Writing again…

I started writing this blog during a time I had thrown up my hands in disgust with a story I was writing. I was overwhelmed by insecurities, and by my own inability. However, the only way to become a good writer is to practice, so today I offer a glimpse at the newest installment of my cheesy story.

Chapter 7

Kalen ran her hand through her shaved head. Her first days at the Center had been trying. She had been shaved, deloused and reclothed. She now wore the simple grey jumpsuit of a Noviate. The food was horrid. Protein pellets, more appropriate for chickens then real people, thought Kalen. Testing had begun.

There were only a few reclamations trickling into this Center from the villages. None were Kalen’s age. There were some children here, more then in the villages, but a young child was still rare. Kalen would be one of seven children of varying ages beginning Learning this week.
The first day of testing dealt with physical endurance. The Noviates were woken early and fed a breakfast of cool clear water. Just water . The stocky Learned administering the test claimed that a day of fasting would sharpen the reflexes. A rigorous obstacle course was set up, and and the Noviates ran it again, and again, until they collapsed. Each Noviate was then judged with consideration of his or her age, gender and build. Extra points would be awarded for leadership. Kalen scored near the center of the group.

The mental capacity test was the most rigorous. Kalen spent the day in front of a clear, living screen. Tentacle-like electrodes were attached to her skull to measure her responses. Though she feared what had happened with Ja’tem, there was very little Kalen could do to alter the test. The flashing images continued long after Kalen was conscious of them. At some point Kalen was carried to bed.

Kalen rubbed the sleep from her bleary eyes the morning afterward. She had missed First Meal. She never even heard the call. She slid out of her cot, one of many. Only a few were occupied in the grey circular room. The other Noviates were already up, and only a few of the lowest ranking Learners shared this room with them. Kalen gathered up the jump suit that had been cleaned while she slept. She should wash herself, but she was anxious to see her scores.

A fair haired boy, Sedrin Kalen thought, pushed past her on the way out. She hadn’t really gotten to know any of the others yet. She knew their names. She knew that Tew was the little boy from a village who cried himself to sleep at night. Sedrin was cold. A girl, Nir, was from the Center. She had a haunted look and talked to herself. Last night she woke up screaming in her sleep.

Kalen made her way to the courtyard outside of her room. The courtyard, a vast garden, was a meeting place where the Noviates met their instructors each morning, long after the Workers left for their duties, but before the Learners began their studies. The Noviates chamber was on the lowest level of a ten level tower. The expansive courtyard was circled by five such towers. The courtyard was a mixture of intricate stonework and botanical wonder. Screens of flesh were grown inconspicuously into the greenery at varying heights.
There was a special place in the Garden, a stone bench surrounded by vibrant red flowers that Kalen could not name, that Kalen had discovered on her first day. It was there that she went to activate a screen and discover her scores.

Kalen pressed her hand against the screen. She felt movement beneath her palm as enzymes on the surface of the screen worked to identify her. In a moment, her scores appeared. Kalen was relived to see that her psionic talent scores were in the average range for a Healer. Her other scores placed her in good stead to be assigned to a Medic apprenticeship, and were high enough that she would considered for a coveted Science post. It would depend on her performance during her rigorous First Year of learning.

Kalen felt something hit the back of her head. It was Sedrin. “You’re late. I’ve been sent to fetch you. Hurry up or you’ll be punished- and not by me this time either” She glared at him, but decided now was not the time for a battle. Kalen followed Sedrin to the morning meeting.

“Today will be my last one with you, and your last as Noviates.” Congratulations. You will all undergo two years of general Learning in your prospective fields before attaining to an apprenticeship. Tew, Lanos, you will go to the Tell of General Husbandy. You can hope for apprenticeships caring for, or even designing and growing the tools upon which our society functions. Lanos, a caretaker by nature, put a protective arm around Tew. “I’ll watch out for you,” the lanky girl whispered.
Kalen, Sedrin, you both scored very high in Healing and Sciences. You will join the Science Tell. You could become Medics, Engineers, or even attain to the Learned Council. Sedrin shot Kalen a contemptuous look.
Arn, and Sothe- you will be assigned to the Military Tell. Based on the leadership you show there, you could receive apprenticeship in a variety of fields. The boys- good friends from a nearby village- grinned slyly at eachother.

Nir pulled away to the back of the group and looked as though she might run, but her movement caught the Instructors eye. “ Ahh, Nir, you will, of course, become what you were engineered to be. Your psionic scores place you well withing the Psion Tell- a very elite school. Your birth givers should be pleased with themselves, as well as the team that created you. You may even make it to the colony ship! Air and Space would be learned to have you! Nir’s dark eyes darted. She looked frightened. “I-it wasn’t me,” she whispered.

The Instructor ignored her and dismissed the group. “You are free for the afternoon, but must report to your schools tomorrow morning after First meal. You can find the most direct route on any Screen.
Kalen was excited at the prospect of a free afternoon. She had not spotted Driel since they had arrived on the Flyer, and strangely, she missed him. The screen would only tell her what her Chief Instructor programmed it to- the contents of the next days classes were already available- but it would be of very little help in finding that curious boy.
The bone chime rang for second meal. Kalen weighed skipping her daily protein pellets, but decided against it- she’d already missed breakfast and her stomach was beginning to rumble. As she turned towards the Nutriment Hall, Sedrin grabbed her by the arm.
“Wait. I want to talk to you”
“What do you want. I missed first meal, and though the food here is awful, I’m still pretty hungry.”
“I’m sure you are…I imagine that living in a village gave you very little training in controlling your natural passions. You must not be used to skipping meals in order to follow higher pursuits”
Kalen tried to control her growing frustration. Blowing up at Sedrin would just prove to him and everyone else that she was as backward as they all assumed she was “Did you need something?”



I am truly blessed. My refrigerator is full of fresh vegetables, though I did not keep up with my garden; the bounty sent to us by family and neighbors. My Mom moved in with us last week, and I still have a mom. A friend offered to fix my kindle for me, which makes a lot of my online homeschool resources portable. The teacher posting free video piano lessons keeps adding more to their site. The chickens keep laying. My tomato plants are prospering, even though they are under walnut trees. My corn came up.

Emily is at Brethren Woods this week. She has gone to camp 3 years in a row. She has always done Art Camp. This time she chose the Adventure camp. I will be stretching for her, and I am proud of her for giving it a shot.

Millie’s birthday is this week. She will be three. She is saying goodbye to pull-ups, and I am saying “hello” to a bit more wash while she adjusts. I will start preschool with her this year, mostly cooking, play dough, and nature walks. She already knows her alphabet and can count to 20. I am not in a rush to teach her to read, but I did get her a book to practice tracing letters and numbers. I imagine she will want to be involved in science experiments and history lesson that the rest of the group does.

We have visited the Presbyterian church right up the road from us a couple of weeks in a row. Both Shane and I left service last week with the impression that this may be the next stop on the journey. We were really impressed with last week’s sermon, like the familiar liturgy, and the educational focus in Sunday school for the kids. The kids have enjoyed it too. It also helps to see many friendly and familiar faces from the surrounding community. We’ve invited the pastor and his wife for supper.

And here I am,trying to maintain contentment while in a semi overwhelmed panic, noticing the disordered bookshelves, the fingerprints, the cobwebs. Normally I am quite content in my disorganized but usually mostly clean home. I do need to be diligent, but then I think I just need to get over myself. I live in an old farmhouse with 5 children, whom I homeschool. Some days it is a major accomplishment that no one got hurt, everybody got fed, and there are no suspicious smells. I do have a list of things to clean and I will accomplish the list

The things I really enjoy doing right now: Lesson Plans, organizing school books and supplies for fall, finding online lessons for specialty skills the kids want to learn. Riding my exercise bike to an episode of “Grey’s Anatomy” while the kids nap/rest/read, reading a couple chapters of Aunt Dimity before bed. Shane and I are watching a really cute TV show on Netflix in the evenings called “Hart of Dixie”. Finding new ways to cook squash.

If we could stop time today…

Maggie is pushing Millie on her tricycle, right outside the window where I type. Emmy is packing for camp. Gracie finished her piano lesson and is watching My Little Ponies- the 80’s version.

Gracie REALLY likes her piano lessons. While the rest of the kids moan at the thought of daily handicrafts lessons, Gracie eats it up. I am not sure if it is the cute, nerdy instructor or the music appeals to her innate sense of order.

Maggie has a bicycle pump, and seems intent of “fixing” something.

Annie took her first step today. We clapped. She got so excited she tried to jump. She fell and hit her head. Millie excitedly related Annie’s accomplishments to Shane is a shrill octave that only she can humanly reach. Millie and Maggie have determined that there MUST be a party to celebrate. I’ll make some cookies.

Maggie and Millie are in and are trying to talk me into getting then some crackers. If I let them, they would eat every 20 minutes, ALL. DAY. LONG.

Emily needs a flashlight. I point out that there is one in her dresser drawer, then answer a question (or several) about the location of batteries. (They are in the same place that batteries ALWAYS are).

I am really proud of Emily. She saved her allowance and mowing money and bought herself a Wii with Wii Fit. She has been exercising on it diligently every day since. It is a good break from the Android, which at times tries to eat her face whole.

Annie beckons me with clicks, clucks, waves and claps. She calls me in the same manner one would a beloved puppy. She has a huge grin. I imagine she has filled her diaper.

Snapshots of my day

Overslept…no quite time, missed a couple of phone calls, didn’t get Shane breakfast. I did manage some coffee.
Three lively girls went out to feed the chickens and collect three eggs. One egg survived their lively conversation and actually made it to the house. Oversaw the rest of the kids morning chores as I did mine. A sweet neighbor brought us some squash, Emily went to check on a sick neighbor. I made sure the kids did their respective Bible study times and piano or drawing lessons. Gracie and I got my Mom’s room set up, she brought most of her things last night and officially moves in today.
I found a recipe for summer squash casserole and pulled out some chicken for supper. Made Shane and the kids a good lunch since I was such a slacker on breakfast. Put littlest people down for nap and did my workout. Now I need to: shower, get small peeps up from nap, figure out where that mildew smell is coming from, freeze some squash, and start supper.
Resource of the day:
free piano lessons: http://www.freepianolessons4kids.com/lessons_index.html
crocheting lessons: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X8bMcF26f_E&list=PL69F5A7FE3F95232F
drawing lessons: http://www.youtube.com/user/KlineStudiosArt

Why I’d rather be home…

I was going to go to the grocery store. Shane gave me a deposit to drop off and asked me to pick up staples and a composition book . I decided if I was going to get those things, I may as well head to Walmart and get school supplies for the fall. I grabbed the library bag to return some books. I noticed it was “Dress like a cow and get free food” day at Chick-Fil-A, so I scrounged together a couple of cow costumes since the bank deposits were in that part of town anyway.
We dropped off library books, then I stopped to check on how my Mom was progressing in packing for the move she is making in five days. The way she was doing it didn’t seem organized enough for me, so I sent her to the bank and Chick-Fil-A with some of the kids and got to work. By lunch time, I was exhausted. I should have gone home and taken a nap.
Instead I went to Walmart. I usually avoid Walmart as I find it to be sensory overload. However, they do have the best prices on school supplies, so I try to head in early in the school shopping season to avoid the crowds. I got what I needed and got out without to much trouble, then drove across town for my next flurry of errands.
When I got to the next store, I realized I did not have the credit card. We scoured the parking lot and the store. I drove back across town to Walmart, praying the whole time the the card was found. At first I was told that no card was turned in, but the cashier remembered me and insisted that it was. Then I was not allowed to claim the card. It is in Shane’s name. I showed my ID and gave them Shane’s number. but to no avail. I talked to several levels of workers. but they were insistent that Shane had to come in and show ID to get the card. I left before sharing a few choice words.
Then the panic set in. I was supposed to pick up Emily’s friend for a sleepover that afternoon. I needed to grocery shop. I was not sure I had time to run all the way back to Mt Solon, get another card from Shane, and still get back to pick up sleepover friend in time. And grocery shop. Or introduce sleepover friend to the joys of liver or venison. That still weren’t defrosted. My cell phone was at home. I just wanted a nap. The children, who at that point had been drug around all morning, were getting foolish. I yelled at them, and was unnecessarily harsh. I drove back to Mt. Solon.
We got another card, I apologized, got some Red Box movies, picked up sleepover friend, and FINALLY, did the grocery shopping.
Pizza and ice cream. Children so excited to check on “thier” chickens. A horse movie. A sleepover friend with a beautiful voice. Gracie discovering the recorder. Baby smiles. Finally getting to finish that craft we’d left drying on the table. I like home.

Scooping the Patties in the Pasture I’m in

My life is good, even easy at times. I get to see five amazing human beings become what they were fashioned to be. I get sticky smiles, hugs that smell like summer sunshine, and the shared confidences of young sinner/saints. I watch beautiful things grow.
I also wipe poop, clean out the refrigerator,wash a lot of dishes, wake up in the middle of the night to tend ear aches and bug bites, worry that I don’t do enough, and sometimes hide from my children.
I am not perfect. My house is never IMMACULATE. It is hard to catch some of my children with clean hands and face. Some weeks we do nothing especially fun or educational. Today I cleaned the fridge and watched a TV show while my stuffy nosed baby snuggled and nursed. The kids watched a show, and are now working on sorting out toys into their proper places. We may read or do a craft later. My neighbors are over building us a chicken coop. They are wonderful. I wish I could help, but I know squat about chicken coops and I have children to tend.
Sometimes in summertime, I long for my wilder missions trip days. I want to travel, to meet people, to know I am doing something that makes a difference. Sometimes I wish I could do more in my community, that I could be of some more usefulness. Sometimes I long to gather in the lost sheep in other pastures, to do WHATEVER it takes to compel them to come in.
But this is my pasture… this avocado smeared face, this phonics lesson, this lunch clean-up, this attitude to correct, this sleepover to plan. God can bring more sheep if He chooses, but I’ve got a line to hold here…in this pleasant place.

This Week in the Shank home…

Discipleship: question 7 of the Heidelberg, listening to Genesis again, kids working on copying Psalms. Picked up a copy of the Book of Virtues. May read a story or two from that.
Fun: Emily is getting ready to head to NJ with my Mom, think I will spend some extra snuggle reading time with the littles instead of doing a theme this week. Great Grandma Carol did send some fabulous art projects for the kids, may pull a couple out. We are heading to the library today, as well as looking for some produce stands to stock up the fridge.
Chores: get caught up on yardwork and weeding, working on cleaning out the room Gracie and Maggie were in, a couple of appointments, keep up with the normal housework
Food: Tortillas rock! I am going to make up some turkey salad and egg salad to switch up with the beans and cheese we have been stuffing them with. Keeping a big batch of summer salad and cut up fresh veggies in the fridge. Will also get some really good course bread for toasted sandwiches. For suppers, may add some roasted veggies. We tried some Baked Parmesan Zucchini rounds last week that everyone enjoyed. Emily is going to start making spaghetti once a week; her first time will be on Sunday when we go to Gramma and Papa’s house.
Mammas fun: Stumbled on the Aunt Dimity series of sweet mystery books. Playing with a story idea that I may start working on. (The Kalendriel stories are back on a shelf for a while). Shane and I may get around to watching part 2 of Atlas Shrugged.

Thoughts and Prayers: We were very excited to welcome a new nephew this week!  We start visiting neighborhood churches this Sunday, we have been blessed this summer to get to know our neighbors a little better, our friends K and A both have a lot going on in their lives, we are praying for Shane’s job at the Post Office to be posted one last time so that he can apply for it and officially be the Postmaster (he wasn’t allowed apply until the third posting)  . For safety for my Mom and Em as they travel, and a smooth transition for my Mom as she moves.