December 09, 2016

Lucan's Letter

Seven-year-old Lucan has a pen pal in South Dakota. He received his first letter from Ty last month, and finally we sat down to get a response ready. I decided to allow Lucan to dictate the letter to me in the interest of getting something IN the mail rather than waiting for him to write everything out. This is what he dictated...I love the random ramblings!

December 2, 2016

Dear Ty,
I hope you and your family have a great time. I am an artist, and I like playing with Legos. I really want to obey my parents very well. Zaden, my 5-year-old brother, sometimes wants me to not make my Lego guys back to normal. Zaden also has less schoolwork than me.
Tobin and Arden sometimes do Minecraft. Tobin is 14, Arden is 13. I am 7 years old.
Kenna, my 9-year-old sister, has Legos too. And also me, Kenna, and Zaden like playing with Legos together.
Charis, my 16-year-old sister, is a babysitter. And also sometimes she is here at home.
And Seanin is the chubby one. He is 3 years old. Me, Zaden, and Seanin share a room. Seanin just won’t let me have some of my Lego pieces.
And baby Rhema, my youngest sibling, she is very cute even though she cries sometimes. She is one and a half years old. Sometimes me and her play with each other.
I have 8 children in my family, soon to be 9.
My dad goes to work almost every day and comes back for dinner. My mom, with baby Verity in her tummy, it’s getting hard for her to bend over.
Ty, there is one thing I would like to tell you about me. I sometimes have dreams what are like in heaven.
Sometimes our movie time is watching “Octonauts.”

I hope you like my letter!

December 04, 2016

Slices of Life

Rhema finally started walking on her own around 15 months of age. Before she was steady on her feet, we brought this little toy in from the garage so she could push it around and gain confidence. For some unknown reason, she really took to giving potatoes rides on the seat.

For real...this is what I look like many of our homeschool days...t-shirt, comfy pants (that may or may not match), and glasses instead of contacts. 

I can't remember why Seanin was having a meltdown moment, but clearly Daddy is not terribly sympathetic!

Whose brilliant idea was it to give the baby rice?! But I love how these grains give her a fang-like appearance!

Seanin proudly came downstairs one Sunday morning and said, "Mom, it's a church day! I dressed myself!" And I happily let him wear this fashionable combo to church.

To make myself feel better about the other photo, here's MY church morning selfie taken a few days after a much-needed haircut.

After reading in history about ancient Egypt, Lucan spent a morning making a pyramid and "an ancient Egyptian house." The coins figured into his historical scenario, too, but I can't remember exactly how...

After one of our consultations at the university medical center, I stopped by this crisis pregnancy center to deliver some donations and chat with one of the volunteers.

We took the younger kids to the Halloween party on base, meeting Ted at the club for a free dinner, games, and of course way too much candy.

This girl loves her mashed potatoes! See them on her nose?!

"Mom, take a picture of me and my towers!"

What?! Arden is taller than I am?!

And Tobin is, too! It's a race for the two of them to see who can catch up to Dad now!

Kenna is quite the capable big sis these days!

Fall Fun

There is a pumpkin patch in our area that has reached great heights of popularity--along with the Omaha Zoo, it is one of the most often-mentioned "must experience" places within driving distance. We had hoped to take the kids on AWANA night, which allows free entrance to kids who wear their vests, in an effort to make this an affordable family outing. (Ticket prices are more in the realm of an amusement park than a hayride.) Unfortunately, we were unable to actually go the night of the event.

I wasn't sure our family budget could handle it, so we kind of let it slide; however, I saw notice that prices were greatly reduced on Halloween, the last day Valas would be open this season. The kids and I decided that school wasn't really a priority that day, lol, and we took off to enjoy some fall family fun. I'm so glad we did! Even the older kids raved about how glad they were that we went, and of course the littles had a ball. The weather even cooperated for us!

We watched pig races, did mazes and an obstacle course, scaled massive slides, watched a pumpkin cannon launch a pumpkin 1/4 mile away, played carnival-type games, and ate good food. We stayed much longer than I had thought we would manage and headed home feeling we definitely got our money's worth. Since we will likely not be living here next time autumn rolls around, we are thankful for the day of memories we made.

Kenna, Lucan, Zaden, and Arden

Seanin and Charis

Tobin and Zaden

Lucan and Seanin

Kenna found a pretty pink tractor!

Farm boys!

I don't even know how many times the kids did this slide! They had a ball! We took a break for lunch and came back and rode it some more! Seanin tried it twice but was too scared, so he hung out with Rhema and me watching from the bottom.

Rhema loved our day out, too!

Seanin was terrified of the slide but delighted to meet Jack!

One of the obstacles in the course

Take these trouble-makers away!!

November 26, 2016

October Birthdays

We had two really big birthdays in October: Charis turned 16, and Arden turned 13! Since Arden got a big party last year (an Amazing Race run by 4 teams of 2 each throughout our small town and ending at the house), it was Charis's turn for a big birthday bash. (Not to worry, though...Arden got a party the following weekend doing what he requested: swimming and football with friends at the Y before chowing down on pizza and chocolate cake!)

For Charis's sweet sixteen party, we borrowed an idea from friends who did a murder mystery party for their daughter, Charis's best friend, when we were in Italy together. The party was such a hit that the moms later had a moms' night out to do our own grown-up version! I tucked away the idea for later, thinking it would be fun to do with teenagers at our house sometime. Charis agreed, and together we picked the theme "A Knight of Murder" from an online mystery party service. Invitations were issued, costumes were found (hooray for a dress-up party close to Halloween, lol), and arrangements were made for our younger 5 children to enjoy an evening with friends so we could focus on serving Charis and her guests, who included Tobin and Arden along with a number of friends from youth group and our homeschool circle.

It was such a fun evening! I honored Charis's request for a pasta dinner, even though we agreed it wasn't terribly medieval, but the homemade ragu and Bolognese sauces were a hit along with French bread, grapes, and apple cider punch. Only one person guessed the murderer correctly...Arden was our victim, and the murderer was none other than Charis herself! It was so funny...she and I had discussed who should play which character, with neither of us knowing any details until after I began looking through and printing the hostess materials. (I dressed up in my Renaissance festival dress, which has gotten much use since purchasing it in 2008, but I did not play a character so that I could focus on the details of the party.)

After the characters had cast their votes for who they thought the murderer was as well as best costume and best actor/actress, we awarded prizes and enjoyed ice cream cake, and then Ted went to pick up our littles and hustle them to bed while the teens hung out for awhile. I think it was a very memorable experience for all involved, and Charis seemed to have a wonderful time. Hard to believe our "baby" is Sweet Sixteen now! We are so very proud of her!

And as an aside...she finished her online driver's ed course and we jumped through all the hoops so that she can finally take her driver's test this coming Tuesday. She is very excited and has been a bit impatient as you can imagine to hurry up and get through all this red tape!

Here are some party pics...

Tobin found this hilarious banana costume at Goodwill...we thought it was perfect for his jester character, "Joking Jerry!"

Wyatt as a baron and Charis as Lady Diana

Ted's character was Willie the Watchman, which he played up as a Secret Service kind of a guy!

Two characters have a private conversation! (These girls are twins in real life!)

Charis with two of her BFFs

Poor Sir Rufus! He met an early demise...

Lord Taylor speaks with Queen Genevieve

Examining the evidence and casting votes

Lovely ladies!

The whole "cast" of the evening!

We printed a number of signs like this for decorations...that's about as decorative as we got, but it worked!


October 15, 2016


This is what I posted on my Facebook page recently...

How exactly does one share news like this? A good news/bad news, bittersweet announcement...

We are past the halfway point in a pregnancy unlike any of my others. We have said a very early goodbye to two little ones before, but by the time I've felt kicks and jabs in the past, we were well on our way to welcoming another baby into our family.

Now, we are expecting a little girl with a genetic condition called Trisomy 18, an extra chromosome that causes a wide range of developmental difficulties. Mortality rates for these babies are high. We do not know if our baby will survive birth and if so, how long she might be on earth with us.

We know God has a plan and a purpose for our little girl, whom we have named Verity Irene. (Verity = truth; Irene = peace.) We pray He will be glorified in our lives no matter what. We would be grateful for your prayers during this season of uncertainty.

For more details or to follow our journey, please visit Verity's blog.

Built-in Catch-up Weeks

Before our school year even started, I was reminded of a homeschooling approach a friend of mine used years and years ago when our children were small. She scheduled "catch-up weeks" throughout her school year; if I remember correctly, 3 weeks of curriculum followed by one week to tie up any loose ends. When our children were small, it was much easier to stay "on schedule," and while I thought her idea sounded nice, I wasn't as concerned about all those little things we just didn't get around to doing. For her, though, it was a great way to stay relaxed during the school year and add even more special things--extra field trips or activities that may have gotten ignored or missed in a slavish drive to "keep up with school."

Now, years later, I am schooling 3 times as many kids as when I first heard this idea! And the range is incredible: from kindergarten up through 11th grade. In addition to the 6 who are officially on the Jakin Academy roster, we have 2 littles who need training in various areas as well.

In other words, the idea of a catch-up week has become a dire necessity, not simply a luxury!

My working school notebook has 6 weeks of scheduled curriculum. We more or less successfully worked our way through the first 6 weeks of school, studying all kinds of things from China to weather to early American history. We learned how to navigate our way through incredibly busy co-op days (twice a month) plus weekly speech and debate classes. We had dental exams and eye appointments. Mom took naps and managed to feed 10 people more or less 3 times a day, every day.

And so, not surprisingly, we "got behind" in checking off those boxes. The kids cheered when I told them last weekend that the coming week would be our opportunity to finish up those things we hadn't been able to do yet, which included a number of science experiments and module quiz and test for Tobin; lots of speech homework for Charis; some science reading for Lucan and Zaden, and spelling lists for Kenna. Oh, it was NICE to have some unhurried days! Especially since Ted had Columbus Day off work and yesterday (Friday) was a busy co-op/class day.

From a mental and emotional perspective, I as the mom NEEDED to NOT press on--I needed some time to gain a bigger perspective, some clarity, take deep breaths and remember that this is our calling for such a time as this. It's too easy to feel like a failure when I'm not accomplishing things, and by that I mean finishing. God hasn't called me to check boxes...He has called me to raise children. That's a lesson that I as the teacher have to learn over and over.

September 29, 2016

Back to School

It's hard to believe we are nearing the end of our 5th week of school! My weekdays are so incredibly full, and yet somehow it seems we are always neglecting or forgetting something, lol. One of my prayers is from Isaiah 54:13: "All your children will be taught by the Lord, and great will be your children's peace." Oh, Lord, teach my children what YOU want them to know! Because their human teacher is so very, very inadequate!!

It blows my mind that we are in our 12th year of homeschooling. When our oldest children were wee babes, Ted and I knew that we wanted to homeschool, but in my mind, it would only be through the elementary years, because...why would I want to do more than that?! How in the world could I possibly teach my children ALL those subjects?!

Clearly God has shown that the path He desires for our family is to continue homeschooling. There are days--trust me--when I wish His plan included something different! But His grace is sufficient and His mercies are new every morning. We love learning and growing together. I wouldn't trade this life for anything else, even though it is one of the hardest things we've ever done.

At almost 16 years old, Charis is a busy 11th grader. She is counting down the days until she gets her driver's license (so am I, ha) and working on Sonlight's 20th Century World History core along with chemistry. She is taking a speech class once a week, and though it keeps her busy with a lot of extra work for the apologetics portion that she chose to pursue, she is looking forward to learning and preparing for some competitions! Charis is also keeping busy preparing for the National Bible Bee competition in November and continues with piano and violin lessons.

Eeeek! We have two kids in high school now! Tobin is so excited about his 9th grade year! He is loving American History and excited about participating in a debate class for the first time ever. (Look out, world, lol.) Both he and Arden love their computer programming activities on Khan Academy as well. Tobin's spare time sees him fiddling with a variety of Rubick's cubes--he blows my mind with how he can solve them so quickly!
Arden is in 8th grade! We've chosen to split him and Tobin for the first time ever--Arden is doing the Eastern Hemisphere core with the new history book that Sonlight is using in place of the World Book Encyclopedia CD that we used the first time around. Since he was only in 5th grade at the time, he is really enjoying the chance to delve deeper and work independently. He says his favorite subject is "reading;" I'm not sure if that's reading history, science, or his literature, but I'm just happy he loves to read, lol. He is also enjoying a Lego robotics class at our homeschool co-op.
Kenna is in 4th grade! History is her favorite subject--she is doing the first year of Sonlight's 2-year American History tour and reads most of the books on her own. (I have to hide them so she doesn't go too far ahead!) She is also taking a writing and beginning sign language class through a homeschool co-op twice a month.
Lucan is in 2nd grade! He started piano lessons over the summer and continues to enjoy music. He says math is his favorite subject. He and Zaden are doing the Sonlight Year 1 of World History core. He is in Kenna's co-op classes with his best friend Zach, 
Zaden is in KINDERGARTEN! He is eagerly breezing through the 100EZ Lessons (reading) book and plowing through the Math-U-See Primer. He and Lucan are doing the Sonlight Year 1 of World History core. His co-op classes include making musical instruments and a young scientist's hands-on class.
Seanin is 3 years old and recently passed his Potty Training Class so that he could attend Cubbies at AWANA this year! That was a huge motivator for him, lol. Whatever works!
Rhema-Roo is over 14 months old now and not yet walking...seems we breed slow walkers, lol. She is fully capable but not convinced in her own mind yet! Rhema is thoroughly doted on and an awfully adorable interruption in our daily routine. She truly is a little ray of sunshine in our lives.

September 04, 2016

Summer Summary

Oh, Summer, where art thou??

I remember...back in the day...when we first began homeschooling, we lived in Las Vegas. It was stinkin' HOT in the summer, and so we happily took our "summer" break in March or April, when it was pleasant outside and we had easily breezed through our school materials. We'd order the next core early and begin another round of school when it was hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk. With a couple of babies born during our 4 years in Nevada, plus quite a bit of traveling to Colorado, Utah, and Idaho, we enjoyed our free and easy and flexible schedule, pretty much doing school "year-round" but taking breaks whenever we wanted.

But our next few moves happened during summer months (2009, 2012, 2015), with babies also arriving in summer months (2011, 2013, 2015). So it just made sense to keep a more "regular" school-year calendar.

With last summer bringing us back overseas PLUS a new baby, this summer was bound to be less...stressful, I suppose. But it was busy nevertheless! Here's a rundown of some of our summer highlights:

* Charis, Tobin, and Arden attended the Christian Youth in Action training camp the first week in June. Run by Child Evangelism Fellowship, this training prepares teens to share the gospel with children during 5-day clubs held throughout the summer. The kids learned how to completely run a club by themselves, from leading games and songs to teaching Bible and missionary stories, Bible verses, and review and application activities. It was a lot of work, but they all agree they are glad they did it!

* Immediately after this intensive training week, Charis left for a week-long missions trip to a reservation in South Dakota along with a team she has accompanied 4 different times now. She loves those kids and got to specifically use the skills she had just cultivated the week before as she interacted with kids and shared the gospel.

* Kenna, Lucan, and Zaden had swimming lessons the first two weeks in June. Seanin and Rhema and I enjoyed some quality hang-out time.

Zaden loved getting rides in the boat!

Seanin braved the big slide by himself at the park!
* Tobin enjoyed another great week at Camp Cedars with the Boy Scouts! This year was even more fun for him since he actually knew boys in the troop! Unfortunately, he missed out on a family visit...

* We got to spend some time with our CO family when Joel and Sarah and their boys came through for a few days' visit on their way to a family reunion in Kansas (or maybe Missouri, I can't remember). We especially enjoyed an outing together to see the train park and then get some ice cream in the Old Market.

Charis, Anders, Zaden, Arden (before his summer haircut!!), Cade, Lucan, Kenna
* I flew to Salt Lake City (alone! Without children!) to attend the Young Living Convention. I met up with some friends and had a fabulous time learning more about essential oils and the incredible opportunities available to us. I pumped while I was gone, and while Rhema wasn't thrilled about the goat milk she got in a bottle, she did fine and resumed nursing without missing a beat when I returned.

* On June 28, Ted and I celebrated our 19th anniversary! Actually, I think our date night was the next weekend, but we DID get out for a date. And now I can't remember what we did...pretty sure we went to eat at Sinful Burger...oh! I think we saw Finding Dory! And then Ted took the kids to see it during the discounted matinee show the following week.

Charis made this darling baby Dory for me after seeing the movie!
* We had friends come through and stay with us the night of July 4 on their way back home from a trip. We had a relaxed visit over some yummy grilled food and somehow failed to see any fireworks.

* On July 15 our baby Rhema turned one! Charis made a fabulous birthday cake for her and we had a simple family celebration.

* The last week in July Charis attended a Bible camp with some of the kids in the local youth group. Aside from sleeping in a bunk the first night that had bed bugs in it (!!!!!!!)...she says it was a great week. (Mom is trying to refrain from further commentary here...)

* The first week in August our backyard hosted up to 16 kids during the last 5-day Club of the summer. Charis, Tobin, and Arden all taught 4 clubs, which kept us busy several weeks in a row as we drove to Omaha and Bellevue to other host homes. So it was nice that the last one was right in our yard with kids we knew, mostly from church but also a few from the neighborhood.

* On August 8 the kids took the online Bible Bee test, the culmination of 8 weeks of study over the summer, working through their Discovery Journal to dig into John 13 - 15 and also 14 different memory passages.

* August 10 - 14 I took another trip, this time to San Diego for a "Naples Reunion" with a number of ladies who were stationed there at the same time. It was SUCH a blessing to go! I stayed with my dear friend Joyce, co-founder of Missione di Luce with which I was involved during my time in Italy. She, like many of the ladies I met up with, now lives in San Diego. It was a joyous, refreshing few days as we caught up on each others' lives, prayed together, laughed together, and definitely ate good food together. I'm thankful for the opportunity to go.

We spent all day at the beach, people coming and going as their schedules allowed. Sooooo nice to relax and talk!

Sheri opened her home for sushi-making at lunchtime and lots of hang-out time through the afternoon.

I think this is almost everyone who was able to make it!
* August 14 was Seanin's 3rd birthday! Charis made another amazing cake, and we had a family celebration at home.

* We had a local Bible Bee celebration in our backyard August 20. Nine families had registered for the summer study, and while not everyone was able to complete everything, the feedback seemed overwhelmingly positive. We rejoice that kids spent time in God's Word, learning how to study the Bible and memorizing verses that will renew their hearts and minds! Also, we praise the Lord that Charis was able to qualify for the National Bible Bee Competition again this year.

Kenna receives her certificate and chooses a verse to recite (John 13:34-35).
* On August 24 Zaden turned 5! We had a family party for him since his birthday was on a Wednesday. We had to work around a friend's schedule, but we did finally have a friend party on September 2. Hooray! Two cakes, lol!

I took Zaden to get a haircut a couple of days before his birthday. Everyone was very sad at how short his hair is now, but I still think he's a cutie-patootie!!

We have generous friends who let us borrow this inflatable water slide for the friend party! It was a hit!

Brothers and friends!
Aaaaaaand that's the story of our summer! All good things must come to an end, I suppose. We actually kicked off our school year on August 29, so I will try to be better about keeping more remembrances on our blog as the school year gets underway!