Monday, December 27, 2010

And a merry Christmas was had by all...

We all had a wonderful Christmas.  On Christmas eve, we went to a special family worship service at church.  They handed out silly putty for the kids and Christmas CD's for each family.  Our pastor used the silly putty in the service but both of the boys dropped theirs (and watched it roll into the darkness between rows of legs) before we could sing the last carol. Afterward, we read Luke 2 to the boys while they played with the paper nativity made out of the CD case.  Rod had carefully placed their new trampoline away from the playroom windows so that they would not see it right when they woke up on Christmas morning.  When the boys woke up, they looked out their bedroom window to see if it was snowing yet, and low and behold, what did they see instead?  Their new trampoline!
After ripping the wrapping paper off of the rest of their presents, we ate breakfast and read our last Jessie Tree devotion.   Then we loaded the car for a five hour, chilly, rainy drive to Dothan.  We spent the rest of the day with family, playing with cousins, and enjoying Christmas. 

Monday, December 13, 2010

There's No Crying in Basketball

Wellll, yet again I find myself coaching when I did not sign up for it.  But, I have to admit that there is a side of me that does enjoy it, at least the part where I get to spend quality time with the boys.  I just finished flag football with Briggs, that was fun and the parents were great, but I think we (not Leslie) are ready to try out tackle next season.

Lookin Good Mom, Nice Job, Really...

The Y asked me to coach 3 and 4 year old basketball, that's THREE and FOUR year olds, "playing" basketball.  So far it's been fun and at least I get to pray with the boys, we've had a few practices and this past Saturday had our first game.  It's an interesting dynamic when I try to setup our prescribed zone defense and the opposing coach informs me that I'm missing one, I look and sure enough one of the boys is missing.  I look to the bench...nope, check the bleachers...not there, maybe I should count to 10 and see if I can find him, finally a grandmotherly figure kindly informs me that my missing child had to go "potty", great.  Also, my lone three year old (everyone else is four) spent pretty much the entire 40 minutes crying anytime he got more than 2 feet away from mom.  I was a little uncertain of how to handle the situation.  Kid is crying, mom and dad are telling me he'll be fine when he gets on the court - pushing him toward me, I'm obligated to put him in the game, kid does not stop crying, kid cries while trying to obey my instructions, awesome.  A few other things I've never had happen, after every score kids run off the court to get hugs and kisses from mom/dad/grandmom/grandpa.  Kid gets thirsty, regardless of whether or not they're in the game, kid goes to get sippy cup.

There's a Basketball Game Going On?
Max at least is being a big boy, for the most part.  Mom tells me that he cries everytime it's time to leave the house for practice but when he gets to the gym he's fine.  He listens well and is so proud when he scores.  Dribbling looks like a 4 year old trying to kill an orange cat by slapping it to death but hey, he's trying.  He pays as much attention as the rest of team during the game, which means I'm going hoarse trying to get the kids to not look at their family and the fly on the wall while the other team is trying to score.  Next up, Briggs' 7/8 year old basketball (where there had better not be any crying, nose picking, or sippy cups).  Here's a video of Max's first basketball points, pay no attention to the slight travelling violation, gotta love the little hop in his step on the run back...

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The reality of our new life of homeschooling, increased work load, and e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g-e-l-s-e has set in hard!  It seems that there is little time to slow down and catch your breath and blog breathe.  So tonight I'm breathing and blogging and gave her a new do!  I have finally figured out Photoshop enough to do a proper header and I really love it!  (Special thanks to my sweet friend/photog Magan for awesome pictures of the boys). 

Homeschooling is... well.... it's weird sometimes.  Some days it clicks along great and we almost feel like we are officially "at school" complete with the pledge, recess, and a class president (Briggs was properly elected by majority vote over Thanksgiving holidays).  Then other days all our good intentions go to pot and it seems like the only thing anyone learned is how fun it is to stay in your PJ's all day.

I struggle with the weight of the responsibility of teaching my children contrasted with my own selfish desires to clean/sew/craft/zone out.  I can definitely say that God is using this time to bring to light my own sinful nature, my desperate need for grace, and how to extend it to my children.  In that regard, homeschooling is a bit like being refined in the fire and it burns sometimes.

Since we are wrapping things up to take some time off at Christmas, I thought it would be good to take a long view of what we have accomplished so far this year.  I think it will be an encouragement in the days to come, as I hear January is a hard month for homeschooling moms and the cold, gray days it brings.

We have read through our Jesus Storybook Bible and decided to just start over and read it again!  We love it so much and it is just as effective at teaching me as it is them.  They have memorized one Bible verse a week for the past 16 or so weeks.  We have memorized one poem a month and the boys love to recite all of them daily. 

In math, Briggs has learned:
Addition with carrying to the hundredths place
Subtraction with borrowing to the hundredths place
Multiplication through his 3 times tables
Division through dividing by 3
and a little algebra!

He has learned all his cursive lower case letters and most of the capital letters.  He said he can't wait to learn cursive numbers next and was sorely disappointed when I informed him there was no such thing.

Either he or he and I have read the following books:
Stuart Little
Trumpet of the Swan
Treasure Island
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (the abridged version)
Rabbit Hill
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
The Horse and His Boy

We have gone on field trips to:
An apple orchard
the plays "Zorro,"  "The Frog Prince," and tomorrow, "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" at the Birmingham Children's Theater
American Village
McWayne Center- workshops about weather
Botanical Gardens- learned about Japan
Alabama Power- Safetyopolis
and had a Thanksgiving feast!

We will finish off the year's field trips with the Alabama Ballet's Nutcracker.  Since we have been studying composers each month and listening to some classical music, I have high hopes for the boys' enjoyment of the Nutcracker.  We have listened to it multiple times in the last couple of weeks and I have told them the whole story several times.  I have regaled them with tales of when mommy was a ballerina and danced in the Nutcracker.  Max requests to listen to it in the car.  He loves the "music without words."  Yes, I am sure they are going to love it as much as I do.

Who am I kidding?  They're boys.  I just hope we make it through the whole performance without an incident. 

Science and history have taken a bit of a backseat lately, but we are going to refocus after the holidays.  We have completed one whole 9 week unit in history in the last 16+ weeks.  The OCD part of me says we have to do twice as much to catch up to where we should be, but the realistic part reminds me that it's okay, there are no history police, other than the ones in my own head! 

So there you have it!  And although I am proud of what we have accomplished so far, the most important things are the intangible ones- the relationships and discipling that are happening alongside the learning.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Christmas, Christmas Time Is Here

I can't believe that the Christmas season is here and I have failed to blog about many things lately, specifically:

Max's birthday (that was in SEPTEMBER!)

Briggs' birthday
(which happened to fall on the same day as our home school group's Pilgrim and Indian feast, so we celebrated, Indian-style)

 and other various and sundry field trips and Thanksgiving!  For some reason, Blogger won't let me add any more pictures, so I guess that's all for tonight!!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Our Ominous Halloween

We had a double dose of Halloween this year, as our neighborhood trick or treated on Saturday and we went to a driveway party at some friends' house on Sunday night with more trick or treating. This also meant two nights of being superheros, which the boys enjoyed more than getting candy!

I have always liked Halloween, mostly because my birthday is the day before and my mom always made my birthday so much fun:  pumpkin patch birthday cakes, homemade witch costumes for my dress up parties, and ALWAYS pancakes with smiley faces for breakfast.  This year I made a few Halloween decorations to add to our fall decorations.

The boys helped me with some of them and the best part: I had most of the supplies, got some FREE and spent very little!

My birthday was Saturday and the boys (all of them) did SO much to make it so special for me!  Briggs counted down the days for at least a week.  I have never seen someone so excited about someone else's birthday!  We have a Cude tradition of treasure hunts to find your present, and I got to go on two of them!  Briggs initially wanted to make a treasure map with a Sharpie on my stomach while I was sleeping, but thankfully Rod talked him out of it.  When I woke up Saturday, I had my first treasure hunt to find the cards Briggs and Max made for me.  Then we went to Briggs' last football game.  After lunch, the boys sent me to get a manicure and pedicure, while they baked me a birthday cake.

Then I went on another treasure hunt to find my present.  Rod loves to get me sort of a joke present, meaning something we "need" but NOT something I would necessarily want for a gift.  A few years ago, I got a surprise crock pot for Christmas, this year it was a toaster oven before my "real" present of a new purse.   

Lots of hugs and I love you's made my birthday so special!

Lastly, Max has learned a new word and correctly used it in a sentence Saturday night.  "I'm afraid something ominous is going to happen tonight.  That means something bad, mom."  Thanks PBS, I think.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Touchdown for You and a Touchdown for Me

We haven't blogged about Briggs' flag football yet and the season is almost over.  He has really enjoyed it, especially with daddy being the coach.  Before I go into detail about Briggs, I first have to talk a little about Max.  He LOVES to "practice" with the team and on game day has been playing a little football of his own.  He and another little brother played almost nonstop last Saturday, passing the ball to each other, taking turns scoring, with Max shouting, "a touchdown for you and a touchdown for me!" 

Briggs' team is the Giants, which I find so ironic since Rod is a huge NY Giants fan (we don't really know why, he just is).  They have only won one game, the only one I missed because I was in the hospital, but they are really improving and having fun.  On his one chance to run with the ball and possibly score, Briggs decided to showboat and do a double-spin move.  He didn't score, but was really proud to show off his skills.  He also is getting better at pulling flags while on defense.  Overall, I think we give flag football two thumbs ups!

On the homeschooling front, things have slowed down considerably since I have been sick.  We have managed to get most of the basics done everyday, but barely.  I am trying not to get discouraged and give myself time to gain back energy and enthusiasm.  Last week we went on TWO field trips, which were just what we needed!  We saw "Zorro" at the Birmingham Children's Theater and the boys loved all the sword fighting.  We continued with the Latin theme and had Mexican for lunch.  Probably not a great idea for my tummy, but nonetheless...
Then we headed to the park in Homewood and played for a long time.

On Friday, we headed to the McWayne Center to learn about weather.  They had a great time, especially playing with the other boys!

One last thing, a funny story that I will embellish just a tad (only the order of things, not the actual events) for comedic effect.
I know that homeschooling is not for everyone.  I NEVER dreamed it would be for us, but God has a way of ditching our well laid plans for His own better plans.  I have been guilty of assuming that homeschooled kids were weird and unsocialized.  Honestly, I apologize to anyone that I have thought that about.  But when you look at the reality, it just is not true that homeschooled kids are not socialized.  They get tons of socialization in the three biggest areas that they will live and function in for the rest of their lives: family, work, and community.  Okay, so maybe not so much in the "work" category right now, but one day they will.

Anyway, at Briggs' football practice this week, I was talking to two moms and they asked what school Briggs went to.  I try not to get anxious about what others think when I answer "we homeschool" but the truth is, you never know how someone is going to react.  For the most part, I am surrounded by people who do it or at least have a lot of friends that do it, so I haven't really felt very "alternative lifestyle" yet.  I tend to kindof act like it is not really a big deal to protect myself from being considered too weird. 

So there we are, sitting in our lawn chairs with the boys getting ready to practice in front of us, when I must explain myself about why we home school.  Both moms quickly say it is something they could never do (nor would ever want to do).  One says her son does not listen to her or her husband, therefore, she could not teach him anything.  The other says her kids just like the socialization that school provides and would not want to be isolated from people.  Mom #1 chimes in agreement.  Just as I am feeling like I am the mother of weird, unsocialized homeschoolers, I look over onto the field (Rod has not gotten there yet) and Briggs has his dad's coaching whistle, ordering the players to line up to run drills.  He blows the whistle and the other players race to the fence, obediently following his lead.  He yells encouragement and direction to them as they line up again, exactly as he tells them.  Hmm.... maybe we're letting them out of the house too much.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

This wasn't in my dayplanner

As busy as I have been lately, it seems my life rolls along the smoothest if everything is tucked neatly inside its own little box on my iPhone calender.  Life rolls along like that Visa check card commercial until someone pays cash and brings the well oiled machine to a screeching halt.  But in my case, the last three weeks have been filled with some unexpected tummy troubles that were not part of the schedule.  Three days in room 491, six bags of IV fluids, three medical procedures, and countless blood tests later, I try to remind myself that although this has not been part of my plan, God knew this would happen all along.  As I lay in a tiny room alone, waiting for the nurse to come and get me for more probing and prodding, I willed my mind to take comfort in God's sovereignty.  I gave Him all of my worries about myself, my family, and all of the loose ends that I was sure were coming unraveled with me in the hospital.  I made myself do it because there was no other way.  By nature I am a do-er and God forced me to become a "be-er" and leave the doing to Him.  And He is faithful and good all the time.  His sovereign hand has been made visible in how he has orchestrated all the details I never could have worked out on my own.  He has reminded me in a quite literal, typed up on a PowerPoint presentation, (isn't that what we always want Him to do?  Write His handwriting in the sky? Seriously, I think this is a testament to my stubbornness) the importance of being rather than doing.  We all know the story, and if I am honest, I always thought that maybe Martha could just listen to Jesus from the other room while she got the food ready.  New Testament multi-tasking.  Besides, someone had to do it.  Hmm... not really what Jesus says:

Luke 10:40 "But Martha was distracted with much serving."

41But the Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary.  Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her."

Then He speaks these words into my heart:  The doing things will pass away.  But the being, the time invested in engaging and nurturing relationships, which are ultimately for His glory, those will last.  Even for generations. 

So this morning, I thank Him for His word, I rest in His sovereignty (He knows what is going on even if no one else does), and take joy in His being with me.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


It's been happening at warp speed around here.  Schooling, working, messes, science projects, playing, stomach viruses, coaching, field trips, singing, reading, nature walks, resting, memorizing, re-evaluating, learning, growing, forgiving, trying to embrace it all and be grateful.

making craters on Mercury

making a mess

Briggs made a thinking cap to help with his subtraction

field trip about Japan, Max thinks he sees a "Japanese turtle"

learning their names in Japanese

seizing the day

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Just One More

New word for today:

Mind-defying glass:  an instrument used to make things appear larger.
Used in a sentence:  "It's not fair that Briggs has a mind-defying glass and I don't." 

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Vocabulary Words

Max has his own special way of saying words that we find pretty adorable.  Although I am working with him on saying his "L's" and "P's", it's still so cute when he says them incorrectly.  Here are a few vocabulary words we have noticed him saying lately:

Shefferds: guys that take care of sheep and went to see baby Jesus.

Mono Polly: although it sounds like a cruel playground nickname that some girl named Polly had to endure when she missed school because she had the kissing disease, these words actually describe a board game in which one tries to take the other player's money.  I have no idea how Max knows about this game because we do not own it nor has he ever played it.

Menja:  a Japanese assassin.

Baby Winestein:  Max's favorite movies named after the famous genius who derived the equation E=MC^2.

Coffing: when someone mimics another person, as in "quit coffing me."

Noah's Ark:  a small town in Alabama between Troy and Dothan, also known as Ozark.

Moat-zark:  a composer from Austria that Max LOVES listening to in the car.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Rafting With Briggs & The Summer of Travel

Wow what a year so far. It feels like an eternity since I've posted, thankfully mom has been keeping up with documenting our memories. Let's see, it all started with the trip to Indonesia (which I owe a followup post to) and life hasn't slowed down since. Not long after getting back from Indo I took the family to Shreveport, LA and on over to see Dad in Texas. Not long after that I had to go on a surprise trip to Seattle. A week or so after that was a planned trip to Wisconsin.

I had racked up enough flyer points for two free flights by the start of the year. I think Leslie would rather have a root canal than fly, anywhere. I offered to take her on a romantic dinner date on the other side of the country and the only response I could get was a "let me think about it" with a look of "I think I'm going to be sick."

SO, I decided to take Briggs on a trip somewhere, only to figure out where. Between Radical, Ramsey, our new budgeting system, a new found dedication of funds to going on missions and to supporting various missions, and well the travel budget was rather decimated and my vacation hours were slimming down as well. I've always wanted to go to the Smithsonian but couldn't get the logistics to work out, plus I think that would be a great entire family trip instead of just two of us. I considered going to the New York Giants training camp but that would have been pretty selfish of me. I think Briggs would enjoy it for all of 30 minutes, maybe. Finally I decided upon a rafting trip to Moab, Utah. Due to my flights expiring however I had to leave for Utah two days after getting back from Wisconsin, ugh. At least this was for fun and I'd have Briggs with me.

Briggs has never flown, rafted, or camped out anywhere besides the back yard, and boy was he excited! I packed up our gear and off we went. We flew out on a Monday, scheduled to arrive in Salt Lake around 6 pm. Briggs LOVED the flight, saying "you know, I used to be scared of heights, but now I'm not!" I let him use our nice camera and he took a ton of pictures of the clouds, the countryside, the wings on the plane, the food tray, the seats, etc... Moab is a little over 4 hours from Salt Lake. Unfortunately the plane was a little over an hour getting in and we had to get our rental car which put me into our camp site shortly after midnight. The drive out was pretty stressful b/c it was soooo late, the roads wound through the dark mountains at 70 mph, and I was in unfamiliar territory. Briggs slept through it all in the car and woke up when we got to camp. We weren't totally roughing it b/c I didn't think anyone on the return flight would appreciate two boys with 3 days worth of stink on them, the campgrounds at least had a shower facility.

On Tuesday the day started at 6 so that we could get cleaned up, find some breakfast, and get to the rafting office. The night before there had been several flash floods in the area so the river was pretty muddy, but the Colorado is never really clear to begin with. The rapids were only Class 1 and 2, the outfitters let 5 year olds go down them, but Briggs wasn't quite old enough for the higher classes. Still though, he had a blast. We were in a group with a family from England and a couple from France. At several points the guide told us we could swim if we wanted to. One of the English kids finally said that that would just be weird, which was all the incentive I needed. I jumped in and not long after, half the boat was in with me, including Briggs. We ended up rafting for about 6 hours total plus about an hour lunch, it was an awesome day.

We were finished around 4 with about 4 hours of daylight left. We grabbed a shower and decided to head out to the Arches National Park right there in Moab. There's a road that winds through it with several scenic stops along the way for photog-ing. Briggs went nuts with the camera, I got my favorite shot of Briggs, and for posterity we got a great shot of the two of us together. We ate dinner at a local restaurant, grabbed some ice cream, and went back to the tent to bed down for the night. A fine, fine day.

Wednesday started at 4 in the morning so that I could break down the tent, pack up, and get us to the airport with some time to spare. We grabbed a couple of breakfast burritos from a no-name Mexican joint, this would prove to be something of a mistake later on... About an hour away from the airport Briggs looked at me with a puzzled look on his cherubic face and then his breakfast burrito awkwardly looked at me and then it looked at the front passenger seat and the floorboard and a little bit on the passenger door. Thankfully I had time to spare and was somewhat prepared. I pulled over to a parking lot, pulled out a spare clean outfit (my wife is awesome), pulled out a spare soap bar and fresh water and went to town. 30 minutes later all the cleaning materials and dirty clothes were in my waterproof (and stank proof) bag and we were back on the road with a washed down boy and a washed out car that smelled like cinnamon soap from a Holiday Inn Express. Briggs again loved the flight and repeatedly gave me the most awesome hugs at random times all the way home. What a great father/son bonding trip.

We had some leftover money and decided to get Max a couple of souvenirs from the Phoenix airport. We got him two puppy dogs b/c Briggs reminded me that we had to either get him a dog or monkey b/c that was the only kind of animal families that he had. Max LOVED them and was sooo excited to have us back home. I wish he and Les could have gone too but it was a bit much for Max. I did make sure to spend the previous Saturday just with Max pretty much the whole day to make sure he felt special too, it worked thankfully. He was cool with us going and was super excited with our coming back, new stuffed animals was icing on the cake. At the end of the night Briggs asked if just he could read a bedtime story to Max...those boys sure do love each other...

Anyway, it's been an awesome year so far and this trip with Briggs will definitely be a great memory for years to come. I look forward to taking both boys with me for fun and missions as they get older, Les I think is resolving herself to that eventual reality and has even put in that she may try to go "roughing it" with us, we'll see... Thank God for my family, for affording us to go on foreign mission trips, and for allowing me to indulge in the glory of His creation every once in a while, and most especially for giving me peace through salvation in Christ. Wow.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

How To Train Your Karate Kid Not To Harm Innocent Bystanders

Last night we went to the $1 movie to see "How To Train Your Dragon." During the previews, I noticed Max completely enthralled with the "Karate Kid."
He was mesmerized and in that zone where he forgot he was in the world and not the karate kid himself
All of a sudden, out of the corner of my eye, I see him karate chop the head of the woman sitting in front of us.
I was stunned and as I began to profusely apologize and chastise Max, I realized he really didn't know what he had done. It struck me as so funny that I began laughing so hard, with tears pouring out of my eyes, as I am still apologizing to the woman. I know she had to think, "why is this mother laughing that her son just hit me?" I really can't explain why it was so funny, I guess I was just so shocked.
And poor Max was so shocked at himself. Then he began apologizing to the woman, over and over. Then he said, "Mom, I'm sooo sorry, it was an accident."
Then Rod came back from getting popcorn and I began laughing/crying all over again trying to tell him what happened. It was wrong, but it was hysterical.

Even this morning walking into church, Max was telling me how he did not mean to hurt that woman because it "was jest a- accident." He really was repentant.

The sweetest part of the movie was when Briggs (at 7 years old) leaned over and kissed me on the cheek and asked, "Mom, do you like this movie? I just knew you would."

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Salt Maps, a Solar System, and a Bubble Bath

This week began with our fourth day of school and the beginning of our history curriculum, Tapestry of Grace. It encompasses history, geography, writing, and art. It begins with ancient Egypt to give a context for studying the books of Moses. Briggs read books about the pyramids, the Nile, and mummies. We studied the globe with all of its continents, oceans, desserts, islands, and mountains. For an art project, he created a salt map made out of old fashioned homemade play dough (my mom used to make it for us when we were little) which is a mixture of salt, flour, and water. He formed mountains, cliffs, peninsulas, tributaries, canals, and islands.
Max had his own little salt map going on.
The next day after it had dried out a little, they painted their maps.

Thank goodness for washable paint on carpet!
The finished product:
Max was exceptionally proud of his which, he said, included volcanoes, islands, a golf club,and the YMCA.

In our science lesson, we were supposed to make a solar system out of balloons. Knowing my boys, who have issues with things that break down and have to be thrown away, I opted for a kit from Hobby Lobby that we would hang and look at the rest of the year.

We painted the planets and tried to put them in the right order of distance from the sun. Briggs has already memorized them in order (the boy loves science), so he told me where to put them.
After such a busy week, all with daddy on a business trip, a warm bubble bath was in order.

General Homeschooling note:
After adjusting to the idea all summer, I had gotten extremely excited about homeschooling. Then, the closer it came and the more books that were delivered to the front door, I got even more excited. And then I got scared, mainly because I have an idealistic image in my mind of how wonderful and perfect it's going to be. So I tried to force my expectations into reality and prepare for things to go awry. And yes, Max has had daily frustration meltdowns and temper tantrums, but they are getting better. They seem to be less during school time and he is learning to be more patient while I divide my time between the two of them. Briggs gets a little frustrated when Max gets to do "fun" things like coloring and pasting, while he has to do work. When I offered him a shape tracing page and a fat pencil, he changed his tune. The two big art projects this week helped too. I also always say that I am making a one year commitment, just to give myself an "out" in case we all hate it or I just fail at being a teacher.
That being said, so far, I really love it. It is so wonderful to spend time with my boys every morning, reading the Bible (well, the Jesus Story Book Bible) and praying with them. They have their weekly memory verses for their small group memorized by midweek instead of cramming it all in on Saturday night, or even worse, on the way to church on Sunday morning. I know that we could have done a better job while they were in regular school, but we never did. We were too busy running and it was so hard to make the priorities actually be the priority. I know other people do it and do a great job, but I am not that good of a mother, with my fleshly, selfish, nature and all. I just feel that we have more time to spend doing the things I've always wanted to do and the resources (curriculum) to guide me in doing it. I really do love it and am so thankful that God has led us to do this.