Saturday, May 31, 2008

More Random Rayna-isms

Rayna continues to make us laugh with her silliness -- both intended and otherwise. We still refer to her as Random Rayna almost daily, because you never quite know what is going to come out of her mouth. Here are some recent examples:

R: Mommy I hurt my knee!
Me; What happened to it?
R: I ankled it!

R: Mommy, tell me a word.
Me: Ummmm..... Supercilious.
Me: Supercilious is not the word?
R: Nope -- it's church.

When Pete broke a glass the other night, he yelled "Dang it!" Rayna tried to join in with a similar tone... She said, "Agh! That's just so BORING!"

Teaching her various skills has proven to be challenging at times... For the last couple of months we've been giving her problems like this while we're driving in the car: "Which one is different: a tree, grass, a bush, or ice cream." For the first several hundred of these types of questions, she clearly had no idea. Sometimes she would pick a random element from the list, sometimes just another different random word. Then she would say, "Ok, let me do it. Daddy, which one is different: a tree, four, or a popsicle?" And then it was our turn to be stumped!

But yesterday we had a breakthrough. I said, "Rayna, which one is different: four, three, blue, eight or five?" She brightened right up and said, "The one that's different is..... Mommy, do a big smile...." (This was, I guess, her version of saying, "drumroll, please" and she waited until I complied with a very dramatic surprised/happy face) And then she finished by squealing "..... BLUE!!!!" She's finally got it, it appears.

And, she's finally learned how to write her name -- although she often writes it in a circle, instead of in a straight line. I'm not quite sure how to analyze that.

But my favorite random part of her is when she will spontaneously run at me and hug my legs and say, "I just love my mama!!" usually three or four times a day. And often she'll pick a moment when I'm inwardly so frustrated with how she isn't grasping something I'm trying to teach her.... thus reminding me that she really does have the important stuff figured out.
I realized when I was just flipping back through some old writings that I wrote these things about her exactly one year ago. She's still the same sweet girl, a little older, but still random.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Happy Memorial Day!

We woke up this morning in this great country, in a time of peace and freedom, and we are so glad! And today we get to celebrate that fact, and honor those who have fought to make it true.

Memorial Day = Parade to us, so since we couldn't go to a parade, such as the Hamilton, New Jersey Memorial Day Parade (our favorite), we decided to do our other version of this tradition, and have our own at home. It took some convincing to get Strider to go along with it this year.... I had to get out our old photo albums and show him how much fun we've had in years past. The last time we had done this was 4 years ago, so I told him, "Let's just make it our every-4-years-tradition!" He said, "Ok -- but I'm NOT doing it again in 4 more years!" So this was our last one in which everyone will participate I guess. Here's how it looked:

They decided to sing the U.S. President's song.... we had a hard time coming up with a good, patriotic song. Strider thought "Take Me Out To The Ballpark" was the best choice, but it got vetoed.

And just for fun, here's a picture from our "Memorial Day Parade of 2004":

May, 2004
What a difference 4 years makes!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Preparing the kids for dating.... not that they'll do that for a very, very long time

Yesterday evening was perfect for playing tennis, so after dinner we all rode up to the neighborhood courts to give it a try. (I didn't have a bike to ride -- Pete and I share one -- so I rode Strider's scooter.... and Pete nicely took a picture of me...It turns out that scootering is actually a bit of a work-out! At least judging from what my quads were telling me afterwards)

It's been a very long time since Pete and I have played tennis -- the last time was when we lived in Virginia, and the time before that was probably before we had kids -- so we were rather under-prepared last night. We only had 1 tennis ball (borrowed from a neighbor), one racquetball, and 4 rackets- - two of which were racquetball rackets. So the evening was good practice in family sharing. The best part of tennis, at least for our current stage of life, is that it is in a self-contained location; the balls couldn't get lost or go very far, and neither could the children.Pete and I got to play for a few brief, lovely moments as we tried to pass it off as a learning time for the rest of them ("Watch how you're supposed to play, kids. See? Now watch as he hits it back. Oh, one point for Daddy! Oh, now Daddy's winning, 2-0!" We didn't feel like tackling the official scoring system on this our first lesson... we just stuck to the basics of getting it over the net.)

The kids played with us... adding the additional fun challenge of trying to hit it where they were not. Our little volleying session came to a halt, though, when I started to get a little too into it (imagine that) and almost beaned Rayna with a backhand slam.

So then we just let the kids play with us (for real now). Rayna, sweet wonderful girl that she is, got the most joy out of chasing the ball whenever it went out. We're bringing her with us everytime we play. Whenever she got it, though, she would hold it up and say, "Ok guys! Here's the game: " as if there was a plan she had for us, but then she'd give up and hit it back to us.... or somewhere anyway... with her little racket.

Colsen just kept motoring around the outside of the courts, trying to find an escape route, and any little piece of disgusting trash he could find. Then of course he wanted to "try" with my racket... I wish I had gotten a picture of him running around with a racket as big as him.

Strider was the most excited about the actual sport of tennis... at least at the beginning. He couldn't figure out which hand he wanted to hit with -- he's proving to be a weird mix of ambidextrousness in sports.... like his mother and grandfather -- so he kept ending up hitting 2-handed backhands -- no forehands --, as if he were playing baseball. But then his interest rapidly waned.... He went from saying, "Tennis is really complicated" to "All this is is chasing a ball!" (said disgustedly, as he ran after yet another missed one), and then to, "I hate tennis!"

I started channeling my mom, saying things like "Tennis is a hard sport, sweetie. It takes practice. Someday, though, you'll be glad you learned it." And I suddenly recalled how I sounded exactly the same at his age.... and for many years afterwards. My parents graciously paid for us kids to take tennis lessons a couple weeks each summer through the parks and rec department.... something I complained about over and over. My mom kept trying to convince me of the value of it though, saying, "Someday you'll be glad you know how to play -- it's a great social thing to do! You may even go on dates someday and play tennis."

And.... drumroll.... she was RIGHT. As usual. I am very glad I finally got some grip (ha ha) on the whole tennis thing because it did become one of my favorite activities to do with my high school friends... and later with college friends, and young adult friends. And it was good for dating, too. :)

So we'll keep trying to teach these kids tennis, because someday, way way WAY in the future, their future spouses might be glad they know how to play.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Getting a few (W)rays at the beach

We have just returned home from a really great Christmas present -- a long weekend at the beach, given by my parents. It was, needless to say, very, very fun. And now that everyone and his brother have their own blogs (quite literally in the case of my family), I can let other family members tell the story. My brother-in-law James has already posted a cool slideshow (with music and everything! so talented) here, and my sister-in-law Amy posted some great shots as well, here. (Updated: Here's my brother-in-law Graham's rendition as well...)
So, I will be (semi) brief and only include a few (relatively, anyway) pictures.

So here's the "SCENES and HEARD" for this trip...



"Let's vote on what we're going to do tonight" (initiating an hour long process, at the end of which most of us ended up going to bed)
"No more wilds in Texas Hold 'Em!" (several of the guys, to a few of us girls)
"CAN-NON-BALL!!!" (chanted over and over by the small-fry, gleefully watching the not-so-small-fry comply)
"Ron Bell or Rob Bell? Or Ron Paul? Is he that gay model?" (confusion during the bowl game)
"I think it's Brooke Shields. I think it's Brooke Shields. I think it's Brooke Shields. I think it's..." (Dan, over and over, during the "Battle of the Sexes" game)
"It's so windy I can feel my earlobes waving" (Pete, commenting on the turbo-level winds we experienced for much of the weekend)
"Pass the bowl" (Dan trying to sound like he did in high school, while playing the "bowl game")
"Veg-able" (Dad trying to describe Mr. Potato Head during the "bowl game" -- also sounding like he did in high school)
"Big Whoop" (Dan, again channeling his junior high and high school self. Missing John.)

Thursday, May 15, 2008


Strider just finished reading Tiger Woods' biography, so his newest plan is "If I don't get to play in the MLB --- or even if I do --- I'm gonna play in the PGA." The boy definitely dreams big!
Reading about Tiger, though, as instilled within him both awe, and some alarm. He came running downstair after reading the first few chapters saying, "Mom! Did you know Tiger was already hitting at the driving range when he was 1 1/2! We gotta get Colsen out there! And by the time he was my age, he could already hit a ball, like, 150 yards! If I had a driver, I think I could only hit it about 100 yards. And all I have is a pitching wedge, and I can only hit, like, 50 yards with that."

Then a little while later he came down again saying, "Ok, it's too late for me. Tiger started way earlier than me. But it's not too late for Colsen! I'm gonna help him get ready. Ok, first thing: we need a good nickname for Colsen (since Tiger's real name is Elrdick). Ok -- got it! Lion. We'll call him Lion Frank. Now we gotta get him out practicing!"

And sure enough, a few hours later this is what I saw...

So we'll see what happens with this brotherly duo...

Meanwhile, Strider's had his own excitement in the golf world -- at a Young Life fundraiser this week. See the semi-summary here (embellished by Uncle Graham)...

He was quite proud of his hole-in-one -- and very thankful for the sponsorship of Poppa. (He didn't win the whole order to do that he would have had to sink several 10-foot putts... but he did get one which was better than a lot of the adults there did.)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

From the mind of a 7-year old boy

Never having been a 7-year old boy myself, I find it fascinating to see more and more about how one of these little minds work.

Last week for part of his school assignments, I asked him to write a fictional story, just curious to see what he would come up with. I gave him the beginning and asked him to write the next part. I also thought I would provide him with an opportunity to talk about feelings -- which in his mind, are still vague and unnecessary parts of the human existence. I wanted to see how he would portray characters dealing with hard life lessons, etc. So here is the story beginning I wrote for him:

Once upon a time, in Sherwood Forest, there lived a chipmunk named Ogden. He was different from the other chipmunks in his family and his friends because he had a red stripe going down his back, instead of a black one like everyone else. Sometimes the other chipmunks made fun of Ogden because of this. One day he met a cardinal named Wilson. Wilson started to talk about Ogden's stripe....

And here is what Strider wrote (I went ahead and corrected the spelling for the sake of readability):

He loved it! Wilson was so big and fat that Ogden got on his back and they started to fly. They were on a journey for 7 years seeing all kinds of
different creatures.
But one day Ogden woke up and Wilson was gone. He ran and ran and ran until he came to a man-village. A boy captured him and beat him up. "It is horrible" Ogden thought. Then he escaped and saw acardinal. "Wilson! Wilson!" Ogden said. "My name is Hank." the cardinal said.
Then Ogden ran up a tree and found Wilson.

It wasn't quite the dissertation on feelings that I had been hoping for, but I decided to let him run with it anyway. So I told him the next day that I wanted him to write the next chapter. "What happened to Wilson?" I asked. Here is the next installment (This time I'll leave the original spelling):

Wilson got kid napt by his evil brothers. One of the brothers called himself the king of birds. Wilson said they took me to be a servent then a prisoner. He was tided to a tree! Ogden said the wizard isn't looking. I will untie you. But his plan did not work. Instead the wizard tied him up. They were so so so so mad! How will we ever get out? said Wilson. What going to happen? said Ogden.
Then to cardinals came named Hon and Ron. They untied Wilson and Ogden and battled the king and the wizard for 20 years until Hon killed the king. Wilson got his gun aimed at the wizard. The wizard said No, don't do that. You won.

I was still in suspense, so I asked for a third and final chapter the next day. Here is the conclusion!

They ast Ogden were he wanted to go. He said to see my mom.
They had been gone for 42 years until they met Mac. Mac knew
Ogden's mom. Mac took them to see Ogden's mom. The end.

My favorite part of the whole story was that Ogden wanted to see his mom. That's as close as I'm going to get to true (nice) feelings at this point I guess!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Where is Colsen?

This morning Colsen and I were upstairs and he was playing happily in my old scarf drawer. I let him play away, since it was neither harmful nor overly destructive. After awhile I came downstairs and no more than 5 minutes later started to wonder where Colsen was -- it was way too quiet. Strider and I looked all over the house (Pete and Rayna were out at the library) and could NOT find him! I started to get a little panicked and checked all the doors, but they were all latched. So we kept hunting and calling him.... until I got a glimpse of something colorful out the kitchen window...

I went out the back door and found this:

Monday, May 12, 2008

Why I'm Looking Forward to Tomorrow Night

For some seasons of my life I get to be a professor, and starting tomorrow night, I will be in one of those seasons again. During those months when I teach, life around here can be a little crazier than normal, and sometimes I complain about it, but there's one big reason I'm glad to be a professor again....

"Let me 'splain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up." (name that movie) Lately I've become even more absent-minded than I have been in the past. I'm talking scary absent-minded. I've discovered that quite often that I do not finish sentences when I'm talking to Pete or the kids, and I don't realize it until a few minutes later. So they hear a lot of, "OK, when we finish this book, I want you to vacuum and then you can...." (Strangely enough they never prompt me to finish my thought either.)

Or, I make a lot of statements like, "Can you please go tell what's-his-name that we're ready to, um, you know, with that that thing." No wonder this house is chaotic; the first mate of the ship makes no sense half the time!

Recently I didn't fully "park" the car in our driveway when I came in. So later when I was trying to locate Pete, I discovered that he was out in the road, retrieving our car that had rolled out there. Sigh.

A few weeks ago I misplaced my dinner --- while I was eating it!! I was looking all over for my half-eaten plate... I started to question whether I had ever had a plate of dinner at all, or whether I had already finished it and cleaned up already... until finally the nagging occasional beep of the microwave eventually reminded me that I had stuck it in there to heat up the rest.
And just a few days ago I spent a good 4 minutes going all over the house and both cars looking for my sunglasses. I re-traced all my steps from the night before, trying to figure out where the heck I'd left them. Finally I gave up and went outside to the bright sun with great resignation.... only to discover they were (in unison now)..... on the top of my head the whole time.

When I gave the kids a bath a couple weeks ago, I absentmindedly turned the shower on full-force- - all over myself.

Even in my dreams, I'm absent-minded. I won't bore you with the details of a dream I had the other night, but suffice it to say I realized I had thoughtlessly put an empty bottle of salad dressing back into the fridge.... something I would quite regularly do awake, too, I'm sure.
So, now, where was I going with all this??

Oh yeah, why I'm glad I'm about to be a professor again. The big reason is because being an absent-minded professor is ok! (They even made a movie about one) Being an absent-minded SAT tutor or GMAT instructor just does not have the same ring.... not to mention that it sounds like the students are not getting their money's worth. And being an absent-minded MOM... well, that's just downright frightening, true as it may be.

So here I go, back to professoring days.... and now I have an excuse for sounding and acting like a dingbat all the time.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

This morning

Peter is currently attending Wingate's graduation ceremony this morning, i.e. baking in the sun under a thick, wool, black robe. (He gave me quite an earful about this yesterday). So I have the kids at home for the morning. We should have done "school" today I guess because it's apparently been a little too unstructured. I just sat down, fuming, and added up all the things that have happened this morning.

Here's the list of things that one or more of these children have done in the few hours since they woke up (which was way too early):

-wrote with permanent marker on the floor and all over himself
-broke a door on our dining room hutch
-dumped someone else's cup of purple grape juice all over self, table and floor
-took off his diaper and threw it away, prancing around naked
-pulled out my newly planted pepper plant in the garden
-played soccer all over my newly growing lettuce plants
-tried to eat plant fertilizer
-pushed a sibling, causing them to open a previous wound which bled all over
-literally dove into the sandbox (and now is head-to-toe sandy)
-plunged his arms elbow-deep in a pot of dirt
-drank from a beer bottle from the recycling bin!
-drenched us all with a hose outside
-and.... just 10 minutes ago... spilled an entire pitcher of water all over the kitchen floor.

It's been quite a morning here -- and it's not even noon yet! We've already gone through 5 changes of clothes. Plus I got 3 fire-ant bites on my feet.... Argh!

Next time Pete's at school on a Saturday, so are we.

Added 30 minutes later.... This was lunch:

...And added a couple hours later...

It has been a very messy day here!

Friday, May 9, 2008

A visit with good friends

Today we were thrilled to see some of our long-term friends (hard to believe some of us have been friends for over 16 years.... and spouses were added in along the way, happily!). One family came down from Maryland, via Greensboro, and another family came all the way from Matthews, NC. It was great to see each other, and have a few conversations interspersed with interruptions from the kiddos -- who also enjoyed meeting and greeting each other. It's always fun to see your friends multiply and bring new little ones into the world who have so many of their individual qualities.

So, we had a good time swinging, playing in the "rice box", eating and talking.... and Strider convinced the men-folk to play several sports with him -- basketball, baseball and golf. (His only lament at the end of it was, "all those games, and I only won once!")

Afterwards I was reflecting about the guys in particular.... Back in our Grove City College days of dreaming and wondering, I bet they would have been thrilled to know that there would be a time in 2008 when they could all semi-spontaneously get together -- in the middle of the day on a Friday. They've all made good career choices from that perspective! (Atlhough Pete DID have to leave for much of the time today... for a "work" lunch and round of golf!)

I am so thankful for these college friendships that have lasted through various ages and stages of life. It is fun watching us all grow up!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008


Today marks my baby's 18-month birthday! He now moves from having his age counted in months, to the much more adult-sounding age of 1 1/2. This is such a fun stage -- it's been my favorite with all my kids -- so I thought I would make a list of some of the things I love about the Cole-Man, a.k.a Bubba, a.k.a Joey. (He gets a lot of nicknames around here)

Therefore, this will be one of those posts that won't be all that interesting to anyone besides me... but I write it so I will have record in the future....

Things I Love About Colsen at 18 Months Old

· He has 2 speeds: Fast- Forward and Sleep. (Thankfully, and not coincidentally I'm sure, he takes longer afternoon naps than either of my other kids ever did. But the rest of the time, when he's awake, he's in high-speed mode!)
· He has many STRONG opinions about things. Example: For a few weeks he went through a phase where he suddenly hated taking showers; as soon as he heard us mention that word, he would run down the stairs. And if we tried to take him in the shower, he would scream his head off the entire time. Then suddenly one day he decided he loved showers. So now he screams his head off every time we try to take him out.
· He physically is very bold. He shoots himself down slides like a maniac at the playground, does all kinds of climbing on the furniture at home, tries to skateboard on Strider's board outside, etc. And he doesn't mind sacrificing his body for the sake of a game. His favorite idea of fun is to "dance" to music by spinning around so many times that he falls into something. I could go on and on here...
· One of his new favorite words is "Try." He always wants to do whatever I or the big kids are doing. He won't let us feed him anymore -- he wants to "try." He wants to "try" when I'm gardening, when the kids are doing chores, etc. We have to physically wrestle him away from the dishwasher when the other kids are emptying the clean dishes. He really wants to help.
· He also wants to help whenever someone is using a vacuum or a dustbuster. Since we won't let him, he always runs to the closet and gets out the mop thing (in the picture to the left), to clean his own way.
· He loves to imitate anything - -but especially talking on the phone, or "going to work." (shown with Pete in picture). Anything becomes a prop for either one of these games.... Tonight his crust of bread was his "phone" and he kept handing it to me to talk to whoever was on the other end.... I ran out of things to say to Mr. Bread after awhile.
· He's very cuddly. He loves giving us hugs -- especially Rayna because she's just the right size) and he also loves doing kisses, which he does by putting his face right on ours and saying very loudly, "Mmmm-MA"
· Whenever someone comes home, he runs to the door yelling (in a very high voice) "HI! HI!! HI!" Such a happy welcomer.
· He never passes up an opportunity to identify any tree, bird (all of which he calls "geese"), dog, or trash-can that he sees. I must say, "yes, trash!" 316 times a day.

I am very, very thankful for this boy!

p.s. It is also a half-birthday for Katie and for Andrew --- Happy Half-Birthday guys! And Happy 9th Birthday to Nate too!