Sunday, June 29, 2008

Summertime playin'

Gotta love summer!

Here are some of our highlights of this past week:

1. Summer Celebration
This is our church's version of Vacation Bible School, and the kids had a blast at it. This was our fourth year to participate, and I loved seeing how the very same teenagers in our church have been involved as helpers all along. Four years ago they were shy, scrawny middle-schoolers, but now they've transformed into strong, compassionate leaders. It was very cool to see how they taught the younger kids, played with them, prayed with them, etc. Our kids are blessed with good role models.

2. Cousins Camp
Rayna went on the inaugural session of Cousins Camp with Ava this week, and had a great time with my parents. She came home with this great photo book they made showing all their adventures, and she's been singing her new Cousins Camp Song for the last couple days. Looks like it was a big hit -- and Strider can't wait for his turn next month.

3. Game Night
And because summer is not just about the kids having fun, Pete and I arranged for some good ol' play time with some of our friends as well! We had some folks over for dinner and a rousing game of Balderdash.... entertaining and informative! :)

June has been a great month!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

A Midwest Adventure

I (Pete) don’t post very often on this blog, but we traveled to Minneapolis this past weekend for a visit with my sister Sue and her family and we had an awesome time -- it's worthy of my entering blog-land to talk about it. Here are some of the many highlights:·

· Tubing and skiing on two of the 10,000 plus lakes
· Jumping on the trampoline
· Playing the Wii (guitar hero, golf, marble mania)
· A Twins game (versus the Diamondbacks in inter-league play)
· Pool/water park
· Cousin David’s baseball game
· Visiting my friend Soup
· Rides at the Mall of America
· An outdoor Church service

Some quotes from the weekend:

Strider to Amy: Today I went tubing and got some serious air

Rayna arriving home just off the plane, in a sad tone: I just miss Aunt Sue, Uncle Al, Maggie [the dog], David and Krista.

Strider: Did you know that with your plane ticket on the way there and the way back you get a free cup of juice? A free cup of juice if you have a ticket!

Me: Maybe we should spend the whole summer in Minnesota some year.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Cheaper by the Dozen

I have always been slightly obsessed with efficiency. My main approach to all things in life, big or small, is how to make them more efficient. Thankfully, I also have an innate desire to make things beautiful, too, (oh -- and comfortable) so the efficiency thing doesn't get FULL reign, but it still a mighty force in my life.

And I think much of my love of all things efficient began to fan into flame as a kid when I read the book "Cheaper By the Dozen." If your only exposure to this story has been the movie that came out a few years ago, then basically you have no true exposure at all, since the only thing the book and the movie have in common is the fact that there are 12 kids in each. The book is the true-life story of a family raised by Frank and Lillian Gilbreth in the early 1900's. Frank and Lillian were both well-known pioneers in the industrial engineering field -- basically they were very good at making things efficient in businesses -- and at home, as it turned out. Lillian became one of my heroes, when I saw how prolific she became with her research and her influence.

Even in college, I still was an enthusiastic fan of the Gilbreths, especially after a management class that we took in which we learned about their contributions in motion-study, etc. In fact, I have a distant and vague recollection of my friend Trey (also a Frank fan) and I tackling a course project that involved improving the efficiency of the cafeteria dishwashing process. I have no idea if we made any impact whatsoever on that process (I'd like to think that we found the one best way to do it, and that they're still using that way today) but I do remember loving to pretend I was Lillian.

One of the great joys of parenting, of course, is getting to read the books that you once loved with your children, and seeing if the stories have the same effects on them as they had on you. Strider and I have just about finished "Cheaper By the Dozen" and I must say, his enthusiasm has been pleasing to watch. He has proclaimed it one of the very best books we've ever read, and I can see him taking a lot of new perspectives from it. At the dinner table, he reminds us of the funny ways Frank Gilbreth used to enforce good table manners, and we hear "Not of general interest!" quite often as Strider tries to emulate their family's mode of centering on good topics to discuss at the table.

He also came running up to me one day to show me that he could get undressed for bed faster than he ever did before, based on his new "system." (The system involves him pulling up his shirt with one hand while simultaneously pulling down the shorts and underwear with the other hand) And, to my great joy, when I suggested a new method for taking off one's socks at night to put in the laundry (which involved NOT turning them inside-out), so as to minimize the labor at the other end of the laundry process, he very happily agreed that this was a better way and should be followed immediately!

Strider has also announced that he wishes he was part of a family with 12 kids, too. But since I forgot to ever become prolific with my research and influence, and therefore we can not afford to have a cook, a maid, and a groundskeeper as the Gilbreths' had, his wish is very likely to go unfulfilled.

But at the very least, perhaps I will help to raise another efficiency-loving generation... even if it's way, way less than a dozen.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Things I didn't expect to say or hear this afternoon.... but did

Me: Strider, why is your golf club here in the fridge??
S: I wanted it to get cold

Strider: Rayna, who were the other kids in your swim class this morning?
R: Ummm... Jacken... and... Blacken
Me: Rayna, what were their names really?
R: Thacken and Wacken
Me: Rayna.... do you know?
R: It was Mr. Peter and Mrs. Jolly (Interpretation: "No")

R: What restaurant are we going to go to?
Me: Cheesecake FactoryR: Where we see how they make cookies?
Me: No

Strider: Oh no! Did my somersaults ruin my mohawk?!?

Colsen: Ha-bum! Ha-bum! Ha-bum!
Me: Does "ha-bum" mean you want more bread?
C: [happy feet] Ah! Ah! (Interpretation: Yes! Of course!)

Me: Rayna, make a bridge on the floor. .... No -- don't draw it on the floor!!

Me: Strider, don't "Shoo" your brother!

Rayna: [Opening up a piece of paper] I'm going to make a copashon.
Me: What's a copashon?
R: It looks like a word that starts with a rhyme.

So now I'm headed off to hear my students' presentations at work tonight. I hope they make more sense than what I've been involved with so far today. But I'm not holding my breath.

Friday, June 13, 2008

BYEC recap

Well it has been a busy, happy week around here! We had our final morning of Back Yard Explorers Camp today, and it was a good finale. Thankfully the whole week went well -- none of the 23 kids got hurt or bit by fire ants!

Over the past four days (I already wrote about the first day), the kids have:

  • learned about explorers (Marco Polo, Magellan and the Vikings)

  • used a Treasure Map and magnifying glasses with their clues to solve a big riddle

  • created and crafted (nature collages, binoculars, compasses, stickers)

  • gone on hunts (bugs, birds, and plastic frogs!)

  • discovered trees while blindfolded

  • learned/sorted various kinds of leaves

  • and discovered, named and claimed their own "lands" for their teams.

They've also played a lot of rounds of games: Capture the Flag, 4-Way Capture the Flag, Cross My Ocean, Owls and Crows, and Elbow Tag.

My favorite part was seeing how the older kids were so patient all week.... They really were great with the younger ones. Thank you guys! Here are some of the pictures from the week....

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Our green little boy

(For once the title does NOT refer to the fact that Colsen or one of his siblings colored all over him)Last night I brought home a plastic water bottle after work. There was still some water in it so Colsen chased me around saying, "Water! Water! Water!" until I let him play with it. He drank some of it, and then dumped the rest of it in my lap. After I had changed and come back down, he kept waving the bottle at me saying, "Trash! Trash!" I finally told him, yes, he could put it in the trash.

He instantly ran off into the kitchen, but within a few seconds I heard him yelling some more - this time asking for "Help! Help!" I said, "Colsen, just put in the trash! You can do it!' (he throws things away constantly around here).... but he kept yelling that he needed help.
So I finally went into the kitchen and found him standing at the door that goes out to the garage. Following his Lassie-like indications, I curiously opened the door. He dropped down to his hands and knees, and backed himself out to the garage.... and then went to put the bottle in the recycling bin!

No throwing away recyclable materials while this little one is on the watch!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Back Yard Explorers Camp

Today was our first day of BYEC -- and we had a lot of fun! About 20 kids came, including some older one who came to help with the younger ones (thank you!), and despite being still in the midst of this massive heat wave, we were able to play and explore in the back yard all morning.
After some practice of using our senses to explore, and starting our individual "Explorers' Kits," we divided into teams for some scavenger hunts. Our story today was about the life of John James Audubon (the bird guy), and it wasn't quite as exciting for the kids... hopefully tomorrow's lesson about the Vikings will be more gripping! But they did enjoy going around with their magnifying glasses and finding things to draw in their mini-notebooks, as Audubon used to do.

Actually, a few of the kids were just so creative, they found alternate uses for the magnifying glasses, and apparently started burning leaves. As soon as I got wind of it, believe me, that was extinguished -- in all ways. :) Interspersed with several "cooling off" activities -- involving squirt guns, and eventually the garden hose -- we played several rounds of Sardines, Black-Cat and Hide-n-Seek. I forget how much energy kids can have -- even on hot days!

Some of my favorite summer memories as a kid center around a whole bunch of kids playing games in our yard all day long -- including the ones above, as well as Capture the Flag, Spud, Soccer, and our made-up game of "Capture." I'm thankful that our kids are having the opportunity to play these kinds of yard games with a large group. More kids = More fun!
Hopefully the rest of the week will be just as exciting.... although perhaps a tad less hot.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Turning 8 is really great!

Strider's birthday was the best one ever -- by all accounts. I hope it's not too early for his birthdays to "peak" -- but we both agreed we couldn't foresee any birthday ever topping this one. :) He was surrounded by so many people who love him -- and so many goofy, funny, happy boys! The day started with our regular birthday tradition of a (free) breakfast at Bob Evans. This year Aunt Katie came, which was definitely a highlight. And then he had his much-anticipated all-sports party. Strider + 8 boys + 3 dads + a few extra little siblings = Total Fun!

Since it was yet another 100 + degree day, we couldn't do all of our planned outdoor sports, so we improvised with some indoor activities first before heading out. All in all the guys played a blindfolded paper football game, a baseball/darts-type game, a modified bocce ball game, a squirt-gun football game, kick-ball, and a blindfold water-rescue game. We only do birthday parties for our kids when they turn "even" ages -- so only every-other-year -- and this one was well worth the wait!

After all the friends left, we quickly cleaned up a little, switched out the centerpiece on the dining room table, re-filled the cupcake display, and got ready for dinner! Then Uncle Deuce, Aunt Amy, baby Kai, Nonna and Poppa all came over and we got to have even more fun. We all made our own individual pizzas, and then after dinner Strider and the other guys all played his new golf-pool game (which is a very creative idea if you ask me!).

Strider was very, very blessed. And we are, too, to have him in our family. Here are a few pictures of him with some of his new gifts.... he's growing up!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Strider's thoughts

As he winds up his year of being seven (tomorrow is his birthday!), I thought I would share a few of Strider's recent comments. So here are some of his thoughts...

...On social courtesies:
"Mom, I'm not trying to be mean, but you're a hypocrite. But you're a nice hypocrite and everything, but still. Whenever you invite someone over and they ask what they can bring, you first say, "nothing." But then when we go to someone else's house you always say you have to bring something. So you're being a hypocrite."

... On whether or not he ever feels lonely (we're still trying to get him to identify any negative emotions he has besides anger):
"No, I'm never lonely. Even when no one else is around, I still have all the ants and spiders around."

... On one of his favorite movies:
"Rebecca was surprised when I told her I like "The Princess Bride." I told her it's not actually about a princess, or a bride. I mean I know it is at the end -- but that's the worst part."

... On his verbosity:
"I don't talk that much! Probably just like every minute or so. Well, maybe more. Oh, ok, I'm talking right now! Well....."

.... And, on his birthday:
[Said on June 4th -- 2 days before his birthday]: "Mom, I know it's not your fault or anything, and I know you couldn't really choose, but I wish you had had me on June 5th instead. Then my birthday would be tomorrow

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

A very good day

My next-door neighbor Mary saw me outside this afternoon and said, "Oh, Amy, I was just going to come find you. Here is the first Glad (iola) to bloom in my garden... I thought you would like it." (Everyone needs a next-door-neighbor-Miss-Mary!)
So a few minutes later, as I was bending over picking some herbs from my garden to put in the soup inside on the stove, I thought, "This is a good day." I was feeling very hippie-ish in my flip-flops and tacky Hawaiin-print-loose-shift dress (it was so hot this morning after my walk that no other clothes would do! Strangely enough, Pete LOVES this dress... guys have weird fashion-sense sometimes). The afternoon was just good. My husband was mowing the backyard to get ready for a birthday party on Friday, my daughter had actually helped me make homemade cupcakes (she got all the little cupcake liners ready, and poured the batter in all of them all by herself -- I wasn't even in the room to help her! BIG accomplishment for her), my son was helping me harvest the herbs, and my other son.... well, he wasn't exactly helping, but he wasn't destroying anything at the moment either. I was fairly certain that the spinach-tortellini soup I was making would actually eaten by everyone for dinner. And now I had fresh flowers for my table -- one of my all-time favorite things.
Then as I went back in the kitchen, poured myself some wine and made some fresh herb butter to go on the freshly-baked bread out of the oven, I thought, "This is a very good day." Yes, it's niney-crazy-eight degrees out, and yes, I have a sore throat (which I'm hoping doesn't turn into a family-wide cold), and the kids keep squabbling and yelling, but overall, I am very happy.
I read a quote this morning from a Harvard professor who teaches a class on Happiness. (I could go on all kinds of tangents on that... but I won't) He says that if we're waiting for a big, major victory or event in our life to make us happy, we'll be disappointed. Big things like that only form a small part of the mosaic of a happy life. And a happy life is shaped incrementally, experience by experience, moment by moment. We could all debate the truth behind happiness, the relationship it has to True Joy, etc.,.... but the idea of our lives being a mosaic jumped back in my mind this afternoon.
And today was a beautiful little chip added to mine.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Bowling and camping: some "firsts" and fun

The past few days have definitely felt like summer, with all the activities we've been packing in. Actually, I should clarify that by saying Pete, Strider and Rayna have had a lot of activity -- Colsen and I have done a lot of staying home.

Strider had been begging to try Bowling sometime, so Pete took him and Rayna to the ol' Alley on Friday for a homeschool outing. Before they set out, Strider announced he was going to try and get "3 outs." We looked at him quizzically, until he explained he was going to try to get 9 "strikes" and every 3 strikes = 1 out. So with his baseball-bowling-logic, they left to conquer this new sport. (Colsen and I stayed home to entertain some long-time family friends -- a fun visit). A few hours later, the bowling trio returned, not quite as triumphant as they had wanted to be, but apparently there were some good rolls anyway. :)

Then over the weekend Pete took the older two camping at Lake Normal State Park. It was Rayna's first opportunity to sleep in a tent, and she loved it -- after she got over her initial confusion when she crawled in at night ("It's So SCARED in here!") From all accounts it sounds like they had a great time swimming and eating all kinds of junk food. They met the Dreschers and Nonna and Poppa there, so there was plenty of excitement all the way around.
Colsen and I had a very nice time at home. As Pete said when he called home, "It would have been nice to have you here, but there is no way I can picture Colsen doing this!"

And then last night Rayna had another first as she, Strider and Pete went roller skating. (I again drew the "Stay home with Colsen card" since I had gone skating the last time. But he and I did venture over for some of the time to watch.) I wish I had brought my camera.... Everyone had fun with our friends the Coles and the Lees, and the guys even participated in some skating races. Rayna keeps saying "I did so well with my roller skating!" and "We had fun doing roller skating!" so I guess it was a hit.

I've been thankful for a husband who likes to do so much with his kids.... and for the nice one-on-one time with Colsen.