November 25, 2008

It's Beginning to Smell a Lot Like Thanksgiving!

We've had a light school week this week, just finishing up some things we didn't get to last week plus reading some GREAT Thanksgiving books I had reserved from the library. Yesterday I made a double batch of sweet potato casserole and a double batch of cheesy hashbrown casserole. This morning I baked the squash to have ready for butternut squash puree, which I made for Thanksgiving 3 years ago and we really liked but for some reason have never made since. I also baked THREE pecan pies. The plan was to make two, but I forgot that the recipe I use (which I had doubled) really needs to be poured into a deep-dish pie crust. Since I only had purchased the regular size, I ended up filling three crusts! Good thing I had gotten an extra package while shopping!

Tomorrow I'll bake cinnamon-apple-upside-down-coffee cake, a new recipe I got from Janet, who is hosting our ladies' Bible study this semester and served the cake to us a few weeks ago. It is YUMMY! It uses the pre-made cinnamon roll dough with icing, so it looks easy to put together. I figured it would be faster than "real" apple pie. I'll also make pistachio jello salad, a J family favorite. It has pistachio pudding mix, Cool Whip, crushed pineapple, and marshmallows. If there's time, I may also do the pineapple sauce to go with the ham (out of this world!!) and the squash puree so all we have to do is heat them up on Thursday.

Our friends the F family will be joining us for Thanksgiving. Heather will be bringing green bean supreme, corn, turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, and Oreo truffles. Maybe other stuff too, but that's all I remember. I think she mentioned real cranberry sauce, too. We shouldn't be wanting for food, that's for sure!! With 6 of us, 5 in the F family, and 4 in the T family, we'll have plenty of mouths to feed for sure, but I'm hoping that with double batches we'll have lots of leftovers to prevent having to cook much the rest of the week, LOL!

Tomorrow at noon Ted's squadron (or wing??) is having a family meal, so we actually get to go up to Creech AFB! It will probably be my one and only time to see where he works. The community is providing food, so we don't even have to bring a dish to share. I think it is non-traditional Thanksgiving stuff so that we don't have the same feast twice. :-) The kids are very excited to meet Daddy at work. After we're finished eating we can come home! Then Charis has dance class at 3:15, her last class before their performance at Willow Creek next Wednesday. After that we'll go to her and Tobin's LAST taekwondo class. Clint and Ski and their girls should arrive around 3 p.m. or so, so I will probably have Ted stay home with Kenna while I take the kids to class. By the time the Taylor family gets their luggage and their rental car, it could be close to 5:00 or later when they arrive. Our church doesn't have any services tomorrow night, which is probably just as well since we'd be so rushed getting back from taekwondo. This way we can eat dinner, relax, and visit while the girls settle in and get used to being here before bedtime. I'm really looking forward to getting to know them! I have no idea what their personalities are like! Charis is so excited to be hosting her little girl cousins. Even the boys are looking forward to having company.

I LOVE Thanksgiving!

Tobin's Story

I've written about some of Charis's writing assignments, so I decided it would only be fair to give Tobin a turn. We haven't done as many of his "assignments" as we could--I learned a lot from working with Charis on the same LA program last year. A lot of his assignments I let him dictate to me. I've learned that he is a natural-born storyteller! (No surprise to those who have heard his whopper lies, ha!) A few weeks ago, for example, he was to tell a favorite Bible story in his own words. It was "supposed" to be 6-8 sentences. But since he didn't have the act of writing to bog him down, he narrated a whole page (in my small handwriting)!

The picture shows his assignment that he worked on last Friday. He was supposed to describe a favorite object, and he chose his "Ellie," or stuffed elephant. In case you can't read the writing in the picture, here is what he wrote:

"I like Elle. He's soft. Before I was born I had him. He is green. He is an elephant."

The only corrections I helped him make were to capitalize the "I's" and to change "a elephant" to "an elephant." Everything else he did on his own, including the apostrophe in "he's." Not bad for a 6 1/2 year old!

The Season of Giving

We've been involved with Operation Christmas Child a number of years, and this year I had the privilege of coordinating efforts for our homeschool co-op. Last year our co-op donated 16 boxes, and this year I delivered 29 boxes total! Our family made a special shopping trip to get items to fill the boxes, and the kids had fun picking out things for the children. We try to do one box for each of our kids, so same gender and age range as our kids are. I love that we have the opportunity to kick off the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons by focusing on serving others!

November 24, 2008

Happy Birthday to Me!

Saturday was my 34th birthday. There's nothing I really "need," and since Ted and I had attended a show in October, I decided that what I really wanted to do for my birthday was stay home and have time to work on craft projects! So I invited some friends over, set up a table, and got ready to catch up on some things I've been wanting to do but never make time to do. Unfortunately, my scrapbook items never came out...but I did make 9 Thanksgiving cards for my room leaders and teachers at church, 6 Christmas cards to have ready for family gifts, and a few items I intend to give as Christmas presents. I also organized my recipe file and began decorating containers that we plan to use for "neighbor gifts," or, the "food gifts." :-) Tins are so expensive, so I'm recycling perfectly good containers and turning them into adorable works of art! (The Shaklee protein powder cans are going to be PERFECT for cookies!!)

Ted came home from work Friday night with a beautiful bouquet of flowers, featuring sunflowers, one of my favorites. He also found a book I've been told is very good, The Shack, and I'm looking forward to reading it--probably on/during our trip to Colorado. Charis made me a fancy "B" necklace--if you look closely in the picture, you can probably see it. She also made a card that everyone signed, and I was especially impressed that Arden wrote "Happy Birthday" along with his name!

All in all, 3 other ladies made it over during the day at some point to be crafty with me, and we enjoyed a yummy lunch and dessert with hot tea. I got some really cute stamped cards, and lots o' Facebook messages. I feel very loved. :-)

November 20, 2008

The Results Are In!

It's a BOY!

Tobin and Arden are ecstatic.

Charis is less than thrilled. But I have noticed that she has spent extra time playing with Kenna today. :-)

I had a feeling it was a boy, but I didn't want to say too much because I knew Charis wanted another sister so badly. I dropped the boys off at PE to chants of "Bo-oy, bo-oy, bo-oy!" after a discussion in the van about how God has special plans for our little one, whether boy or girl, and no matter what, we're thankful for the opportunity to welcome another child into our family. We also talked about Jeremiah 29:11, one of my favorite verses, so hopefully all that prepared Charis's heart for the news. She went with me to base, choosing to skip PE so she could see the baby on the ultrasound.

Ted met us there, and after the appointment we enjoyed lunch at the AAFES food court before he went to pick up the boys from PE and Kenna from Debi's house. I was so thankful he was able to take the afternoon off, as it gave me the chance to spend some quality time in the commissary buying items for our Thanksgiving meal plus the meals I've planned for the next couple of weeks, which will include company starting on Wednesday! Ted's sister Ski and her husband Clint will be flying to visit us with their little girls, Meghan and Tabitha. We have not seen Ski since her wedding day in July 2001!! So obviously the cousins have never met! Charis was only about 9 months old when we went to Oregon for the wedding. So we're excited to get to spend some time with them.

November 14, 2008

Fun Friday

And by "fun" I mean rollicking, clean-baby-vomit-off-the-plush-rocking-chair kind of fun, followed by clean-pee-off-the-carpet-in-the-boys'-room kind of fun.

Oh, yes, it's been a barrel of laughs around here this morning. Kenna has since eaten 2 crackers and seems to be her normal silly self, and Arden has been banished to the land of Pull-Ups for the next week. This pee incident has to be at least the 10th one in the last 2 weeks. I'm not sure what is causing the regression, but I'm tired of accidents happening on the carpet, on the trampoline, and generally anywhere it's not convenient to clean. At least I'm keeping up with laundry...

Somehow, we've managed to finish math and language arts lessons. Charis has written a fabulous little sketch that she (and I, truthfully) thought would be difficult for her--week 15 of Sonlight's LA for her level has them rewriting a fairy tale from the perspective of a completely different character. Think The True Story of the Three Little Pigs and you'll get the idea. Unfortunately, as fun as that book is, I do not have it on our shelves, and Charis has never read it...wish I had planned ahead and checked it out from the library so she could have a better idea of how to approach the assignment.

Anyway. On Wednesday, when we did her pre-writing assignment, she chose the story of Peter Pan for her "fairy tale." Then she decided Captain Hook would be the character from whose perspective she would be writing. Today, as we prepared for her to begin writing, I encouraged her to pick just one scene to focus on, as she would have been completely overwhelmed otherwise--and besides, the assignment is supposed to be basically just a paragraph. I'm pretty proud of what Charis came up with...remember that writing is not her thing, unless it's her own idea! Here it is, verbatim from what she typed just moments ago. (We'll work on editing the errors next week! She was fairly distressed about the misspellings, but between keeping Kenna off the computer chair and refereeing the boys' spats, I'm giving up on LA for today.)


My name is Captain Hook. I am a Pirite. I am serching for Peter pan. When I find him we fight. Peter pan pushes me off the clif, where I battle with my enemy the crocadile. Smee chases us in his rowboat. I manage to climb in. Standing up I cry "row!" "Row to the ship!" When we go through a hole in a rock in the sea my head hits the rock and I fall into the sea where I fear I will die.

OK, so the ending is a little depressing, but I thought she did a good job overall! Her verb tense is consistent, and she sticks to the main details and manages to convey a lot of action and emotion. Perhaps this day will be a good one after all!

November 13, 2008

Our Toddler Is a Streaker

Well, it has finally happened. Kenna's new favorite thing to do is to strip down and run around stark raving naked, as her Grandma J would say. We first discovered this new trick after she had spent quite a bit of time in "room time" while the older kids did language arts with me. She was apparently naked long enough to piddle on the floor--sigh. I had hoped it was an activity borne out of boredom and figured perhaps it wouldn't happen with any alarming frequency, but I was wrong. Five minutes after getting out of "room time," she was running around naked again.

Onesies are now the fashion apparel of choice around here.

November 10, 2008

Arden's Achievement

Arden is the proud owner of his very own Bible! The kindergarten class at church began a program within the last few years to encourage kids to memorize the books of the Bible before they promoted to 1st grade. After memorizing the books of the New Testament, kids are given a bookmark, and after they can say ALL the books of the Bible in order, they earn their own Bible. Arden was one of the first kiddos to accomplish this for this year! He was so excited to go to church yesterday so he could recite the book list to his teacher and come home with a navy blue Bible!

November 09, 2008

A Fun, Full Weekend

BIG SIGH. I just finished typing this post and Blogger lost it. That has never happened before. Ugh. Well, here are the high points from what I just wrote...

Ted and I got a date night Friday evening. My friend Debi had come over Thursday morning to visit with Kenna and me while the big kids were at PE, and we enjoyed sipping lattes and munching Starbucks treats that she had brought over. She commented that she missed seeing the big kids and offered to babysit for us. I wasn't about to turn down that offer! Turns out the next night was the only free Friday evening Ted and I had, so since it worked out with Debi's schedule, we planned that for our outing.

We kept it simple and just planned dinner and a little bit of shopping. We chose the Cheesecake Factory since we had a coupon for a free piece of cheesecake and enjoyed a wonderful, leisurely meal and dessert. Afterwards we went to Linens 'N Things which was close by, as they were having a going-out-of-business sale. We ended up purchasing comforter sets for the kids for $15 (originally $50), something that we needed but weren't particularly looking for. Then we headed to Target to get a few items for a Thanksgiving basket we put together for a church outreach and also found 2 ninja costumes for the boys in the Halloween leftovers section. $6 total--woohoo! They were thrilled.

You know you're getting old (or are at least in the throes of parenthood) when a date night consists of a meal without cutting meat for a small person or pouring ketchup on a plate and then shopping--a task neither Ted nor I particularly relish! We got home just as the kids were getting into bed, so a little before 9 p.m. (You also know you're getting old/are in the throes of parenthood when you are tired LONG before your kids are.) Regardless, we had a very enjoyable evening together, and I'm thankful that Debi enjoys spending time with my kids and is willing to babysit for us now and then!

Yesterday morning Ted worked a shift selling hot dogs at the annual air show at Nellis AFB. The kids and I stayed home doing domestic activities, i.e. I cleaned while the kids made a mess! Actually, I got the floors swept and mopped, started laundry, and made the menu plan and grocery list for the next week and a half or so. The kids did their part to help when I found tasks they could do, and then after lunch we took our snacks and water bottles and met Ted at the air show. We were only there a couple of hours, but it was plenty of time...this WAS, after all, our 4th year in a row to attend this event! We stayed to see the Thunderbirds, and I was glad when Kenna finally realized we were trying to help her by plugging her ears. She got to where she would lean her head on our shoulder when a jet zoomed close by and allowed us to cover her other ear with our hand, turning so she could see the action. She LOVES loud noises and was quite thrilled with the whole production!

After the show we hiked back to our vehicles and hit the commissary. Splitting the list, we got done in fairly good time and made it home amidst much traffic. Let me tell you, the kids were in bed EARLY last night!! (So were we!)

November 06, 2008

Back in the Saddle Again...

Despite the election results (which could be a whole separate series of blog posts if I had the time and inclination), this has actually been a pretty good week in various ways.

1. SCHOOL...We are back on track with our school schedule and are nearly finished with Week 14 of our Sonlight Core 1 curriculum. The kids loved reading Henry & Ribsy (a favorite of mine and Ted's from growing up, too) and are enjoying the Usborne Time Traveler as we learn more about ancient Egypt. We're starting a new unit on magnets in science, which promises to be fun. Arden completed his Math-U-See Primer book and is anxious to begin the Alpha book, which I'm sure we'll do tomorrow. Tobin is about 4-5 lessons away from completing Alpha and moving on to Beta. Charis is doing pretty well with multiplication, and Kenna is playing with the math manipulatives anytime we let her. :-)

2. BEHAVIOR...After a fairly miserable week (actually longer, I'm sure) of bickering, arguing, complaining, whining, and general grumpy behavior (admittedly on the part of us parental units as well as the kids), we had a family meeting Sunday night to discuss why this is NOT acceptable. With some concentrated efforts, I've seen noticeable improvement in this area, and I think the kids and I are ALL looking forward to Daddy's removal of the media ban!!! No TV, movies, computer, or video games at all until his approval!

Now, we are not generally a media-oriented family; the kids may get a PBS show now and then, a movie night on Fridays, and a Veggie Tale now and then when Mom needs an afternoon nap. We haven't purchased (and don't plan to purchase--please take note, those who might be buying gifts anytime for our kids!!) any video game devices, and we've just said NO to computer games of late because of the problems that usually ensue. But still...not having the option of letting the kids watch TV has forced us to be more creative (and has deprived me of the opportunity to take naps, ha). But I've enjoyed some game times with the kids during Kenna's nap as well as listening to their creative play. They particularly have liked the chance to "play school," as I got down the chalk and a stand-up easel with chalkboard on one side and whiteboard on the other. (For some odd reason this ended up in Kenna's room when we moved here last year and has remained there ever since.)

Anyway. The kids haven't been perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but overall I must admit their behavior and attitudes have DEFINITELY improved over the last couple of weeks. Praise God!! (Some concentrated prayer every morning on our part has probably had MUCH to do with this!!)

3. WEATHER...It's beginning to feel a lot like autumn for real! In fact, we had a cold front a couple of nights ago, and we were downright cold as we left church last night. (And by "we" I mean the normal people in the family. Ted meandered around in short sleeves.) Today was gorgeous--quite cool in the morning and getting colder now that it's evening, but the late morning and afternoon were warm with a cool breeze. Nice!

Well, time to go work on dinner. We're having Cajun bean & sausage soup with cornbread, a yummy hot meal on a cold evening!

November 04, 2008

Time for More Kenna Pictures

It's been awhile...and besides, babies are just so fun to photograph!!

Wearing Charis's old doggie slippers...which are now too small for her! (This was taken about 2-3 weeks ago.)

Baby in a box!

At the taekwondo costume party the night of the promotion ceremony.

Reading with big sister Charis.

Kenna points to her cheeks. (She's really into the "Where's your [insert body part here]?" game.)

November 03, 2008

Rice Bag $$ Totals

A week or so after the kids' birthday party, Charis and I sat at the table organizing and counting all the change we've collected for the Rice Bag Project. As a family, we had collected quite a bit of change in the preceding couple of months. But after receiving donations in lieu of birthday presents, Charis and Arden's little bags were bulging! I had some coin rolls on hand, but it turned out to be not nearly enough, at least for the pennies. I am pleased to report that our grand total so far is $159! Approximately $49 of that is in bills or dollar coins...the rest is from LOOSE CHANGE!!!

Praise the Lord! For every $30 raised, Mission India is able to teach an Indian woman how to read and write, thereby giving her much-needed freedom and confidence as she cares for her family. If you haven't already, I encourage you to check out the web site and read the stories about those whose lives have changed as a result of this wonderful work.

November 02, 2008

Medieval History Party

Another event that took up quite a bit of our time--mostly because I was in charge of it, ha!--was the elementary history party for our homeschool co-op. Our co-op has pulled off lots of great parties before, but they've never done a history-themed party. I got the idea from my friend Claire, who does an annual group party instead of individual birthday parties for her children (she's expecting #7! Go Claire!). A few years ago her party had a medieval theme, so when I pitched the idea to the elementary planning team last spring, I suggested we start with that. It seemed appropriate, since the Las Vegas Renaissance Festival is always in October, so kids who went on that field trip would surely be excited to follow it up with a similarly-themed history party!

And that's exactly what happened! I was blessed with a tremendous group of 5 other women who helped me plan and put together the event, PLUS a team of about 18 parent volunteers who showed up the day of the event to make it run smoothly. We had 4 craft stations--you can see Tobin working on his jeweled goblet above and Arden sporting his decorated crown here. Also, kids colored/decorated posterboard shields and made felt pouches (which were used instead of pockets). At each craft table we also had handouts that involved more detailed educational information about things such as food in medieval times, clothing of the time period, coat-of-arms designs and explanations, and so on. Ted worked on those for me and did a great job--he came up with a word search and a crossword puzzle for 2 of the activity sheets even!

Then we had 4 activity stations with 6 different activities (some shared a station): a may pole, which turned into a dance-around-while-holding-streamers station when the wind got out of control; a "storm the castle" station at which kids used bows and arrows to try to shoot into cardboard castles (from the Sonlight orders!); a lance-throwing contest (pool noodles through hula hoops); a jousting contest (pool noodles again); a tug-of-war type of contest that involved balancing on a small wooden platform while trying to pull one's opponent off the other platform; and a pin-the-sticker on the knight game.

We also had a preschool play area complete with Little People medieval characters, a child-sized castle, coloring sheets, and other things to keep the little ones busy. The whole event ran for a little over an hour and a half, and it was a huge success! We had 70 kids, not including preschoolers, which was the maximum we could take. I've received many great comments, and people seem to be looking forward to our spring history party. No idea yet what theme/time period we'll cover...any suggestions?!

October Birthdays

Charis and Arden's birthday fell on a Saturday this year--October 18. They decided they wanted to do a joint party again (whew!), and we planned to re-visit our theme from 2 years ago, a "Fall Family Fun" party. It had been such a hit before that we all agreed it would be the most fun and least stressful option. Before we made up the invitations, we talked with Arden and Charis about what they would think about asking guests to donate loose change to our "Rice Bag" project, a special fundraising project we are doing through Sonlight to benefit Mission India, which promotes literacy among women in India. We wanted to do this instead of birthday gifts, for a variety of reasons. When we explained some of those reasons...i.e. we already have SO much "stuff," plus the fact that we knew the kids would get presents from family, both Charis and Arden agreed that being able to get more change for our rice bags was a great idea. Their response really touched my heart--yes, it was my idea, but I was thrilled with their attitudes toward the whole thing!

So, this is what was on the birthday invitations that Charis helped me stamp:

"This is a FALL FAMILY FUN party!! We will have a pumpkin-carving contest...we will provide a pumpkin for each family (so please RSVP by October 15!). Please bring whatever you like to decorate your jack-o-lantern! lieu of presents, we would like to invite you to donate loose change to our “Rice Bag Project” (see for more info). Even during these difficult economic times, we are aware of how blessed we are to live in the USA and have our basic needs provided for. We are trying to teach our children to be thankful for what they have (which is a LOT!) and to pray for and give to those who are in need.

Thank you! We look forward to a fun time with friends as we celebrate our children’s birthday!"

Let me tell you...our kids did NOT miss the extra presents one bit!! We had a blast at the party, as the pictures below will show! I let Charis and Arden pick what kind of cake they wanted. Arden chose carrot cake, and Charis wanted zucchini bars. I was glad to make both, as we were expecting quite a crowd; NINE of the eleven families we invited ended up being able to come!

We tried to keep things simple. For instance, the last time we did this party we did pumpkin carving AND made caramel apples. But there were only 4 families there that year, so it worked out well. This time we just did the contest, which took most of the time. The dads in the crowd really had a blast getting into the spirit of the competition! Towards the end of the carving we stopped for singing the Happy Birthday song and eating cake and/or zucchini bars with French vanilla ice cream. (The yummy banana punch that Ted had made was GONE by the time we got to this part...oops!) Then we all voted on our favorite pumpkins and awarded the T and the J families their prizes. I bought fall-scented candles in glass jars and put some Stampin' Up! rub-ons on the sides of the jars. I figured the kids would get to enjoy their jack-o-lanterns, so the parents could enjoy the candles. :-) The two winning entries are shown below--the "girl" pumpkin and the "pirate" pumpkin.

Renaissance Festival

Last October, just after we moved into our current house, we took a break from unpacking and went to the Ren Fest, as it's called here in Las Vegas. Ted and I have been to these kinds of festivals before, but it was the first time taking the kids (that they were aware of, anyway), and it was a HUGE hit. They looked forward to going back all year long, so when the time finally came, they were ready for it. (I remember last year trying to explain to them exactly what "medieval times" were all about--this year, after having read a lot from both school and library resources, they knew ALL about it!)

Ted took that Friday off work, as we were able to go for free then by signing up with our homeschool group. It was a lot of fun to spend the day together as a family. I even got a costume this year and justified it by saying I'd be wearing it 3 times during the month of October--once for the festival, once for our homeschool co-op's medieval party, and once for King's Faire, the Halloween-alternative bash our church hosts every year!

One favorite activity was paying $1 to fight a knight. Here are some pictures of the kids in their glory...

Blogging Blitz!

OK, the time has come...I've uploaded some pictures from the camera, and I actually have a little bit of time to blog. (Thanks, Honey, for working on dinner for us tonight!) I'll break the posts down by topic when I can, so for this one I'll just post pictures of my parents. Here they are with the kids the morning Mom and Dad left to drive to AZ. I blogged about them visiting us in early October, but I didn't have any pictures ready. I unfortunately didn't take many pictures while they were here--we used Dad's camera to capture our outings to Red Rock Canyon and Mount Charleston, BUT...the picture quality was set for low. I will, however, try posting some here, and hopefully they'll show up all right even though we won't be able to print for scrapbook pages. (Not that it matters, since I'm 2 years behind anyway, ha!)