Sunday, March 28, 2010

....And even more words.

A couple of nights ago, after bedtime, I came upstairs to find this.

It was hard to get mad at them for being out of their beds, though, when I saw what they were reading: my blog books. They LOVE to read these books, since they feature so prominently in them. :)

I've gotten 3 done so far now (years 2007, 2008, 2009), and as Strider very proudly says, "Mom, you've written THREE books, and Daddy has only ever published ONE." Ah, the ease of self-publishing!

I have made their home right beside Pete's book... even though the genres don't exactly match. But the books haven't stayed on the shelf long over these last few weeks...
I don't have a wide reading audience, but the ones I have sure are faithful and enthusiastic!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

More words


Colsen: Remember when Jelly (a girl baby doll) used to be a big boy? Remember that?
Strider: Are you a Hindu? Cuz that's what they believe.
Colsen: No, I'm a man who paints and cleans and fixes things!

And spoken to me...

Pete: It's hard to believe the Spiesses have been married 63 years! Think about that: they've been married almost as long as we've been alive!
Amy: Ummmm.... exactly how old do you think we are?
Pete: Oh shoot! I think I was thinking we were your parents or something.
Amy: .......... (No reply could convey the consternation this gave me)


Rayna: Mom -- look! The letters are jumping!

(She apparently ran out of room on her copywork page, so the last sentence is "jumping" up and down the margin)


The only one not providing comic relief for me with his words these days is Milo.... but I think those days won't be too far away. Right now he's practicing his "More -- All done" conversation at mealtime. It basically goes, "Mmmmmaaah! Mmmmmmaah!" and then when I try to give him the food, he says, "Allll -Duh. Alllll-Duh. Mmmmmmmah!"

The translation appears to be, "I'm definitely done with THIS food. Give me something else." That's always been my kids' favorite food: something else.

Thursday, March 25, 2010


Some words need to be tried out a few times before they're used properly.

The other day, Colsen was banging furiously on the bathroom door, which I had closed between us. I told him I would be out in a minute, but he protested,
"But... but... I have to tell you somethin' expensive!"

Then a couple days later when I was working on the computer with Strider, I said, "This is not a good web site."
Colsen, listening nearby, said, "Don't say 'This is not a good web site! That's a little bit expensive.'"
I asked him, "Honey, do you know what expensive means?"
"Yes," he said. "It means rude."

Then, just this afternoon, Colsen walked into the kitchen where I was baking and said, "I smell something. It smells expensive. Is it a cookie??"

He's getting closer!

And some words are just nice to hear.

Colsen was outside playing and when I came out, he said, "Look, Mom, I'm digging and making a house. I'm making a house for the people in Haiti because they're sad because they don't have a house. But now they're gonna be happy because I made them this house!"

Strider, listening to all this, said, "I think Colsen is an angel. He's too nice to be a person. And sometimes I try to get him to fight with me or something, and he just tells me that it's rude to fight."

(Judging from the amount of destruction the Cole man leaves in his wake, and the number of times he's been disobedient just today alone, I'm pretty sure Strider's theory is not correct. But I will be happy to remind him of it someday if they're mad at each other!)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


This morning we had an opportunity to go on a mini-field trip so the kids could learn about how an organ works. (We've been studying classical music.) It was fascinating, of course!

And the best part was that they each had an opportunity to try it out...

Yesterday's outing was a little bit of shopping while Rayna was at an appointment. Before we left I told Colsen I would be taking him to Old Navy so I could return a few things. His response was,
"Great! Because I want to buy some driver-strations, because I don't know how to drive my truck and I need to learn. And I also want to buy a steering wheel for my motorcycle. A cement wheel."

Between this comment, and his question a few weeks ago when I told him that I was taking him to Target and he asked, "Target?? What does it look like inside there?" I'm concluding that this guy doesn't get out to stores too often.

Miles, also, apparently doesn't go shopping much. When I put him in a cart yesterday, he was very nervous, immediately bracing himself by clutching the sides of the cart with straight arms. He was obviously thinking, "What is this crazy contraption that is suspending me so high off of the ground, and should I trust it?"

He does have his first outdoor shoes, though, and man, is he putting them to good use. After our field trip today, I let him play outside with the other kids while I went in to make lunch. Within 30 seconds, he was 2 houses away! There's a whole world out there, little guy.

During our INDOOR times, though, we've been finding some good things to do, too.... like crafting these fun butterflies out of magazine pages. I had seen this idea over the weekend, and we tried it yesterday. The kids loved the craft, and I did too -- so simple!
Now our foyer looks like this, thanks to Strider's ingenuity:

... and Colsen immediately started looking for ways to climb up and bat them down.

Happy Spring!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Weekend fun

On Friday, as a reward for a big academic accomplishment that Strider finished, we decided to let him go to see "The Blind Side" at the "cheap" movie theater. He has been wanting to see this movie for months now, and since he's only been to a theater a few times, and this was his first non-kid movie, it was a BIG deal. I loved seeing his face when I told him the plan! Pete was anxious to see it, too, since he read the book version of the story last year, so he took Strider and his friend Sam. On the Fun Scale, I think Strider would give this a 10 out of 10!

Then on Saturday Pete had to go to work for most of the day, so the kids and I rode our bike/scooter/stroller up to the park in our neighborhood for our annual Kite Festival. The anticipation was high.... the reality was just ok. On the Fun Scale, I'd give it a 6 out of 10. Some ideas are just better than the real thing. :)

Here we are riding a tractor/fire-truck thing that went about 2 miles/hour. The instructions before this photo was taken were apparently, "Girls, try to look happy. Boys, try to look very serious."
Strider and his friend Bailey roamed around a lot, before and after trying unsuccessfully to get a kite in the sky...

The bounce house is always a hit, though!
Rayna and Colsen made visors...
The little boys enjoyed watching all the kites in the sky... I know this picture is too small to see, but way off in the distance Rayna was twirling around and around to the music, and Strider and Bailey were trying to fly their kite...
We ended up having to rush home to get to a baseball skills-assessment day for Strider. And THAT on the Fun Scale was about a 2 out of 10. If I have to take all 4 kids to a semi-muddy field during lunchtime for an hour and a half again next year, we'll be skipping it.

BUT, it was hard to stay too grumpy yesterday.... the day was just too beautiful! I love when the maple trees look like this

Today, we went to a memorial service for a woman we had never met, and it was beautiful, too. Hearing about her passion and devotion to God was so inspiring... Strider and I talked a lot about what we learned about her, and how it was such an unusual funeral service. It was a good reminder about the blessing of Life, but also about how there is much more to living than just the ol' Fun Scale. I hope this lesson will be a good foundation for me as we start out this next week.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

It's like we're adults or something

For the second time this year, I had the opportunity to hear a lecture given by one of my former Grove City professors. In both cases, I arrived late (a habit I, fortunately, did not have while a student), and both times as I entered the large rooms and heard their voices, I loved the feeling of being transported back in time.

Thursday night was especially fun since the speaker was not only a former teacher, but also a good friend -- Paul Bonicelli. Pete had invited him to come to Wingate as a speaker for the lecture series that he has helped to start. Paul flew in from Houston and was here overnight, which was a treat for our family, as well as the Wingate community.

In true Paul fashion, he gave a pro-democracy speech that was eloquent, compelling, and full of strong assertions. (I found myself lapsing into my student mentality of wanting to poke some hole in a strong, slightly arrogant professor's claims... but I came up empty-handed last night.) Also in true Paul fashion, he managed, in a short hour's time, to offend anyone from France, residents of Wisconsin and Louisiana, and fans of Sean Penn.

I have to give him credit, though: when he was asked some very direct, political questions after the speech, he restrained himself from launching too much into one of his familiar tirades.... even when asked a question about the health care plan in D.C. (Those of you who know him know just how much self-control this must have taken!)

Pete facilitated a Q&A session...

... and Marc, one of our other Grove City friends was able to come as well!

It was so weird to see these guys all dressed up and doing such professional things. I keep forgetting that my friends are adults -- that I'm even married to an adult!

It really doesn't seem like so long ago that Pete and Paul were traveling around Europe together after we graduated...

In this picture, they're standing at the birthplace of Karl Marx in Germany, I think, which is kind of funny considering the topics last night. Yes, they've come a long way.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Basketball fever

I really do enjoy this week every year. And I really must be "feverish" to be willing to cancel school when no one is actually sick... for that is exactly what I did yesterday -- for the afternoon anyway.

So we were free to turn on the TV in the middle of the day and watch all kinds of random guys have their life dreams be realized or dashed on a single shot. I watched from the kitchen... Even if school stops, meals don't.

For Strider the afternoon looked pretty much like this:

(as he's enthusiastically trying to tell me something big that just happened)

or this,
as he called various people to fill them in enthusiastically on all the big happenings.

For Colsen, unpertubed by all the tv excitement, the afternoon pretty much looked like this:
(many creations in his imagination!)

And for Miles, it looked like a LOT of this:
(many destructions and/or dumping out of things).

Rayna was excited because other people were excited. Earlier in the day she was trying to ask me about something and I didn't comprehend what she was saying at first. Then she said, "You know.... those coloring sheets.... the racquets!" Ohhhhh.... the brackets!
It's funny actually -- Rayna and Colsen made their "picks" together as Strider went through each game and filled out a bracket for them --- and their entry (which has Houston, a #13 seed as their champion) is actually WINNING our family competition so far, after the first 23 games have been played!

They don't call it March Madness for nothing!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Top o' the morning/afternoon to ya!

Each of the kids is 12.5% Irish, so here's some 50% Irishness!

I am foregoing the old corned beef and cabbage dinner tonight (sorry to break tradition, Mom, Mor-Mor, etc) in favor of Mahi-Mahi and lentil and sweet potato salad.... I wish that was Irish... oh well.

But at lunch today, Rayna asked, "Mom! Can we have.... Patrick's food for lunch so we can... learn about Jesus??" How could I resist that? So I scrambled quickly and we had green celery and green apple among other things.... that satisfied them.

May we all be like St. Patrick, willing to share the Gospel --even with people who kidnap us!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Morning activities

While Rayna and I were diligently doing some worksheets together in the office, I looked over and watched the following transpire. (Had my camera nearby so was able capture the quick transformations over the 10-minute period)

First, Cole hauled in the ottoman from our living room, to be loaded onto his truck...

Then he needed to load up his lawnmower as well...
He then incorporated a volunteer into the play-action....
....who was soon a passenger....
.... and then the (dramatically pretending) victim of a tragic accident.
Meanwhile, Rayna just worked right on, oblivious to all the above.

Speaking of Rayna, she had her own fun morning activity/creativity time a few days ago when her dance class went to the nursing home. (And I wish I had pictures of that!) She ended up doing great --- dancing the right moves almost the whole time. At the end, we had so many of the residents wanting to talk to her, telling us that she was the one they loved watching the most. I think the fact that she was so small, combined with her evident exuberance for the whole thing, made her shining face so appealing to them. I was thankful she was able to be such a blessing to the people there.... and was ashamed to think that I had contemplated not even letting her be part of the performance since I wasn't sure if she would embarrass her teacher or classmates if she got distracted. God knows exactly what He is doing with this child.... sometimes I just need to get out of the way!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Brothers and sisters

All 10 of us got together last night! We had pizza, salad and cake (the world's most perfect dinner), as well as Mai Tai's a la Deuce, all in front of a beautiful, expensive fire.

The women talked about breastfeeding, c-sections, baby equipment and pregnancy blood tests. The men talked about indoor and outdoor hammocks, zip lines, and the speed of asphyxiation in 50-foot deep tanks.

And while parenting wasn't far from our minds (or the women's conversation), the best part of the evening was that there were no child interruptions at all! Big thanks to Mom and Dad for babysitting our kids at home! It made for a very relaxing and enjoyable evening with my siblings.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Praise dance class

For the last few months, Rayna has been taking a praise dance class at a nearby school. The girls are in grades 1-3, so she is one of the youngest -- and definitely the smallest. We've seen a lot of improvement in her ability to focus and pay attention to the teacher, but sometimes she still tends to be distracted by whatever the other girls are doing.

As her mom, it's easy for me to get frustrated by this, and for the first half of the course I was often discouraged. But over the last few weeks, I've seen a shift in my perspective. When Rayna is dancing, she gets so into it... her expressions and the movements are so enthusiastic. No one stretches higher or smiles broader -- she truly loves every minute of it. I'm learning to just enjoy the fact that she enjoys it. And, sometimes I just have to laugh -- like when she leaps enthusiastically the exact opposite way of everyone else and almost causes a collision.

Tomorrow morning the class is going to dance some songs at a local nursing home, so yesterday was their dress rehearsal. All the girls looked so pretty twirling around in their skirts (except for the ones who forgot to bring them). Here are a few shots -- Rayna is the one in the magenta shirt in the front row.

(See what I mean about how dramatic she is?!)

It is so wonderful to see the girls learning to worship God in this way!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

First sleepover

Colsen has been begging for a turn to go to Nonna and Poppa's overnight. He had grand plans to invite his cousin Ava to join him, and has been impatiently asking if it was his turn to go for weeks now.

Finally this was the week, and his enthusiasm was increasing by the day. On Monday he told me, "You don't have to be sad without me, Mom, I'm only going to be gone a couple weeks. And then I'll come back." (The invitation was only for 1 night actually)

Yesterday (Tuesday), we asked him if he was excited for the big day coming, and he jumped up with a big "YES," fists in the air.

And today, the day Nonna was coming to pick him up, we said, "Are you ready to go??" and he answered, "Ummmm..... I think my leg is going to hurt. I don't think I can go."

All morning he deliberated and hesitated and then finally decided he just couldn't go away without Mom and Dad. Nonna tempted him with his favorite dinner (salmon), his favorite cousin cohort (Ava), and all kinds of mysterious fun plans. But Cole remained adamant that he wasn't going to go.

In the end, though, we resorted to Plan B, which he was enthusiastically a fan of...

So he helped pack his suitcase....

.... and singlehandedly packed his "purse" with both of his phones in it (the Blackberry and the Blueberry back-up)....
... and then grabbed his most important take-along:

.... and he was finally ready to go. Once we agreed that Strider could go with him, the party plan was complete for Colsen!
So, now they're both at Nonna's, with Ava, probably stirring up all kinds of mischief.

And it sure is quiet here tonight!

The official 1-year pictures

We finally were able to keep our portrait appointment this morning! Only a few faded bruises and one red cheek to remind us he's an active 1-year old. I went to the studio looking for a particular shot to complete my "1-year old" collection and complement the other 3 we've had taken over the years, but I ended up with these instead. Still cute, though, I think! Picture-taking is always an adventure. (The pictures aren't so grainy in real life: this is just the picture-of-a-picture problem)
Strider announced today that we should call him MILE this year. He shouldn't be MILES until he's 2.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Messy Monday

After a several-year hiatus, the Finger Paints re-emerged in our house yesterday. Of course they were a major hit.

(Miles is having a snack and is mad that I won't give him any of that yummy-looking blue stuff that everyone else is getting!)

The 20 minutes of gleeful fun didn't quite outweigh the clean-up cost, though, in my mind. In a very short amount of time, 6 blue hands managed to get paint in an awful lot of places.

And now the Finger Paints are going back on hiatus.
It was a messy Monday all the way around, though -- I guess every Monday is. This was Miles saying "All done" after lunch:
And when I called home last night while I was out tutoring, a very bedraggled-sounding Pete answered the phone. When I asked him what was wrong, he said, "It's just been a long night. Among other things, Colsen and Miles dumped buckets and buckets of water out of the tub during bathtime. I hope it doesn't leak down to the ceiling below..."
Ah, the fun of these ordinary, messy days!