September 30, 2007

Day o' Packing

Yesterday I went for an 8-mile run in the morning, which was actually harder than the previous week's 10-mile run because of the horrible winds. At one point when I was running west and feeling a bit like a cartoon character that runs but doesn't get anywhere, I finally stopped and walked while singing at the top of my lungs, "Oh, no, You never let go, through the calm and through the storm, oh, no, You never let go, every high and every low, oh, no, You never let go, Lord, you never let go of me!" Food for thought that as I approached the cinder block fence to a subdivision, I was immediately sheltered and could continue my run. Thank God that He is my Refuge, my Rock, and my Strength!

Back at home, we accomplished quite a bit, though it didn't feel as if we were actually packing that long. During the morning hours we had several home school families stop by to pick up some items I had advertised for free and also sold our Total Gym, which I had bought from Sarah over a year ago and had never even used! (Sarah, you can rest easy knowing that it will likely be a great clothes rack for Hilary R. now!) I was glad to unload some kids' items to friends as well as other miscellaneous things that I just didn't want to move anymore.

So far, Ted has completely packed all of our books, CDs, and movies. I've packed several boxes' worth of kitchen materials and almost all of the office, including stamping supplies. We unfortunately didn't have anyone who could come over and help us yesterday, so our work was frequently interrupted by short people. We did try to stop and do stuff with the kids now and then as well as involve them as much as possible. Charis is a great helper--she helped me pack some office items and is a great runner when I need stuff moved. Arden packed the ABC magnets, and Tobin helped tremendously by occupying himself with another 1000-piece puzzle. If he's not bothering his siblings, life is generally much easier for us all! Packing is difficult enough without having to serve as a referee every 5 minutes, which is what it seemed like we were doing on Friday. The kids also all helped clean up the backyard, which somehow had accumulated a lot of trash--mostly recycle-able materials that the kids had snagged from the recycle bins to put rocks and dirt in.

Today we'll attend church, but I've requested today and next Sunday off from the pre-school ministry. Every hour is important as we count down to October 11.

I've also made the difficult decision not to go to my Homecoming. I'm very sad about not being able to visit with my friends, but I simply can't pick up and leave for 4 days in the middle of all this mess. It's frustrating on so many levels, not the least of which is having already paid for plane tickets. They can be changed to use anytime in the next year, but with $130 in total change and processing fees for non-transferrable tickets, Kenna and I would only get $95 each in credit for a future flight. At least we have the option for the credit, I guess. Sigh.

September 28, 2007

The Final Word on the Move Out Date

We have the official word--we must be OUT of the house, with it "broom clean"--by 5 p.m. on October 11. We have a signed document that states we will receive $1000 if we cooperate.

Whew. That's 13 days from now! Lord, HELP!!

Day 3 of the House Hunt

House #9--Already rented. We didn't know this until we met Adam AT the house and found it already furnished.

House #10--Decent house, terrible (and almost non-existent) backyard. Broken windows from being vacant for so long. Small bedrooms.

House #11--WHOA. Smokers definitely lived here. Adam couldn't even walk inside the house because he's allergic to smoke. We decided to at least look at it in case the owner could do something about the stench, but the master bedroom was extremely tiny, the kitchen was small, and the backyard was completely trashed.

House #12--I was done after seeing the laundry "room." As much laundry as we do, I need more than a closet. Honestly, the laundry closet in Ted's apartment in Tampa was bigger than this one. I literally do not even know how a washer and dryer could even FIT into this small space.

We went back to look at House #4, which is currently at the top of our list (OK, it's the only one even ON our list) to see if we got that this-is-the-one feeling, but though the kids were excitedly dancing around their favorite pick, I just wasn't sure. Ted could go either way.

Ever since my five-mile run Wednesday morning--my stress outlet, my therapy, my time to question God and tell Him my heart--I've been thinking of the words in Psalm 27. When I was an RA at college, the resident director, Miss Taylor, taught us various Scripture verse songs, and one of them included the first and last verses of Psalm 27. I've not heard the song in literally years, so the fact that it keeps playing in my mind makes me think I'd better listen...

"The Lord is my light and my salvation,
the Lord is my light and my salvation.
Whom shall I fear? Whom shall I fear?
Wait on the Lord, wait on the Lord.
Be of good courage and He'll strengthen thy heart.
Wait, I say, on the Lord..."

I feel the Lord is telling me to just wait.

OK. We're waiting!

Is that enough, Lord?! :-) I know He must smile at our impatience. Ted would be renting a truck tomorrow and hauling stuff over to a house if he could. But I appreciate his willingness to wait. So our current plan is to pack as much as possible this weekend and see what the situation is on Monday. We've received boxes and packing materials from a number of people and are hoping some people answer our call for help and come help us pack tomorrow--or at least help watch the kids so WE can pack tomorrow!

Day 2 of the House Hunt

Thursday morning I had to get going early to take Charis and Tobin to their first home school P.E. class. They have been looking forward to this for over a month, ever since we went to a "Meet the SAINTS" day that gave an overview of the program. I'm super impressed with it but will probably write more in a different post when I'm not so pressed with other concerns. Anyway, I dropped the kids off at the park while Ted was home with the younger two, then got some groceries and bubble wrap and packing tape at Walmart.

Once home, we packed a few boxes to kill time until we needed to pick the kids up again. After a full morning of exercise, they were treated to a fast-food lunch from Sonic so that we could fill our bellies as we drove to meet Adam to see the first house of the day, which was actually House #5 on our hunt.

House #5 turned out to be absolutely gorgeous but had a small backyard and absolutely no carpet in the main living areas...not so good for little knees learning to crawl. Also, the price was a bit much for us.

House #6 was a nightmare. There was a paper taped to the door that turned out to be a plumbing permit, and one whiff of the air inside the house was enough to indicate that we would NOT want to get ourselves into that situation.

House #7 likely housed smokers from the smell. Plus it was backed against the 215 beltway and was quite noisy. I did, however, like its location on a cul-de-sac with a great area for the kids to ride and learn to ride their bikes.

House #8 could definitely be my dream house. Two stories, gorgeous staircase, 2 bedrooms downstairs, 3 bedrooms upstairs PLUS a good-sized loft area, beautiful kitchen, dining room plus two sitting areas, a huge back yard--what's not to love?! Well, for one thing, the location is farther away from our "life," and for another, it's priced at $1645 per month. Also, they wanted first month's rent, last month's rent, AND a security deposit of the same amount, plus $300 non-refundable cleaning fee, plus the application fee and key deposits... Well, Adam did negotiate striking the last month's rent out of the picture, but they wouldn't budge on the rent amount. I guess it was recently dropped from $1700. I can see why it needs to be that high. It's a great house.

The kids, however, did not like any of the options from Day 2 of our House Hunt, not even the last one with all of its space and the fun upstairs layout. Their little hearts are set on House #4. This surprised me, because our first day of house hunting we heard, "Oh, can we PLEASE get THIS house?" four different times! Each time we walked into a house, they fell in love with it. I figured they'd keep wanting different houses, because each one would have something different that they would like. I was surprised that they kept talking about one we had seen the day before.

We came home to crunch numbers. After evaluating our budget, Ted and I decided that it just would not be wise to go higher than $1500, which is what we've been paying on this house. We had worked our budget beautifully, and while theoretically we "should" be able to afford a higher rent payment, it would likely leave us stressed out and stretched a little too thin for comfort. We talked about me doing more workshops to bring in more money through my business, but I love what Ted said: "I don't mind you doing extra workshops, but I don't want you to HAVE to do more." Don't I have a fantastic husband?! He's definitely a keeper!! He wants me to be able to focus on God first and my roles as wife and mother after that. I love that he helps me keep my priorities in order.

So the next thing we did was ask Adam if he could negotiate the owner of House #4 down to $1500, as he is currently asking $1550. In the meantime, we looked again at some listings Adam had emailed us the day before. We had selected about 7-8 that we were interested in, but we had only actually looked at 3 of them. So now we're waiting to hear the answer to our question about House #4 and planning to meet Adam at 10:00 this morning to look at a few more.

All in all, Ted and I could definitely be happy with House #4. It's just a much tighter squeeze than we might like. Granted, anything is going to be downsizing for us--we've been blessed to be in a 4,000-square-foot house for 16 months now. But with adding a fourth child, plus home schooling and running a home business, we simply have need for more space than an average family. I can tell Ted is ready to just sign some papers and get this process going.

I guess I was hoping that God would reveal without a doubt what His "something better" is. That we would walk into a house and all five of us in our family who can talk would say, "YES! This is IT!" That we would find something that simply has everything we're looking for, not just parts.

Well, maybe it will happen today. If not, I feel like we will "settle" for House #4 (assuming the owner will come down--if not, we'll have to discuss whether $50 a month is worth quibbling over). There are things I LOVE about House #4 (location, lot, and balcony being a few of them), but I'm having a hard time getting over how tight the downstairs area (with the kids' bedrooms, office, and school room/play room) would be.

Lord, help me to wait on you. Your Word tells me to be of good courage and you'll strengthen my I will wait on you.

September 26, 2007

Day 1 of the House Hunt

All in all, today was a pretty frustrating day. We found out that there is absolutely NOTHING that can be done about our $1500 deposit on this house. It's simply gone with the slimeball who rented us this house. We "don't have to pay rent" for October--gee, isn't that generous, seeing as how we have to be out of here ASAP?! So we're out $1500, but oh, joy, we can get $500 if we leave this house in 15 days. Great. That'll put a dent in the moving expenses.

OK, sorry for the sarcastic tone. Hopefully that's out of my system, and I'll move forward from here.

So, house #1 had a great floorplan--on the second level. Four bedrooms, split two and two with a beautiful loft area that would make a perfect school/play room. However, there is only one sitting area downstairs with a small kitchen. We've simply outgrown one sitting area! The backyard was also very tiny, which is typical around here, but we at least want to be able to put the trampoline up without tripping over it.

House #2 looked great when we peered in the windows (the agent wasn't available when we drove by the house, and we were looking on our own at this point). The backyard had lots of promise. Unfortunately, the paint was peeling, and the yard, which had quite a bit of grass, was yellow and brown and very unkempt. It just looked ugly. Lots of promise for someone who wants to put time and effort into landscaping, but that's not us. We decided not to bother seeing inside.

We came home and put Kenna to bed for a nap and were able to finally talk with the agent we will be working with, a friend from church who sold the B's house early in the summer. He's great! He sent us a bunch of possibilities, and Ted and I weeded through them, ranking the ones we wanted to see first. Meanwhile, one of our top three choices was snapped up.

We were, however, able to see two houses with Adam, and both are definitely promising. I could be happy with either one. The problem is, I'm dealing with a severe case of being put out, so it's hard for me to feel like I'm settling for something when I feel this whole situation is so unjust. I realize things happen, and no one could have foreseen that we'd be moving into our third house in Las Vegas in two years, but it just seems so unfair. And yes, I know God has a purpose for everything, and I truly look forward to giving Him glory for everything...but right now I'm having to pray He works in my heart so I can give Him glory NOW. I'm frustrated that we have very little control over what we have to do with our time and money in the next few weeks. It seems like such a waste, and my sense of justice will not be appeased. I just have to deal with it.

So House #3 has a beautiful layout with a gorgeous kitchen and nice formal dining area that would be our school/library room. The backyard is a decent size, and the kids love that a little park is literally right to the side of the house. It's not enclosed, and being on a fairly busy street, this might make for more stress than fun, but it's still a bonus, I guess. Upstairs there are FIVE bedrooms, one of which would be a perfect office. All this for only $1395 per month. The owner is an investor who has been renting to a family who wanted to purchase a home, but the owner doesn't want to sell for another 3 years at least. So that's a huge bonus--security and peace of mind, knowing that this would likely be the last Las Vegas house we'd have to move into.

House #4 is by far in my favorite location. It has a mountain view with NO over-the-fence neighbors! It's on a corner lot, so a HUGE backyard. No landscaping, but it's a more finished look than the large dusty rocks in our current back yard. It's a split level with a balcony off the kitchen that would fit our patio furniture nicely. It's starting to be perfect weather to eat outside, and this was very appealing to all of us. The master bedroom is on the top level with the kitchen and a good-sized sitting area. Downstairs are 3 bedrooms, the laundry room, and another large family room, which would likely be our school and play area. A drawback here is that we'd have to have the office in one of the bedrooms--there just isn't a good place anywhere else to put the computer, etc.--so the girls would share and the boys would continue sharing. This isn't a really big deal, as Charis has always wanted to share her room with Kenna, but it does seem a bit squished compared to the other house with 5 bedrooms. There is a little cubby hole of a room off the laundry room that the kids can stand up in with about 5 inches to spare, and they called it the "party room." This alone caused them to beg us to "buy this house!!" The rent here is $1550 per month, so $50 more than we're already paying, BUT there are ceiling fans and much lower ceilings, so our utility bills would be a lot lower. It's a farther distance to the park-and-ride where Ted catches the bus for the 30-mile commute to work, but it's also a much quieter neighborhood that has a nice, community feel to it, like neighbors would actually know each other.

Weighing pros and cons is so hard. We've done the house-hunting thing multiple times, and it's just so house's pros seem so hard to compare to another house's cons.

Well, it's time to sleep and pray on it (well, not literally at this moment, as I'm about to head off to take the kids to AWANA), and surely we'll be visiting some other houses tomorrow. Thanks to all for the prayers and encouragement. We sure need 'em!

When Things Don't Work Out

One of Arden's very favorite books (Good Night, God Bless) has this sentence in it: "Sometimes, when things don't work out the way we planned, God has something better for us."

We're holding on to that right now. The current word is that we have 15 days to leave this house if we don't want an eviction notice on our credit record. The guy who came by yesterday to give us this wonderful news said he may be able to get us 30 days--if so, we'll know today. If not, let the packing begin...

More details to come. I'm going to pound the pavement on a 5-mile run that may help work out some stress.

September 23, 2007

Coveting Prayers

Tomorrow is the foreclosure sale on our house. We are waiting--not particularly anxiously, but maybe a bit nervously--to hear who the buyer will be so we can find out whether we have to move next month or can continue renting. We have a little less than two years left on station here and would love to stay in this house if at all possible...

I don't know if we'll hear the results tomorrow or if it will take a few days to receive communication about it, but you can bet I'll post as soon as I learn anything. We're trusting God to reveal His glory no matter what the outcome.

A New Record

We had a storm blow through Friday night, bringing beautiful weather this weekend. I had been planning a longer run for Saturday anyway, so I was excited that I'd be able to exercise in cooler temperatures. My schedule had not worked out for me to run Thursday or Friday (in other words, I was a lazy bum), so I was further away from my 20-mile goal for the week than I had wanted to be. A crazy thought entered my head...if I could go 10 miles in one shot, I'd hit that 20-mile mark for the week! My longest run ever had been 8 miles, which I hadn't done since we were in Idaho at the end of June. I had done 7 miles just a few times over the summer since then.

I got on the computer to play around with mapping routes, thinking maybe I could plan a route with several options depending on how I was feeling. My final route allowed me three options: run 8 miles with a one-mile cool down, run 9 miles and end at the gated entrance to our subdivision, or come through the gates and make a loop around the neighborhood to actually hit 10 miles.

I didn't leave the house until 8:45 a.m., which tells you (if you're familiar with LV weather) that our temperatures were nice indeed Saturday morning. It was a wonderful time to run! The air was crisp and clean and smelled so nice with the scent of rain, flowers, and trees. (This was obviously before I made it to the bird sanctuary or the horse boarding areas.) I felt great at the beginning. Between miles 3 and 5 the route was pretty much all uphill. (Sarah, I forgot how steep that hill is by the bird sanctuary! But at least I got to see some emus and ostriches to keep me amused!) Miles 5 and 6 were a nice coast downhill, and I noted with pleasure that the breeze was blowing in my face as I headed back east. Perfect for keeping me cool now that my body was so much warmer! I passed the orchard and resolved to bring the kids back to pick up some melons and squash. At the next stop sign I found a veritable lake and ended up having to run south on the gravel to the side of the road, altering my route just a bit so I could cross the water without getting my shoes completely sogged out. It didn't change my distance at all, and trust me, living in the desert makes one appreciate seeing that much water anyway!

I was still feeling pretty good at this point, just about 8 miles through the route. My legs were only slightly burning, and I didn't feel a need to stop at all, though I was taking quick walk breaks at about every mile to mile and a half to rest just a bit and chug some water from my Fuel Belt. I made it to the gates of our neighborhood--9 miles!!--and reveled in knowing I had already run farther than ever before in my whole life. So I had to keep going! I made the loop around the neighborhood, and the final stretch had me going west again, so I could see the mountains, which had been covered completely by clouds when I had first begun running. It was neat to see them so clearly (and to see snow on top of Mount Charleston!) with the blue sky in the background. Wow! What a rush! I ran 10 miles and made it to my 20-mile goal for the week!

Now do I think I can do the half-marathon in December?! You bet!! What's 3.1 more miles?!

September 22, 2007

Home School Update

If you're looking for cute pictures, keep scrolling...this will likely be a long rambling post with no photos, but I did upload a video and a couple of cute Kenna pictures in previous posts!

We just finished week 13 of our Sonlight Core C curriculum, so I thought I would take a little time to do an update of our school adventures. (Also got the idea from Claire's blog--thanks, Claire!) We are over 1/3 of the way through the Sonlight year, which is somewhat hard to believe considering we've had multiple breaks for vacations and sick days.

I guess you could say our days truly begin at the breakfast table, where we usually read a Psalm and pray together. Sometimes instead of reading we work on AWANA memory verses. The kids and I all enjoy this time together, and I love their enthusiasm for God's Word and pray they never lose it.

The first official subject is math. Charis is 1/3 of the way through the Math-U-See Beta book. A few weeks ago she was introduced to the concept of "regrouping," otherwise known as "carrying." With the block manipulatives we use, it was easy to visualize what happens in this process: for example, an 8 block and a 4 block are playing together at the Units' House. Together 8 and 4 make a 10 block and a 2 block. When it's time to go home, the 10 block can't fit into the Units' House, so we have to carry the 10 back to his own house. While Charis could do this with the blocks, the first day we were doing her practice page she ended up in tears because she just didn't get the concept. We quit halfway through the page and prayed God would help her understand it when we worked on it later. I am so proud of Charis--the next day, she buckled down to do the work again, even though I could tell she was intimidated. (She's used to whipping through her math with few mistakes, and those only when she's carelessly rushing!) By the end of Tuesday's session, she was doing it, and at the end of the week, she "taught" the lesson to me flawlessly! Since then she's learned about the decimal system in relation to money, and it looks like the next lesson will be about carrying with more than 2-digit numbers.

Tobin is nearly finished with the Primer book. We're using the same book Charis used in Kindergarten--literally the SAME book, not the same copy of the book. There are 6 pages of lesson sheets and cumulative review pages for every lesson, and Charis did about 3-4 pages of each lesson. So Tobin is doing whatever is left. If I feel that he needs more practice on a concept, I either erase a page that Charis did or else have him do extra practice on the board. His favorite math activity currently is being a "math detective," which is what Steve on the Math-U-See instructional DVD calls solving for an unknown. Having watched the Veggie Tales "Sheer-luck Holmes" movie, Tobin delights in being "Sheer-luck" and finding clues to figure out the missing number. He would do these problems all day if I had the patience to stand at the board and applaud for him every time he solved his mystery! He also thoroughly enjoyed learning to make tally marks. I'm going to have to order the Alpha book for him--hopefully that will keep him occupied for longer periods of time, as he finishes math faster than I can get Charis settled with her handwriting!

Arden is sitting in on any math lesson he can (on the DVD, that is). He has picked up a lot just listening in and playing with the math blocks on his own. While I'm not quite ready to officially start him on the Primer book (which I plan to order when I get Tobin's next book), I wouldn't be surprised if he could actually do the book now. Still, he needs to practice writing before we get to an actual workbook. He's still as obsessed as ever with numbers, only he has moved past the age thing to randomly spouting math facts. Daily he reminds us that "1 + 1 is 2, and 2 + 2 is 4, and 4 + 4 is 8, and 8 + 8 is 16, and 16 + 16 is 32." He usually asks what 32 + 32 is, and sometimes we go an extra couple of steps. Eventually he'll probably remember those and his list will grow longer.

Language Arts covers a plethora of activities, but typical activities for Charis (for the whole week, not just one day) include her handwriting practice page, spelling words, a copywork passage, an application activity during which we examine a grammar concept from the previous day's copywork and then apply it to a sentence or paragraph that she writes, a writing prep activity, the writing activity itself, and an optional assignment for Fridays, which we do about half the time. She also reads aloud from her readers (currently the Beginner's Bible) daily...actually about 2-3 times a week, because she usually begs to keep reading after she finishes the day's assignment. Oh, yes, and she does Explode the Code and Wordly Wise workbook pages, very minimal each day, but great reinforcement.

Tobin's LA is very similar, though it's one level lower. I help him with his writing assignments, as his handwriting still isn't fluid enough for him to truly enjoy writing much beyond his handwriting page and copywork passage. I let him dictate what he wants to say. His program also includes some games to reinforce letter sounds, sight words, etc. Since he is reading fluently, we don't really need to do the games--but you can bet we do anyway. Gotta keep school fun! Arden joins us, so I'm hoping he'll pick up some things from Sight Words Bingo and Go Blend (a Go-Fish type of game).

Arden has completed 15 lessons in Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. He is making marked progress, though I still have my reservations about whether this is too early to be teaching him. He struggles with blending the sounds into words, often spouting out words that we've previously examined instead of focusing on the sounds at hand. I'm starting to cover the other lines so he won't be as distracted, and that did seem to help. And I must say, there are times when he gets the word on his own, without hearing me say the sounds first. I guess as long as he is enjoying it and asking to do the lessons (which is daily--never mind whether it's a weekend or school day), I might as well enjoy the time with him. If we finish the book and he's still having trouble, we'll try something else! Beyond that, Arden's "school" basically consists of him bringing a bunch of books to me for reading and snuggle time. I'm good with that. :-)

In history we are going through the Usborne Living Long Ago book, which the kids all absolutely love. We've gone through clothing during various periods and are now looking at houses in those same periods. When I announce it's time for this reading, the kids all begin singing "Living long ago-ooh, Living long ago-ooh!" and jump up and down excitedly. We've gotten more rave reviews for this book than the Children's Encyclopedia, though they did enjoy the pages in there as well.

The Egermeier's Bible story book has also been a hit, surprisingly. There are significant portions without pictures, and I had read on the forums that a lot of kids don't enjoy this book. My kids do enjoy it, however. I think it's because last year we went through the Taylor Bible story book that I had as a kid, and they got used to hearing longer passages. In fact, the passages in Egermeier's are much shorter than the ones in the Taylor book--so maybe that's the key!

Each week we also have poetry readings from The Llama Who Had No Pajama and Mother Goose, again met with wild approval (though we don't have a song to announce the beginning of these readings!).

In science we have completed a reading unit of fish in Usborne's First Book of Nature, during which we all learned some fascinating things about fish. Sure makes me admire God's creativity!

Our current read-aloud is Twenty and Ten, the story of a group of French school children who agreed to hide ten Jewish children during World War II. We've also recently completed The Family Under the Bridge, The Light at Tern Rock, and The Hundred Dresses. We enjoy reading these in the evenings when Ted is home.

And I guess that's about it! If you read this far, wow, you must really love us. :-) As a reward, I'm going to post a link to a great video that I found on my friend "Amos's" blog. If you like the song "Who Am I" by Casting Crowns, you'll enjoy this rendition of it very much!

Pharaoh Kenna

After putting a burp cloth on Kenna's head, Charis and Tobin dubbed her "Pharaoh Kenna." Here she is in her regal headgear and bib, telling us all about it.

Our Little Ladybug

Here's Kenna looking cute in an outfit from Great-Grandma Shirley...

Not So Keen on the Green

Kenna's first green veggie, peas, was not met with much enthusiasm...

September 18, 2007

Not Much Gravy

I was jumping with the older kids on the trampoline yesterday evening, and we were pretending to be rockets blasting to the moon. When we got there, Tobin reminded us that we had to walk with big bouncing steps because "there isn't much gravy on the moon."

September 15, 2007

AWANA Has Begun

The kids have attended two AWANA meetings so far this year. I can hardly believe we have three children old enough for the AWANA program! They love it, and I love that they enjoy it. They learn so many Bible verses plus have the opportunity to interact with other know how we home school families have to be careful to "socialize" our children. *smirk*

Charis is in 2nd grade Sparks, Tobin is a kindergarten Sparkie, and Arden is in his first year of Cubbies! He absolutely loves Cubbies. When I picked him up last Wednesday evening, he had to sing the whole Cubbies theme song to me before we left. It was adorable, and I decided that I must record him singing the song. We did so yesterday, and while the video did turn out adorable (of course), I have to say his spontaneous concert was much better. For one thing, Arden tends to perform and then immediately tries to see himself on the digital screen, just like he poses for a picture for about two seconds and then wants to see how it turned out. So he kept trying to walk behind the camera to watch himself, and his singing was a bit rushed. I asked him questions about the Cubbies motto and theme verse to try to keep him in view.

For those who don't know, here are the words to the song so you can get a better idea of what Arden is singing:

"We are AWANA Cubbies, we're happy all day long,
We know that Jesus loves us, that's why we sing this song.
We hop because we're happy, we jump and shout for JOY,
'Cuz Jesus is a friend to us, he loves each girl and boy."

So here it is, Arden singing the Cubbies theme song!

So Cute!

Sometimes I look at my kids and think, "How'd I get so lucky?!" Now showing: Charis, Tobin, and Kenna, in all their radiant cuteness!

(In case you're wondering why Arden is not in this picture, he didn't join the photo session until a bit later, at which point Kenna was NOT in the mood to pose or smile anymore, plus Tobin began making faces and Arden wouldn't stop kissing Kenna's head, so none of those pictures turned out at all.)

Wanted: A Secretary

Would someone please call a dentist who accepts Concordia and make a dental appointment for me?! And while you're at it, please make appointments for the kids, too!

Why is it so hard to find a new dentist?! I have not had my teeth checked/cleaned since we lived in Ohio and had a great dentist. I brush and floss regularly, but gee whiz, 3 years is a long time to NOT get a checkup, particuarly when we're paying monthly for dental insurance. Sigh. I just hate getting on the phone and making appointments, and then I hate making arrangements for child care just so I can go get a check-up. If I get to leave my kids with someone, I'd rather go hide out at the library or get some things I need at Walmart, not sit in a chair with someone picking at the gunk on the backs of my teeth, know what I mean?

September 14, 2007

Down Day #2

Somehow this "down day" for Mom included doing the dishes, washing, drying, and folding two large loads of laundry, and running 3 miles on the treadmill all before 10 a.m. I guess it was nice not to have to do those things while managing school activities at the same time, which is what usually happens, so in a sense...I guess I got a "break." The kids loved working on puzzles (Tobin completed another 500-piece puzzle by himself before tearing it down and moving on to a 1000-piece project), building with legos and our Math-U-See blocks, listening to kid CDs, and generally hanging out together. Oh, yes, and I also weeded through a bin of the boys' old clothes to pass on to a home school friend who recently adopted two little boys plus made a pan of "Heavenly Cake" to take to the co-op fall kickoff picnic tonight. Whew!

I did play a game of Sorry with the kids and did Arden's reading lesson with him. He and I began working on the Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons book a couple of weeks ago. He really wants to learn how to read, though I have my doubts about whether he's truly ready for this. Still, it's interesting to me as well, since this is my third child to take through the program. Both Charis and Tobin had a well-laid foundation of knowing their letters and sounds before we began the book. In fact, Charis was already reading quite well, though she didn't know how to sound out unfamiliar words. The book really helped her learn how to blend the sounds together. Tobin and I had worked our way through every letter in multiple times, so he was more than ready. So Arden is the first one I've taught with basically no previous knowledge other than knowing what the letters are, which is somewhat useless since we focus on letter sounds and not the letters themselves.

So, I'm interested in seeing how this will work when one truly uses it to teach from square one! Arden enjoys his time with me and is trying hard, and I can actually see some progress. I was beginning to think I would run out of patience, shelf the thing, and tell Arden we'll wait for his 5th birthday. (He turns four next month!) However, he actually did sound out the words in his lesson today and figured out how to say them fast so that he confidently knew the words. Woohoo! The shiny star stickers to put on his chart are a HUGE motivator, so I doubt he will let me let him quit! He takes his school time with Mommy very seriously, and honestly, it's a rare bit of time for me to focus only on him, so as long as he isn't frustrated, I will keep plugging away with him, and who knows?! Maybe he'll indeed be reading by Christmas!

We also decided to call the B family in Texas. I chatted with Sarah for quite awhile, and then we let the kids talk. They all passed the phone around, and I could tell from their conversation that all 3 of the B kids were on the phone at some point as well. I think they had a good time chatting at one another. I say "at" instead of "with," because I overheard Arden reciting to Mackenzie alist of every puzzle we own. Who knows if Mackenzie was actually listening?!

Kenna woke from her afternoon nap earlier than I had hoped, since we had the home school picnic tonight, but there was not much I could do about it. We loaded up in the van and arrived about 5:30 at the park. It was nice to visit with other families, and I actually met two other brand new military families who just moved to the area. It reminded me of how I felt two years ago when WE were a new military family attending a home school picnic not knowing a soul except the B family, whom I had met only once before! I plan to try to get in touch with the new folks and maybe invite them over for dessert. One of the families has 6 kids, ages 12 and under, and though I didn't see all the kids, at least 2 of them are obviously adopted. The husband is in the Guard, and they are here for some training and will only be here about 10 months.

My visiting time was all too brief, since once it was time to serve the food my hands were literally overflowing! Fortunately the kids were hungry enough to eat just about anything. Not surprisingly, Kenna began fussing right about the time I sat down myself to eat. I balanced her on my knee and then my hip for awhile, trying to shovel in some mouthfuls in between shifting, then discovered she was poopy. Of course. I changed her in the stroller and tried to finish eating; meanwhile, the other three had disappeared to the playground and a friend's daughter was completely distraught, having had a miserable time at the 'tween "Messy Games" event that happened before the picnic actually began. Her mom was still at work, and I guess her dad was supposed to be at the park but was caught up somewhere else, and the poor girl was beside herself. Fortunately her mom did arrive not too long after I realized what was going on.

About this time the sun was disappearing behind the mountains, and it became harder and harder to see the people at our table. Conversations began to revolve around one theme: Why aren't the lights coming on?! A call to the park police was completely unhelpful--"They're on a sensor and should come on automatically when it gets dark." Um, OK, great. It's dark, and no lights are on! Can you give us some real help here?!

I managed to track down the kids, nearly bumping into other parents doing the same thing, and decided we'd give it until after dessert, since they had been anticipating cupcakes. We scarfed down sugary treats in the dark and then I discovered that Tobin had disappeared. I had told him he could go on the little playground right by where our table was, and though it was dark, I could tell he most certainly was NOT there. Walking around a park yelling Tobin's name is not an unusual occurrence, but by this point I was extremely stressed. I found him chatting with another mom whom I know quite well, so that was a relief, but it did not let him off the hook for disappearing on me in the first place!

We gathered our stuff and headed to the van. I forked over a bin of clothes and a sack full of boy shoes to Krissy and her hubby, and we headed home, not a moment too soon!

The kids have crashed, and I'm headed to bed myself very soon. Whew--down days are tiring!! I'm looking forward to getting back on our school schedule next week!

September 13, 2007

Down Day

This morning we ate bananas and headed out for a walk just before 8 a.m. I had gone running yesterday morning (I went 7 miles in an hour and 15 minutes!), and the weather was quite nice even though I didn't leave the house until 6:30. So, I figured we'd be safe to take a walk together. Ugh. The weather was totally different, VERY hot and even humid. We've had a lot of clouds lately, which is somewhat unusual for LV. Anyway, despite grumbling about who got to ride which "vehicle" (we only have one working bicycle right now and a little motorcycle/tricycle thing), we managed to make a loop around the neighborhood before coming inside to finish breakfast.

I whipped up a loaf of bread in our breadmaker for lunchtime sandwiches, which I had planned for us to eat at the park, but Kenna was a bit off schedule. So we ate lunch at home so she could get a catnap before we headed to the Dinosaur Park to meet some other home school families. The kids had a great time playing in the water and the sand as well as on the play equipment. I think we were there just over 2 hours, which does say something for the power of fun in groups--if we had been there on our own, I don't think we would have lasted through the heat! At least we moms had some shade under the pavilion. Kenna did great while we were at the park and only started fussing shortly before we left. She is finishing up her nap now while I have dinner in the oven, so it will work out well for me to feed her right before going to Bible study.

During our time at home we've enjoyed putting the smaller puzzles together to see which ones are missing pieces (a sneaky way for me to organize the puzzle basket!), and Arden has played games of Sorry with both Tobin and Charis. They've played quite well together, and I've tried to refrain from doing too many household chores! I did do one load of laundry, but it was kind of a have-to-do-today chore.

I'm not sure what's on our agenda for tomorrow, but it may include going to the orchard if the troops are up and moving as early as they were today!

September 12, 2007

Mommy Learns a Lesson

Yesterday evening before dinner I asked Charis to set the table--she's our dinner helper this week. She immediately got a frumpy look on her face, and I assumed it was because she didn't want to do her work. She had been resistant the evening before as well, which is quite unusual for her (unless it comes to cleaning her room--THAT chore is rarely met with joyful obedience!). She had just said goodbye to her friend Addie who is coming over on Tuesday afternoons while her mom helps lead a financial class at church, so I wasn't sure why she was so's not as if she were in the middle of playing anything.

Thankfully, instead of lecturing her about having a good attitude, I sat on the floor with her and asked her what she was feeling. She started crying for a bit, and I could tell she was trying to formulate her feelings into words. This is a fairly recently developed skill, and it is wonderful to be able to talk on a deeper level with her. It was worth the time to be patient and listen to her. When she was ready to talk, this is what she said:

"Every day is the same. We wake up, we do school, we do our chores. We don't do anything exciting anymore. Ever since the Brownies left [our good friends who moved a few months ago] we just do the same thing every day."

I thought for a minute. Obviously, it's not entirely true--in the time our friends have been gone, we have had a fun trip to Idaho, a trip to Colorado, and a variety of other "exciting" things happening. However, I have to admit Charis was right in that I have not gone out of my way to put much variety in our days. When Sarah was still in Las Vegas, it was common for one of us to call the other and say, "Hey, we need to get out of the house! Want to meet us at the park?" or some other such suggestion. I've been so focused on getting us on track with a school and chore schedule that I have not made fun a priority--except on the weekends when Daddy is home from work with us.

Charis and I also talked about the fact that she's just plain missing her friends Hannah, Mackenzie, and TJ. She has friends, but as far as another family that has children the same age for us to get together with, we haven't really "replaced" the B family. (We could never truly replace them, you know!!)

I told Charis she was absolutely right: We HAVE been doing similar things every day. I'm thankful that she still seems to enjoy school--at least she wasn't telling me every day was completely boring! With Kenna in the picture, too, I've been even less inclined to leave the house spontaneously. But I can definitely see Charis's point, and I probably would be feeling the same way if I were in her shoes.

So, we are officially taking a break the rest of the week. We've been doing great with school, and since our only official breaks were times we have been out of town (not entirely a BREAK, if you know what I mean with the stress of travel and then catching up upon returning home), we can really use some good old-fashioned down time. I'm taking the kids to the home school co-op's Park Day tomorrow, and then we'll be at our fall kick-off picnic Friday evening (also the home school co-op). Hopefully these two events will help Charis and the boys to find some other kids they can connect with as well as serve the purpose of incorporating more fun into our day.

In the future, I plan to add some sparkle to our days--I'm getting some great suggestions on the Sonlight forums, and I hope to add some fun activities that won't even take away from our schedule! ;-)

September 10, 2007

"Starting" the School Year

Last year our first day of home school was on Labor Day. This year, as we actually did school through the summer, there wasn't as much of a big deal to the start of the school year. However, Charis had been asking not so subtly whether the kids would again get the little paper cone treat holders I had made and hung on her and Tobin's doors last year, so I decided I had better make that an annual tradition! So, here it is--in our family, Labor Day may or may not be the first day of school, but it will at least be the official promotion dates for the kids!

This year Arden got his own door hanger full of treats, as he is "officially" in preschool. (How does one count preschool officially?! He's been learning since he was born!) Once again we weighed and measured the kids, and it was interesting to compare their stats to last year's. This will also be a Labor Day tradition, I guess! Here are the stats:

Charis: 37 pounds, 46 inches (a gain of 3 pounds and 2 inches from last year)
Tobin: 42 1/2 pounds, 44 inches (a gain of 5 1/2 pounds and 3 1/4 inches)
Arden: 44 pounds, 42 inches (a gain of NINE pounds and FOUR inches!!)

I'm a bit quirky in that I enjoy looking at patterns in numbers, and I found it interesting that their heights are all 2 inches apart. Also, Tobin and Arden's numbers are flipped if you don't count the 1/2 pound. Can you tell they have very different body types?!

Since we had been doing school consistently, I ended up just having the kids do some measuring activities that we had not had time for a couple of weeks ago. Charis and I made "Gallon Girl," a visual picture of how many cups, pints, and quarts are in a gallon. This was a Sonlight activity...I didn't make it up, but we had a lot of fun putting her together! I probably should have taken a picture of the poster when we finished, but if anyone is interested in making a Gallon Guy or Girl, email me or leave a comment and I'll give you more details!

The rest of the day was spent relaxing and enjoying time together as a family. I think next year I will purposely have us on break the week before Labor Day so we can celebrate the first day of 3rd grade, 1st grade, and kindergarten in style!!

September 08, 2007

Foot Rattles

Wahoo! I have figured out how to upload videos! Blogger does now have a way to put video files on our blogs...however, I had some problems when I tried it last week. So, I have resorted to creating an account on YouTube. So, while I cannot be responsible for other things you may happen to see while viewing our videos on YouTube, at least this should make the grandparents happy!

Here's a short clip of Kenna playing with her foot rattles. If you've already read about Kenna's first veggie, you can scroll back down to the Squash Face post and click on the link to actually watch her eating the squash. Hopefully I'll be able to post video links every week. Here's to bridging the distance between us and our loved ones!

September 07, 2007


Our language arts program from Sonlight is wonderful! Tobin and Charis have been doing so many different activities and learning a lot in the process. Though they are sharing a core, they each have their own language arts package, and I can see the spiral approach to learning as they often cover the same grammar concept at the same time. Tobin will be reviewing the concepts next year as he works on the package that Charis is going through now. And we are huge fans of Explode the Code! Tobin finished Book 1 last week and, unbeknownst to me, took Book 2 off the shelf and proceeded to do the first 15 pages! Charis also enjoys Wordly Wise for expanding her vocabulary. The activities in there are very fun for her.

With Sonlight's language arts, the kids do a writing assignment every week. I honestly don't remember writing much in my elementary years. This is not to say we didn't do it in our Christian school classroom, but if we did, I'm guessing it was not frequent, or if it was, it certainly didn't make much of an impression on me! I do remember writing spelling words over and over and over even though I already knew how to spell them, but that's a topic for another post...

So recently Tobin and Charis were asked to write poetry. First, Tobin had to create a number rhyme with the pattern of One, Two, Buckle My Shoe. Here's what he came up with:

"One, two, peek-a-boo!
Three, four, I went out the door.
Five, six, I ate Kix.
Seven, eight, I climbed over the gate.
Nine, ten, it will be over again."

I like how he wrote from experience--Charis was playing peek-a-boo with Kenna in the living room, and sure enough, Tobin ate Kix for breakfast that morning. :-)

The next assignment was to think of as many words as he could that rhymed with "bad" and then write a couplet using two of them. Tobin went the extra mile and insisted on adding another line to his poem, so the complete version is as follows:

"A man who had a box looked mad,
So I asked him to be glad.
Then we went home and we wanted to watch TV but first there was an ad."


So far Charis has only had one poetry assignment, and that was this week. Her task was to create a 6-line poem about a chicken. Yes, it was rather a fowl chore, this poultry (I mean, poetry) assignment, but she persevered when I took her under my wing. All right, I'll stop with the puns and give you, without further ado, Charis's Chicken Poem:

"A chicken whose name was Cluck
Had a friend named Duck.
They had pretty feathers,
And there was warm weather.
Cluck laid some eggs
While Duck kicked her legs.
Cluck and Duck beg for pegs.
Their friend Puck
Had some luck."

As you can see, she went past the 6-line mark, mostly, I think, because she wanted to use all the words she had come up with during the brainstorm session. (They were to write down words associated with chickens and try to think of some rhymes to go with them.) I personally was hoping to see her use the words chicken, thicken, lickin', and kickin'...


OK, so I have about 10 minutes left of office time before I need to go give the kids a snack, so let's see how quickly I can post some updates!

Kenna has been doing GREAT sleeping at night. Typically I nurse her around 8:30 or 9 p.m. before her bedtime, and she has been sleeping until anywhere from 6:30 to 7:30 a.m. WOOHOO! I think once in the last two weeks she has awakened at night with her pacifier stuck under her neck, and all the other nights she has slept great. This is indeed a HUGE answer to prayer! That plus a new pair of earplugs to drown out Ted's snoring has made for a much more rested Mommy!!

Some not-so-great news...the foreclosure sale of our house is September 24. This means we could very well be frantically packing a month from now. Our prayer is that we would be able to continue living in the house and making rent payments to whoever the purchaser is, whether it be the mortgage company or another investor. Please pray with us that this would be the case! This is a time of truly waiting on the Lord, as there is absolutely nothing else we can do but pray and wait to see what His answer will be. The Las Vegas market is absolutely horrible right now. The sale price of "our" house has dropped $250,000, and still there has only been one showing, which lasted all of 5 minutes.

One bad thing about Kenna sleeping longer and later is that getting up early is much more difficult for me! If Ted tries to shake me awake, I mumble incoherently and basically don't move. If Kenna starts fussing, I'm out of bed like a flash! This has made morning exercise time a hit-or-miss proposition. I won't give up my quiet time of Bible study and prayer, but giving up running 3-5 miles? Easy! Too easy, unfortunately. The week of August 19 I did get in 13 miles total, then dropped to 10 miles the week after. Currently I have racked up 10 miles this week with one more day on my chart. So, if I can get up and go more than 3 miles tomorrow morning, I will have gone farther than I have since the week of July 8!

September 02, 2007

Squash Face

We've always started with squash as the first vegetable to feed our particular reason, other than perhaps it's pretty easy to make. (I make our baby food, unless we're traveling, in which case I do buy some jars for convenience's sake.) When Grandma J saw the funny faces that Charis made while tasting her first veggie, she named the expression "Squash Face." We continued the Squash Face tradition by giving the boys squash for their first veggie, and yesterday Kenna got her first taste as well. It was quite the event, with five audience members! The kids got such a kick out of watching Kenna, who seemed a bit overwhelmed by all the attention in conjunction with the new taste.

Here's a video of the experience. You can hear the kids' comments!