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Monday, October 12, 2015

A Small Birthday

This blog is mainly for my family who did not make it to Rhi's birthday party b/c of the torrential rain in SC!

Rhianwen turned 9, and her party was actually smaller scale than previous years! I think she may be to the point of having close friends and enjoying the thought of a shared experience with them, but maybe not! We'll see if next year she requests a huge bash.

This year she wanted a Carmen Sandiego mystery birthday party. This ended up being quite fun and an easy way for the kids to feel like there was a mystery without it being really sinister. Plus, geography to boot....yes, please!

We started out with an easy craft: making secret agent badges with fingerprints.

I'm not sure what Boom! A7: Boom! is, but it sounds like a pretty intense skill.

Then we had snacks featured from various parts of the world...pretty easy and normal since the US really is such a melting pot.

The main part of the party was the hunt for the stolen detective gear. Carmen Sandiego left cryptic clues and obstacles along the way to the goody bags/detective kits. Each clue was left in a different "country", and they had to guess what country each clue was talking about and find that country somewhere in the house (I printed out pictures from each country along with the picture of the country highlighted on a world globe and stuck them up in various rooms) in order to find the next clue.

This is a list of the real clues, there was one point where there were multiple clues with only one real clue. They had to match Carmen's fingerprint to the real clue to find that one. Of course, I did not have the answers on their clues; yes, I know, the poetry, when existent, is horrendous...Carmen is better at theft than inspired writing ;0):

*From this city are people forbidden. If you come after me, a dragon will meet you. (Forbidden City China)

*I’m not a little girl walking in line, but I do say poo-poo to the tiger in the zoo. If you should come, I will say “Oui” as you chase me over this capital city. You will have to crack my code to find the next place I’ll be. (Paris, France)

*You’ll need oxygen to get to me, a guide, snow gear, and determination. There is not mountain taller that you could climb to get to me; you’ll have to detonate the bombs to find the next clue! (Mt. Everest Nepal/Tibet) detonate bombs to find clue

*Next you’ll find tigers and perhaps Babaji, but certainly you will never get to me. Find the fingerprint of Carmen left from henna to identify the clue she left. (India) fingerprint clues

*Now it’s “down under” where you’ll have to come, be careful not to hit the reefs, get eaten by great whites, or crocs. If you’re lucky, you’ll find koalas but not me! My next clue to read is also tricky (invisible ink). (Australia)

*These ancient kings left curses, traps, and wires to prevent robbers from stealing their treasure in their tombs. You can find these tombs in the desert and a little trap of my own! (Egypt -- laser course)

*Here you will find the Amazon (no, not the store), the large river through the jungle and Sugarloaf Mountain. Watch out for piranhas and anacondas...but you won’t see me! (Brazil) (dropped map leading to the USA & the treasure)

Here they are having to break Carmen's code to read the clue that will lead them to the next destination.

The clue was hidden in some bombs (balloons) that had to be detonated. Wally hid this one so well, that it almost got thrown away.
This was a laser field that they had to cross to get to the next clue.
They did recover their detective kits and loved the invisible ink pens. These things have been used on almost every surface they thought appropriate...if you ever come to our house with a black light, you may find some inappropriate surfaces with invisible ink on them as well! 

Got them out all in one blow.
Thanks to my friend Alexa for all of the photos! She grabbed my camera and became the official photographer of the party!

Love at first sight...her own Kindle, thanks family who helped with the purchase...she was totally thrilled and uses it daily. I think it makes her feel very grown up.

Rhianwen's actual birthday was the next day. 

She got serenaded in bed, poor girl.
The boys picked out a Lego Friends Lighthouse for her. She was SO excited, as you can see.
Things she loves to do: write, she is always in the middle of at least 3-4 writing projects...plays, ballets, stories, poems. The other day I found her trying to write a story in the notes section of her Kindle...I have yet to mention Amazon's self-publishing angle. She loves crafting things out of paper, glue, and tape. She loves drawing; she can generate so many pieces of paper a day that it's really difficult to know what to do with it all...as I've said to multiple people, just think, if she draws 5 things/day over a year, that would be over 1,500 pieces of paper that I have to find a place for. She loves music and has written her own compositions over this past year. She loves discussing, questioning, and arguing. I keep reminding myself, this is a strength in the correct circumstances. Teaching her when that is is always a challenge. She loves involving others in her life...and often assumes that everybody else will love doing what she does and WANT to be involved. She loves dancing...ballet, modern, and jazz! I'm thankful for some fun Christian jazz dance type music that she can have fun with at home. 

So thankful for this girl who first made me a mommy. Our personalities are so opposite in many ways, but I just pray God will continue to refine me as I parent this intense energetic outgoing emotional girl! And I pray that she will continue to give me grace each day and get to the end of it knowing she is loved so very much. 

Green Cannon Balls

Back at home, homeschooling is in full swing, and all of the busiest part of fall as well. Soccer, dance, children's choir, harp, piano, art, Trail Life, trying to get field trips and socializing fit in before baby. It's been quite a constant stream of activity. And can I say right now, if any more harp strings pop or break, I'm going to scream? Changing from summer to fall and from winter to spring just wreaks havoc on them...apparently this is normal! Some weeks we've had consecutive days when it is someone's turn to have a meltdown. First day might be Corwin, next day Rhi, next one Alden, next ME! Wally seems to stay above the meltdown mode, but he's always been more of an internal handler when it comes to stress. I was actually thankful for a week of rain that cancelled soccer.

Corwin set up shop in our backyard after being inspired by a book. It was so cute to come out and buy various items from his store. 

Rhianwen got her ears pierced and everything seems to have healed really well. No redness or swelling or crusting or anything. I am so thankful that her experience was totally different than mine! We need to take her back to get them checked soon. But as far as I can tell, she's ready to have fun with it.

Just some fun Alden artwork.

Rhianwen and friends put on a play that she wrote for us. It's been in the works for months, and I was about to go insane fielding questions about costume design, set design, timing, and the rest. It was cute, and Rhi was so satisfied with it at the end that she immediately started planning the next one.
Sadly the sound really didn't come out on the video, but if you want to see the first half of the play in action, I'll put it below:

A very fun experiment with acids, bases, neutrals, and purple cabbage indicator.
We also enjoyed our first bookclub doing missionary biographies this year. The first was William Carey who went to India, so we had a fun time discussing the book, India, eating delicious Indian food, and doing crafts. I hope that we'll be able to keep doing this after baby comes, but we'll see!

Corwin's little soccer team. They are naturals at wanting to get the ball in the goal, unlike some of their competition. They call themselves the Green Cannon Balls (per Corwin's request).
Corwin loves playing competitively, but he will not be a good loser. So far this season, they've won every time, although technically, no one keeps score. 
Sadly, most of Alden's games have been at the same time as Corwin's with the exception of this past week. I got so into Alden's game that I forgot to take pictures!!! I did get a team shot after their win this past week. Wally is their coach and loves it. He enjoys seeing them develop and grow.

Alden's team.

Schoolhouse of Wonder fieldtrip. The kids learned about Indians and how they lived long ago in this area. They are discussing a trap in this picture.
Here they are wading in the Eno after discussing water ecosystems. They caught more things in the stream but found some empty freshwater clams and some snails under rocks in the river. Of course, my boys got totally soaked. Wading is a relative term to them, I guess.
Some funny kid quotes:

Alden: Mommy, who was the first person to ever sing in tune?

Corwin: Where is the tahky wahkah? (walky talky)

Corwin: You are my beeeeesssst mommy!

We asked Corwin if had a dream the other night and if he had yelled, and he responded: I had a dream and I went into my dream and then I found my bed again, and that was just the boing of me falling back into my bed.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Transitioning into Homeschool for the Year

Despite the fact that summer is over, summer things in NC last at least until October. Even our pool stayed open until the end of September, so our last couple of months have been a strange combination of transitioning from summer activity to fall.

Swimming with Aunt Hannah and Uncle Christopher at the swimmin' hole on the Eno River.
Alden has lost teeth left and right recently. He's way too irresistible with that smile. 

Working on the model Wright brothers glider that Grandpa bought for us when we vacationed on Hatteras Island. Wally really enjoyed the new biography about them.

Buy me some peanuts and cracker jacks and soft pretzels and water for $30. Alden's Trail Life group went to a baseball game. We all went, and this was the kids' first. They had a blast. 
Saturday chores. So far EVERYONE hates dusting. It's Alden's turn for a couple of months. He's been pretty good about not complaining though. Of course, he knows if he whines too much about it, Saturday Minecraft gets cut. But I truly think he's been able to have a good attitude without that threat.
Corwin's chore: Washing cabinets and walls. Especially since it is his little feet and hands that make much of the mess on them!

We found a writing spider in our front flower bed. Corwin is trying to touch it with a piece of grass. 

Checking out a swallow tail with tattered wings. I so love zinnias and am so thankful that we successfully grew some this year. The past couple of years all of my sprouts got eaten by slugs. For some reason this year they managed to survive. They just  make me happy, and I love that they last from summer through a good part of the fall. 

At Huntington Beach State Park camping with cousins Mary Ruth and Ezekiel. It was the end of August and HOT the first couple of days, but cooled off after a nice rain. I figure I get lots of points for doing this pregnant...not sure who gives me those points, but I claim them.

This is the first year that Alden was able to successfully dig large holes and trenches all on his own. Wally found two awesome spades at the dump or maybe the cash for metal place that no one wanted. So these came to the beach with us. 

It's the first year I've seen proof that child labor actually can accomplish big things whereas before I've always been mystified as to how it ever makes sense to try to make children work adult type jobs. Sadly, child labor, forced and unpaid, is a huge reality in our world, on farms and in factories. I'm not one of those people who think kids should never work on their family's farm, but I do certainly oppose overly dangerous labor, forced labor, and labor not appropriate for the age. While I know some of those things are difficult to define, I think it is our job as consumers to do that and to advocate for these children who often supply our nation with things like cocoa, coffee, and clothes. Congress is defunding efforts that they previously funded to help end child trafficking and child labor, so if this is something you are interested in seeing supported by Congress, click here to contact your representative. 

Well that was a big aside...back to the beach trip...

Uncle Brooks brought his awesome boat raft and took the kids out to ride the waves.
Mary Ruth and Corwin enjoyed floating in shallow water in it too. It was really THE favorite toy at the beach this year. Thanks, Uncle Brooks, for making the effort to bring it and use it!

Boogie Boarding.

Wally skimmer boarding. This is his favorite activity at the beach. He would do it rain or shine. 

A rainbow over the ocean! I think this was a first for me! I know SC needs a reminder of God's promise that He does care for this earth. Brooks and Clara, who live in Columbia, have helped many neighbors pump out their homes and clean up during and after all of the flooding.
They actually saw an alligator on the alligator walk!

We attended some of the nature programs at the park, and Corwin loved this boat. He still remembers that it was called the "Stewardship". 

Getting ready to touch a stingray with Grandmama.

Feeding shrimp to a horseshoe crab with Grandaddy and Ezekiel looking on.
Looking for marsh-life.

At Atalaya. If you were wondering if this week at the beach was counted as homeschool, the answer is yes. Just think what kind of an awesome field trip this would be: outdoor skills, camping skills, seafood sampling, weather patterns, tides, marsh animals, ocean animals, historic homes, food webs, ecosystems...etc. YES, this is hands-on learning in a small class size in an immersive environment. Totally counts.

Trying their hand at sculpting with clay at Atalaya. I thought they would get bored in this home in about 5 minutes, but they lasted longer than I did. They loved its passageways and arched doors and dark basements and the icebox and did not want to leave.

Found a geocache. 

Decorating pancakes for Ezekiel's birthday. Totally fun plan by Aunt Clara!

S'mores with these awesome square flat shaped marshmallows just the right size for graham crackers. Grandmama found them and decided they were worth a try. 

Alden certainly approves!

On our way out we stopped by for a very brief visit with Great Grandpa and Jamie. Grandpa was organizing a movie viewing which was about to start, so we did not stay long.

Overall a great but exhausting vacation and a nice way to transition into homeschool for the year! Camping is a LOT of work. Thankfully, Wally is great at improvising AND trying to keep us all happy and comfortable. I have a wonderful husband who comes from a wonderful family.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Na na na na...Hey Hey-ey...Goodbye...

That's about what I think of our summer! It's come and gone. Here's what's been going on:

Reading Robinson Crusoe, a shorter version. 
We have a had a full but good summer. God has given us a restful summer with the busy being fun busy, family busy, and preparation for good things ahead busy. I often fall into the trap of feeling sorry for myself being tired or struggling with little childish spats, but I am so blessed to have had a summer of protection and goodness. Today, Alden asked me, "What if the baby dies?", and I can't help but always feel a twinge when one of the kids asks that. My heart cries out for that not to be so, but I answer, "Then that's what God had planned." Then Alden said, "But why would God make him in the first place?", and I answered, "We all die. God made him because He loves him." What questions! We have quite a handful of friends and family struggling with cancer and difficult medical problems, and today, I'm just feeling a little overwhelmed by it all. This world will be better one day, and I'm thankful that our family has experienced the goodness and restfulness of it this summer.

Practicing shooting arrows at a church event that Trail Life went to.
Sailing at Lake Crabtree with Trail Life.

Trail Life has been such a blessing for Alden and Wally. The group actively seeks to disciple boys using God's Word to tie into the lessons and experiences they have. It is a special time for them, and Corwin can't wait to be able to do it when he is 5!

Wally saw that Alden had taken off on reading longer passages, and he pulled out all of his old chapter books. Most of them are too advanced for Alden and some are too mature. I had to quickly weed those out amidst some tears!

A drawing by Alden inspired by the book, Hatchet. I had to nix the book b/c it was too mature for him.
And in BIG news, Corwin finally decided to pump for himself. Swinging on his own has become a favorite activity for him, and
he often would run out first thing in the morning in his pj's to swing until breakfast was ready! The entire family is glad of this since
we were his pushing slaves beforehand.

Rhianwen did a nice job at her end of year harp recital. I am always so impressed at how calmly she plays in front of others.

To celebrate the end of our school year, the kids wanted to roast hotdogs and camp in the backyard. The date coincided with Wally's birthday, so we had a double celebration. Uncle Christopher and Aunt Hannah came over to make it a full on party!

Roasting hot dogs with a hot dog. Hardy har...
Happy birthday Wally/daddy! Yes, we've gotten to the we-probably-shouldn't-put-so-many-candles-on-the-cake stage.
Excited to be camping on their treehouse!
I can't help posting a pic of each of our cuties.
Yeah, this guy isn't going to sleep.
The adults stayed out on the deck for a long while as it got dark. The air was full of fireflies...it is so incredibly magical that time of year! The kids didn't get to sleep until 11pm, but they did enjoy the light show and then stayed out there all night!

We can't deny them ice cream all of the time. Occasionally, we break the vegan for a summer treat.
I was Alden's group leader this year at VBS. All of the kids had a fabulous time learning about Jonah and God's eagerness to draw us to Him and to forgive.
Then it was off to Virginia and Brice's rehearsal dinner (yay, BBQ and cornhole) and wedding.
And yay for cousies! Note the boot shaped cozies that are now being used as boots...sort of.

Back at Grandmama's picking blueberries.
These are huge bushes!
Enjoying Strawberry Peach slushies at the Bush-N-Vine in York, SC.
On an old retired tractor.
Feeding the chickens some blades of grass.
Aw, yes. In a way, I did. Wally worked here growing up, so I'd say his work here was part of what made him who he is, and who he is is what I was attracted to, and so we got married. :0)

Playing in the big sandbox at Bush-N-Vine.

Trying to find the queen bee. Bush-N-Vine is so much fun, and it's only seconds down the road from Grandmama's. Plus it is the ONLY place I get good peaches all summer long. Wish I had a farm like that near here!

All dressed up for a wedding!
Saying hi to cousin Ezekiel.
How I managed to have no pictures of the bride and groom, is maybe beyond me, although, I have to say, kids do tend to steal the limelight for my camera!

Alden's friend, Miles, introduced him to the game of chess, and so daddy decided to play/teach him a bit more. I didn't notice my camera was on sparkle setting until a few more pictures later! HA! Queue Harry Potter.
Corwin helping me make a flag cake for July 4th.

We celebrated with the Carter family. It's becoming a tradition. So thankful for these dear friends!
Finn LOVED the fireworks. He was impressed with Wally's skills later in the evening.

The kids went crazy running under the smoke of the smoke bombs.
Ready to watch the legal and semi-impressive firework show.
Fireman Corwin. This is why it's so hard to get rid of toys, not that I'd want to get rid of our marble run. But they always find other uses for things that are just too cute.

Blasting a water bottle rocket. Alden learned the skill at Trail Life and the boys have used way too much water experimenting with this at home!

Picking tomatoes with Aunt Hannah. Our garden yielded unexpected things thanks to seeds in our compost...such as pumpkins from last October and butternut squash!

Thanks to Aunt Hannah, Rhi had her hair french braided for the little finale show of Frozen dance camp. I am proud to say, I did it for the second show later in the month thanks to Hannah's patient teaching! I have braided the incorrect way all my life, which makes it doubly hard to do. It's possible to French braid that way, but way easier to do it the normal way, except that I feel all thumbs doing it the opposite way of what I normally do! Rhi never had the patience to sit through all that torture, but thankfully, I did it in 5 minutes...so she was ok with it.

Rhianwen was an assistant in 2 Frozen dance camps at NC Dance Institute this summer, and of course she had a blast! I'm thankful for a studio that gives her so many opportunities to learn and assist in her own ways. 

Helping the littles remember their routine.
Posing with her brothers who really LOVE to watch her, even the same show twice.

Ta daaa!

For Alden's birthday, he wanted a rock climbing party. I don't think he realized until a couple of days before that he actually was going to get to climb at a real climbing gym instead of a party at home.
The kids climbed for almost 2 hours with a small break for cake. They loved it!
Rhi made it to the top of this particular climb.
And so did Alden.

He feels so cool.
Happy birthday! He is 7!
Erector set. 
A happy birthday to our Aldi-man. He loves Minecraft, so that was a small theme for the party at home.

Alden has been wanting his own weather station, and now he's become the weather man for us each day. It stays at his place at the dining table, and he checks it each meal. He even took it to York for his visit with the grandparents.
Excited to get a Minecraft Lego set.
Bringing Rhianwen's creative gift for Alden. She spent the week at Grandmama's and Grandaddy's so missed Alden's actual birthday.
Hannah and Christopher made it for Chinese food and peach pie (per Alden's request). Yes, summer celebrations have put quite a dent in our whole foods plant-based diet.
A big giant rope, which daddy soon after commandeered to help pull down a tree in the backyard that split and had to be cut down. You can see even Uncle Christopher is trying to grab it right out of the birthday boy's hands. What is it about guys and ropes?
Alden has grown in so many ways this year. He's losing teeth and keeping us quite busy. His poor tooth fairy even did not show up one night. Thankfully, the kids love the letters explaining just what misadventures occurred to prevent their tooth fairies from coming the first night! He is really enjoying reading now. Although he is not a completely smooth reader, he loves it and is in the midst of multiple chapter books right now. Swiss Family Robinson is a favorite right now. He and Corwin can be co-conspirators or adversaries, but always in that brotherly kind of way. Big brother trying to take over for little brother, little brother trying to take advantage of the parents' expectations for big brother to set the good example. He loves Rhianwen so very much and can get teary if she spends most of the day not playing with him, but now that books have become a larger part of his life, he has a good way to deal with that. He enjoys constructing as always, and loves Minecraft as an arm of that joy. We struggle knowing how much to let them do games, but he does 1h on Saturdays and looks forward to it all week! We pray that he will grow in love for Christ. I think nature really appeals to his spiritual sensitivities. He often make comments about God when talking about or experiencing the beauty of it.

We had some wrens build a nest in my hanging geraniums and got to see the babies grow and flutter off.
The kids enjoyed painting this summer. This is Alden's Indian in a big lightning storm!

And this is Corwin's tour de force.
Back in York at Grandmama and Grandaddy's with Uncle Brooks and Ezekiel and Mary Ruth. 

Grandmama and Grandaddy were sweet enough to take ALL of our kids for a few days and Rhi for a whole week! Wally and I enjoyed a babymoon at home making lofts for the kids, sewing curtains, and going out on dates to celebrate 14 years of marriage. Then we went to York for the weekend to celebrate Clara's birthday, go to Chelsea v Paris St. Germain soccer, and, oh yeah, get the kids back. 
A birthday picnic for Aunt Clara.
At home, Pippin and the kids found some baby rabbits in the yard. Sadly, I think some met their demise, b/c a few days later Alden came in and said, "Mommy, I found a paw in the garden!" I thought he misspoke and meant to say paw print, but sure enough, it was a rabbit paw. Ick ick ick! And I had to remove it so Pippin wouldn't eat it.
We've had a great summer. Lots of reading and swimming too. The kids redeemed their library points the other day. Summer is really winding down. Fall dance has started, and our calendar is filling up with routine again. We'll start school hopefully on the 17th, then the next week take a trip to the beach camping...yikes! Pray we won't die from sharks or the heat. Thankfully it will be very near my parents', so I, at least, can use the pregnancy card to bail and spend some time in their AC. I've never camped at the beach before and never camped pregnant before. So we will see!

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