Riding the Celestial Wave

Edmund First CommunionI should have taken better note when I found just one of my eight year old son’s shoes at his grandpa’s this past week.  I was like, that’s weird. Kid isn’t even here with me. He’s at home. How can the only shoes he wears, well one of them, be here and him not? It’s kind of like looking for your car keys and you know they are around the house because the car is there. But in this circumstance the keys are at another location than the car.

How is he getting around this past week? He does have another pair of shoes. I assume and hope they are at home, but they are some serious hiking shoes that require a lot of help getting them on. I am quite sure I would have been involved in that process of helping him unlace and tie those huge blocks onto his feet. They took patience, and I can’t remember helping him lately. I concluded that he must not have left the house for the whole week. Wow. That’s kind of weird not leaving the house since last Sunday. And, he must have left grandpa’s last week with only one shoe on? Maybe no shoes? But I can only find one here.

I grabbed the spider man velcro shoe and threw it in my diaper bag and really didn’t think much about it until it was Sunday morning and it was, “Time to get your shoes on! We’re leaving in 1 minute!” This minute can be so tricky. So much pressure to get all seven ducks in a row and remain in a churchlike state.

My husband would just like everyone to get in the car regardless of anything, say explosive diaper bombs, great gothic sculptures of morning hair with fragments of some girly experiment lingering in it from last night. What would he think of a child with one shoe? He really doesn’t like to be late. Me, I don’t like to be late either but I have a fear of getting places too early and a fear of looking like I have seven kids and the kids looking like they have a mother of seven kids. Early to church means more time for little kids to get squirmy and more time for me to get stressed out. I like to get places on time looking and smelling normal which makes us late.

In my search to find his other spider man shoe, I found one of his hiking shoes. So I took that lead and started looking for its match. Nope. What does he do with just one shoe?

Time for a new strategy: girl’s closet.  He followed me dutifully, trusting my mothering sensibilities, and blocking out the fact we were in the girl’s room. They have tons of shoes. They have tons of everything. I do a lot of thrift shopping and that means lots of girl stuff and not much boy stuff. There just isn’t much at thrift shops for boys his age, or older for that matter. Sure, I could buy him new shoes. But imagine the frustration when only one of those shoes are found. The other option here would be to see if the hiking shoe and the sneaker shoe made a matching right/left pair, but I am going to leave that one as the last option.

I surreptitiously dug into the girl’s stash of shoes that would warrant his size. The best I got were a pair of sherbert orange leather sandals. Without saying a word about them, I applied shoes to feet. His toes stuck out an inch from the top. He judged them a good fit in his happy-go-lucky way. Considering our desperation, I also considered them tolerable. He could at least get in the door with these things fastened to his Barney Rubble feet. And maybe, just maybe, his pants, if long enough, would cover his ugly step sister fit bulging out of the dainty slipper. He could take the offense off after church and go barefoot the rest of the day in true hillbilly fashion. So I tried to fasten the velcro around the top of his still a little baby chubby foot, but there was no way. Nope. And, nope. No way.

This next route was the winner: his first communion shoes. 1) They were a perfect fit. 2) They were boy shoes. 3) They were exactly where they should be, paired nicely together by his dresser.

It was at this time I told him that the sandals he was somewhat fond of were girl shoes, hoping that would soften him up to wearing these bad boys instead. He chuckled at me, and said, “Mom, you put girl shoes on me?” We had a good laugh. Silly mom.

Just to give you a proper visual, (There was no time for photographs, people. We were on one minute to get to church on time.) Edmund had on a green Minecraft shirt with gray corduroys. I did try to have him wear a nice striped shirt for church, but if you would have saw his face about changing out of his favorite shirt, you would have done the same and let him wear his not-Sunday shirt. The kid really doesn’t ask for much, and one of the things I have learned as a mother is to pick your battles wisely, and to say yes to as much as you can. This was an area I could concede, and considering the day’s circumstances, the kid was gonna need to hold onto something normal boyish. His corduroy pants made a nice transition from Minecraft shirt to shiny black dress shoes. Edmund looked satisfied with his new look and said contentedly, “Well, I am going to church.”

Monday morning, there is only one black dress shoe in the kitchen. True story.

Believe it or not, I have more Edmund church stories both involving short shorts. You can mentally fill in the details. He is one trooper, that nice guy.

11951970_10205085843255702_2063005118441247357_nEdmund (not in church) just riding the celestial waves that is Number Five in colossal family.

He Learned to Fly

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Change can be hard and change can be welcome. Sometimes it’s both. I sent my sweet baby boy off to school for the first time this year. Hello, tears.

It’s not your typical story of a cute five-year-old toting a Transformer lunch box in a cute new matching outfit. It’s not that this day could not have happened sooner or that I didn’t consider it happening sooner along the way.  It just never happened. It would have felt strange for it to have happened sooner. Homeschooling came natural to me like nursing a baby.

Just so you know, wrangling kids and telling them what to do is not my idea of a fun time. Some days were pure mayhem. Some were mediocre. And some were the ideal packed with meaningful conversations, quiet breakthroughs, and passions ignited. We could eat second breakfasts and wear pajamas, to boot!

I didn’t think about him reaching the age of eighteen before stepping into an actual brick and mortar school, and a college at that, but that’s what happened. Time just flew. And, If you wait this long, they can drive themselves there and pay for their own lunch. Bonus!

It has been my pleasure to have had him home with me these eighteen years and we already reminisce about our quiet afternoons reading Tolkien and Lewis together for the first time when he was elementary age. But now it is time. Time that he should seek his fortune, slay his dragon, and perhaps, find his true love? One thing is for certain, his heart is in our little Hobbiton.  And he will find his way back.

Now that he is a man, I need not fret if he gets hurt and needs a hug, or breaks down and needs a milk and cookie break. I need not worry that what he says is not heard, or that his hard effort is not praised.  I have praised him so many times. I need not miss how cute he was playing knights with his younger brother, wearing blanket capes with butter knife swords, and building a great fortress made of sheets and school books. Because some days that was all books were good for. I need not miss his childhood presence when I would bring a new baby home, the cattle got loose, or we would hear sad, hard news and we all needed each other.

Of course, I still worry, but I know he’s fineI have seen him grow every hour, every day, from baby to man, and in such a smooth and natural manner. He can chop a cord of wood while smiling, milk a cow without her noticing, change a tire, and write a sharp essay. He can make a crying baby laugh and knows when a woman just needs a hug. He is armored with the strength that is forged in familial love. He is kind to others even when he disagrees wholeheartedly. He knows his purpose, importance, and has an opinion. He has a hungry intellect and a clear path to follow. He is strong in his faith yet humble in his soul.

I don’t mean to say he is in anyway perfect, or that I have done an excellent job as his mother. Hardly, so. I could elaborate on those two points quite extensively. It is just that the job and duty of mothering is one where you do not get to step back and reflect much. It seems you are always swimming and the end is never in sight. You get these moments on the mountain top and you see that the path you went down was guided but that you have to get back down there on the battlefield. So the story continues.

Now, I feel my mothering work has changed. Not at all finished but different. That now, as mother, I am more support and advice, more adult-to-adult, and less the laundress, cook, and nurse. I am more, let’s sit and share a cup of french pressed coffee, talk philosophy, music, and discuss each other’s day. I am less, let me pack your gym bag for the day, where’s your homework, and here’s a pb&j. I can feel where now my care could be a hindrance, a crutch.

A friend explained an analogy about raising children that resonated with me. She likened children to compression springs. If you let go of the spring too fast, they will shoot off. If you hold them back too long, they will lose their tension. But if you let go steadily, they can maintain their buoyancy.

Knowing when and how to let go, I believe, is in the grace of parenting and is particular to each family. Homeschooling came natural to us, at least as of this day. For grace seems to come as you need it and goes where you will follow it. So no judgments if you choose otherwise. I am sure you are on the right path simply because that is your intention. Love is the rubric here, not fearful judgments or cookie cutter answers. That is how I think this parenting thing works.

And that love makes the hurting part of change turn its bitter to sweetness.

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Things Keep Falling Apart

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My poor husband has an extensive honey-do list. I do try to wait for the most opportune time to, “Honey? Can you? Do you? Think you? Could….?” Things just keep falling apart. <shoulders down> <get that chin up>

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We usually like to give things a good week or so to give them time to settle into a state of brokenness and to proclaim their changed status from functional to “are-you-ready-take-a crash-course-to-figure-out-how-I-work?” At that point we like to seriously consider if it is something we really need and should therefore fix. The absolute last resort is to replace. A microwave and toaster did not meet that last requirement.

Generally, a week is enough time for true brokenness to become established. Though some things tend to fluctuate. If you’re an optimist, like we are, you will give things ample chances to just fix themselves. I think it’s a bureaucratic thing.  The “doey” item is forwarded from department to department.  And only once its status is made “officially broken,” it is added to our list.

This list of ours is a sort of floating, jumping thing that travels willy-nilly around our house. I am not sure if everyone has one like this? It just came along with our marriage. Anyways, some tasks are able to catch the wispy in a tizzy thing as it travels haphazardly around the house. For instance, remembering to get coffee. Coffee almost always manages to get on the list when it’s almost gone. Other tasks can just fall flat on their face never to be heard of again. Like, I’ll tell the list, “Okay, I need to call the doctor about a toothache.” And then the whole day will go by only to be reminded to call the dentist when they are closed! This can go on a long time despite my discomfort.

It can be difficult and slippery to hitch a spot on the Do This Thing Express. Though sometimes tasks adhere really well and then there is no end to it staying aboard. This is especially true if it’s riding coach. They do tend to get really uppity when that happens. Nonetheless, the list seems to work well enough. Why, it helped us get where we are today.

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The list has glitches, quirks, and a temper, but overall its intentions are good. Sometimes it pretends to just have a few helpful suggestions only to turn on you the next minute and issue some arrogant decree with deadlines, added expenses, and a new slew of broken things to fix. But some days it follows you around to the hardware store and grocery store and throws in some pointers in a nice and polite fashion.

We prefer to hold off just a tad from its direct orders, so the list doesn’t think it has total domination over our jollity, frolicky, “Here we go round the mulberry bush,” lives. In rebellion, the list will go all anarchist on us and lists things upside down so we remember to purchase ice cream and forget toilet paper. Not very funny but we laugh along.

Sometimes the house likes to place little jokes on the list when it gets snippy and will fix things all by itself. We seriously have had this happen more than you’d think. We do a lot of praying when things break too, way before forking any cash over and taking orders from ruley lists!

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Today, that prodding list made me feel like pulling my hair out. Isn’t that a strange sensation to feel. Probably the list put hair pulling on there for fun. It was just the clothes dryer and nothing life threatening you mean ta doey.

I do like our dryer machine. It is a fancy front loader and it matches our washing machine and that makes me feel cool. I have been hanging our laundry outside for at least a month now while my husband tries new things to poke at it to make it work. We are usually waiting for some forlorn piece to come from China, or some tool that got lost in the tumultuous outpouring that is our laundry. It just keeps being broken and the clothes don’t mind at all. They just keep marching in.

But we don’t give up. We never give up! We are a sorry case for perseverance. We just work around it until it works again, and then we feel so happy it works again. This really is a fun thing. I suggest trying it with hot water. Try one month without hot water in the winter then take a hot bath. Amazing! And dishes, wow! Dishes are great!

For now we have sunshine and and a four row clothes line. And, I don’t want to, but I will, hang lines all over the house come winter. But, to be honest, the hanging laundry thing isn’t going so well. I get the clothes washed and then I send out the girls to hang them. They do pretty good. Pretty good, not complaining. Then when I call them dry (it’s a laundry game I made up), they take them off and put up some more. Sometimes I call it dry the next day. Sometimes I forget I am playing a laundry game. It’s a pretty simple and forgiving game. But sometimes, I wake up in the middle of the night to thunder and rain, and sigh. Sometimes it rains for days, and sigh. There is nothing to do but let them dry out there and let the dirty ones ruminate. I guess I lost that time. We had a huge oak tree fall over in a storm this summer, but those trusty clothespins kept our cloth diapers a hanging safely on the line. I got extra points for that one.

I do also wonder what the neighbors think of our laundry game.

And, sigh.

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I am kind of concerned how our clothes will be once the dryer is fixed. This method of washing and drying is hard on clothes. As I was folding clothes today, I noticed my eighteen year old son’s jeans were akin to sandpaper. I’d say, 220 grit. And sometimes the clothes are really not that dry when the girls take them down. I guess I called it too early. Little confession here, it takes me about a week to get to folding clothes and by that time smells can develop. Then it’s back to the dark abyss you stinky shirt. We keep the lights off during this time in our laundry room for dramatic affect. Okay, fine, it’s broken too.

It’s probably best not to wash things unless they are super dirty at this point. I have thrown the cloth on cloth diapering, and that’s been pretty nice. I consider it my mom vacation. If you want to try this, you just think I’m on vacation. Maybe say it three times, then get some disposable diapers and paper plates. It’s been a nice vacation from cloth diapers and from dishes. And a nice vacation from laundry, and a vacation from laundry….wait there is no such thing as a vacation from laundry in my life.

Those monstrous loathsome loads have begun to rear their natural and synthetic fibrous heads. Imagine how haggard my husband will look in his hot sauce graphic tees and sunken bottom pants. How our small children will be shirtless and sockless. How we will all wear winter clothes in summertime and it will always be winter. Then the nauseating pit will send forth its drake and henchmen for me whilst beating a horrid, putrid drum with an accompaniment of chant in cresendo:

“I don’t have any clothes.”

“Where’s a towel?”

“I need underwear.”

“I smell.”

“You smell.”

I will change all their clothing to sandpaper. Their towels, an exfoliation rub from a fine spa. Their shirts will smell of morning dew and their sheets of summer thunderstorms.

Go to the laundromat, you say? Never!

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Five Coping Methods for a New Home Schooling Mother

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You want to home school but you don’t want a crazy house and you would still like a life? I can’t help you with those last two things, but I do think you can home school. And what’s a house that is not lived in or a life that is not lived?

This is my life, and this year marks the thirteenth year of homeschooling for me. And, if you do the math (I had to do the math) do you know what that means? I had my first graduation last spring! One done, only six more to go! Oh boy…

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Homeschooling has always been a year to year thing for my husband and I, but one that we have always felt called to every year. I usually get so burnt-out and terribly distracted by the end of each school year only to get re-energized right before the beginning of the next school year. It is always so much fun to think about work versus doing it. I am by no means an expert on education, or really even home-education, for that matter. I am about as much an expert at home schooling as I am at giving birth. What I have to offer may still be helpful to the homeschooling novice or initiate. My expertise is simple, it’s experience.

These are five little things that I have learned and a few suggestions for you if you prefer to learn from others and not make your own mistakes. If not, carry on making your own mistakes; this is how I usually learn, too. I think schooling at home is just a matter of life-learning, so there is no right or wrong way, just what works best for you and your family. I like to include myself in the learning part too. This year I am starting violin with my children. For some reason my fifteen year old son thinks this is cringe? He’ll see how cool it is once we play some awesome duets. He has been playing since age seven, so he’ll help me sound better.

Five Coping Methods for Home Schooling with some amount of Success and Joy:

ONE – The first day is going to be stressful, and for that matter the first week. Make your first day an “orientation day. Or more generally, start out slow.  Don’t feel bad about pace, at least not right away.” Let the kids try out that fancy watercolor set or break into making a robot. The transition from a mind-numbing, loosely scheduled summer can be harsh for you, never mind the kids, make it fun and maybe make it a half day.

Most people start homeschooling with just a kindergartner and gradually add the younger children as they come. This gives you lots of time to adjust to your new lifestyle until it normalizes. Over time we have become a family that learns together at home. That is what normal family life is for us. If you are starting with small children, you will have plenty of time to plan for educating your prospecting engineer in Calculus, even if you never took it yourself, or involving them in this sport and that. Both technology and the culture around home schooling are advancing fast, and most likely, by the time you get there, things will have continued to improve for the home schooled.

One area I have seen really advance is technology. The internet has really opened up areas for discussions and endless resources at a touch of a finger. Imagine what will come next. I imagine all school will utilize the specialization technology can offer to an individual education. If you are jumping into home schooling with a high schooler, you will be amazed what types of skills your budding adult has when given more input and control over their own education.

So don’t let your first day, week, month, freak you out! Some people prefer to school year round and therefore avoid the sudden disruption of a flurry of new books and lesson plans, lunch and laundry, the baby crying then screaming, phone calls and the household mess that comes with a good day of homeschooling. Am I stressing you out? That’s what first days can feel like.

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TWO – Use a schedule that works according to your family and its own natural rhythm. Trying to get everyone going at the crack of dawn or to alarms is not necessary unless that is the way you do things. I have tried to go against the grain of our natural routines and found that we don’t get more done, we are just more tired! I love quiet mornings and well rested kids, so I let the younger kids sleep until they naturally wake up. As long as they went to sleep when they should have, they wake up at a good starting time and I get some mommy time. Older kids usually wake up accordingly as the younger, but they may need some help if the morning gets too late for me. Sleep is so necessary for good brain development. So take advantage of the freedom to use what works best for you even if it is unconventional.

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THREE – Change things up and go back too. Dynamics will change within your family and it is so easy to think if something worked for one kid it will work for another. You can fall in love with something so much that you will miss something better.

Example 1: I loved Saxon math for the first 6-7 years of home schooling until I fell for Teaching Textbooks. Recently, my eight year old son was literally hitting his head against the dining room table last year with Teaching Textbooks, seriously hitting his head. We went back to Saxon just for him and what do you know, no more head hitting.

Example 2 and 3: I now have three girls that love art, so I added more art to our day this year after almost abandoning it for years because my two older boys dreaded it. Duh! I forgot about art as a subject because of that. I also went back to a classical education for my high schoolers after leaving it since their elementary years.

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Home schooling is always changing and growing that new things are opening up for us all the time. I am sure this has to do with all those home educators naturally wanted the best education for their children and in a convenient and approachable manner.

Keep checking into your local sphere for ways they can help you educate your children, like your school district, charter schools, home school groups, 4-h groups, colleges, tech schools, libraries, art and recreation centers. These facilities can help flesh out where you may be lacking.

However, be careful not to add so much that you forget why it is you are doing what you are doing. It can be easy to add and add, but then implementing becomes hard on you and the family. Some things are worth the sacrifice and some things are nothing but a headache for everyone. For me, I feel I homeschool best when I have an open day schedule. That way when life happens we can work around it without a huge disruption.

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FOUR – Listen to your kids, and listen to yourself. This seems like a no-brainer, but listening to your kids, and yourself (and husband), is a balance act. Sometimes, you know in your heart what is best for your kids and you have to put your foot down. My husband and I try to make important decisions together, and if it has both of our blessings, we almost consider it sacrosanct.

At the same time, we try to listen to our kids and act on their desires as much as possible. Family life is complicated and finding creative ways to keep everyone stimulated educationally takes paying attention to the growth and development of your kids, all the while, honing into what your priorities are for that to take place effectively. Staying the course on things you feel strongly about is important, but changing the course may be necessary to not sink the boat.

believe all kids love to learn and have gifts to cultivate. Find those, listen for those, and adapt a plan that feeds it, but keep to your vision of why you are choosing to home school in the first place.

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FIVE – Chill out and get to work. Kids are so forgiving and I think it is important to remember that they are ultimately in charge of their education. You can rest assured that they are still learning even if you had a bad teaching day, month, or year for that matter.

Probably the biggest part is getting, or simply letting, their creative mind motor run. Engaging in a good dialogue where you value their input works well. If you can get excited by what they find exciting it can be really helpful to instilling confidence in your budding scholar. Experiencing their education with them will help you encourage their learning. That may be all education really takes. Nevertheless, once you get to that point, you naturally want to help them along their merry way through a planned route or freestyle route curriculum that fosters it.

Combining subjects for multiple children is a big secret to success as well. If the content is interesting everyone is going to want to join in. Every time I start reading storybooks, old and young alike start to listen. But seniors do not get credit for “The Giraffe that Walked to Paris.” Maybe have them read it to the little kids. That way they will not be called for listening to a child’s book and you can go make a pot of tea.

Investing in their early education is key to tuning the motor and helping it to be strong enough to run without your assistance. It is like a weaning process or learning to ride a bike. They start out by learning on your lap, then snuggled by your side, then across the room, and then they are off telling you about things you didn’t know.

They will find new roads, they will probably go down roads beyond your vehicle’s capabilities or desires. Maybe they will hate driving roads and choose to fly, maybe they will develop laser portals and beam you up into outerspace for an afternoon Milky Way Coffee at My Momma Homeschooled Me Cafe and I Thank Her for It.

Our work is to facilitate the running of their amazing mind engines and then to sit back and enjoy the ride.

Enjoy your year!

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Cherries for Cherubs Image Gallery

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Rocky Roccoco

Back about fifteen years ago I began to enter into “color” phases. At first it seemed I just liked colors and would probably always like them the same, but there have been developments. Serious developments.

It all started with burgundy. Yea, yea, nice color. A very easy go-to for any girly-girl progressing from a pink-painted universe. When pink grows-up it turns into burgundy. Enter the Burgundy Period. This may be a bit painful to discuss, so bear with me. Yards of fabric, gallons of paint, tassels and fringes, spicy candles and kitchen equipment, all in this intoxicating rougey bliss of a color. The kitchen walls were drenched in burgundy, carpets looked better in burgundy. There are still some remnants here and there of this period, but most was purged, over-painted, or just ruined during the long stage of domination. It was a good 5-7 year reign. It was my early to mid twenties.

Then a slightly daring move came to complement this bloody mess with candy pinks, lush purples and dabs of gold. Our dining room was smeared with the deepest purple. In fact, a wine-loving friend commented she wanted to lick our walls. These were such baby steps here that I can smell the amateur and feel sorry for her obvious attractions. All other colors were there only to praise the Burgundy Queen. Left to themselves, they would fail in their boring selves. Ornate curvy objects were hoarded and lauded atop tables and on walls. I wanted a home grand enough for King Louis XV. Pity me.

A slight progression was to fire engine red. I have some respect here as this was a bold move from burgundy and a big step away from fakey Rococo. The beginnings of an American revival, no?

Things started getting too loud and passionate everywhere. It felt as though I was suffocating from all that sensual business caked on the walls. Could it be that burgundy doesn’t equal beautiful? Now green, there’s a pretty color. Green. Green. Gareeeeeen.

Aww. I still have love for this period and I gladly still sit upon its greeny couches. The greens were mostly sage-like and never lime-like, the muted and dark greens. Golds were replaced with whites and creams. Ornate swirly things were replaced with straight, simple lines. Things should be natural and appetites should not be provoked. Yes, green was a good path and it was a long period where I developed into more sensible décor, much more pragmatic and logical. It was the stage that took me into my thirties.

If it would have been just these two periods, I would not have thought it so odd. But then something happened. Blue! Blue, I NEVER SAW YOU! I had no idea how lovely you were when you’re deep or royal, cobalt or chalky. Blue.

You can see I am still in this period. I see something blue and swoon. I am dazzled by its twinkle and its clarity. I have been in this Period for two years and there is much work to be done. Walls still need paint, couches need accents, dishes need accumulation, but yesterday something happened. A slight development from blue. A perfect accent perhaps? Surely I would never leave you, blue.

But yellow. Not your light safe yellow, but your bright yellow, mustard yellow, colonial yellow. Yes, I think it is just a complement to blue.

Do you have a color history?