Friday, August 31, 2007

Poplar Streams Academy is in session


Our first full week of school is now over, and by all accounts it has gone well.  For those of you who want a summary, I'll report at the macro level, and then if anyone wants more detail, I'll also give a micro view as well.  (Being married to an economist I can't help but thinking in those terms, right?)

So, first the macro level:

We had a fun, productive week.  Everyone stayed "on schedule" for the most part, apart from some welcome interruptions due to the neighbor girl coming over a few times, Aunt Katie coming over, etc.  And the not-so-welcome interruption of mastitis (causing me to be confined to the couch for a couple days) didn't deter the kids from learning too much.  We had a fun time starting off our Exploring Countries and Cultures curriculum... lots of fun activities. 

And my "geography-enthusiastic" boy jumped right in with both feet:  On Tuesday the book suggested I give him a "pre-test" for the year, by giving him maps of each continent with just borders on them and asking him to label as many countries and oceans as he could.  Well, he handed them back to me after identifying all the oceans, 26 countries, and 3 rivers!  (including the Orange River, which he drew in, in South Africa.  I didn't even know that river existed... but I checked our atlas, and it does)  When I counted it all up and told him how surprised I was that he knew that many countries, he said, "Oh, I knew more -- like Costa Rica and Ethiopia -- but I didn't feel like writing them. I decided to keep those secret."  And the truth is, he really doesn't like writing-- and isn't good at it at all.  So he has the penmanship and spelling of a kindergartener, but his geography is better than mine.  Maybe this curriculum will be good for ME anyway.  :)


Now for the micro level:

Here is what our life has been like for the last few hours (for those of you who love to know the specifics.  I'm looking at you, Jane!)

Pete left to go up to Virginia to spend the weekend with his "ATF" friends at lunchtime, so as a diversion this afternoon after "school" was over, the kids and I walked to our neighborhood "town center" to get the kids' hair cut.  (kids haircuts?  kids' hairs cut?)  This, after great contemplation was determined, by me, to be the ideal week for this, in the hopes that they will look their cutest by the time they are the ring-bearer and flower girl at Aunt Katie and Uncle Graham's wedding in just over a month.  (and by "kids" here I certainly am not including Colsen.  He is neither in the wedding nor in need of a haircut anytime in the foreseeable future.  But he did come with us)

So they got their haircuts by Mr. Tom our friendly neighborhood barber who they love, and then as we headed out the door, Strider had the "great idea" (his words) of getting Chinese food from the restaurant next door for dinner.  I caved, since I didn't feel like making the omelet I had planned to make, so we went inside.  The only other people there were a couple who are very involved in our neighborhood (the wife is on the town council) so I got an opportunity to suggest something I've wanted to see our neighborhood do -- have a Halloween parade.  (Similar to our 4th of July bike parade -- during the daytime, so kids can see each others' costumes)  The woman seemed appreciative of the idea and even looked at her calendar to see how it work out.... but she also wrote down my name and number so I have a feeling I may have just volunteered to coordinate this event.... Not exactly how I was hoping that would turn out.

Anyway, we headed home for the 3-ring circus otherwise known as dinner.  And even though we had take-out, it's still quite a procedure.  I still had to cook a vegetable for the 2 older kids (of course), and mash up some peas for Colsen to mix with oatmeal, defrost some avocado for him to eat as well, and make up some applesauce-and-vitamins for the older 2.  Plus 2 different drinks for each kid.  Plus nurse Colsen.  Plus clean up the egg roll Rayna just dropped in minute pieces all over the floor before Colsen tries to eat it.  Plus keep putting Colsen's bib back on.  Plus find more Duck Sauce for Strider in our silverware drawer.  Plus clean up the milk Rayna spilled as she tried to pour it from one cup to the other.  Plus get Rayna down from her chair and discipline her with a time-out because she poured her milk a 2nd time.  Plus.... well, I see this is getting too long already.

Finally I wanted to eat my now soggy and soft Chinese food in peace.  So I got everyone reasonably cleaned up and down from high chairs, and got my plate and drink to the table.  Just as I started to sit down -- I am not kidding you -- I had the thought "I'm glad no one is coming over tonight- - this house is a disaster".... and DING-DONG the doorbell rang.  My butt had been just 1-inch from the chair.... but up I got again (reminding me of my least-favorite exercise I have to do at the physical therapist's office).  Thankfully it was just my neighbor Mary... and she had a good reason for coming.  She had found a butterfly just emerging from a cocoon in her mint leaves, so she brought it all over for us to watch.  She often wants to turn my house into some sort of wild habitat or science experiment of some kind (this is the same woman who wanted me to raise the 2 baby bunnies at my house). 

After I wolfed down my dinner with 3 little people fluttering around me asking for more bits of food, I tried to get Strider to vacuum the living room while I did the dishes.  Well, this, as with most things around here, sounded much easier than it actually was.  Rayna kept trying to "help" and Colsen kept trying to put his mouth all over the dirtiest parts of the vacuum.  As Strider says, vacuuming has become a 2-person job: 1 to do the vacuuming and 1 to keep Colsen away.  Tonight Strider said we need a Roman Guard to come keep Colsen away.  I don't know what made him think of that.   Since we had no Roman Guards on hand, I had to do the dishes one-handed, while Colsen tried to un-do all the back-correcting work my chiropractor has done by trying to throw himself out of my arm repeatedly.

Anyway, the kids are now all finally in bed, and this post is again way too long, so now I go off to do something quiet and calm.. probably watch a Hallmark movie.


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Sunday, August 26, 2007

Back to School

Tomorrow will be our first day of school this year... and we're all excited!


We celebrated our last few days of summer by going to Nonna and Poppa's to swim with Ellie and Ava, and by getting Chick Fil-A for dinner.  Then, last night we had a special "Treasure Hunt."  Based on the principles from Proverbs and Colossians that knowledge is better than precious gold, and is a mystery to be sought out in Christ, we let the kids hunt around for treasures that they will be using in school this year.  (Basically we just hid a bunch of the new books and workbooks I've gotten, as well as other school supplies and some extra fun stuff)  They had a great time running around the house finding everything and putting it in our Treasure Box.   We are doing a curriculum based on world geography this year, so Strider even found a passport and a book with flag stickers of various countries; as we "travel" to each of the different countries this year, he'll be able to put the stickers in his passport.


(Then this morning Strider re-hid a lot of the things for Rayna to find again... I remember re-doing Easter egg hunts as a kid myself!)

So we're set to go now...  We have our detailed schedule all printed out -- it maps out every half-hour for the week.  Of course I realize we'll only probably stick to it exactly on approximately 4 days out of the year.  But maybe tomorrow will be one of them!

Now we're off to bed soon...  Hopefully tonight will be more restful than last night, during which 80% of us were up between 3:30 and 5 am.  (Only Strider "the rock" slept through it all).  So good night.


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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Under the category of "What Were We Thinking??"...

A little over a month ago I started to look around our house to see if there were any minor home improvement projects that a friend of ours could do for us.

I should never have started to look.  I should have just kept my head down and gone on not noticing all the flaws in our home.    Because the progression has gone like this:

We don't like our countertops -- they're out-dated and yucky.  So let's get new countertops!  Time to research all the different surfaces, suppliers and possibilities.  And time to agonize over color choices.

Well, if we're going to get new countertops, we should probably change our kitchen floor, because the tile there was also out-dated.  Time to research home equity loans!

And if we're going to change our kitchen floor, we might as well change the flooring in the front rooms as well, since the wood there is showing a lot of wear, and has significant gaps between the planks.  Plus it would be too hard to match the color.   Time to research all the possible surfaces, widths, types and installation deals.  And time to agonize over color choices for the floor.

And as long as we're changing the floors, we might as well re-paint the kitchen -- and right away -- before the countertops get installed.  Time to agonize over color choices for the walls.

So, we got the floors done.... but the job left a HUGE mess throughout the house.  Even though we had painstakingly moved all the furniture downstairs into one room and covered it all with plastic -- and made plastic sheets separating the kitchen from the rest of the house, still, apparently, chipping up tile is an extremely messy deal and the dirt and dust get EVERYWHERE.    Thankfully some of the Wray family came over to help clean that night and we started to get re-settled.  (Although I know I will be finding dusty boxes in the pantry for months to come, and even our upstairs closets will never be rid of all the dust)

But...  at this point my mother had entered the scene (with her 6 buckets, 45 rags, 7 spray bottles, 2 mops, 14 face masks, 47 pairs of sterile gloves, and a partridge in a pear tree).... and this event spurred a whole new set of ideas.

Such as....

Instead of putting the dining room table back in our kitchen eating area, why don't we put it in our front room?  And then we could put the couch from the front room in the old kitchen... which can now be called a "keeping room" (whatever THAT is) 

And since we're rearranging furniture and purposes of rooms, we'll need to switch the light fixtures.  And we'll need to re-paint the new dining room.  Time to agonize over color choices for THOSE walls.

And since we moved some of the furniture into the kitchen, the paint color I thought I had chosen for that room no longer works.  So time to agonize over color choices for the kitchen walls AGAIN.

Mom also had the brilliant idea of adding a bar in the kitchen where the kids could sit and eat breakfast...  so now, we need to build a bar.  Time to go to Lowe's and figure out how to do that.  And back to the paint store again to get paint for it!  (We should have bought stock in Sherwin Williams last month before all this began!)

And then, as Mom pointed out, since we have a new more "open" floor plan, we should re-arrange the furniture in the living room --- the one room downstairs that we had not yet touched this month -- to make it all "flow better."

And, now we'll need new light fixtures above the bar, new dining room furniture for storage, and we need to switch out our dining room table and chairs for one that Mom has.  But all that stuff will remain on the "To Do" list for next month.


In the meantime, though, as we await our new countertops and try to get things back into the spots they need to be in, we have to sit back and chuckle.  What started as a very harmless question, has exploded into something far more time-consuming and expensive than we ever would have imagined!  Instead of relaxing and enoying our last month of summer, we've been going a little nuts;  for a decision-making-challenged goofball like me, this has been WAY too stressful.  I really never should have picked up my head to look around our house!

And, oh yeah, we're trying to find a minivan to buy, too. 

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Saturday, August 18, 2007

Rayna's birthday

Rayna turned


"THIS MANY" this week, and I think she had a good birthday.  We had a few different events for her:  lunch out with Nonna, dinner with Uncle Dan, Aunt Katie and Uncle Graham, ice cream out, and a special outing at Build-A-Bear with her friend Elizabeth.  Here are some of the pictures...















Rayna named her new bear "Ishi-Lana"  Don't ask me why... and don't ask me if that's the right spelling.  But she's been insisting on this name for a few days now, so that's what it is!  It's her new "friend" and she loves playing with it.

Strider also went to Build-A-Bear when he turned 5... it's been a fun tradition.  And now their 2 bears can "play together" as they say.  :)




Sorry this posting is so disorganized.  My head is too.  And I still can't quite the hang of this site!


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Sunday, August 5, 2007

Seen and heard 'round the house

Here are a few examples of the goofy things we see and hear all the time living with these crazy kids...


I came into the living room yesterday to find Strider and Rayna taking turns standing on our ottoman (while the other one sat on the couch as the "audience") giving, what I found out to be, "Presidential speeches."  Strider explained it to me, "You know, Mom, how the guy who wants to be President gives speeches before he's President so people will vote for him.  That's what we're doing."

So I listened for a moment.... Here are a couple excerpts (both delivered in very austere tones, deep voices and with straight posture as they stood on the ottoman):

Strider:.... So if you go to, you'll find a picture of me there.  You can click on it and send me an email.

Rayna:  .... And then I'll clean the kitchen, and then I'll clean the other rooms...  (I thought this was wise:  only promise something specific that you know you can do!)


Rayna has been learning the books of the Bible (just finished the Old Testament!), and we've been very proud of her memory.  But it's also been funny to see how the wires get even more crossed in her head, the more knowledge she puts in it!  The other day I asked her, "Rayna, who loves you soooo much?"  and she rightly answered, "God."  Then I asked her who else loves her so much (intending to her "Mommy and Daddy").  Instead she promptly answered, "Amos."    Another day we were asking her what her last name is, and without a pause she answered, "Obadiah."  Oh well.


Colsen is giving us a whole new glimpse into the word "headstrong."  He always likes to act like he's in control -- always lifts his head forward and up when he's in car seat or stroller (I just want to tell him "you CAN relax you know, Buddy!")... and now that he's crawling he literally pushes his head into any barrier that gets in his way!  He's still dramatic too.  When he's hungry, he'll crawl towards me a certain amount, crying, and then he'll just faceplant right on the floor and wail away.  

And, he's getting increasingly quicker, now that he's mobile.  Yesterday Pete had him up on the changing table to change his diaper.  Pete bent down to get some diapers out of a box on the floor, and in that couple seconds, Colsen flipped over, got up on all fours, and put his hands on Pete's back!


I asked Rayna the other day what she wants to be when she grows up.  She answered, "A woman."  Can't argue with that.  But I did try to push her a little bit, so I asked her what kind of job she would want to have, and she said "to teach people."  I guess we'll see!  Strider, meanwhile, added his own comments (as we all know he is wont to do):
"Everyone says they want to be a fireman or something.  Why do they want to do that?  I don't.  I want to be a Senator."  Then he added, "Or a basketball player."  Guess he is a typical boy after all.



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