Saturday, December 17, 2011

Rivendell Goes to Great Wolf Lodge

We just got back yesterday from 3 days at Great Wolf Lodge! We all really needed the break, and we had such a good time! Our homeschooling group got the same great deal we got last year, so we were able to stay in the 2 bedroom Grizzly suite again. Woo-hoo!

Micah really enjoyed the water! As it turns out, however, he doesn't like his bare knees to touch anything like water or even carpet, so he spent a good deal of the time doing this gorilla walk. I guess he hasn't been in any shorts since he learned to crawl! He really liked the wave pool, and he would sit in the shallow part and splash, or crawl around like in the picture, when it was still. But as soon as he heard the wolf "howling", signaling when the waves were starting, he would crawl over and sit in my lap!

Grace had a really good time as well--much more fun than last year. She also LOVED the wave pool, and she, Faith, and Anna would all bob around in these rings forever, during the still times as well as when the waves were going. She was so much braver! She went on one of the big water slides (River Canyon Run) with Bob and the other girls several times! Yes, Faith went on that slide too, as well as the ones from the center fort thing! She was absolutely unafraid. What a pill!

I love how the skillful photographer was able to make it appear like Caleb was peeing with wild abandon--LOL. I didn't get too many pictures of the boys, since they were running around and I hardly ever even saw them. Fun was had by all, though.

We all (3 Rivendell families plus one other homeschooling family in our bigger group) went out to Golden Corral Wednesday night. Micah was a total pig (well, everyone else was too!). Carrots, green beans, rolls, tons of fruit--he kept stuffing it in. The kids were quite excited by the chocolate fountain Golden Corral now offers, even though the strawberries weren't really in season. After we got back, the boys all watched "National Treasure" in the room of the other family.

Thursday we went to Cici's for dinner, and then the boys came to our room and played cards for awhile. We brought Skip-Bo, Monopoly Deal, and Uno. While the boys were playing cards, the girls, Micah, and I went down to the lobby for their little "show", and to hear "storytime with Rowdy the Reindeer". Rowdy was one of those costumed actors with the gigantic heads--the kind that used to terrify Anna at Chik-Fil-A and cause her to scream hysterically. We have come a long way, however, since now Anna, as well as Grace and Faith, all lined up to shake Rowdy's hand when the story was done. They all drew the line at giving him a hug though.

We left Friday right after lunch. This was a little earlier than we had planned, but the girls and Micah were just done. Since we were on the road so early, we decided to stop at Ikea for the first time. Wow--so much stuff! Bob and I had a great time looking at everything. There was some complaining, although not from any of the younger 7 kids . . .

We got back home, unloaded, and immediately got ready to go to Bible study for our annual Christmas story play,. The nicest part was that we had a baked potato bar, so I brought shredded cheese and sour cream, but I didn't have to cook! Woo-hoo! Elizabeth cooked 15 pounds of potatoes, and we had exactly 2 potatoes left over. The kids said they didn't want them because "there weren't any toppings left". And they were right! Chili, taco meat, ham. broccoli, bacon bits--all gone. There was just a bit of cheese left. Locusts, they are!

Then after the grand performance (parts for all kids who wanted one--and there were 25 kids!), we had an absolutely delicious ice cream sundae bar. I brought M&Ms for that, but there were also brownies, oreo crumbs, pineapple, and lots of sauces including Amy's homemade chocolate marshmallow one. Mmmmm.

Our Christmas break is off to a good start!! (And I just want to point out for the benefit of other homeschooled readers who might be envious of our Christmas break, that this is a break for ME, LOL. The boys will still be doing some school next week, especially math and English . . . so don't be too envious!)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Fall Stresses

So that was just a big vent chock full o' complaining there in the last post. What has me so stressed that book exchanges and etiquette teas are pushing me over the edge?!

Well, homeschooling is more difficult, for starters. Rivendell is amazingly awesome. I could not even attempt to do high school without these other ladies. Nathan would just have to take a bunch of online classes or something. So I know how much easier my load is because I have Rivendell, but at the same time, physical science has been a ton more difficult to prepare for than last year's life science. The BJU book is definitely at least 9th grade course--integrated physics and chemistry. I feel like sometimes the text is written in a way that is more confusing than enlightening, like they go out of their way to make concepts more difficult. I've spent a lot of time with a jr. high physical science book (Prentice Hall Science Explorer) that I got used off for a dollar. It has been SO helpful. I'll probably use it for the whole course next time (when I don't have a high schooler in the class!), except I don't think it's possible to get a teacher's manual or any tests for it, so I'll have to make my own.

Also it's been hard to figure out how to best use the class time. We really need more than one hour and a half class period to cover a chapter and do labs! Fortunately the book has 21 chapters, and we have 33 weeks, so I can take 2 weeks on a good deal of the chapters. What has ended up working the best is for me to take one class period to go over the entire chapter, and then use the second class period to do labs. I'm thinking about next year already, which will be biology for the high schoolers, and life science for the jr. highers. For biology, maybe the boys will watch the DIVE dvds at home, and then use the class time just for labs. We are going to prepare for the bio SAT II test, so I am thinking that maybe we'll have another afternoon (not Tuesdays) where we just go over the dvd stuff, plus anything extra I think will be important for test prep. I don't know. No matter what, I am definitely looking forward to getting back into biology stuff again! Physics was never my favorite!

Prepping for the Latin class has been another thing that has taken more time than I expected. The first part of Henle pretty much reviews all the stuff Latina Christina I and II teach, just covering it a LOT more quickly, and with tons of translation. But still--it wasn't difficult because all my years of teaching Latin to younger kids has finally cemented in my brain all the declension endings and basic verb conjugations (first and second conjugation, present, future, and imperfect tenses). BUT September rolled around, and now we're not reviewing anymore! Finally we learned the past tense (or the "perfect indicative active" as it is technically called), which has different endings on a whole different principal part, and now we're working on the passive voice. Gah. I am NOT remembering these things very well, so it takes me a long time to work through all the exercises! I am just trying to think ahead and think positively about how easy this will all be when it's time to teach Caleb and Jonathan! The boys will take the National Latin I Exam the second week of March, and that is as far as I will go in Latin. I really do enjoy Latin, but right now--it's just one more thing I really don't have time for. One day I'll be retired from homeschooling (that day is a minimum of 18 years away, LOL), and then think of how much time I will have! I'll become a Latin expert! I'll write my Christmas letters and blog in Latin! Well, maybe not, LOL. But it won't be a stresser like it is now!

All this prep work, plus the regular grind of homeschooling at home, has really taken a toll on the house. Here's a warning--don't just drop in to visit us, LOL. Or if you do, walk around with your eyes half closed. I have big plans for this break. Big organizing plans. One example--we took down Faith's crib back in oh, September some time. We propped it in the hallway until I could organize the basement storage room to fit it in. It is still propped up in the hallway. Drives me crazy! Another area of disorganization is Micah's clothes. He is now out of 12 month clothes mainly, so I brought up the 18 month tub of clothes. Now both tubs are in the hallway with clothes piled haphazardly in and around them. I think it is high time that boy has clothes in his actual closet and dresser! These are not the only areas, of course. And we need to clean too, not just pick up and straighten. I am actually so overwhelmed with how dirty the house has gotten these past few months that I can hardly even think of where to start and what to do. Hopefully I'll be able to make some inroads into the chaos in the next week. I'll keep you posted on my progress, or lack thereof. Unfortunately, the 3 big messmakers will be around . . .

Christmas Break!!!

We're on Christmas Break! We're on Christmas Break! I am practically dancing, LOL. This fall has been a rough one. I knew back in August that once we started, I'd just have to hang on, and that is indeed how it's been. Now I am so ready for a break!

The last week was hard to get through. The elementary co-op had a few things going on, and I was just NOT in the mood to deal with them! For instance, we had our Christmas party last Friday. It's always a skating party, which the kids really enjoy, and this time it was really nice because the organizer had the brilliant idea to have a little area with some simple crafts for the younger kids who weren't going to skate. Grace and Faith had a great time there! The thing that was so (unreasonably) stressful about the party is that a few years ago, a lady had the bright idea that we should do a book exchange there. So each year all the kids bring a wrapped gift of a book they are done with, and they get to pick out a new book. Sounds great! Except we're never "done" with books, LOL, and I have 4 people in different grades! This year, finding books for everyone was very stressful for me. No more book exchange! Once again you can tell gifts aren't my love language.

Then on Tuesday the co-op had an "etiquette tea" as a special 5th week activity to wrap up the etiquette unit. They did this several years ago as well, and it was definitely a highlight for Nathan. The organizers bought these cute little plastic Christmas-themed teacups from Oriental Trading Co., the leaders of the unit were the "servers", complete with towels over their arms, and it was just fun. I think we each had to contribute a plate of cookies, and the kids got to pick either tea or hot chocolate. Nathan came home talking all about tea and asking me to buy some for him the next time we went to the commissary!

This time, the organizers sent out a big list of what foods the moms in each grade were supposed to contribute--cheese and crackers, fruit, tea sandwiches, cookies. I about died, since I have 4 different grades represented, but thankfully I reread the email and realized I only had to bring something for class which was the smallest. That meant Grace's class, and they were assigned cheese and crackers, so that wasn't bad at all. But they didn't buy any sort of cups--we had to send a tea cup along for each child. They said in the email that if we didn't have cups and saucers and didn't want to buy any at the thrift store, then mugs would be alright. Well good, because I'm not sending in 4 breakable cups and saucers, even if we did have any, and I'm certainly not making a run to the thrift store! Yes, I was getting annoyed by petty things, I'll admit, LOL. Fortunately Amy has sent each of my kids a lovely plastic dishwasher safe mug with their names on them, so those were called into service. Whew! Thanks again, Amy!!

I was assigned to help out with this activity, so I had to be there early to supervise the "craft" for Grace's class, which turned out to be coloring. Then someone did a chalk talk, which was really neat. I love seeing those pictures come alive, with all the different lights! After Christine was done teaching history, she drove over and took over for me, so I could rush to Rivendell and teach physical science. Fortunately we were only doing a lab, but still, I felt very rushed and unorganized, since I had not had any time to set anything up. Oh well. We finished it, and we made it through the day--and now we are on break!!!!! I can always tell when I need a break because minor things become very stressful and highly annoying to me! I'm really quite thankful for the elementary co-op. It is very well-run, the kids enjoy it and get a lot out of it, and I really don't have to do all that much for it! But there are definitely times--like last week--when I was not in the mood to deal with it at all!

Friday, December 09, 2011

A Painful Gift

Yesterday we all attended the memorial service for our friend Jennifer. It was an amazing service, absolutely filled with the hope of the gospel. Three friends of Jennifer's gave beautiful tributes to her, and then her husband Joe spoke. I couldn't believe he was able to get through the whole thing--I was praying for strength for him!--but he did. What a powerful testimony he gave. He was able to give thanks not only for Jennifer's life, but also for her death. In all the tributes, it was very evident that Jennifer lived her life for Christ, and she sought to know Him more and more deeply. That is also her desire for each of us. He shared a poem written by Martha Snell Nicholson called "The Thorn".

I stood a mendicant of God before His royal throne
And begged him for one priceless gift, which I could call my own.
I took the gift from out His hand, but as I would depart
I cried, “But Lord this is a thorn and it has pierced my heart.
This is a strange, a hurtful gift, which Thou hast given me.”
He said, “My child, I give good gifts and gave My best to thee.”
I took it home and though at first the cruel thorn hurt sore,
As long years passed I learned at last to love it more and more.
I learned He never gives a thorn without this added grace,
He takes the thorn to pin aside the veil which hides His face.

Wow--what a perspective on this terrible tragedy, which Joe himself said was the hardest thing he ever has had to face. But truly for a Christian, death is not the end. There is hope, and for right now, peace and even joy. Joe said that he has already come to know God in a deeper way through this, and it was evident that he was trusting God's plan for his children as well. What faith! I am praying that Jennifer's faith will have a tremendous impact on many through her death. I was so glad we brought all our kids so that they could see how Christians deal with tremendous pain. Hopefully Joe's testimony will bear fruit in their lives as well.

But this family is in a long marathon, not a sprint. Please keep praying for them, as they work out the realities of life without Mom.

Friday, December 02, 2011

No More Time

Well, I've been busy, lately, as usual. There's really never enough time to get everything done, and I constantly feel behind and not as productive as I should be. On the other hand, though, I still feel like I have unlimited time--many more Christmases, afternoons with family, special memories, etc., and so I don't really use my time very effectively or intentionally. But none of us may have all that extra time.

Friends of ours from our church left in January for a 2 year assigment in a remote country that was a part of the former Soviet Union. Joe is in the Army, but he was serving with the US embassy there. Joe and Jennifer had 7 kids, and the whole family went along for the assignment. Their kids are all almost exactly 1 year older than the matching kid in our line-up, except for their last 2, who were the same ages as our #6 and #7. Jennifer had her 8th baby at home on Saturday, Nov. 26, with Joe and their oldest daughter helping. The baby boy was just fine, but Jennifer ended up having complications. She died on Wednesday, leaving 8 kids including a 4 day old newborn.

This has really hit close to home. I just can't stop thinking about Joe and the kids. The oldest 2 are daughters, and they are such competent and loving sisters. A lot of hard decisions have to be made right now. Please pray for this family, that God will clearly lead them and comfort them. As Christine said, Jennifer is completely enjoying Jesus right now, and she fully understands His plan. But for those who are left--what crushing sorrow.

For me, my heart is just so heavy. I am so not excited about Christmas or any celebrations. But now more than ever I realize we have no guarantee of time left with our kids, so I really need to make lots of memories, and spend time deliberately. I want to catch up on the kids' scrapbooks. Who cares about housework and schoolwork? But that doesn't work either. So I continue on prepping for the physical science lesson on Tuesday and wrapping presents for Bob's family, with tears constantly threatening.