Thursday, December 30, 2004

Megabloks Castle

I was online, and I found the link that shows the big castle blocks that I was so excited to find! So now you can see for yourselves what I'm talking about, and what the boys have been playing in. Actually, Bob came home yesterday with a new toy that has proved very popular today. It's one of those arcade style basketball games, like you might find at Chuck E. Cheese's or something, where you shoot the ball (and you can play against someone because there are 2 nets and balls) and try to make baskets, and there is a net on the sides to keep the ball in. It was on sale for only $20. Bob set it up in the basement today, and the boys have played quite a bit of b-ball (warming their Cousin James' heart, I'm sure!).

Trials and Travails

Well, Nathan has come down with the bug that Bob and Melinda had. He was up vomiting a couple of times last night, and was sick this morning as well. He seems better now, and he's eaten a banana and had some tea. I was hopin gthat no one else would get sick, but if anyone had to be, I'm glad it was Nathan. He's definitely the most "stoic" of the boys, as far as being sick goes. He cries while throwing up, but when he's done, he is quite calm, and he says things like, "I'm glad I made it to the trash can", and "hopefully I won't make anyone else sick", and stuff like that. Since he's not dramatically convinced he's the sickest person in the world, I am automatically more sympathetic. For some reason, I have a hard time being very sympathetic with people who don't even try to deal well with pain or discomfort. I think it's a good thing I'm not a nurse! Anyways, Nathan is coping well and recovering quickly, it appears.

Last night we also discovered that one of our heating elements on our stove is not working. I was trying to boil water for some more noodles, and it simply would never come to a real roiling boil. After about 30 minutes, there were only the same tiny little bubbles that had been there for awhile. While I was of course sad that it wasn't working, it at least did explain some things. Things had been taking longer and longer to boil, but I thought that maybe I was just imagining things. I had made fudge last Thursday, and for some reason it never really set up right. I was surprised because it is truly a fail-proof recipe, one that I have made zillions of times before, including just the previous week, with no problems. I think it never got quite hot enough. Fortunately the other side still works, so I do have burners, but I guess now we'll have to figure out how to replace them.

Trials and Travails

Well, Nathan has come down with the bug that Bob and Melinda had. He was up vomiting a couple of times last night, and was sick this morning as well. He seems better now, and he's eaten a banana and had some tea. I was hopin gthat no one else would get sick, but if anyone had to be, I'm glad it was Nathan. He's definitely the most "stoic" of the boys, as far as being sick goes. He cries while throwing up, but when he's done, he is quite calm, and he says things like, "I'm glad I made it to the trash can", and "hopefully I won't make anyone else sick", and stuff like that. Since he's not dramatically convinced he's the sickest person in the world, I am automatically more sympathetic. For some reason, I have a hard time being very sympathetic with people who don't even try to deal well with pain or discomfort. I think it's a good thing I'm not a nurse! Anyways, Nathan is coping well and recovering quickly, it appears.

Last night we also discovered that one of our heating elements on our stove is not working. I was trying to boil water for some more noodles, and it simply would never come to a real roiling boil. After about 30 minutes, there were only the same tiny little bubbles that had been there for awhile. While I was of course sad that it wasn't working, it at least did explain some things. Things had been taking longer and longer to boil, but I thought that maybe I was just imagining things. I had made fudge last Thursday, and for some reason it never really set up right. I was surprised because it is truly a fail-proof recipe, one that I have made zillions of times before, including just the previous week, with no problems. I think it never got quite hot enough. Fortunately the other side still works, so I do have burners, but I guess now we'll have to figure out how to replace them.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Sightseeing

Yesterday Dan, Melinda, Bob, Nathan, and I spent the day sightseeing in D.C. We also asked Luke if he wanted to go, but he's not real big into walking or cold, and we knew there would be plenty of both, so he wisely chose to stay home with Grandma and Grandpa and have a day of being the "oldest" brother. People always tell me about all the great educational opportunities downtown, esp. all the free ones, and I always feel terribly bad when I say really we've hardly done anything since we moved here, but it is quite difficult with 4 boys between the ages of 7 and 1 to do it by myself. So when Mom and Dad volunteered to watch the little guys, I jumped at the opportunity. Dan had several ideas about what to do--he especially wanted to see the FBI Building--but as it turned out, everything he suggested was closed (in fact, the FBI Building has been closed for renovations since 2002, but should open sometime next year), so we had to look for other things. We started out at the National Postal Museum, across from Union Station in the old Post Office building. We got a great parking space, so the day definitely started out right! This museum was surprising interesting, with a lot of hands-on activities for Nathan. We played "Memory" with stamps, designed the best postal routes from various points, made a post card, and looked at a lot of interesting exhibits about the evolution of the mail trucks, how a national postal service brought the nation together, and lots of other stuff. We thought about you, Uncle Jim! Good work keeping the mail coming! : ) We ate lunch across the street at Uno's in Union Station. Except for my spilling Dan's water glass all over his sweatshirt while he was using the restroom, it was a good lunch. Then we drove up to the National Cathedral. I learned a lot there. For example, I didn't know it wasn't completed until 1990! We parked kind of in the back and walked through the Crypt before going into the main part. Downstairs was really neat too--like being in a real castle, I thought! Nathan got a kick out of that thought too, since we've been doing so much with castles for school. There are several smaller chapels downstairs, as well as just neat passageways, doorways, and arches. The main part is very beautiful, esp. all the stained glass. We listened to a guide talk a little about the stained glass. The upper windows tell stories from the Bible, and the middle ones celebrate human endeavors that enrich life, like music, art, science, etc. For architecture, they even had a picture of the USAFA Chapel--it was disconcerting to see that in stained glass! There was also one that memorialized the moon landing, representing science. There is even a real moon rock embedded in the glass. The bottom ones are scenes from American history. They really are all quite beautiful. We also took a ride up to the 7th floor observation deck where we could look out over the city. By this time, we needed to head back hoime, since I was worried that traffic would pick up. It wasn't too bad though, and we got back in plenty of time to go over to the Lorenzinis' house for dinner. So now we can say we've at least done a few more things here in D.C.! And it was a lot of fun to do them with Dan and Melinda too.

Long-Distance Relatives

I hope this gets posted in a timely manner. I posted a message about Christmas this morning, but I don't see it on the blog yet. Well, Dan and Melinda left this evening. We were all sorry to see them go, but the boys, especially Caleb, will really miss them! They read to them tirelessly, Dan wrestled with them, and they just generally gave the boys tons of attention, which they absolutely loved. We are so glad they could come and stay over a week. It really gave the boys a chance to get to know them. It's hard having "long-distance relatives", but we try to include mentions of them (and we have lots of them!) regularily, as in "Aunt Ann gave you that book", or "Do you remember playing that game when Uncle Dennis came to visit?". We also have a lot of pictures around and in scrapbooks so they can visually remember what people look like. But there's nothing like spending actual quality time with the long-distance relatives to really cement the relationship!

Christmas Update

I've been so busy having fun with my family that I haven't been blogging at all! We had a wonderful Christmas, made very special by Dan and Melinda's being here. The only blemish on our day was that Melinda picked up the bug that Bob had, and so she was sick Christmas Day. But she put on a brave face and soldiered through the day, even sitting down here and opening presents the whole morning with us. The boys have really enjoyed the presents they received. We've played several games of Clue and Rummicub, 2 of the games they got. They've spent a lot of time dressed up as knights in the outfits we got for them, and they really like the Megagblock castle we got. It is really nice! It has a door they can go through, and little castle windows they can look though. Definitely a good find. The Lorenzinis got them a castle book that is chock-full of activities and games. They have spent a long time doing all those activities, like "rubbings". I spent a good deal of time 2 nights ago putting together a tiny mangonel (don't know what that is? Look it up!). This involved attaching tiny plastic pieces together with even tinier plastic pegs and a loop of twine that I had to make that was 30 mm long. It looks cute, but it was quite a challenge. No wonder Nathan had to pass it off to me! Aunt Melinda picked out a hand-held Hangman game, which Nathan and Luke have really liked. I'm glad to see the renewed interest in spelling! They all received watches from their Nana, and it is very cute to hear Caleb proudly tell everyone the time! The boys got so many wonderful gifts that they will be able to play with over and over again (my test for a good toy!).

Friday, December 24, 2004

More Christmas Festivities

Yesterday was a good day, if you discount the torrential rain that came down during the day. But at least we weren't back in Ohio! I talked to Amy, and she said they had 2 feet of snow, plus a lot of ice, and everything was at a standstill. The boys, of course, were quite jealous of all this snow, since I told them they wouldn't be able to play out in our backyard anytime soon, seeing as how it is basically a river of mud.

We had our good friends the Lorenzinis over for dinner so they could visit with Dan and Melinda and my parents. We had to put 3 of the 4 leaves in our table ( it was 108 inches long!), and we still had to have Nathan, Luke, Caleb, and Amanda at the little kids' table. There is nothing better than a big table filled with good food, with lots of friends and laughter all around it! After we ate, we went out and caroled at some of our neighbors' houses. Well, okay, we only went to 3, but it was still fun. It was a bit windy, and several of the people we know best had already left for Christmas vacation. But now Melinda can't say that she has never gone Christmas caroling!

Today we are doing a lot of the cooking for our dinner tomorrow. The weather looks nicer today, so we are hoping to go downtown and see the National Christmas tree this evening. Christmas Eve is one of Nathan's favorite days of the year--can anyone guess why? It's because today is his "half-birthday". Today, Nathan is proudly 7 1/2. Happy Half-Birthday, Nathan! : )

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Well, it has been brought to my attention that I need to update the blog! We are having such a great time with Dan and Melinda and my parents visiting that blogging has been the least of my priorities. Plus, since we only have one computer, there are several of us jockeying for computer time. We've had some times of excitement around here. Two nights ago, the pipe in Caleb and Jonathan's bathroom that goes to their tub and toilet froze, so we had to turn off the water to the house while we tried to get that thawed out. Thankfully it did thaw, and nothing burst, so we were very thankful that God watched out for us. It sure was cold that night! Yesterday Dan and Melinda drove a few hours away to Lynchburg to visit Melinda's alma mater, Liberty University. They drove our Camry, which we just bought used a little while ago for Bob to drive to work. Well, they got pulled over and ticketed because we didn't have a VA inspection sticker on it. Bob just registered the car (in VA, not in PA where our other 2 cars are registered) on Dec. 1, and no one at the DMV told him he needed an inspection, so we just assumed we did everything we needed to do. When Bob called the DMV to ask them about this last night, they basically said they don't administer the program, and it isn't their responsibility to tell us about the need for the inspection. So how are we to find out that we need one? Well, in the words of the helpful DMV lady, "You should have read the manual." Which manual? Were we issued one? What is she talking about? She never clarified, just reiterated that it was not their responsibility to tell us. Obviously we were in the wrong, but still it is annoying, since I still don't know how we were supposed to find out about this requirement. Makes you wonder what else the great state of VA is not telling us. Ah, the joys of moving around. Anyways, last night Bob was very sick with some kind of tummy bug. He is finally feeling better this evening, but we are praying no one else gets it. It was certainly a violent bug. No fun at all. The boys are having a great time with their Uncle Dan and Aunt Melinda (and Grandma and Grandpa too, of course, but that is not so much of a novelty!). Caleb and Luke even got to go shopping with them this afternoon! Melinda cooked dinner for us tonight. She made tacos--quite yummy. We've been staying up late talking too. I wish we all lived closer!!

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Today's the Big Day!!!

Today is the day we've been waiting for! My brother and his wife flew in this morning from California, and my parents are driving here from Ohio! We are all so excited! We've been in a cleaning and cooking frenzy. It's a good thing we have guests fairly regularily--it forces us to do deeper cleaning and get to the little things on our to-do lists. Every time company comes, we hang up a few more pictures, empty out one or two more boxes, and organize just a little bit more! For this special family Christmas, we really went all out. We got "The Dish" satellite programming for our TV. As a rule, we don't pay for TV--"why pay for trash that we don't want anyone to watch?" is our philosophy. But here in VA, we are sort of in a little valley, and our TV is in our basement, so we get absolutely no reception. The only other time this bothered me was during the Summer Olympics, because I am an absolute Olympics fanatic, and I guess I'm raising the boys to be as well, since I think they were about the only people in America thrilled to be able to watch all the swimming prelims and other trials. For that, we brought our TV up into our family room and got an electric antenna from WalMart, and after much careful adjusting, you could see that there were in fact people engaged in various sporting events on the screen, even if you couldn't tell what country they were from and it looked like it was a little snowy over there in Greece. But we wanted to be good hosts for the family Christmas, and most of the football is not on regular channels anyways, so we decided to splurge and get the Dish. It's still a novelty to go down and turn on the TV and see a picture right away! We've been so busy though, that I haven't even gone down once just to watch. I think I will enjoy the Home and Gardening Channel, but I haven't indulged yet. Having the TV down in the basement really works for people who are trying to cut down on their watching. I never even think about it down there, and it's never worth going all the way down there just to see if something interesting might be on. The boys don't even know that there are cartoons on there, and I'm not going to let them watch any. A video every now and then is fine, but I don't want them to get in the habit of watching TV cartoons. Besides, most of the ones that are on now are just dumb. In 5 years, no one will remember them. What a waste. I don't know how long we'll keep it. We'll see how it works.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

"Stayin' alive, stayin' alive . . ."

Jonathan is clearly right in the middle of what I call the "Saturday Night Fever" phase. This is when toddlers figure out that they can zip the zipper on their fuzzy blanket sleeper a little bit up and down, so they go around with half their chest exposed. Maybe he'll get a medallion and gold chain for Christmas. "All I want for Christmas are a few chest hairs . . ." With the cleft in his chin, people do always say he looks like John Travolta!

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

A great day for the boys!

Today the boys definitely got into the Christmas spirit! First, Nathan and Luke had an ice-skating party with the homeschool co-op. Another mom, also with 4 boys just about the same ages as ours, and I worked it out that she would take my older 2 and her older 2, since she's a good skater, and I would stay at our house with the 4 little guys (she has a 3 y.o. and a 5 mo. old). Caleb had a great time playing with Daniel, the baby, Joel, took a good nap, and Jonathan just wandered around, not really sure about seeing someone else on his changing table, in his crib, and in his high chair! So we had a great time here. Nathan has been looking forward to this party for a long time. He has strong memories of ice-skating at the Air Force Academy rink when we were stationed there (we left when he was 3 1/2), and he was quite confident of his skating abilities ("Don't worry about me, Mom. I already know how to skate.") I was less sure, and I didn't know how Luke would do without me either. Well, I needn't have worried; I certainly wasn't missed! As it turns out, Nathan apparently DOES know how to skate just fine, and he just skated around by himself the whole time, having a wonderful time. When he got back home he told me wistfully, "That brought back so many memories." Yes, 4 years ago--it's like a whole different lifetime . . . Luke did well too, although he mainly held the hand of the lady that took him. He did skate a little by himself, so I was very proud. Unfortunately neither of them took my advice and wore the thicker socks I suggested, so Luke has a nasty blister on the side if his foot (it's those narrow Monteith feet!). Hopefully he will be able to soldier through with that--he was unsure he was going to be able to make it all the way through his shower tonight, but fortunately, he survived.

Then this afternoon we rolled and cut out the sugar cookie dough we made yesterday. The boys were very impressed with my abilities with a rolling pin, as well as with my capacity for getting seemingly stuck cookies off the wax paper and onto the cookie sheet with just a spatula (Nathan: "That must just be natural talent."). After dinner we decorated the cookies that we made . This is always a highlight for the boys, and I hope they treasure the memories so they can look back at these times fondly when they are older. That might possibly make the mess worth it! Right now, however, I am not thinking kind thoughts about the person who invented all those crazy little balls, sprinkles, and other decorations that must be on every cookie or little boys do not think them worthy. I have "liberal sprinklers" in my family, and so there are sprinkles all over the floor, rolling around, looking for ways to dodge the vacuum. We did 2 different kinds of frosting too, one just my regular cake frosting that Caleb can have, and then also a powdered sugar/milk one that their Aunt Melinda can have (she's allergic to soy so can't have crisco). Caleb decorated the ones with his kind of frosting (but I bet you'd never be able to guess! : ) ). He never used a clean knife for any different color, so the cookies are all very colorful, in unique, festive ways. And of course, they all have plenty of sprinkles! Nathan and Luke had a more thoughtful approach to their colors, and they did have a somewhat lighter hand with the sprinkles. I can see much artistic progress here!

Monday, December 13, 2004

Handwriting Thoughts

When we were back in Ohio, my Dad dug up a box in their basement filled with old school papers of mine, all the way from 4-year-old preschool to 4th grade. I had a lot of fun looking through them there to see my great art talent,esp. in preschool (there are some great "self-portraits" that had the boys cracking up "Mom, you look like a potato!" [peels of uproarious laughter]) , but I didn't really go through all the worksheets until 2 nights ago here at home. Since Mom faithfully saved about every paper I brought home, I have a very clear idea of exactly what I studied when, and it's given me lots of comparison points for the boys and their schooling. I can definitely say that Nathan and Luke are way ahead in math, and I never really saw any history, per se, so I think they're ahead there too. But let me just say that I had great handwriting in second grade (pre-cursive), so that has really inspired me to make that more of an emphasis, since their handwriting is definitely not that great. Now, when we started cursive in third grade, my handwriting definitely went down a notch, since, being left-handed, the whole "slant" thing was quite difficult. There were SEVERAL handwriting papers that were graded "B", which was very rare for me! By 4th grade, my cursive looked very rushed and choppy. It's no surprise, really, that I stopped writing in cursive completely in high school. My printing always was nicer! Now, I think cursive is a little bit obsolete. Very few of my friends write in it anymore. I think I'm not going to make a very big deal about it for the boys. I doubt they'll seriously be considering a career where beautiful cursive is a requirement (IS there any such career?).

English was another area where I think Nathan is a little behind where I was in 2nd grade, so we're working more on that too. I had more "formal" science, esp. in 3rd and 4th grade, although by that I mean pages of definitions and so forth--not really experiments, as far as I could tell. Since we have read TONS of science-type books, I think that they have picked up a lot of the vocabulary naturally, without having to do tons of workbook pages. Next year we'll do more with energy, molecules, and so on, which are areas about which there just aren't that many books for kids. I was also very impressed by the Bible that I had. My 2nd-4th grade years were spent in Okinawa, Japan, and I went off-base to a Christian school there, but my Bible learning was certainly comparable to anything I would have had back in the States. I was particularily impressed by what we studied in 4th grade. We did a year-long geographical survey of Israel, and how how the geographical features figured into events of the Bible. I had forgotten all about this, but I have always had a clear picture of a map of Israel in my mind, and I've always known where the Sea of Galilee, Mt. Hermon, Mt. Nebo, etc. were when I heard and read about them, so I guess I have my 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Freeman, to thank for that!

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Mr. Rumsfeld's visit to Kuwait

If you are wondering if the media has given the right spin to the story of "soldier discontent" in Iraq, here is the real story from a Sgt. Missick, who was actually at the meeting.

The Boy and His Binky

Well, I think the hold of the binky over Caleb has finally been broken, or at the very least, significantly loosened. Last night was his first night to actually go the whole night without it. For the last several nights, I haven't let him have it to go to sleep with, but it has taken a lot of fussing before he's actually gone off to sleep. Two nights ago, he was very obstinate, and when I told him he could just hug his Koala Bear, he said, "I hate my Koala Bear!" Well! So I took the bear away and told Caleb that if he yelled and screamed for it after saying such a mean thing, then I would have to discipline him. Eventually he went to sleep. For a few nights, he's woken up early in the morning, like around 6:00, and wanted his binky, and I just gave it to him, figuring that as he got better at falling asleep on his own, he would not wake up needing it in the early morning either, because he'd be able to get himself off to sleep. Last night he cried out around 2:30, but I was able to just go in and pat his back for a minute or two, and then he went back to sleep. He didn't wake up this morning until I went in at 9:30. Yay! Of course I don't want his teeth ruined or anything by long-time pacifier use, but I also was worried that his binky was going to fall apart pretty soon, and I wanted him to give it up without it breaking and him having to go off cold turkey!

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Christmas Newsletters

Today was spent in a much better Christmas spirit! We had a good day of school, the weather was beautiful so the boys could play outside, and I was able to find not only the missing garlands but also our wreath AND the wreath hanger! I was also able to go by myself to Michaels and Target tonight, which is a guaranteed way to put Christmas spirit into any stay-at-home mom. And my biggest triumph was finally getting around to writing our Christmas letter. Bob was able to play around with the margins so it fits onto our pretty Christmas paper, so now all we have to do is make copies and stuff envelopes. I am one of those people who absolutely loves Christmas newsletters. I love reading about people's families and what they've been doing. Maybe it's because we're military, and so there are a lot of people we become friends with over the years who we then don't see again for awhile. But I am always curious as to how they are doing, and once a year at Christmas is a great time to catch up! While I was back home, I read all of my parents' Christmas letters from last year. They are definitely the "staying-in-touch" type of people. There were over 150 Christmas letters in their box! It's great to visit there in December because they get lots of letters each day, unlike us, where letters and cards sort of trickle in. Reading Christmas letters has given me a vision for what heaven will be like. Whenever I am read about a family that sounds so fun, I always think that it would be neat to live near them. "Wouldn't it be great if all the people on Mom and Dad's Christmas list were in some sort of big community somewhere beautiful, like in Colorado?" And then I think, if they are Christians then we'll all be together in heaven FOREVER! What a great time we'll have! And then we won't need Christmas letters to stay in touch just once a year.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

We're home--and decorating for Christmas!

We made it back home yesterday after 2 wonderful weeks in Ohio. It was a long drive back in rainy, foggy, gloomy weather, but praise the Lord, we made it back safely. Today the boys had their homeschool co-op, so the little boys and I went to Sams to get some food for our bare fridge. But I knew that this afternoon, everyone wanted to start decorating for Christmas--it was the main reason they were looking forward to coming back home! It is so hard to get in the decorating spirit when your house is quite messy--exactly the way you left it 2 weeks ago, plus with all the suitcases and other stuff we brought in from the van and dumped wherever last night. I put on some Christmas music, which helped some with motivation, and we managed to get the family room cleaned up. We brought everything up from the basement and decorated the family room and entry way (except for putting up our tree, which is waiting for Bob), and we have now realized that we really don't have very much stuff to decorate this big house with. Hmm. This is where it gets inconvenient to move frequently. I know we have some more garlands that would look nice going up our bannister (because this is what we did with our off-base house in Colorado), but I have no idea where said garlands could be, other than in some box. I don't really feel like looking thorough all of our boxes, but I also don't relish the idea of buying tons more garlands when I already have some. And don't get me started on our tiny tree issues! It is dwarfed by our big ceilings here! I think I will distract myself by working on our Christmas letter. I always say I want to get them out early in years when we move, but once again, it doesn't look like "early" will be an adjective used to describe them!

Friday, December 03, 2004

Boonshoft Museum of Discovery

Amy and I took our total of 6 boys to the Boonshoft Mueseum yesterday, and we had a wonderful time. I think it was actually the best experience we've had there. When we drove up around 10:30, there were 2 schoolbuses there, but when we got inside, everything was quiet and empty. We played in the "little kid" area for awhile, and then we discovered all the school kids in one room having a lecture, so we played with water, climbed up the ropes and went down the slides, etc. Then when the school kids were all "released" and started tearing around randomly, knocking down kids and so on, we went back into the room they had been in. This room has a lot of neat stuff--skeletons, stuffed specimans native to Ohio, a big bug collection, lots of ocean creatures, some tanks of spiders and bugs, and most impressively, a large glass room with a big Burmese python. This python has lived there I think 15 years, and I have never seen it move, but it must have had caffeine with breakfast yesterday because he was all over the place. He had recently molted, so his skin was all in one corner, which was interesting in and of itself, but then he started out in his pool of water, slithered out and all over his cage, and then eventually went back into his pool. Neat! And the lady who had given the school kids their lecture was cleaning up, and it turns out that she does bat rehabiltation on the side. She had brought in her pet brown bat to show the kids. This is the same species of bat that infested out big, old house in Xenia, and I told Amy it was amazing how much cuter these things are when they are clean and not flying erratically around you in the middle of the night in the dark. The bat (Millie, I think her name was?) was eating meal worms out of a cup in the lady's hand, and when she was done, she crawled up onto the lady's shoulder, under a blanket she had there, and that's where she just rode around while the lady finished up. Isn't that interesting? I am not called to that, however, I can assure you! Then we went upstairs, where the school kids again were racing around, but praise the Lord, after about 5 minutes, the chaperones started rounding them up because they had to get back on the buses! Yay! So the rest of the day we pretty much had the museum to ourselves. This particular museum, since it is more of a natural science museum, also has some live animals that are native to Ohio and have been rescued. They have a river otter, which again has been sleeping every time we've visited. But this time the little guy was swimming all over the place, coming out to peer through the window at us--what a cute little fellow he was! Overall, a great day of learning AND having fun--which doesn't include racing around like savages, knocking over little people, and generally being wild!

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

The 10 Commandments of Tree-Decorating

This was written by Nicholson, who posts on the Well-Trained Mind message boards. I thought it was funny! THE TEN TREE COMMANDMENTS Rule #1: Thou shalt assemble the artificial tree and bend the branches for no less than one hour for a realistic appearance. Rule #2: Then thou shalt apply the lights beginning at the top of the tree progessing to the bottom, taking the strand all the way to the center of the tree and out again on every single branch or thou wilt be smitten. Rule #3: Concerning the number of lights. Thou shalt strive for the perfection and beauty of not less than 10 100 light strands for a total of 1000 lights. Less than this and it shall be proclaimed an "ugly" tree. Rule #4: Thou shalt then begin apply the ornaments. Small ornaments shall go at the top. Large ornaments for the base. Thy tree must be proportional. Rule #5: THOU SHALT NOT ALLOW THE ORNAMENTS TO SIT ON THE BRANCH BENEATH THEM! IT IS AN ABOMINATION!!! THEY MUST SWING FREELY ON THE TREE! Rule #6: Thou shalt consider thy work no less than every three ornaments placed by standing back and looking for "holes" in thy tree. Fill the wretched holes with ornaments. Rule #7: Thou shalt decorate the WHOLE tree front and back. Place the old scratched ornaments on the back of the tree lest it be naked. Rule #8: After the ornaments come the garland. This must be artfully draped in even "swags". Then though shalt humor thy grandmother to come "adjust" the parts she condemns as uneven. Rule #9: Lastly, though mayest apply tinsel to thy tree. NOT IN GREAT GOBS but by no more than 5 strands at one time. Then thou must be a good steward of thy tinsel being ever-watchful to not pass too closely by the tree, lest you remove the tinsel causing a bald spot. Rule #10: Thou must promise on pain of death to return on New Year's Day to dismantle thy grandmother's tree or guilt wilt follow thou all the days of thy life.
Mudville Gazette, another military blog, has featured an interesting article called Hating America. It is long, but it made a lot of interesting points. The author is an American who has lived in Norway for a number of years, and he begins by talking about how his perceptions of America have changed as he has lived in Europe, and how he now appreciates a lot of characteristics of Americans that previously he had mocked. Then he basically reviews several books that talk about why Europe hates America, some written by Americans, and some written by Europeans. It was a very interesting article, and his take on it all was worth reading. I think it is important to understand what people in other countries think about us and why, but many of the books out there just seem to be anti-American propoganda, even those by Americans. Sad. I for one am always startled when I read about how controlled the European media is. I guess it makes even CBS seem not as bad as it could be--well, no, it's still pretty bad. Maybe Dan Rather will move to France?

A Long Silence

Well, there has been no blogging lately, because there has been no computer. Sunday afternoon Dad's computer just started shutting down after about 5 minutes of use. After a few calls to Dan (how convenient to have your own personal computer expert on hand), Dad diagnosed the problem as a broken fan in the hard drive, so the computer kept overheating. He ordered a new part, and then we had to wait for it to come in. Today he got it fixed, which was a big feat in and of itself, since the part had a ton of wires. There is still some little problem because now the speakers sound static-y (or should that be "staticky"?), but I think we can all agree that the speakers are about the least important part of a computer! How nice to be on-line again and able to check email. Although, since we are on vacation, I am here with many of the people who email on a regular basis! The good news is that we lead a fairly boring life, and even without blogging for several days, you have not missed out on ANY fantastical adventures or stories of our life! Tomorrow I am taking the boys to the Boonshoft Museum, which is a hands-on museum of natural history. Our membership doesn't expire until March, and the boys love it there, so that will be a fun field trip. Amy and her boys are coming too.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Potato Peelings

My message for today is for everyone: Don't put potato peelings down your garbage disposal! They will clog it! My brother had an exciting time yesterday right before their Thanksgiving dinner, in which this very situation occured. He vividly describes it in his blog. This also happened to my Aunt Claire a few years ago when we were visiting during Christmas, and it happened to me as well back in 1995. We were living in a little apartment for 3 months while we waited to move into our house in Colorado Springs, and I peeled only a few potatoes, since we had no kids at the time. Those few peelings were enough to clog our drain, but since we were fortunate to be renting (believe me, this was the ONLY fortunate thing about renting here!), the maintenance guy came out to do the plunging and de-clogging. He told me to never put potato peeling down the disposal, so I was warned almost 10 years ago, but I have obviously been remiss in not passing along this warning. Now several members in my immediate family have suffered because I have not spoken out! But now, my duty is done, and I will not accept any blame if you carelessly disregard my words of warning and put your potato peels down the drain because you think it will be such an easy and convenient way to dispose of them. Be wise--heed my warning! Don't let yourself get into the postition of having to think about calling a plumber on a major holiday! And always keep Liquid Plumber on hand.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

A Wonderful Thanksgiving

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving Day, and we had lots of opportunities to remember all that we have to be thankful for. Although it's 8:00 here, I am in no way hungry for any kind of food, and my brain is definitely feeling very fuzzy. We had an incredible feast today, and it was really neat to think about the people whose recipes we were eating. We had Aunt Eloise's orange-jello salad, Elizabeth's sweet potato casserole, Nana's squash casserole, Grandma's ginger snaps, and Pam's chocolate-pecan pie, as well as other traditional favorites like my sweet potato biscuits, and cranberry-pear sauce, Mom's green beans with almonds, dressing, mashed potatoes, and of course, turkey and gravy. We had friends over too, Ira and Jody, and she brought a wild rice dish, another cranberry salad, and a pumpkin pie. Yes, our table was very full! After we ate, Dad read George Washington's original Thanksgiving Proclamation (in which we noted SEVERAL completely unconstitutional references to God, religion, and other things--shouldn't he have known better?!!), and we all told about things that we were thankful for this year, and how we've seen God work. We really enjoyed Ira and Jody's company. Before they were married, she was a missionary for several years in different places, including the Ivory Coast, so she had many good stories to tell. It was a day of good food and great fellowship! We are most of all thankful to be a part of the body of Christ, where even though we're not related physically, we're related spiritually, and we can look forward to spending eternity together, worshipping the Lord!

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

A BIG Christmas Present

Amy and I went shopping yesterday at Toys-R-Us because I had a $10-off coupon and a gift card (of uncertain value) that I wanted to use. I rarely go in Toys-R-Us because, frankly, I think most of their toys are glitzy, faddish junk that kids play with for 10 minutes and then forget. But I really wanted to use up these cards, so I decided I needed to get something there. I was very discouraged after wandering through the store, but as we were just about to go out, I saw a big pile of boxes. The boxes contained these big "Castle Blocks", like giant Legos, that you could use to make your own castle. There was even a door-thing and some windows. It's not a big castle--more of a facade, really, but I knew the boys would love it, especially since we're studying the Middle Ages this year. I already have bought for Nathan and Luke new knight outfits, so Caleb will be able to have our old helmet and shield all to himself. I figured the castle would just make this a fine "Middle Ages Christmas" all around, and best of all, a set of the blocks was $59.99, minus $10 with the coupon, AND minus $42.97 (!!!) on our gift card. I figured it would be something like $.50 left on there. I never dreamed it would be so much! How exciting! There is nothing I like better than getting a good deal on something I think will really be enjoyed! Now the only problem is getting this big box back home. It didn't look so big in the store, or even in the back of Amy's minivan, which had the back seat folded down. But in our minivan, it wouldn't lay down flat, and standing up, it takes up a great deal of room. How on earth will we get 2 big suitcases in there, but all the other assorted detritus that a large family travels with?! Hmm . . . maybe Grandma and Grandpa will have to play Santa and bring it out to D.C. when they come for Christmas. It could ride in their back seat or something and keep them company!

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

A Neat Fundraiser

On our recent trip, we stopped for dinner just east of Zanesville, OH on I-70. We had eaten a later lunch, so I really just wanted to go to Subway, since I knew that would be light and quick. But I was over-ruled by the rest of the family who saw Denny's just across the street. We went in, although I wasn't very happy about it, since Denny's is neither light nor quick. They were having a fundraiser there at the restaurant that night. Seniors from the local high school, John Glenn High School, had volunteered to work that night, and all the tips, and 10% of the proceeds of the meals were going to the local Salvation Army food drive. The kids were so nice. Our server was very well-spoken and polite. He said this has been a tradition for many years. They do this at 3 restaurants a year. They did it at Pizza Hut a week or so ago, and they raised $1500. As we were finishing up (we ordered 5 Grand Slams, which I thought was excessive, but as it turns out, Jonathan must have packed away 2 whole pancakes by himself,and we had no leftovers), the Chorale from the high school came in, sat down in one section of the restaurant and started singing. They were singing REAL Christmas songs, not even just Christmas carols, about Jesus' birth! It was a really nice dinner, and I was so glad we stopped. What a neat town! The restaurant was really bringing in a lot of people too, so I'm sure they raised a lot of money there too. Just another example of those "ignorant, backwards, unenlightened, uncaring midwestern Americans" that the Democrats love to hate, I guess.

A Long Trip

Yesterday we had a fairly long drive, 500 miles, as we came home to visit my parents. People are always so alarmed when we tell them that we are driving to far-away places (anything over 3 hours, apparently). "Four boys in the car for 10 hours!" they exclaim. "How do you stay sane?" Well, the fact is, 500 miles isn't that far. We've done over 750 miles in one day before. And gotten up the next 2 days and driven more. And therein lies the key to surviving long car trips with kids--you have to do a lot of them so they get used to it. Our older boys are champion travelers now because in a military family, you usually have to travel far away to visit family. Caleb is coming along, and we're working on Jonathan's "car manners" right now. Driving after dinner is the hardest time for him; that's when he is the most fussy. We just stick out the crying until he falls asleep. We don't have a DVD player or anything in our car, just a whole ton of books, games, and car toys. Nathan and Luke have the back seat of the minivan, and they play together or read. It's so great when they can read to themselves. My brother and I used to pass many long car trip hours doing that very thing. I feel like my role during our travels is a mix of stewardress/deejay/navigator. For the older boys, I fix up a baggie of snack selections before we leave. Then when I say it's time for a snack, they get to pick something out of their bags. That way I don't have to pass things back all the time, and they can look forward to the choice. For really long cross-country trips, I buy a few new books and toys before the trip and dole them out at appropriate intervals. We have a lot of different types of music choices in the car too, and I try to alternate those as well (the "deejay" part of my title). Long trips are so tiring, but I love how the boys can see our country up close. We have kids' atlases for Nathan and Luke, and they follow along our route in them. I also love how the forced togetherness fosters a lot of good family discussions. Plenty of time for talking about anything during 10 hours of car time!

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Petition for Marine accused of killing unarmed terrorist

I'm sure you all have seen stories about that Marine who shot the insurgent in the mosque who was only pretending to be dead and was hiding his hands. I am so appalled at how our "brave" news media is second-guessing his decisions and defending the terrorists. Abhorent. Anyways, here is an online petition for you to sign, stating that you feel nothing bad at all should happen to this Marine, and that he should be sent back to his unit or given an honorable discharge. I don't know where the petition will end up, but I do think it is very important to make it clear that we support this man, so the rest of our soldiers can be free to make the split-second decisions they need to in the heat of battle, without fear of liberal news media people breathing down their necks and accusing them of war crimes. I got this petition from a military blog called Blackfive , which always has good info about our soldiers that you don't see in the newspapers. I'll warn you though, some of the stories, letters, etc. will make you cry.

Claire

Friday, November 19, 2004

The Washington-Dayton Daily Post??

I was reading a blog that I enjoy (she's a black, Christian conservative), and she mentioned the changes the Washington Post is going to make because it has a declining circulation. Here's a hint--they're NOT becoming more conservative! No, they are going to write shorter stories, have more pictures, and have more skin-color diversity. Yes--they are going to become the Dayton Daily News! Now I KNOW I won't ever regret not subscribing!

Claire

Happy Birthday, Amy!

Today is the birthday of my best friend, Amy. When I say "best friend", I really mean "sister", because that's how I think of her. We've known each other since fifth grade, when we were both new to Dayton Christian. We didn't really get to each other well until high school, though, where we cheered together, carpooled together, and were an incredibly accurate but very slow pair of lab partners. Then we roomed together in college, even sharing the same major (biology--still lab partners!), and of course we were in each other's weddings. Before college, everyone always warned us about rooming with your best friend, but we just smiled--we knew there would never be something we'd disagree about that seriously, and there never has been. We are simply too much alike, and our nonconfrontational personalities mean we just don't annoy each other. I've never met another person who always knows exactly how I'm feeling--because that's how she would also react to the same situation. It's funny how our brains run on the same track. Just the other day we were talking, and she mentioned how she didn't have any outside decorations for her new house, her neighbors all go all-out for Christmas, but she didn't want to spend a whole lot of money, so she was thinking about buying those little candles for her windows because they weren't specifically Christmas, but you could use them the whole winter long. I had to laugh, because I had just gone through the same line of reasoning myself earlier that day! Now that we're in Virginia, and she's still back in Ohio, I miss her so much. Even though we knew we would only be stationed in Ohio a few years, I just got so used to again being a part of her life on a daily basis. Thank goodness for cheap long distance and emails so I can still vent to her when I need to (often)! For a going-away present, she made me a scrapbook of pictures, cards, notes, and memories from all the years of our friendship, and it is one of my most treasured possessions. I LOVE to look through it again and again, laughing at all the great times we've had! So today on her birthday, I just wanted to say how thankful I am for her, and for her wonderful friendship these past 21 years. She's truly been one of God's greatest blessings in my life.

"We've shared so much laughter; shared so many tears.
We've a spiritual kinship that grows stronger each year.
We're not sisters by birth, but we knew from the start--
God put us together to be sisters in heart."

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Calvin and Hobbes

Nathan has discovered my old "Calvin and Hobbes" comic books. That is still one of my favorite comic strips, and when I read comics now, I can see a lot of influences that Bill Watterson has had on modern cartoonists. Nathan will just sit on the couch and read them for as long as I'll let him. He'll sit there the whole afternoon, and all I'll hear out of him is continuous giggling. It's cute. He's doing pretty well at understanding exactly why they're funny. A little while back, he was enjoying some old "Beetle Bailey" books, and I had to explain practically every one of those strips. Can you imagine how much "funniness' those strips lose when you have to go through and define every little detail?! When I reread Calvin now as a homeschooling mom, all I can think is, "What a great candidate for homeschooling Calvin would be." I was just reading a strip in It's a Magical World where he and Hobbes found a snake and started asking all these questions, realizing they didn't know anything about snakes. So Hobbes says that maybe his mom could get them a book, and they are both excited about becoming experts on snakes until Calvin remembers that it's summer vacation, and he doesn't want to learn anything. Hobbes thinks for a minute, then says, "If nobody makes you do it, then it counts as fun." The last panel shows them both hunched over a book saying, "coooooooolll". The fun of homeschooling is exploring those interests and watching your kids get excited about learning things. And the even greater thing about it for boys is they don't have to sit inside at a desk all day long, feeling wiggly.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

An inspiring story

My Aunt Claire has a wonderful story on her blog today. It's the story of a young Mormon woman who was searching for truth, and the Lord used my cousin and a paper he wrote to lead her to Himself. "Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." John 8:32

Claire

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Christmas shopping

Well, I'm just a posting fool tonight. I am excited because I bought my Christmas present today!!! As an aside, whenever people tell those jokes about women not liking to get practical things for presents--that's not me. So, my big present was . . . a Kitchenaid Professional 5 mixer! I've never had a Kitchenaid before (I always used Mom's when we lived in Ohio), and I did a lot of research last night online to find out the exact model I wanted. I found it at Kohls.com, so today while Nathan and Luke were at their homeschool co-op, the rest of us went to Kohls to see what we could find. It was on sale, plus I had a coupon for 15% off with my Kohl's card! When I checked out, the cashier was actually a higher-up person who Bob and I have dealt with before, and for some reason he gave me 20% off, so it was only about $230. Yay! It has a 5-quart bowl and is 450 watts. I should also add that it is white, which is indeed a boring color when contrasted with the red I could have picked. But I am really not a "red" sort of person, and I definitely think white is a more classic color which will match more potential kitchens!

For our family members, I just want to remind you that we do have a wishlist at Amazon.com, if you happen to need any ideas (not that we or the boys are expecting anything). Just search for us there.

Claire

VeggieTales

I thought I needed to practice putting links in my posts, so I am going to try a post with SEVERAL links--something never before attempted by me! A little over a year ago, while we were in Salt Lake visiting family, I read a little blurb in their paper about how Big Idea Productions (the creators of VeggieTales) had declared bankruptcy and been bought by some other company. We all wondered what it meant and promptly forgot all about it, since it seemed like they were still producing good videos. A few months ago we got the newest VeggieTale, Sumo of the Opera, and it didn't seem as strong as some of the others. My best friend Amy told me about a review that she had read on Amazon.com that said that VeggieTales was owned by a different company, and that Phil Vischer wasn't an employee of that new company. The review referred to Phil Vischer's new web site , which answered a lot of my questions. In particular, he links an excellent article in Christianity Today that discusses in detail what happened. Basically, the company expanded rapidly but profits didn't keep up, so they got furthur behind. They hoped for a miracle with the Jonah movie, but it did just okay, not spectacularily. Then they were sued by their first distributor, and the jury awarded them (the distributor) $11 million. That sunk Big Idea. The interesting thing about the article is how it talks about the personal spiritual transformation that happened to Phil Vischer during this very stressful time when basically his dream died. I think God is going to use him in even bigger ways, but this has made me sorry that I haven't prayed for people like him, who are trying to influence our children for Christ. They are certainly going to undergo spiritual attacks, since Satan really doesn't want to give up our kids. I know I always assumed he was fat, rich, and happy with all the profits from the videos we were buying. Read the article! It's very interesting. And one last link--there was a funny story about the break-up of VeggieTales in an issue of LarkNews.com (which is sort of like "The Onion" for Christians).

Wow, four links! I've come a long way!

Claire






Monday, November 15, 2004

More on the Retreat

I thought I'd tell a little more about the retreat, since before I was pretty obsessed with our lack of heat. We went up a day earlier than most of the people, and Mom and Dad did too. We ate out together at Hoss's (a steakhouse like Ponderosa, for those who don't know) Thursday night, and it was surprisingly good. Two other families got there that night, both with 2 young children and expecting another. We had a lot of opportunities over the whole weekend to talk about child-raising, discipline issues, homeschooling, and other fun topics like that. It's still hard to believe that people actually think of us now as the "older" parents who can dispense advise and wisdom. Both families had older children who might be considered "strong-willed", and they were dealing with the temper tantrums and so on that go along with that. My kids really can't be considered strongwilled in the traditional sense, I don't think, and they don't usually act up a whole lot in public. This gives the impression that they are just really "good" kids, but in fact that is more a reflection of their personalities more than anything, I think--they are shy so don't pitch big temper tantrums or draw a lot of attentionto themselves. They still are rebellious and disobedient, but they are more passive about it, and sometimes it is harder to see and correct. At least if the child is throwing a huge tantrum, then you KNOW there is a discipline issue that needs to be dealt with! If on the other hand, a child just quietly never gets around to doing what you ask but instead goes and starts doing a different thing, then it is harder to discipline because sometimes you don't even notice until later. But the same disobedient attitude is there! So I tried to encourage these parents to just keep on being consistent and enforcing the standards, and eventually they will see fruit. It can be so discouraging though. We talked about other stuff too, not just parenting! It was fun to stay up late and talk and laugh with other adults. Baby monitors are a great invention!

I didn't hear alot of the speaker, Art Apgar, because I did stuff with the kids. I did get to be in on the worship times which were led by another couple, Dan and Carol. I really enjoyed their music as well as how they interacted with each other. It was very natural. They sang songs in a lot of different styles, and many of them were songs they had written.

We got to hike around a little Saturday afternoon. That was a beautiful day, unlike Friday where it rained all day long. We took some family pictures over the weekend too, one of which will end up being our Christmas picture. I got the pictures back today, and we actually have to choose between a few good ones! That RARELY happens with 4 squirmy boys! The weekend was too short, as usual, and we rushed back home to get the boys to AWANAs Sunday night. After we dropped them off, Caleb didn't want to go home (maybe he remembered how cold it would be?). He just wanted to go back to "White Silver 'Prings". And Nathan can't wait until he can be on staff there.

Furnace Update

We have heat again! Bob called around today and found the part down south of his office, so he picked it up after work. He was able to get it installed quickly with no problems, so our house is nice and toasty all over! Praise the Lord for a handy husband who can fix things like that! In a side note, on-line Bob found out that York furnaces are known for problems with the igniter, and he was able to figure out the code numbers to tell that the one that broke was made in 1998, so the Andersons had already replaced it once. The one he got is supposed to be "new and improved", and is supposed to last a lot longer. We certainly pray that it does!

Claire

It's a bit chilly in here right now . . .

Well, we are having furnace problems. To be specific, when we got up Thursday morning and went downstairs, we thought it seemed a little chilly. Our thermostat was set at 69 degrees, but it was only 64. Bob fiddled around with it, but he could never make the furnace kick on, although the fan was working fine. We were leaving to go to White Sulphur Springs for the OCF Veterans' Day Retreat, so we just turned it off and forgot about it. (We had a wonderful weekend, by the way. It was a great group of people, and it was so much fun.) When we drove in last night, the house was a chilly 54 degrees. Fortunately our upstairs furnace works, so we were fine for sleeping. It got down to about 22 degrees outside last night, so we left our faucets dribbling. We were afraid the pipes might freeze! This morning we are all bundled up, and we brought our little bathroom space heater down. The boys had oatmeal for breakfast, and with the little heater pointing towards the table, it took the chill off the air, so it wasn't uncomfortable. I think we're going to go somewhere this morning though--I'm declaring a school holiday! Isn't that what public schools do when they have furnace malfunctions? : ) Our next-door neighbor came over and looked at the furnace last night, and he and Bob have figured out what the problem is. The electronic ignition thing is broken. Bob has removed it, but he can't find a replacement part. They don't sell furnace parts at Home Depot, if you can imagine! So we'll either order it online and be without heat for a couple more days or try to find it around here. He's calling some places today to see if he can find the part.

So, to count our blessings, we're thankful that this happened in mid-November, instead of February, when it would really be cold outside. It's sunny today with a high of 58, and we have lots of south-facing windows, so our kitchen and family room will heat up from the sun's radiant heat. And we do have that second furnace, so it's nice and toasty upstairs. In the meantime, we can pretend we live in a drafty medieval castle!

Claire

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Another good reason to homeschool . . .

Montgomery County, MD is implementing a new sex-ed course in their schools. It looks like quite a doozy. Hopefully you can read the Washington Times article here.

Did it work? If so, you can thank Mr. Techno-Stud Dan, as well as Aunt "Intrepid" Claire for their technical assistance.

And by the way, our Classical Academy won't be using this new health program. Around here, we use cucumbers in salads, on sandwiches, and also as stars of animated kiddie videos, but never as condom models!

Claire

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Pray for our troops!

Well, this is just a reminder to keep praying for our troops in Fallujah and all over Iraq and Afghanistan. I think it really is a spiritual battle over there, and I am reminded of the final scenes in This Present Darkness, where the angels were battling the demons, and the prayers of the saints played a big part in defeating the demons. Along those same lines, Nathan asked this morning how long there was going to be fighting over in Iraq. I of course said I had no idea because the people we're fighting against don't care anything about their own lives or for the lives of their countrymen--they just want people to be scared of them and do whatever they want. That's why they do such awful things. So then we had this conversation:
Nathan: What were the names of the guys who used to torture and kill all their prisoners? The ones who got beaten by the Babylonians?
Me: The Assyrians?
Nathan: Yeah, the Assyrians. They were in the same area as Iraq. The bad people there now are just like them.
Me: Well, anytime anyone tells you that mankind is basically good, or that we're all evolving to become better, just remind them that people haven't changed at all in 3000 years, on their own. Only through Jesus can we really change, and these people don't know Jesus.

Another example of the importance of teaching history to better understand the events of today! It's always great when they can make the connections. Keep praying!

Claire

Monday, November 08, 2004

Interesting Point . . .

There was an interesting editorial column by Bruce Bartlett in the Washington Times today (okay, there were several good ones--have I mentioned yet how much I love this newspaper?!) about the "values" victory in the election. He said that the liberals are so afraid that the "religious nuts" that voted for Bush are ready to impose their radical fundamentalist agenda on everyone by not only banning same-sex marriage and abortion, but also dancing, rock-n-roll, and R-rated movies. Here is his point--"Ironically, the the real problem is liberals have imposed their beliefs on America exactly the way they imagine conservatives want to do." No wonder they're scared! They have no concept of the correct way to go about changing things you don't like in a system--by voting! The only thing they know is judicial activism.

Well, I wish I knew how to link the article, but alas, I know not these deep technological things. I am hoping to put a counter on the bottom of the site, since I am inspired by the astounding success of my intrepid Aunt Claire. And I have gone as far as putting "computer books" on my library list. But I think that the real key to my success with HTML will be the Christmas visit of my brother, Mr. Techno-Stud himself. I am eagerly awaiting his vast stores of wisdom!

Claire

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Haircut Night

Tonight was haircut night for ALL the boys in the family. One can always tell when it's time because of Nathan's cowlick. He has a complicated "double whorl" hair pattern, which looks like dueling hurricanes rotating right beside each other at the crown of his head. Right in between the 2 whorls is a single line of hair, and it literally sticks straight up when it isn't short enough. Tonight Caleb went first, then Luke, then Jonathan (who wanted to be a really big boy and sit by himself on the stool for the first time--usually I hold him), then Nathan, and lastly Bob. I have only recently begun cutting Bob's hair, and I still do it reluctantly, since the stakes are much higher. Plus, I am pretty much a one-trick pony with regards to hair styles I can do, so his haircut always looks like a slightly longer version of the boys'. He usually gets his hair cut at a "real" barber shop in between my haircuts, so I guess it all evens out. And just think of how much money we're saving just cutting out (lol!) every other haircut. As far as the boys go, I would definitely say that I am complimented most often on their haircuts when strangers see us out shopping or whatever. Everyone loves them. They often come up and rub their hands on their heads too, although this tends to mostly happen to Caleb. His personality is the most inviting for such liberties! I don't think any stranger has EVER done that to Luke!

Now for a special treat, Bob is giving everyone a bath in our big bathtub. At the end, he turns on the jets and makes bubbles, which Nathan and Luke love, but Caleb is scared of . . . except that now he is a big boy, so before the bath he was loudly proclaiming to everyone that now he LIKES the bubbles. We'll see what happens when the jets go on, however. I have my doubts. [Time passes] Well, the bubbles are on, and Caleb has stayed in the tub. I guess he is a big boy now! The only thing we have left is his pacifier at bedtime. On our way back from Ohio in October, his car binky broke--well, actually just the thing that clips it to his clothes, but I took it away and said it was broken. I think he's on to me though, because he has asked a couple of times if he can just "look at it to make sure it's broken". I have no intention of fixing it, and slowly he has decreased the frequency of his asking about it. He has no desire whatsoever to give up his bed binky, and I am not going to battle over it until after Thanksgiving and that trip to Ohio. Maybe he'll give it up on his own before then! Wouldn't that be an early Christmas present for me!

Claire

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Appreciate Your Help in Advance: Romans 2:6-23

I struggle preparing inductive Bible Studies, so here's your opportunity to offer general or specific support of any variety. Limited Time Offer: the study is Nov 19th! Thanks, and Very Respectfully, Bob

Friday, November 05, 2004

Book Review #1: Tom Peters' The Pursuit of WOW! (Ch 1)


Trivia: Tom Peters was in the Navy (p35)

I almost stopped reading this at page 3, feeling this was a smarmy "Just Do It" leadership/management book. However, I've really grown attached to Mr Peters' skillful and effective use of personal stories (pgs 5, 8, 14, 17...): Love people and show it (didn't some carpenter say something about this 2000 years ago?)--this book has challenged me to write "Thank You" notes (p28).
I'm sure this book could be considered hokey by those Dilbert has captured to cynicism. I hope I remember that "People give to friends, not to causes" (p36), if face-to-face is impossible then "work the phones" for support (p37), and to "return phone calls fast" (p40).
Peters postulates that reality needs to be perceived, so "perception is all there is--manage it!"
Maybe I'm tired from watching election coverage last night, however this spoke to me (both in trying to defend my vote re: Iraq, in and balancing my sons' (mainly yet future) reactions to bullies: "Weaklings leave a lot on the table" (p43). And this surprise: "Join Toastmasters" on pg 43 as well.
The last points are not rocket science, yet were well developed: First, be "beyond reproach", stay humble, and win convincingly. Reproach could come with not being early/ on time for mtgs, not dressing conservatively (with the example of how a lawyer tells her or his client to dress for court, not being a smart-aleck, and remembering that "jerks eventually get their just desserts" (p45). Staying humble means "skipping even the tiny arrogances of power." Finally, "football games are often lost in the last 30 seconds...I have no sympathy...If you'd been ahead 27-7, then...(it) wouldn't have cost you the game."

Bob
(P.S.: I don't agree w/ everything Mr Peters says--his worldview is much different; however, his observations yield useful insight. While there are nuggets throughout the book, like on interviewing (p75), his book loses momentum for me since his good observations seem to have been front-loaded (good editing?) and more and more of our life philosophy clashes come out--from now on, I will probably have to wait until I'm done reading before posting a review.)

Cake Update

Well, Caleb loves his cake and is very ready to eat it. He thinks it looks just like his beloved Koala Bear. Unfortunately, we have had a situation develop. I left the iced cake on the island, with its feet facing our kitchen window. It's a very sunny day (although with gale-force winds), so the sun has been shining on the poor bear. Well, the heat has turned the frosting on his "bottom" a lovely shade of green, as if he got up and sat in pond scum. SO during naptime, I am going to have to scrape off the affected frosting and refrost, something that never turns out very well as far as crumbs go. Hmmm. . . . and to think I wasn't totally happy with it last night! At least I took a picture then!

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Caleb's Birthday

Well, at this time 3 years ago, I was at the hospital in labor with my third son, Caleb. He was born at 1:10 a.m., after a pretty quick and easy labor, although he was 9 lb. 5 oz, so there was some hard pushing involved! He is such a wonderful addition to our family. He has such a happy personality (unless he is tired or has an ear infection, which only seems to happen in situations like when he was the ring-bearer in his uncle's wedding!), and people always warm up to him very quickly. He has a great smile, and he is just a funny, happy little boy (although he would immediately correct me to say that he is a big boy--one time I told him to get his little bottom somewhere, and he said very seriously, "It's not a LITTLE bottom. I have a big, BIG BOY bottom.")

Since we have Bible study tomorrow night, we did some celebrating tonight. Our friends, the Lorenzinis, came over for Caleb's favorite meal of meatloaf, potatoes, and peas. We had rice krispie treats for dessert, and Caleb opened his presents from his Grandma and Grandpa Grazier and from the Lorenzinis. Yes, that's right--his own parents neglected to get him anything. Can you tell my love language isn't "gifts"? But he was perfectly happy with the great books that he got, so I don't think there was any damage done to his psyche. The thing is, being the 3rd boy, he has tons of toys, so unless I can think of some specific thing he needs, I'd rather not get something just to say we got something. He knows we love him because we do lots of special things together.

I just got done frosting his cake. It's a koala bear, which of course is the stuffed animal he loves and sleeps with. I must say, it's not my best work. I really wanted to use his bear for a model, but Caleb would NOT fall asleep tonight in a timely manner, so finally I gave up and just started "shaping" the cake and frosting it without his bear. Oh well. Tomorrow night we'll take it to Bible study, where we will sing to him and eat it afterwards, during dessert time.

Claire

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Late Election Night!

Well, last night was a VERY late night for us--Bob and I finally went to bed at 4:30, after vainly waiting for the news guys to call either New Mexico or Nevada. The boys stayed up until 10:00. We colored in a blank electoral map that I had printed off. Nathan and Luke were pretty interested in the whole process, and we had lots of good discussions about the electoral college, "liberals vs. conservatives", and so on. I am so proud of the conservative Republicans in Ohio (not to mention the rest of the nation!) who got out and made a difference in the voting! I wished mine would have still counted there, instead of in PA. We watched either ABC or NBC all night because those are the only 2 stations we (barely) get without cable in our basement. Normally that's not a problem, since we don't really want to encourage TV watching, but we certainly wished for cable during the Olympics and also last night during the election! I wished we could have watched Fox, but I was VERY glad that CBS was not a choice. I don't think I could have stood to watch Dan Rather. At least NBC and ABC pretended to be a pretty impartial. Although, was it just me, or did Brokaw and Jennings start getting a little testy with the Bush campaign reps after about 3:00? I guess they (the anchors) were starting to realize that Bush really was likely to win, no matter how many far-fetched scenarios involving provisional and absentee ballots they could devise. Plus, I'm sure they were exhausted. I know I was (am). I didn't eat yesterday, and I definitely found that I was reminded to pray frequently by my empty tummy. We are really praising the Lord today for showing mercy to us, and for extending so much grace to our country.

Today has been a lighter school day, in light of a very tired teacher. The boys got up and starting drawing their own books of medieval knights battling. They just came up with this on their own,and since I am not very artistic, I certainly want to encourage any possible artistic endeavor they come up with! So they worked on those for awhile, looking at our reference books to make sure they knew how to draw the right helmets and weaponry (a long axe is called a "pole axe", NOT a "pike", as I so ludicrously suggested). Then we read our Bible, prayed, and did a little bit of math and English. Nathan is also copying his famous "oatcake recipe" for his history notebook. I guess that counts as handwriting too! I think we'll just read aloud this afternoon. Then maybe a nap for Mom.

Claire

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Oatcakes

Nathan made us authentic oatcakes last night for dinner from a recipe in the Celtic book we're reading. They were pretty good! Of course, we added honey to the recipe, so maybe that's why. We even used the old-fashioned kind of oats (which I accidentally bought at the commissary one time) instead of the quick-cooking, since no self-respecting Celt would have been steel-cutting their oats, I'm sure! The oatcake recipe was pretty simple, but Nathan really is turning into quite a good baker. He made whole-wheat biscuits to go with our soup a few nights ago, and Saturday night he made pancakes (from scratch, using Elizabeth's yummy whole wheat flour recipe). I'm around to supervise, but he's doing pretty much everything, including the rolling out and cutting! Now if I could just get him to do all the washing up too . . .

Claire

Monday, November 01, 2004

A typical day . . .

I thought maybe you would be interested in seeing what a "normal" day looks like for us. We definitely don't get started at the crack of dawn! We usually get up around 8:00, except for Caleb (almost 3), who sleeps until 9:00. We usually start school between 9:30 and 10:00, so we have quite a leisurely morning! The first thing we do is read the Bible. We've been reading a chapter of Proverbs a day for the past few months, since I've noticed a need for some practical wisdom around here, but today we've started back to our Vos's Childrens' Bible. Then we read from a book about different character qualities (self-control, this week), and we usually pray for a different country each day, a la Operation World. The past few weeks, however, we have focused on praying for our country and the election. All this is done on our couch in the family room, and we stay there for English (using First Language Lessons) and Mental Math. Then we move to the kitchen table, where the boys do their copywork, grammer work, and handwriting. I do math with them one at a time during this time, while the other boy works on his other things. Nathan (7) is doing Saxon 3, and Luke (5) is over halfway through Saxon 1. Caleb usually does some preschool worksheets during this time, since he definitely wants to be included. Jonathan (17 mo.) primarily gets into the cereal cabinet and tries to climb onto the table. The boys finish their math pages while I get lunch. We do Latin (using Prima Latina) over lunch. I love this program! It is such a gentle way to start learning a complicated language! They are building up good vocabularies, and they like finding derivatives when we read. After lunch we do science and history. These are favorite subjects, so we have to put them off for motivation. In science, we're studying the human body, and right now we're learning about the nervous system. We use Story of the World II (the Middle Ages) for history, and we're learning about the Celts. We're in the middle of making Celtic warrior helments out of ballons and paper-mache. I don't do tons of fun, messy projects, as a rule, because that is not my personality, but every so often . . . We need to paint them now. I have found that my world history base is very limited, and I have learned so much from the books we've read. We're usually done with everything between 2:00 and 3:00, and they can play or read while Jonathan naps. After dinner, we often read library books, which in our house are usually non-fiction, either science or history, or I read aloud whichever book we're doing currently. Right now we're in the middle of The Dog That Wouldn't Be by Farley Mowat. What a great book! The boys find it hilarious too. Mowat uses more complicated sentence structures and bigger words than a lot of other stuff that's out there, which is good and challenging for them to listen to. We've found a lot of our Latin roots in his words! The boys are usually in bed around 9:00, and thus ends another day--well, not for Bob and me. I guess if we did go to bed then, maybe I'd finally be able to get up and exercise before the boys wake up! But I like my "wind-down" time at the end of the day when everything is quiet, so I doubt things will change anytime soon!

Claire

Sunday, October 31, 2004

What to do for Halloween?

Well, the question we ask ourselves every year is "what are we going to do for Halloween?" Nathan, our oldest, doesn't like Halloween at all. He's never expressed any desire to trick-or-treat; in fact, he's said several times he's glad he doesn't have to go. When the oldest doesn't want to do something . . . well, you know the other boys don't have any interest in doing it either! So we have never taken them out, but it's actually not so much because we are making a moral stand or have a deep spiritual conviction, but rather because our kids see the "ugly stuff" in stores and in people's yards, and they have instinctively recognized that as bad and pulled away. Now we have to decide what we are going to do--pass out candy? hide in the basement? go somewhere else? It's hard to know the best thing to do. I think that most people nowdays do not celebrate Halloween to celebrate evil, just as they no longer celebrate Christmas to remember Christ. They think of it as just a fun time for their kids to dress up and get candy. So I'm not opposed to passing out candy and deepening relationships with our neighbors (we live in a great neighborhood, by the way). But this year some old friends of ours invited us to go to Chuck E. Cheese with them, and our boys DO really like going there, so we've decided to do that. At our last assignment we would go to the rural house of some friends and have a party there, which was always a lot of fun. I think people feel sorry for our boys that they have not had the great American experience of trick-or-treating, but in fact, they have chosen things that they really do enjoy, so they feel sorry for the kids that have to walk by the scary fake witches and spider webs!

Claire

Saturday, October 30, 2004

The first post

Well, this is an experiment. All I really wanted to do was post a comment on someone's else's blog, but here we are . . . It seems like everyone else in the world has a blog, so I guess it's time for us to get on the bandwagon too! At the very least, hopefully it will help keep our far-flung family caught up on the more minute details of our days. With that in mind, I am sure there will be lots of posts about homeschooling!