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. :-)

September 11, 2006

We Will Not Forget

Remembering the precious lives lost five years ago...The Healing Field at Palm Mortuary

Tweaking the Schedule

Our first week of school went well, with the exception of Arden not taking a single nap at all in the last, oh, 8-9 days or so. He's been one cranky kid.


(Drum roll, please)


I had an idea rolling around in my head and decided to step out in faith and put it into action to see if it would work. I thought that perhaps it was a nudge from the Lord, as I've been praying about our afternoons, which are as of yet rather unscheduled--I still want/need to work on finishing our MOTH (Managers of Their Homes) schedule so that we can be sure we are allotting time for all the fun and necessary activities that go along with running a home, home school, and home business.

After starting WOW last week, I began to wonder how I would manage my quiet time. Should I completely drop my read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year program in favor of being able to complete the 5 days' worth of studies each week, each of which require at least 30-45 minutes of time? Or should I try to do both? Obviously the chances of me getting an hour and a half of peace and quiet to do everything at once are slim to none! Last Friday and Saturday I worked on the Beth Moore study during Arden's "nap" times, and though it was fraught with interruptions, the studies got done.

Well. I had recently looked up the PBS listings to see what time Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood was on, as the kids had been reminded of him and asked if they could see him again--shockingly, the program is not even on! But, I did find that Bob the Builder is on every day at 2:30 p.m. Having checked out some Bob DVDs from the library, I had decided that they were pretty good material for the children to watch as a treat now and then, and the kids love the episodes. I pondered the possibilities of letting them watch once or twice a week. However, I usually put Arden down for his "nap" between 1:30 and 2 p.m. My idea was...why not let him stay up and watch the half-hour episode, then try putting him down for his nap afterward?

Suffice it to say, it worked today. Whether it was because Arden had gone 9 straight days without napping...whether it was because he just couldn't fight it anymore after waking at 6:45 this morning and having naptime pushed back...whether watching TV was enough to calm him down...OR whether God has chosen to bless me with a napping child when I truly set aside time to spend in His Word--I really don't know, but all I can say is, I am SO thankful that I had about 40 minutes of quiet study time, and here I am blogging while he sleeps peacefully! The trick will be to wake him before too much longer so that he will go to bed well tonight!

September 08, 2006

Finishing the Week

Wednesday morning we had a surprise...a rain storm! Tobin had slept in and was just waking around 8:30 for breakfast when it began pouring rain outside. Charis was about to begin her math practice sheet, and I decided to take advantage of being home schoolers and herd the kids outside to enjoy the rain. That we did! We watched the rain drops dancing on the pavement, listened to the swoosh of the "river" flowing along the curb, and breathed in the cool, fresh, sweet-smelling air. After awhile the rain let up enough for us to go walk in the "river," and the kids had more fun splashing around! I probably should have grabbed a camera, but I didn't think of it at the time. We probably played outside for about 20 minutes, then came back in to continue on with our morning.

Thursdays are non-school days at our least for the fall semester. I've joined WOW, Women of the Word, and our first meeting was yesterday. I have been so excited to get involved with this group and begin a weekly Bible study again. Last year I chose to be a member of MOPS, and this year I decided I had to limit my involvement, so I dropped MOPS and committed to doing at least the first study with WOW to see how it would fit with our home school schedule. One big draw was the study itself--we're doing Beth Moore's Breaking Free study. I have never done one of her studies before, but I have heard wonderful things about them and have always wanted to do one. So, after praying about it, I decided to go ahead and sign up for this session of WOW, which will last 10 weeks. If, at that point, I think our home schooling activities are not suffering in the least for having a 4-day school week, then I'll probably continue on!

The first day was very fun! I had eaten a healthy breakfast, wanting to avoid the high-calorie foods that I had heard would be available for the meet and greet time...however, the table was full of tempting treats! I was good and had mostly fruit. :-) It was nice to have time to visit with some ladies I already knew, and then we went into a different room for a time of praise and worship. There were approximately 180 ladies packed into that room! It was a joy to sing and be surrounded by so many women who love God!

After that we were divided into our study groups. My friend Debi and I found ourselves in the same group, and we were excited to learn we could be together. I know all three of our leaders, although I just recently met one of the ladies, but it was also nice to have familiar faces there! Additionally, I had bumped into some other ladies from MOPS last year or by caring for their children during the 11:45 service. Still, our group has a total of 18 women in it, and there are a lot of ladies I've never even seen before! That's exciting to me, because I enjoy meeting new people, and I'm especially glad to be in a group of ladies with such a variety of experiences. MOPS is great, but the moms tend to be young mothers like will be nice to draw on the wisdom of those who have gone before!

This afternoon I sat down and did the first day's study. I'm so excited to begin an in-depth study again...I've just been following the read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year schedule, and I admit I'm getting in a rut. It will be nice to be challenged to think and apply God's Word in a tangible way.

After I picked the children up from their rooms, we came home and had lunch, and then we began our next major Thursday activity, which is Cleaning the House! Tobin helped me vacuum, Charis swept the chunks of food up from under the table, and I tried to keep Arden busy with little errands while I worked on cleaning all 3 bathrooms. Charis then helped me mop the tile floor and I finished vacuuming the carpet, since Tobin had kind of pooped out along the way. I don't blame him...I get pooped myself cleaning this big house! I've decided that I need to designate a different day to dust (haven't dusted to speak of since we moved in!), but other than that, I think our plan worked pretty well, as we were totally finished with chores close to 2 p.m. and then had a story time before nap/quiet room time.

Not that there's any napping to speak of going on around here. I've long given up on Charis and Tobin napping, and they do well with quiet room time, playing with whatever toys they want from the play room, doing puzzles, or reading. I still feel that Arden needs to take a nap, as he gets extremely whiny and grumpy in the evenings. He averages maybe 1-2 actual naps per week, at the MOST. He just will not sleep! Even if I act like the Nap Police and camp outside of his door, he just doesn't settle down. He may technically be obeying--lying down and being quiet--but he figures out ways to keep himself awake. Any ideas?! I'd give up on the nap thing and let him do quiet room time IF he would sleep until 8 or 8:30 every morning. Unfortunately, this morning he was up at 5:30 a.m.! Typically it's between 6:30 and 7, but still...that seems to me too early, especially when he's so grumpy starting around 5 or 5:30 p.m.

Anyway, our last day of this first week of school went rather well. Charis hasn't forgotten TOO much math, and Tobin is doing pretty well with writing numerals...just wants help with 5s and 8s. Tobin's reading is coming along very well, and Charis continues to amaze me with her writing and spelling abilities, though we aren't doing a particular spelling program per se, just Phonics Pathways. The kids seemed to enjoy the Machines & Transportation theme, and we look forward to learning about music next week (maybe taking 2 weeks to work on it...we have a LOT of extra library books for this theme, and they are all very good!).

Speaking of books...I pulled a bunch of machine/transportation-related books off our own book shelves for some fun reading this afternoon, and I promised the kids we'd read whatever they want out of the stack before I make our pizza for the night. So, I'd better close here before the troops get all riled up waiting for me to come read!

September 06, 2006

First Field Trip of the Year

Ted was given Tuesday after Labor Day off work...normally he would have gotten Friday off as a family day, but since the Red Flag exercise ended last week, they got Tuesday of this week instead. With that in mind, I planned for us to take a field trip on Tuesday so we could avoid the holiday madness downtown but still have Daddy enjoy some time with us.

We did some light school activities at home after breakfast--Bible story, verse review, Charis' handwriting page (capital J and S!) and Tobin's reading lesson (number 57!). Ted packed a lunch for us while I worked with the kids, and I packed our Sonlight books to take in the van to read while he drove.

We headed for the parking lot at the Bellagio hotel. A friend of mine had told me about a fun miniature train exhibit at their conservatory, with a USA theme. It sounded interesting, and hey, it was free, so we decided it would work well with our Machines & Transportation theme for the week. I read a lot of theme-related stories and units on the trip downtown, which made the half-hour drive go quickly. We piled out of the van, and the kids piled into the wagon--we were very glad we had brought it later on!

The conservatory is not very big, but it's beautiful, and the display was definitely worth seeing. The kids were enchanted with all the miniature landmarks, not to mention the plants and the trains themselves. Having been stationed in the D.C. area before this assignment, Ted and I enjoyed seeing the miniatures of the Capitol building, the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, and Jefferson Memorial. The kids even recognized the Capitol building from the time we toured it with Grandma and Grandpa K.

It was a fun place to walk around. There was even a little fairy tale section, where we could see the 3 little pigs' houses, Rapunzel in her tower with her hair flowing down, Tom Thumb's cottage, and a big castle back in the woods.

After awhile the kids started saying they were hungry, so Ted pulled them in the wagon out to the front of the Bellagio, where we parked under some shade and had a picnic lunch. We were hoping to view a fountain show, but unfortunately they didn't start until 3 p.m. that day...guess the summer tourist season is officially over! So we decided to head home since it was pretty hot and neither Ted nor I felt inclined to walk about the city much, even though it was devoid of the hordes of people we usually encounter on the few occasions when we do go downtown.

All in all, it was another fun home schooling day, and it was fun to have Ted with us on our first field trip!

First Day of Home School

Some moms eagerly anticipate the first day of school because they can hardly wait to get rid of their kids for a portion of each day. I was up at 3:30 a.m., unable to sleep because I was so excited to start our first day of home schooling! I had wanted to do some things to make the day extra special, but a busy weekend left me tired and unmotivated to be creative. When I awoke at 2:30 and couldn't get back to sleep after nearly an hour of tossing and turning, I decided to just get up and do something productive. Even though it was Labor Day, I had already planned that THIS would be our First Home School Day for the year. Since we had been unable to consistently do any school activities during the summer (with the exception of Tobin's reading lessons, which were coming along well), I decided I would take the wee early morning hours to put some time and effort into making our kickoff something to remember.

I logged onto the Sonlight forums, one of my favorite places to spend computer time, and did a search for first day of school activities. There were lots of fun ideas, but I had to find something that didn't require too much preparation, using only materials already in my home. After reading one mother's tradition (she thought it was a German thing), I decided to make card stock cones with a handle and stuff them with some school goodies. I had purchased new crayons for 10 cents a box at the office store, so I labeled one for Tobin and one for Charis and put those plus two sharpened new pencils and an eraser plus a piece of chocolate in each of their cones. I stamped simple little cards--Charis's said "1st grade" on the outside, and Tobin's said "1st day." I wrote notes to each of them, saying how proud I was of them and how we were going to have such a fun year of learning and playing together.

The kids slept in (for once), not waking until close to 8 a.m. You'd have thought it was Christmas! Charis burst onto the scene, all a-twitter over her new goodies. Tobin was delighted to get more crayons, and they both eagerly attacked their chocolate (with my permission). We read their cards together, and Charis just kept squeezing me and thanking me for the cones, which were also a hit (the two discovered they also can double as a horn or make a pretty nifty hat). Charis even asked if I would do the same thing for her on the first day of her 2nd grade year! I was so delighted by THEIR delight--how something so simple could make such an impression.

Another great idea I got was to have the kids hold a sign saying it was the first day of home school and take their pictures. Charis then came up with a good idea--she thought we should measure and weigh all the kids! So we did, and that was part of our math lesson. :-) In case you're wondering, here are the stats:

Arden--35 pounds, 38 inches
Tobin--37 pounds, 40 3/4 inches
Charis--34 pounds, 44 inches

Since Ted obviously had the day off work, he made us a special oatmeal breakfast. We usually don't have oatmeal during the week because of time, and once again, that little something special went a long ways. Charis asked if we could have oatmeal on the first day of 2nd grade, too!

We read our Bible story at the breakfast table, and then we moved into the school room. I'll go ahead and give a breakdown of our day, but I promise I won't do this every time I post about our home school days!

* Explained verse for the week, Proverbs 4:20-21: "Pay attention, my child, to what I say. Listen carefully." Worked on memorizing it plus memorizing the following: "Attentiveness: I listen with my eyes, ears, and heart." This was the first verse in last year's schedule that we used, and I decided it was a great one to start the year with, particularly since I now have Tobin as an "official" student, and listening is not one of his strengths! (You may recognize that Proverbs 4 is part of our blog address...there's a reason for that! It was fitting that in our daily Bible reading schedule, which takes us through the Old Testament once and the New Testament twice each year, we were supposed to read Proverbs 3-4!)

* Prayer time--prayed for the B family, missionaries in Alaska; also committed our home schooling year to God.

* Big kids decorated their notebook covers, stamping their names and being creative with crayons, stencils, and stickers. Arden decided he wanted in on the action, so he decorated a piece of scrap paper.

* "Math time"--today consisted of weighing and measuring each child. Also, Tobin and Charis each updated one of our two perpetual calendars, which hadn't been updated since June!!

* Handwriting and workbook time--Charis did a practice handwriting page, focusing on the capital letters V and W. Meanwhile, Tobin and I did a couple of pages from his counting workbook. We punched out numbers 1-10, and he placed them in the correct locations to show how many animals were in each pen at the zoo. He also finished a practice page he had started awhile ago, which gave him practice writing numerals 6-10.

* Phonics--Charis and I read through two pages in her Phonics Pathways book, reviewing the last concept she learned, the ending sounds -tch and -ch and when to use which digraph.

* Sonlight reading--we are using a theme schedule this year, plugging in some materials that we used last year and supplementing with extras from the library. (I love the hold feature on the web site so I can request books and pick them up all at once!) This week's theme: Machines and Transportation. We brainstormed lists for both, writing the kids' ideas on the board, and then began our reading, which covered concepts from science and social studies and included selections from classic children's literature. We finished in roughly 40 minutes.

* Recess time (30 minutes)--also time for Mom to make phone calls or check email as needed!

* Reading time--this half-hour block will allow me time for fun reading with the kids, games, or artwork. Today I read the story of Tootle while the kids colored a picture of the train from the Little Golden Books web site.

* Almost forgot to put a popsicle stick in our cup...we're going to keep track of how many days of school we have and bundle each set of 10 sticks. When we get to Day 100, we'll have a party! Charis selected a pink popsicle stick to symbolize our first day of school.

* School's over! Tobin is the lunch helper this week, so he helped us get the table ready for lunch.

It seems strange to have school completely finished by lunch, even with taking a half-hour break! When I think that if Charis really were in a first grade classroom, she would be there for about 6-7 hours each Actually, she'd just be entering kindergarten this year because of her age. So I'm not sweating the fact that we're not spending a lot of hours on school work. As we get back into the swing of things, there will be actual math workbook pages and tests, and I'll add dictation to her phonics lessons. Last year we sometimes skipped math, handwriting, or phonics in favor of completing the Sonlight reading. This year, we'll reverse it, since we've already "been there, done that" with the Sonlight materials--I'll be a stickler on the three "Rs" but will allow Charis to do something else if she doesn't want to stick around for some of the Sonlight stories. Tobin, however, seems to be super excited about getting to be in on everything, and since he wasn't quite ready for some of the materials last year, I know he'll get a lot more out of them this time around. We're getting enough extra stuff from the library that I think Charis will still be challenged within each theme, and of course I'll let her read to her heart's content, something she wants alone time to do every day anyway!

So, there you have it. Our first day of school. It was tons of fun...though I did lie down for a three-hour nap in the afternoon since Ted was home and since I had been awake for so long after an unexpectedly early start to my day!

September 04, 2006

Home Again

So, there you have it! A (probably) more-detailed-than-necessary description of our trip to Hungary! Our journey home was rather uneventful, and we were more tired than I can say by the time we finally made it to our own beds, but it felt so good to be HOME. The kids were in bed, but we went in and tucked them in anyway. Arden was conked out, but the older two were awake and grinning from ear to ear to see us and give us big squeezes.

I'm so thankful for my mom and my cousin Sarah...without them being here, we never would have been able to take such a special trip. From what we heard, all went well (for the most part!) with the kids, who are still talking about the fun times they had with Grandma and Sarah!

We took the next week to relax and enjoy being together as a family, trying to settle back into some sort of routine. I had my first OB appointment and heard the baby's heartbeat, so that was definitely a relief. (I've been feeling movements for several weeks now, so I wasn't exactly worried...but still, there's something comforting about getting a tangible number--160 beats per minute--to "prove" the baby is there and doing all right.)

Now we are getting ready to start our first week of school! I know today is Labor Day, but for the J family, it is also the first DAY of school! Hey, the kids don't know any better. :-) We're doing a theme schedule this year with the Sonlight materials we already have...Charis will continue in her first grade math and handwriting books, and our schedule suggests additional books from the library, so we have a lot of new material as well as the "old" stuff that we went through last year. But since I'm including Tobin specifically in our school schedule, plus the fact that Arden is older and more willing to sit through the readings, I think it will benefit all of us to go through those great books again. In the spring, after the baby is born, we'll be prepared to move on to the next Sonlight Core.

So, now that I'm caught up on our blog, I'll be able to return to chronicling the everyday events of our household, a fascinating running account that I'm sure will keep you on the edge of your seat. ;-)

Hungary Trip--Day 8

We spent a whole day being tourists in Budapest! Kristof was with us for most of the day, and we enjoyed hanging out with him again. We went first to the House of Terror, a recently-opened museum commemorating the victims of two regimes of terror. The museum is actually in the building described as follows by the web site:

"Opened on February 24th, 2002 at 5 pm, the House of Terror Museum - the only one of its kind - is a monument to the memory of those held captive, tortured and killed in this building. The Museum, while presenting the horrors in a tangible way, also intends to make people understand that the sacrifice for freedom was not in vain. Ultimately, the fight against the two cruellest systems of the 20th century ended with the victory of the forces of freedom and independence....

From the beginning of 1937, the Hungarian ultra-right party, the Arrow Cross Party, rented more and more space in the house. In 1940 they took possession of the whole building and made it their headquarters. The party´s leader, Ferenc Szálasi named the building "The House of Loyalty". In the autumn of 1944, when the Hungarian Nazis came to power, the basement was used as a prison.

As Budapest rid itself of German rule and was occupied by the Soviets, the communist-led Political Police claimed the house in February 1945, and created a prison labyrinth by joining the cellars of the block. The State Security Police possessed the building until 1956. After they moved out the house was renovated, erasing all traces of its past. Andrassy 60 then became the headquarters of several firms and offices. In the 1970´s, the basement where hundreds, perhaps thousands of people were tortured, was used as a club for young communists."

We spent probably close to 3 hours in the museum. It was at the same time fascinating and horrifying. Ted was especially interested in the stories, having studied Russian history, and he was able to translate some of the Russian quotes on the walls for us. I wouldn't necessarily say this part of our trip was "fun," but we were both really glad that we had the opportunity to spend time in the museum and learned much. It never ceases to amaze me how cruel humans can be to one another...

We ate lunch at a mall food court and all agreed that we wanted Chinese food. Go figure. :-) We met up with Samu (Shah-moo), Jozsef's middle brother (there are 4 boys and then Miriam) for a bit and walked along some shops by the river. There are two parts to the city, the "Buda" side and the "Pest" side. The Danube River separates the two, with several bridges, including the famous Chain Bridge, connecting the two sides. We were walking along the Pest side of the city, and this picture shows the palace where we went later on. As you can see, it's not very big--Ted could reach the top. ;-)

Later we took the subway to the other side of the city to explore the Fisherman's Bastion and the castle. Above is a picture of me at the Bastion, and below you can see the Parliament building across the river. I've always thought this Parliament to be one of the most beautiful structures I've ever seen.

At this point, Kristof had to say goodbye and go to take his younger brother and sister back to Kecskemet. Samu met us and became our tour guide for the rest of the day. After spending some time at the Bastion, we hopped on a bus to go to the castle. Though I've wandered around the castle during previous trips, I don't recall actually being inside, so it was fun to walk beyond the outside. There is a museum inside, so we checked in our backpack and wandered around. We didn't have a lot of time before the museum was to close, but we were able to see quite a bit. It seemed a bit strange not to have things roped off with guards all over the place--we were pretty much allowed to go wherever, though there really were security personnel around, just not overly obtrusive. We discovered that we could go outside and were able to climb up a couple of winding staircases to a lookout tower. The views were spectacular--but, oh yeah, we weren't allowed to have our camera inside the museum! So we had to enjoy the view without getting pictures. At least we were able to get some when we were outside the castle.

By the time we were finished looking around, Ted and I were thoroughly exhausted. We decided we'd rather go back to the flat and have dinner there than try to find something in the city, so Samu took us back to his father's flat, where we later had pizza and salads delivered to us. We visited with Samu awhile, and Ted showed him some Christian music web sites, thereby endearing himself to Samu forever. :-) He and Jozsef and his brothers all have similar interests in music, and I know Ted enjoyed being able to share some info with them and talk about their passions.

We went to bed early, as we had to leave at 5:30 a.m. the next morning for the airport. Hard to believe it was our last day, but by this point we were definitely ready to head home!

September 03, 2006

Hungary Trip--Day 7

We didn't make any plans for Tuesday morning, as we had to pack and be ready to leave with Kristof, Jozsef's brother, for Budapest. However, partway through the morning we learned that there were car problems, and we were to wait indefinitely at the F's house before leaving. We were not at all disappointed by this...Ted took advantage of the time to snooze in a chair, and I took our home school planning notebook out to the back porch and got some uninterrupted time to plan our school year. We also enjoyed an absolutely fabulous lunch that Mama Magdi prepared--one of my favorite soups (green beans in a creamy sauce--so yummy and something we hadn't had on this trip to that point), plus the BEST mashed potatoes and wonderful roasted chicken. As usual, she urged us to eat more...I was particularly urged to "eat for baby!" I did, believe me! Anyone who knows me knows that I cannot pass up any kind of potatoes. :-) Fresh peaches made for a good (and healthy!) dessert.

Jozsef and Zsuzsi stopped by to chat a little bit while we were waiting--they were in town to take care of some paperwork for financing their new home. They returned later to take us to the train station, as it had become clear that the car was going to require major repairs. We rushed to the station so we could meet Kristof and hop aboard, only to watch the train chugging away, exactly ONE MINUTE ahead of schedule!! Jozsef was most distressed, as the next train wasn't leaving for another hour, but we convinced him we'd be just fine walking to get ice cream before boarding the next train! He and Zsuzsi had to return to the bank to finish their paperwork, so we said our goodbyes and dragged our suitcases a few blocks away to get some famous Hungarian ice cream, a treat that I had told Ted we simply must partake of. I got my two favorite flavors (at least in Hungary), cinnamon and peach--an odd combination, I know, but I LOVE them both!

We enjoyed talking with Kristof, who had grown up so much since I had first met him in 1999. He's now 20, a student at a university in Budapest, and his English was quite good. He and Jozsef had hung out with us a lot when I was here before and we spent a lot of time with the teen/tween students, so it was a lot of fun to get reacquainted with him.

So, we did get on a train to Budapest, finally, and were planning to do a bit of sight-seeing before going to Kristof's father's flat outside the city area...however, when we emerged from the subway, we discovered that it was pouring rain! So we left the river area where we had planned to walk and headed back to the other side of the city, where it was by that point sunny (!), caught a bus, and then walked the remainder of the way to the flat, a beautiful, roomy apartment in a quiet neighborhood. We settled ourselves in a bit and prepared for dinner. Jozsef Sr, the father, took us three plus David and Miriam, the two youngest children, out for dinner at a very nice restaurant near Hero Square in downtown Budapest. We ate outside, and the weather was surprisingly chilly. Heat lamps helped me feel more comfortable, but poor Miriam was so cold that the waiter brought her a blanket. After awhile, big brother Kristof decided he couldn't stand the chilly breeze either and ended up sharing the blanket with her!

After a wonderful, leisurely dinner, Ted and I walked with Kristof to Hero Square while David and Miriam stayed with their father in the warm car. I have been to Hero Square twice, both times during daylight and both times with American missionaries. So I really enjoyed being there with Kristof, who racked his brain and gave us a quite adequate explanation of the various heroes represented in the square. There are some interesting stories, and Ted, a major history buff, also enjoyed our brief sight-seeing stint. We're posing here under the statue of Saint Istvan (Steven), the first king of Hungary. It's amazing to me that Hungary has a history dating back over a millenium! In fact, Hero Square was built in 1896 to commemorate the 1000th anniversary of the Hungarian conquest. You can read more interesting tidbits by clicking on the link above.

When we arrived back at the flat, Miriam stopped just before we got to the door and exclaimed. She had spotted this hedgehog! Not something we see every day here in the States! I had to get a picture of it to show our kids. :-)

Hungary Trip--Day 6

Monday morning we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast before getting on the bus to go downtown Kecskemet. Hanna met us at the bus station and acted as our tour and shopping guide. It was so fun to walk around--some things have changed, but much remains the same as I remembered. I did notice there are more McDonald's now! We saw all the famous buildings, took some pictures, and did some shopping for the kids. The picture here is one of the many beautiful church buildings--I think there are about seven that you can see from the Centrum--though I can't remember which denomination this one is.

We again had lunch at the P's house, this time only with Eszter, Zsuzsi's sister, and Geza, their father. Eszter was in charge of our afternoon's activities, and Hanna ended up being able to go along with us, which was lots of fun. We went to Tanyacsarda, a place that I discovered I had actually been to in 1999 with one of my former students and his fiance. We had eaten a lovely dinner at the restaurant there, but as it was dark, I hadn't seen much more than the restaurant. This time we were there in the afternoon to see a horse show!

We waited until the tour buses arrived, as we were to join with the other tourists for the show. The event began with "salty biscuits," as Hanna described them. I can't remember the Hungarian name for them, but "salty biscuits" seems to fit well. We also had the opportunity to have apricot brandy, which was "only" 40% alcohol!! Needless to say, I passed on that, though Ted managed to get a shot down! Apricot brandy is a specialty in Hungary--I had learned that during a previous trip when I did partake of some as a guest, but being early on in my pregnancy, I did not want to jeopardize our little one in any way, especially with a drink that was "only" 40% alcohol!

Then we walked to a large, fenced-in area and watched three Hungarian cowboys ride bareback with a herd of horses set loose in the area. They circled around awhile, and then the horses were taken away. We tourists were loaded onto horse-drawn carts. Since we were not part of those from the tour buses, the four of us had our own little carriage! There were four horses that pulled our cart, and they were part of the show later on--so we were special. :-)

We had quite a long ride in our carriage. You can see Hanna and Eszter here--I think they had so much fun doing this with us! We certainly enjoyed the show and being with them as well. After our ride, we returned to the starting point and found seats on the bleacher area.

We watched a number of demonstrations, the first of which was the most exciting. A cowboy stood on the backs of two horses, one leg on each horse, and guided them plus three other horses in front of the two--a five-horse show! Apparently it was a feat done previously in Austria and Germany, and a Hungarian horseman saw it and wanted to do it, so now people learn to ride this way in Hungary as well.

An interesting feature of the show was the use of whips--not for the horses, but for the sound! They made a loud popping sound, like a shotgun. Ted said it was because the end of the whip actually traveled at a speed greater than the speed of sound, thereby creating a small sonic boom. It was quite something to hear five cowboys swinging their whips in sync!

Five cowboys with single horses showed us tricks with the horses, such as having them lie down and remain still while the men sat, stood, or lay down on top of them. It was quite something to see these animals be so still and calm! I thought this pose, shown in the picture, was the most interesting, as you would likely never see a horse sitting this way on his own!

We also saw a donkey doing some similar tricks to the ones the horses had shown us, then watched a carriage pulled by "our" horses from the carriage ride demonstrating maneuvers between posts, trees, etc. We also saw Hungarian cows pulling a cart. Sounds strange to say there are different cows there, but as you can see from the picture, they look something like a cross between oxen and Texas longhorns.

After the show we got to walk through the barn and see the animals. Ted had a difficult time with his allergies. As we neared the end, a pony nudged my arm, so I started to pat his nose, only to be shocked when he tried to bite my chest! I was thankful for the clothing that stood in his way--I was not hurt badly but was definitely startled!

Later in the evening Papa Erwin found some allergy tablets for Ted, who was still having a difficult time. Papa mused that he didn't know how effective the tablets would be because Ted was "so big!" Papa joked that Ted is like two Hungarian men! Anyway, we were glad for the medicine, as Ted seemed to do better after that. In this photo with the F family you can see that Ted is indeed about twice the size of Papa. :-) From left to right in the picture: Andrea (the oldest F daughter), "Mama" Magdi, me, Ted, "Papa" Erwin, Anita, and Hanna.

Hungary Trip--Day 5

Sunday morning after breakfast we walked to church. The new Kecskemeti Baptist Church is very close to the F's house. Hilda, a friend who has also helped much with translation in the past, translated the service for us as best as she could with a wiggly 4-year-old daughter on her lap. As the service came to a close and announcements were being given, Papa Erwin invited Ted and me to come to the front to say a few words about our family and what we've been doing in the years since I had last been to Hungary. Hilda translated for me, and it was neat to see so many familiar faces in the congregation--though I would have been hard pressed to have remembered more than a few names, since I had only come in contact with most of the church members during church services, not in my own English classes.

After visiting awhile, Ted and I went back to the house to relax a bit before having lunch with the P family, neighbors to the Fs and family of the bride. It was a lively, rambunctious affair, with much laughter and jesting. Ted and I felt a bit like outsiders at this meal, as only a couple of people knew English well enough to communicate with us, and there was so much discussion that it was difficult to keep us informed. But we enjoyed the food and obvious affection the family felt for one another, and after the meal we did visit a bit outside and showed off our photos once again to those who wanted to see them.

Around 2:30 in the afternoon Eva, Jozsef's mother, picked us up and took us with her two youngest children to the little town where she works as a dentist. It was maybe a 45-minute drive. Ted rode in the front and enjoyed chatting with Eva. She is a dear, sweet lady whom I had only known as Jozsef's soft-spoken mother when I was in Kecskemet last, and it was a joy to get to know her better during this day that we spent together. She showed us her workplace, an old building that houses her office as well as the town doctor's office.

Then she took us to meet her friends, Laszlo and Kati. Laszlo operates a winery in his cellar and took us downstairs to see it. He invited us to sample some of his red wine...Ted and I are not wine drinkers, but we had some regardless--though I did ask for just a SMALL bit because of the baby. We visited for awhile, and then the family had some things to take care of, so we snapped a quick picture and prepared for our next stop. Before we left, however, Laszlo presented us with two bottles of his wine! What a gift! We knew we'd be able to share this special treat with people in the States who would truly enjoy it. As a side note, last Friday Ted took one of the bottles to work with him, where it really WAS enjoyed by some wine connoisseurs who said it was the best wine they've ever tasted it. Not being overly fond of wine ourselves, it was nice to hear that from someone else and underscored the generosity of our host in Tizengard.

Next Eva took us to a wonderful farmhouse in the middle of rural country to meet more friends of hers, Robin and Gyorgyi (similar to our name Georgie). Robin is a British man, and he and Gyorgyi have been married, oh, I don't know, quite awhile, I guess, as they have 4 children, the oldest of whom must be in the mid teen years. Mark, another British friend, was there as well, and we spent a nice hour or so having tea in the garden and chatting. Robin teased Eva that she must not begin speaking her English with an American accent since she was spending some time with us! Ted and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know these folks. Mark is a fascinating person, working in Budapest as a reporter and studying a myriad of languages and tidbits about various cultures.

After tea we drove to the "oxbow lake," a blocked off portion of the Tisza River, and did some swimming. As the evening wore on, however, the mosquitoes forced us to retreat to the car, where we rolled up all the windows and endured the stuffiness for the sake of being able to kill the remaining blood-thirsty predators.

Back at the farmhouse, Robin, Gyorgyi, and Eva bustled about the homey, inviting kitchen, plopping various foods in front of Ted and me to satiate our suddenly ravenous appetites. Mmmm! Nothing like being able to nibble freshly made bread, home-grown tomatoes, plums, cheese, and homemade sausages! After we had satiated our stomachs, we went outside to a nice fire and prepared for a Hungarian barbeque. Having been to two "fat barbeques" before, I decided Ted simply MUST experience this for himself...though I have to point out that Ted, at least, was able to roast an actual chunk of bacon and not simply bacon lard, as is typical. By this point I was too full to eat, anyway, but I enjoyed the smell of roasting onions and bacon over the fire. The stars were out, and lightening flashed along the horizon, though we never did hear thunder. Occasionally we could hear fireworks--August 20 is a national holiday for Hungarians. We enjoyed more conversation and then decided we really had to call it a night, as it was approaching 10:30ish and we knew we'd need to get some rest if we wanted to enjoy our next few days of being tourists.