May 31, 2008

Memorial Day Weekend

So I'm a week behind. :-)

Ted had both Friday and Monday of Memorial Day weekend off, which was so wonderful! Friday morning I went for a 4-mile run. Later that afternoon we all went as a family to an assisted living facility that the kids and I have been visiting weekly since around Easter. This merits its own post later on, but for now I'll say that we visited "Mr. Mel," whom we have sort of adopted. The previous week he had asked if we wanted to see his little apartment, so the kids and I wheeled him back. The place reminds me a bit of where my Grandma Millie has been. All the doors are propped open, so we had to be careful because Kenna wanted to visit everyone! Mr. Mel had begun showing us pictures of when he was in the service during WWII. I knew Ted would enjoy seeing the pictures as well, so when we found out that Ted didn't have to go to work last Friday, we changed our visit to Friday instead of Thursday. I called the Activities Director so she could let Mel know about the change.

Sure enough, he was waiting for us when we got there! We visited about an hour. It was so fascinating to see all of his pictures. He went all over the place--Africa, Italy, France, England. What a treasure his album is! I had brought a game, so the kids played checkers/Chinese checkers while Ted and I visited with Mel. Though we hadn't planned it to be so, it was the perfect activity to plan for Memorial Day weekend.

Rainy weather had moved into Las Vegas that morning, and in the evening we were treated to the rare sighting of a double rainbow right out our window! It was so amazing!

In the evening I drove to the other side of town (where it was raining even harder) to do a Stampin' Up! workshop. There were about 15 people there, many of whom had absolutely no interest in why I was there but came instead because the hostess's birthday was that week. Regardless, I went home with $400 in orders and a booking for the fall, so it went pretty well.

The next morning I headed out for a 7-mile run after it quit raining. It was GLORIOUS to be running in such cool, wet weather! That is a treat around here! I ended up at the library, where Ted and the kids had driven so we could exchange our books. We did a Sam's Club run after that, stocking up on fresh fruit and some munchies for Memorial Day.

I don't remember much about Sunday...I'm pretty sure I got a nap both Saturday and Sunday, and we enjoyed reading and playing games and just relaxing as a family.

Monday morning I got a 5-mile run in, and then we all worked to clean the house for company. The F family came over for food, fellowship, and fun, and we played a marathon 5 hours' worth of Settlers of Catan while the kids played together and watched a movie.

So, all in all, we've decided that Congress needs to pass a law mandating 4-day weekends at least once a month. :-) We enjoyed the change in pace, being able to play and rest together.

May 24, 2008

AWANA Awards

Last Sunday evening was the AWANA Awards Ceremony at church. Charis has graduated from Sparks and will be moving on up to T&T (Truth & Training) next year! Tobin and Arden will both be Sparkies next year. It was a good year for all of them. Arden earned his Cubbie bear pin; Tobin did everything except the additional workbook; and Charis not only finished ALL of her review patches, but she also did EVERY SINGLE additional workbook as well! She was one motivated little chickie!!

And now...drum roll, first attempt at a slideshow for your enjoyment!

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May 20, 2008

Exodus from Public Schools

Long before we ever had kids, I felt God's call on us to be a homeschooling family. At first I figured I would simply homeschool during elementary school, the formative years. Surely I could never teach my children what they needed to know at the high school level...after all, my strengths were in language and literature, not science or history. And how in the world could my children go on to college if they were homeschooled in 9th through 12th grade?!

Then I picked up a book called Homeschooling All the Way Through High School. I had never even considered that it was possible for me to homeschool our kids the whole way! This book really changed my perspective...and I read it about one or two years before I even began my homeschool journey.

A couple of years later, when we were stationed in Maryland, I had a wonderful friend and mentor who taught me so much about being a mom as well as being a homeschool teacher. Her firm belief that God wants to raise up a godly generation for His glory propelled me from being a rather passive consumer of information about homeschooling to formulating my own strong opinions in support of this movement.

I must caveat my opinions by saying they are just that--opinions. Some people I dearly love and respect, whom I also view as godly leaders, are sending their kids to schools, both public and private. I in no way presume to prescribe for other families what they should be doing, although if you ask my opinion, you're likely to get an earful about the benefits of homeschooling and how much better it is in so many respects compared to public schools! As the product of a Christian school from kindergarten through college, I hold in high regard private schools who are committed to spiritual and academic excellence; however, I don't feel called to send my children to one of those schools.

My own homeschool journey began by thinking of homeschooling as a good choice for some people for a few years. Through various means, God has directed my thinking to embrace His call on our family to homeschool our children every step of the way until He leads them to college (or whatever other direction He wants them in--but we're going to assume they will go to college in the meantime!). While I'm cautious in saying that homeschooling is the right choice for everyone, I firmly believe it is the right choice for MANY. And many don't even know it's an option.

So, with that said, if you have about 2 1/2 minutes, I invite you to read this article by Cal Thomas. I'd love to read your comments about it!

May 17, 2008

Pounding the Pavement Again

Over the last couple of months I've been working to become more consistent with my running again after taking what seemed to be quite a bit of time "off," even though I did run here and there. It just seemed that there would be a whole week at a time with absolutely no activity, and it even got to be 2-3 weeks in a row for a couple of stretches. I finally decided I was tired of feeling lethargic, and realizing that I have gained 5 pounds was also a motivating factor to intentionally plan an exercise routine.

Ted's TDY last week did kind of throw a wrench into my plans, but I just returned from a 5-mile run this morning, so at least I took advantage of his homecoming to get my body moving again! (I also got to enjoy listening to some tunes for the first time using my Mother's Day gift!! Thanks, Honey!)

The week before Ted left I ran 3 times, with my long run being 6 miles, the farthest I had gone since a 10-mile run back in February. That week was probably the 4th or 5th week in a row that I had run at least 3 times. (I'd have to look at my chart for sure!) At any rate, I'm realizing that the time has come to begin my long runs before 7 a.m.! It is WAY hot out there, and the forecast for this week includes multiple days of 100+ degree temperatures. Yikes! Actually, it's coming later than usual, it seems. We're halfway through May, and we've had a number of "cold snaps" over the last couple of months, just as you think spring is coming.

Daddy's Home!

Ted left early on Mother's Day to go to Langley AFB in Virginia for a week-long conference. He arrived home late last night, just after I had given up and went to bed because my eyelids were so droopy! The kids were up bright and early to greet him, which is all right since the two of us woke up at 5:30 a.m. and couldn't get back to sleep!

Ted's TDYs and deployments are always challenging times. I always think I'm going to get so much stuff done because I can concentrate on my to-do list in the evenings as well as in the daytimes, but I'm always so exhausted when evening comes that things really don't happen the way I plan! I have good intentions of getting scrapbook pages completed or the house cleaned, but the truth is, once the kids are in bed, I either go to bed early or else read a few chapters and then go to bed semi-early!

Thanks to our break from school, I did get a LOT of housework/organizing done last week because I could work during the daytime hours when I actually had some energy. And I have also completed some scrapbook pages, which I need to photograph and post on my scrapping blog, which is woefully behind.

But the important thing is not that the house is clean or that our bookshelves are's that we're together as a family again, the way it should be. :-)

May 15, 2008

All About TOBIN

It's time for the Tobin update, since I spotlighted the other kids recently!

Some of Tobin's current interests include superheroes, Star Wars, baseball, and Legos. Last night was the AWANA store, at which the kids get to spend their AWANA "bucks" that they have earned throughout the year by saying verses, bringing their books and Bibles, wearing their vests, and participating in theme nights. (Both Charis and Tobin had WAY more bucks than any kid should have, in my opinion, but that is a testimony to how hard they worked during the year!) Tobin's "purchases" included several superhero action figures and an X-Men puzzle, along with a few other miscellaneous things. Sigh. More stuff!!!

Tobin is still an avid reader, and occasionally he pulls books off Ted's and my bookshelf to begin reading. He has started a hundred books, it seems, and we find them lying all over the house! He does manage to finish his own books from the library or the kid shelf. I think he doesn't want to admit that the titles that intrigue him from our shelves are really books that he is NOT yet ready for!

In the mornings Tobin often reads a chapter or so in the Bible we got for his birthday. He has made it through Genesis 30 or 31, he can't remember. :-)

We've been battling a phase that I hope will soon pass--Tobin has had nightmares fairly often in the last few weeks. I remember he went through a phase like this quite awhile ago, but I don't recall him having problems in our new house. At any rate, he has awakened us a number of times because of scary dreams, and we are careful to pray with him when this happens as well as each night before he goes to sleep. He's always thrilled when he wakes up and announces at breakfast that he didn't have any scary dreams the night before, and then a few nights later he'll have another one and wake us up crying. Any ideas, you other moms who have been here before??

One reason I postponed writing Tobin's update is that I felt so frustrated with him so much of the time over the last couple of weeks! It seemed that we were always dealing with his lack of self-control...being mean to his brother or sister or friends, yelling in frustration, crying at the drop of a hat, and so on. I was afraid that I might not be able to find anything good to write about this son of mine!

Praise the Lord, though, I can honestly say I am pleased with Tobin's behavior recently. After several deep conversations and prayer times with Tobin, plus some concentrated efforts to incorporate applicable Scripture verses into our daily routine, plus the leading I've had from the Lord to have a time of Bible study and prayer with the older 3 kids in the mornings...I think we are making some progress with this spiritual battle. I've seen Tobin become much more aware of what he is doing and how he is treating others, and he often happily points out to me just how kind or helpful he is being in a particular situation. (We'll work on the character trait of humility later!!) Tobin is an extremely bright kid who would definitely be labeled a troublemaker if he were in a classroom setting. Prayerfully, by keeping him at home for school, we can make the most of each opportunity to train him up in the Lord's way.

A cute comment from Tobin recently...after I told him he might want to change out of his pants into something else because it was so warm out, he replied, "But Mom, I can't find any short-sleeved pants!"

May 13, 2008

What We're Up To...

We finished Sonlight Core C last week--yippee! I admit we didn't do EVERY single science experiment, nor did I make Charis and Tobin do EVERY single writing assignment. But we DID read EVERYTHING!! And we loved it all! The kids are already asking when we'll get to do Sonlight reading again. Tobin in particular is eager to get his new Explode the Code books, and he's excited that he gets to do Wordly Wise A, the vocab book Charis did last year. I suspect he's just going to plow through it and have it finished in a week or two. I'm not sure how I'll make it last the whole year!! I guess if he finishes early it doesn't really matter in the big scheme of things, right?! I'd rather have an eager student than a reluctant one, so I'll try to keep fanning those flames instead of dousing them with a negative answer just because we're not "there" in the schedule yet!

So, in light of our hard work over the past year, not to mention the fact that Mom was getting major spring/summer fever (it usually feels like summer around here at this point), we are taking at least 2-3 weeks off school. My big goals are to clean and organize the house and spend one-on-one time with the kids doing fun stuff. So far this week I've played Yahtzee, Chinese checkers, checkers, Battleship, and Rat-a-Tat-Cat, and I've bounced on the trampoline and snuggled on the couch to read stories. If I get ambitious, we may go back and do some of those experiments we missed--the kids really did love the science stuff, and though we watched Justin on the DVD do all the experiments, it really is fun to do it ourselves.

I've also cleaned and organized the two bookshelves in the school room to make room for more books! I took all of Charis and Tobin's collections off the shelves (things like the Bobbsey twin series, Little House series, Chronicles of Narnia, Tobin's Star Wars books, etc.) and put them on a little shelf upstairs that I found at a garage sale for $7. That freed up a lot of space. Today I finished going through all the books, and I came up with 4 sacks full of stuff to sell or give away!

One of my goals for the bookshelves was to have a place out of Kenna's reach where I could store "table time" activities. I like to have the kids doing quiet activities at times--sometimes during our school schedule, and other times when I'm on the phone or trying to spend some one-on-one time with another kid. So we have things like our Mighty Mind set, Magna-stix, Pattern Blocks, Leap Pads, and so on on that shelf. Things that are great toys but aren't allowed in the kids' rooms or on a lower shelf for people to play with willy-nilly.

I have the Table Time activities shelves complete, as well as my "teacher" shelf with various resources for me. Now I'm debating about whether I'll put out the next year's worth of Sonlight books on a shelf or keep them hidden in my closet until it's time to be reading them! Really, Sonlight is so great that my kids would take all the books and read them on their own if I would let them, and I was hard pressed to keep the read-alouds OUT of their hands until the scheduled time. It's much more fun to go through those together as a family when we're all enjoying it for the first time.

Today I also did some random things, like finally putting some nails in the kids' rooms to put up their little footprint pictures, clearing off the boys' dresser tops, and tacking a navy blue flannel sheet over Kenna's window to make her room dark enough for sleeping (we are not a Pottery Barn kind of family when it comes to room decor, LOL).

Also on my house to-do list: Help Charis find her craft desk under the heap in the corner of my stamp room; help Charis organize the craft desk so she can actually use the crafting items I've given her and find what she needs; clear out the stamp room closet, which is full of boxes that really just need to be stored, not accessed; re-evaluate my toy rotation system and sort/organize toys accordingly. Those are just a few things. :-)

I've had one workshop so far this month, with the next few events being bunched up in a row. There's one hostess who may flake out on me, but if she doesn't, I have 4 events in 8 days, which is not typical for me. Daytime stamp club Friday the 16th; home workshop Monday the 19th; Tuesday morning hands-on class for my deaf friends downtown; and Friday evening the 23rd another home workshop. The week after that should be a scrap club meeting, though we're working on nailing down a date for that, since it will be the first meeting for this group.

I'm thrilled and thankful for these opportunities. I'm working hard to earn a trip to Hawaii and am actually pretty close to making it! I didn't earn the Bermuda cruise for the past Stampin' Up! year, and though I did earn a cruise to the Panama Canal the year before, I couldn't go on it because it happened when Ted was deployed and Kenna was a newborn. We talked about maybe taking the kids with us if I do earn the Hawaii trip, so now Charis is praying. And those of you who know Charis, you know that means I have a pretty good chance of earning this trip!! It helps that last month and this month the company is giving double incentive trip points for each dollar we submit in sales. If it weren't for that, I probably would not even be thinking about going for it.

But we're starting to dream a little! The trip would begin on Ted's birthday next year...what a great birthday present, eh?! My good friend Debi may possibly keep Kenna for us if we do get to go and decide to take the older 3. I wouldn't really want to pay for Kenna to go, as she would just be over 2 years old at that point and wouldn't remember anything, not to mention a likely nightmare of a trip TO Hawaii and probably the next few days trying to recover from that!

Anyway, we'll see what happens. In the meantime, I'm thrilled to be able to keep sharing these fun and special times with my friends and customers. Now, if I can just get motivated to keep working on my own personal scrapbooks. :-)

Happy Belated Mother's Day!

So I'm a bit late! I was thinking of my many friends and loved ones who are moms on Sunday. Even those who aren't biological mothers, I still say "Happy Mother's Day," because if you're a woman, you're mothering someone somehow!

After a yummy pancake breakfast at our house, we headed for the early service at church. Kenna had been waking with crusty eyes and a runny nose for a couple of days, but I hated the thought of missing church on Mother's Day. So I checked Tobin and Charis into their classes and took Arden (who wanted to stay with me) and Kenna to the new Family Room. Wow, it's nice! Cushy chairs with leg rests, a table with coloring sheets and crayons for the kids, a book shelf and some boxes of two big screens so you can see what's going on in "big church." Kenna was happy to toddle around and see everything, but she started to get fussy toward the end. We left after communion and were able to get out of the parking lot before the rush. It was kind of weird to be home by 10:30 a.m., since I normally work the 9:00 service and we all attend the 11:00 together, but I figured I deserved a break!

Once we were home, I was ushered out to the backyard for a "show." The show began with Tobin and Arden swordfighting. Arden lost and huffed off in a pout. (I don't think that part was in the script.) So the next part of the show was done sans Arden--it was a "musical" piece by the "band," which consisted of Tobin banging the metal bars on the swingset with his sword and Charis beating the drum (which was actually the kids' play toolbox). By the time the band had finished, Charis, who was the emcee, announced there would be another swordfight. I think she was trying to give Arden a chance to win and be happy. Arden scooted inside to get his knight costume on, which resulted in Tobin complaining that it wasn't fair that Arden had a shield and he didn't. Regardless, they began fighting, and this time Tobin was beaten--or maybe I should say Tobin's lip was beaten. He ran inside crying when Arden's sword whacked his face (I can't say I blame him) and refused to come out to finish the show. So the next part was sans Tobin and consisted of Arden and Charis singing a Mother's Day song to me, and then Charis presented me with a number of handmade gifts. She was a busy girl last week!! I received beaded necklaces which were too small and beaded bracelets which were too big, but of course I exclaimed over them anyway. I also got a nice picture window box (a cereal box with a picture of a window and an outdoors scene on it) and a rather large Mother's Day card with a bird on it. The bird is made of feathers, a cotton ball, and construction paper.

Meanwhile, Kenna toddled around carrying her baby doll and ignoring the commotion that was the "show."

We then had a yummy lunch that consisted of Trader Joe's amazing Mandarin Orange Chicken, rice, and vanilla yogurt with blueberries. Kenna went down for a much-needed nap, the older kids chose to watch the first Narnia DVD, and I lay down for what I hoped would be a 2-hour nap. Thirty minutes later a soft knock at the door alerted me that I was needed on Mother's Day, and I opened the door to find Arden whimpering that his bottom hurt. Poor guy. He has rear issues now and then when he doesn't quite get everything anyway, I took care of that and tried lying back down to no avail. I gave up and later called my mom and enjoyed watching the kids play in the backyard with the neighbor kids.

Tobin conked out on the couch and had a much better and longer nap than I did, but seeing as how he woke with a fever and has had a stuffy nose and headache the last couple of days, I harbor no resentment over the fact that he got a Mother's Day nap and I didn't. :-)

Oh yes, and my gift this year was a Samsung "thing" (I don't know what to call it--it's not an iPod but similar) so I can have music when I go running. YAY!! I can't wait for Ted to help me put some playlists together and try it out!

May 07, 2008

Time for Some Kenna Videos

It's been awhile, so please indulge me. :-)

First one: The Leg Game.
Ted was making Kenna giggle by playing with her legs during dinner time. I love hearing her laugh in this clip (though it's not quite on the same level as the Balloon Game!), but even more, I love how at the end she suddenly seems to get serious and eats a cracker. :-)

Next: Little Mama Baby.
Charis dubbed Kenna "Little Mama Baby" when she was dragging around two of Charis' dolls recently. She has since become quite fascinated with the dolls and jabbers in delight when she finds one. Charis thinks it is so hilarious to see our "baby" playing with "babies!" This clip is quite short and doesn't show much of her really playing with the dolls, but you can see how she has progressed in her walking skills. I adore this stage, with the stiff legs and waddling gait! Kenna is a much happier girl these days now that she can get where she wants!

And finally: More Eggs.
This is from dinner last Sunday evening. At the beginning you can see Kenna making the sign for "more." (She was a bottomless pit this day!) Then you can see her anticipating the food to come, opening her mouth as wide as she can. Finally, you get to see our dainty little girl stuffing eggs and sausage into her mouth. The sweet little voice you hear in the background asking for more mango is Tobin. :-) I have to point that out now, because it's not often that his voice sounds sweet, as you'll learn when I have time to sit down and write his own little update!!

May 02, 2008

1 Corinthians 13 for Homeschoolers

This was posted to our loop...I'm sorry I can't give credit to the author, as I don't know for sure who wrote it. But it was worth sharing.


I Corinthians 13 for Homeschoolers

Though I teach my children how to multiply, divide, and diagram a sentence, but fail to show them love, I have taught them nothing. And though I take them on numerous field trips, to swim practice and flute lessons; and though I involve them in every church activity, but fail to give them love, I profit nothing. And though I scrub my house relentlessly, run countless errands, and serve three nutritious meals every day but fail to be an example of love, I have done nothing.

Love is patient with misspelled words and is kind to young interrupters. Love does not envy high SAT scores of other homeschool families. Love does not claim to have better teaching methods than anyone else, it is not rude to the fourth telephone caller during a science lesson, does not seek perfectly behaved geniuses, does not turn into a drill sergeant, thinks no evil about friends' educational choices.

Love bears all my children's challenges, believes all my children are God's precious gifts, hopes all my children establish permanent relationships with Christ, and endures all things to demonstrate God's love.

Love never fails.

Where there are college degrees, they will fail; where there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we teach in part. But when the trials of life come to our children, the history, math, and science will be done away and faith, hope and love will remain; but the greatest of these is love.

May 01, 2008

All About ARDEN

Arden is now 4 1/2 years old and eagerly awaiting his 5th birthday. Topping the charts at the 95th percentile for both height and weight, he is well on his way to being a "gentle giant." He doesn't have a mean bone in his body and has proved himself to be both thoughtful and tender.

He's the boy who picks dandelions and brings them to me. (Sometimes he graces his big sister with a bouquet as well.) He's the one who stands in the laundry room holding the garage door open for the whole family. He's the one who still loves to cuddle and snuggle on the couch. And he's the one who cries big, wet tears when his feelings are crushed. He is still somewhat a "mama's boy," holding his blanket close in uncertain situations and clinging to my leg, but he makes friends quickly and is so easy-going that he is a popular little guy.

We have one--ONE--lesson left in Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons! Arden is thrilled with his reading skills and has begun reading stories "in his mind," as he calls it. He also likes to read street signs as we drive and has memorized just about every major cross street along our weekly routes. He loves doing math lessons just like the "big kids," and he is about 1/3 of the way through the Math-U-See Primer book. He could probably be doing Alpha book work, but his writing skills are not nearly as developed as his math skills. It's amazing how much he has picked up just by listening in on the other kids' lessons. Though I've been hesitant to officially call him a kindergartner when fall comes--his birthday isn't until October 18--I think we're going to go ahead and say he's in kindergarten. Emotionally, I'm not sure he's quite there, but we still have the summer ahead of us, and since he's reading and doing math above his expected level, I think we need to face the facts that he's ready!

He is looking forward to joining Tobin and Charis for home school PE classes starting next September, and I believe he'll enjoy being a kindergarten Sparkie as well. He's excited to get his Cubbie Bear pin after completing this year of Cubbies, but since the Cubbies and Sparks get together for opening ceremonies each week, he knows all the Sparks' songs, verses, etc., and I think he'll make that transition quite easily.

Arden's current obsession is hockey. (Not that his father's current obsession with hockey play-offs has ANYTHING to do with this!) Using a Superstruct disk as a puck and Legos joined together to make a stick, he "ice skates" on the living room tile floor in his slippers, scoring a goal every few seconds and ALWAYS beating the other team. We really need to get the poor boy some real skates so he can learn to skate and, if desired, pursue this passion! I know Ted would do whatever he could to make sure his boy can play hockey if that's what his little heart desires!

A few weeks ago Ted took the boys to a local minor-league hockey game, and Arden was absolutely spellbound. Now that Ted has been following the Avalanche in the playoffs (dismal though their showing has been against the Redwings, sigh), Arden is playing hockey in the living room every spare moment he gets!

Arden has recently developed a new skill: saying "L" sounds! He has been working so hard to say "llll" instead of the "w" sound. While I must admit I miss the sweet sound of "Mom, I wuv you," I'm proud of him for trying to sound like a big boy! And it's adorable to hear him over-enunciating the L's and ask, "Did you hear me say, 'LLLLLLeft,' Mom?"

Arden LOVES Bible stories. He loves listening to story time at AWANA, he loves the lessons on Sunday mornings, and he loves Bible story time here at home. He often relates things that happen in everyday life to a Bible story...a skill we would all do well to develop! He has a mind for Bible verses as well and recalls them in situations where a Word from the Lord is welcome!