Monday, July 31, 2006

Anna is 4 months old!

Well, she was actually 4 months old Friday, and this picture was taken Sunday, while she was wearing a cute dress from her Aunt Amy, but you get the idea. I can't keep her hands out of her mouth! Must be teethin'.

Today she had her 4 month well-baby appointment, and for those interested, she is 15 pounds (even), and 26 inches long. This puts her in the 75th percentile for height and the 50th percentile for weight. Those are big numbers for a child of ours. I do hope she doesn't turn out to inheirit the "big" genes of the family, while all the boys are skinny and short!

Ths doctor pronounced her healthy. He also gave me a nice lecture on starting solid foods. The whole spiel--"start with rice cereal, then 2 weeks later, add vegetables--orange ones first . . . then 2 more weeks, and start fruit . . .blah, blah, blah" I mean, it was pretty detailed! I kept nodding my head, saying, "Yes, that's what I've always done", etc., but there was no stopping him! When he finally wrapped it all up and left, Nathan said, "Why did he tell you all that about solid food? Didn't he see that you have 4 other kids here, so you must know what to do?" LOL!

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Introducing Nathan, Camper Extraordinaire

We picked up Nathan yesterday morning. Here are some of his thoughts on his Camp Caleb experience.

It was the most fun I have ever had in my life. It was like White Sulphur Springs, but better. We did a lot more stuff. Erich and Zach were the counselors for the boys. There were 2 girl couselors too, Anna and someone else. I liked them all. I didn't want to leave.

Monday: Every morning, we stayed in our beds and read our Bibles. Then after breakfast we had a little play that 2 leaders did about some spiritual thing. We went to the picnic pond, and we fished and then canoed and kayaked. Then we went to the playground, and then back to the cabins for "toes-up" time. This is like rest time, when we listened to "Adventures in Odyssey". We also listened to that before we went to sleep at nighttime. After "toes-up" time, we went to the big hill by the horse pasture, and we went down a huge big water slide. They put a big strip of plastic down, with a baby pool at the bottom of it. I slid down so fast that I slid way out of the pool and got burn marks on my tummy. It was fun! Then we went back and ate dinner. After dinner we had "walk and talk", where we walk somehwere and talk about a Bible story with our counselor. Then we would come back and have a campfire, where the leaders would ask a question about the story we talked about in "walk and talk" or maybe about the skit we had in the morning. This night, after I went to bed, I started not feeling good. I threw up in the port-a-potty. Then I felt better. My couselor, Erich, helped me.

Tuesday: We did the "Mohawk Walk". This is a course of logs and wires that we had to cross without falling off. It was very hard, but half of us made it, including me. We had to work together, and one staff person helped us. After that, we did the rock climbing wall. After "toes-up" time, we went to Promise Pond for a swim. After dinner, we did our "walk and talk", and after that was done, we did a treasure hunt. We got our first clue, which said, "An old man with a giant bear once told me that he promised you that if you got wet, you would find treasure." We went to Promise Pond, and we found our next clue. It said, "The same old man with a giant bear grows corn, and he said that you would find a paper bag in the cornfield next to Camp Caleb Kingdom." So we went there and found a WalMart bag with the next clue. It said, "An Indian shot the old man with the bear. He invites you to his tee-pee." So we went to the tee-pee behind the pavilion in Camp Caleb Kingdom, and there were rocks in it. We found the next clue under a rock. The clue said, "The Indian sends you off with best wishes. He asks you to find his brother's walk, a place of ropes and wires and walls. There you will quench your thirst." So we went to the Mohawk Walk, and first we had popsicles, but then we found the next clue. This one was spelled backwards. It told us to go to the rock climbing wall. There we heard the voice of one of the "gofers" (a staff person who wasn't with us all the time). He told us to look for the blue boulder, where the next clue was. We had to climb up to get it. The clue said, "Go to the place where you fished, there is a playground, and you canoed." So we went to the other pond. (But before we did htis one of the campers had to go back to the cabin because he was having a bad attitude and not obeying. He missed out on the rest of it.) There we found our cooks, dressed up as aliens! They used their senses to find the "X" (since they were the ones that buried it!), and we dug up the treasure box. It was a green plastic tub, and it had dessert in it! It was a big flat pan cookie, covered with chocolate sprinkled with coconut. Then they put M&Ms, chocolate chips, golbs of peanut butter, and peanuts on top. We also had fruit punch and grape juice. It was really good!

Wednesday: We called this "quad day", because we did 4 things. The first thing was crafts. I painted a small treasure chest and burnt designs on it. Then we went horseback riding. I liked my horse, except when he galloped away and gave me a big scratch on my side when he ran right through the pine tree! After horseback riding, we had "toes-up" time, and then we did archery and riflery. I got to shoot a rifle 4 times and reload it 3 times. I hit the target once! We had to be really careful and follow all the rules.

Thursday: We did stuff by the "Mohawk Walk", like a "Tarzan Swing". We had to swing from one platform to another platform, and the leaders couldn't help us. Everyone was able to do it, even the 2 people who got blindfolded because they fell off the platform before they even could swing (not me though!). Before we started, the rope was up really high, so we had to throw our shoes at it to try to get it down. This knocked it down, but then it was hanging between the 2 platforms, so we took off our shirts and made a rope of them to hit the big rope over to us. Next we had to get to 3 different platforms, from one middle-sized platform, to a really small one, to a bigger one, using 2 boards that we had to put between the platforms. No one made it the whole way without losing the boards because the boards kept falling when we tried to put them down. The girls did a lot better than us. They all made it to the middle platform. After that, we did a teeter-totter thing, where we had to get it totally balanced, and then we all had to get off without it touching the ground. We did it after a lot of tries and some clues from our leaders! Then we had a picnic lunch with all the people at WSS this week at the pond. After "toes-up" time, we packed up our stuff and put our backpacks and suitcases into a truck. Then we hiked with our sleeping bag to Camp Caleb Kingdom, where we slept in the pavilion. There was a rainstorm that night, but we just got a little bit wet. It was mulchy ground with rocks in it, though, so it wasn't very comfortable. Before we went to bed, we looked for crawfish in this little stream that runs through. We found maybe 16 of them, and then we roasted them. We didn't eat them though! This was one of the funnest things we did! The girls didn't do it though.

Friday: When we woke up, we had pop-tarts for breakfast. Then we had a hay ride to the to of the zip-line. They harnessed us in, and we all did the zipline once. I didn't let go, but it was scary, and I might have let go if I wasn't harnessed in! It was so much fun, though. Then Mom came and got me. I was the last person to be picked up.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Tomorrow's the Day!

Tomorrow morning we drive up to White Sulphur Springs to pick up Nathan! We are all pretty excited. Last night a friend of ours, Sheila D., who lives down south a bit, called to say one of her daughters is also there this week, and she offered to pick Nathan up too. I was really tempted, but in the end I decided that we would go ahead and get him. For one thing, he doesn't know these friends all that well, but for another, I am anxious to hear all about his week, and I am afraid he'll tell it all to Sheila, and then that would be that--he'd be out of words!

We've had a good week, but I can really tell someone is missing. It's been so odd to just have the 3 boys running around, and the dynamic is a little different too. There was a lot of bickering the first day between Luke and Caleb, although some of that was probably just tiredness, since it was a big weekend. But since then they've settled down fairly well, and the last 2 days especially have played so well together. We've also done some fun things, like paint and play with play-doh, that we just don't always get around to doing. Last night we went to Chuck E. Cheese. We didn't eat there, but we had a coupon for half-price tokens, so we just went to play. The boys had a great time, but what made it all the better was that our good friends, the McCs, with their 4 boys were also there just to play! They were celebrating their Daniel finishing his kindergarten workbook.

Since we're not doing school this week, I've gotten some stuff done too. I got together all the stuff to send in with our notice of intent to homeschool, and Bob sent that off. I filed all these school papers that were lying around, and I also organized their notebooks for this coming year. I'm just calling it a new year when we start back next week! While I was in Ohio, Bob put up some new shelves in our laundry room (which I use as an auxiliary pantry), so I reorganized the whole pantry to maximize the new shelves. Right now I'm working on my lesson plans for my co-op unit, which is Ancient Greece. To be honest, I kind of felt like it was a vacation for me too. I even exercised every morning AFTER sleeping in! Next week it will be back to the old routine.

One More Parenting Article . . .

. . . although this one would definitely fall under the category of "what not to do". I would entitle it "The World's Most Selfish Woman Discusses Motherhood" . Is it a joke? At first I thought it must be, since the picture of the author and her two boys shows kids who are clearly about 3 and 5, while the article talks about them being 10 and 12. But maybe that's the last time she bothered to sit down and have a picture taken with them. I guess that would be boring to her. Go ahead--read it. I'll wait . . .

Am I a lazy, superficial person because I don't enjoy packing up their sports kit, or making their lunch, or sitting through coffee mornings with other mothers discussing how Mr Science (I can't remember most of the teachers' names) said such and such to Little Johnny and should we all complain to the headmaster.

Well, in a nutshell, yes. She really is. But not because she doesn't want to play with her children all the time or center her entire life around them. I have often said that we consider our children to be welcome additions to our family, but not the center. Although I do play with them, I also teach them how to entertain themselves, and I expect them to do so, so that I can get done all the other things that I have to do, like cook, clean, blog, etc. LOL! I would certainly say that we include our children in our life and our activities, which makes the activities even richer for us, as we experience them also through our childrens' eyes. I simply can't imagine not being there to experience their joys and sorrows, and I would never willingly pass those moments off to a stranger becuase I thought they were boring, since they happened at a soccer game or whatever.

This woman seems to feel that nothing having to do with the raising of children is rewarding. ("And yet many women have spent years studying and then working so that we would not have to do a job as menial as full-time motherhood.") She thinks her kids are boring!! Wow. My children are many things, including exasperating at times, but they are not boring. It is never boring to see them grow and learn. We were playing with Anna a few nights ago. Bob was holding her and every so often he would tap one of her hips. You could practically see the signal traveling along the nerves up to her brain--"Hmm . . . something touched me . . . I should look and see what it is" and her head would slowly turn in that direction. We were cracking up, which made her laugh. No, that is not rocket science, but it sure is fun! This woman seems to feel that only she is interesting. Maybe her colleagues are secretly wishing they didn't have to go out to lunch with her and listen to her talk about her shoe purchases and her hair highlights!

You know, there is absolutely nothing that says a couple has to produce children. There are women who have decided that they enjoy their career too much and so have chosen not to have children, and again, there's nothing wrong with that. But to have not just one child, but two, and then to conclude, IN A NEWSPAPER ARTICLE for heaven's sake, that they are too boring to be bothered with, is so incredibly pathetic as to be beyond words. Maybe her children would have been more interesting if she herself has been more interesting. There's a thought I bet she never had!

This article, if it is in fact not a joke, made me so sad. If her children grow up and have normal family lives with children, I can imagine them telling their own children, "Yes, you do have a grandma. She's in a nursing home because it was boring take care of her. Now we don't ever visit her because it is much too boring to listen to her go on and on about herself and her problems. Without us there, we are simply forcing her to think of more creative ways to entertain herself." What a selfish, shallow woman, and I'm sure she will reap what she has sown.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

So, where is Nathan again?

I forgot to come back and blog about Nathan's camp! He is at Camp Caleb, which is at White Sulphur Springs, the Officers' Christian Fellowship conference center for the East. My family has gone up to WSS during the summer when I was young. It is a hotel with weeks with different speakers, childcare and classes for all ages, and lots of other fun family-oriented activities to round out the week like skit night, a square dance, picnic at the pond, etc. When I was in high school, I worked at WSS on their junior support staff each summer, and those were some of the best times of my life! It was so much fun, but more importantly, I really grew a lot spiritually during those summers. There I started having a daily quiet time and was challenged to read the Bible through for the first time. The high school teachers were always fun young couples who really challenged us spiritually, and were great mentors. I made a lot of really good friends, some of which I still keep in contact with today. Bob also spent some time at WSS working before we started dating. We have not been there during the summer as a family, but we have gone several times for the weekend, especially when the Wright-Pat OCF group has their annual retreat. So Nathan is familiar with the place and loves it too. I really want him to love it as much as I do, so that he will want to go there during his summers, and hopefully grow as much as I did!

Several years ago (at least 10?) they started a new kids' program during the summer. They called it Camp Caleb, and they break it down into 2 different age groups--3rd and 4th grade are Caleb Jr., and 5th-8th are Camp Caleb. The groups go during different weeks of the summer, and they offer each one 3 times. The idea is that the parents and rest of the family can stay at WSS for their vacation, listening to the speakers and doing all the stuff, and their Camp Caleb-aged child would go off to Camp Caleb and do his own thing. But parents don't have to stay, and obviously we didn't! I would love to go some year as a family, but I don't think it would be the most relaxing with a nursing baby. And I've had one of those (or been moving) over quite a few of the past summers!

So Nathan is supposed to be doing typical camp-y type stuff: archery, canoing, rock climbing, horseback riding, swimming, a day at a lake nearby, a hike and an overnight camp outside under the stars, games, etc. From what I heard from Jessica L., who went last week, cleanliness was not a big priority! So it might be a long ride home for all of us clean people Friday! I can't wait to see him and hear all about his adventures. Everyone else is missing him too. Luke said on Sunday, as soon as we got home, "It's going to be a LONG week without Nathan here." Jonathan is very excited to tell him about what a big boy he is now! He is doing so well without his binky at night--no crying at all! Yay! Thank you, Lord! I'll try to get Nathan to guest-blog here when he gets back to fill you in on the highlights.

"What I Wish I Knew . . ."

Yesterday I was directed by someone on the Well Trained Mind board to a parenting article entitled Solving the Crisis in Homeschooling. I thought the title was a bit melodramatic, since I don't personally know any families who have had real crises with their adult homeschooled children, but whenever someone who has grown children looks back and talks about mistakes they have made, I listen! The author, a man named Reb Bradley, is a pastor and has written several parenting books. He has several kids, the oldest 3 of whom are married and out on their own. Apparently, those 3 had some instances of rebellion that really surprised him because he basically thought he had done everything exactly right. As it turned out, the Lord showed him some blind spots that he says are common to homeschooling families. Some of these are more likely to be committed by homeschooling parents, especially ones who are really into sheltering, but others could be problem areas for any family. The article is long, so I am going to summarize his 6 points here by pasting some of his comments under each point. I printed out the whole article (17 pages!) so Bob could read it, and we could discuss it.

Contributing Factors to Rebellion in Young Adults

1. Self-centered dreams

One of the reasons parents homeschool is because they want to accomplish something good in their children. Success in homeschooling requires that academic, moral, and spiritual goals be set. It is only natural for parents to have high hopes and dreams for their children. However, when we begin to see our children as a reflection or validation of us, we become the center of our dreams, and the children become our source of significance. When that happens in our home it affects the way we relate with our children, and subtly breaks down relationship.

2. Family as an idol

We know we have made our family an idol when we put our hope and trust in it more than in God – we look to it rather than God for our identity and significance. And we know we look to our family for our significance when it has the most power to lift us up or to demoralize us. It is most obvious in a public setting when we either glory in our children or become enraged when they embarrass us. Our children are either the source of our pride or our disappointment, depending on whether or not they help us achieve our image of a strong family. A great problem with idolatry is that idols require sacrifice, and we end up sacrificing relationship with our children for the idol of the family. When we elevate the image of the family, we effectively trade our children’s hearts for our reputation.

3. Emphasis on outward form

Preoccupation with results often leads to emphasis on outward form. When we are preoccupied with achieving results it is natural to admire the results others seem to have achieved with their children. We like the way the pastor’s kids sit reverently in the front pew and take notes of their father’s sermon, so we go home and begin to teach our children to sit reverently and to take notes. What we don’t know is that the pastor’s kids conduct themselves with reverence and attentiveness not because he “cleaned the outside of the cup” and simply drilled them to do so -- he lived a genuine love for Jesus that was contagious, and watched as the fruit was born (Matt 23:26). Parents are destined for disappointment when they admire fruit in others and seek to emulate merely that expression of fruit in their own children. Fruit is born from the inside -- not applied to the outside.

4. Tendency to judge

One of the side effects of focusing on keeping the outside of the cup clean is that it becomes easy to judge others by our personal standards. You see, in setting standards for our family, each of us must work through a process of evaluation and analysis to decide what is safe, wise, or permissible. Once we become convinced of our personal standards, not uncommonly, it follows that we believe they should apply to others as well.
One of the things that characterized the Pharisees was that they created their own standards of holiness related to outward appearance, and then belittled others who didn’t hold to their standards. Jesus spent a lot of time exposing the Pharisees for their shallowness and their self-righteousness judgments, yet, many of us homeschoolers have inadvertently followed the Pharisees’ path -- we have overly elevated outward form and we have condescended to those who appear less enlightened . . . Pride is so deceptive that we won’t know our judgments are even judgments. We will think we are just making observations and feeling pity, when in fact, we are looking down on others from our lofty place of confident enlightenment. It is a high view of ourselves that allows us to condescend to and belittle others in our mind. And if you already knew all this, be careful – pride will even cause us to be amazed that others didn’t see what was so obvious to us.

5. Over-dependence on authority and control

When we are preoccupied with outward form our focus tends to become shallow and behavior oriented. We look upon our children as if they are roses that can be trained to grow a certain direction by constant pruning and binding. Subsequently, we rely heavily upon our authority in an attempt to bring our children under our total control. We assume if we give them the Word of God, shelter them from harmful influences, discipline them consistently, and maintain high standards for their outside, that their inside will inevitably be shaped. . . No amount of parental control or restriction will guarantee that a child will turn out exactly as directed. Obviously, our training increases the likelihood our children will cling to the faith when they reach maturity, or turn back to Christ if they do enter a season of rebellion, but our training does not guarantee the desired outcome. . . . I wish Bev and I had understood this when our oldest three were young. We saw them as wet clay that would succumb to our persistent shaping, so we not only taught them, but dominated and controlled them well into their teens. We were chiefly authoritarian in our approach, and rarely saw our children respond to us with disrespect. We weren’t ogres – our home was full of affection – but we relied upon fear of our authority as the main source of motivation for our children. What we didn’t realize was that there is a great difference between intimidating children into subjection and winning their hearts into submission. Intimidating children into subjection merely gains outward compliance. Winning their hearts means gaining greater opportunity to influence their values.

6. Over-reliance on sheltering

[Let me just insert here that this man was, to my way of thinking, an extreme shelterer--very few "approved" videos, no playing with neighbors, no secular publications and very few Christian ones that didn't completely agree with everything this family promoted, no youth group, no harvest parties, etc. He goes more into all that he controlled in the article, and tellingly, he spends most of his time--almost half the article--on this point, so it was obviously a real biggie for him!]

Sheltering our families from bad influences is critical for their safety, but it is possible to become imbalanced and rely too heavily upon sheltering. We do this in a couple of ways.

1. We are imbalanced when sheltering from harm is the predominant expression of our parenting. Are we more concerned with protecting our kids from that which is bad or with putting into them that which is good? I want to ask that again: Are we more concerned with protecting our kids from that which is bad or with putting into them that which is good? Consider that rearing children is like creating a family menu. If we keep them away from all junk food and feed them only prunes, their bodies will respond negatively. Protection from too much junk food is obviously a good idea, but their bodies need balanced nutrition. Physical health is achieved by both avoiding what is harmful and taking in a balance of what is good. To raise spiritually and morally healthy children we need to do the same. We must certainly protect them from harmful influences, but more than that, we must give them that which strengthens them spiritually and morally.
In my case I protected my oldest children from harm more than I invested into them health. I certainly taught my children a great deal about God and Kingdom living – we saturated them with the Word and Kingdom stories. Their lives were full of outreach and ministry, but comparatively, I was most intense about sheltering. I was continually analyzing the effects of every aspect of life, and my children never knew what thing Dad would declare off-limits next. Those parents who aren’t analyzers like me just wait for their favorite teacher to expose for them the next unseen danger to their family. In imbalanced homes parents are most passionate about protecting children from harmful influences, and the children see that passion, then come to view Christianity as mostly about “avoiding bad stuff.” When protection from the world becomes the defining characteristic of Christianity, we shouldn’t be surprised if our kids grow up and forsake the lifeless “religion of avoidance” they learned from us.

2. Sheltering is a critical part of parenting, but if parents keep it their primary focus, the children will grow up ill equipped to handle the temptations in the world.

If we isolate our kids from the world until they are adults they may appear to us to be spiritually minded and strong in character. However, it is how they ultimately engage the world that proves their spiritual resilience. This is because sheltering does not transform the human heart – it merely preserves it, temporarily. Sheltering is nothing more than keeping something flammable away from a fire.

I think for me personally, the biggest problem area for me would be treating the family as an idol. It is so easy to feel validated and measure my success as a parent by the nice comments I get while out with the kids, and it likewise is easy to be very angry when they don't hold to my standards--not because I am so worried about their heart attitudes, but because it is embarrassing to me! So I guess this sin flows right into #4, an emphasis on outward form instead of inward fruit. It is easier to just focus on outward expressions of obedience, but that is not what helps a child really internalize your values.

My high school boyfriend, Craig, was from a family with a real authoritarian father, one who emphasised the outward form of obedience but not the heart attitude. His dad was nice, and there was certainly love in the family, but the dad was so arbitrarily authoritative. He made big decisions as to what the kids could do on the spur of the moment, with no exceptions and no appeals, no trying to make things work or whatever. It was very frustrating to the kids (3 boys and one girl). Also, they were the kind of family that were at church every time the doors were open, but there was not so much an emphasis on the actual relationship with Christ--just the outward appearance of good. All of the children rebelled at some point, Craig starting our senior year of high school (after we broke up--I kept him on the straight and narrow, LOL!!). Interestingly, the end of our sophomore year or beginning of our junior year, Craig was not nominated to the National Honor Society, which was a big surprise, since his grades were just fine. But our math teacher, Mrs. Bragg, told him that she could see a spirit of rebellion in him and that she didn't consider him to be a good leader, so she didn't let him in. (In a nutshell that's what she said, LOL! Not those exact words!) We were so shocked, and I didn't believe her, but as he starting showing outward signs of rebellion a year later, I was pretty amazed by her insight because she was exactly right. And now, seeing how the rebellion of the rest of his family, I would have to say that his father shares in the blame for it, although of course, each child is responsible for their own decisions ultimately.

So anyhow, an interesting article, one that I encourage you to read in its entirety. It's always good to hear from those who have gone before and can tell us pitfalls to avoid!

Monday, July 24, 2006

More excitement . . .

. . . this time involving a toilet, so you know it was not the GOOD kind of excitement! We have a water damage spot on our ceiling over our island from a small leak that was in the toilet in Nathan and Luke's bathroom. Bob fixed it awhile back, and the spot has never changed. Until this morning, that is. When Bob went downstairs to leave for work, he noticed that the paint was sort of bubbling on the spot, so he headed up to look at the bathroom. The floor around the toilet was wet, so he hollered at me to put a towel down, and he would look at it after work (he had training today). I put the towel down and didn't think much more about it until lunchtime, when all of a sudden there was a cascading stream of water from out of the recessed light above the island. YUK! I grabbed a dirty cereal bowl from the counter, then a can from under the sink to catch the water, which was splattering all over the kitchen. I ran out and hunted up a bucket in the garage, and then I ran back upstairs to see what had happened. The towel was sopping wet, but no one had flushed or anything. I couldn't even call Bob to get his advice, since he was gone in training all day! Fortunately he called not long after that to see how my day was going--"not so good anymore"--and he told me to turn off the toilet (why didn't I think of that right away?!) and flush to get the water out of the tank. I did, and the deluge petered down to a dribble, then a drip, and then finally away to nothing at all. The leak is at the place where the metal tube thing (I don't want to get all technical on you, LOL) comes into the tank. Hopefully he can just replace that, but the ceiling will have to be addressed as well. So! How exciting! Another plumbing project! Maybe the Lord is pushing Bob to consider becoming a plumber after retirement, LOL! In the meantime, the toilet is just off. That is one of the benefits of having 3 bathrooms upstairs--there is no lack of toilets, even with one down!

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Relative-ly Speaking

Today was an interesting day. But before we talk about today, we have to back up and talk about yesterday! Yesterday we got up early and drove to Pennsylvania, for the annual reunion of Bob's family. We started going to these about 3 years ago, and we have had a lot of fun getting to know these distantly-related cousins, once, twice, or how-ever many times removed. Bob's dad is one of 6 siblings, the only one still alive, and all of his siblings had prolific families, so there are a lot of people at these things. Each year there are people there that we have never met, and I can never keep their relationship to Bob straight. I need someone to make a huge family tree with everyone on it, but that seems unlikely to happen, unfortunately. This year it was at Bob's "Aunt" Peggy's house (really a cousin, but a lot older). She has a lovely in-ground pool,a nd the fact that it was raining off and on during the day did not keep the kids from enjoying the swimming! The water was heated to about 95 degress, so it was definitely warmer in there than outside, which was a cool mid-70's!.

It was the first time for most of Bob's immediate family to see Anna, not to mention all these other distant relatives, and she was her usual happy self, charming everyone with her big smiles. I hardly had to hold her except for nursing! I brought the bouncer seat, but, silly me, I needed it not a bit.

Today we went to Bob's parents' house for a few minutes before heading over to a big state park for the 16th birthday party of Bob's niece Sara. The party started at 1:00, and we knew things could get tricky because we needed to leave around 2:00. Nathan was going to Camp Caleb at White Sulphur Springs (more on that later), and we had to drop him off by 4:00 (the letter we got gave stern instructions about there being no late arrivals, and this IS a camp for Christian military kids, so . . .). Fun was had at the playground, on a hiking trail down to a lake, and on a big slide, and then we grabbed a quick bite to eat. So far so good. Two o'clock came quickly, and I started to get everyone ready to go. Bob's brother Dennis, who we don't get to see that often, was there, and right around 2:00, his sister Jane came in also. Since his sisters Ann and Rose were already there, as was his brother Paul (Sara's father), this meant that this was one of the very few occasions that all the siblings were at the same place (I can think of only one other time in our 13 years of marriage). I pushed for some pictures to be taken, which did happen, although at a snail's pace! It was a historic time though! Then I started hustling everyone out to the car so we could leave. But unfortunately it wouldn't be a visit without some sort of hysteria to end things up with, and this time Jane decided that she had to give presents to Nathan and Jonathan for their birthdays. We had seen her all day yesterday as well, so there were other opportunities. By this time it was close to 2:30, and we knew we had to leave or we would not have a chance at making the time for Nathan. That's when things got really ugly so quickly I'm not even sure exactly how it happened. Jane started saying that we DID have time for these presents and dragging the boys off to her car, Bob told them to get into our car, she started cussing, well, let's just say it was a very awkward situation amde worse by the fact that we really did need to go, and even if we had had all day, we would not have been able to fit the presents in the van. Sigh. They were 3 really big boxes, but of course, we are toting around all Nathan's camp stuff, plus our suitcase, pack-n-play, bouncer seat, etc. We had no extra room! Augggh! I hate confrontation! As we drove off, leaving a mass of people milling around, I told Bob my ears were burning since I knew we were being roundly cursed. The thing was, we had told everyone several times about how we had to leave around 2:00. We didn't just spring that on them! Big sigh. We'll have to see how it all sorts out. And so another good visit ends with a bang. Exciting.

Just to wrap things up, we were only 5 minutes late to drop off Nathan, praise the Lord, and it wasn't a big deal. The whole dropping-off thing was kind of hectic and chaotic, since Anna was hollering to be fed, everyone needed to go potty, and Jonathan had just had an accident (the reason we were 5 minutes late, LOL). I never even really got to say goodbye! But I put pictures in his Bible of all of us, and I put little notes in his pocket (if he finds them, or even changes clothes, LOL), so that makes me feel better. He has been so incredibly excited about going, so off he went without even a backwards glance! I'll blog more tomorrow on exactly what he'll be doing, etc. But for now, I am pooped, and I still need to nurse Anna once more. We're pretty much all fried, so hopefully we'll all sleep well. Well, maybe not Jonathan. You see, I picked this week to give up his binky, since Caleb could sleep in Nathan's bed with Luke, and there would be no one else in Jonathan's room to be disturbed by him if he has a hard time of it! And he has hard a bit of a hard time going off to sleep. I'm hoping that he will just be SO tired however, that he will be able to do it with no problems. I'll report on our night tomorrow too!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Can you hear anything?!

Neither can I. Ahhh. Bob has taken the boys swimming, Anna is napping, and I am eating a salad for dinner in complete silence. The things you take for granted before you have kids, LOL. I love to eat a meal with just my own thoughts for company, but that very rarely happens around here . Not that I don't love my children and appreciate their curious little minds, but sometimes silence is just so nice. Ahhh.

Bob should get some kind of award. He's been taking the boys swimming all by himself quite a few times lately. I'm not sure what to do with Anna, so I haven't gone (well, that, and there's also my post-pregnancy tummy that is shunning swim suits, LOL). But back to Anna--it's 100 degrees here, so I can't really just leave her in her stroller while we swim (which is what we did back in June when the pool first opened). She'll melt! Or at the very least be uncomfortable and unhappy. They don't make swim diapers small enough for her (at least I haven't seen any), so I can't even just sit in the baby pool with her in my lap. And I would be terrified to just hold her in my arms in the big pool, which would in any case still have the diaper issue to resolve. Of course, swimming is not really my thing (but sitting at home in silence is, LOL!), so frankly I don't feel like I'm missing out, but Bob did remind me that we did pay for my pass, so I should be using it. Any creative solutions?

Monday, July 17, 2006

There we were!

This is obviously our wedding day. I was 20, and although Bob looks like he was the same age, he was actually all of 28. He still looks young! My bouquet was huge and just as heavy as it looks. But someone made it for me for just the price of the silk flowers, so I am grateful. My wedding tip for brides is, however: go with a light bouquet. Nothing magnifies shaking hands more than a huge, heavy bouquet.

I must say here that I scanned this picture in all by myself! It's not my favorite one of the 2 of us, but it was close at hand, so I grabbed it to experiment with. And it worked! Wow! I'm so proud!

Happy Anniversary to Us!

Today marks 13 years since Bob and I were married at Chapel 2, back at Wright-Patterson AFB. When I read about the average wedding today costing $28,000, I have to laugh--ours was certainly nowhere near that! We did things on a shoestring, but it all turned out well. Many, many people helped, such as Aunt Claire , who flew out a few weeks ahead of time. Other people were our friends Tim and Amy, who we are again stationed with here in Northern Virginia. A friend of ours at church was astonished to find out that Amy knew us before we had been married! I told her that the military Christian world was a small one! Tim was a saber-bearer, and Amy helped make food for the reception. Ed L. videotaped the whole thing, and his son Anthony was the ring-bearer. Now he's at the Air Force Academy. Where does the time go?!

When I look back at pictures from that day, I remember how much I felt that I was in a play--I was all dressed up, playing a role. It felt so unreal! And when I look at Bob, I think, "I hardly even knew the man! How could I make these vows?!!" And while it's true that now I know him much better, I did know back then the essential parts of his character--he is an honorable, faithful man of integrity who loves the Lord and me and is committed to both. So although we've had rough patches, our marriage has survived and grown. This past year was hard, as we are facing the transition of retiring from the Air Force, and we aren't completely sure what the Lord has for us. I can say right now, however, that I feel we are once again at least facing in the same direction, on the same page! We will see what next year holds, glad that we're holding each other through it!

Saturday, July 15, 2006


Today I went to the Northern Virginia Home Educators Conference . It's not anywhere near as big as the HEAV one, but it's close! Things started out a bit stressfully, as I had planned to be there at 8:30 or so for the start of the used book sale, but yesterday afternoon Bob got involved in some real estate stuff with our next door neighbors (don't get too excited--nothing panned out, although it did waste a lot of time!), so he had to go into the office this morning. So 9:00 found me calling my friend Christine M., who has herself 4 boys, to see if she wouldn't mind watching my 4 while I shopped for a few hours. Even though she is also taking care of 2 other kids for 10 days (which I had forgotten about), she immediately said that it would be no problem. What a friend!! Nine boys, 9 and under, and one girl of about 11. That's a houseful!

I was so excited to find at the used book sale the core book for Classical Writing: Aesop for $10. It's such a little-known program outside of classical circles that I never dreamed I would see it at a small used book sale! So now all I need to order are the student book and instructor's guide. I also bought several books for Nathan to read. I found several good biographies, such as that of Hudson Taylor and Eric Liddell. I've been thinking that the boys would enjoy watching Chariots of Fire (in fact, I put it on our Amazon list not too long ago), so maybe we can do that after reading the book. I was pleased to find Saxon 6/5 pretty cheaply. I might skip Saxon 5/4 (which I do also have) and just start Nathan next year in 6/5. I paged through it, and I think he would be just fine with that. I found some other miscellaneous stuff, like a teacher's idea guide for ancient Greece. I already have one, but this one was different, so I picked it up too. Our group of teachers (for the Greece co-op unit) has a meeting on Monday, so maybe someone else will be able to borrow one if needed. We renewed our Home School Legal Defense Association membership at the convention too. This time, we bit the bullet and bought a lifetime membership--normally $1,000, but only $900 today! Each year costs about $100, so all we need to do is homeschool 9 more years to make that work in our favor. Since we keep producing more littles, I don't think that will be a problem!

I was very pleased to see more vendors there this year. One of the new ones was Memoria Press , from whom we buy our Latin materials. I bought Andrew Campbell's new book entitled The Latin-Centered Curriculum. I belong to a yahoo group that he co-moderates, and I have been looking forward to reading this book for awhile now. I've already started it, and it does an excellent job of arguing for why we are choosing to school in the manner that we are. I'm sure I'll blog more on that later.

Another vendor was Classical Academic Press, which publishes another very popular Latin Curriculum, Latin For Children. It is much talked about on the Well Trained Mind boards, and so I have often wondered if I was doing the right thing in sticking with Latin Christiana. However, after examining Latin For Children, I came away convinced that we are doing the right thing for our family with LC. Latin For Children has more "fun" things, like games, puzzles, Latin readers, etc., that I am sure would go over well here, but it also moves at a much quicker pace and seems to get harder a lot quicker. I think Luke would have a hard time keeping up, whereas he is doing just fine with the pace of LC. It's always nice to be reinforced on one's curriculum decisions!

I did have one rather stressful thing happen. I bought 2 more "Miller" books, which are character-building stories involving a Mennonite family. When I got home and emptied out my big rolling backpack, the books were nowhere to be found. I could hardly believe it, but it looked like I had paid by check, and then left without the books, or else I didn't immediately put them in my backpack, and then laid them down at my next stop. Oh no! I was already feeling very frazzled by the day, but I remembered that my friend Kim U. was there, so I called her cell phone and asked her to go back to the booth to see if I had left the books there after I paid. They weren't there, which didn't surprise me, so she even went around to a few more booths to see if the books were there. What a great friend! Thank you so much, Kim!! They weren't, and so I resolved to just forget about it. But my mind just wouldn't let it go, I think because I just couldn't understand how it would have happened! I'm not usually so careless! So my afternoon was pretty much wasted as I tried to remember exactly what had transpired after I paid, to see what might have distracted me or whatever. All for exactly $12.60. Anyhow, when Bob got home from the real estate office at 6:30 (he had gone back in almost as soon as we had gotten home, and he had taken the van), I decided to just check the stroller in the back of the van to see if maybe, just maybe, I had put them in the basket under the stroller, although I had absolutely no recollection of ever bending down there. Well, as soon as I lifted the stroller up to take it out, I saw the white plastic bag underneath it. And then I remembered that I thought the books wouldn't FIT into my backpack, so I just looped the bag over my wrist and held it that way until I got to my car. Evidently I put the stroller down on top of the bag and promptly forgot all about that. Good grief! What a nitwit! I guess it is reassuring to know that I haven't started acting crazy and out-of-character in public places yet--just at home, where my memory is like a sieve! LOL! I need more sleep. And I'm off to get some! Goodnight! : )

Such a sweet brother

Luke: It's so nice to have a baby in the house again."

Isn't that the sweetest thing to say?! He said it as he was carrying Anna from her room. He had picked her up out of her crib because she was fussing around as I was trying to get everyone ready for bed. Of course, he is all of 7, and he has 3 younger siblings, so you could argue that there really has been very little time that we HAVEN'T had a baby in the house since he was born! But it's so nice to know that he is happy about this fact! I told him that having such helpful big brothers made it very nice and easy to have another baby in the house. Nathan has begun wiping Jonathan's bottom if I am otherwise occupied when he goes. Wow. At 9, I certainly had no thought about taking care of anyone else's bottom! I'm telling you, they're going to make great dads. That's my hope and prayer, anyway.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Nathan's Birthday Party

Here is the birthday boy himself, a big nine year old boy! It amazes me that he is halfway done with his time at home with us. How did it go so fast?!

This is his cake--"dueling lightsabers". I thought it turned out pretty well, all things considering. I must give credit here to Amy for supplying me with a toy lightsaber for my model!

A Rainy Fourth of July

Here we are at the Fairborn 4th of July parade. It was a rainy day, but we were sporting our stylish umbrellas. Both Melinda and I had in our cars our umbrellas from college, which were pulled into action here. You can't tell, but the boys all had on their patriotic t-shirts and were very cute.

Anna wore a cute Winnie-the-Pooh dress from Amy's next door neighbor for her first 4th of July. It's the only item of clothing that fits right now that isn't pink or purple! She enjoyed chewing on it, as you can see in the first picture. The bouncer seat she is in is one that we got at a yard sale in Colorado before I had Nathan. It has been well used since then! We got a new bouncer seat at a shower, so I am leaving this one at Mom's house. But I have pictures of all the boys in there, so I figured Anna shouldn't be left out!

Aunt Amy and Anna

Here is my best friend Amy with Anna. I can not believe that this is the ONLY picture I took of them! Arrrgg! Anna's not even awake! I guess I was just having too much fun actually visiting the other times we were together to take pictures. : (

Family Picture

Here's a picture to get things started. Again, I can't seem to upload more than one at a time! Oh well. Curse this slow dial-up! This is right before we left to drive back home.

Homeschool Progress Report

Well, I still haven't gotten around to posting pictures, I just remembered. Maybe later this afternoon. But in the mean time, I thought I'd give a report of where we are right now with our homeschooling. We received the boys' test scores right after we got back home, and they both did really well, despite all my worries to the contrary. Yay! What a relief! We're still finishing up some things from last year, and for some things we're just kind of in the middle of them (like Luke is in the middle of a third grade math book), so we're just keeping on keeping on. I like to keep everyone on a routine, even in the summer, and we take a lot of breaks during the year, so it's not like I'm a slave master!

One subject that the boys really need to keep up on is Latin. I make up Latin review sheets for Latin Christiana ever Friday, so I printed off a bunch of old ones and took them to Ohio for the boys to do some of the mornings. We're only a little more than halfway through Latin Christiana, but we're moving slowly and reviewing lots because Luke especially is pretty young for it. A 2 year plan works fine for me.

I am planning on starting a new writing program this year called Classical Writing. It will incorporate a lot of grammar in it, but we're still going to do a regular grammar program--Shurley grammar for Luke (mainly because I already have it), and Easy Grammar 4/5 for Nathan. I guess I should actually get around to ordering Classical Writing then, LOL!

I went to a meeting of the homeschool support group Monday night. The theme was "Things to do during summer", which I wasn't that excited about. But it turned out to be a wonderufl meeting, very convicting, and exactly what I needed. My friend Christine led it, and she talked about how by April every year, everyone is just sort of tired and she's gotten pretty blase about discipline standards--not that the kids are "bad", but they could be doing better. So she's using the summers to reset the bar, so to speak. This summer they are working on the ever-popular and always-needed "first-time obedience with a happy heart", as well as speaking to one another in God-honoring ways, treating each other kindly, table manners, learning to take initiative and do things without being told or reminded--everything she mentioned were things that I had been seeing as lacking around here lately too. The funny thing was that she started out by talking about the story of Eli, who was punished by God for failing to restrain his sons, and so in effect, honoring his sons more than God. I had blogged about that very story a few months ago here. So yesterday we didn't do regular schoolwork, but I read the story of Eli in I Samuel 2 and 3, and we went through many Bible verses with the boys about speech and actions in particular, talking about how we should be treating each other. I'm having them memorize Eph. 4:32 for a start "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." Yesterday was a really good day--we'll see if we can keep to the newly raised standards without much fuss! It's always easy the first few days . . . I am motivated though--as Christine told us, and I told the boys, "I don't want to be an Eli!"

Well, it's lunchtime, but as I think over last year's progress and decide on next year's plan for other subjects, I'll update more. Spelling, in particular, is still an unresolved problem.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Trip Wrap-up

Well, we made it home safely Friday night. I've just been busy and haven't been able to get to the computer! Bob left the house pretty clean, but there is something about when the boys step into the house that just makes it disintegrate into chaos and confusion. So yesterday and today were spent trying to get it into some semblance of order. Tomorrow will be laundry. Hre's a wrap-up of the last few days of the trip:

Tuesday (Fourth of July): We went with Dan and Melinda to a little 4th of July parade in Fairborn. It was raining, but the boys liked that lots of parade participnats threw candy for them to collect. We had an international-flavored dinner that night with Chinese friends of Mom and Dad's, as well as friends from Jordan joining us. The best part of the day was that Bob was able to catch a hop from Andrews, so he flew in around 10:30 PM. The "excuse" the Air Force used was that some AFMC general needed to be at a meeting at the Pentagon Wednesday morning, but we knew God really just called him out there so the plane would be there to fly Bob back to Ohio! : )

Wednesday: We all, along with Dan and Melinda as well as Amy and her 2 boys, went to the Columbus Zoo. It was a free day for active duty military and their immediate family! Woohoo! The weather turned cooler, so we had a very pleasant day. Everyone was pretty pooped at the end though. We went straight to Youngs where we met Mom and Dad. No trip to Ohio is complete without a trip to Youngs Dairy! You may be asking what happened to my no dairy diet? Well, again I fudged quite a bit on vacation, and Anna started spitting up a lot more. In fact, the chocolate peanut butter ice cream I consumed at Youngs in particular seemed to disagree. Oh well.

Thursday: One last play date at Amy's. The boys have really been playing well together. After dinner we walked to the park that was by our old house. Again, the weather was just beautiful--Anna actually got a little chilly and I had to put a blanket over her. The city has added a lot of nice equipment to that playground! The boys are already asking when we can go back. LOL!

Friday: We didn't leave until 11:45, so we had a nice leisurely morning. Anna did well in the car again, praise the Lord. We were also very thankful that we were able to avoid what looked like it would have been a several hour stop on I-70 just west of the W. VA border. We came to a complete stop and could see 2 ambulances and a police car on the other side of the highway come over to our side and drive a little ways up, where presumably an accident had just happened. No one moved for awhile, but we were in the left lane, and not too far ahead of us was that emergency vehicle turnaround in the median. The cars in front of us started turning around there, and finally so did we. We backtracked to the previous exit and took Rt. 40 for less than a mile before getting back onto the now empty highway. Whew! We made it home about 10:00.

We listened to By the Shores of Silver Lake on the way home. It's another book by Laura Ingalls Wilder, and it's the book I remember least from when I was a child out of the whole series. I was glad we listened to it in the car--I think we might have gotten kind of bogged down just reading it aloud. The neat part about hearing it was there were many instances in the story where Pa was playing the fiddle and people were singing. The lyrics are in the book, but on tape they actually had someone playing the fiddle and singing the songs! Much better than just reading the lyrics out loud.

So all in all it was a great trip. We so enjoyed seeing my brother and his wife. Melinda has the cutest little "first baby" pooch! We're all excited about having another baby in the family (and I am particularily excited about not having to carry it, LOL!). I hope to post some pictures later this week, but for right now, I am off to bed. Goodnight!

Monday, July 03, 2006

A Funny Conversation

In line at Barnes and Noble with all the kids . . .

Caleb (pointing at my tummy): "Mommy, do you have another baby in there?"

Me (rather shortly) "No."

Luke: "Well, when is another baby going to get in there? ARE we going to get another baby?"

Me (somewhat embarressed, due to the avid attention other shoppers are paying our conversation): "Umm, I'm not sure . . . I don't really know."

Caleb (happily): "Well, when we get our next baby, I hope it's another girl! Then we can name her 'Anakin'!"

Other shoppers in line: *snicker, snicker, snicker*

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Too Much Fun!

We've been having too much fun here at Grandma and Grandpa's house to blog! Here's a quick update:

Wednesday: We had a little birthday party for Nathan with some of his friends here. We grilled hamburgers and hot dogs. There were 8 boys altogether, and everyone had a great time playing together. For Nathan's cake I made "dueling lightsabers" at his request. It turned out pretty well, but I'll have to wait until I get home to post the picture.

Thursday: We spent the whole day over at Amy's house. The boys got to play in the sprinkler, as well as play with all of Zachary's Playmobil stuff. Much fun was had by all, and it was wonderful to be able to visit with Amy. Afer dinner we took a walk around the neighborhood and toured the houses that are under construction. I love looking at floor plans and going through houses. I should have been an architect!

Friday: We went to the teacher supply store to get some ideas for my co-op unit next year. I'm teaching ancient Greece, which should be a lot of fun. After lunch I got a haircut (nothing dramatic--don't be alarmed. I'm growing it out again!), and then at 6:00, Amy and I met at her mom's house to have a moms' night out. We ordered pizza and snacked on unhealthy things like almond M&Ms and those little bite-size Peppermint Patties (I prefer the bigger ones myself, but they were okay). I did the 4 new scrapbook pages for Jonathan's little scrapbook. For each boy around their birthday I do some pages of leftover pictures that summarize the previous year. Jonathan was particularily interested in having his done since he has so few pages in his book!

Amy and I also watched the new "Pride and Prejudice" movie that just came out not too long ago. Of course, the 6 hour BBC version is the definitive one, but this was pretty good, especially if you already know the story and only have about 2 hours! I must say though that the guy who played Mr. Darcy reminded me several times of Bill Murray in "What About Bob". Colin Firth has much more screen presence! Jane is much prettier in the new one. Best friend, chocolate, a nice, romantic movie, no kids--what a great evening!

Tomorrow: My brother Dan and his wife Melinda should be getting here from Texas. We can't wait to see them!