December 28, 2006

Charis's Educational Goals

Tonight around the dinner table we had an interesting conversation. I'm not sure what sparked it, but Tobin informed us that we (Ted and I) could take care of him until he turned 21. I told him it was a deal. Then Charis said she wanted to go to college and take classes to learn how to be a mommy. I laughed and said that unfortunately, none of my classes truly prepared me to be a mommy (that's definitely an on-the-job-training sort of a career!). Charis thought but a moment, then decided that she would take classes to be a "sewing lady." I told her that would be a great thing to help her prepare for being a mommy. That's more than her mom knows, anyway! :-)

December 27, 2006

Christmas 2006

Our Christmas was a very simple, special day. It was possibly the last Christmas we'll beat the kids awake in the morning...Charis and Tobin didn't get out of bed until around 8:15 or 8:30. Their innocent delight in the joy of it being Christmas Day warmed my heart. Believe it or not, they walked right past the presents under the tree and didn't even notice that their stockings had been stuffed until they had been awake and talking with me for awhile. The Christmas M&M's on a little dish on the coffee table was what captured their attention first, and we munched on them together, grinning in delight at being able to eat candy before breakfast.

After awhile they did look around, and Tobin was the first to discover that there were gifts in his stocking. It's a good thing they were wrapped, because he just couldn't help peeking! In our family, we have always had to wait until everyone was awake before opening anything. We told the kids they could open their stockings at the breakfast table, and to their credit, Charis and Tobin did manage to wait until then. After they finally noticed there were presents under the tree, they poked around and exclaimed excitedly when they found one with their names on it. It was such a joy just to watch them and listen to them! I was supposed to be having my quiet time (obviously I didn't get going as early as I should have that morning), but I quit after my Old Testament reading and figured I could double up on the New Testament the next day. :-)

After about a half hour, Tobin decided that Arden had slept in long enough and went to wake him. He stumbled out of his room in his pajamas with a sleepy smile on his face and headed straight for me with his arms up. I picked him up and told him "Merry Christmas," and he squeezed my neck and replied in his sweet little voice, "Mewwy Chwistmas!" It made my morning!

Ted and I worked on breakfast and keeping the kids out of their stockings simultaneously. While we cooked, the kids took their turns putting Baby Jesus in the manger on our Advent calendar. Charis and Tobin read the script out loud as they did this. For breakfast, we had Pillsbury cinnamon rolls, bananas, and scrambled eggs with sausage and cheese mixed in. Of course the kids had a hard time eating with their stockings waiting for them, and we let them dig in but did try to keep the candy away until later!

Then we sat on the couch and read our Advent Book from cover to cover. I love this book! It's a fabulous way to lead up to Christmas Day as well as a great opening for the special celebration on Christmas itself. We prayed together afterwards (see the next post for Arden's prayer), and then the kids passed out gifts.

The next half hour or so was spent taking turns (not always so patiently) opening gifts and exclaiming over them. This year Arden was more than willing to keep moving on to the next gift...last year he got so absorbed in each individual thing that we had to keep skipping his turn because he didn't want to be diverted from whatever it was he had just opened! This year was so much fun watching the kids. We scaled way back on our own gifts to them, as we are making a trip to Disney World later and had told the kids that that is their main present from us this year. However, the grandmas and grandpas and aunts and uncles did their fair share of spoiling this year. :-)

We spent a relaxing rest of the morning together, playing with the kids and taking pictures. We ate our big meal about mid-afternoon: ham, potatoes, green beans, Hawaiian sweet bread, and pistachio salad. Towards a normal dinner time we had Jesus's birthday cake, complete with lit candles and singing, and leftovers made a simple supper later on...after my two-hour nap!! Aaaahhh!

What a joy to be together as a family. We know of so many who are separated from loved ones as they serve our country, and we pray for their safety and comfort.

Arden's Christmas Prayer

After we finished reading our Advent Book on Christmas morning, we asked if any of the kids wanted to pray, and Arden volunteered. This was his prayer:

"Dear God,
Thank you for Jesus.
Thank you for our calendar.*
Thank you for my presents.
Thank you for this wonderful day.
Thank you for baby Jesus is in the manger.**
Thank you for this wonderful day.

*He was referring to our advent calendar, on which we've been placing a nativity figure each day since December 1.
**The kids knew that on Christmas morning they could all take a turn placing the final figure, Baby Jesus, in the manger on the advent calendar.

December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas Eve!

Ahhh...what a fun and relaxing week it has been. My last business event was December 11, and we've been finished with other social outings for a week now. It's just been fun family time together this week. Now that we have children and I've been properly mellowed out (ha!), I've learned to keep my expectations realistic, simplify, and just enjoy the season. We're spending another Christmas with just our family, no visitors, and I've tried to keep things memorable but low-key. Being 6 1/2 months pregnant has slowed me down somewhat, so it's nice for a built-in excuse to not do too much. :-)

Ted came home from work early a couple of days this past week, and he's off Christmas Day and Tuesday as well, so we're enjoying the extra family time. We continue to enjoy our daily advent calendar that we got last year, and the kids are so excited to be able to put Baby Jesus in the manger tomorrow morning! We love this tool from Desiring God ministries, and it has already become a firm family tradition. In the evenings we continue to read and open the doors in our Advent Book, and now that both Charis and Tobin are fluent readers, we take turns (mostly) with the readings, and it helps them feel more involved. (Of course, I must admit that nightly scuffles over who gets to open which door are also a part of this family tradition...)

Our final batch of Christmas cards and letters went out yesterday. Our mailing list seems a bit out of control--158 addresses! Hope they're all current! I do my best to keep our database updated, but every year a few are returned. We'll see how many come back this year. I found I was 6 stamped cards short of my total, so my apologies to the 6 people who are receiving only a letter this year. :-) After living in 5 states in 9 1/2 years of marriage, our mailing list just keeps growing and growing. I refuse, however, to resort to e-Christmas cards/letters. I understand the temptation, and I've received some (thankfully with pictures attached!) from dear friends, but personally I feel that one time each year is not too much to send a first-class card/letter to people who have been so special in our lives. We keep in touch with so many people via email on a regular basis, so why not take the extra time (and yes, money) to mail an actual letter?! No other time of year do we enjoy going to the mailbox nearly so much! It makes me happy to think we can bring a smile to people's faces when they see a hand-stamped Christmas card with a family update included. I just wish I had the mental fortitude to keep on top of everyone's birthdays and other holidays as well! Ah, well. Perhaps someday that resolution will become a reality.

Our Christmas cookies, peanut butter balls, Chex mix, and chocolate-dipped pretzels have gone on to a better resting place, and the fudge is soon to be laid to rest as well. I purposely refrained from making any more desserts, partly because, well, we've obviously indulged quite a bit already this season, but partly because today we are making Jesus's birthday cake to have for our dessert tomorrow. (The kids decided that Jesus wanted a strawberry cake with pink frosting...again, in the simplification mode, we chose to get a box mix with canned frosting.) We made a birthday cake for Jesus 3 Christmases ago when we were in Ohio. We didn't the following year because we traveled to Montana to be with Ted's grandparents and family, and last year we didn't, either, though I'm not sure why. Probably because I was happily busy making our traditional Christmas treats and of course had to do pies to complete our meal, and since it was only the 5 of us, we were definitely in dessert overload. So, this year, we made our goodies early and munched our way through them, and I am not making any pies since we're not sharing our meal with anyone else. So, now we can do a birthday cake again! I think it's a fun tradition, and of course we'll have candles lit and sing. The kids are already excited about it.

Another great thing we've been doing is lots and lots of reading! We had some errands to run on base yesterday, so we decided to stop by the library and pick up some new books to enjoy over the next week or two. Our family was probably half of the number of patrons in the library that day, so we enjoyed having the children's room all to ourselves. I found a few Christmas books, and we began reading Christmas Sonata by Gary Paulsen last night over Candy Cane tea (from Celestial Seasonings--yum!). The kids are currently spread out, each absorbed in his/her own reading project while Ted snoozes in front of a football game. :-) I love that we are a reading family! We've been reading aloud books from The Littles series (by John Petersen), books I enjoyed tremendously when I was a kid. I re-discovered them on our bookshelves, having forgotten that my parents had saved them and given them to me along with a number of other boxes of childhood books. Ted and the kids have also come to enjoy these books as well. I finished Stephen Lawhead's Hood, and Ted is working on one of the Dune books. It reminds me of Christmas vacations when I was growing up and I got to read for fun as much as I wanted! My dad always made sure I got a new book or two for Christmas as well, so I was usually absorbed in reading projects all through the holidays.

So, all in all, it has been a wonderfully relaxing week! I have even managed to get some workouts in--not necessarily relaxing, but something I wanted to be doing more regularly and wasn't able to do the first couple of weeks in December when things were so crazy. My next project is sketching out an outline for the Commission 2007 Bible study. Our theme this year is freedom in Christ, perfect since the Beth Moore study I just finished is called Breaking Free! It will be exciting to see where God leads me in this area of study for the teens. With no other obligations on my plate until January 11 (my first 2007 Stampin' Up! workshop), I'm hoping to get a great start on the writing, since our baby will be born about the time I typically begin writing the Commission Bible studies.

Whew, this post got long and rambly. I'll quit for now and get to work on my outline! The kids are still quiet, and now I hear Ted trying to coax Arden to lie down on the couch with him. :-) I am loving life right now! What a blessing it is to be home with family. Thank you, Lord, for such precious gifts.

December 19, 2006

Go See This Movie!

If you have some time this season, I highly recommend going to see The Nativity Story, a great film about the Reason for the season! I went with my friend Debi to see a Sunday matinee showing, and it was overwhelmingly good. I wouldn't suggest taking young children to see it, but otherwise it would be a great family movie for the holidays. I loved the glimpse into the Jewish culture during the time of Roman rule, and while obviously there was some conjecture involved--the Bible isn't terribly detailed, for example, about Joseph--the characterization and circumstances seemed credible in light of Scripture.

Two small complaints...spoiler warning, in case you don't know the story, ha! I was very disappointed that the shepherds weren't shown in awe of the splendid heavenly host, as the "heavenly host" consisted only of Gabriel announcing Christ's birth with no host shown in the skies. I think that would have been a powerful scene, and I'm not sure why the producers/directors didn't include it.

The other thing is more of a technicality: the Magi appear on the scene after the shepherds, worshipping Jesus at the stable. Matthew actually tells us that they came to the "house" and found the "child" (not baby), so most scholars believe that Joseph and Mary had had to stay in Bethlehem for a more extended period of time and that the Magi arrived awhile after Jesus's birth. Still, for cinematic reasons, I can see why they would appear together, particularly in light of Herod's paranoia that is shown so clearly, as the drama is heightened by the need to escape Herod's wrath.

All in all, though, this is a wonderful movie, and I would love to see it gain more acclaim--it's not touted much because of its content, I'm sure, so let's support it! Go see The Nativity Story! :-)

December 18, 2006

The Kids' View of Daddy

A conversation I overheard a few days ago:

Charis: Daddy's a grown-up.
Tobin: Daddy's a teenager.
Charis: No, Daddy's a grown-up, but he sometimes acts like a teenager.
Tobin: I thought he was a teenager.
Charis: Well, he was a long time ago when he was a kid.


After coming home from a stamping workshop last Monday night, I went to tuck the kids in bed. I like going in when they are sleeping and praying for them and just watching them sleep. This time, I discovered Charis had fallen asleep on the book she was reading, The Doll People by Ann Martin. I'm sure this won't be the last time this happens!

The Polar Express

As promised awhile ago, here is a chronicle of the journey the kids and I took to the Polar Express! We left on a Monday morning. Ted wasn't able to go with us because of work obligations, but we made it to Williams, AZ, despite extra delays that I hadn't planned on. We met Ted's cousin and her family, who are stationed in Arizona, at the hotel, and it was so good to see them. The kids were delighted to meet their cousins--it had been over 3 years since we had last gotten together, so they didn't remember Abigail and Samuel at all.

We checked into the hotel and then went to enjoy our dinner buffet. I was especially grateful that I wasn't alone with the kids in the restaurant, as among the 3 of us adults, we were able to fill and bring plates for the kids and then ourselves. A miniature train ran around the restaurant, producing shouts and squeals of delight every time it made its appearance. Good thing it was a family restaurant. :-)

Then it was back to our hotel room to change into pajamas and slippers for the big train ride! By this time it was quite cold outside, as the sun had gone down, and though we did have our coats, I somehow felt unprepared for it to be that cold in Arizona! We had left Las Vegas under beautifully warm weather conditions! We scurried over to the train and boarded. Our seats were all together, and we were able to flip the seat backs so that they faced each other. We had seats on both sides of the aisle, and the kids all ended up sitting on one side together.

Soon after the train took off, we were served hot chocolate and cookies. Then they began a recording of the book, which DeLinda had smartly thought to check out from the library and bring along so the kids could see the pictures. It took approximately a half hour, and then we arrived at the "North Pole." The train slowed down, and I pushed open our window--it was WARM on the train, and the window was starting to fog up. The kids scrambled to the other side of the aisle so they could see all the lights and Santa sitting on his sleigh, waving to us. We drove by the "town," and then the train slowly began going in reverse. When we got back to Santa's sleigh, he was no longer in there! Then came the announcement: Santa had boarded the train! We began chugging back towards the hotel and waited not-so-patiently for him to come to our train car. To keep us entertained (or to keep the children from mutiny), a merry but incredibly tone deaf elf led us in a Christmas sing-along (books were provided). It was during this time, by the way, that Tobin apparently decided "Jingle Bells" is one of his favorite songs, and I have sung it over and over this holiday season! Finally Santa came to our car. This picture of him handing Tobin his gift is really the only good shot I got from this part of our experience, but at least it's a good picture. The gifts are large jingle bells. That goes along with the story of the Polar Express, in case you aren't familiar with it. There was much ringing and jingling during the rest of the train ride!

We spent a long night in the hotel...the kids finally settled down and went to sleep while I read my book in a chair, and after the last one began snoring, I tried sleeping myself. Tobin was battling a cold and snored loud enough to make his daddy proud. Not only did he snore, but I discovered that he is a sleep talker! He's just as loud in his sleep as he is during the day, too, so it was quite startling the first time he had an outburst, something about "I want my candy cane NOW!" (Amazing how he sounded just as whiny as he had when he had been awake! This kid made the Polar Express trip rather more stressful than it needed to be, but now we have fond memories of the experience, and I choose to overlook the fact that I felt like throttling him on numerous occasions during our short trip!)

So, after a very non-restful night for me, I woke early and showered, and by the time I was ready to go the boys were also. We woke Charis, who could sleep through a hurricane, and headed down for the breakfast buffet. We were happy to meet the cousins again, who had told us they needed to leave by 9 a.m. because of other obligations. So we enjoyed breakfast together after all and then said our farewells.

The trip home went much more smoothly than the trip out, and I took a little bit of time for the kids to get out and see the Hoover Dam since we had been pressed for time the first time we crossed. One major source of stress for me was discovering that Arizona was indeed one hour ahead of Nevada time, which meant I was over an hour later than I wanted to be! But on the way home we had no time table, and as it was a nice day, it was fun to get out and explore a little bit. Unfortunately, due to full parking lots, we didn't get out as much as we may have liked, but we hope to go back sometime when Ted is with us anyway.

So, all in all, it was a fun and memorable trip, despite the stress. :-) While our family doesn't really do Santa Claus, the kids enjoyed seeing "Santa" and somehow didn't have a problem with fantasy vs. reality! The decorations at the hotel were beautiful and festive, and it was a fun family activity to get us in the Christmas spirit!

December 13, 2006

A Lifetime of Learning

These days I feel that it is I who is learning the most from home schooling. (This has nothing to do with the fact that I decided to have Charis skip a new math lesson this week!) I constantly feel my character is being stretched and (hopefully) shaped as I pursue my calling as a stay-at-home, home-schooling wife and mother. I'm learning more and more about God's character and seeing how my own life falls so far short of His standards...yet I also understand a little bit more each day about His mercy and grace and His desire to see me pass those on to my children.

Once a month I receive an e-newsletter from Steve & Teri Maxwell, authors of Managers of Their Homes, a tool that has encouraged and challenged me over the last year. (I still struggle to implement our schedule as we should, but at least I'm more mindful of how we are spending our time.) The e-newsletters are lengthy but are well worth the read. I always save them until I have the time to devote to digesting the points within, and I read both the "Mom's Corner" as well as the "Dad's Corner" and am often just as challenged (if not more so) by the "Dad's Corner" as the article aimed towards mothers. The articles are archived if anyone is interested in checking them out...I've made up my mind to take some time now and then to read them myself, as they date back to 1999.

This month's topic in the Dad's Corner echoes some of the concepts that were presented in another recent reading project of mine by R.C. Sproul Jr., When You Rise Up: A Covenental Approach to Home Schooling. It's kind of hard to put all my thoughts into words at this point, as I feel I'm still absorbing the information from this book and now from the articles I read via email. I guess in a nutshell I feel that God is clarifying in my own heart and mind His purposes for the family unit, and specifically, that means letting go of my concerns about our own family.

I've always been bothered by the questions people ask (I'm sure unthinkingly) such as, "Well, are you done yet?" as if one could poke a toothpick into our family and determine whether we're finished baking or not. I've never been able to put my finger on why exactly it bothers me to be asked questions like this. It's not that I necessarily feel that they're rude or intrusive, though I suppose they can be. I confess I have that natural curiosity of other families as well, though from the experiences I've had, I've made the decision not to ask unless they bring up the conversation themselves. Now I'm starting to understand why That Question bothers me. It insinuates that WE should be controlling our family size, that WE make the decision as to whether we will add more children or not, and if not, then WE would need to do something drastic about it.

The Bible says that children are a heritage from the Lord, a reward, even. Steve Maxwell writes about this topic in his December Dad's Corner far more eloquently than I could, so I'll quote him here:

"Families will reject more children for a host of reasons. Why would man not want more children when God calls them a heritage and a reward? The answer is obvious since children represent hard work, time, money, and most likely, some degree of heartache. There are no guarantees with children. They could have health problems or be rebellious. Yet, the Lord says children are His heritage and reward.

There is a vast difference between children and other aspects of the created world as seen in Genesis 1:26: "And God said, Let us make man in our image. . ." Nothing else has been made in God's image. The simple fact that a child is made in God's image makes him a treasure. Do we really value children as His heritage and reward?

Another reason we reject children is that they bring change into our lives. If we allow it, they cause us to grow in Christ and in dependency on Him. Teri and I often hear moms say they could never homeschool because they aren't patient enough. What parent has the character needed to raise a child? That is one reason why God gives us children. God will use them to constantly shape us into the image of Christ. "And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience" (Romans 5:3). Children can break our hearts. Brokenness is a good thing that the Lord uses in our lives. Once broken, we are prepared for the work of the Potter's hands. Certainly, who in their right mind would welcome a source of tribulation? Yet, the Lord says children are His heritage and reward.

Many will reject God giving the family more children because of all the work and money they will require. That would be like someone offering to give a friend a Mercedes and having him turn it down because of the costly insurance, gas, and maintenance. Perhaps another reason for saying no would be that he doesn't have room in his garage. I don't think so. It is all a matter of our point of view—heavenly or earthly."

Food for thought, eh? It is for me!

December 12, 2006

Dear Santa

Got this on email and thought I'd share...hope it makes a few other moms smile out there!

Dear Santa,

I've been a good Mom all year.

I've fed, cleaned and cuddled my children on demand, visited their doctor's office more than my doctor, and sold sixty-two cases of candy bars to raise money to plant a shade tree on the school playground.

I was hoping you could spread my list out over several Christmases, since I had to write this letter with my son's red crayon, on the back of a receipt in the laundry room between cycles, and who knows when I'll find anymore free time in the next 18 years.

Here are my Christmas wishes:

I'd like a pair of legs that don't ache (in any color, except purple, which I already have) and arms that don't hurt or flap in the breeze; but are strong enough to pull my screaming child out of the candy aisle in the grocery store.

I'd also like a waist, since I lost mine somewhere in the seventh month of my last pregnancy.

If you're hauling big ticket items this year, I'd like fingerprint resistant windows and a radio that only plays adult music; a television that doesn't broadcast any programs containing talking animals; and a refrigerator with a secret compartment behind the crisper where I can hide to talk on the phone.

On the practical side, I could use a talking doll that says, "Yes, Mommy" to boost my parental confidence, along with two kids who don't fight and three pairs of jeans that will zip all the way up without the use of power tools.

I could also use a recording of Tibetan monks chanting "Don't eat in the living room" and "Take your hands off your brother," because my voice seems to be just out of my children's hearing range and can only be heard by the dog.

If it's too late to find any of these products, I'd settle for enough time to brush my teeth and comb my hair in the same morning, or the luxury of eating food warmer than room temperature without it being served in a Styrofoam container.

If you don't mind, I could also use a few Christmas miracles to brighten the holiday season. Would it be too much trouble to declare ketchup a vegetable? It will clear my conscience immensely. It would also be helpful if you could coerce my children to help around the house without demanding payment as if they were the bosses of an organized crime family.

Well, Santa, the buzzer on the dryer is ringing and my son saw my feet under the laundry room door. I think he wants his crayon back.

Have a safe trip and remember to leave your wet boots by the door and come in and dry off so you don't catch cold.

Help yourself to cookies on the table but don't eat too many or leave crumbs on the carpet.

Yours Always,

P.S. One more can cancel all my requests if you can keep my children young enough to believe in Santa.

December 11, 2006

A Restful Sabbath, A Good School Day

Saturday was super busy here at my house. I had a Christmas calendar class for my stamping customers, and as it was the first time I had done this as a class (I've given them as gifts for years now), I learned a LOT about what kind of time frame I should give people for stamping calendars...particularly when they choose to stamp 2 or 3! However, it was a lot of fun, and the ladies seemed to enjoy and appreciate their finished products. Saturday evening I spent some time prepping for the stamping workshop I'm doing tonight--the last business event of 2006 for me!

So, I decided early on that Sunday would be a day of REST! After church and dinner we watched a bit of football (sigh...the Broncos are NOT looking good this year) while working on a Las Vegas puzzle that Joel and Sarah had given to Ted. We finished the puzzle and decided to start a Christmas puzzle, which looks to be much too difficult for the kids, but they seem interested in working at it sporadically at least. So I have left it up on one of my stamp tables, now that I don't need them for any classes for quite awhile.

We also made fudge, a family Christmas tradition. It turned out very yummy, if Charis and I do say so ourselves! She was the one to help me make it, so we got to sample and lick the spoons. :-) We spent time reading more in our current read-aloud book (Little House on the Prairie) and just enjoyed being together as a family.

This morning we actually did do school, though I ended up not starting Charis on a new math lesson. We might tomorrow...I don't want her to forget all the subtraction she's been doing so well with! But with our Polar Express trip last week (I'll blog about that next time), we had a very short school week and didn't do math then, either. We started out with our daily advent calendar activity. Then Charis copied the words to "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing" because she wanted to learn the song, so we counted that as handwriting for the day. Then she copied her new spelling words--I picked out some common Christmas words for this week--and both she and Tobin read aloud to me. Tobin completed lesson 98 in his 100 Easy Lessons book, so we are almost finished with that for the second time! Charis is reading aloud Pathway Readers to me for her reading time. I know she has already stolen them all away and read them to herself in her room, but I figure it's good practice, and she doesn't seem to mind reading them again to me. She and Tobin and I all cuddled on the couch while she and I took turns reading. We also read more in Little House on the Prairie and are nearly finished with the book now.

By then it was close to lunch time, but not close enough to start eating, so we began wrapping presents. Hooray! I wanted to get our packages prepared to mail to family members when I go out running errands on Wednesday, and I thought I'd have to do all the prep tomorrow. But as it turned out, I have wrapped ALL of the presents. I THINK we're done shopping, just about, but we do need to check on one other thing. I just have to finish stuffing and addressing the boxes, and they'll be ready to go out! Woohoo! Charis was a great helper with the tape this year, and the boys helped by staying out of the way and playing pirate. :-)

After lunch time we started another, slightly easier Christmas puzzle, though the boys lost interest and quickly began driving Charis and me nuts. I suggested they go bounce on the trampoline, and pretty soon I was the only one left in the house! Oh, well...I got more presents wrapped!

So, all in all, it's been a good couple of days. I'm just about on track with Christmas activities; I wrote a draft of our Christmas letter today and will make copies of that when I'm out on Wednesday. I'm not finished stamping Christmas cards yet, but hopefully I'll do that this weekend and get the cards ready to mail out the week before Christmas Day. Tomorrow is Peanut Butter Balls day--yum! And maybe I'll get a few cards stamped...who knows?! I'm enjoying a more relaxed pace with our schooling, and the kids are eating up the joy of the holidays (both literally and figuratively!)

December 09, 2006

A Major Change

Ted pinned on Major! The promotion ceremony was the day after we returned from Colorado. Rhonda drove back with us so she could be there for the ceremony, then flew back that evening. She and I pinned Ted's new rank on the shoulders of his jacket, then he took that off and let the kids help slide the new shoulder thingies (whatever they're called) onto his shirt. Here's a cute picture of Charis helping.

Here's our whole family...

And here are our friends Ken & Sarah, the famous Sarah who is my running partner when I'm not pregnantly huge. :-) As you can see, half of our children (the B family have 3 kids close to our 3 kids' ages) are not in the picture, having decided that exploring the hangar was much more exciting than posing for pictures.

And one last picture, Ted with his mom at the airport. It was a very quick trip to Las Vegas for her, but she had to get back to her students! We were so glad she was able to be here for this special occasion.

December 05, 2006

A Few More Thanksgiving Trip Pictures

Ted and I getting ready to go out for my birthday date the night before Thanksgiving.

Ted and Arden cuddle on the couch while watching football.

Tobin acting silly with Uncle Joel (Ted's brother, in case you couldn't tell!).

The kids with Auntie Sarah, preparing to put up Christmas decorations.

Arden is fascinated by the spinning angels.

Bill & Ted...preparing for another adventure?!

Our Thanksgiving

Our family traveled 750 miles to Denver, Colorado, to spend the Thanksgiving holiday. The kids did great with our long day of traveling. An audio recording of Farmer Boy, along with two copies for Tobin and Charis to follow along in and see pictures, definitely helped pass the time.

We stayed with Ted's mom in her new condo. The kids found a great "hidey-hole," a triangular-shaped area along the corner of the living room that is blocked off by her couch. They had more fun playing with Grandma's toys back there and took turns sleeping in the hidey-hole each night, too!

Joel and Sarah came over for Thanksgiving Day, and we enjoyed a leisurely day celebrating with family. Rhonda prepared the turkey and homemade dressing, Sarah brought corn pudding, broccoli casserole, and pistachio salad, and I made dessert, an apple pie and pumpkin pie crunch. I also made make-ahead potatoes, but we didn't have them on Thanksgiving Day; we baked them the day after since Rhonda always makes her gravy a day after Thanksgiving so as to scrape off all the turkey fat. Good idea! Charis and I set the table and placed little candy corn favors out for everyone, and Rhonda found a turkey centerpiece that had obviously seen many Thanksgiving Days over the years but was still in good shape. Charis had fun helping put it together for our table.

After dinner was over, we spent some time writing things we were thankful for on apple cut-outs that I had brought. Last year we wrote on leaves, but I didn't have time to cut leaves. :-) Charis and I made a "Blessing Tree" out of posterboard and put it on one of Grandma's doors, and she happily taped up all of our apples after we took turns reading what we wrote on them. Charis filled up all 6 of her apples, and Tobin even wrote 4 of his own apples, then asked us to help him with the other 2. Arden called out a few things from the other room that we put on apples for him, as he was much more thankful for Grandma's toys than for the opportunity to sit still at the table a moment longer than necessary! It was a fun activity, and as this was the second year for us to do something of this nature, I'm guessing we have a new family tradition. Apples or leaves, we'll make a Blessing Tree each year!

Of course, Thanksgiving wouldn't be complete without football, a tradition in both my family and Ted's. Unfortunately, we watched our Broncos suffer a terrible defeat that evening...sigh.

On Friday Ted, Joel, and Rhonda hit the slopes for some quality snowboarding and skiing while the kids and I spent time at Sarah's house. They had a blast "helping" Sarah decorate and oohing and aahing over her Christmas collection, which I also admired. I worked on stamping some of our Christmas cards, which may not actually be mailed off until New Year's at the rate I'm going with holiday preparations, but at least half of the cards are ready now!

On Saturday Ted and I took the kids to meet his high school friend Bill and his wife Mellisa and their three kiddos, all about the same ages as ours. We spent a few hours visiting at their home and also at a nearby park, as the weather was gorgeous. Then we finished up with a trip to CiCi's Pizza before heading back to the condo for some mandatory rest time (for me, anyway!) so we could be ready for services that evening at Joel and Sarah's church. After a hearty dinner at Red Robin following church, we said our goodbyes and headed back for a good night of sleep before hitting the road Sunday morning.

December 02, 2006

Birthday Celebrations

My 32nd birthday was November 22, the day before Thanksgiving. I actually had 3 different celebrations this year, and they were all tons of fun! I feel so spoiled!

First, the Saturday evening before my actual birthday, Sarah treated me and two other friends, Lyn and Debi, to a performance of Mama Mia! (Sarah has great connections through her work as an ASL interpreter!) The show was great fun, and afterwards we went to Chile's for some appetizers and fellowship. It was a girls' night out to remember!

The next day, Sunday afternoon, my friend Debi hosted a birthday party for me at her house! I haven't had a birthday party in I don't know how long, and it was also tons of fun. Once again, I felt so spoiled! The ladies all wrote things they were thankful for about me, and Debi took a picture of me with each friend who was there and is going to put a little memory booklet together for me. I thought it was a very sweet idea. There were some games and lots of laughter and of course yummy chocolate cake. :-) Oh, and presents galore! Lots of treats for pampering, and Debi found two beautiful maternity shirts for me that are a welcome addition to a wardrobe that is quickly becoming tiresome!

Two days later our family drove to Colorado for Thanksgiving (I'll have to post a separate entry about that), and we had our family celebration of my birthday on Wednesday, beginning with a birthday brunch at Joel and Sarah's house. It was so fun to see how they've decorated/updated the house. (They purchased the house Ted and Joel grew up in from their mom, who moved into a smaller condo this summer.) They've worked hard, and it looks so nice! It was somewhat surreal to walk into the home I've always known as Jim and Rhonda's house and see it look so different, but Ted and I are both thrilled that the house is staying in the family. The kids remembered the house, too, so that was pretty cool.

Anyway, more presents! (See? Told you I've been spoiled!) The kids got me new cookie sheets, which I had blatantly asked for, seeing as how the ones I got for our wedding shower 9 1/2 years ago are in very sad shape! Ted got me a Leigh Nash (of Sixpence None the Richer) CD that is very beautiful, a Dave Barry daily calendar, and Stephen Lawhead's new book Hood, which we had both been wanting (it's a retelling of the Robin Hood legend in Lawhead's amazing, unique style that is so well-researched), so it's pretty obvious what the motives were for that one! ;-) Now I'm under pressure to finish reading it so that he can have it! Tee hee! And the whole family went in on a breadmaker, which I've been wanting but am now a bit intimidated by! I really need to pull out the box and actually read the directions now that our trip is over and the holidays are getting closer. I can't wait to try it out!

Later that evening Rhonda babysat the kids so Ted and I could go out. We went to a nice Italian restaurant called Pastas at Joel and Sarah's recommendation. Then we got tickets to see the Santa Clause 3 movie and walked to Starbucks for a latte while we were waiting for the movie to start. The movie was cute, and we came home tired but refreshed for having gotten some alone time for the first time in quite awhile.

November 20, 2006

Preparing for Thanksgiving

This year, getting ready for Thanksgiving has been really fun with the kids. I had checked out some books from the library weeks ago so we'd have them on hand for reading the week before Thanksgiving (and we just picked up a few more on Saturday to have for this week). One of the books depicted a class of kids getting ready for the Thanksgiving play. Each child had the role of a character from the first Thanksgiving, so it was a good introduction to Pilgrims and American Indians. Charis and Tobin remembered quite a bit from the Magic Tree House book Thanksgiving on Thursday that we read a couple of months ago, so that was good to be able to refer to as well.

Anyway, some of the children in this particular book were sporting paper sack vests and headbands for the Indian costumes, and we unanimously decided that we wanted to make them, too! My children have no idea what "Indian designs" look'll notice that Charis's vest has a princess drawn on one side of it, and both boys just colored random splotches on theirs. But they had a grand time decorating them and wearing them throughout the week. My camera batteries were dead on the day we actually made them (last Monday), so this picture was taken at the end of the week. The costumes held up surprisingly well, considering! Tobin refused to put his vest on for us, but, as you can see, Snuggle Bear is making a cameo appearance with his own Indian outfit, custom-made by Charis.

Another good book we read was called Across the Wide, Dark Sea, about the voyage of the Mayflower. The illustrations were beautiful, and I love how the author (Jean Van Leeuwen) made the story generic in one sense by using no people names to demonstrate that it could have been one of any number of journeys to America, yet the details were so rich that one could easily imagine it to have happened just as she wrote.

This week I look forward to reading the other books we checked out on Saturday. I also plan to have our whole family work on memorizing Psalm 100, and we'll learn some songs about thankfulness. When I was a resident assistant at Cedarville, our RD, Miss Taylor, taught the RAs lots of Bible verse songs, so one of the songs we'll do is the verse "In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you."

We'll also continue a family tradition that we started last year, though we're changing it just a bit this year. Last year we cut out colorful leaves and wrote different things we were thankful for each night at supper and decorated our pantry door with leaves. This year we're using apples instead of leaves--much easier to cut out! I'm hoping we'll be able to get some butcher paper to make a tree for the apples to "hang" on! We look forward to doing this with Ted's family as we celebrate the season of gratefulness.

Spelling Bee

The home school co-op spelling bee was last Thursday. I was so proud of Charis! I thought she would be nervous and shy, but not when she found out she got to go on stage and talk into a microphone! Ironic that she enjoys the spotlight but sometimes has a hard time talking with other people!

She was in the first group to go. There was one first grader (Charis), 3 second graders, and 2 third graders (or maybe the other way around). Charis went through three rounds and was not the first one to sit down. The word she missed was one she knew, but, like most of the children who made mistakes, she was rushing ahead and skipped a letter. "G-V-E" instead of "GAVE." Nevertheless, I was proud of her, and she had a great time on stage. I thought it was cute that as kids had to leave the stage, a mom was in the front row handing out cookies to take their minds off their sadness! :-)

Tobin and Arden were great in the audience. Tobin camped out on the floor to color and looked up now and then to cheer for Charis out loud ("Go, Charis!"). I loved seeing him support his sister, even though he probably didn't really understand what was going on. Arden also did well, going from floor to my lap and clapping along with everyone else.

We watched the next two groups of contestants--a whole group of fourth graders by themselves, and then a combined fifth and sixth grade group. Each child got words from his or her own spelling list, so they were not competing against children in a different grade even if they were on the stage at the same time.

When it was all over, each child received a certificate of participation, and, because she was the only first grade participant, Charis got a $10 gift certificate to Barnes & Noble by default! She of course was thrilled, and so was I. A great excuse to go to the bookstore!

November 13, 2006

It's a...

GIRL! We're having a girl!

On Saturday our family drove to the other side of town for a "gender-guaranteed" ultrasound. A friend had recommended this guy who has worked in the medical field before and now does ultrasounds as a little side business. He was very nice and gave us quite a good discount because he found out that Ted is active duty. We also got a nice 12-minute DVD and VHS recording of the images, plus lots of great picture printouts that came out much better than the ones from base.

Funny thing is, Ted and I weren't surprised at all by the news. We knew from the beginning that this baby had to be a girl. Charis, though, had a glow on her face all day long. She's finally getting her baby sister!

Earlier that morning I had asked the children what they thought our baby was, a boy or a girl. Tobin gave the cutest answer: "I think she's a cute little baby girl!"

Tobin's Prayer

A few mornings ago Tobin offered this prayer at the breakfast table. I hurried to write it down as soon as he said amen because I thought it was so cute!

"Dear God,
Thank you that you made everything that you wanted to make.
Thank you that you will kill Satan by putting him in the fiery furnace.
Thank you that you love us so, so, so, so, so much.
Thank you that you made everything that you made very, very, very good.

Arden's Learning, Too

Each Monday we learn a new Bible verse in our home school that corresponds with one of the "21 Rules of Our House" that I mentioned in an earlier post. A couple of weeks ago our verse was 1 Corinthians 13:4, "Love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud." Throughout the week, I had, as usual, many opportunities to reinforce the concepts as the children interacted with one another. "Remember, our verse says that love is PATIENT, love is KIND..."

Well. One evening the children were supposed to be cleaning up. Tobin was "helping" Arden make sure to clean instead of play and took a ball away from him. Arden was NOT happy. He shouted, "TO-BIN! Our verse says, 'Be kind, and PLAY WITH THE BALL!!!'"

At least he's hearing some of the stuff I say!

November 06, 2006

Home School Update

Last week's theme was Food & Nutrition. The kids loved all the books we got from the library. I think a favorite was The Edible Pyramid, which was a fun and easy way to introduce them to the food pyramid. Charis and I started a food journal, in which she wrote down everything she ate for all meals and snacks, and then we tallied how many servings from each part of the pyramid she ate. As I type this, I'm remembering that we probably only did about 2 or 3 days' worth instead of 5, the number of sheets I had printed out. But I guess the days don't have to be consecutive, and she had a great time filling out her chart the times we did it.

Charis began subtraction a couple of weeks ago and is doing very well with it. In fact, I've been surprised at how quickly she has picked up on the concept, and I think I've only found one mistake in all the math pages she has done in two weeks--and that was a story problem for which she switched two numbers. She got the correct answer for the problem she did, though! It makes me feel reassured that we aren't going too fast...she's about 2/3 of the way through the 1st grade math book. As long as she's comfortable with what we're covering, I guess I'll let her keep plowing ahead!

And speaking of which, she is on the last book that I have of the Bobbsey twin series (book 10). She has decided she wants to be a detective and has been on the hunt for mysteries to solve. ;-) She and her friend Hannah "found a mystery" just yesterday, in fact...they discovered the door to the garage on the side of our house. They didn't know it went to the garage, so they had to investigate. Charis proudly announced that they had "solved" a mystery when Sarah and I returned home from a ministry brunch!

Charis decided that she does want to participate in our home school co-op's spelling bee on November 16. I was a little leery about it, knowing how shy she is, but when she seemed eager to do it, I decided that we'd go ahead and sign up for it. The worst that can happen is that she'll chicken out and simply watch other kids participate. In the meantime, we're practicing with the words on her spelling lists, and I think it will be a great experience for her. There are only a small handful of 1st graders participating, so hopefully she'll have the confidence to get up there and do her thing! For me, this is more about the "performance"/public speaking aspect than the spelling...I don't really care how she does with the words themselves! I think she's a pretty good little speller, and I wouldn't be surprised if she does very well. I'm just happy she's willing (at least now) to prepare to spell words in front of other people!

Tobin is nearly finished with his reading lessons from the 100 EZ Lessons book. He continues to improve his fluency and enjoys reading to himself now. He seems to be ready for some more structured handwriting practice, so I plan to order a book for him soon. He's taken some practice sheets and written his own little sentences, such as "I love Momme" and "I love God." When I saw what he had done on his own, of his own free will, I thought, yeah, this kid is ready to learn how to write! I haven't wanted to push it, since he only seemed to want to write his name for a really long time and I could tell that his motor skills weren't where Charis's were at that age--though he's an amazing color-er! :-) I'm excited to have him do the kindergarten handwriting book that Charis did last year. I know he'll love it--it has pictures to color in addition to what I think will be just the right amount of writing practice for each lesson.

I guess those are the highlights of what we've been doing in school lately. The kids are doing very well with the routine, and I'm thankful for that. It has been a very enjoyable year so far, and I look forward to more fun times cuddling on the couch and reading as we get into more read-alouds. (We're over halfway through The Little House in the Big Woods!)

Autumn Activities

I won't spend as much time on this post as I did on the last one, but I'll share a few activities we've done since I last wrote.

October 28 was a squadron BBQ, and the kids were encouraged to dress up. Since we were planning to take our kids to King's Faire, a huge event at our church, that night, we decided it would work for us to take them to base, enjoy the picnic and activities, and head straight to church from there...all of which made for a VERY long day! But we loved it. Charis wore her cowgirl outfit that she purchased with a birthday gift card; Tobin wore the knight costume that Arden got for his birthday; and Arden wore the pirate costume that he got for his birthday. The boys had great fun wielding their swords and showing off for the other kids who were there. The kids all enjoyed some games and--their favorite--a pinata, and we came home with little goodie bags for each of them.

Then we drove to church, arriving about 10 minutes before King's Faire opened, which was perfect. The kids did a few of the bounce houses before we discovered the pre-school only section. My friend Sarah and I hung out with our pre-schoolers while Ted took Charis and Hannah to do something else, since they had passed the age 5 limit for the other area. Oh, my, did the kids enjoy their play time! King's Faire was much bigger than I had anticipated, even though I expected great things, having been told that last year's turnout was about 10,000 people. This year I believe the number was well over 11,000. We ate dinner there and got loaded with giant bags of candy for each kid, then headed home at 6:30 and put the kiddos straight to bed. They were exhausted!

The next day we drove in the late afternoon to Spring Mountain Ranch to see Civil War Days. We JUST missed one of the battle reenactments, which was sorely disappointing, as the next one wasn't due to start until 6 p.m. We wandered around the little village areas and the Union Army camp, but it wasn't as exciting as it would have been if we had been able to see the battle beforehand. Ted and I decided it was just not worth hanging out for so long to see a battle that wouldn't start for several hours, especially since the kids had had such a big day before. So we went home, ordered pizza, and enjoyed a movie night (Over the Hedge).

This year, we decided (officially) that our family will not "do" Halloween. I have fond memories of dressing up and trick or treating, but these days the decorations and costumes seem much less innocent than I remember. I'm all for kids dressing up and enjoying their costumes, but it always seems there are so many other opportunities for them to do this outside of Halloween. Not to mention we got a truckload of candy from the squadron BBQ and King's Faire. :-) This is, of course, not to say participating in Halloween is necessarily right or wrong--just a choice that Ted and I have made for our own family.

So on the evening of October 31 we headed for Coldstone Creamery to use Charis and Arden's birthday coupons. The Coldstone Creations that they were able to get for free were so huge that Charis and Arden shared a strawberry shortcake kind of concoction, while Tobin and I shared a mint Oreo fudge bowl of goodness. Ted got his own ice cream for 50% off, so we all enjoyed a calorie-laden splurge for a grand total of $2.25.

I guess the only other autumn activity I can think of is that we've visited the orchard a few times to gather apples for homemade applesauce and apple cake. More yummy treats! The weather has been great, and we're trying to get out and enjoy it as much as we can.

October 27, 2006

Two Weeks' Worth of Activities in One Post!

This will be the nutshell version with pictures of what we've been up to the last couple of weeks! Once I get caught up on here it is much easier to be consistent with posting. Here goes...

(As always, you can click on any picture to see a bigger version of it!)

OCTOBER 12--Mad Science Day

This was a home school co-op event. It wasn't the "Mad Science" that you may have heard about but rather a station event that allowed kids to visit 6 different tables to learn basic science concepts. Charis had a blast, and so did the boys, who were at their own little pre-school table doing such activities as playing with shaving cream, mixing paint colors, making leaf rubbings, etc. Since I spent most of my time keeping an eye on the boys, I didn't get to see much of Charis's activities. It was a well-organized event, and the kids all loved it.

I "caught" Charis finishing up this book on her own, a 178-page Bobbsey Twin story, the first book in the series! I had purchased the first 10 books to have as read-alouds, thinking we'd start them sometime during this school year. Little did I know that Charis was reading the book on her own in her room! She got so excited about finishing it, and Ted and I were frankly quite amazed to discover her accomplishment. She has since breezed through the next 3 books and is almost finished with book 5! (Her reading of those has been interrupted by a new reading project, Meet Felicity, one of the American Girl books that she got from Uncle Clint and Auntie Ski for her birthday!)

OCTOBER 15--Charis's Crafts
Charis has been into crafts pretty much since she was born. She has recently begun making her own paper projects using scraps I've given her. I've dumped a LOT of card stock scraps on her this month as I prepared materials for nearly 600 cards for my Christmas card workshops! She made this tu-tu for her stuffed bear--I don't know if you can see the ruffle on it, but we were impressed with the detail. Snuggle even has a hat with ear holes cut out and little ballet slippers! Other craft projects have included animal face masks for her and her brothers, I believe a rabbit, a bear, and a tiger.

OCTOBER 18--Birthday Kids
It just so happened that the well-child check-ups for my kids were scheduled on this day. We woke bright and early so we could leave for base by 7:30 a.m. The kids were great at the doctor's office for the most part. Tobin didn't want to say AHHH, and Charis refused to speak at all when the doctor asked her questions, but other than that they did well. (We've been trying to work with Charis on courtesy that she is 6, we feel it's important that she communicates with adults when we are present. She's always been shy, but this is beyond shyness and has frustrated us because she does very well conversing with adults she knows. Any thoughts?)

We also had to update the kids' shots, so all 3 got poked today. Tobin, the Drama King, wailed so loudly I think surely Ted must have been able to hear him on the other side of base. Charis tried to be brave but did end up crying. And Arden? The little guy just sat there, munching on his fruit snacks as if nothing was going on! Of course, he seems to have the most body fat, so perhaps the poke in his legs didn't affect him the way it did his skinny little sister and muscular big brother.

But a happy thing also happened on their birthday--Grandma and Grandpa K drove into town to stay with us for a week! They didn't get in until we were at church for AWANA, but the kids had a great little visit with them before bedtime.

OCTOBER 20--Tour of the Thunderbirds hangar and TTF (Threat Training Facility) with Grandpa
Mom and I enjoyed a relaxing day at home while Dad, Ted, and the kids went to base. Ted took this day off. It worked out perfectly. I was able to finish setting up for my major Christmas card workshop Saturday morning, and Mom wrapped tons of birthday presents and even Christmas presents that she and Dad had brought along with them. The guys and the kids enjoyed their time on base. It was a gorgeous day, and you can see by what the kids are wearing that the weather was great!

OCTOBER 21--Bonnie Springs/Old Nevada
After my stamping class was over, our family drove to Bonnie Springs. We got a train ride from the parking lot to the entrance of the Old Nevada "town," a replica of an old western town with real buildings (not just false fronts). The kids had a blast--they really hadn't been introduced to cowboy culture before, but they were quickly drawn in! Grandma and Grandpa bought them all cowboy hats.

The first activity was a "deputy" show, during which all the kids who were around got to sit together and listen to a deputy talk about guns and gun safety. It was well done, and I commented to Ted that perhaps we should count our trip as a field trip and a day of school, especially since we hadn't had school but one day this week! Afterwards the kids received their deputy badges and helped chase a "bad guy" and put him in jail. In the picture below, you can see Tobin and Charis, the only kids with cowboy hats on. :-)

Then we got to wander around the town a bit before the melodrama began in the saloon. It was quite entertaining, though it did have its share of risque double entendre...glad it was over the kids' heads, but still! This is supposed to be a family event!

After that, the "bad guy" returned to town, and we went outside the saloon to watch the sheriff and his deputy give the bad dude a "trial" (for which my dad was picked to be defense attorney!) and then hanged him. Much humor abounded, and I think Tobin should have won a prize for most involved spectator. Every time the sheriff asked a question, even if rhetorical, Tobin answered in a very LOUD voice! For example:

Sheriff: What are we going to do with this scoundrel?
Tobin: HANG HIM!!!!!

(Note that Tobin had no idea what a hanging was until after this day!)

By the time all this was over, the sun was going down and it was getting quite cold. We went to the Bonnie Springs restaurant and enjoyed a yummy dinner there--country fried steak for Ted, Mom, and me, and buffalo steak for my dad, complete with salad, potatoes, gravy, bread...mmm! The kids were sure pooped by the time we got home after the 45-minute drive!

OCTOBER 22--Birthday Party!
This year we ended up combining the kids' parties. Arden was too little the last 2 years to really worry about an official party; we just did family activities. This year, since Grandma and Grandpa were only here a week, we decided we'd better combine the parties. In the future I plan to try to have separate special days for them--it's not their fault they share a birthday--but right now all their friends are from the same family anyway!

So we sent out invitations asking friends to come for some Fall Family Fun. We provided each family with a pumpkin for a pumpkin-carving/decorating contest, and families also made caramel apples to take home. The kids loved decorating their apples with marshmallows, chocolate chips, and candy corn, and most of the grown-ups enjoyed the anticipation of eating a caramel apple rolled in nuts! Mmmm! The trampoline was also a big hit and kept the kids from running about the house. Each family brought a side dish, and we provided drinks and appetizers and a Pumpkin Patch cake from Sam's Club. (Charis had requested a pumpkin cake!)

It was a great party--lots of fun, and the emphasis seemed to be on FAMILY fun as opposed to necessarily spotlighting OUR kids, which was my goal anyway. We did let the kids open the gifts that people brought, but we saved our plethora of family gifts for them to open the next night.

OCTOBER 24--Ultrasound
We were able to get our ultrasound done while Mom and Dad were here. Mom and Charis drove with me to base while Dad chose to stay home with the boys. Unfortunately the staff was about 45 minutes behind schedule, so by the time I got back there, Ted had to leave for a meeting. We got a couple of good pictures but of course heard nothing about the gender. We look forward to our FUN ultrasound (during which I won't have to have a full bladder!) in December and to finding out if this baby is indeed a girl or not.

OCTOBER 25--Goodbye :-(
Grandma and Grandpa K had to leave on this day. Charis was especially sad to see them go and spent some time crying and cuddling on my lap after they left. We began reading Little House in the Big Woods, though, and that seemed to help ease the pain. :-)

Whew! I'll quit for now. Those are the highlights of our last couple of weeks since I last posted. I'll try to start catching up with other daily details later!

October 09, 2006

A Story by Charis

Charis spent some time drawing and writing on the white board this afternoon, and she wrote a story. Here it is, original spelling and all ("toyo" is supposed to be "toys" you call that a write-o instead of a typo?!):

"Ben put his toyo away. He did not want to be late. Thay wre going to the games. It wude be fun. Ben wud get to play oun [one]. Thay wrue soon thare. The games wrue fun. Wune the games wrue ouer, thay winte home."

Notice the correct placement of capital letters, periods, and the comma in the last sentence! I was also impressed that even though she had misspellings, at least she was fairly consistent! :-)

October 08, 2006

Random Stuff

It's nearly 4:30 a.m. and I've been up for 2 hours. Such is my lot during pregnancy, I guess. I get up to go to the bathroom and can't get back to sleep (primarily because a certain someone in my bed snores!). Even after trying to sleep on the couch, I'm still awake and decided I might as well be awake doing something rather than nothing. Here are some random thoughts from a tired brain.

Last week's home school theme was Bedtime. We had some fun books from the library and some great stories/poems from our Sonlight books. The kids enjoyed the reading, but there was nothing terribly spectacular about the week. No field trips this time, unless you count the Land of Nod. ;-)

Charis passed her math test with flying colors--she's really getting this addition thing! I was delighted to see she got 20 out of 20 correct the first time. I was planning to take the rest of this Math-U-See book fairly slowly, because she's so young and I really wanted her to learn thoroughly rather than just get through the book. I think the week we took to review addition facts awhile back has paid off. It's nice to have the freedom to evaluate what my child needs and then do it, and it takes a lot of pressure off when I realize that I don't HAVE to be at any certain point in our lessons at any given time!

Tobin continues to improve his reading with amazing speed. We're now somewhere around lesson 75 or so in his 100 EZ Lessons book, and he surprises me by reading random things (like cereal boxes and t-shirts) out loud, reading words we didn't realize he could figure out yet! Once again, this is a lesson to me to never assume anything about my children or their abilities. "Everyone" said that boys need more time than girls do to grow and develop before they're ready for academics (probably the same "everyone" who said that boys are harder to potty train than girls--not so in our family). So I really did not intend to do anything even remotely formal with Tobin for another year or so. I figured he could color in workbooks or do whatever he was interested in doing, but I had no idea he'd be such a fluent reader at 4 1/2 years old. He was the one to initiate the reading lessons, saying he wanted to be able to read like Charis! He's not, however, interested in handwriting in the slightest--no surprise there! He's doing fairly well with writing numerals, but I haven't done any handwriting to speak of since we did a pre-K Handwriting Without Tears book last fall. It was a good introduction, but I don't think he's ready for anything else yet. He enjoys writing his name but doesn't seem interested in doing anything else but coloring, and I know that's good for his development as well.

I've been asked several times what I do with the boys when I'm home schooling Charis. We begin the day with Bible stories, verses, and prayer, so we're all doing that together. Then, truthfully, Tobin keeps busy with his own little math workbook and reading lessons while Charis works on her math and handwriting. He usually colors while Charis and I do her phonics and dictation exercises, and then it's time for Sonlight/library reading, which we all do together. So, Tobin's easy to work with right now.

And amazingly, so is Arden! I had all sorts of grand plans of setting up little learning stations for him to be playing at (and keeping busy with) while I schooled the other two, but he's figured out his own plan. He heads to the family room and plays with Wedgits, Lincoln Logs, or Superstructs...or, sometimes he stays in the school room and plays with the Math-U-See blocks. (His creations are getting more and more grandiose as the year progresses!)

The first week we "did" school this fall, I was a bit concerned about what to do with Arden, as he wanted only to sit on my lap or cling to my leg. I guess he's figured that whatever we're doing is not worth his time, because he has no problem leaving me alone now during our first activities. Often he comes to read with us on the couch when it's reading time, and it's nice to be together for that when he's interested.

So, thankfully, "what do you do with your pre-schoolers" is not really an issue at this point for us! I'm sure that will change when we add a baby to the mix, or when Arden gets a little bit older, but for now I'm enjoying the ease with which we are carrying out our schedule.

I've managed to maintain a reasonable exercise regime so far during this pregnancy. I had taken a few weeks off because of nausea and exhaustion at the beginning, but after I started to feel better, I began jogging again. For a few weeks I was doing a total of about 10-12 miles per week. (Since I had been doing 20-22 miles a week before I found out I was pregnant, this was not, I felt, unreasonable.) Gradually that number has dropped significantly! This past week I jogged a total of 3 3/4 miles, though I did walk a total of 2 1/4, so that has to count for something.

The doctor said I could continue exercising but to listen to my body. It seems my body is telling me it's time to slow down! I really want to continue doing something, even if I can't run 4-5 miles at a stretch (or even 1 1/2 or 2!), so I hope to at least go walking 3-4 times per week. It's nice that we now have our treadmill in our bedroom so that I can get exercise when Ted is at work. The mornings have been dark and blustery lately, so I have not actually exercised outside aside from my walk yesterday at lunch time when Ted and the kids played at the park.

October 04, 2006

Great Organizing Tool

At our September parent meeting our home school co-op focused on organization, always a great topic! I wanted to share some information about a wonderful tool that I heard about called the Desk Apprentice. Apparently it was created by a team on the show The Apprentice. Staples is the only office store that carries it. Since we have no Staples in Las Vegas, I went online and ordered 2 of these things (with free delivery--yay!). I can't wait to get them! I will use one in our home school area for all those floppy books (handwriting, 100 EZ Lessons, Tobin's little workbooks, Charis' math stuff, etc) that don't want to stay up when you take something out of the lineup.

The Desk Apprentice rotates and also has other areas for storage--you can even fit file folders in the middle--and I thought it was a pretty amazing invention, one that is perfect for our home school area as well as our family office space. (I have file folders and papers everywhere right now! I'm hoping this will help me get more organized in my office, too!)

Anyway, just thought I'd share in case anyone else needed some help with organizing materials!

October 03, 2006

Last Week Was for the Birds!

Or for studying birds, that is. We focused on birds as our theme during our school week and enjoyed re-reading many favorite Sonlight stories about birds as well as perusing a number of library books that told us more details about this part of God's creation. To cap off our week we visited a local bird sanctuary. Ted had Friday off work, so he was able to accompany us on this field trip. (We really don't plan to take a field trip EVERY week we do's just worked out that so far, we have!)

Tobin's experience at the bird sanctuary began rather dramatically as he promptly stuck his finger in a parrot's cage only to receive a nasty nip. He spent the majority of the morning whining and asking to leave, not surprising after that traumatic introduction. It didn't help that the birds were extremely LOUD and startled him on more than one occasion! Arden and Charis, on the other hand, didn't seem to mind the noises at all, and having learned the cage lesson from Tobin, managed to refrain from sticking their fingers in the cages (mostly). At least no one else got bitten.

I was pleasantly surprised at how many different kinds of birds there were to see. I've driven and jogged past the outside of the sanctuary before and had seen ostriches and emus, but I didn't know they had such a huge variety. I'm no bird expert, by any means, but I remember seeing hens, roosters, turkeys, parakeets, cockatoos (probably at least a dozen or more varieties here!), peacocks, ducks, geese, some type of buzzard, love birds, doves, and of course the ostriches and emus. I'm sure there were others, but we didn't take notes.

We were there during feeding time for the ducks and geese and were amused to watch them frantically flock to the piles of bread and fruit that were unceremoniously dumped on the shore of the pond. Even Tobin cheered up a bit at this point as he watched. Arden and Charis were delighted by watching the ostriches bend to eat and bob their necks around as they watched us back.

There was a petting zoo as well, so we also saw pigs, donkeys, miniature horses, goats, llamas, and tortoises.

All in all, it was a good experience for the $11 we paid to get in and was a great way to cap off our week's look at birds.

September 30, 2006

Baby Update

I'm now just about 17 weeks along in this pregnancy, and so far all is going well. We had an appointment last Tuesday, and we heard the heart beat at 156 beats per minute. (It was 160 last month.) So, good news! I've been feeling the baby for 9 weeks now, which I know sounds a little crazy, but it's true. The movements are definitely getting stronger but still aren't strong enough for Ted to feel. Soon, though, I'm sure.

I had to break down and get the maternity clothes out once I hit 14 weeks, 3 days. Thankfully I still have most of my collection. I can't seem to find my nice black dress pants, a pair of khaki pants, or one of my pairs of jeans. That's a bummer, because I still have all of the summer clothing, which won't be needed for very long. Ah, well. I do have some winter things that will hopefully get me through without going crazy from maternity clothes boredom.

Next month we get our 20-week ultrasound. It will be nice because my parents will be here visiting; however, we have learned that the base technicians (and doctors) will NOT, under ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, tell us the gender of the baby. Nor, it seems, will they tell us anything at all! Apparently a gender guess was incorrect, and the mother raised a huge stink about it, thereby ruining things for the rest of us who enjoy actually conversing with our ultrasound tech. So now not only do we not get to find out the gender of our baby during the 20-week ultrasound, but apparently we get to sit there for almost an hour watching a screen and having very little idea what is actually being looked at, because the techs won't talk to the patients at all. Strange! We've had a number of ultrasounds with the other three children, and we enjoyed the running commentary as a part of the experience. "Here's the can see the four chambers...everything looks good. Here are the's an arm, there's a leg, etc."

I know, I know, way back in the olden days people didn't GET ultrasounds at all. I'm not going to whine about it, other than the fact that I think it is ridiculous that one mother--who should have KNOWN that nothing is 100% guaranteed--affected base policy in such a drastic way.

Ted and I DO plan to just go pay and have a 4-D ultrasound done, probably in December. (That's during the window when they say you get the best results in the pictures.) At least those places guarantee knowing what the gender is...if you don't get a good look at it the first time, you can come back for free!

We enjoy knowing in advance whether we're having a boy or a girl. We prayerfully choose baby names and begin praying for the baby in very specific ways. Additionally, since Charis prayed for a baby sister for well over a year and a half, we'd like the opportunity to tell her that A) her prayers were answered according to how she asked or B) God chose to give us a boy this time instead!

September 24, 2006

Music Field Trip

We finished our unit on music last week--it wasn't nearly as intensive as the first week, but it was still enjoyable. Charis continued with a bit of piano practice (she really isn't happy about only playing on the black keys right now, but I guess she'll get over it) and added another little song to her practice time.

The highlight of our unit was getting to attend a free live concert! The Community College of Southern Nevada hosted its 5th annual New Music Festival, and students were invited to hear a sampling of music during a 45-minute performance. I figured it would be PERFECT for the kids--not too long, but an opportunity to hear a variety of instruments. I did prepare them for the fact that they would not see a full orchestra, as we had read (and re-read) some favorite library books about all the instruments in an orchestra. Tobin was especially disappointed that we never saw a conductor. :-)

However, I was happy with the performance and what the children were able to see and hear. The first number was a clarinet solo, combined with pre-recorded electronic music. Very interesting. At just over 6 minutes, it was a bit long for my squirmy Tobin, but Arden (who was on my lap for the whole performance) sat wide-eyed and still.

The second number was a solo by a mezzo-soprano, accompanied by a pianist. She sang the children's poem "The Owl and the Pussycat," and the children were QUITE amused. She had said at the beginning that it was OK to laugh because it was supposed to be funny in parts, but I suspect that the majority of the children were laughing because they have never before heard, ahem, such, well, "soprano-ish" music rather than because they appreciated the humor of the poem. It was indeed amusing to hear a rendition of the poem in more of an operatic style.

Third, we heard a duet of musicians from the Netherlands, one of whom played the bass clarinet (very cool!), and the other of whom played the alto sax. This was also a great number, and all the kids really enjoyed it.

The piano duet that followed was interesting to me, but I think the discordant sounds (reflecting anger and frustration at a friend's death) put Charis off a bit. She didn't seem as impressed as I thought she might at seeing professional pianists.

The last number was my favorite by far. It was a percussion trio, and we were all invited to the stage (all 30 of us in the auditorium!) to watch. The men stood around a single kettle drum, and attached to the sides were their own bongos and gongs. It was a fabulous number, and I enjoyed watching the expressions on our kids' faces as they listened. I thought this would be by far their favorite thing, but when, as we were walking back to the van, I asked them what their favorite part of the performance was, here were their answers:

Arden: "I liked the saxophone."
Charis: "I liked the Owl and the Pussycat song."
Tobin: "My favorite was the--what did the really tall man play? The long thing?"
Me: "The bass clarinet."
Tobin: "I liked the bass clarinet!"

Wow! I'm just happy that they each picked something they enjoyed, and the fact that it didn't happen to be the very last (and seemingly "coolest") number makes me think that the experience really did leave an impression on them. Woohoo!

School in a Grocery Cart

One of the great things about home schooling is that we can do it anywhere. On Wednesday I had awakened at 2:45 a.m. (of course to make a trip to the bathroom) and was unable to get back to sleep. I ended up coming into the office and working a bit, eating a very early breakfast since I was to meet Sarah for a run. It was incredibly windy out, but we managed 3 miles before I had to return so Ted could leave for work.

As I was showering, the lack of sleep hit me (must have been that nice, hot water!), and I began to think that there was just no way I could do a full morning of school, then lunch, then make a trip to the commissary with all the kids to get our week and a half's worth of groceries. That had been the original plan, but obviously it would have to be changed.

I made up a math practice page, since we were taking the week off from doing any new math lessons to help Charis work on some of her addition facts that she's been having trouble with. I put the math page, her handwriting practice page, and a word search on a clip board with her pencil. Then I packed the backpack with our usual grocery shopping supplies--Leap Pad, fruit snacks, books, etc. We ate breakfast together, read our Bible story and reviewed the AWANA verses the kids were to say that evening, and then we loaded up the van. For some reading practice, I had them listen to the audio tape "Piglet Is Entirely Surrounded by Water," narrated by Charles Karault, while Charis read along in the book.

Once we got inside the store, I, the 3 children, and 2 shopping carts made our way through the aisles with very little incidents. Charis was a model student, working on her pages diligently, quite delighted that she could "do school" while we shopped! An added bonus of going in the morning was that there were hardly any other people there, aside from sweet elderly couples who generally made comments such as, "Oh, my, are all these children yours?" "Are any of them twins?" and "But my, they're so GOOD!" I have to keep from laughing when I receive such comments. I know my friend Claire, with her 5 children, and Melinda, with her 7 children (and 2 sets of twins) deserve to hear such things far more than I do! But the fact was, the children WERE indeed very good during this particular trip, and I was proud of their behavior, but even more excited by the fact that we were DONE with grocery shopping AND school before lunch time!!

After our lunch I promptly popped in a movie for the kids and took a much-needed nap!

September 20, 2006

Mount Charleston Field Trip

Last week Sarah asked if I'd like to take the kids to the mountain for picnic and playtime. I thought it sounded like a great idea! The kids and I looked forward to our Friday afternoon adventure. We (or I should say Sarah) managed to get 6 kids and their car seats stuffed into their Excursion, and we took off after our week of "official" school activities.

The kids were so excited they could hardly stand it. Arden was so excited he thought he had to go potty right after we turned on the road to go up the mountain. With no toilet in sight, we pulled off to the side of the road and I tried to get him to go outside, but the combination of the extraordinary winds and cars zipping by probably scared the poor little guy, so we continued on without any production. Better safe than sorry with potty training ones, I say! He's done so great the last couple of weeks, and I didn't want to give him a chance to regress, particularly that early in our adventure.

We drove up a ways, seeing the little town, lodges, and beautiful houses, then circled around and drove up a different road to a place Sarah remembered going before for a picnic. All the areas we had passed before required fees to enter, but her memory served her well, and we found a parking lot (with potties!) and were able to cross the road to a path that took us to some picnic tables. It was a beautiful spot, and the kids immediately got into the spirit of things, picking flowers, grabbing pine cones, and generally doing kid stuff. Every sight was a cause for celebration and shouting! Remember when we got excited like that?!

The air was so crisp and cool, and the wind blowing in the trees made a lovely sound. Since we had been studying music, I told the kids it was God's woodwinds section. :-)

We found a picnic table that hadn't been trashed out (yes, sad to say, we passed the first one because of all the litter around it) and began lunch. This didn't last long, as the song of the creek was calling, and the kids just had to answer! They came back and grazed every now and then, but they were obviously much more interested in exploring the woods than eating PBJs. Sarah and I helped them cross the creek at several different points. They were so thrilled to be able to walk over a fallen log in one place and step on stones in another. It reminded me of the times my family went camping in New Mexico and Colorado, and I wondered if my parents had the same amusement in watching my brother and me as Sarah and I did at watching our own children. Ahhh, the joys and epiphanies of parenthood.

We probably spent close to 3 hours on the mountain all together, with a half-hour drive each way. Charis and Tobin both had their first potty-in-the-great-outdoors experience, and I am pleased to say that Arden did not have an accident, making use of the parking lot toilet both coming and going. By the time we got back to Sarah's house and make the car seat transfer, it was 3:30 p.m. I gave up on the idea of trying to get my kids to nap and instead sent them to play quietly while I lay down for a nap! :-)

September 18, 2006

Last Week's Home School Activities much for keeping this updated in a timely manner. My goal is to recap each week of home school with at least one post so that I can remember what we did! So here is the recap for last week that I had intended to post over the weekend.

Our theme for the week was music. What a great module this is! We loved it so much that we're extending it to this week as well. There were just so many good books, non-Sonlight books that were recommended by the lady who put the Sonlight theme schedule together. The kids loved ALL of the books that we got from the library. One of my favorites is Ah, Music! by Aliki. Other titles are The Orchestra by Mark Rubin, Berlioz the Bear by Jan Brett, Meet the Orchestra by Ann Hayes, Rap A Tap Tap by Leo and Diane Dillon (about Bill "Bojangles" Robinson), and My Family Plays Music by Judy Cox. All are GREAT books.

Another activity involved creating our own "orchestra." The children were wild about this! We made shakers by putting rice in paper towel tubes (after the kids decorated the tubes) and covering the ends with paper and rubber bands. Unfortunately, my rubber bands are literally about 2 decades old, and they kept snapping, so the shakers didn't last too long, but while they did they were fun! An empty oatmeal can and an empty protein powder can made an excellent set of drums, with wooden spoons for drumsticks, and two pot lids were the perfect cymbals. Tobin added his recorder, and we had a bona fide "band!"

Charis decided I needed to play the piano amidst the uproar, so I added my musical efforts to the fray and we had a grand, LOUD time together! This led to Charis' interest in the piano, and so we semi-officially began piano lessons. I had purchased a couple of beginner books at the beginning of last school year only to decide after seeing them that she just wasn't ready. We're going to try this year and see how it goes. I'm not sure I'm the best one to teach her to play, BUT, I'm willing to give it a shot, and I'm sure we'll all learn a lot in the process--Charis will learn music and theory, and I will learn patience!

Another fun activity was going through Disney's Fantasia that I have on video. The intro allowed the children to see bits of the orchestra, and I helped them identify the sounds of various instruments. I thought perhaps they would be bored, since it's not really a "movie," but to my surprise they were utterly fascinated and begged and begged for more! We ended up going through the whole two hours' worth of music and animation over the course of the week.

Aside from our music theme, Tobin added a few more stickers to his reading lesson chart; Charis completed the next math lesson but had difficulties with the test, causing me to decide to spend this coming week reviewing; Charis finished her first fancy handwriting lesson (a Scripture verse on a border page of her choosing, and she got to color and decorate the border); and Tobin showed drastic improvement in writing numerals. Both children learned the week's memory verse, Mark 12:30: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength," which I chose to go along with Rule #1 from the Original 21 Rules of This House by Greg and Joshua Harris, which states, "We obey our Lord Jesus Christ." Each week we will learn a new rule and a Bible verse to emphasize it. The kids get to do a coloring page about the rule on Mondays, so they of course enjoy that.

Whew! That was our week about music! We'll continue the theme this week. I'll write another post later about our field trip with the B family to Mount Charleston last Friday. It had nothing to do with music (unless the wind through the trees counts!), but it was great fun and rather educational if we do say so ourselves. :-)