March 29, 2014

Walking Forward

Last Saturday morning I woke up in Ravello, Italy, along with about 90 other women attending the spring PWOC retreat. Our theme was Walking Forward in Simplicity. This was my view at breakfast:

An hour later, we sat in the conference room, reeling from the shock of an announcement none of us could have possibly been prepared for: Chaplain John Keith had died during the night from complications in an unexpected surgery.

Chaplain Keith.

Passionate--so passionate about Jesus, about people. Passionate about worshiping our God. About teaching people God's truth. About reaching out to those who need Christ's love and compassion.

It's been a week since we lost our dear friend and pastor. I feel in many ways like I've lost a family member. Even though we only knew him a year and a half, there is just something about the bond we have as believers in Jesus. When we minister together in His name, when we pray and worship together, it's family. I grieve for our own family's loss, and I grieve because my heart hurts for Regina, who lost the love of her life, and for Josh and Jonathan, who lost their dad, their mentor. I grieve for what seems like unfinished work here in our community, even as I realize God is sovereign and makes no mistakes.

Yet we "do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope" (1 Thess. 4:13). For we have Christ in us, the hope of glory (Col. 1:27). God's Word tells us that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:6), so we know that John is in heaven right now. And I have no doubt that he heard those words that disciples of Jesus yearn to hear: "Well done, good and faithful servant!" Not because John Keith earned his way to heaven, but because he, in God's grace, accepted Jesus's death on the cross as atonement for his own sin, then walked in newness of life, a walk by faith, a walk that invited others along on the journey.

We are grateful for the time we did get to have with John, grateful for the vision he had for this community and for the way he invited all of us to play our own special parts in extending God's grace to others. And while the pain is very real and present, what grace there is in finding the strength to truly give thanks in ALL circumstances, to say the Lord gives and the Lord takes...blessed be the name of the Lord.

Reevaluating what is important in light of eternity, then walking forward in simplicity, focusing on Jesus our Savior--this is a gift given to us, wrapped in the distressing disguise of the death of a saint. May we be faithful to carry on with the calling we have received.

March 01, 2014


Nearly two weeks ago, this happened:

Yes. Those are two Pampered Chef stoneware loaf pans, totally broken on my kitchen floor. The cooling rack apparently shifted just enough after I put the second loaf pan on it, enough to send the whole thing cascading onto the floor just after I had turned to put my hot pads away. (Insert a few moments of longing for the days when I actually had counter space in my kitchen...)

Two broken loaf pans. Two ruined loaves of pumpkin bread, intended for sharing with the ladies at PWOC the next day. I won't lie: I shed some tears. But while part of me grieved, some part of my brain started singing a song from one of our children's CDs: "When I set my affections on heavenly things, I find myself soaring on eagles' wings 'cause I'm living above the world, yes, I'm living above the world."

I found myself remember the things we're reading about in my PWOC class, which is studying The Hole in Our Gospel. How blessed I am that I have two MORE loaf pans--not PC stoneware, to be sure, but still. I CAN still make bread. (How thankful I felt that I hadn't donated those extra two pans--I was tempted once I got my new ones!) How blessed I am that I have MORE ingredients in my pantry, so that I still had options for sharing food with the women at our Bible study. My family doesn't suffer any lack. And I am physically capable of cooking and caring for others in my life. So. Many. Blessings.

I did share the picture of the broken pans on Facebook, with a note that the incident made me sad. I knew my mom friends would cringe at seeing those broken loaf pans! I wasn't asking for sympathy or pity, just sharing a piece of my day. (I certainly hope it didn't come across as whiny or selfish!) Many friends groaned in sympathy with me. One, writing from Guam, said maybe my secret sister would see the picture and buy me a new pan. (PWOC has a secret sister program going on.)


Tuesday the table with secret sister gifts and cards had an envelope with my name on it, which someone handed to me right before class. It wasn't until after PWOC was over that I even had a chance to open it up, and this is what I found:

If it's hard to read in the picture, here is the text:

Dear Beverly,

In the prophetic words of Erena Henderson, "AWWW MAN!! Perhaps your secret sister will see this and buy you a new one?" Done, and done. :) Be expecting 2 new Pampered Chef loaf pans in the near future. I'm thankful for you, that like your pans, you are willing to be broken. The Lord performs miracles with ordinary things like loaves, fish, and loaf pans. To a woman who sharpens me like iron:

Love in Christ our Savior,
your secret sister

Wow. WOW! Just wow. I feel totally, completely undeserving of this! But I count it as a gift of grace from a loving, extravagant God. I can't wait to learn who my secret sister is to properly thank her! In the meantime, she has inspired me to look for ways to bless others in my life!

Little Moments with Little Boys

Lest I get too caught up in schedules, activities, and what we are or are not accomplishing each day...I pray I don't forget to take time to enjoy the small people in  my house! Some days it seems that they are too much of a distraction from what I "really" need to do (laundry, cooking, homeschooling the older kids) that it's easy to forget that there was a time in my life when I ONLY spent time with littles! It hit me the other day that I rarely spend as much time on the floor holding and playing with these little guys the way I used to with Charis, Tobin, and Arden when they were young.'s getting much harder to get OFF the floor nowadays, ha! But still...Lord Jesus, please help me to make the most of every opportunity to love these precious treasures you've given to us.

Our favorite time of the day: when Daddy comes home from work!

Know anyone with a great bed head?! How about a fantastic hand-knitted sweater??

Tummy time! This picture makes me giggle because Lucan is ALWAYS in motion (notice the blurry feet) and because Charis recently resuscitated  Doof Dog (by stuffing him and sewing on a bandana to cover the gaping hole). 

Guess who lost his first tooth?! Oh, the trauma! There were tears. (Many tears.) And blood. (Lots of blood.) And a total lack of excitement or concern about whether a tooth fairy would bring recompense.

You know what's great about being two? You can wake up and decide, "I want to be a pirate today!" And no one looks askance at you at all! 

The bib says it all! Numero Sette may have completely upended our lives, but we wouldn't trade him for the world! 

February 18, 2014

A Week in the Life

Remember in elementary school when the days would absolutely d-r-a-g? When Christmas and summer break took an eternity to arrive? When lazy Saturdays were actually lazy?

Life isn't like that anymore, is it?!

I guess I need to be satisfied with some quick highlights here and there on my's better than nothing, and I'll be grateful later on when I do the 2014 digital scrapbook that I took the time to do at least this much. My last post was a "day in the life" episode; this will be a collection of musings about each day of the week.


The first day of the week is usually a good school day for us. We rarely ever leave the house on a Monday. These days are similar to the "Day in the Life" post--school and household activities keep us busy all day. I usually bake bread on Mondays as well, a double batch so we can have sandwiches for Tuesday Park Days and a quick lunch 1-2 other days of the week as well. Monday evenings I have to take time to write out homeschool assignments for the kids to take to their classroom during my PWOC time (more on that in Tuesday's paragraph). The kids get the appropriate worksheets and put in their folders, and we put all the items in the school bag (a great canvas Sonlight bag), since the older 3 kids share books for reading. Recently Tobin joined Boy Scouts, so either Ted or I make the trip with him to Support Site for the meeting. We have yet to get in our groove with this--we may be able to carpool a bit with another family nearby, but they are moving this spring. Once a month we will piggyback our chiropractor appointment with this's almost like a date night!

We get up and moving early on Tuesdays, leaving the house by 8:15 at the latest. We drive to Support Site for my ladies' Bible study (through PWOC, Protestant Women of the Chapel). Once we arrive, the older kids have duties: Charis takes Zaden to his classroom, Tobin drops off library books and takes Lucan to his classroom, Arden carries the school bag, and Kenna helps me with any random things I need help carrying. (Most of it fits in Seanin's stroller basket.) Once the kids are signed into class, I head to fellowship hall to enjoy breakfast (classes take turns bringing meals) and fellowship. We have a time of corporate worship, announcements, and often a testimony or devotional time, plus creative prayer activities. Then we break into our different classes. There are 6 classes offered this semester. I'm teaching a wonderful group of ladies, my second time going through The Hole in Our Gospel with a class. We wrap up by 11:30 so we can go pick up our kiddos from the amazing child care workers.

If weather is good, we have lunch at the park with other homeschool families--Tuesdays from 12:30-2:30 is Park Day. I dash over to pick up our raw milk, meat, and veggies--and now fresh eggs!!--from a co-op group that has been going on for a number of months now. We love it! Such a blessing. I pack the cooler and then enjoy hanging out at the park with other moms. We purposely cram school into the other days of the week so we can have this luxury. The kids adore spending time with their friends, and I need the mommy time! Tobin usually poops out on the crowd and goes to the Suburban to hide with his new stash of library books. For as talkative a guy as he is, he still really needs his alone time, and he loves the fact that he can go to the library during PWOC time to get new books. He has built quite a rapport with the Italian who works there as a librarian!

I try to get us home in time for Zaden to still get a nap. Usually he and Seanin are MORE than ready to sleep by this time. The kids help me unload the truck and clean up the breakfast mess that we left from our whirlwind departure in the morning, and then the kids scatter to do their own thing. (Today, with the amazingly beautiful weather we had, most of them ended up back outside playing on the trampoline.) Depending on my energy level, I work on dinner prep, catch up on messages, or sometimes just collapse in a heap for a short nap or rest time!

Tuesday evenings are baths for little ones, so Ted takes care of that duty while I help Charis with kitchen clean-up. Tuesdays are also sweeping nights...also Charis's if I'm not too fried I do help her out with her chores. But just as often she does all the dishes and sweeping on her own, especially if I have to nurse Seanin! I'm so thankful for her help! The boys shower and are supposed to clean the main floor with some help from Kenna. Tuesday evenings are also read-aloud nights (on non-Olympic nights, lol).

During the day, Wednesdays are pretty much like Mondays and Thursdays--school activities and regular household stuff. I try to get at least one big load of laundry done on Wednesdays. Evening is when things get different for us. Ted comes and goes very quickly, taking Charis and Kenna with him after he changes out of his uniform following work. They pick up Emily, a teen friend who lives close by, and drive to Support Site. Charis and Emily attend Club Beyond, the military youth group program led by a wonderful, godly man, Arturo, along with amazing volunteers. The teens get dinner (usually pizza) and have a lesson and small group time. Ted and Kenna hang out until 7:00, when Kenna joins the older girls and attends a worship dance team rehearsal. Ted then goes to the chapel to meet with the praise and worship team to prepare songs for the Sunday service. His involvement with the band has been such a blessing.

Meanwhile, at home, Tobin and Arden help me clean up, motivated by the opportunity to have some Wii or computer game time after Lucan and Zaden are in bed. Once all the little boys are taken care of, I let the older boys turn their brains to mush while I have some "veg" time, too--reading or browsing online or whatever until Ted and the girls return home. Some or all of them are usually hungry, so we feed them leftovers and hear about their evening before we all crash.

This is usually a day much like Monday. However, starting in March, we are going to add an afternoon activity: a drama class! My plan is to take the older kids to the class at my friend Becki's house (she's the one teaching the class) and then go next door to our Italian friends' home to work with Salvatore and possibly his younger cousin on their English. Salvatore hasn't been able to come to our house for English practice the way he did last year since his mother is expecting twins in the next month or so! And so since our kids will be out his way, I figure I can just hang out and enjoy visiting Emilia and help her son and nephew with their English. Salvatore's grandmother Stella has been so gracious to help us with our housecleaning in exchange for English lessons, so I am happy that we can start the lessons up again soon! Thursday evenings are a welcome quiet night with the whole family at home. Bath night again for the little ones and time to read out loud together.

We squeeze in a bit of school Friday mornings, and then at 10:30 Mimmo, our Italian music teacher, arrives to give Tobin, Arden, and Charis piano lessons and violin lessons to Charis as well. We are currently borrowing one of his keyboards, since our electronic piano has apparently died. Sigh. We really do need to investigate our options and just get a new one, but that has been on the back burner for awhile. Anyway, lessons go until 12:30 or a bit later. I try to keep the little ones out from under foot. This usually involves all of us going to the 3rd floor so they can play while I do laundry. Fun, fun! Ironically, even though the play room is on that floor, Zaden doesn't want to be there unless I am! So doing laundry seems like a great way to keep him playing up there...except more often than not I get stuck up there sorting and spraying and he decides he really wants to be then I dash downstairs to extricate him from Mimmo's leg/keyboard/whatever. So at that point it's all of a sudden BAKING TIME! And then EVERYONE wants to be in the kitchen with Mom! Oh, yay!

So we make banana bread. Or cookies. Or hot dogs or quesadillas or sandwiches. ANYTHING. Anything that involves standing on a chair and making a mess getting to taste food pre-lunch. And I feed the younger ones, too, so that their lunch is done by the time lessons are over and the older ones (who are of course STARVING by this point). We try to finish most of our schoolwork before this point, but there usually is something to finish up. Still, Friday afternoons are pretty low-key, which is nice.

Friday evenings are homemade pizza and movie nights. Twice a month I attend the Mission of Light outreach, a local ministry dedicated to helping spread Jesus's love to the women who are trafficked in the Naples area. (I really, REALLY need to blog about this, don't I?! OK. I will, I promise!) At this time the teams go out from 4-6pm, so I'm still able to come home and enjoy some movie time with the kiddos. And our current "movie" choices are actually the week's new episodes of Duck Dynasty and Mythbusters! By the time we finish watching those, we are DONE. I'm sure the kids could stay up later, but Ted and I are too fried. Daily wake times of 5:00 or 5:30am will do that to a couple of bodies, especially if those people are parents!!

Whew. There just is not really a typical Saturday around here! Saturdays often involve laundry catch-up and deep cleaning. Trips to the local market for produce and our favorite Italian food products. Birthday parties or friend events for kids. Naps. Day trips to see something in the area. We do try to get to bed at a reasonable time so we can get up and make it to church early!

We used to always make pancakes on Sunday mornings, but since we have to leave the house around 8:15ish, and since we have way more bodies to get ready to leave the house than we've ever had before, we don't do this anymore! Sometimes we do pancakes on Saturdays, and sometimes for dinner on Sunday evenings! But Sunday breakfasts vary nowadays, and we tag team to make sure we've got everyone loaded up at a reasonable time. Ted has to arrive early to set up with the praise team. I usually begin the service in the cry room nursing Seanin and then make my way to "our" pew before the end of the singing.

Church ends at 10:30. Because Ted and the kids do AWANA in the afternoons, we have chosen not to be involved in Sunday school at this time, leaving us more time to go home after a time of visiting (and usually a dash into the commissary--we may try to avoid it, but with a 34-mile round-trip, you do what you have to). We have lunch together and try to hear from everyone what he/she learned at church or in class, and then it's nap time for me, Seanin, and Zaden. Ted and the older 5 kids do AWANA and I enjoy an afternoon of peace and quiet!

Sometimes we also watch the live video feed of the service from Canyon Ridge Christian Church, our church in Las Vegas, which begins at 6pm our time. But not always--it depends on the rest of our day.

And then we're ready to start all over again on Monday!

February 01, 2014

A Day in the Life

Every now and then I try to capture a fairly normal weekday in all of its insane glory. It's fun to look back later (like 3 years from now when I'll be working on this year's scrapbook, lol) and see some of the things we took for granted...and how quickly they change! So here was a day in our homeschool/life...


Up at 5am. Ted showers, I nurse Seanin and read a few pages on a Kindle book (When Godly People Do Ungodly Things by Beth Moore) as I rub the bleary out of my eyes. (I only nursed Seanin because he was awake and crying...usually it's closer to 6 or 6:30.)

5:45. Ted brings coffee! We pray together, then Ted puts Seanin back to bed and we do our Bible reading. (Today for me: Exodus 23-25 and Matthew 20:20-34.)

6:45. T-Tapp time. Only 15 minutes of exercise? Yes, please! (14 inches lost since November 1!)

7-8ish. Kitchen puttering. Write out older kids' assignments on white board in kitchen. Breakfast. Send Ted off to work. Write notes on planner. Do my Rosetta Stone lesson. (Still on level 1. Unit 3. Slow but steady progress.)

(OK, I am stopping with the specific times. Everything from here on out is a blur!)

Little boys wake for breakfast. ("Mooooommmmmmmyyyyyyy!" Zaden keeps calling.) I hustle upstairs, trying to shush them--good heavens, the echoes in this house!! Sunshiney smiles from Lucan and Zaden. Why can't we all wake up this joyful?!

Start the boys on breakfast--cereal with fresh, raw milk. Once they are settled, I return to the 3rd floor to get Seanin, who is awake again and ready for second breakfast--he's a hobbit minus the hairy feet! By the time I return to the kitchen, Kenna has joined the crew. And Charis surprises me--she's awake before the older boys! She makes herself some hot tea to ward off the junk she's been fighting...'tis the season in Naples. I holler for the older boys and go over the assignment board with the older three, then go with Kenna to the library (a room near our family room) to do some reading with her. We read about ancient Roman times (what a coincidence, ha!) and do her reading lesson from Phonics Pathways. I ask her to choose one of the phrases from the page of reading exercises and dictate a story to me--it occurs to me that we haven't done much in the way of creative writing with Kenna, so this is a spontaneous assignment that she gleefully agrees to do. I write out her story, and she illustrates it. (Click on the picture if you want to see it enlarged!)

I am pleased with our time together thus far! I send Kenna off to read with Arden--I have decided the older kids need to be involved in the younger kids' education at least minimally, and this allows them to read some books they either haven't read themselves or don't remember from when we read them the first time around. (Sneaky, right?!) Kenna fell in love with the Boxcar Children, our first read-aloud with this core, so Arden is reading book #2 with her. Later Tobin will do science with her, and I smile in delight when I overhear him giving further explanation about the rotation of the sun. I LOVE this plan!!

I check in with the older kids to see how they are doing on their independent work checklist, and then I spend some time reading with Zaden and Lucan. They absolutely love this book that has 12 popular children's stories...I got it from Sonlight a few years ago, and it is totally falling apart, the sign of a fabulous book in our house. It's been awhile since we read from it, though, so here we go. Today's stories include Goodnight Moon, which has Zaden repeating everything once we get to the part where we tell all the objects goodnight, and Harold and the Purple Crayon, with Lucan playing the part of Harold, drawing various items in the air.

When little boys start getting wiggly, it's time to head to the kitchen. Charis is working on Rosetta Stone--I'm determined that our family will leave Italy with at least a level of competence with this language! We were pretty faithful to do these computer-based lessons throughout the summer, but once Seanin arrived it was survival mode only. We just started this up again after the holidays.

Kenna is working on her math and handwriting pages, so it's time now for me to occupy the younger boys so they don't start fighting over who gets the dark brown Playmobile horse for the 47th time. We make banana bread to use up the squishy bananas. We almost never have squishy bananas because they mostly disappear 18 seconds after I put them in the fruit stand, but I purposely kept buying them so that eventually we WOULD have some for banana bread--it has been far too long since I made any! We put together two loaves' worth with a minimum amount of mess!

Lucan does some schoolwork at the table while we are in the kitchen. He is delighted to be a big boy and have school books, too! I ordered the early Explode the Code books, and he is doing well with this Get Set for the Code workbook.

Meanwhile, Tobin has ventured on a rabbit trail...instead of schoolwork, he is devouring his new Boy Scouts' handbook and excitedly showing his siblings how to carry someone in need of assistance with either the two-hand or four-hand hold (the latter of which is shown below). Both Kenna and Charis receive "rescue rides," as the boys demonstrate the two different holds (one for a conscious subject and one for unconscious). Much to Kenna's disappointment, Mom puts the kibosh on this activity (after watching and giving hearty approval for awhile--I'm not a total killjoy!) and sends everyone back to work.

With the banana bread baking, I put Seanin down for a nap and check in on the older kids, who are working to finish their independent tasks before lunch. At some point I work in spelling and grammar with the older kids, but I really do need to rework our schedule so I can have one-on-one time with them on a more regular basis that does NOT involve constant interruptions. Now, Tobin and Charis are beginning research projects, Tobin doing the state report that Charis had to do last year (they both chose Ohio) and Charis comparing and contrasting Hindu and Muslim cultures in India. Here Tobin uses our World Book Encyclopedia to do some Ohio research--so far we have only used it for our Eastern Hemisphere studies this year, but there is a lot of information available on it!

Approaching lunch time. Again, I work to involve Zaden in the preparation process--not particularly because I want or need his "help" (think Steve the monkey in Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs: "Helping...helping...helping...") but because it will keep him from driving his older siblings bonkers. And, I have to admit, it is also good character development for me! I am forced to slow down, make my words gentle, and teach him some basic life skills. ("Don't grab the knife out of Mommy's hand" comes to mind.) We are having hot dogs with cheese stuffed into slits. The 'dogs are Hebrew National kosher franks, so I suppose you could say this is another culture study in the making! ;-)

Over the lunch break the kids are supposed to practice their music. Charis does so, practicing both piano and violin. (Now that I'm writing all this out, I think the boys actually skipped out on this--grrrr!) We are borrowing a keyboard because our electric piano has apparently died and we haven't done anything about it yet. Thankfully the kids' music teacher has a spare keyboard, but we really should get on the ball and order a new one ourselves!

During lunch I begin reading Kenna's next read-aloud, Dolphin Adventure. The older kids note that it's the same author (Wayne Grover) as their current reader, Ali and the Golden Eagle! What a coincidence! The chapters are very short, and we get through four of them.

Things tend to fall apart a bit (OK, sometimes a lot) over the lunch hour. I work hard to get Zaden AND Seanin in bed for a nap so that once Tobin finishes washing all the morning/lunch dishes we are ready to sit down for our Sonlight reading (Bible, geography/history, science--some of this is simply checking the work the kids did in the morning). However, today Seanin is miserable. Zaden goes down well enough for his nap, but Seanin is having none of this sleeping thing. I do manage to get my own lunch eaten before I decide to put Seanin in the Ergo and bounce around with him while I finish reading the dolphin book to Kenna and Arden.

Whew. It's 2:00 before the older kids gather in the family room for us to finish our school day. I remember the days when school was all done before lunchtime...  We usually do our Bible reading first, but today we actually did that at the breakfast table. We are in Hebrews now. I always love it when I read a verse and one of the kids' pipes up, "I know that verse! I learned it in AWANA [or Bible Bee or whatever]!" Since Charis, Ted, and I are reading through the Bible in a year and have been reading in Exodus, it's a cool parallel to read about the ministry of Jesus as our high priest.

Anyway. Our afternoon school time today involves checking the science activity sheets they did along with the morning's reading (they are learning about the human body this year, so part of today's reading was about food and nutrition). Today's history time together involves checking the pages in the kids' Eastern Hemisphere notebooks. We are beginning a new unit on the Middle East, having celebrated our end of the India study on Monday. The kids read the overview and history synopsis of the Middle East on the aforementioned World Book Encyclopedia during their morning work time. Their notebook pages have an extensive timeline, which was rather overwhelming for them, so we ended up doing this part together. By the time we finish this it is nearly 4:00, Zaden is ready to get up from his nap, and Seanin is ready to nurse again.

And this is what our family room looks like.

I wish I could say that everything got put back in place and the children engaged in worthwhile, creative activities until dinnertime, but I'm pretty sure the house was still a wreck when, exhausted, I give permission for Arden to start a Veggie Tales DVD for the littles while I take a few minutes to breathe, check email and Facebook, attempt to put Seanin down for a real nap, and then begin dinner. Actually, Charis probably WAS engaged in some kind of crafty project in her room, and Tobin was either playing with Legos or reading his Boy Scout handbook in his room, so I suppose not everyone's mind turned to mush in front of the TV, ha!

We had taco casserole and peas for dinner and went around the table to tell something we learned during school today. Attention waned so we didn't get to do our "Joy, junk, Jesus" sharing, but hey, I guess you can only take so much family togetherness. The little boys got baths, the older boys took showers, Charis swept and mopped the kitchen, Arden washed dishes, Kenna rinsed, and I sat with an ice pack on my back, which was starting to spazz out again. Ted returned from putting Lucan and Zaden to bed and paced the family room with Seanin in the Ergo, since he hadn't napped more than a few minutes all afternoon. I began our new read-aloud (Shadow Spinner), and we got through 3 chapters before calling it a night.

Whew! We usually only have 2-3 school days this full during the week, since we go to Support Site on Tuesdays for my ladies' Bible study time in the morning and homeschool park/play day after lunch. Piano lessons are on Fridays, and we try to cram in other work so we don't have as much to do on Fridays. We never get to EVERYTHING on any given day, but Lord willing, we hit most of it when we can and grab other subjects on other days. I constantly pray that God will direct our children's education and allow them to love learning so much that they will independently seek out anything we may be missing in our official curriculum so that HE will prepare and equip them for the calling He has on their lives.

I am so grateful for His grace in this homeschooling life adventure! We know we are so inadequate in and of ourselves, but praise the Lord for His Spirit and divine power which has given us everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3).

January 30, 2014

Over Halfway--A Celebration Meal!

Last week we finished our unit study of India using Sonlight's Eastern Hemisphere core. That took us over halfway through the 36 weeks of this curriculum, and since we had "been" in India for quite a long time, we decided a celebration was in order. I had the kids pick a project from the "Choose Your Own Adventure" section of their Eastern Hemisphere notebook pages (we have only done those with the countries we spent more than a week or two on!) to present to the family at the end of the unit.

Charis memorized the first 8 stanzas (translated into English) of a poem by a famous Indian author. Tobin chose to research the Indus Valley civilization and present a report. And Arden decided (after scratching a research project on kites) that cooking was a FANTASTIC option!

It worked out well that Ted was off work on Monday, so we had our big meal at lunchtime since Tobin was going to attend his first Boy Scout meeting with Ted in the evening. It turned out sooooo yummy! We made Chicken Tandoori (recipe from a Sonlight cookbook) and naan (same cookbook), plus hummus for dipping the bread in as well as Indian Potatoes from a recipe I just searched for online. Everything was fabulous! We will definitely make these dishes again!

January 12, 2014

Preparing Parachutes

A friend of mine told me last year about a neat outreach opportunity through Voice of the Martyrs. She and her family had ordered a pack containing material and instructions for putting together 10 parachutes that would then be used to drop Bibles and Christian literature over dangerous, terrorist-controlled territory in Colombia. I tucked the info in the back of my mind, thinking it would be a great project for our family to do sometime.

It wasn't until a number of months later that I actually put in an order for a parachute kit. I'm embarrassed to say that it was even months after THAT before we finally sat down to do the project!

But I'm pleased to report that IT IS FINISHED! At least, one pack of 10 parachutes has been assembled and shipped off to VOM. Woohoo! I thought I'd write about our experience in case other families or groups might like to try this as well.

The kits are $35. There is a DVD clip, approximately 25 minutes or so, taken from a full-length documentary. We watched the DVD first, and even though it warned that it may not be appropriate for children, we saw nothing graphic that made us concerned about Kenna, our almost 7-year-old, who was the youngest one watching. (We're thinking maybe the warning stems from images from the full-length movie?) Anyway, it gave a good overview of why VOM does this project to begin with as well as some insight into the success they have with people coming to a saving knowledge of Jesus. We're looking forward to receiving a copy of the full-length documentary that is promised to those who return a box...then we can see the rest of the story!

After the video, we were ready to begin. We put Grandma, a math teacher who was here for Christmas, to work helping us measure and draw 34" circles onto the fabric provided. Rhonda and Ted worked on that while Tobin, Arden, and Kenna measured and cut ribbon into 9-foot segments. Each parachute needed 3 ribbons. After the circles were drawn, we had to mark the centers and 6 dots around the edges, so that the ribbons could be attached forming 6 equal sections.

Now it was time for Charis's expertise! She set up her sewing machine and sewed the ribbon to the parachutes. Kenna and I pinned the ribbons down for her. The kits did include fabric glue, but we decided it was better to sew the ribbons on rather than have to wait overnight for the drying process.

As it turned out, the project took portions of a few days' worth of work.  It could have been done in one setting, I'm sure, if we had started earlier in the day and either had more pins (we could only pin 2 parachutes at a time and had to keep going back and forth to wait for Charis to finish with more!) or else used the glue and set the parachutes all over the place to dry.

Next the boys wrote Spanish phrases on the parachutes ("Friendship Plan" and "God Loves You") as we were directed, then tied the ends of the ribbon to the bags where the Bibles, etc., will be placed. We packaged all 10 completed parachutes into the original box and mailed it off last week.  Hooray!

Oh, I should note that VOM does ask for a $5 donation per parachute to cover the cost of the supplies and transportation, so be aware of that if you choose to do this project.

Christmas Day 2013

Sigh. I'm rarin' to post about some different things for the new year, but I realized I never did chronicle our Christmas Day! Just so I can remember a few things whenever I get around to making the digital scrapbook, here's a quick rundown of our special day...

As has become the tradition--out of necessity since we nearly always seem to have a mess-maker toddling about the house--Ted and I brought out the presents and stuffed stockings after the kids were in bed on Christmas Eve (considerably later than we would have liked, due to the service we attended, but it was worth it!). I think it's probably one of their favorite things, to come downstairs Christmas morning and see how "magically" everything has appeared, even though we don't do Santa.

The littler three kiddos had plasma cars waiting for them under the tree, so of course they began to break those in immediately! We passed out stockings and opened the goodies inside first. Zaden promptly began a breakfast of chocolate--I think he mowed through every single piece that was in his stocking before we realized what was happening! We got each of the kids (minus Seanin) a new Veggie Tales DVD; it had been awhile, so there were a number that hadn't yet made it to our collection. (As an aside these didn't cost us any "real" money; we purchased them on Amazon, where we use our Discover cashback bonus for nearly everything we purchase. Woohoo for "free" stuff!)

Then, while the kids started watching one of the new DVDs, Ted and I got breakfast ready. I think we made sausage and eggs and fruit salad, but my mind is already going blank, lol.

After that, we gathered around the cleared-off table with our two copies of The Advent Book and read through all 25 pages. Then Ted led us through the Lord's Supper, since the book ends with John 3:16 and allows a great opportunity to remind ourselves why we celebrate Christmas. I loved having communion together, our first time to do so on Christmas Day, but I think we should do it every year!

The kids made their usual "cozy spots" in the family room, and once we were all settled, the girls passed out the gifts. Amazingly, we were able to take turns this year! We thought the younger boys would have a hard time waiting, but Lucan did a very good job...of course, it helped that he got engrossed in playing with each new item he unwrapped, lol. And Zaden was so excited by it all he just went along with the flow.

It was a wonderful, wonderful time! The gifts were all well-received and so special. Charis knitted teddy bears for all her siblings, socks for me and Ted (with a note to Ted that she WILL make him socks but needs to measure his feet first!), and a phone cozy for Grandma J. She also crocheted a blanket for Grandma. She has been a busy gal! The boys received a lot of books in series they both enjoy (hooray for the thrift store!) and of course Legos. One of our favorite family gifts is the What's in the Bible? DVDs that we ordered. We've been meaning to check out Phil Vischer's new project, and I'm so glad we did! They are excellent!

The kids enjoyed their gifts for awhile until we were ready for our big meal (ham, homemade macaroni and cheese, modified green bean casserole, homemade yeast rolls, and pistachio salad). We stuffed ourselves and spent the rest of the day enjoying games, reading, some point we got out Jesus's birthday cake and had that. And in the evening we watched a new movie (Despicable Me 2) and ate popcorn made with the new popper Ted and the kids got for me.  At some point we finished off our advent calendar, too, but I can't remember when in the day's events that came, lol.

All in all, it was a wonderful, blessed day, and we were so grateful to be able to share it with Rhonda!

December 26, 2013

Christmas Activities--2013

We got this idea from Lisa Whelchel's book The ADVENTure of Christmas, and it was our first year to do it...and it won't be the last! This simple thing was a huge treat for the kids, a fun way for them to greet each new day. We laid out a long strip of plastic wrap on the table. The kids picked out 25 candy kisses (I got several different holiday bags) and laid them in a row. We folded over the plastic wrap and tied curling ribbon between each kiss, then taped the chains to the doorway to the kitchen. Each morning the kids got to cut off a candy kiss!

Lucan and Zaden got chains, too, but we made them after the boys were in bed.

We attended the tree lighting ceremony at the NATO base, where we enjoyed lovely weather unlike last year when everything was moved inside due to rain. We heard the Navy band and then visited inside with some friends, which helped offset the disappointment at the fact that we missed out on the Italian hot cocoa, which was all gone by the time Ted got to the front of the line! Boo!

I was a bit stressed about this event, but thankfully a dear mom friend told me to just show up--not to bring any food or worry about craft supplies, just show up with the kids, sit in the corner and feed the baby, and let them take care of everything. So I did! Ted left that morning for a 5-day trip to Germany, and we had had a very full weekend right before he went, so I wasn't even sure I felt like dragging everyone to Support Site for an event. But it all ended up being just fine. I didn't even attempt to finish any schoolwork in the afternoon once we got home! And the kids enjoyed the time with their friends, and I enjoyed the time to visit with my friends, too!

One of the evenings Ted was gone to Germany we went to SS for a potluck dinner and Christmas program. Arden and Charis had speaking roles in a short drama, and Lucan played a sheep while Kenna sang in the angel choir.

Arden is on the far left, Charis on the far right, with Lucan directly in front of her.

I don't do roll-out cookies every year, but this year we did. Because we didn't go crazy with the baking this year, it was not as stressful as it could have been. :-) We did the roll-out and baking part one day, then frosted and decorated another day. We let the kids have their own plates of cookies to decorate and--theoretically--eat. But, ahem, we discovered Zaden on MULTIPLE occasions helping himself to other people's cookies. Sigh. We need to get smarter about this next year...

The city of Salerno is known for its light displays. We went last year with the K family and this year with the B family--so thankful for good friends to make memories with! Rhonda flew in from Colorado on the 19th, and we waited until she got here because Ted noted that she really enjoys lights at Christmas. We were blessed with fabulous weather and a lovely time together in this town along the Amalfi Coast.

Ted played guitar with the praise team, and Charis and Kenna participated in a worship dance presentation that was just lovely. Rhonda and I sat in the balcony with the boys and enjoyed singing carols and watching the loved ones who were part of the program. Seanin made it almost all the way through the service, but he and I ended up in the nursery, where he got a fresh diaper and dinner!