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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Snowy weekend

Waking up to a snowy Saturday morning was very exciting, of course. And after about a hundred requests to "go out and play in the snow" by 9 a.m., the kids got geared up and ready to go out. Miles thought all the garb was very entertaining:


The older 3 had a blast outside sledding on our hill that ends, not so conveniently, in a pond. A few of the neighbor kids got pretty wet, but thankfully none of ours fell in...

Miles had to content himself with watching from inside. Even though the snow only comes once or twice a year here, I'm still not fascinated by it enough to bundle up and get out there myself. Had my fill from 22 years in the great snow belt up North.

After a couple of active days outside, we also had some active family dinners -- don't let this somber-looking photo fool you.
Last night we introduced the kids to one of my old favorite bands that Pete found on his iPod: Hokus Pick. And it turns out I still love their music! Trey, if you're reading this, we told Strider all about how we brought the group and Steve Taylor to Grove City -- he thought that was pretty cool.

Then as we were cleaning up from dinner, suddenly the house was filled with the voice of our good friend Howard Cole. He was preaching a sermon, one that we've enjoyed before.... Turns out Howard follows Hokus alphabetically on Pete's iPod. Even though he sounded pretty different from the music we had just been enjoying, we were happy to hear him, too. :)

Other indoor fun this weekend has included cozy time around the fireplace, a board game with a neighbor friend, and some long over-due house-cleaning (which led to the frustrating phenomenon of having a clean house and not being able to invite anyone over because of the roads!). Then, a highlight of the weekend: roasting marshmallows...



And as the cherry on top of the roasted marshmallow sundae... Strider heard, and then announced to us, that there is no school tomorrow for the public schools! After we all got over our complete bewilderment, I assured the kids that Poplar Streams Academy would in fact be session. Strider immediately started bargaining for "at least a 2-hour delay"... which I have to admit is tempting. We'll see.

Regardless, everyone has already agreed that this was one of the BEST weekends.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Imago Dei

God is first presented to us in Genesis as Creator, and we, being made in His likeness, can be mini-creators. I totally resonate with that. But then, 2 chapters later in Genesis, we see that God is also a Restorer and a Fixer... and that is the part I don't feel like I got in my genetic code.

Tonight at dinner I was trying to express this thought to Pete, and Strider, listening in, said, "Huh??" So, I summed it up for him by saying, "Basically, I don't feel like cleaning the house."

Our plans for tonight were cancelled, and with a forecasted snow day tomorrow, I am faced with several hours to do something. And while there are many things calling for my attention in this house (broken items, dirty floors, disorganized desks, etc), I am trying to find any excuse to use my creative side instead. I would much rather MAKE something... a list, a plan, a dream, a book, a photo essay, a spreadsheet, a meal (but only with a new recipe), a baked good, a Power Point presentation, a video, anything in Publisher, a blog post -- hey look at that!

But the restoring, re-doing, and un-doing that really begs to be done here... all of that is what I'd like to ignore. Pete said to Strider tonight, though, "Mommy doesn't WANT to do the cleaning and fixing around here, but she knows it needs to be done, so she does it anyway." Hmmmmm.

I think I'm pretty much stuck in Genesis 1-3 and haven't grown into His Restorative image just yet... But there's always hope!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Blessed in the ordinary

My sister-in-law Laurie sent this great link to a videoa few days ago. It's an author doing a reading from her book called "The Gift of an Ordinary Day" -- such a wonderful title. I feel like this could be my theme these days.

So in the spirit of that idea, I captured a moment from our ordinary day -- another baking soda volcano. I love watching Rayna's face in these photos...

Thankful for this stage and these "ordinary" days!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Bath time

Pete and I are becoming increasingly aware of how fleeting Miles' babyhood is. It's weird to think he's almost ONE. So we find ourselves running to get the camera often, even to record the ordinary events of his life -- because they're so precious. And I love baby bath pictures!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Well, most of it... I was gonna say...

Strider has been gone for a lot of the weekend, giving us more opportunity to hear some of the other voices in this household. Funny voices, with funny phrases they've been trying out...

Rayna has randomly started adding, "I was gonna say!" to her conversations. As in, "You want me to turn left? I was gonna say!" Or, "I should eat my vegetables? I was gonna say!" She always expects a little laugh from us when she says it, so she apparently thinks she's being funny or cool.

Colsen, meanwhile, has started peppering his speeches with, "most of it." As in, "Well, Mr. Dickmann is sorta my friend, but most of it he's Daddy's friend."

Or, "Mom, what are we gonna do tomorrow? Most of it, can we have oatmeal? Cuz I really like oatmeal. But not gross oatmeal. Can you not put gross stuff it in it? Don't put fruit in it. Just put sugar in it. Daddy everytime makes it good. He puts cimmamim in it. Can you do that? Just put cimmamim in it, ok?"


We had a good time celebrating Kai's 2nd birthday yesterday... the kids LOVED their playroom -- who wouldn't?

And then Strider went off for his adventure with Nonna and Poppa. When I talked to him last night, he was saying all kinds of things like, "Oh boy, Mom. You shoulda seen..." and "This has been the BEST..." So I'm thinking he's had a great time.

Speaking of adventures, our car also decided to have one of its own this afternoon, after Pete (AGAIN) forgot to leave it in gear when he parked it in the driveway. This was where we found it later... Fun weekend for all, humans and machines. :)

Friday, January 22, 2010

Bread, pie, gumballs-- and Oakley: recent conversations

After I served the kids some homemade bread while it was still warm, Strider said, "This is the best. I love it when it's still warm."
I said, "You know, Buddy, maybe when you're grown up, you'll look back and think this is one of your favorite childhood memories: eating nice warm bread right after I make it in the afternoon." (Still wanting to be that idyllic Mom that my kids remember as June Cleaver)
Strider thought for a second, and then said, "No. Disney World is way better."


Even though I am clearly NOT June Cleaver, I still feel appreciated sometimes... One day last week, Colsen leaned over and gave me a side hug and said, "I'm thankful for you, Mom. So you can have a gumball every day -- and all day -- and at night and on Sundays. If I could reach 'em, I'd give you some."


When I took Rayna to the Post Office recently, she was busy taking in all the various details of the environment. As we were leaving, she pointed at a sign and said, "That's like Uncle James!" I couldn't figure out what she was talking about, until I realized she was pointing to the metal base of the sign -- it was in the shape of a black oval, like this:


She has obviously never seen James without him sporting the Oakley logo. As our friend Andy says, James must be the only Oakley-sponsored I-T person he knows.


Rayna recently "clapped" Colsen's cheeks a little too hard, and as he came to me in tears, he said, "I got hurt! I almost didn't growed up to be a man because I almost broke into a bunch of pieces and my cheeks almost fell off!" Poor guy.



Strider asked me the other day, "Is there a second in your life when you are exactly the same age as Pi?? I mean EXACTLY." I told him I guessed there was.... We calculated that Colsen had just passed the day he turned Pi around December 27th (I think). But when I told Strider that I was just using Pi as 3.14159, he was very disappointed. He wants it to be EXACT. Then he tried to explain to Colsen that he had just been Pi... and of course Colsen wanted to know when he could have the pie... and the consternation continues...


We haven't been out much this week, due to colds, etc., but there still seems to be enough entertainment around here anyway. :)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Productivity Charts, Revised

Although the balmy weather would have allowed for it, lunchtime here at this house was no picnic today.

Between 3 outfit changes, 2 uses of the dustbuster, 1 use of the vacuum -- after all the dustbuster contents spilled all over the floor -- several moving of people up and down the stairs to keep them either near or away from specific objects, cleaning up unknown spills, fixing dishwasher parts, and not getting to eat my own lunch until 2pm, I realized I was once again swirling in the vortex of chaos. And, when the policeman came in my house (another story -- nothing exciting), and saw the evidence of our daily destruction everywhere, he nicely and soberly remarked, "Ah, I remember this stage."

A stage. Just a stage. My thoughts turned to some graphs I had made a couple years ago, showing how certain stages of my life have had more or less productivity/destructivity. And as I calculated the current 2-footed variables, I realized that this particular stage could probably be characterized as a definite valley in the Productivity Function of our lives.

As part of some self-therapy, and a need to use some other part of my brain besides the "how to wipe up a spill" part, I created a new chart --Version 2.0-- of how the individuals either contribute to, or detract from, the productivity in our house. Here's how it broke down:

Pete and I: Still the most productive members of the household, but declining in effectiveness. It appears that with the birth of each child and the subsequent sleeplessness, we never fully recover or resume our pre-birth levels. As with Version 1.0, Pete's contribution is only slightly less than mine, due to his presence on the premises being less.

Strider: Becoming more and more helpful, as he takes over many of the chores (although the dustbuster disaster did occur under his watchful eye today). Was helpful today when he announced that he just stepped in something wet in the living room.... and then followed up with "It doesn't smell like urine, though." Does often slow down our productivity, though, through his constant use of negotiation tactics for every decision we make. (Probably due to poor parenting on our part. See above paragraph.)

Rayna: Also becoming quite helpful as she manages many chores, and enjoys doing so. But, mixed in is still some random behavior, such as peeling important labels off of things we needed. Today during the lunch craziness she emptied the clean dishwasher for me (+) but also went outside and brought in some dead leaves of a Sage plant "for dinner" (-).

Colsen: Mostly just destructive. His imaginative play requires many props, and usually demands that all the cushions be taken off both couches for his caves and forts. He's also in a delightful "cutting" phase, which means there are endless tiny pieces of paper all over this house. There are glimmers of his productivity increasing, though. For instance, he does sound various alerts like, "Miles is almost to the top of the stairs!!" and other helpful things.

Milo: Just now entering into his destructive phase. Spends the entire day emptying any shelf, cabinet, or bookcase he can reach. Also throws all his food off his tray at mealtimes, requires clothing/diaper changes regularly, and moves items from one place to another (where they never belong). Today he took the wheels off the dishwasher tray while Rayna was unloading the dishes.

And here is the resulting chart:


There is also a negative synergistic effect I'm noticing now with the kids at the stages they're in. Due to our need for "zone defense" we have to set up various gates, locks, etc., around the house to keep Miles away from things. However, one or two of the other kids cannot maneuver around these stops, which means they need help. So about 58 times a day I hear things like, "Mom, I have to go to the bathroom, but I can't get in! I have to go NOW!" This of course means my productivity plummets as I drop everything to race over. I also spend a lot of time realigning gates, locks, etc., as other kids undo them and Miles races to danger.

So, all things considered, this is my approximation for our current productivity pattern as a whole family:


I am nervous to see how deep this valley goes... We shall see, I guess!
The good news is: while certain members of this group are extremely destructive, they are also extremely adorable!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Soup for breakfast, lunch and dinner

If this was written by either of my parents, the "soup" of the title would likely be actual, edible soup. (They go on a cabbage soup diet every January that both amazes and frightens me.) But, in this house, the Soup we have had... is our out-of-town friend who makes his Charlotte pilgrimage every MLK weekend. (He does have a real name... but due to the nature of his work, he doesn't want personal info posted on the Web. Oooohhhh... doesn't that sound mysterious? He does have a cool job -- so cool that his job title even declares him to be "Special.")


In addition to having the skills for this cool and special job, he also has some serious networking skills, singlehandedly keeping all of the alumni from our college connected with his personal visits and sharing of information from one house to another. So, while he was here, he made the most of his time by visiting 6 other friends as well. We were pleased to have him stop by here frequently, though, for meals (including some edible soup), games and other fun. The kids had a great time with "Uncle Soup!"

Some of the pics from our weekend:



Playing outside even when it was wet...

Enjoying a cozy fire in the evening, while watching football playoffs, of course...

Learning some martial arts or something, while watching football playoffs, of course...

And, playing Settlers of Catan, while watching the football playoffs, of course...

The only bummer of the weekend was the fact that the Dallas Cowboys lost -- the football playoffs, of course. Two sad Cowboys fans...

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

All Miles begin with a First Step

video

Strider was eager to show me a new "trick" that he and Miles had been working on.

(And Colsen was not to be left out of the action)

I can't believe my baby is starting to walk! His babyhood is flying by way too fast.

So thankful

This past weekend I received some of the best gifts ever.

Usually for birthdays, the Wray siblings/spouses all get each other gifts. This year, though, I asked for some gifts of service, instead of bought gifts. I was starting to feel VERY overwhelmed by the disaster this house was quickly becoming. (I have always had some things that need to be done... A few big projects looming on my horizon. But lately I've realized there are about 75 items on that To-Do list, each of which would require a few hours of my or Pete's time.... too daunting.)

So, I made a list of some things I would love to have done at my house....

....and this past Saturday, when I got home from taking Strider to the local National Geographic Geography Bee, I found my house swarming with Wrays/spouses! These busy bees did so many great things: cleaned windows, organized closets, patched holes in the walls, painted ceilings, banisters, and walls, caulked like crazy, helped design room layouts, and installed a new mailbox. Oh-- and updated our sluggish computer!

It was amazing to get such a jumpstart on all the home projects around here, and to get many items definitively crossed off my To-Do list. It was MONTHS of work done in one day!

So I am all in favor of the group-workday concept. I hope we can start getting each family on a rotation like this. It's so nice to have the momentum that several people provide!

(The only downside is that people saw my "extreme dirt" in all the corners of this place... But I'll put up with a little humiliation if it gets my projects done. :) )

Monday, January 11, 2010

Experimenting

This past weekend, our computer was updated to a more recent operating system and web browser... and I was dismayed to see that my blog had a completely different appearance! The text was all centered on one side, there was a big gap in the middle, the red background was missing... it was a fiasco! It totally bewilders me how one computer can read html code one way, and another reads it completely differently.

Anyway, I decided to just start from scratch for a new design for this site.... and this is the result. Now what I THINK should be on the screen is this:

If someone is reading this, though, and the appearance is different on their computer, please let me know. Of course you might turn me into a swearing woman, and you'll cause me to spend hours more working on the stupid html screen (when I should be making dinner or something else less important).... but, really, I'll thank you for your feedback. :)

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Milestones

This week marked the beginning of Algebra for Strider. While I was thinking, "NOW this homeschooling stuff is gonna get FUN!" Strider was a little more underwhelmed. He kept wanting to see some of those mysterious and grown-up sounding "x's" but instead found a lot of fractions and geometry review.... and a LOT of problems for homework, which he's not used to. I assured him that the elusive x's -- and even y's -- will appear sometime soon.

He thought I was dumb for wanting to take his picture, so this is the shot I got:

This semester has also brought a new format for some of our schooling, and I've been so happy to see 3 kids at the table doing their independent work/play.
Of course it only looks peaceful like this for about 4 non-consecutive moments each morning, but it's better than it was before anyway.

In other news, Rayna taught herself how to zip up her sweatshirt (with no help starting it) all by herself today. This may not seem like a big deal to other kids/parents, but it was for us! Just last week I was thinking about that skill and figured I'd wait awhile to try and teach her that, assuming it would be an arduous process. But today she just walked up to me and announced she could do it! I was thrilled, and relieved.

And, how could I write about MILEStones without talking about our little Miles? His latest feat has been learning how to stand on his feet -- he gets very proud of himself when he can balance on his own for a few seconds.

Lots of learning and growing around here! It's too quick and just right all at the same time.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

And on the 12th day of Christmas....

Today officially ends the Christmas season, marking the last of the 12 Days of Christmas, and tomorrow will be Epiphany. This year, for the 12 Days of Christmas, we decided to focus on giving gifts to Jesus. I read an idea another family did,* and decided to try and tweak it for this. So the kids and Pete and I pooled our money together a couple of weeks ago and decided to try and buy some gifts that Jesus would like each day. We weren't entirely consistent with that, though... some days got skipped... but we tried. To keep it simple, we just perused the Samaritan's Purse catalog, and everyone got to take turns picking out items within our daily budgeted amount.

As I looked at our collective random list tonight, it suddenly occurred to me that it would be very cool to hear Jesus sing, "On the 12th day of Christmas, my true loves gave to me...." followed by a long list of all the things given in His name to the people who need it. Maybe some year we'll try to parallel that song more.... Our current list does have "12 chicks" and "a fruit tree" (like a pear tree, minus the partridge?), "2 soccer balls," etc. :)

Speaking of gifts for Christmas, though, I'll record one I did NOT receive, neither for Christmas, nor any of the 12 days thereafter:


In fact, at around 4:30 am on any particular morning in our house, you may not find Frankincense, but you may find a Frank Incensed!

Since both Pete and I will be working tomorrow which means we won't have a lot of family time, we decided to celebrate part of Epiphany early tonight. The kids were excited to find 2 gifts mysteriously on our doorstep (one from Grandpa and Gee-Gee-- thank you!!) tonight, and we talked about the Magi in the Christmas story. Tomorrow we'll do the "chalking of the door," a tradition that we first were introduced to with the Cole family last year.

And THEN Christmas will be over.

Actually, no, not quite for us. For some reason our church leadership Christmas party has been scheduled for this coming Friday night. Somehow that feels weird... Will I really want to don Christmas apparel once again? It may feel like the seventy-eleventh day of Christmas by then.



*This is the only blog I read written by a person I don't know.... and I think it is truly inspiring. I go through stages periodically in which I was much, much more like the writer. And the rest of the time, I just wish I was much more like her.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Tonight’s pre-dinner Colsen comment…

Colsen: I’m not eating dinner tonight because I’m going to bed.

Pete: Are you tired?

Colsen: Yeah, I’m tired and lazy…and lazy means I need clementines…Dinner is gross.


(This post was guest-written by Pete)

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Was-Boxing-Day-Now-New-Year's-Family-Charity-Auction


This was the scene at my parents' house yesterday afternoon, as a bunch of us gathered for our now-annual family charity trash-to-treasure auction. Each family had loaded up their old junk, backed their cars/vans/fancy new Acuras down the driveway to Mom and Dad's front door, and dumped it all in their house.

Then we all sorted through each others' trash to find our new treasures. As Pete, the auctioneer, held up each object, we started bidding... sometimes ferociously. The hottest ticketed item was a bathroom faucet and towel rack set (retail priced at $245! the seller proclaimed), and was purchased for $30. Some wireless speakers (never been used! the seller proclaimed) went for $24, and a shirt bought by Mom for $20 originally, (brand new! never been worn!) was repurchased by her again yesterday for $6... bringing her total investment in the t-shirt to $26. (None of the rest of us quite understood that transaction... but, as Mom kept saying, "It's for charity!")

In the end, though, the single item that ended up raising the most money was.... a secret. John declared that he would, to the highest bidder, divulge some piece of information that was yet unknown to our family. To this family of "24"-watchers, Clancy-readers, and general conspiracy theoriests, this was too tasty to resist... and the highest bidder ended up paying $65 to find it out. As I was not the winning bidder, I do not know if this secret has anything to do with current government operations or not... It could very well be something stupid that John did in high school that the rest of us didn't find out about... Who knows!

(This also led to some discussion about whether a family member would sell a secret about another family member.... But in the end we decided that blackmail really wasn't in the right spirit for a Charity Auction.)

Anyway, the good news was we collectively raised over $300 for a missionary family, just by selling each other our junk. The bad news was, we all left with mountains of other people's junk. Oh, the belly-aching of the husbands as the re-loaded the cars/vans/fancy new Acuras! Just when they thought they had cleared out some nice space in their houses, now they had to take home all this other stuff... Pete actually is in denial I think. We brought all our new loot home -- but 24 hours later it's still sitting in the trunk of our van. If I don't monitor closely enough, he may end up just taking it all to Goodwill before I remember to nag him to bring it in the house!

Here's the whole gang who participated (sadly missing the Clarks)....

This year, Keiko's mom and aunt were able to join us all the way from Japan! We can only guess how weird they thought we all were.

Speaking of them, though, on the way to the big event yesterday, we were telling the kids that members of Keiko's family would be there who we hadn't met yet. Strider asked how we should talk to them. Pete told him that Keiko's aunt spoke English quite well, so he could just speak normally.

"What if I say a word that she doesn't know, though?" he asked.
"Don't worry," Pete replied, "She'll know any word you use in everyday speaking."
Without even a pause, Strider said, "Like non-market entrepreneurship??"

Where did we get this kid?

Anyway, it was a very nice way to spend New Year's Day. Even if my attempts to get the kids to set New Year's resolutions (in the car on the way to my parents') went like this:
Me: "So what do you guys want to do differently for 2010?"
Strider: "Watch more TV and play more video games."
Rayna: "Yeah, play more games."

And that was the sum total of the conversation.

Happy 2010!

Friday, January 1, 2010

New Year

The changing of the year means another painting of a box here!

Our tradition for the past five years has been to paint a special box for the new year's memories. As the year goes on, we slip in various souvenirs, cards, tickets, and other memories, and then at the end of the year, we enjoy going through all that we've collected.

As we perused and painted this year, we talked about 2009, and the collective conclusion is that it's been our best year so far. It was the year that gave us Miles, and a myriad of other great blessings -- health, trips, experiences, lessons, and fun. We're so thankful!

Some of the items from our 2009 box...
As Strider was looking through the whole box, his main comment was, "Man, I can't wait until March Madness again." The rest of us, though, had plenty of other memories that we enjoyed looking at.

Then we worked on our 2010 box. Colsen's first question was, "Can we paint our heads like last year?"
Last year, I happened to be wearing the same exact sweater.... and was super-pregnant. This year I'm happy to report I'm about 30 pounds lighter.... and have this smiley guy who's ready to join in the fun:


At the end of the painting, we had a couple of messy kids:
...and another box to line up with our others!

What will 2010 hold?