March 30, 2011

Bridgetender school break

After working pretty hard for many weeks, Bridgetender school is taking a spring break in between units. The curriculum I have tried this year is Tapestry of Grace, and so far, I am fairly pleased with it. I was looking for something that was sequential, had a list of books for history, history questions and suggestions for literature and arts and crafts. Plus it helps me in organization and in getting the kids to take control of their schedule a bit. It took me a while getting used to the format and to find everything, but now that almost a year is under my belt, I think I will be staying with it. The only problem I have is that they are a believer of having the kids read dumbed down versions of the classics. I would rather have them listen to an audio version of the book or have me read it to them, though I have tried some of the books. Incredibly, the book they recommended that was a kid's version of Le Miserables was actually pretty good. Who knew that the behomoth of a story could be succinctly and coherently reduced to 20 pages or less ;-)?

For spring break, we had some big plans, some of which will not happen. Monday was a day to relax after SportskidzAZ and music lessons. Our plans involved fishing, a day trip to Old Tuscon Studios just south of Tuscon, a day-long hike around Pass Mountain and two days of mostly relaxation. The kids lost the privilege of going to Old Tuscon Studios due to mulitiple instances of poor behavior from nearly all of them. The day-long hike, involving 7 miles around a cute little mountain became a little daunting because it is reaching the 90's in the afternoon and when the longest we have hiked has been 3 miles. I think it will be something we will do as a family maybe sometime in the fall or winter.

Tuesday night, we went fishing and had a picnic dinner at Riverview park in Mesa. Elizabeth, for the first time, caught six fish with her fishing pole, after two or three disappointing ventures. Kyle also caught four fish. Everyone except the youngest learned to bait a hook with a live worm. We initially brought Jacques with us, but it proved to add to our frustration in helping the kids and getting everything set up. He was distracted by all the scents and dogs. So, eventually, Eric brought him back home, which is just a few minutes away from Riverview Park

Yesterday, instead of traveling for 5 hours round trip to Tuscon, we went to Shadow Mountain in Phoenix about thirty minutes away. In the morning, when I started searching the internet for places to hike, I stumbled upon an article at Arizona Central about a hiking series called "Seven Summits around Phoenix." I thought it would be a great goal to climb all seven summits by the end of the year, even though the hiking season will soon be coming to a close due to heat. I decided to start with Shadow Mountain because it was short and listed as the least strenuous. Like many of the cute mountains, Shadow mountain is surrounded by homes and we parked in a neighborhood to get to the trail. The hike is about 1.6 miles, though the trails are more or less "use" trails rather than groomed trail. Whoever was in the lead got to pick the route, though I did over-ride a couple of decisions. We ended up climbing up two little summits and across two saddles to get to the highest peak. I put together a "movie" of the event from the pictures that we took. Don't expand it to full screen. I tried it and everything is fuzzy.

The rest of the week will be relaxing and doing little things, like going to the library to get books for next week, finishing up our shoe and sandal shopping for the girls. We are currently searching for stores that cater to girls who do no like pink and bling on their schoes, which is the current taste of our girls. Jessi has accepted a shoe with minimal pink, but Elizabeth refuses. Friday is also Park Day with our homeschool group, which is an event everyone looks forward to attending.

Next week, we will be returning to the grindstone. ;-).

March 22, 2011

Cute Kid Quote of the Day

This quote brought to you by the baby of the family, who is currently finishing up Kindergarten:
"Momma, I know how to count by twenty."
"Really," I said, "Can you count by twenty for me?"
(Skip counting by twenty was not part of the Kindergarten curriculum)
He promptly counted by twenty up to one hundred. I told him he did a great job and asked him who had taught him that, intending to praise the teacher.
"My brain." he replied.

For more frivolity, check out Mercy Me's Cover Tune Grab Bag of "Eye of the Tiger". It is pretty funny/silly. They also did a good cover of "Obla-Di, Obla-Da" with the help of the other bands traveling together in the Rock and Worship road show. Just don't listen to too many Cover Tune Grab Bag videos or you might have "The Cover Tune Grab Bag" song stuck in your head. Like me.

March 16, 2011

My Week, Randomly

I am a very random thinker. I also think in details. This has huge (SQUIRRELL!) implications. I have labeled all cabinets and drawers in the house to make sure that I am consistent. I frequently lose my phone, keys, books, planner because I am in the middle of one detail when I put it in whatever random location I happend to be dwelling at the time. I am easily (SQUIRRELL!) distracted, especially from chores. If you don't get the squirrell references, watch the movie "UP!" which is just about my favorite all time Pixar movie. The only advantage I have found to being random involves conversations. It is especially useful when having a conversation with an Alzheimer's patient, when they can still talk, because most of their talk becomes free-form words generated at random. Most of my writing, thanks to the magic of word processors seems mostly sequential and I am getting better thinking sequentially in my old age with a little bit of practice. But this time, I am letting go of all rules involving being sequential and having a theme and allowing myself some free-form writing. My first subject is...

Japan. Once again, I am amazed and heartbroken at the the devastation that an earthquake can inflict. I am praying and asking the kids to pray for the people of Japan every day while there is so much chaos and issues. The need seems to be overwhelming and it makes me realize that I have been...

...playing WAAAAY too much Mahjonng Dimensions lately. Initially, I thought it would be a good game to play because each game lasts only six minutes. The challenge is to clear all three levels, each one more complex, in that six minutes. However, it is as addictive as slot machines because you keep thinking, "I just need to try one more time and I KNOW I can clear all three." with the result that you play until, as a purely hypothetical example, you start smelling dinner burning. I can honestly say that I have cleared all three levels within the six minute allotted time, though I don't think I should be proud of that accomplishment. I would like to thank God for doing an intervention for me. Last night, after the kids were in bed, I was greeted by "Mahjonng Tiles by Charmin," where the pyramid of tiles is placed on a giant roll of toilet paper that rotates so you can see it from different sides (I am NOT joking). There are two blocks with Charmin on them and the red bears are in a corner watching you play the game after pushing Charmin as the t.p. which will "leave you clean without leaving pieces behind." IMHO, this has to be the worst campaign slogan I have heard in a long time, unless I am the only one who doesn't really worry about "cling-ons." I have enough potty humor with four kids, two of them boys, to put up with games going to pot. I am through. This is a very good thing because I am in the middle of a...

...sock knitting class: I have been wanting to take a sock knitting class for a while now and my wonderful kids all chipped in to buy me a class as a Christmas present. The classes are held at The Fiber Factory in Mesa, which is a great place to hang out if you are interested in just about any craft involving thread and even some that don't. It has the potential to become a dangerous place for our budget. I love my teacher because she can explain things both technically and visually in terms beginners understand. The first week, she showed us the tricks for setting up using four double pointed needles with a fifth floater, which is the European style of knitting socks. This style has you working from the ankle to the toe. Last week, she showed us how to knit the heel flap, turn the heel, and set up the needles for the gusset, which is the section that goes over the instep/arch of your foot. This is a picture I took after I successfully turned the heel. I am enjoying the class, but, like always these days, it seems like if I add something that I like to do, our schedule goes insanely busy because I have four kids involved in..., which meets three times a week and, in spite of the fact that we signed up our little darlings two months ago, still does not have a playing schedule; horseback riding, which has become a little simpler since we combined the two girl's lessons into one time slot; karate twice a week with two of the three class times inconvenient for our family and with a rank promotion looming in our future; boy scouts and extra curricular boy scout activities; kid's choir practice and a concert at a local nursing home; a make up needed for a birthday party for my six year old that was cancelled due to sickness; church, serving in kid's church, meeting in small groups at another time during the week, baptism parties. There is so much to be done and I really have to carve out time with God to help me prioritize it all and put things in their proper perspective. For the past two weeks, we have had two or three things going on each weekend, which means that there is no time for keeping the house clean and getting ready for school, unless I cut in on traditional school subjects to include "life skills" lessons or stay up late. Staying up late reminds me of the...

...Rock and Worship Roadshow that Eric and I attended last weekend with another couple which featured Jars of Clay and Mercy Me, though it also had warm up bands like Matt Maher ("Alive Again", "Love Will Hold Us Together"), The Afters ("Light, Light Light up the Sky"), Thousand Foot Crutch (a Christian heavy metal band with incomprehensible lyrics), and LeCray, a Christian rap artist. Jars of Clay ("If I Had Two Hands" among their many songs I love)had the most uplifting set up, with lots of white light immersing the stage and brought back memories of our courtship. Mercy Me was incredible. The lead singer, Bart, (yes, we are on a first-name basis, at least on my end) has a great sense of humor and a beautiful voice. It was awesome singing with 13,000 people "All of Creation." My girlfriend and I cried when they sang "Beautiful", because Bart explained that he wrote for his daughters. By the time the concert ended, Eric and I bought Matt Maher's two CDs and we took the light rail to our car to get home, it was 11:30. Overall, every act was awesome, even if I didn't like the music genre which was true only of Thousand Foot Crutch (I could almost hear my Grandma C. reacting to the music by saying "You can't tell me this isn't devil music! You can't even understand what they are saying!!!). If they decide to do it next year, I would highly recommend attending it. Athough, I will admit that most of the enjoyment was in attending any concert that doesn't involve the kids, like the children-focused concerts and most Ravinia concerts (OH! How I miss you, Ravinia!), which reminds me that... is time to wrap up my first attempt at writing somewhat randomly. I hope you enjoyed the ride. I promise you sequential types that I will limit this style of writing because a little bit of randomness goes a long way.

God bless!

March 11, 2011

In my own little world

I was up very early Friday morning, prodded by possibly God to spend some quality time with Him. After doing that, I went on the computer to read the news and joined the night owls in being the first in the U.S. to have learned about the earthquake and tsunami in Japan

The kids and I watched some of the footage from CNN, mostly from the vantage point of a helicopter. It was totally amazing to see what water can do when it leaves its boundaries and how much force it can exert. You might even tempted to think that the footage is really cool until you see a sheet being violently waved from a second story window and realize that someone has been trapped by the water which has become poisonous with all the oil, gas and other chemicals that seeped in from cars, refineries and other places. They are frantically trying to get help. Unfortunately, the helicopter is working for journalists whose job is merely to document their pain and suffering and not actually provide help.

Okay, that last statement was pretty snarky, judgemental and self-righteous. There are probably rules on how much journalists can help out, as much as to prevent a bad situation being made worse by someone without knowledge and skill trying to be helpful as well as to protect their journalistic objectivity (no, really, they are supposed to be objective). I can also be accused of passing people in my car who look like they need help because I am too busy getting through my day or too distrustful of getting scammed/injured/robbed. Fear and busyness are enemies of compassion and love.

So are pre-conceived notions. God is busy at work destroying my pre-conceived notions by giving them a face and a name. He has placed Eric and I in a Bible study with a culturally diverse group of people, which is not our comfort zone. We have highschoolers through grandparents and many different ethnicities. And once a week, we all have dinner together before dining on God's Word. Naturally speaking, I have left the confines of my own little world. And yet, God is showing me, once again that His Holy Spirit creates bonds more powerful than bonds of race because those are bonds of my heavenly family.

"Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves."
Romans 12:9-10

March 3, 2011

Die, Germs, Die!

We are in the midst of studying the Civil War in school. Last week, we studied the war up to the battle at Gettysburg and the kids memorized parts of The Gettysburg address, which means that I worked on memorizing it too. Their memories are much better than mine however. I have loved digging into this part of history, though reading some accounts aloud has been difficult to do without weeping.

We are also in the midst of a second wave of sickness. The first one started at the beginning of Februrary and lasted almost three weeks, taking the first four victims by storm and then slowly wearing down the last two survivors until they succumbed almost two weeks later. This sickness involved fever and coughing. The coughing lasted a week after the fever ended. It was the coughing that brought down the last two holdouts. Who can avoid the germs when they are being flung through the air like grenades by the majority of people? For two whole days, children lay silently on our long, curving sofa watching all sorts of movies and shows, listening to books on tape and taking naps. I was using all the artillery in my arsenal--Vick's vapo rub, expectorant, mister, lots of cups of lemon slices steeped in hot water and honey, hot water bottles, lots of vitamin C pills and early bedtimes for all. We also canceled every single outside activity for the two main weeks we were sick, including uninviting an out of town guest to spend the night--not that she really wanted to stay in a great germ battlefield. My goal of insulation was not only to prevent others from being attacked by our germs, but also to prevent any other germs from infiltrating our house and further weakening our weakened immune systems. Near the end of the sickness, with the few people who were recovering to help, I mounted a final campaign against those germs by cleaning the entire house, including the knobs of every door, drawer and cabinet. For a brief, sweet time, the germs were decimated and retreated to some other house and once again, the melodious sounds of yelling, whining, complaining, as well as bomb, gun and crashing sound effects rang through the house.

Earlier this week, Jessi woke up with a fever and complaining of a headache and sore throat. John also complained of a sore throat for a couple of days. Jessi was crying so much about her sore throat that I made her gargle with salt water. I also took her to the doctor, since I knew that strep throat was attacking families. If strep throat had broken through our flanks, I was going to bring the big guns, penicillin, as soon as possible. This time, Jessi was confined to her bedroom for long periods of time, where she could nap and read, both for pleasure and for history. We cleaned the refrigerator, in case any germs were trying to hide out and survive in the cold. It REALLY needed to be cleaned anyway. John never developed a fever and stopped complaining after the second day. Jessi's fever broke by the second day. So far, no one else is showing symptoms of being engaged in a battle of the immune system. This is a good thing, because our weekend is VERY full with a Cubmobile build day, a sock knitting class for me, and a birthday party for John, who will be turning 6 on Monday. We really don't have time to be sick. So tomorrow, we initiate yet another offensive on germs, cleaning every surface, every knob and handle. I might even spray down the LEGOs that we have with germicide, all ten containers of them. We have them loosely organized by function--units, lines, areas, volumes, angles, rotating pieces, people and their accoutrements, doors/windows, round pieces and the "what is this?" bin. And we have a lot of them as the kids have accumulated at least twenty or so kits, big and small, over the past four years. Considering the party will involve building Lego creations, however, it is probably necessary, in case any germs have managed to survive and multiply. It is not a job that I am looking forward to doing. However, I believe that it was William T. Sherman who said, "War is hell."