Wednesday, August 30, 2006

"I aaaaammmm Ssssaaaammmm. I am Sam.

Actually, we haven't learned the "I" sound yet...

Three days down, 177 to go. Actually, I think the school calendar I’m using only has 170, so that would be 167 days to go. Whatever it is, I’ve done three days of school with my two little kindergarten students- Jonathon and James and it seems to be going okay. For those of you who are trying to think if they were really born close enough together to be in the same grade, they were not. Jonathon is currently 5 ½ and James just turned 4 August 3rd. So, they are in fact 15 months apart- as they have been for quite some time, though James would like to see that change soon. Anyway, James is very quick verbally, and I just thought that maybe he could pick up on stuff faster and perhaps get something out of Jonathon’s lessons too if I spent the time. And, if it goes well, we might just keep it like this and then I wouldn’t have to teach them separate stuff all the time. I know later some subjects go together fine for different grades, but right now, I don’t want to have to do different math and reading for each, so the same thing for both seems to be working so far. James has a shorter attention span, but Jonathon gives up practicing quicker so that makes them about even.

So what have we been doing, you ask? Well…we’ve been working from the famous “Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons” book and using “Right Start Math”. The first is a reading program that takes between 15-30 mintutes a day and teaches the child the sounds of letters before they even learn the names. It also incorporates some writing and my kids hate all writing utensils- especially if they have to use them. So, after several days of slaving away on paper, I broke out the shaving cream (Diane R.’s idea) and squirted it all over the dining room table (not especially delicate) and let them write their letters in it with their fingers. We put on aprons so they wouldn’t get too dirty and they went to town. I heard very little complaints and I think they actually learned something. We did the entire reading lesson in shaving cream as I just wrote the sounds from the book on the table and had them read them in the cream instead. Jonathon sounded out his first blend “ma” ( “a” as in Adam) by himself today and that was exciting.

The Right Start Math uses lots of games and things to teach counting. The basic premis of this program is to get the child to recognize sets of five and thereby making it easier to count and add in sort of groups. Right now they are learning to recognize numbers one through five without counting it. For example on your fingers or with items in a line, 1 is one because it is alone. 2 has a partner. 3 has a middle and partners, 4 doesn’t have a middle, and 5 has a middle, two ends and something inbetween them. It sounds like it’s counting, but really when they glance at it they are starting to recognize the amounts without having to actually say or think, “1…2…3…4…”. We use popsicle sticks, little colored blocks, toys, screws, nuts and bolts, and all sorts of things. We’ve counted, sorted things, made patterns, shapes and learned a little about ordinal counting. (I only know what the word “ordinal” means because I’m teaching my children- it means counting, “first, second, third, fourth, etc.) Anyway, that has been fun and the material has very specific instructions for each lesson.

Other school that we are doing, though we don’t always do it at the same time: reading the Bible and learning some Bible songs, reading some literature- right now we are on the last chapter of “Farmer Boy” and I need to find another book from our literature list.

Let’s see…oh, we are watching Monarch caterpillars turn into butterflies and that has been completely fascinating, so there is our science. We are supposed to start some history, art and music soon, and there is also a French course for kindergarten, but I’m not sure if I’m that brave. I have not looked into it yet much and I’m a little hesitant, but we’re just getting started and I’m not worried about French. So, it’s been fun, even if it’s been tiring and just in case you think this is taking all day, it isn’t. Right now we are usually doing about an hour and a half in the mornings and then I read to them in the evenings for about 15-20 minutes. So, really it isn’t that much. I also hope I can gradually incorporate more life skills into the day- like cooking or cleaning jobs, or working with Brandon. They just got pruning clippers so they could help him trim bushes and they are really exciting to help him when they can. I hope they can do more of that sort of thing in the future, they are so much better behaved when they’ve been having a good time working and come home tired.

Well…that’s school for you and at the risk of sounding too boring…I’m going to end this. We’re having fun…hope you are too.

P.S. Lest you think all life is fun right now, we’re dealing with several attitude and character issues with the boys these days that are not fun, but hopefully they will learn those lessons soon and we can enjoy more of the day and not just the school part. Please pray, if you have a minute, for them to be honest, kind, and responsible.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Happy Birthday, Mary !!!

This is Brandon sneaking in here, under cover of ye olde closed door. Although it has been my custom to refrain from posting on Mary's blog, so as to avoid charges of blogging nepotism, on this special occasion, caution must be thrown to the wind, the powerful anti-blogging nepotist lobby must be resisted, and natal celebrations must abound.

I'm taking these brave steps because I love her.

Why, you ask? Well no, of course you wouldn't, since its so obvious.

But I'll tell you anyway...a top ten at least:

  1. She wants to obey Jesus as much as she knows how.
  2. She's willing to do #1, even when it meant I would be halfway across the world for three months.
  3. She is patient with her clumsy husband even when, in the midst of conversation, he's halfway across the world.
  4. Big dreams, and enough energy (so far) to chase after them.
  5. Toilet fix-it know-how.
  6. Forget converting those God-hating neo-libs...we'll just outnumber them.
  7. Goodies that are...good.
  8. She takes practical steps to help make me successful.
  9. Think...Proverbs 31 object lesson.
  10. This will make her a good way.

Hope this year is best yet!!

Long Over Due

I think I must be incapable of blogging correctly these days. I'm not sure what's going on, but I can't seem to put a write up with a picture and actually have both appear on the blog. They just disappear out into the computer neverland. Oh, well, until I figure it out, you'll just have to deal with all the seperate "posts". Here's the posts for the previous pictures.

I have failed. I had good intentions- really, but it seems as though my time at the computer lately has been close to nil. I was going to tell you an awesome story about the water pipe breaking on the front lawn and the guys having to shovel out muck and bail out water for hours and hours, but I wasn’t able to get it all written before my computer had a little issue with a small child and came crashing to the floor, making it necessary to send it in for repairs. Fortunately, we had the warranty and it was no additional cost to have it repaired, but I have now lost most of my enthusiasm for the story that is now about 2 ½ weeks old. Alas, I know I have let some people down, but I will post a picture and here’s the main point of the story anyway:

The water pipe going down the lawn to the Murrays sprang a leak and it was so bad that it took ALL the water away from the other buildings. ALL the water pressure. There was none. Shawn, the back hoe, Brandon, and Dan dug it up and they were all about 6 feet down in a hole of about 8-3 feet wide and long and digging out the muck to get to the pipe, but the valve to shut off the water wouldn't close down all the way and they had to bail water every so often so they could see what they were doing. From 1:30pm to 7pm on Sunday afternoon they shoveled out that heavy muck- some was done with the backhoe, but alot had to be done by hand so as not to break the pipe. They finally got it exposed, cut it and found that they had the "EXACT" length of pipe on hand, and not an inch more! They put it together around 9pm and wala, the grass seed is already sprouting on the dirt patch out there. Brandon had the dirt cave in on him one time while shoveling, which was kind of scary, but it only came up to his thighs and thankfully it was one time that he was not bending over. Shawn and Dan dug him out , but they were all mess when they got done. The End.

And the other story that I had wanted to write up was about mice. But it too seems like old hat at this point. I’ve been trapping a few mice in our apartment. So far I have trapped two and seen one more, but the other day I realized that I was more of a murderer that I thought because Brandon found four little babies starved in the basement. Apparently, we got the mommy…I almost was feeling guilty…almost.

Ok, the last thing is that Jonathon came up with his own joke this past Sunday. He said, “I couldn't untie my shoes because they were “knotty”. Haha! He came up with it all by himself and laughed and laughed. Most times I would roll my eyes at such things, but coming from a 5 year old, I guess it has to be funny.

That’s all folks.

The Mice

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The Hole

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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The Camping Picture

(This was suppose to be with the post below. However I seem to have a P.E.B.K.A.C. problem with uploading pictures! Oh well.) Posted by Picasa

Camping over the Weekend- LONG

Ok, I know you all haven’t been here for the frustration and yet you still reap the results of it. I have written this post twice already only to have it disappear before my very eyes before I can post it, thus it gets shorter and shorter. Lesson relearned: Never type things directly online! It was originally a long wonderful post. Now it’s just getting to the basics. I wouldn’t even write it at all except that I want to document our experience. OK….here goes…again…

Camping: The two older boys, Brandon and I went camping this past weekend. We went to a little campground in Exeter. We chose that location because it was about half way in between us and Brandon’s parents and they joined us Saturday morning and stayed the rest of the weekend. We had a great trip. The weather was awesome- it couldn’t have been more perfect! There was no rain- a phenomenon I can’t remember happening on many camping trips and the temperatures were quite comfortable with a little breeze blowing most of the time. The mosquitos were out in full force, but we managed that with a little bug repellant. Ok, forget the short…I’m just going to make this long anyway.. I just want to- even if it takes me a week!

Anyway, we left Friday afternoon with a loaded van, said goodbye to Jeff and Rachel- who stayed with Diane for the weekend, and headed to camp. We got there around 5 and set up camp and started our campfire. That night for dinner we made “silver turtles” and baked sweet potatoes- all cooked in the coals of the fire. Brandon made quite an inferno of a fire and we discovered that we should have splurged for the higher quality aluminum foil since our cheap stuff tried to burn off before the food was done. The silver turtles consisted of diced chicken, lemon pepper, butter, and garden veggies- broccoli, carrots, zucchini, and green beans. The beans and squash were from our garden, and the rest from the supermarket, but they were yummy. James ate every bite of his and Jonathon scarfed down his potato, but left the chicken- he’s not a big meat eater anyway and Brandon was happy to finish his leftovers. The boys helped make them and Brandon cooked them and the the boys and I did the dishes. James rinsed and Jonathon dried while I washed. After dishes we had smores and since the boys were recent pros at these, they went quite well. James preferred his marshmellows only have the merest blink of heat on them, while Jonathon did a nice job of toasting his to practical perfection without burning them.

After smores, we cleaned up and went to bed for the night. We had a 5-7 man tent that had plenty of room for the 4 of us and I speculated that we probably could have fit Jeff and Rachel in there easily. Brandon seemed to disagree, stating that he didn’t think they fit on the camping trip at all. Hmph…we might have to compromise on our ideas at some point. I read to the boys a chapter out of “The Farmer Boy” before they went to bed and they seemed to enjoy the stories and time to settle down. James went to bed seconds after the chapter was finished and Jonathon, not long after. Brandon and I tossed and turned a while- there was a group of campers across from us that stayed up rather late. They weren’t super loud our anything, just up talking and since we were so close, it made it difficult to sleep. They settled down around 1am and I finally drifted off to sleep. James seemed to prefer sticking his feet in my sleeping bag to his and once I finally accepted it all was fine.

James was the first on up Saturday morning at around 6:15am. The rest of us still wanted to be in bed, I told him to inspect the stuff in his back pack. I had let him help pack his the day before and we put a bunch of stuff in. So he pulled the items out one at a time and looked them over and did what he could with them. He pulled out his comb, his toothbrush and toothpaste, his 2 bandaids, his flashlight, and his poncho and lined them up in a straight line on his sleeping bag. Then he combed his hair with the comb and put it back. He put toothpaste on his toothbrush and brushed his teeth, then put both away. (He just eats the toothpaste, so there was no spitting involved) Then he played with his bandaids. He found two “bo-bos” on his arm and wisely used the bandaids to heal them right up. He played with his flashlight and tried on his poncho and then packed it all away in his back pack again. He zipped up his sleeping back and straightened it out. By that time 45 min. had past and he was ready to get out of the tent, so I got up with him. Brandon and Jonathon followed shortly after.

That morning we had yogurt and granola for breakfast and just pittered around the campsit waiting for Carol and Andy to arrive, which they did at around 9am. With them came a canoe and we all climbed in and took a trip up the river. The water was calm enough to paddle both directions fairly easily and since Carol was having some arm pain, we all rode in one canoe! That was a bit crowded and we had some trouble getting off shore and into the open water. I ended up climbing out so we could get ourselves off of a bush and sunk up to my knees in muck! UGH! But we did make it and it was a pretty day and we had fun despite the crowded conditions. We canoed for about an hour and then came back to camp for lunch.

Lunch was just some sandwiches and snacks. Carol brought some yummy goodies like brownies and chips and I provided the sandwiches and we had a great little picnic. After lunch we all took a little nap. Ahh…that was wonderful! I think the only person that didn’t sleep at all was Jonathon. James was the last one up around 3pm and when he awoke, we all went for another canoe ride. This time we managed to avoid the bushes and once again spent about an hour out on the river.

After we returned from the second trip it was time to begin dinner preparations. We had another “utensilless” meal consisting of steaks cooked on a rock, baked potatoes, corn on the cob, and sauted onions. Well, I did use a skillet for the onions. The steaks turned out well with the exception that I neglected to tell Brandon to wash the rocks before heating them in the fire, so the first round of steaks had a little gritty crunch- but the flavor was good thanks to Daddy’s secret marinade! Mmmmm! For those of you who are curious about the methods of cooking steak on a rock, you wash the rock, then put it in the fire- or right next to it. It should be a medium size and have at least one flat smooth side. After it has heated in the fire for about 15-20 minutes, you roll it out so that the smooth flat side stays up. Then spray the rock with cooking spray, or if it’s too close to the fire still for your comfort, spray the steak instead. Lay the steak (we used thin sliced boneless ribeyes) on the rock and cook until done flipping once. If the rock is still right next to the fire and receiving some heat from it, you can cook a couple of steaks on one rock before loosing the heat. If it’s a larger rock or further away, you have to reheat it. So, there you have it. The baked potatoes we cooked in the fire and the corn as well. It was all pretty yummy! If you wanted to add more to the meal, Daddy mentioned thinly sliced zucchini on a stick and I know you can cook canned biscuits on a stick also. Anyway, that was dinner.

After dinner we had dessert- banana boats. These were easy enough that James made them all for us- except Jonathons- he made his own. Basically, it’s a banana with one piece of peel pulled back and then you make a slice down the middle of the banana and stuff it with M&Ms and fold the peel back over and stick the whole thing in the fire until the chocolate melts. It didn’t take very long, and somehow the peel doesn’t burn before you are ready to eat it. Those were good and I think next time I might try adding some peanut butter.

We cleaned up from dinner and then headed off to a magic show that the campground was putting on. The man doing the show had some good tricks but lacked much stage presence and so it was hard for the boys to pay attention. James actually just left with Brandon part way through and spent the rest of the evening running his mouth and roasting marshmellows. Jonathon stayed and watched, but by the end was pretty bored I think. Nevertheless, I think it was a cute idea and Jonathon did like parts of it.

After the magic show we came back to our campsite and cleaned up and headed to bed. I read another chapter from “Farmer Boy” to the boys and they went to sleep pretty quickly. It was a little cooler Saturday night and so I think they slept better and no one was up before 7:15am!!!! Whooo hooo! Jonathon woke first that morning and inspected his backpack, but it didn’t last nearly as long as James’ inspection the day before. After the usual morning routine- bathroom and such, we started breakfast. Breakfast was eggs, bacon and toast cooked on a “buddy burner”. Buddy- because you pair up and cook two meals on one hot top and burner because it has fire! This was another trick I did with my Dad when I was younger and wanted to share with the boys. Basically you have a #10 can- about a gallon size that is empty and clean with the top completely removed. A hole is cut into the side on the open end large enough to slide a tuna can through and then a hole is cut on the opposite side near the bottow to allow for smoke to escape. Then each burner has a tuna can with some cardboard in it, filled with parafin wax and this becomes the fuel. You place the lit tuna can under the #10 can and wala! A buddy burner. Cook your bacon on top, leave the grease, add your egg and then the toast. We tried framed eggs- some people call them one-eyed sailors- and that worked ok except that our fire was too hot because I put too much cardboard in the tuna cans. Bacon on a stick over a fire works well too, but I wouldn’t try an egg that way. JJust seeing if anyone is still awake down here. Anyway, the tuna cans burned for almost 2 hours, so there was plenty of time to cook all the breakfast we wanted and we had 3 cans for 6 people, so we could really have fed an army! Daddy told me later we should have just turned the #10 can over and put it on top of the tuna can and extinguished the flame, but I wasn’t that smart and besides I wanted to see how long it would take to burn out. After breakfast we pretty much just packed up and broke down our camp. I was really glad that I took the time to pack everything right while we were there because when we got back things were VERY busy here and we were able to just take the stuff in and put it away. So the tent didn’t have to be set back up and the sleeping bags were already shaken out and rolled. It was nice!

We left the campground around 11am and headed for some lunch. None of us were very hungry, but it was good that we ate then, because dinner was a long time coming and we didn’t really have time for lunch after we got home.

This ends the camping section of the adventure over the weekend. We had a GREAT time and I think I would like to try it with the whole family sometime soon. Brandon isn’t so thrilled about the “whole family” deal though, so we might have to come to some compromises or something….we’ll see. I’m sure we’ll be out in the woods again eventually though.

PS. The picture is the only one I took on the whole trip! Arg! It is of our first meal and I noticed the battery on the camera was low and decided I needed to conserve my pictures because I might not have many left. I conserved alright! I never took it out again. Oh well, it’s a pretty picture of food!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Happy 4th Birthday James

The cake I made complete with James, the red train.

We had hotdogs and mac and cheese at the request of the birthday boy. I was thrilled for a quick easy meal and they loved it- especially with Thomas the Train decor to go along.

The birthday boy himself. Don't worry, his bark is worse than his bite. He's actually the cuddly son of the family.

Jeff liked the mac and cheese best. Rachel favored her "Mr. Conductor" hat and her hot dog bun. Jonathon has just taken to hiding under the table anytime we look for him.

I should add that James was quite devestated when he discovered that he was only turning 4. Apparently the cool age is 5 and he cannot yet attain such a standing. After all, his brother is 5 and his friend has been 5 and is now 6 and another friend is about to be 5 later this year, but James must be 4. Ah...the woes of the younger sibling! I had no idea how rough they had it!!! But we all had a good time anyway. Posted by Picasa

Ahem....the bloomin onion maker.

Frank asked me what one looked like and here are the components of the fancy one I just got. The best parts are (having made them before without all these gadgets) the slicer- at the top- which allows the onion to get even straight cuts without putting my fingers in danger, the corer- to the right, which very nicely removes the core from the onion after it is fried, and the instruction booklet which gives all kinds of tips for how to get the best Bloomin Onion and several recipes for batters to dip them in as well as dips to serve with them.

It's all in the name of strong FIRM arteries I say! Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Don't Give up! Help is Coming Soon!

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making Smores

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One more water pic

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More Pics

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Water Pictures from vacation

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Well, we’ve been home for a week and I have yet to report on our vacationing experience to the lake side cabin in Maine.

Here I will try to relate the main events without spending hours upon hours to do it. I do have other things to do around here after all. Hmmm…ok,

So we left on a Thursday afternoon around 4:40pm. By the time we were loaded in the van I had declared to Brandon at least twice that I had decided we didn’t really need to go anywhere! I’m sure some of you can relate to that feeling when trying to pack up everyone to go somewhere. Is it really going to be worth it in the end? Well, this time it was I think.

It did take us almost 4 ½ hours to get there, but that was because we had to stop for gas, stop to eat at McDonald’s , and stop at Wal-mart to pick up some needed items like baby wipes and children’s medications. You see, every time we go on vacation, the kids get sick, so I don’t like going anywhere without my trusty bottles of Children’s Tylenol, Motrin, and Triaminic. So, that added about and hour and a half to our trip. We arrived around 9pm and the children quickly went to bed and then so did we.

Friday, Brandon kept the boys at the cabin and Diane and I took Rachel and went yard saling. That was great fun! Lewiston is a great place to hit lots of yard sales. I’ve been there several times and always there are quite a few. I think we went to around twenty and that was a relatively slow Friday compared to other times I’ve been. I found some great buys including a toddler bed for Rachel when the new baby comes along, and some Nerf weapons for the boys to play with. Some new trikes and some key Tupperware pieces and a bloomin onion maker rounded out my purchases and we came home after lunch. Diane’s mom came along also and treated us to Arby’s for lunch. I think that’s one of my favorite fast food places of all and I had a terrible time deciding what to eat for my one meal that I would have there.

When we arrived back home, we swam a little and then ordered pizza for dinner. That was one of the best things about the time- easy meals. We had pizza, chicken nuggets, fish sticks, hot dogs…not all especially nutritious, but the kids liked it and it was easy. We also did lots of poptarts for breakfasts and that was a big hit too.

Saturday, we pretty much just played in the water and the boys watched some movies. It was overcast and kept drizzling on the kids in the water. One of the boys, I think James at one point was standing in waist deep water and looked up at the rain and yelled, “Mama! Mama! I’m getting wet!” Well, yes, but whoopty do!

That evening after dinner we had planned to have smores over a campfire, but it really rained hard, so we postponed that adventure to Monday evening. We went to bed with the rain coming down and managed to find a couple of leaks in the roof, but thankfully, not over the beds.
Sunday, Brandon went to Elim to preach and the rest of us stayed behind to play in the water some more. There are no showers at the camp, so Brandon went to the R’s place and took a shower and the rest of us just decided not to impose our stink on others. Brandon came back for lunch and we had hamburgers. After lunch, the little ones took a nap, Brandon left and the two older boys watched another movie. We all played in the water again that afternoon.

Monday, was the best day of all- it was sunny and the children played in the water quite a bit and Rachel actually got a little sunburn, but not too bad. We noticed it before it got to the point of being uncomfortable. So, water, movies, water, food, and then in the evening we did do the smores. Jonathon really caught on and did a good job of roasting his marshmellow and even made a smore with two of them. James had a hard time roasting them, but was happy to eat the smores all together. He called them sandwiches. Jeff just wanted to eat the chocolate and the crackers and the marshmellows. Once he actually got his marshmellow on the stick and toasted, but then it was to perfect to eat and he swung it around and played with it. Rachel, just ate what ever she could get her hands on, though it was obvious that she prefered the chocolate and crackers to the marshmellows.

The kids went to bed that evening and then Tuesday morning we got up and started cleaning and packing up to go. We had thought of may be staying until Wednesday, but I wanted to leave while the kids were still having a good time and Tuesday morning they started getting fussy. We managed to get loaded up before lunch and so ate at a Burger King and then headed home. It was perfect timing because all the kids slept in the car with Jeff and James sleeping for almost the entire 3 hours! We got home around 4pm and I was able to get quite a bit of the stuff unpacked and put away before bedtime that evening.

So, all in all it was relaxing, the kids had fun and I didn’t come home completely exhausted! AND NO ONE GOT SICK!!!!! Whooooohooooo!!!!!!!!!! I think that was the best part.

Now, as a PS- I’ll mention what Jonathon said yesterday:

“Mama, I want to die! Can I please die?”
“Jonathon, no, you can’t die, but why do you want to die?”
“Because I want to see what Heaven is like.”

Hmmmm…..don’t we all.