, educationally, etc.  There is great freedom in the homeschool classroom, and I could tailor our program to meet her needs exclusively.  There is a HUGE homeschool support system in our area, and many families that I esteem highly have chosen this path for their children.  There are programs that I could take advantage of like co-op groups and TAFA (Travis Academy of Fine Arts), which is a fabulous fine arts education program for homeschool children in our area.  There is also great flexibility in the homeschool schedule.  I could decide to take a day to explore the local children’s museum or observe animals at the zoo or learn about Texas history at the Cowgirl Museum.  In addition to standard kindergarten curriculum, I would have time to spend teaching her things that I love like cooking, sewing, music, etc. 

CONS:  My biggest fear is that I won’t do a good job.  But, I guess it’s kind of like parenting:  you seek God’s guidance through scripture and pray for the discipline to do what is right.  Although I have moments of fear, I have finally come to a peace that if I approach this with a heart that is willing and eager to train Grace “the way she should go” (Prov. 22:6) that God will bless that endeavor.  If we do choose to homeschool, then there will be the expense of curriculum, setting up a learning environment at home, and enrolling her in enrichment activities like athletics and/or dance.  We would also pay for TAFA and memberships to places like museums, the zoo, etc.  These expenses are minimal compared to the cost of private school, but they are expenses nonetheless.  We also have concerns that Grace is an only child.  She is naturally shy, although she seems to be gaining more confidence every day.  We would counter this challenge and provide her opportunities for socialization through church, homeschool groups, TAFA, sports teams, ballet classes, etc.

I do have the added comfort of knowing that even if we make the “wrong” decision and our situation doesn’t work out, it’s not the end of the world.  It’s not like we’re committing to one plan of education for the next 13 years!  We can always re-evaluate and follow a different path on a future date. 

As you can see, we have a lot to think and pray about.  I would appreciate any words of wisdom or guidance from folks out there who have faced similar decisions.  I realize that everyone’s situation is different, so please feel free to leave thoughts about your own experience!

A Lesson In Shoplifting

Yesterday I witnessed a creative shoplifting technique at my local dollar store.  Grace and I were in the back of the store perusing the Jet Dry Rinse Aids when a young man came over to look for an employee. 

The kid was nervous and awkward and he started babbling about a neighboring dollar store that had just been robbed.  We heard a detailed description of how the store had been closed and there were several cop cars in front.  He had been trying to go to the other store to buy a microwave.  (Yeah, right, the dollar store carries microwaves…) 

Anyway, because of the sensational story he was telling, the front two employees wandered to the back to hear what was going on.  The manager got out her cell phone and started trying to call the store that was (supposedly) being robbed. 

With all the employees in a huddle in the back, the kid made his way back to the front of the store.  I followed him and saw him walk up to the battery display and start stuffing his pockets.  Then he slipped quickly out the door and ran off.  I turned around to go back and tell the employees and I saw the manager walking up behind me.  She had seen him take off through the window.

Grace and I heard all sorts of colorful descriptives from the infuriated manager…it was a classic “distract & rob” technique.  I’ll admit that part of me wanted to take off running after the kid and drag him back to the store by his ear…it’s the band director coming out in me…or my Nana.  Anyway, I just stood there and watched.

You have to admit the kid is pretty creative.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Quick Update

I’ve been pretty busy lately, but I wanted to give a quick update about what’s going on with me and our family these days.

My exercise and healthy eating plan has been going well.  I work out about an hour every day…treadmill, The Shred, or both.  It’s been good to get back into a routine.  My jeans were pretty tight at the end of our two-week Christmas vacation, and it’s nice to now be within two pounds of my lowest weight!  It makes me excited about keeping up my good habits and perhaps seeing my goal this spring!

I’ve also embarked on a plan to read the Bible in 90 days.  This challenge was given by our pastor, and many of my church friends are on this journey with me.  I’ll admit that I’m behind about three days at this point, but I catch up a little more every day. 

Grace is enjoying being back at home and going to her ballet class.  Next Monday I will register her for kindergarten.  Yikes!  I can’t believe our baby is that old.  We are attempting to get her into a local charter school of the arts.  They enroll based on a blind lottery system, so we’ll find out mid-March whether her number was drawn.  If not, there are many other options that we are continuing to explore.

Todd is back at work as a high school administrator.  He is preparing for the spring testing season as well as a huge career fair that he organizes.  His doctoral classes will begin again next week, so he stays pretty busy as well.

My blogging has taken a backseat among all our activities, but I will try to update at least once per week about family news, diet, and exercise goals.  And if anyone wants to join me in my goal to read the Bible in 90 days, let me know in the comment section!  It’s been a blessing so far, and I’d love to hear other people’s feedback about the journey!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Christmas Break

Hello blog world!  I’ve missed everyone.  The last couple of weeks have been filled with family, traveling, and spotty internet connections. 

Over the last two weeks, we have:

  • driven 2435.7 miles across eight states
  • celebrated Grace’s actual 5th birthday
  • visited Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, TN
  • spent Christmas with Todd’s mom and other relatives on his family farm in Bedford, VA
  • rung in the New Year with my grandmother in Gadsden, AL
  • celebrated my 35th birthday (gulp!)

We had a good trip, but I’ll admit there’s nothing like using your own shower and tumbling into your own bed when you get home after traveling.

I’m happy to report that Grace has reached “professional traveler” status…she was happy 99% of the time.  She watched Barbie in A Christmas Carol about 47 times, read books, played her Leapster, sang “Mary and Joseph” about 2549 times in every possible vocal range and key, and entertained us with stories. 

We are so thankful for God’s protection on the road during all our driving!  And our awesome 1996 Isuzu Oasis minivan is truckin’ along quite comfortably at 229,000 miles!  Gotta love it.

For my Christmas/birthday present, my sweet husband bought me an iPhone!  It is SO INCREDIBLE.  I am so comforted to know that I’LL NEVER BE LOST AGAIN.  And who knew there were so many opportunities in the day to catch a quick game of Bejeweled Blitz?  And imagine my delight when I discovered I can check the weather, pay a bill, or update my Facebook status in a matter of seconds?  Thank you, honey!

I wish I had some good pictures to post from our trip, but I haven’t figured out yet how to transfer pictures from my iPhone to my computer.  I’m still looking for the iPhone for Dummies book.

Life is slowing back down a little now, so I’m looking forward to getting back into a routine with housekeeping, babysitting, church, blogging, diet, exercise, etc.  My plan is to start The Shred again tomorrow (ouch).  My jeans got a little tighter during our trip, and I need to get back on track with my health goals.  Can I get an “amen?”

If I can lift my fingers enough to type tomorrow after Jillian Michaels kicks my you-know-what, I’ll share a few things about our vacation…which thankfully didn’t involve any roadside assistance or questionable hotel rooms this time.