The LORD lives, and blessed be my rock, and exalted be my God, the rock of my salvation
2Samuel 22:47

29 August 2010

Goin' to the chapel. . .

My sweet friend, Anna, announced her engagement this week and she asked if I wouldn't mind snapping a few engagement photos of the sweet couple.

How could I resist?

Thank you, Anna & Jeremy, for allowing me the honor of capturing the beginning of the rest of your lives together. I am humbled by your request. . . thank you.

And Congratulations.

These are just a *few* of my favorites. . .

Go with God's blessings. . .

23 August 2010

The First Day. . .

back to our full-time studies began today. Traditionally, we take a First Day picture. They get a little weirder each year. I do have all boys, you know.

You see, we were doing okay, until the newest little member of our preschool group decided to show off for his Mommy.

And then his brothers started laughing. . .

And all bets were off. Nice, weird First Day picture. {thank you}

So, I came inside to take a pretty picture. This is what I do when eyes go crossed and fingers start exploring deep, dark, slimy ranges that only a little boy could love.

I thought it would be more than appropriate to celebrate our first day back with Starbucks in my 'Balance' cup. This is the cup I pull out when I am trying to keep proper perspective.

I could just sit and stare at my flowers for a long, long time. Except, my absence would mean something terrible would happen {i.e. something would break, catch on fire or blow up} while I am staring at the pretty things. {By the way, this is a yellow zinnia. I have never seen a yellow zinnia before this year when they started growing in my garden! Zinnias are a favorite flower of mine.}

We got Langston's finger dislodged and uncrossed eyes and buckled down to our books. It felt good to be here again. It's nice to have a break, but this routine is so good.

We studied all day long {plus a multitude of other household items, Home Economics is a course still offered at our 'school'} and by the end of the day were more excited about the upcoming year than when we started this morning.
I caught Tarver doing 'one more math lesson' just before bed. And I said to him,
"No! I cannot have you working ahead! You are not allowed to love math more than playing Legos. No, no, no!"
{Yeah, right!}
I said, Thank you, Lord. One of our biggest educational goals is to give our children the desire to and love for learning. To receive this blessing on our first day back was amazing and humbling.
But, that's the way blessings work.
I can tell you one thing for certain. Our Bo kitty was wiped out after lunch. I have a feeling he will not be getting his homework finished tonight! Class pets are really starting to get lazy these days.

I had a chance to ponder some of the differences we experience this time of year, each year. Then, I started writing a few down in my journal throughout the day. I came up with a rather extensive list, but here are some of the differences our home educating family has from 'the rest of the world'.
What sets us apart. . .
{my list of observations from my time to ponder today}
-Our "milk" program consists of starting homemade yogurt in the crockpot the night before, and serving it for breakfast in our "cafeteria" with homemade granola.
-All the cool kids sit at the same table. With their teacher.
-"School pictures" are taken in the front yard. {without shoes on!}
-We get to have a contest on who can make it through the Matthew 1 begats the quickest and with the fewest mistakes.
-The students make lunch in our "school"--after they run out to the garden & hen house to pick cucumbers and collect eggs.
-We have the liberty to continue on in a book or subject we are enjoying despite our schedule, because our "school" has not been equipped with 'period bells'.
-The teacher at our "school" corrects math papers while preparing a crock pot supper, doing 2 loads of laundry and listening to Allistair Begg on the radio--over her lunch hour. {My teacher's union would have a fit over this type of work on a break. . .if I had one!}
-The Principal is having supper at our home tonight!
-The students at our "school" have to walk to classes every day, even the preschoolers. Snow, wind, heat index, you name it, they walk.
-The entire "School Board" had supper together last night and prayed for God's blessing and protection over our students and their education. We specifically prayed that our students would grow tremendously in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus. We even had brownies and ice cream at our "School Board" meeting!
-All "school bonds" are handled in house! {Taxpayers rejoice!} We don't even bug our neighbors with "school fundraisers"!
-Parent-teacher conferences are a cinch to arrange. To some this may seem that I am talking to myself. {This is my excuse}
-I received a teaching bonus today, my first ever! The Principal was pretty clever hiding that shiny penny in my 2-yr old's dirty diaper, I tell you . . .My 2-yr old isn't exactly innocent, as he later confessed "I eat penny, Mommy!"
-We have guns at our school. And swords, axes, lightsabers and even some knives.
-Sometimes physical education class is chasing around the very active and very mischievous preschoolers. Boy can they run. And destroy. Run, destroy, laugh, repeat. . .I am not getting any faster in my old age.
-We have a female teacher at our all-male school.
-Our intercom system works by standing at the top of the stairs and shouting. Likewise, out-of-doors, standing on the front porch and shouting. {This is why my neighbors love me!}
-We practice fire drills on a regular basis. . .pretty much each day a frozen pizza is cooked for lunch.
-Our baby scrapbooks are our "Student I.D."
-The UPS man ringing the doorbell means a mass exodus from our studies, an instant race to get to the door first and generally ends up in an early dismissal.
-Snow days mean we double up on our studies so we can finish earlier for summer vacation.
-Detention can be negotiated for extra yard work, cleaning the floors or cleaning the bathrooms.
-The teacher at our "school" is pretty crazy about the Principal. I think he's kind of sweet on her, too. It works out well for us.

19 August 2010

Happy Birthday. . .

To my sweet Grampa, who celebrates #87 today.

We are sending you so much love over the miles!

17 August 2010

$6 in economics & entertainment

*Please note: the $6 lesson does not include costs incurred at Starbucks. Proceed with that knowledge beforehand!!

One of our favorite back-to-homeschool traditions over the last several years has actually ended up being a great lesson in economics with a strong emphasis in budgeting.

And it has turned out to be a great deal of entertainment for me as well.

Each year, when Target rolls out their school supplies and starts advertising them for cheap {you know, the $0.25 box of crayons, Crayola no less!} the kids and I load up in the van to make the hour-long pilgrimage to my favorite store. (This does work at any store of your choice, I just happen to be a Target sort of girl.)

I recommend swinging by Starbucks, ordering the coffee of your choice, and then finding an employee and asking if they would mind setting up an end-of-season lawn or patio chair in the school supply section of the store. Experience has proven that this simple and fun lesson takes awhile. {Trust me}

The rest is simple: I hand my sons $6 in cash and tell them that they can buy any school supplies they would like, as long as they don't go over budget and they have to figure in tax. Then, I sit back, relax and enjoy the show.

I love to watch them first skim over the entire section of school supplies, noting prices and selection. Then they start to gather. Then calculate. Then bargain with themselves:
"If I trade the Crayola for the Roseart, that saves me $1.50. Or, I can always go with the 24-count pencils and save $0.46."

And then, they start to bargain with each other:
"If you buy the jumbo pack of Ticonderoga pencils and get the 10-pack of glue sticks, I'll get the economy pack of pens and we can split them. That will save us each $0.72"

This lesson can go on for well over an hour, but I generally call it quits at an hour, causing them to have to budget their time as well. I use the time to browse around the school supply section myself, inhaling deeply because I love the smell of fresh paper and pens and soft pink erasers and glue. . .on second thought, maybe I should not be inhaling so deeply around the glue sticks. Hmm, that may explain a few things. Anyway, it is a cheap lesson in budgeting and being wise with their money. It is fun to see what they pick out for the coming year and I have noticed that the responsibility they exercise with school supplies thought out and picked out themselves is remarkably better than the things they can pull off of our 'community' school supply shelf.

I am all about school this week and will be sharing more as time permits. So excited for Monday, our first day of the new year.

14 August 2010

Something Old, Something New. . .{the crayon project}

I think I have already mentioned that I got to work in high-gear last week organizing, cleaning, preparing and planning for our new school year, which is just about a week from starting.

During that process, the one in which I inhale deeply the smell of fresh school supplies and sharpen every pencil the walls of our home contain, I discovered we had a lot of broken crayons in our preschool drawer.

Considering it was hotter than, um, hotter than Oklahoma {I'm not sure if that's true or not}, my frugal, but efficient, mind started to formulate a plan.

Turning broken chunks of Crayola into something useable again.
{Gramma, this one is Ryland}

It was a great way to keep my kids busy since it has been too hot to play outside and even the littlest guy was able to help.

These little toes are so irresistible to this Mommy. I have six pictures of his "tee-kose" (that's how Langston says 'tickles' which is his word for his toes since I tickle so much) from this project. I really love little toesies!

We all stripped the crayons of their paper, then gathered them into a container. Once all the crayons were without paper, I lightly greased two small pie tins with vegetable oil and had Ryland and Langston fill their tins with the crayons.
Then the experiment began.

Yes, it has been hot here. How hot? Hot enough to melt crayons! Last week our thermometer read 104 {that was by far a cool day compared to a few 112' days we experienced. . .ugh!} with a heat index of 131'. I know our weather station bears the name 'Accurite', but I do think it measured the heat index a tad high. Just a tad, though. It was HOT and sticky and miserable. Those of you in Washington reading this, you just have no idea what this kind of heat feels like.

Oh, back to the crayon project. The sun did a great job melting the crayons {although I did have to stick the tins in a 200' oven for just a few minutes to get the middle crayons to melt all the way and have the wax flatten out.} The end result?

Yum. Oh, that's not the end result. This kid of mine who will not touch his white chili at supper but will eat a crayon! I guess that's 2 for you.

The end result: we took something old and turned it into something new. And we are so excited to put our new rainbow crayons to good use on our first day of school.

Although, I did let the Preschool class take their new crayons for a test scribble while I was taking their picture.

It was a hit and they love their crayons because they were able to do most of the work themselves.
And, on a totally separate note from melted Crayolas but in the same topic of home education, I read this book below in an evening a few weeks ago. I highly recommend it to anyone with children, regardless of education preference. I was able to discover my children's different learning styles and discover my own teaching style. It was an eye opener. The book is packed with a lot of helpful information and ideas on how to teach to the different learning styles (and how not to). I am excited about the changes it will lead to in the years to come in our home school. I bought my copy from Timberdoodle years ago, I only wish I had read it a lot sooner.

Braden is our talker, Tarver is a watcher, Bob is a doer and I am a watcher. The verdict is still out on the two preschoolers - right now it seems they are doers, but I am sure that is their age more than anything.

And now, to leave you with a quote from another of my favorite books on home education {I'm not sure why, but it has been rolling through my head today so maybe blogging it out will get it out of my head. . .}
"There is a . . .test I like to offer to determine whether or not you are competent to homeschool. You don't have to go to college to get a degree in education. . . .You don't have to have teachers in your family background. Nor is it necessary that you were once the teacher's pet, or are an expert in clapping erasers. The test is rather simple to take. It should only take a few minutes, and then you will know. The first thing you do is wait until it is late at night. Then, very quietly, go from room to room in your house. Peek in carefully, and see if you find any sleeping children. Then be sure that these are your own children. If there are wee ones in your home during the wee hours, and if they belong to you, you are competent to homeschool. The true Expert on education is the very One who gave you these children."
From When You Rise Up, A Covenental Approach to Homeschooling by R.C. Sproul, Jr.
*This is a favorite book of mine and one I am sure to read every year. It helps give me encouragement for the hard days and to keep my eyes on the ultimate Vision I have for my children. I cannot recommend this book enough.
Leaning on Him,

10 August 2010

Can it be?

**Warning: I'm about to go very sentimental on you here!**

Can it be, really?

My first born?

My enthusiastic, experimental-first kindergartner?

Can it be that just yesterday {wasn't it?} you were practicing printing your name on dry erase sheets?

{Do you remember, Boo, how you would practice so diligently, carefully, and excitedly on your name? Even backwards you could do it! And always wanting to write your little brother's name, too. You never wanted to leave him out.}

Those were the days of tanks and stick people. Of begging to start 'school' at 5 a.m. Of size 12 boys' shoes, catching butterflies all afternoon and an infatuation with light sabers.
Did it really go that quickly?

And now I find myself forced to erase the memories of those sweet days, this precious treasure from the past that I uncovered this morning as I'm preparing to begin a new year and add a new 'student'. Remember those carefree days? When you loved to need your Mommy.
And now the eraser, to make room for more memories, as your baby brothers come up behind you.
In a few weeks these sheets will once again bear army guys and guns and sequences of
Rs, ys, ls, as, ns, ds labored over by small hands
trying to do it just like his biggest brother.
Will I ever forget how sacred it was the first time, with you, scratching letters out together, learning together, starting this homeschooling journey together?
Erasing is bittersweet. I already dread the last time I will have to erase these writing sheets. Already that day feels as if it is looming quickly.

How many times have I wished I could hit the "pause" button in this adventure called Mommyhood? I'm sure God sees fit that we don't have the choice to pause for long, as then we would linger in this world far longer than He wants us to.

And we would delay enjoying beautiful things. Such as your handwriting, turning into script. You, transforming into a young man.

Thank you, Lord, for allowing me to be present for so many things in the lives of my sons. I even thank you, Lord, for times of 'erasing'. Praying that through erasing and moving on, we have indeed been growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior.
{Kleenex, please!}

{This week I have dedicated myself to planning, cleaning, organizing, praying and yes, it looks like some crying, as we prepare for our new 'school' year which starts in 12 days!}

03 August 2010

First Things First

Each year, immediately upon descent on the Family Camp campus, we participate in a very specific sequence of actions.

First: Unbuckle seatbelts

Second: {if we are lucky to remember} Open vehicle doors

Third: Make a mad dash for the carpet ball tables at the Lodge

{It's a phenomenon common to most, if not all, camp families.}

This game has a spell on my family. If you have not heard of carpet ball, here is the bare bones point of the game:

Two people stand at a long box, one at each end. Each player lines up his carpet balls (I think they are pool balls) and chooses a shooter. Then you throw, roll, whatever it takes, towards your opponent's carpet balls. The first one to knock in all of the opponent's carpet balls wins.

Simple, but addictive.

My sons have all sorts of strategies. I don't ever have to worry about losing my children at camp, because whenever I can't find them I know exactly where they are. Here.

{Unless it is Langston who is lost, then I can find him throwing sticks in a massive bonfire by the beach, by himself. But that is another story. And it wasn't Dad who lost him that time.}

It's never too young to start this addictive sport. There is even a World Championship Carpetball Tournament each week at camp. We have yet to bring home a trophy, but my boys keep after it each year.

Kids line up along the carpet ball box to wait their turn. It is the funniest thing to watch all the heads swing one way then the next in perfect unison as they watch the ball roll one way, then the other, then back again.

Tasting victory!

So sweet.

Carpet ball = Pure joy

Tarver is extremely competitive and serious when it comes to carpet ball. I believe it is the only sport he has ever cared about. When we were at the hotel, the day before Family Camp arrival, he was sketching out his different set-up strategies. He had each one numbered!

Then he challenged his Dad to a game of carpet ball, in which his Dad got totally creamed. Whipped. Beaten. Defeated. In other words, Tarver's Dad lost. And then Dad kicked himself for not confiscating the playbook back at the hotel and studying it while driving across Illinois.

I tried consoling him. "You snooze, you lose."

{Encourager is my middle name!}

After we pry our children away from the carpet ball tables, the next order of business is renting bikes. Our annual trip to the bike barn is something we converse about all year long. Most of the fun is getting to visit with our dearly loved, Mr. Fredericks. He manages the fleet of bikes at camp and is a hero to my boys. Their lifelong dream is to one day get to work a summer with Mr. Fredericks and help him manage the hundreds of bikes. My husband often dreams of spending a summer working in the bike barn , too!

Langston was old enough this year for his own set of wheels. Unfortunately, he still refuses to peddle and will only push his bike with his tippy-toes, so the bike didn't do much good when it came to commuting around campus.

More to come as I sift through our family camp adventure. . .