Monday, May 30, 2005

Track Meet

Nathan and Luke had a track meet yesterday. We had to be there at 7:30 in the morning, although events didn't officially start until 8:30, and it didn't end until after 1:00. Whew! Since we had to get up so early (the school was 30 minutes away), we wisely decided that just I would go, and Bob would stay home with Caleb and Jonathan. That was so the right decision for many reasons. For one, the stadium is an old stadium, and the bleachers were definitely not "safety" bleachers. There was no railing or anything under the seats to prevent one from falling through, and at the last meet there (while we were camping), a little 5 year-old boy fell through and had to be medevac-ed out. Scary. Also, there was tons of just waiting around. I know that's how track meets normally are, but still, I was so glad I wasn't having to entertain 2 crabby little boys and keep them from falling under the bleachers while waiting! Thirdly, it was very sunny all day long, although it was pretty chilly in the morning, and we all got sunburned. That brings me to my fourth reason--I was totally unprepared for this meet! Now I used to run track--I've been to lots of track meets. And in general I am a VERY prepared person, one who makes lots of lists and is ready for any potential situation. I don't know if it was just the early time, but I waltzed out of the house with some granola bars, a jug of water, a crossword puzzle, and my cell phone (yes, I remembered that!). We drove Bob's car, and I forgot to switch my sunglasses so I didn't have those. I had no sunscreen, no cushion to make the bleachers softer and help my poor back, no sandwiches or anything for lunch. It was a LONG day, let me tell you! The boys had a fun time running and throwing the turbo-jav (the little javelins with rubber tips), but they were so tired (and hungry) by the time it was all over. We'll be in Colorado for the remaining meets, but I must say I'm not all that sorry! Once was enough for this year. The meet itself was interesting. It's run by the Potomac Valley Track Club , and it was completely open meet--anyone from I think 2 - 89 could compete in as many events as they wanted to for one entry fee. What a deal! So there were seniors as well as people who were in training and quite good, as well as the kids in our track club, kids in other track clubs, and other random kids who just decided to do this that day on their own. I've never heard of anything like it, but I really like the concept. I will say this for the D.C. Metro area--there are a lot of opportunites here that you don't find other places! [Paragraph break--I'm having trouble with "enter" again] Today we went swimming right after lunch, so we got even more sun. At least I brought sunscreen this time! We got summer passes to a pool that's not too far from here. It's the one our next-door neighbors are also members of. Nathan really wanted to swim on the swim team this year, but we're going to be gone for a lot of the practices with our trip. Since he's not really that great of a swimmer, he certainly needs a lot of practice, so I told him maybe next year. Hopefully we can do some more lessons this year, and then he'll be more prepared next year. The pool seemed like it would work fine for us, but the water was freezing today! Almost as soon as we got there, the clouds started forming, which really made it cool. Now it's pouring down rain--hopefully it will soon stop so we can still grill out our steaks and hot dogs!

Remembering

This Memorial Day weekend, we've pretty much gone about life as usual. And because we were able to do that, we are so thankful for the men and women who have served our country and especially those who have given our lives to allow us to have these freedoms we enjoy so casually. We've read with the boys some of the articles in the papers that talk about some soldiers who haven't come back home because I think that really puts a human face on things. Our homeschool co-op supports and prays for a platoon over in Iraq, and this past week one soldier from there was killed and 2 more were wounded, so news like that certainly makes an impression on the boys. One soldier is for sure coming here to Walter Reed, so our group is looking forward to being able to help him and his wife get what they need. Sometimes when I'm out driving around, I think about what it would be like if I lived in a country that wasn't free. It's hard to imagine, and for that, I thank our soldiers, and we remember those who paid the price of their life. And here's a big personal "thank you" to all the Air Force men in my life--my Grandpa, my Dad, and of course, my husband!

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Great Recipes!

Okay,I'm up late and certainly wasn't planning to post anymore today. But I was reading the Well-Trained Mind Message Boards, and someone posted this most hilarious link to old Weight Watcher recipes. I laughed so hard, and now I'm ready to start cooking! I'll be in that new bathing suit in no time! : ) There are a couple of bad words in the descriptions, so just be warned, though. Scroll down to where it says "Click here to start the tour." LOL! I'm still laughing! I must go get Bob. . .

Used Books

After lunch I took the boys to a used bookstore around here (actually the only one anywhere close around here) called Crest Books. Trust me, there is no website or anything to link to--this is a very low-budget operation! Imagine, if you will, an older style 2-story house, where the door is in the middle, the stairs would be right in front of you, and then there would be 2 main living-type rooms, one on either side of the stairs. Those 2 rooms are the store. Now imagine every wall filled with shelves, and shelves all crowded in the middle of the store too. Now imagine boxes filled with books haphazardly piled all over any remaining floor space so you kind of have to step over books and move things around to see the bottom shelves. This is what it is like inside the store, and as you can imagine, I love it! Every trip is a real treasure hunt! If you can't find something you like on the shelves, where it should be in alphabetical order, than just start rooting around through boxes. Who knows what you will dig up! Usually I go without the boys, so I have plenty of time to root around without keeping track of them all, but I wanted to get some "new" books before our big trip to Colorado, and I was afraid I would run out of time. So we went today, and I found lots of great books, sure to enliven even the longest car ride! Nathan is into "The Boxcar Children" mysteries, so I found several of those, and I found a couple of miscellaneous shorter books for Luke. I found what looks to be a very interesting autobiography of the great Air Force Academy football player, Chad Hennings. He now plays for the Dallas Cowboys, and he is a Christian too. Then I found some little Richard Scarry/Winnie-the-Pooh/Bugs Bunny books for Caleb and Jonathan. And all at bargain prices! You can't beat used bookstores for kids' books.

New Swimsuit!

Today my new swimsuit came from Land's End! It looks like this, even down to the "light cobalt blue" pictured. I really like it. I even got the "long torso" version. I am long-waisted, and I love being able to reach up and not have the suit ride up and show all my lovely stretch marks (or "racing stripes" as Zoe from Baby Blues calls them). Unfortunately, I do not look anything like the model. Oh well. I have discovered that I am now almost the same weight that I was 8 years ago--when I was 9 months pregnant with Nathan! So in 8 years, I have gained almost 25 pounds. Actually, it's worse than that--in the last 10 months, since I've stopped nursing, I've gained 12 pounds! Before that I just kind of held steady in the middle--bigger than pre-babies, but not too big. As my Grandma would say, "My sands shifted." But something happened to my metabolism during the 3 years we were in Ohio. Those 3 years I was either pregnant or nursing all but about 1 month of the time. After I had Jonathan, I went back down to my usual weight, but after I stopped nursing him in August, I started noticing that I was gaining weight. Ack! It seems that my metabolism has slowed down, and now I am unable to just eat whatever I feel like and not gain weight. I was doing great at exercising, but then we all got so sick in February, and I still haven't been able to get up and exercise in the morning since then because Jonathan has started waking up very randomly and early. Seeing myself in the mirror with a swimsuit on tends to have a galvanizing effect, though, and you can bet I was down in the basement exercising during his naptime this afternoon! : )

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Another Weekly Update

1. Here is what our cell phones look like. Although they don't show the different colors online, mine is "champagne rose", which actually is a very light color, not really pink at all. Bob's is "blue ice". I still haven't gotten used to it, although I did remember to take it with me when I ran errands on Saturday. I am finding it tlhard to program numbers in it, although to be fair, I haven't devoted much time to learning how to. Let's just say it's not intuitive.

2. Jonathan has started using the little potty chair. Since I am a firm believer in waiting until boys are near 3 to even start, you can be sure this wasn't MY idea. I'm calling it "Brother-Directed Potty Training". Whenever Caleb has to go, he takes Jonathan in with him and helps him out of his diaper and onto the little potty. Then they both do their business. Caleb even dumps out Jonathan's little potty, so all I have to do is put the diaper back on. Jonathan likes to go, but only if he is reminded. He doen't tell me on his own, so I'm not going to push any farthur on the issue. It's just not worth the stress of accidents and reminding all the time for a few fewer months of diapers. But hey, practice is always good.

3. Jonathan is also talking alot. Here are some of his favorite expressions: "Mine!" "I want that!" "Heeeyyyyyy!" "Give that back!", and of course, "Noooooooo!" Where did all those cute little baby gurgles and coos go? I want those back!

4. I got another cankersore, so my new toothpaste is not the cure-all wonder that I had hoped. I waited the sore out for awhile to see if it would be less intense or anything, but alas, it got just as big and painful as the others. I then tried another home remedy to supposedly take away the pain and promote healing--mixing 1 tsp. of Benedryl liquid and 1 tsp. of Milk of Magnesia, and swishing that around in my mouth several times a day. It did numb my mouth pretty effectively, and the sore did go away quickly when I started using it, but since the sore had already gotten so big, it wasn't really a very valid trial. I'll start using that as soon as I feel the next sore coming on, and then we'll see if it makes the sore go away faster.

Alright, update over. Time for dinner!

Teacher In-Service Day

Do you remember those teacher in-service days we used to get off in school? I always wondered what exactly the teachers were up to, but I didn't really care much since we didn't have school. Today was an in-service day for me. Doing all this organizing prompted me to issue an invitation at Bible study last Friday to the other moms (all of whom homeschool). I invited them to come here and talk about curriculum this morning while the kids all played. This prompted a round of thorough cleaning (WHY is it that I am only really motivated to clean when I have people coming over?!), so really the house has never looked better than it did this morning! : ) Of course, having 15 kids here for several hours left it looking rather um . . . cluttered, but at least the underlying surfaces are clean. Anyhow, there were 5 of us, and it was so helpful to see what everyone brought and talk through different curriculum choices, discuss pros and cons, etc. I got several good ideas. There are so many resources out there that if I can't see it, I'm probably not even going to consider buying. It's just too big of a risk that we might not like it or it might not work for us, even if it is really great for someone else. The kids all played so well together--no fusses at all! That may have been a result of all the food we had to munch on. Nathan made banana bread last night, I made blueberry muffins this morning, and I had lots of fresh strawberries and grapes also. So my first "Curriculum Day" was a success, and it was just a lot of fun to get together and talk . What an encouragement!

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Organizing

I haven't blogged much lately. We've been busy, I guess. One thing that we've been doing is trying to get on top of the piles of papers we have around, especially in the kitchen. What a never-ending chore! We are the worst for dealing with papers, especially mail. I've even read books (library ones, of course!) on various systems to deal with paper coming in, but so far nothing has seemed to help. When we moved in last summer, we put our computer on the little built-in "planning desk" in the kitchen. It was convenient, albeit a bit crowded there, but it also took up space that could have been used to at least PUT papers--instead we let them pile up on our kitchen island, making it basically unuseable most of the time. Now with Bob's realtor stuff beginning to take up even more space, we finally decided that the computer and all accompanying paperwork, especially of the real estate variety, really needed to go into the study. And, since we got all those new bookcases (which are finally all assembled and filled--with space left over, let me say happily!), we actually have room on the desk in there to do it. Wow, it makes the kitchen seem so much bigger to have that space opened up! Baby steps to organization . . .

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Summer School

We pretty much school year-round, since it just seems to work better that way. We take a week off here and there, but long periods off, like when I have a baby, just seem to throw things into disarray, so we try not to do that too often. As an aside from that thought, lots of parents don't like summer vacation because their kids are always saying they're bored, but for us, if we keep in the same routine we've been in all along, then they have plenty of free time in the afternoons, and they really enjoy it because they know they could be inside doing more schoolwork. Routine is my friend! That said, we do lighter stuff over the summer, and with this trip to Colorado looming ahead, we will certainly be taking some time off of our formal studies. Right now, Nathan just finished his achievement testing. Over the next few weeks, I'm planning on doing a little unit on classical music using Story of the Orchestra as a kind of base. Since getting Beethoven's Wig (a CD where they have put words to famous classical pieces--it is so fun), the boys have been pretty interested in classical music, so I figured it would be a good time. For science, we're busy with our "deck garden", which is coming along nicely. Bob made an impressive pole structure for our beans the other day. We also have a creek not too far from our house, along a little walking path, so I imagine we'll spend plenty of time down there observing. In math, everyone will just continue where they are--Nathan is almost through with Saxon 3, and Luke is almost halfway through Saxon 2. I still haven't decided what Nathan will be doing next. I guess I'd better get on that! We're only halfway through Story of the World 2 (Middle Ages) , so we'll keep plowing on there too. I think we take too much time reading the extra literature and history suggestions in the activity guide! Ah well, there's no hurry. One fun thing we're planning to do is build a castle out of boxes and other stuff like that. It was in the the March issue of Family Fun, and it looks like a really fun project. Nathan loves stuff like that, and he's been collecting the various parts since we got the magazine! We're also planning on having a "medieval feast" party maybe in July. Since we don't really have birthday parties with lots of other people, this will kind of be our one big celebration where we invite kids over. For Latin, we're going to do a fun thing over the summer. It's called Minimus, and it combines Latin language instruction with Roman history in a cartoon-like format. It looks fun, and I think it will be a nice break while helping the boys retain what they learned from Prima Latina. Then in the fall, we'll start Latin Christiana. We probably won't do much formal grammer this summer, but I am planning on continuing to work with Nathan on his abominable spelling! So that will give you a little summary of our summer school plans!

Vacation Plans

In the latest issue of Kiplinger Magazine , there's an article about saving for vacations. They highlight a family with one child who have saved $5,000 for their annual vacation to Florida. That is a really great thing, saving so much money like that, but I think I would have a heart attack if we ever spend even half that much on a vacation. Instead we prefer a plan I like to call "government-sponsored vacations". Bob has some training out in Colorado this summer, so we'll be driving out there for 2 weeks. The Air Force will pay us to drive (since they'll be saving the cost of a rental car), and they'll pay for our hotel too, as well as give us per diem for food. What a deal! Now it will take us 3 days to drive out there, and they only give one travel day, so Bob will have to use some leave, but that's literally a small price to pay. We're all so excited about going back to Colorado. We still have friends there, and of course there are so many things to do. For sure we'll stop by the Air Force Academy to see our old house and stock up on USAFA apparel. Nathan can't wait to go to the North Pole Amusement Park . We last went on his third birthday. It's a great place for kids. We'll also be sure to go to the Flying W Ranch for dinner and to hear the Flying W Wranglers sing. Those are some of our favorite places, and there are many more. We'll see what else we can fit in after Bob's training is over each day. Much more relaxing and cheaper than fighting the crowds at hot Disney World this summer! : )

Monday, May 16, 2005

Welcome to the 21st century!

We got cell phones today! Bob and I each have one, and they even work at our house! We went with Sprint, since that's the only one that seems to work here for any of our neighbors, and we got 2 phones. I guess we're about the last people in the US to get these (the people in the Sprint store were astonished when we said we had never had a cell phone before), and I do see how it will be convenient, but I'm never very excited about adding another monthly bill. At least we get a 10% monthly discount for being credit union members or somesuch. My diaper bag has a cute little holder on the strap for a cell--now I finally have something to put there!

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Pray for Nathan!

Nathan will be taking the Stanford Acheivements Test for the next 3 days with our homeschool co-op group. He did really well last year, so I'm not terribly worried, but sometimes he's just not that careful. Also, his weakest area BY FAR is spelling, and I think they'll test that area Monday.

A Grand Camping Adventure

This weekend we went on a "practice" camping trip with our friends the L's--only one night, to work out the kinks, since it's been almost 4 years since we actually camped. We planned to go to Shenandoah National Park and camp at the Mathews Arms campground. Since it doesn't require reservations, and doesn't have showers, we figured it was more like our kind of camping and it wouldn't fill up as fast. Imagine our surprise as we drove up to the park entrance gate and read the sign which said "Mathew's Arms closed", and the other 2 campgrounds were listed as "Full"! So it turns out that the campground wasn't going to open until May 29, a fact which is listed nowhere on the park website (the site says in several places that the campground opens "mid-May", and since the other campgrounds are already open and taking reservations, and they also were also supposed to open in mid-May, we figured that this one would be open now too). We forgot we were dealing with government beaurocracy, however, and they probably determined different campground opening days by throwing darts at the calender. We paid our entrance fee anyway, and went to the Visitors Center to ask more questions and regroup. The rangers there were apologetic, and they tried to direct us to some commercial campgrounds in Front Royal; you know, the types that have miniture golf, etc., "and a few sites that are in the shade", as the ranger said. No thanks! I knew there was a national forest nearby, so I asked if there were any campgrounds there, and if they would be open. The rangers were surprised but went to call. It turned out they were open, so we ate a picnic in the park, then drove on to seek a good campsite elsewhere. You can't say we aren't flexible! As we drove out, we noticed dark threatening skies ahead, and sure enough, the heavens opened as we drove back through Front Royal and headed west. After some very heavy rain, the sky grew lighter and clearer, and it stopped raining. We found the NFS campground, and we even found 2 good sites next to each other. Our trip was looking up! We started to set up the tents when again the skies grew dark, and another downpour ensued. Bob struggled manfully with the tent, getting it up and covered with the fly so it didn't get drenched inside during all the rain. Of course, HE got soaked! Then the rain lessened, the sky lightened, and behold, a sunny day again! This process repeated itself actually 5 times during the course of the evening. We would finally decided that the sky looked good, we would get the camping chairs back out of the car or tent, or start fixing something like dinner, and then the sky would suddenly darken and the floodgates would open. After several minutes of drenching rain, it would all stop, and we would slowly emerge from wherever we had taken shelter to find the fire sputtering and smoking. Eventually we all just wore ponchos and left the chairs inside the tent (to appease the rain god--"You must stand in my presence"--LOL!). Our master firekeeper, Ed L., certainly had his work cut out for him, espcially since one of the items we forgot was those firestarter sticks. Let's just say our fire was smoky from damp sticks much of the time! Fortunately we had brought firewood, and our first priority when evacuating for these downpours was to save it, so it remained fairly dry.

We were supposed to camp with another set of friends, the B's. They are preparing to move, so it would be one last time to visit. Well, Jeff decided they really didn't want to camp, since they never really had done it before, but they would just meet us at our campsite, eat dinner with us, then drive back that night. Their daughter had a soccer game Saturday afternoon, so they couldn't leave when we did. Elizabeth L. called them while we were still in Shenandoah and told them we were heading to "Elizabeth Furnace", but then they got cut off, and she couldn't get a signal again. We figured the B's would never be able to find us in this remote little NFS campground, so after we got the tents up, Elizabeth and I were planning to drive back into Front Royal until we could get a cell phone signal to call. As we were getting ready to leave, who should drive up but the B's! We were mightily impressed, not only with their navigational skills, but also with their determination, since they were driving through these terrible deluges to find an unknown remote spot in the middle of a forest with no one to guide them! As it turned out, they were the perfect addition to our camping trip. Due to some foresightful procrastination (or the leading of the Holy Spirit!), Dawn B. had 3 garbage bags of clothes destined for Goodwill in the back of their van. Since we were all getting soaked, the extra clothes came in very handy. At one point Jeff emerged from the back wearing a classy tweed suit jacket, which really set the mood for the evening. The rest of us bemoaned the fact that we had forgotten our dressy camping dinner attire. There were also some sheets in there, which we used to mop up all the water and gravel that puddled in our tents after we kept running in and out of them several times. I doubt even Goodwill really wants those anymore! I think the B's were secretly glad to leave after s'mores and go home where it was dry. We had a great time visiting with them though. We told them they had dropped in on the "Advanced Family Camping" course--it had never been like this before for us!

While all the rain excitement was going on, another drama was also playing out. Caleb ate part of a cookie that turned out to have some peanut pieces in it. He gave it to me and told me he didn't like it, and that's when I realized what was in it. After beating myself up for not being more observant, I gave him some benedryl. He never got hives or anything, so that is a praise. His stomach hurt though, and he did throw up one time. He just sat around for a little while, but then he was fine, praise the Lord. I was scared though.

The kids all had a great time. It's hard to believe this is the first time for both Caleb and Jonathan to go. They dug in the gravel with our construction toys and buckets. The sites were nice, but the nicest part was that the campground had flush toilets! I was shocked! All the NFS campgrounds in CO only had pit toilets. There was also hot water here, and you could take a shower! All we could figure was that the Forest Service gets more money on the East Coast, or maybe they don't have to pay for all those pesky forest fires or something. Anyway, it was a very pleasant surprise, and certainly made the day more enjoyable. All in all, it was a very fun time, with a lot of memories. We all agreed that this camping trip would always be remembered, and it would never blur into any of the other ones! And we really only forgot a very few things--things went very smoothly, even with 8 kids! The hardest part was coming back here and having to unfurl everything all across the front yard to let it all dry (yard sale, anyone?). Bob and the boys are making good use of that time though--they have opened a lemonade stand and are selling cups to all our curious neighbors. Of course, today is a hot sunny day. Oh well!

Thursday, May 12, 2005

New Toothpaste

Well, I'm sure everyone has been dying to know what is happening in my great toothpaste experiment. To refreash your memories, I have suffered from horrible cankersores for years and years, but some internet research that I did recommended switching toothpastes to one that did not have sodium lauryl sulfate. That does not include any that you might find at a place like WalMart, so I had to venture out to our local health food store. There I found Doctor Burt's Lavender and Mint Toothpaste, which is made by the Burt's Bees company. It proudly states "No sodium lauryl sulfate!" on its label, so I figured it was exactly what I was looking for. It smells good, sort of like an herbal tea , but unfortunately that is also exactly what it tastes like when you use it to brush--very bitter! So far it has received a thumb's down from all the boys as well as Bob (the only one who actually brushed with it). I never really thought much about the importance of "foaming agents" in my toothpaste, but it turns out to really make quite a difference. I don't feel like my mouth is really *clean* after I brush anymore, so I'm ending up using a lot of mouthwash too. But I'm definitely going to keep with it. When I started using it, I had 2 cankersores that were beginning to get big at the front of my mouth. To my surprise, they just sort of disappeared. They never peaked at the huge, raging stage like they usually do. I'm sold! And I haven't had any more since then. In a way, it makes sense--when I start to have canker sores, I brush my teeth ALL THE TIME because mouth acid is irritating to the sores, so I want that clean just-brushed taste in my mouth. But if the toothpaste itself is actually an irritant, then the sores will just get bigger and bigger, and I would keep getting more of them, which is always what happened. Praise the Lord! It's hard for me to even imagine life without cankersores, but I'm so thrilled with this relief!

Monday, May 09, 2005

"Design on a Dime" Wannabe

I'm a big fan of the HGTV show Design on a Dime. The designers have a budget of $1,000 to make over a room or something, and they always end up doing something that looks great but stays within budget by just whipping together a few pieces of furniture or light fixtures--you know, stuff any average Joe could do (not!). Well, for Christmas we got Nathan and Luke each a "Crusader" set of plastic armor, which all the boys have loved. In fact, the armor has been TOO well-loved, and the breastpieces have cracked in half due to being stepped on. So I came up with the bright idea of making some armor out of some sort of fabric so it would stand up to typical battle abuse here in the house. We trotted off to Joann's Fabrics last week to see what we could come up with. We went all through the store, and I though I was going to have to go with plain black vinyl because I just didn't see anything else that would be sturdy enough or looked enough like armor. But I couldn't figure out how I could attach straps to the vinyl. We wandered over to the upholstery part as I looked for some kind of tack or something. Then I spotted it--a roll of upholstery fabric that was black underneath but had silver intertwined all over it. Picture something used to cover seats in cars maybe 10 or 15 years ago--that sort of a design. It looked exactly like chain mail! I was quite excited, and it was only $6.96 a yard. When the lady cut a yard and then unfolded the fabric, she realized that there was actually a big piece missing from the other half, but there wasn't enough left to just cut a second yard. So she asked me if I could still use what she had cut, and she said she would give me a big discount. Of course I said sure! She gave me 50% off! I spent Friday cutting the material into 4 breastplate-like shapes and sewing elastic to make little armholes. Hmm, it's hard to explain. It looks sort of like an apron with thicker shoulder straps and elastic under the arms so it stays on. Anyhow, it does look like armor, and the boys are so happy! So I made 4 breastplates, and it cost less than $5.00 (counting the elastic). Success--I AM a successful "Design on a Dime" graduate!

Caleb in particular is going through a real "King Arthur" phase. By that I mean he IS King Arthur. We have one book called "Tales of King Arthur" which I picked up off a Barnes and Noble bargain books table awhile ago. He has paged through that so many times, and now everything is referenced back to that book.

Me: "Time to take a bath, Caleb."

Caleb: "King Arthur doesn't take baths, Mom."

Me: "Yes, he did."

Caleb: "No, there are no pictures of him taking a bath in the King Arthur book."

Me: "Well, when his mom told him to take a bath, then he took a bath!"

It's not that Caleb doesn't like baths, he just can't do anything that King Arthur wouldn't do (since he IS king Arthur). The book shows Arthur wearing a cape, so Caleb ties a red bandana around his neck for that. Arthur always wears boots, so Caleb wears his cowboy boots. With his armor on and carrying his shield and sword, the picture is really one of a "cowboy" King Arthur. I guess my next trip to Joann's will be to look for material suitable for a kingly cape (on a budget of only $4.00 or less--just kidding!).

Friday, May 06, 2005

Public Service Announcement

We are a homeschooling family with 4 young boys. We have a lot of family and friends spread out across this country, and this blog is primarily a way to keep them updated on our family. If our family and way of life does not interest you, then you are not our primary audience! Here is some advice: Take a walk! Volunteer! Learn a new language! Do a crossword puzzle! Read a good book! Life is too short to be chained to your computer, reading a blog that doesn't interest you! But if you ARE interested in getting to know us, and are not afraid to tell us who you are, then we welcome you and look forward to getting to know you better too. In the meantime, the "Anonymous" comment feature is back off. Who needs to deal with the mildly offensive comments of anonymous strangers?! : )

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Congratulations, Nathan!

Our homeschool co-op group has been taking the Presidential Physical Fitness Test the last two Tuesdays. The first Tuesday they met at the church and did most of the events, like the push-ups, sit-ups, and so on. This past Tuesday we met at a local park so they could do the run, and they also had the chance to redo some of the other events if they wanted to try to better their scores. Nathan and Luke had to run a quarter mile, and Nathan ran his in 1:46, while Luke was not far behind at 1:54. Nathan chose to redo a few events (push-ups and the shuttle run), and by doing those and raising his scores there, he qualified for the Presidential Physical Fitness Award, the highest level! Yay, Nathan! Luke was pretty close to getting a National Award, but he chose to play on the playground instead of trying some more situps! Here are the standards that Nathan had to meet (he's 7, in case you forgot!). He was pretty happy, but I think I was even more excited. This is a measurable thing that I can pass on to Bob's parents when we see them this weekend! Bob used to be a Presidental winner too, so I know they've heard of the program. I could really tell that the track team has helped Nathan and Luke, not only in their running, but also in their flexibility and stomach strength. Nathan just said today that he hopes they can run on the team again next year. They got their uniforms on Monday, which they were so excited about. They would wear them everywhere if they could! Hey, I'll have to take some pictures! : )

Monday, May 02, 2005

Another Birthday!

Today is a special day--my husband's birthday! And he turns 40! We've been married almost 12 years now, and the longer we are married, the more I can see that he is just the right man for me. He's a fun, life-of-the-party kind of guy (and I certainly am not), but I can tell that I am more outgoing and confident since we've been married! Also, I don't like confrontation at all (still don't, really), but I used to not even be able to return things to stores without total embarrassment. That's all changed, thanks to influence of my bold "the customer is always right" husband! He encourages me and supports me in our homeschooling, and just in being a stay-at-home mom, which is so important to me. He's a good provider, a faithful husband, and a loving daddy to our boys. These next few years of transition are going to be stretching times for us, but I am confident they will eventually bring our family even closer together. Happy birthday, Bob! I hope we celebrate many, many more of them together! : )

Sunday, May 01, 2005

A New Love For Philately

First of all, does everyone even know what "philately" is? It is the hobby of "stamp-collecting", and we are new initiates. For CHristmas, Nathan recieved from Uncle Dan, via Grandma, a whole bunch of old loose stamps, letters with stamps on them, etc., as well as 2 stamp collecting albums (is that even the right word?). Nathan has looked thorugh the books, but we never actually got around to putting any more stamps in the books. Yesterday afternoon, he brought down the whole kit and caboodle, and asked if we could work on it. I said we'd start by sorting the loose stamps into groups, figuring that was a safe place to start, since I didn't really ahve a clue as to how to actually go about putting the stamps into the albums. So we all started sorting, and you know, it was fascinating! There were all these countries we couldn't even figure out ("Magyar", "Republik Maluku Selatan", "Helvetia"), as well as ones we could make guesses about but were obviously pretty old ("Ceskoslovensko", "Republik Osterreich"). There were several from the old Soviet Union and East Germany. Overall, we must have sorted over 200 loose stamps--it took several hours, and I actually broke away in the middle of it to go to the library for a stamp book to answer all our questions! The only book they had though was just a stamp atlas, so while it was helpful in determining some of the countries' old names, it didn't answer a lot about the stamps themselves, and there were still some countries we couldn't get. I did some internet research last night, and discovered that "Republik Maluku Selatan" was actually some islands who didn't want to become part of the Republic of Indonesia. They issued 130 different stamps between 1950 and 1954, but since they were never actually a country, the stmaps aren't recognized anywhere. We've got tons of them here though, including the one at the bottom of that link. Interesting! We're just gluing the stamps into the book because all of ours (except the ones from Maluku!) have been canceled, so they're not pure, mint collecting ones. The pictures and designs on old stamps are so interesting, and you just have to wonder about the letters they took around the world. Here's a trivia question for you--what country has no country name on their stamps, and why not? (I'll tell the answer at the end.) I asked my mom last night where we got all these stamps, and she said they were all on letters that came to her and Dad! I said I really didn't think they could be, unless she had tons of pals in East Germany, as well as over in "Jugoslavija", and what were they doing corresponding with a whole bunch of Cubans? Then she said she thought they might be from our old neighbor in Xenia, Miss Evelyn, who gave them to Dan. Does that sound right, Dan? It certainly is an eclectic collection, and it's been alot of fun going through. This afternoon, the boys wanted to do some more. Luke is busy gluing in the stamps from "Magyar" (I'm sure everyone immediately recognized that as "Hungary"), of which there are enough for several pages, and Nathan is starting to go through the more modern ones that actually are from Grandma and Grandma, from their extensive international correspondence. This will really add to our Africa and Asia pages! I'm sure whenever anyone comes to visit, you will be invited to see this collection! And now for out trivia answer: the only country with no name on their stamps is Great Britain. They were the first country to issue postage stamps, in 1840, so they didn't need a country name, and the tradition still continues.