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.

Monday, August 9, 2010


Yes, that is correct. We are homeschooling this year! This has been a huge decision for us, one that has been bathed in prayer, research, worry, panic and even fear. One that has involved much change of heart, mind, and priorities. There are a multitude of reasons that have led us to this decision, but suffice to say, we are hoping to recapture a love of learning, enthusiasm about school, and cultivate a natural curiosity that was almost lost last year in regular school.
After two months of searching, we settled on our philosophy (classical with a little Charlotte Mason) and ordered our curriculum. Here is what Briggs is doing:

Singapore Math
Spelling Wisdom
Rod and Staff Grammar
Apologia Science- Astronomy
Tapestry of Grace for History, Literature, Art, and Writing
plus other reading of "great books," poetry memorization, and Bible.

After three days, I can say that it is going well! I have a preschool curriculum for letters and numbers that I am doing with Max and so far, even he is enjoying school. We made a coconut tree and he gets to put a letter on it each week after we read Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. I'm trying to use lots of positive reinforcement to keep him motivated and interested.

We had a mostly unused room and I was able to convert it into a school room. It took two weeks of cleaning out, painting, and decorating to get it ready for school. Briggs said he didn't want to see the finished room until the first day of school because he wanted to be "amazed!" In the end, they could not stand the suspense.

The room went from this:

Actually, this is after it had been massively cleaned out. Thankfully, there are no pictures of all the junk that was in there before!

To this:

(I have to figure out how to remove the stenciled leaves off of the table without having to redo the whole shebang)

Batman also likes to hang out and read Bob Books in there.

I took pictures of the boys on the first day of school to commemorate this special day. Can you tell they are excited?

I am still working part time, so to make everything work, I need to be super organized and ready for each day. This means some very early mornings and late nights, but I am committed to making it work.. Time will tell how this will all work out, but I know that this is what God has called our family to do and He will see us through it.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010