December 29, 2010

Christmas Vacation

We are having way too much fun during this week with Ted off work and Rhonda with us.  On Monday Charis, Rhonda, and I did some shopping...Charis wanted to use the Michael's gift card that Grandma J had given her for Christmas, and I had a J.C. Penney's gift card from Grandma Shirley for my birthday that I wanted to try to use, since I never go to the mall as a general rule!  Charis found much to her liking at Michael's and happily returned with a bag full of new items to craft with, and I scored a big griddle for our family's pancake mornings (among other uses, LOL)!  It was on sale for $30, regularly $50, and with my gift card and tax, I ended up paying a whopping $6.94.  Woohoo!  We hope to talk Ted into making pancakes tomorrow morning so we don't have to wait until Sunday to see how it works!

Yesterday Ted and I escaped went out for a much-needed date!  The last one we had was in October when my parents were here.  We were hoping to go out for my birthday around Thanksgiving time, but our sitter had company that week and ended up not being able to get away to help us out.  So we were thrilled when Rhonda said she wanted to babysit so we could go out.  FINALLY we enjoyed seeing the new Harry Potter movie, which was very well done.  Though it's been over a year since I last read the book, it seemed like they did a very good job of sticking to the major plot points and staying true to the characters and themes.  We can't wait for the next one to come out!  After the movie (which was an early matinee), we went out for a late lunch at the Cheesecake Factory and returned home to find Lucan napping and everyone else watching the end of the Polar Express.

Today pretty much everyone played Wii this morning (as they have a LOT this week, LOL) while I escaped to my stamp room to work on some projects.  Now it's afternoon nap time, and I'm uploading some pictures to Facebook and getting ready to head back downstairs to work some more.  Leadership is in just a couple of weeks, and I don't want to leave my swaps to the last minute!

Tonight we're eagerly anticipating the opportunity to see the new Narnia movie, Voyage of the Dawn Treader, another Christmas gift from Rhonda.  We have a sitter for Kenna and Lucan and are pumping Kenna up for her fun night with Miss Rachel!  The older kids are beside themselves with am I!  Hurry up, evening, and come!!

As much as we are trying to be relaxed and laid back, the week still seems to be flying by already.  Sigh.  Guess we'll try to enjoy this break from reality while it lasts!

December 27, 2010

Lovable Lucan

Lucan has been doing some cute things in this phase of his life, so I wanted to record them before we forget and he moves on to other cute things!

He LOVES animals, dogs in particular.  In fact, most animals, in his mind, ARE dogs.  And his word for a canine is a combination of the animal and the sound:  Dah-oof!  He would go into fits of excitement every time I carried him downstairs and he saw our string of Snoopy Christmas lights on the stairs, pointing and saying "Dah-oof!  Dah-oof!" over and over until I let him touch each one.  Then he started pulling off the plastic Snoopy light covers, and finally Mom got tired of finding them on the floor, so Snoopy is gone.  But no worries--Lucan got a big stuffed dog from my parents for Christmas, and the other kids have various stuffed dogs, so there are lots of critters to hug and exclaim over.

Lucan definitely has more words than the last time I blogged; we had politely turned down the offer of some early intervention services that we could have gotten from the referral from the pediatrician, and I'm glad.  Though he still isn't as verbal as other kids his age might be, and though his pronunciation of his few words still lacks perfection, he is doing pretty well at communicating.  Newer words include:
  • milk
  • off
  • hat
  • doof (we're not sure what this means, but he says it a LOT!)
  • those/this 
  • church
  • eye
  • ear
  • head
  • mouth
And of course he chatters to himself frequently in his own little language.  He looks so cute, nodding his head and saying what sounds to us like, "Yeah, yeah, yeah," as if he is participating in actual conversations with us--and I'm sure in his mind, he is!

Lucan loves his daddy and frequently exclaims, "Daddyyyyy!!!!!!"  He does this every time he hears the garage door open, thinking that Dad is home from work, but he also says this while pointing to my dad's picture on the wall...he spent a few days calling Grandpa "Daddy" while I was in Salt Lake City!  And sometimes I am "Daddy," too.  Sigh.  He has been heard saying "Mama," but as usual, Mom gets the shaft, LOL!

His other consistent word is "Ewww," said at appropriate times like diaper changes and when pointing to the trash.

Lucan loves music and will start bobbing his head side to side when he hears any, and if he's up and moving, he may very well dance as well.  He is loving the excitement that has come from our family getting a Wii, and he points the remote and dances on the pad just like the big kids.  In fact, he mimics a LOT of actions that he sees the big kids doing!  Yesterday he threw his hands up in the air and said, "Yes, yes, yes!" just after Arden was cheering over a touchdown he saw on TV!  And he pours a mean cup of tea and passes out "desserts" just like he has seen Kenna do with her new tea set.

He's still my little cuddle bear, loving to be held and snuggled.  His sweet, laid-back personality is a wonderful complement to the other kids' personalities, and I thank God SO much for blessing our family with our little Lucan Thaniel!

December 25, 2010

Celebrating Jesus

After a lovely Christmas Eve service at our church last night, we managed to get the kids tucked in bed and QUIET before too long.  We had unsuccessfully tried for a last-minute Kroger run, having run out of tape for wrapping presents, but unfortunately, everything was closed up for the night.  (What, no one else runs out of tape the night before Christmas?!)  Actually, I'm more prepared than that, just not, apparently, that organized.  I had purchased an 8-pack of refills for my tape dispenser, and we had just finished the first roll.  But I can NOT, for the life of me, find where the other 7 refills are.  Sigh.  On the plus side, the school desk in my room is now spic and span...

Anyway.  After the kids were in bed, dreaming of sugar plums fudge, Ted and I made our way to the play room to set up a plethora of Playmobile toys, which I had gotten for a mere $50 from a homeschool family who was selling a collection worth hundreds of dollars.  I honestly had no idea what all we were getting; it just sounded like something Kenna and Lucan might like for Christmas.  I made the purchase probably two months ago, and when the lady came by the house to drop off the sets and collect her money, I was overwhelmed with the sheer amount of STUFF that came into our garage!  The lady was so generous to sell all that to us for such a low price!  I was so excited when I saw everything.  We haven't really purchased anything like it for the kids, although one of the boys got a pirate set a few years ago for a birthday.  Ted and I hid the items in one of the basement storage areas that the kids never go into, and when we set everything out in the play room, it took up a respectable amount of space!  This was the year for used gifts, apparently, as we also purchased a used Wii system (see previous post!). 

Ted and I woke at 5:30 to make sure we had everything in place.  Lucan and the girls were up before Tobin and Arden, amazingly!  I couldn't believe we had to wake them at 8:00!  I had homemade frosted cinnamon rolls ready, and we also had fresh kiwi and scrambled eggs with sausage.  We had a wonderful breakfast, letting the kids open their stockings at the same time.  Then we put candles in the cinnamon rolls and sang happy birthday to Jesus, because I just ran out of time to make Jesus' birthday cake (which was supposed to be a cowboy cake at the kids' request).

After breakfast was cleaned up, we read through our Advent book and prayed, and then the kids passed out gifts from our extended family members.  So, we opened the presents from my parents, Joel and Sarah, and Clint and Ski.  Then we told the kids there was a surprise from us in the basement, and they all trooped down and were duly surprised and delighted with what they found in the play room.  Among the Playmobile sets we purchased were a Roman arena/coliseum, pirate ship, airport and airplane (complete with baggage carousel!), Noah's ark, a jungle/zoo, log cabin...and too many animals and people and accessories to count!!  ALL the kids were overjoyed, and even Ted got lost in the mechanics of all the things!  What I love is that there is something for ALL the kids, from 21-month-old Lucan to 10-year-old Charis!  (And 34-year-old Ted, LOL.)

During the ruckus, I slipped away and went to my stamp room to spend a happy 2 hours listening to RadioU's Christmas program on my laptop and playing with some new stamps and accessories from the upcoming Occasions Mini-Catalog.  I designed a new card and then made a dozen thank-you cards...seems I'm always needing those!

Then it was time to put Lucan down for a nap.  We fed him a light lunch (most of his meals have been light this week--I think he's popping another tooth or two) and put him down for a nap.  Then we had cheese and crackers and grapes while watching The Sign of the Beaver, a movie picked by the kids.  Tobin found it when we were at the library last week, and as we had recently finished the book as part of our history studies, we thought it would be fun to watch it come to life.  The kids chose that over Polar Express, which we had borrowed from friends, which was fine with us.  The movie was very well done; a few changes from the book, but they were true to the spirit of the novel and the characters, and I thought the changes emphasized the themes nicely.

When the movie was over, Ted woke Lucan up and took him, Kenna, and Arden to the airport to meet Grandma J!  Tobin and Charis stayed home and helped me clean up our mess from the morning and finish setting the table and preparing our big meal, which we ate nearly as soon as Rhonda walked in the door, as she had had a direct flight all the way from Denver!  We enjoyed a yummy ham, which I heated in the crock pot, and pineapple sauce to go with it; plus cheesy hashbrown potatoes, sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top, and garlic carrots.  After our meal was cleaned up, we did the gift exchange with our own gifts plus Grandma J's, saving the Wii surprise until the very end.  Kenna was happy to play with her new kitchen set, which Charis scored for $5 at a garage sale this summer!  It has a refrigerator, stove, and sink/dishwasher, in three separate pieces, plus a (brand new) tea set.  So while the older folks were busy with the Wii, Kenna was happily making and serving tea and dessert over and over to anyone who would take them!

So the rest of our Christmas evening has been full of silliness, laughing, desserts, and fun.  The kids are now being herded to bed, and I can actually see my family room floor again, LOL. 

I love Christmas, and I love the chaos that comes with sharing it with children!  (Although I did love the quiet moments I was able to share with Ted before anyone else was awake!)  I loved watching Lucan wander around in utter delight, squeezing his new stuffed animals and playing with whatever he saw that caught his fancy.  I loved watching Kenna find her surprise in the "Harry Potter closet" in the basement.  I loved Tobin's look of combined disbelief and utter joy when he realized he was holding a Wii remote.  I loved hearing Charis jump around in excitement when she read my note about ordering her own "Hand Stamped by" stamp.  I loved Arden's big bear hugs and heartfelt "THANKS, MOM!" 

Tomorrow I will love bundling everyone up and going to church to celebrate again the birth of our Savior with our church family, and then I will love coming home to leftover potato chowder (from our Christmas Eve dinner), a nap, and playing the Wii.  I love that my husband is HOME with our family this year, and I don't take that for granted anymore...not when we could very well be on opposite sides of the world in 364 days!  I love that the kids were almost more excited to see us adults open the gifts from the kids than they were to open their gifts from us.  (Of course, it helped that my sweet children gave me the movie Despicable Me!) 

Most of all, I love the fact that God, in His infinite mercy and grace, left the splendor of heaven to come to earth, arriving in the most humble environment amidst extraordinary fanfare.  I'll never get tired of the Advent story, and I'll never tire of waiting for my Savior to return again--this time as a King!

Wii Wish You a Merry Christmas!

I sit down to write after a thrilling game of bowling, in which I scored the highest I ever have in my life and thoroughly trounced the competition--Charis, Tobin, and Arden.  No, we didn't go out to a bowling alley on Christmas day; we're playing our new Wii!

Ted and I had been discussing for awhile the pros and cons of getting a Wii for the family in lieu of Christmas gifts.  On the one hand, we are strangely averse to screen time at our house in general.  (And by "we" I mean "we parents," of course.)  I much prefer to see my kids reading or doing some creative play than sitting in front of a computer or television screen.  But on the other hand, a Wii is so interactive!  We've been jumping and running all over the place the last couple of hours!  And the whole family (minus Lucan, who was very much ready for bed) is talking and laughing together.  This is no ordinary computer game, as I'm sure many other families have already discovered!  I must confess that the possibility of Ted being deployed for a year also factored HEAVILY into this decision, as I am well aware of my limitations and the need we will all have for some space!

So anyway, when I saw a post on our homeschool message board that a family was selling a Wii system along with a few games, I jumped at the offer.  Since she had posted at 1:30 a.m. and I was up at 5:30 a.m., I happened to be the first to respond.  We got the system plus the original Wii Sports, Outdoor Adventure plus the pad that goes with it, and Fitness Coach (which I am looking forward to trying out in an effort to lose all this holiday fudge-pudge).  We did have to locate another remote, but Ted did some Amazon magic and got what we needed.  All in all, we spent less on everything than if we had simply bought the system new, minus any games or pads, so we feel pretty good about our purchase.

We saved the Wii surprise for the very end of the day.  (I'll blog about our whole Christmas day in the next post.)  We gave the stockings back to the kids with various components inside each stocking.  On the count of three, we had them pull out what was inside.  They looked a little puzzled at first, and then we said something like, "Do you think maybe we need something to make all these things work?"  The look on their faces when they realized what was going on was priceless!!  There was much jumping and dancing around, quite a few "Woohoos!", and lots of hugs and "Thank you, Mom and Dad!"

Setting up the "Miis" was an adventure in and of itself, and we laughed ourselves silly picturing Arden with a beard and Grandma J bald.  We've all had some turns, and although some kids have been miffed now and then with what they felt was an unfair decision as to whose turn it was to do what, for the most part the kids have been good sports and are having a ball.

I think Wii made the right decision. :-)

December 19, 2010

More Random Stuff

Yay!  Another busy weekend is OVER!  It was way fun, with a lot of very different but great activities, but I have to confess that I am happy to put the bustle behind me and truly concentrate on getting our home and family ready for Christmas Day.

Friday morning I hosted 6 of my local downline members for a holiday brunch.  It was a potluck, and I made cheesy hashbrown potatoes and a kale fritatta.  We brainstormed ways to improve our stamp camps, having had our last one in November and learning the hard way that our projects were WAY overboard!  I'm excited about the changes we've come up with, and I'm actually looking forward to planning another one for March--not something you would have heard me say a month ago!  After our business planning, we did a handmade gift exchange, played some games, and just enjoyed one another's company.

Friday evening our family hosted our once-a-month family community.  We shared pizza and lots of Christmas goodies and had the biggest white elephant gift exchange I think I have ever been a part of!  There were 28 gifts, and only a couple were stolen--Arden's holey socks were not one of those, LOL.  Another fun gathering.

Saturday morning we all herded over to church for Kids' Street Live rehearsal.  Ted and I just love being a part of this ministry and are excited that this will be happening monthly starting in February rather than every other month.  We have a blast with the team involved--it's so fun that we almost feel guilty calling it ministry!

After we were finished, I took off on my own to grab some lunch and do our grocery shopping for the next 2 1/2 weeks or so.  I did make a little side trip to get one more Christmas present for my hubby, but he'll have to wait to find out what it is, LOL!  In the evening Charis and I went to the cast & crew party from her play, which finished last weekend.  I actually enjoyed it, though I hardly knew anyone there.  The kids involved in the production are fantastic, and they all adored Charis.  (Well, the girls...I can't speak for the boys, LOL.)  They all gave her hugs and told her how cute she looked, etc.  I enjoyed getting to know them a little better, and it makes me excited for the relationship we can have with our own kids and their friends as they get older and start to do these "hang out" kinds of things.  (Boy, do I feel old even saying that!!)  We only stayed about half of the time (it was a 4-hour time slot), as we had planned to have a movie night as a family.

So, back at home, we all piled on the couch (minus Lucan, of course, who was in bed) and watched Legend of the Guardians, the movie based on the book series we have been reading.  It was pretty well done; we all enjoyed it, and we agreed that they kept the flavor of the storyline, even though there were some major changes.  (There had to be--they crammed 3 of the 15 books into one movie!)

Today we were at church all morning to rehearse and then run the Kids' Street Live program, then stayed for the second service.  Ted and I decided we deserved a break, and we surprised the kids and took them to Red Robin for lunch.  It has been a LONG time since we went out to eat as a family!  (Chick-Fil-A doesn't count, LOL!)  Lucan was very well behaved and had a ball just looking around at everything.  Kenna made two potty trips during our meal, but other than that, there were no weird incidents--just a nice family outing.  Whew!

We had about 2 hours at home, and then I hosted 5 ladies for a hostess appreciation party.  We made a fun project and chatted together, a nice way to finish my 2010 business year.

Aaaaaaand now, all my events are OVER!!!  We have Grandma J's visit to look forward to--she'll fly in on Christmas Day and stay a week.  Now it's time to cuddle up with my hubby, enjoy some snacks, and watch the Survivor finale and reunion!!

December 11, 2010


Oh. My. GOODNESS!  Where is time going?!  I knew this would be one of our busiest holiday seasons to date, but good grief!  My online time has been limited to work for my business with only brief moments to hop on and see something on Facebook.  I haven't read anyone else's blog, and I obviously haven't updated ours, either.  This post may simply serve as a reminder to myself of why I didn't journal anything in the last two weeks, as I'm sure any readers I may have have given up on me, LOL!

The week after Thanksgiving my parents came out to help watch the kids while I flew to Salt Lake City for a quick business-related trip.  The kids AND the grandparents had a ball, and it was such a blessing for them to be together.  Ted was crazy busy at work, and I would not have been able to go if Mom and Dad hadn't taken the time to drive out.  Another bonus of them coming when they did was that they got to attend the opening night of Charis's play (A Christmas Carol) that Friday.  I stayed home with Kenna and Lucan and spent some quality girl time with Kenna after we put Lucan to bed.  The boys and the grands enjoyed the performance, and Charis had a blast.  I was able to see the show on Sunday afternoon when I volunteered to usher.

The day after I returned home I had a Stampin' Up! home workshop, the first in a month.  Though we had a major snowstorm which prevented a number of people from showing up (they were going to be driving in from a considerable distance), there were STILL eight people there!!  And 4 of them booked their own workshops!  Such a blessing.  All the ladies are Christians, too, so it was just a wonderful time of fellowship and a big encouragement to me with my business.

This past week we continued to do school but took Thursday afternoon and Friday off.  Thursday evening was the annual homeschool craft sale for the kids, and though Charis couldn't be there because of her play schedule, the boys and I went to sell some cookies and gift sacks they had made, plus the items Charis had made for our dismal craft event back in November.  Charis did much better at the homeschool sale without even being there!  She earned nearly $30, and the boys got a total of $15, which they promptly spent at other tables, LOL. 

Yesterday Ted took a day of leave to go with us on our field trips to Columbus.  We toured a chocolate factory--very interesting!  We got a free "Buckeye" at the end (better known as a peanut-butter ball in my family!), so the kids thought that tour was definitely worthwhile!  After that we went a little ways away to the only American whistle factory and had a very enjoyable tour given by the president/owner of the company.  It was a much smaller (and noisier!) place, but fun to hear about an American business.  I never really thought about how whistles are made!  And now we all have our own whistle with lanyard and safety guard.  We each picked different colors and mostly kept our self-control during the looong drive home afterward.  (But who taught Lucan to blow a whistle, anyway?!)  Reading our Sonlight read-aloud (The Witch of Blackbird Pond) and the fifth book in the Guardians of Ga'Hoole series helped the drive go much faster.  We had to hustle once we got home to get Charis to the theater on time, and then I helped at the table selling flowers and raffle tickets.

This morning we left early to go to a "free" chiropractic appointment--we donated canned goods for the food pantry in exchange for a free adjustment.  Woohoo!  Two bags worth of groceries was a lot less than our usual bill, LOL.  Then we met Ted at church to swap vehicles, and Charis and I stayed at church to set up for our Kitchen Kindness ministry team brunch, which was a wonderful success.  There were about 20-22 people there, just about half of our team, and it was such a blessing to visit with everyone and share stories.  We played some games (that I totally stole from the KK brunches from Las Vegas!) and laughed a lot and of course ate yummy food. 

Now we have a few hours with NOTHING SCHEDULED!!!  What's that like?!  Charis has another performance tonight and one last one tomorrow afternoon, after which we strike the stage and have the cast party.  And THEN things will slow down...until next weekend, when I host a downline Christmas party Friday morning, take the kids to the homeschool skate/gingerbread house decorating party Friday afternoon, and host our family community Christmas party Friday evening...followed by Kids' Street Live rehearsal Saturday morning, grocery shopping Saturday afternoon, KSL performance Sunday, and hostess appreciation party Sunday evening!!!  (WHAT WAS I THINKING?!?!) we all know why I haven't blogged, LOL!  Two weeks 'til Christmas, and I'm so far behind it just doesn't even matter!  We read our Advent book and do the Advent calendar whenever we have a few moments...we swap the numbers on our Christmas countdown calendar when we remember...and we know our families love us even if their packages arrive after Christmas day, heh!  (Although I am patting myself on the back for getting Mom and Dad's gifts to them when they were here last week!  Woohoo!)  Despite the busyness of our schedule, we're trying to keep things in perspective...if the house is messy before we rush out the door to an activity, so be it.  If dinner is leftovers, oh well!  The kids are excited and are enjoying the decorations, the music, and the snow that comes and goes, and I'm praying that they'll remember the joy of the season and not how stressed their parents were over silly details that don't matter in the scheme of eternity.  With being so busy this year, I am all too aware that my tendency would be to get upset and let the stress overtake me--but God has been so gracious to give us good family time together, and we've worked well as a team to balance our various responsibilities.

November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010

Thanksgiving dawned cold and rainy here in Ohio, and we were thankful to have a warm, cozy house to be together in!  We enjoyed a leisurely morning, sleeping in a bit (Lucan woke us around 7 a.m.).  Ted and I got the turkey and stuffing ready to go in the oven around 9:00 and spent most of the rest of the morning just relaxing, reading, and playing with the kids.  Oh, yes, and of course watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade!  The kids really got into it this year--Kenna yelled for us to come see every float as soon as she saw it on the TV, LOL.  Guess she doesn't quite understand that Mom and Dad couldn't care less about seeing a ginormous Spongebob floating above the streets of New York!  But we did score a great new recipe shown during the parade, Turkey Cranberry Pinwheels from Pillsbury, that we made with our leftovers yesterday--YUM!  The kids were so excited when I told them we could make them!

We had a late breakfast and planned for our big meal right after Lucan's nap, which gave us time to set the table nicely without little fingers grabbing all the items as soon as we put them in place!

Our menu included turkey and gravy, dressing, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, garlic carrots, and cranberries.  Before we ate, we went around the table and read some Bible verses relating to thankfulness, an activity that Lucan was not terribly impressed with, LOL.  But he managed to be patient, and soon enough we were enjoying our culinary efforts.  It was quite gratifying to fix a big meal and see our kids eat most of it heartily!  I remember when the older three were closer to Kenna's age--they simply would NOT eat turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, etc.  I think we mostly stuffed them with rolls and cranberry sauce, LOL.  In fact, this was the first year Ted and I have done a turkey on our own; usually we've had one of our moms around to help us, and the years my mom or Rhonda weren't around, we've made ham!  I must say, though, we did a rather good job--the turkey roasted beautifully!  About the only thing I was a bit disappointed with is that the gravy just was not like Mom used to make, although it was good enough, and some of the kids even ate it.  I'll have to get her instructions for that for next time.

Clean-up was remarkably easy, and Charis had plans for us after that was finished.  She had selected some Thanksgiving songs that she wanted to play on the piano while we sang, so we sat around the dining room table and gave it a go (some of the songs were quite obscure, LOL).  Then we played some games she had prepared.  I think she got some of the ideas from one of her favorite web sites,  The first was "Pin the Feather on the Indian."  She drew an Indian on poster board and gave each of us a feather with tape, and of course we were blindfolded and dutifully spun around.  The kids giggled when I motioned for Charis to set Daddy off in the wrong direction, and when he headed to the opposite side of the room and began wondering where the poster was, we were all laughing!

Next there was a kind of "duck, duck, goose" game that was called "The Hunter and the Deer," followed by "The Fox and the Rabbit."  Then we played "Where Did the Turkey Lay Its Egg," which involved sending one person out of the room, hiding an "egg," and then bringing the person back to try to locate it.  We were to say "Gobble, gobble, gobble" when the seeker got closer to the egg and "Giblet, giblet, giblet" when the seeker got further away (which, by the way, is incredibly hard to say fast!).  When it was Tobin's turn to be the seeker, Ted set the egg on top of one of the blades of the ceiling fan.  It was hysterical to watch Tobin's face as he crossed the center of the room to a chorus of frantic "Gobble, gobble, gobbles" when there was NOTHING (that he could see) in plain sight that could possibly hide an egg!

We spent well over an hour and a half with the singing and games, and it was truly one of the best parts of the day.  I loved hanging out with the kids and being silly together!  We definitely made some fun memories.  The kids also took some time to explain their thankfulness collages that we had made the day before, which is good because this year the Blessing Tree simply did not make an appearance!  So the collages gave the kids an opportunity to share things they were thankful for, which is the whole point anyway.

We enjoyed dessert and story time in the evening, finishing the fourth book in the Guardians of Ga'Hoole series and working our way toward the end of Sign of the Beaver, one of our Sonlight books.  We also watched a family Thanksgiving favorite, the Veggie Tale Madame Blueberry.  All in all, one of the best Thanksgivings ever!

One of the biggest things I am thankful for this year is being able to be together as a family for the holidays.  With the very real possibility of Ted's being deployed next year, I realize that togetherness is not something we can take for granted.  Only the Lord knows where and what we'll be doing for Thanksgiving 2011, but prayerfully it will include giving thanks to Him no matter what our circumstances!

November 24, 2010

Being Thankful

It's a cold, rainy day here in Ohio right before Thanksgiving, a perfect day to cuddle up with hot tea and read some chapters in the book I started, oh, a month and a half ago!  The kids and I spent part of our morning reading The Thanksgiving Story and making thankfulness collages.  The family room floor was a mass of old magazines, scissors, and discarded pages.  We listened to a Crossing CD and shared ideas and pages with each other.  As I suspected, Charis REALLY got into the activity, the boys tolerated it, and Kenna went off on her own little tangent.  A look at her collage shows that she is very, very, VERY thankful for dolls!  And Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar--but we'll call that "parents," LOL!  I suppose I should take pictures of the finished products and post them...I'll have to do that when I'm not feeling so lazy!

I guess I haven't blogged about my birthday yet, but I did post the news on Facebook.  Last Saturday, after a very disappointing craft fair, Charis and I came home "in the hole," having paid $20 for a table and selling only about $11 worth of product.  I'll give Charis the cash, since all the crafts were hers, and the $20 table fee can be a write-off for me, I guess!  I did tentatively book a workshop with a new customer/hostess, so hopefully that will go well and make the whole investment worthwhile after all.  Anyway, when we arrived home, Ted covered my eyes before I could walk into the kitchen, and the kids all shouted "Happy Birthday!" when I saw my present on the table--a new Kitchen Aid mixer!  Ted's mom and his brother and wife contributed as well.  I was VERY surprised and super excited!  Ted had also made dinner (homemade chili) and my birthday cake (zucchini bars), and we enjoyed a nice evening as a family watching Toy Story 3 on DVD.  It was a wonderful way to unwind after an extremely busy week.

Before the kids all woke up this morning, I put my new Kitchen Aid mixer to work making a pumpkin bee sting pie and a chocolate pecan pie.  YUM!  Yesterday we used it to make pumpkin chocolate chip cookies.  So we know it works!  Charis used it this afternoon to make our sweet potato casserole, and Ted used it shortly after that to make the make-ahead mashed potatoes.  (Yes, he even got in on the action!  He SAID he would take care of the potatoes so I could put my feet up and read a bit, but I suspect he really just wanted to play with our new toy, LOL!)

So we have our pies, potatoes, and sweet potatoes ready to go for tomorrow.  We've peeled and chopped carrots for our veggie, garlic carrots, which is a vegetable everyone will eat (unlike the green bean casserole which only Ted and I will eat).  So all that remains for tomorrow is actually preparing the stuffing, roasting the turkey, and throwing the carrots and garlic in the skillet 15 minutes before we sit down to eat.  Of course the potatoes and sweet potatoes will bake during that time.  Oh, yes, and I guess we'll have to make the gravy, too!  Can't have Thanksgiving dinner without the gravy!

This year we're just going to enjoy our own little family for Thanksgiving.  My parents are coming out for a few days next week, and Rhonda gets to visit us for Christmas.  Ted is in charge at work, as his boss is on leave this week and next, so we had to stick around this year.  Last year we went to Wisconsin, and frankly, while it was a good time of visiting the fam there, I am SO thankful that we do NOT have to pack up and go anywhere!  November has been way too crazy for us to be traveling anywhere else!

I was trying to volunteer our family to help at the senior center for their Thanksgiving dinner, but by the time I actually talked to a real person (who called me back just today), the center had been inundated with volunteers, which is good for them but left me feeling disappointed that we didn't find a way to serve others in our community.  It's a perfect year to do it, since we aren't hosting anyone else.  Oh, well...we'll pray for others as a means of blessing them, I guess!

We have NOTHING planned for this weekend, and that's on purpose!  Well, we are having a Settlers of Catan game gathering with our neighbor friends on Saturday sometime, but that's low-key and long overdue!  Other than that, I hope to finish the book I'm reading, maybe do a little scrapbooking, and prepare for my December workshops.  (I have the projects planned, just need to prep materials for the guests.)  I expect our family will play lots of games and continue reading our current books out loud (book #4 in the Guardians of Ga'Hoole series and Sign of the Beaver).

So that's what's going on around here...maybe I can catch up on reading my friends' blogs this weekend, too!

November 15, 2010


Somebody stop the world!  I want to get off! :-)  Here's a very quick rundown of life around here...

  1. Veterans' Day--I enjoyed a business lunch with one of my local downline members, and then our whole family joined some other homeschool families to go to an assisted living facility and provide some music and fellowship for the residents.  Charis played "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" and some hymns.
  2. Friday Ted took Arden and Tobin to see the Colorado Avalanche play the Blue Jackets in Columbus.  The boys were ecstatic to go--Ted most of all!  The rest of us hosted our monthly family community group for a fun time of food, fellowship, and a devotional.
  3. Saturday was my Stampin' Up! group's third stamp camp of the year.  We had 33 women attend, the most we've ever had!  It was a crazy day but very good.  There were probably 7-8 bookings and 3 new recruits all together, and I personally got over $300 in sales.  Woohoo!
  4. Yesterday was my first "down day" in a looooong time.  I took a nap guilt-free. :-)
  5. This week I'm preparing, along with a number of other musicians from the church, for a benefit concert we're doing on Friday evening.  I'm playing piano for about 2/3 of the songs, and it's going to be an AWESOME night!
  6. Charis is still rehearsing for her play, which will be the first two weekends in December.  Thankfully, her small role means we only have to take her to Tuesday rehearsals, so our week isn't totally eaten up by evening activities.  Between the two of us, we have rehearsal and/or a performance 4 out of 5 nights this week!
  7. Two weeks from today Ted has his pre-deployment physical, at which time we will learn for sure whether he really is going to be allowed to deploy!  After being medically coded to NOT deploy for 9 years, it was a bit of a shock to receive this tasking...but God is sovereign, and we look forward to what He will do in and through our family in the coming months and years.

November 07, 2010

A Kenna Funny

Charis and I had locked ourselves in the stamp room, working to prepare materials for next Saturday's stamp camp.  The pitter patter of feet on the stairs indicated we would soon have company, and sure enough, next we heard Kenna's little voice through the door.

"Mommy, can I have some candy?" she asked.

"Honey, you need to ask Daddy that.  He's upstairs and can help you."

"But he said no and no and no!" was the despairing reply.

At least she's honest! 

A Lucan Video

Is it REALLY November?!  I haven't blogged nearly as much as I have wanted to...this is one of my only ways of capturing our family moments since I haven't made time to scrapbook in, oh, well over a year.  And now I'm barely even posting!  Here is a video of Lucan babbling.  Though he doesn't have a whole lot of words right now, that doesn't mean he's speechless, LOL.  Whenever he sees the camera, he stops what he's doing and just stares at it, usually with a smile, so I was trying to be sneaky about getting this speech on video--therefore, I apologize for the quality!  Still, it gives you an idea of what I'm up against when I try to read anything to the kids during breakfast or lunch!  (We usually do our Bible reading at breakfast, and on days when we have errands to run, I will often try to read some history or science at the table while they are eating lunch.)  When Lucan hears me reading, he thinks it's the perfect time to spout off about his own knowledge of the world, and this is what we hear on top of my reading...which usually doesn't last long!

Living a Life of True Peace and Joy

[Note: This is a processing post, meaning I am taking time to process some things God has taught me over the past couple of days...please feel free to read, enjoy, be encouraged/challenged by, and if you do, I'd love for you to leave me a comment.  But this is your warning: Lengthy rambling may occur!  I won't be offended if no one has the time to read through my musings!]

I'm home from church this morning (by myself! Not with a sick kid!) nursing a cold, and while I feel yucky, I am thankful for some time that I can reflect on what I learned at the ladies' retreat at our church this weekend.  I didn't sign up until Monday, being unsure whether I really wanted to give up my only "free" weekend in November, but I felt that I really didn't have a good reason NOT to go--so I signed up.  Yes, I know, it was quite the spiritual decision, LOL. 

Seriously, though, I did pray that God would make me teachable, because honestly, I wasn't overly excited about listening to a psychologist speaker, even though her bio did make her sound like an interesting person.  Still, I felt the need to connect on a deeper level with some women from church as well as meet some I didn't know.  Stepping out of one's comfort zone is never easy, but I realized it was time for a little challenge.

Isn't it amazing how, even though we're [insert number here] years old, we still feel like insecure tweens in unfamiliar situations?!  Wondering if someone will come sit by us when we're in a room full of acquaintances rather than with a group of close friends...wondering what people think of what we say, how we dress, what we do, what we believe...never stopping for a moment to think that the person across the table from us is probably battling the exact same insecurities as we are.  I know a lot of people at church--at least, I recognize names and faces, since we spent 3 years here on a previous assignment.  And a lot of people know who I am from seeing me on stage playing piano or acting in Kids' Street Live, or reading my emails as Kitchen Kindness coordinator.  But I realized, as I was on the brink of a decision regarding whether or not to attend the retreat at all, that I haven't had the opportunity to sit down with too many women from church and share my heart or learn more about them.  I have a circle of mom friends from our family community (I got to sit with one of them during our sessions), but I didn't feel as if I really knew many of my sisters in Christ from Faircreek.  I began realizing that I'm closer to my Christian neighbors than to many of the people I pass by or sit near at church!

So, all that to say, I decided to go.  And I'm glad I did.  I met some new ladies and enjoyed conversations over several meals, and I enjoyed talking with people I know but haven't had the opportunity to visit without interruptions.  I have new recipes for African Peanut Butter Chicken soup and homemade granola, plus tips on making your own deodorant.  I learned the fastest way to get a hula hoop through a chain of five women holding hands, as well as how to cross a "river" on "stones" that will float away if not touched.  I learned a new stamping technique and won two prizes.

Most importantly, I have more women praying for my family as we face a huge unknown about our future.  I sat under godly, biblical teaching and learned how to identify lies from the enemy and combat them with truth.  I was guided to Bible verses--both familiar and not so familiar--that will encourage and strengthen me as I walk the road God has for me.  And I have some specific "tools" for living the life God wants His children to live--a life filled with true peace and joy.

So let's get down to some specifics.  Tammy, our speaker, gave us a thick purple handout with maybe a dozen sheets of paper, and I scribbled lots of notes down!  I won't reproduce the whole handout here, but I wanted to think through some of the things that stood out to me personally.  There was a lot of material here, and I know God used it to speak individually to each woman there.

The first big thing is really all about the basics, truths that I've known all my life.  But if I don't CONSTANTLY think about them, I am susceptible to Satan's lies.  Our knowledge of God is generally TOO SMALL!  We must believe God is who He says He is.  Four truths that we must keep before us daily:

  1. God is unconditionally loving.
  2. God is continually faithful.
  3. God is full of grace and mercy.
  4. God gives complete forgiveness.
My action step after attending this retreat:  Keep these 4 simple, basic, important truths before me so I read them every day and keep my mind awash in God's truths rather than Satan's lies.  God has given me everything I need for life and godliness!

**We cannot do life by our feelings!!!  (Can I get an "amen" from the sisters, LOL!)

I also liked the concept that God gives us DAILY bread, not TOMORROW bread!  He gives us just what we need for each day.  I especially needed this, because if I concentrate too much on the unknown future, I will work myself into a load of anxiety, fear, and frustration.  When tomorrow comes, I will have what I need for that day, because God is continually faithful, and He is my continual supply.

We typically think of "fruit" as being good; for example, the fruit of the Spirit or the fruit of righteousness.  But there is always some kind of fruit.  Fruits show our roots.  When we find our identity in Christ, we will enjoy the fruit of peace, joy, etc.  But if we are instead looking to other "gods," there will be fruits that result from this, such as:
  • compulsive behaviors
  • obsessive thoughts
  • anxiety
  • shame
  • overeating
  • substance abuse
  • overspending
  • depression
  • guilt
Note that women are particularly susceptible to discontentment.  Augustine said, "Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee."  Oh, Lord, may it be true of my heart that I rest in Thee alone!

Next we turned our attention to understanding that we are at war, and it is a spiritual battle.  As we know from Ephesians 6, we are not struggling against flesh and blood (which includes ourselves!) but against evil powers.  Don't fight the wrong battle!!!

Evil HATES God's glory.  When you are giving God glory, evil will work hard to divide and conquer.  Struggles WILL come when we are tired, weak, and vulnerable.  The battleground is in our MINDS.  We are constantly being lied to about God, ourselves, and others.  Tammy included a huge list of common lies--I'll just list a few that might sound familiar to others including myself:
  • I'm fat/unattractive/not smart.
  • I'm not good enough.
  • God can't use me.
  • My efforts won't do any good.
  • I'm a failure.
  • There's no use trying.
  • People can't be trusted.
  • God is not fair.
  • It's not worth it.
  • It's too late.
  • My life is not making a difference.
  • God doesn't make sense.
And on and on and on.  But we have to remember that Satan is a DEFEATED foe!  To win the battles against him, we must first recognize the lies.  We have to realize we are having a TRUTH encounter, not a POWER encounter.  Tammy gave us the picture of dashboard lights that serve as warnings.  Feelings of hopelessness, powerlessness, insecurity, condemnation, fear, and confusion are warnings for us to let us know that we are being lied to.  The only power evil has over us is what we give to it by refusing to stand in the truth.

Once we recognize the lies, we must reject them and replace them with truth.  We must:
  • Command our wills/souls to stay in the truth.
  • Saturate our days in prayer.
  • Steep ourselves in the Word--read daily, memorize, meditate, and do so purposefully.
  • Cultivate a discipline of thankfulness instead of discontentment.  (Choose to focus on what IS, not what is NOT.)
  • Be on a constant "God hunt," fixing our eyes on the eternal.
(There were other things on this list...but these stood out to me.)

I'm sure I'll be mulling some of these over for awhile.  Getting this typed out has definitely helped me remember specific things I believe God wants me to meditate on now and in the coming days.  If it has been a help and a blessing to you as well, then glory to God!

November 03, 2010

The Great Cheerio Debacle

Date:  November 2, 2010
Time:  8:33 a.m.
Place:  The Kitchen

Suspect(s):  Tobin (who left the Cheerio bag perched precariously on the counter without the clothespin pinching it shut); Charis (who accidentally bumped the bag on the way to her seat); Lucan (who finished dumping out the rest of the Cheerios and proceeded to wallow in them); Arden and Kenna (who promptly joined Lucan in the Cheerio dance o' joy).

Mom has been accused of aiding and abetting the suspects, standing aside and allowing the crunchy free-for-all to take place as she simply threw her hands up, laughed, and took pictures.

The older culprits were sentenced to perform community service (sweeping up the dusty remains of the cereal) and sent back to school.

October 28, 2010

Anatomy 101

So in science we've been reading about the animal kingdom.  A few days ago, after reading another characteristic about mammals--that they feed milk to their young--an interesting discussion ensued.  Arden was wondering aloud why boys have nipples when they don't nurse babies.  I thought that was an interesting question and wasn't sure how to answer, but I needn't have worried, because I soon realized there was a bit of consternation on Tobin's part when he realized we were talking about mothers having nipples. 

(I should note that during all this, Charis was sitting next to me, completely chagrined by this conversation.  I guess she's a bit sensitive after having "the talk!" You can just imagine her response when she heard what came next...)

"I thought only boys had nipples," Tobin said.  (I have NO idea where he got that idea!)  I explained that the nipples were how babies sucked the milk from their mothers. 

"I thought those were called boobs!"

[Insert muffled laughter here on my part and complete mortification on Charis's part.]

If you're familiar with our blog, you may remember Tobin's fascination with nursing after Kenna was born.  I would have thought that he would be more educated by now, LOL!

Kenna's Future

In recent weeks and even months, Kenna has announced she will do certain things when she's a mommy.  For example, "When I'm a mommy, I'll make pizza for my family." 

"When I'm a mommy, I'll wear that, too."  ("That," in one particular instance, was deodorant, LOL.)

"When I'm a mommy, I'll feed my baby."

And so on.  It usually has to do with whatever she is watching or helping me do.

So I guess we shouldn't have been too surprised when, this afternoon while she was watching Charis work on a little sewing project, Kenna said, "When I'm Charis, I'll make a doll!"

October 24, 2010

Creation Museum Visit and Birthday Celebration

I've read on friends' blogs about their visits to the Creation Museum, and I have been eager to go ever since we moved to Ohio.  When we heard my parents were coming out for a visit near Charis and Arden's birthday, we decided to make the trip this weekend.

What a blessing--our neighbors have guest passes that anyone can use at anytime!  With their 4 passes, plus the free admittance for active duty and police officers (for Ted and my dad), we only had to pay for one child's admission!  (Kenna and Lucan were free.)  We packed a picnic lunch and made the drive Friday morning.  I was SO glad Ted was able to take a day of leave, as the museum was crowded enough on a weekday--I can't imagine going on a Saturday!

What a neat place!  The museum itself is huge.  There was a lot to see, and I'm sure we grown-ups could have spent a lot more time reading all the informative signs if we were on our own.  But the kids did well and seemed to really enjoy everything.  We looked for fossils in one of the first rooms before beginning the "walk through the Bible" portion, which took us around and around from room to room, starting with a set-up of the Garden of Eden and going through the 7 C's:  Creation, Corruption, Catastrophe, Confusion, Christ, Cross, Consummation.  The kids learned about the 7 C's during their VBS week at church, so that was pretty cool.  (Charis is sitting beside me now, watching me type, and whispering, "Really fun!!"  I think she had a good time!)

I enjoyed the room with the construction of the ark--a full 1% of the volume of the actual ark, and it was HUGE!  I can only imagine how big the real thing was!  There were a number of models and explanations of how things may have worked, the practical details that the Bible doesn't record but had to be attended one way or another.

There was a video for the last 3 C's, but since there was a wait to get into the theater, and since we had some hungry (and rapidly getting cranky) children on our hands, we made our way outside and found some tables so we could enjoy our picnic lunch.  The kids fed bread crumbs to the fish in the pond, and then we walked along the garden paths and went into the petting zoo, where we saw alpacas, cows, a camel, zonkeys, sheep, goats, a wallaby, and a few other critters whose names I probably can't spell.

We went back inside to finish up by looking at the Dinosaur Den.  It was very nice to read information about these fascinating creatures from a biblical standpoint.  We watched a fun video about dragons--how legends likely sprang up from the actual creatures that existed way back in time.  Since dinosaurs and humans existed at the same time (despite what evolutionists try to say), it makes sense!  And many people don't know--though we did, having studied it in college and again last year with the kids' science curriculum--that the book of Job actually describes two different animals that were likely dinosaurs, the behemoth and the leviathan.  (And the leviathan clearly was a fire-breathing creature!)

The only thing that marred the day was that Charis got her finger caught in a bathroom door and experienced major pain.  We were able to get a cup of ice for her, but unfortunately, she had to endure a sad end to our fun day.  But getting to ride home with Grandma and Grandpa (with no other kids!) was a little treat.

We ordered pizza when we got home and FINALLY, REALLY celebrated Charis and Arden's birthdays!  We had made them wait to open presents until Grandma and Grandpa could be here, and Arden had been itching to tear open his gifts all week. :-)  We had carrot cake, their request, and then let them have at it, LOL.  I'll post some birthday pictures here, and if you want to see pictures of our Creation Museum visit, you can go here.

A "Corny" Birthday Outing

Charis and Arden celebrated their 10th and 7th birthdays on October 18, and we've had some fun family outings both the weekend before and after.  The Saturday before their actual birthday, we decided to have our own family celebration at Young's doing something we haven't tried before but the kids have been begging to do: go through the corn maze! 

The weather was beautiful.  And obviously we weren't the only ones with this idea--there were HORDES of people there!  But the wait for our turn on the wagon to get to the cornfield really didn't take long, and before long we were winding our way through the paths.  We were wishing we had brought the stroller along, as the paths were definitely wide enough and hard enough that it would have been fine to wheel Lucan or Kenna along.  As it was...either Ted or I carried Lucan most of the way.  The older kids argued over who was the "leader" and "took turns" deciding which path to choose.  It probably took us about 45 minutes to an hour, partly because we were trying to hit all 4 of the stations with questions to answer.

We decided to have an early dinner there and then, of course, ice cream!  It was so beautiful outside, and the kids enjoyed climbing the tractors and the big tires, watching the animals, and looking at all the pumpkins and gourds.  I don't think we ever get tired of going to Young's!  We will definitely miss being close to it when we move (who knows where) next summer!

To see all the pictures, you can go to our Facebook album.

Cincinnati Zoo

A few months ago Ted switched squadrons.  He's doing essentially the same job, just for a different group.  His old squadron gave him a going-away gift that was incredibly thoughtful--7 tickets to the Cincinnati Zoo, 7 wristbands for the rides, and a free parking pass!  A day at the zoo wouldn't have been very cheap for our family, and as we had never been to this zoo before, we were excited to go.  We decided Columbus Day would be the perfect opportunity--cooler weather, low crowds, and the bonus of actually coinciding with school topics, LOL.  (We've been studying the animal kingdom in science!)

All in all, it was a very good day.  We didn't take tons of pictures...I'll just post a couple of my favorites.  The zoo is a very nice one--you'd never know it's in the middle of the city!  The kids especially enjoyed the elephant show.  (I've never seen an elephant SKIP before!)  And the train ride and merry-go-round rides were a hit, of course.  The nocturnal creatures building was very fun; we got to see a barn owl, and since one of the main characters in the Guardians of Ga'Hoole series is that species, it was a big moment when the owl finally turned its head and we were able to see "Soren!"  The girls were especially taken with the baby chimps and bonobos hanging onto their moms.  (It reminded me of trying to cook dinner with Lucan hanging on to my legs, ha!)

Charis wrote a poem about our experiences.  (If you don't have access to her blog, let me know and I'll send you an invitation--her blog is private.)

October 19, 2010

Spotlight on...LUCAN

Today was Lucan's 18-month well-baby check-up.  (We're about a month late...)  Weighing in at 24 pounds, 4 ounces, he's in the 26th percentile for weight and 33rd percentile for height (31 3/4").  He is definitely not going to be the same build as Arden, LOL.  Overall, he's a pretty healthy little guy.  Since we had his check-up this morning, I thought I'd take time to jot down some notes about him at this stage in life.  All too quickly, I know, things will change!  So, here are some random things about our sweet little Lucan.

Lucan definitely understands more than he can communicate.  He has a grand total of maybe 6-7 signs:
  • More
  • Please
  • Eat
  • Milk
  • Shoes
  • All done

His verbal skills aren't much more impressive.  I was hard pressed to list a half dozen words that he consistently uses.
  • Eee (eat)
  • Hi
  • Nigh (night-night)
  • Dare (there)
  • Yay!  (Both arms must be raised above the head when saying this word.)
 Um, yeah.  Notice "Mama" and "Dada" are not even on the list!  Neither is "uh, oh," which was definitely one of Kenna's first words.  (Go figure.)  If it would count as a word, I'd list "uuh" or maybe "ooo."  He says that a lot.  While I'm not terribly concerned about the lack of verbiage from the baby of the family, his PCM (primary care manager) suggested having him evaluated to see if we can help him begin to speak more and whether speech therapy is needed at this point.  (Although, to be fair, she didn't seem overly concerned about it, either--just something that probably had to be said at this point.)  I think someone may be calling me to set up an in-home appointment to come and observe him in his natural environment...I wasn't really clear on whether this WOULD happen or COULD happen.  I guess I'll find out!  With 4 older sibs who know their baby brother REALLY well, there really isn't much need for Lucan to talk.  I've been trying to make him use more sign language before giving him what I can tell he wants, and we will try extra hard to have the kids really work with him to repeat words (which he does try to do on occasion).

But the kid understands quite well what's happening around him!  When I tell him it's time for a diaper change, he trots to our "spot" and assumes the position.  When he hears it's bath time, he trots into the bathroom and begins stripping down.  And oh, the boy knows when it's time to eat!  Guess we just need to prod him a little to make him work harder for what he wants.

Mommy, Mommy, and did I mention, Mommy?!  We are definitely in the clingy stage.  I remember going through this with the others around this same age.  It can be very aggravating when trying to make dinner--it's not easy toting around a large object on one's leg or working with a small person's head stuck between one's knees.  All I can say about this is, thank God for hips.  And nap time.  And when I read about the Proverbs 31 woman having arms that are strong for her tasks, I think..."She ain't got nothin' on my left bicep!  This baby-hauling mama HAS to have strong arms in order to survive!"  (I just sometimes wish there were more than two of 'em!)

Other favorites include:
  • Listening to Daddy make raspberry noises.
  • Light switches--turning them off and on.
  • The phone.  (We never lose it anymore...he certainly knows how to page it...)
  • The piano, especially when Charis is trying to practice.
  • Having his shoes ON.  Even when wearing pajamas with feet.
  • Big bouncy balls.
  • Greeting Daddy when he comes home from work.
  • Indiscriminate waving.  Alive or not, it doesn't matter--if he can see you/it, he will wave to you/it.
  • Giving high fives.
  • Riding piggy back on Charis or Tobin.
Lucan is really getting into books these days, which is fun for all of us except Kenna, because it seems to be my reading time with her that he decides is the best time to horn his way onto my lap, grab the book we're looking at, push her aside (literally), and demand my full attention.  But other than the Mom-stealing part of reading time, it's fun to see him really start to be engaged with what's happening on the page, pointing and exclaiming in his own little babble language.

Puzzles are another budding interest.  We have quite a few of these to capture his fancy, from magnetic book puzzles to foam and wooden shapes.  He definitely knows where pieces are supposed to go, even if he isn't quite coordinated to get them all in the right way.

We still like to go for walks in the wagon, but the weather is turning colder, so we no longer do this before the big kids rise and shine.  So we don't go out as frequently, though I do try to send him to the back yard with an older sib to bounce on the trampoline or just putter around with a ball and some toys.  I do miss the little play gyms we've had in the past...

And, as you can see below, he loves being a little ham!  He always has an appreciative audience.  Lucan really does light up our life ("Lucan" = Irish, "light"), and we can't imagine our lives without him.  What a blessing and a treasure he is!

A Peek into Arden's Mind

Arden sat up front with me on the way home from base after Lucan's 18-month check-up.  He chatted quite a bit with me, and the random comments and questions were just too cute not to record for posterity!

"Mom, I really wish I could be called Daniel."

"That tree is naked!"

"Mom, in 5 more years I can play football.  I am 7, after all."  (This after turning 7 YESTERDAY!)

"Mom, do some pirates not wear shirts?"

[Then, apparently not satisfied with the answer I gave him...]

"Tobin, you know more about pirates.  Do some pirates not wear shirts?"

"Mom, true or false:  Dad is the fattest person in our family."

All these comments came--in the order I just typed them--in a span of about 5 minutes.  I love my creative boy!

October 16, 2010

Stinkerbell Strikes Again

It's been a few months since Kenna attacked her hair with the scissors, but don't think she's lost her "Kennis the Menace" nickname in the meantime!  Here are just a few of her recent feats we have "enjoyed" over the past week:

  • Orange highlighter all over her body.  And I mean ALL. OVER.  Her toes looked like Cheetos!  The good news:  Highlighter is easily removed with baby wipes!
  • Orange highlighter on a significant space of her bedroom wall.
  • Glitter glue on an envelope and piece of card stock I left on my desk.  (She hid UNDER my desk when I realized something was not quite right...I hadn't left my office light on...)
  • Arden's foam airplane cut into little, tiny pieces.
  • Four large, jagged pieces of Cowboy Cake OUT of the cake pan and INTO her belly.  (Yes, she cut the pieces herself.  Guess who's not getting any ice cream when we're at Young's today?!)
  • At least 20 blank name tags stolen out of my workshop basket, unpeeled and stuck to the dining room table. 
I call this, "Unplanned Adventures in Homeschooling," since most of these activities took place during our school day schedule!  Good opportunities to respond with the character and attitude of Christ, right?!

Happy Fall, Y'all!

Where is the time going?!  It seems not so very long ago we were enjoying our first autumn back in territory where you can actually SEE the seasons changing.  I just got back from a three-mile run in crisp, clear weather, soaking in the morning sunshine and trying to absorb as much of the beauty of the colored leaves as possible--I'll need something to hold me over 'til spring once the trees are naked again and I'm once more shoveling snow off the walk.  We're trying to get outdoors as much as possible during the school days, too, as the weather has been beautiful (aside from a few much-needed rainstorms over the past week). 

Our "normal" routine is back in full swing after our two-week vacation.  Ahhh, schedules!  We've finished two more weeks of Sonlight's Core 3.  I don't think I'll ever get tired of hearing the kids beg me to read MORE when we come to the end of a day's history, science, or literature reading.  Even Kenna is in on the action nowadays, chanting, "Mo-ore, mo-ore, mo-ore" when I put a book down.  Sonlighter in training! 

We have discovered the need to tweak a few parts of our daily schedule, but I figured that would happen.  For example, Charis and I decided that her piano practice time needs to be during Lucan's room time; otherwise she has some extra fingers on the keyboard!  And sometimes I've been doubling up with the boys, doing language arts at the same time instead of one at a time.  This helps us finish sooner before lunch and gives the kids some extra outside play time.  Some days I'm sure I'll need more one-on-one time, but it's nice to be flexible, right?

This afternoon we're heading to Young's to do their corn maze for the first time EVER!  (How can we have spent so much time in Ohio and never have done this yet?!)  This is our family celebration for Arden and Charis's birthdays.  Charis requested a quiet family party, and Arden seems content with our plans so far, which is a good thing...after our history travels, we don't have a big budget for partying!  Arden even wrote out a birthday wish list, which was very cute, written just like this:

A lego set,
A popout light saber, 
A Book of sudoku Puzzles, 
And a Bionicle.

Ane yes, he had underlined all the items!  I was just impressed that the list was limited to 4 items, LOL.  Since he already has a pop-out light saber, I think he has a fairly good chance of scoring what he wants this year! 

Charis is turning 10, and for her rite-of-passage into double digits, I will take her to get her ears pierced.  She opted to wait until next weekend, when Grandma and Grandpa K are here to visit.  She's becoming quite the young lady!

I'll sign off here--it's time for me to shower and then get my hair trimmed before we begin our family adventures.  I hope wherever you are, you're experiencing a lovely, blessed season!

October 10, 2010

The Talk

Our firstborn is nearing double digits, and various circumstances were all pointing to the glaringly obvious:  It was high time we sat down and had "The Talk."  Though Charis and I had read a couple of (excellent) introductory books, and though I have breezily referenced the Birds and the Bees on necessary occasions, we hadn't actually gotten into much detail.

So I marked my planner for Saturday, October 9, nine days before her 10th birthday.  A girls' day out was on the calendar (though around here a "day out" generally means I'm away from the house for maybe 3 hours), and Charis was excited to get Mom all to herself for a bit.  We decided to do some hiking since it was a lovely fall day.  I packed a few supplies in a backpack and we were off.

We spent awhile hiking some unfamiliar trails and enjoying the beautiful weather.  Then we sat on a bench and started our discussion.  I used some suggested wording from a great little booklet I borrowed from a friend called I Want to Teach My Child About Sex: An On-the-Go Guide for Busy Parents.  I was thrilled (and relieved) that Charis didn't seem embarrassed or uncomfortable, and my theory is this:  being proactive and getting a head start over the inundation the world will inevitably bring is a HUGE benefit to Christian families approaching this topic!  I cannot tell you how pleased I was when I asked her, "What do your friends say about sex?" and she said, "Nothing--no one has ever said anything to me about this."  Wow!  Either our child is the most sheltered kid in the universe, or else we've let her pick the right friends, LOL.  By her age I know I had at least encountered vague references to the issue--of all places--in my Christian elementary school!

So it really did take away any awkward feeling on my part to really feel as if I were truly the first to teach my daughter about this.  (It also helped that Ted and I had been praying for a couple of days about this whole thing!)  I am fervently in favor of introducing the topic to a child younger than one would normally feel "comfortable" doing so simply so you can beat the world to the punch, so to speak.

So anyway, we chatted for a little while, and then we read The Princess and the Kiss out loud together.  I answered a few questions that Charis asked, and then we prayed together for her and for her future husband.  It was a very sweet, very precious time together.

Later that night, after we had sent the rest of the kids to bed, Charis snuggled on the couch with Ted and me, and we read the first two chapters of What's the Big Deal?, which is the third book in the God's Design for Sex series.  The first two books, The Story of Me and Before I Was Born, are the aforementioned resources I had read with Charis in recent years.  (You can learn more about this series by reading this quick but thorough review, written by a homeschooling parent.)  Charis and I will continue reading a chapter or so at a time together, but we felt it was important to begin with both parents reading aloud this play-style dialogue so that we can show our kids that they can come to either of us to talk about these issues.  Once again, we closed our time with Charis by praying--all three of us prayed, and it was very sweet to hear her prayer for herself and for her future husband.

Whew!  I'm patting ourselves on the back and thanking the Lord for a good introduction to this next phase of parenting. :-)

October 04, 2010

Day 13--Valley Forge and Home

We got off to a smooth start on our last day of vacation.  Amazingly we were out of the TLF and on the road before 9 a.m.  It was mostly going to be a travel day--our original thought of perhaps camping outside of Gettysburg went by the wayside after our last disastrous attempt at camping!  So we decided it would be best to press on toward home, even if we got in really late, and have Friday as an extra recover-from-vacation day rather than stay at a hotel (and pay more money!) and get home Friday evening.

However, we did plan a couple of stops along the way.  First up was Valley Forge.  It was raining, but thankfully it was mostly a drizzle, so we were able to get in and out of the Visitors' Center without much difficulty.  We looked around the little museum and then went out to another building to watch the movie about the famed year o' misery that Washington and his troops spent in the area.  An interesting perspective--and one that is admittedly new for me, and perhaps others who mostly know of Valley Forge as the desperate wintering place for the Continental Army--is that really, it was no more difficult than a soldier's life in general at the time.  The soldiers weren't sitting around in despair, longing for home and whining about their lot in life.  They pretty much sucked it up and did what they had to do, which included activities for basic survival.  Yes, there was disease and death, but truly the winter there was a time of preparation, training for the next phase of the war, which became a turning point that led to eventual victory.  So, it was good to learn that side of things instead of the typical woe-and-misery scenario that seems to be the usual lesson plan.  I guess a modern-day parallel might be asking a Democratic politician how the war in Afghanistan is going and asking an active-duty Army officer on the ground IN Afghanistan how the war is going...hmmm.  I'd better stop here with that.

Anyhoo, due to the rain, we piled back in the Suburban and slowly drove around the area, looking out the windows at the little huts/cabins that the soldiers built (I suppose most are replicas) but opting not to go tromping around.  It really is a beautiful area.  (I'm sure it would have been even prettier on a sunny day with the autumn colors blazing!)

We hit the road and wondered about our next intended stop, which was the Flight 93 memorial site.  It was a couple hours' drive away, and we thought perhaps we'd be out of the rain by then.  Ha!  As it turned out, most of Pennsylvania was under a tornado watch that day!  We were in a torrential downpour for literally hours!  When it was obvious that the memorial site would be a pretty dismal experience, we simply pressed on toward home.  I continued reading our book out loud, and Kenna and Lucan got good naps at various points of the day.

Since we didn't stop earlier, Ted decided it would be fun to have dinner at Young's, and we pulled in there shortly after 7 p.m.  It was blissfully empty, so we enjoyed a wonderful family dinner and ice cream, and the kids took pictures by a ginormous pumpkin on display outside before we buckled up one last time and headed for HOME!!  (Poor seemed he was always strapped in somewhere...a car seat, a stroller, or a high chair!  Was he ever happy to get home and run amok!)

So, now we're home, obviously, and we enjoyed a three-day weekend to recover.  I made the obligatory commissary trip, Ted did most of the laundry, and the kids trashed the house in about three minutes flat.  On Saturday I took the older three kids to Goodwill to find pants and winter shirts, since the weather here was considerably cooler than when we left.  Thank the Lord, we found some clothes that fit!  It was 45 degrees Sunday morning when we headed to church!

Now we're supposedly back to "real life," LOL.  Ted's probably still at work, wading through hundreds of emails, and we managed to stumble our way through our school schedule despite errands and various interruptions from short people.  We're literally hitting the ground running this week--I realized that I have something EVERY evening this week!  Yikes!  I'm trying hard not to overbook myself or my family, but it somehow ended up that this week is incredibly busy.

Tonight--rehearsal for a benefit concert on November 19.  (Most Mondays from now until then will be spent thus.)
Tomorrow--I take Charis to an auditioning class from 5:30 to 7 p.m.  (Presumably I can drop her off?  I hope so!)
Wednesday--We host our small group study for dinner and accountability/prayer time.
Thursday--Ted and I are both on for music next Sunday (I'm filling in for someone else), so we'll be at rehearsal with the kids bouncing around in the play area.
Friday--We host our once-a-month family community for dinner, fellowship, and devotions.

I have scheduled NOTHING for next weekend, and I intend to keep it that way!  (Although I do need a haircut...!)

I'd better close here and start working on dinner!  If you want to see Valley Forge and big pumpkin pictures, go here!

September 29, 2010

Day 12--Philadelphia

Yesterday evening was cloudy, but this morning dawned bright and beautiful, just perfect for spending a day in the city!  We left in good time.  I read several chapters out loud from Book 2 of the Guardians of Ga'Hoole series, which we are still enjoying immensely.  Crossing the bridge from New Jersey into Philadelphia was exciting!  I've always wanted to visit this city but never really expected to get there!  We knew our time would be limited, and we also knew we needed to be extra patient with the kids, who have probably been museum-ed out and are definitely getting on each others' nerves (and, truth be told, on our nerves, too!).

So we had a few ideas in mind of what we would see, but we did not set a definite agenda, deciding to play things by ear and see how much of a wait it would be for the two places that were must-sees:  Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell.  Wonder of wonders, we got our timed tickets immediately to see Independence Hall!  We simply walked across the street from the visitors' center, went through security, and merged with our group, who tromped inside the first building to listen to a brief talk from the park ranger.  Our ranger was very good, and she involved our kids (who were pretty much the only ones in this group of 85 or so people) with her questions and explanations.  Charis impressed a number of people with her previous knowledge of the historical situation, so it was a proud homeschool mom moment to be able to explain when people asked that we were on a homeschool journey to kick off our year of American History!

After the background discussion, we actually went inside Independence Hall and got to see the courtroom and the room where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were actually signed.  Wow!  So cool. 

And guess where we went next?  Yup...across the street to see the Liberty Bell!  Amazing.

We walked a few blocks away to Franklin Square, where the kids played on the playground while Ted walked to a vendor to purchase Philly cheese steak sandwiches.  (You knew that was on the agenda, right?!)  We enjoyed our picnic lunch, let the kids play on the playground some more, and then walked past Franklin's grave and to the Benjamin Franklin museum.  We watched the old Disney animated film "Ben and Me," which the kids really enjoyed (we did, too), and then we puttered around the museum just a short while before deciding that we really needed to be done.

The kids had time to play on the playground near the TLF while I worked on dinner, and now we're winding down another day of vacation.  Tomorrow will be our last--and longest!--day, as we will pack up and leave for home, stopping (Lord willing) at Valley Forge and the Flight 93 memorial on the way.  Originally we had thought we might camp outside Gettysburg, but after our last disastrous attempt at camping, we decided we would rather drive all night and just get HOME rather than try that again, LOL!

For pictures of our day in Philly, go here!

Day 11--Traveling/Sightseeing

Tuesday morning we said goodbye to the B family and headed north.  Destination: McGuire AFB near Trenton, NJ.  Around Baltimore we were already needing a potty stop, but it worked out well, because Ted saw signs for Ft. McHenry!  We decided to take an unplanned side trip and spent a couple of hours touring this site, which was extra special since we had seen the ACTUAL Star-Spangled Banner at the Smithsonian the day before.  

We watched a short video about what got the U.S. involved in the War of 1812, which was good, because my knowledge of that whole situation was pretty sketchy!  In a nutshell (for those who need a refresher), the Brits were fighting the French (remember Napoleon?), and they kept boarding our ships and confiscating items so as not to allow our stuff to be taken by the enemy.  Hmmm.  Seeing as how our rebel spirit had just won our nation's independence, no wonder we joined the fight!  At the very end of the video, the curtain that was at the side of the room drew back, revealing a wall of windows facing the fort, where our current American flag is flying.  A small sign signaled that we should stand, and we heard a beautiful, a cappella men's chorus singing the National Anthem.  It was one of the most thrilling, patriotic moments I've ever experienced!

We walked up to the fort and got to explore all around it and inside some of the buildings.  The kids really enjoyed this stop, especially the boys.  (If you view the photos on Facebook, look for the boys with their muskets!)  We were so glad we saw the signs and decided to stop, as it really was a fantastic experience for everyone.  Before hitting the road again, we ate our picnic lunch there.

Then it was back in the Suburban for what seemed like a very long time, even though we were expecting the drive to only be a couple of hours.  As it turned out, Google gave us directions to...the airstrip at McGuire AFB, trying to route us directly through Ft. Dix in the process!  We were thoroughly confused and finally ended up asking a guard at the Ft. Dix checkpoint how to get where we needed to go.  When Ted viewed the maps later, we discovered that what should have taken us 15 minutes from our exit off the freeway actually took closer to an hour.  So, as you can imagine, we were rather tired and grumpy by the time we arrived, and I still had to get groceries at the commissary!  We may very well have ended up ordering pizza instead, except for the fact that we had the brilliant idea to have Ted get his haircut while I got groceries, thereby saving him a trip to base once we got home.  It actually worked out pretty well.  I bought frozen pizzas for us to eat for dinner, plus sandwich supplies, fruit, chips, etc. for the next couple of days.

The kids were pretty rambunctious by the time we got back to the TLF.  I ended up going to sleep before some of the kids, as I had a sinus headache and nose difficulties and was feeling wiped out (ha! no pun intended!  Gross, LOL!).  Thankfully I felt quite a bit better this morning after a good night's sleep!

Before I sign off, just a note...when planning a road trip that involves these small, New England states, be sure to budget for TOLL ROADS!!!  Holy cow!!  $4 here, $5 there...and we thought $2 was bad at the first stop!!  So far on this trip we have paid $16 for TOLL ROADS!!!