Monday, August 29, 2011

Art Lesson 1::Composition

This year in school we are using an organized art curriculum. This is our first time incorporating actual art into our schooling. I'm so excited about it I want to do the projects myself. :)
My boys spend hours at their table doing "art". Mostly they are drawing pictures. I love it. LOVE it. They draw all kinds of things. Scenes from movies, their favorite action heroes, their favorite things to do, things straight from their imaginations, etc. I love how they think, and then they draw it. They don't need to copy a picture and even when they are asking me for ideas of what to draw, they usually don't like my suggestions and come up with something themselves. They use pencils, colored pencils, crayons and markers mostly. Every once in a while we paint, but not often with Easton around and sometimes they pull out the watercolors.

I'm excited about art this year because it will introduce new mediums for them and give them a little broader knowledge to draw from (get it? draw? haha) when they sit down at the table.

The art curriculum isn't just art projects, but includes lessons and also art history. It's called ARTistic Pursuits in case anyone is interested.

Their first lesson was about composition. They used sketch paper and an ebony pencil. Brendan took a little artistic liberty and added some color to his. :)

"Hanging out with Dad" by Wyatt

"Dad, Me and a Movie" by Brendan
(don't you just love the back of Rand's speckled head in this?) :)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

A New Year

I know my friend, Kelly, would concur...the beginning of the school year feels more like the start of a new year than January 1 does. This year, that has been especially true for me. (It could very well be because I have felt sooo lousy for so long and now I am feeling so much better and ready to get to work. Blame it on pregnancy.) I have taken on new personal challenges to change bad habits and start new good ones. I'm feeling motivated to clean up and re-organize. We have new systems in place to keep up on things better and a lot more structure around here. School has started well, but it is just the beginning. The more motivation at the beginning...the further it is going to get us!

One new system in place that has made such a HUGE difference is our daily schedule and chore charts. The boys have always been great helpers and picker uppers, but we don't usually have a "system" in place. So things just get pretty out of control (fast too!) and then I say, "Okay. Time to clean up," and we do, but then it's bad again quickly and it seems like we always wake up in the morning 3 steps behind. So in trying to be more intentional, we seriously took on regular chores for the boys and made charts and the whole works. Rand started the process (he's the list-maker-checker-offer and work-buster-outer) and then I tweaked it to make it work for me (since I'm the here-all-day person). So we have morning chores to do before breakfast and school (get dressed, brush teeth, make beds and then Wyatt does the dog and Brendan does the chickens). Then school, then lunch. After lunch we have afternoon chores. The boys take care of things like taking out the recycling, taking care of some things with the pool, tidying different rooms of the house and then we have a once a week chore that is bigger like helping with laundry, cleaning the bathrooms, washing mirrors, vacuuming and mopping and such....
Then at the end of the day we have a quick "Clean Sweep" of the house before bed. The before bed chores have been the key for this whole thing working. Doesn't it feel like you are always behind if ANYTHING is a mess when you wake up in the morning??? It is nice starting the day with a cleaned off school table! It makes all the difference.

The other thing we are doing is allowances. Okay, seriously, how much do you pay your kids for allowance? This can get a little pricey when you start thinking about it! Well, part of the deal is that the boys complete their chores with a "happy heart" all week and we pay them every 2 weeks $10 each. This was a little lower than we originally had talked about paying them, but we are teaching the 80-10-10 principle (save 10%, share 10%, the what you like) and so 10 is an easy number to make that happen. Plus we are paying 2 kids....eventually 4... and we have to make sure we can afford that considering raises and what not! :)

I love watching how kids thrive off of this stuff. Brendan especially (little Rand) just thinks it is the best thing in the world. Even Wyatt enjoys checking off his chores and getting things cleaned up. He says things like, "I'm doing this chore first so that I will feel so good when I'm done." They like taking responsibility for it themselves and not being told at random that it is time to work. It is making my life a lot easier! They are great helpers. Now if only I could get them to make a delicious dinner!

This is what is working for us right now. It feels good after a very relaxed, not feeling very good summer to be back into something more structured. Feels like a new start...a new year and I like it.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Raising our Boys::Vol. 2 (the retreat and the mohawk)

I don't even know where to begin.....

Let's start with the mohawk. It is a story that starts months and months ago.To sum up a very long story quickly, he's wanted his hair cut like this for a long time. We recently attempted to "lay down the law" about the issue and then realized we were probably making a parenting mistake by doing so. So Rand decided to take the clippers up to the cabin for the retreat and allow him to make his own decision in regards to his hair. It seemed appropriate considering the theme of the weekend....growing up and all. Does he like it? Um, yes. He loves it. Our opinion is beside the point, and we'll just leave it at that. It feels a bit like the lesson about the whole thing was more for us than for him.

So, as for the retreat, Brendan's induction into the first phase of his "knighthood training" (ie, becoming a man) was great success as far as I'm told.

Here is a list of many of the things they did:
1. Ate dinner
2. Rand interviewed Brendan concerning how he could improve as a dad.
3. Gave Brendan a binder containing the info. they were going to cover and also the things we will be focusing on as we parent him from here forward. It is something that Brendan can reference as the years go by as a guide and also as a memento.
4. Played Risk
5.Played in the campground gym--discussed "Areas of Life", Luke 10:27
6. Ate breakfast--discussed Proverbs 1:7, 7 Marks of a Right Heart, The Gospel and the "exchanged life"
7. Played Frisbee Golf
8. Prayed at the chapel that is at Hole Nine of Golf course
9. Played catch
10. Played ping-pong, basketball--discussed Vision for Manhood, 4 Expectations of a Man, John 15:5, and Code of Conduct
11. Hung out in Cabin--Read Bible together on couch--story of Joseph and Potipher's wife (went with the code of conduct talk concerning Purity)
12. Lunch--Read and discussed Ephesians 6:10-17, prayed Caleb's Prayer
13. Went to a movie, drove home
14. Dinner as a family--discussed the trip together
15. Gave Brendan his gift and prayed for him

All the things that they covered such as "Caleb's prayer", "Code of Conduct", "Expectation of a Man", etc... were obviously not unique to us. They were things we came across in our research that we decided to include in our version of "manhood training" for our boys. If you're interested in some of the places we found these things, let me know!

Here is our growing boy!

gassin' up--oh look, that's our new car! :) And also...before the haircut

That is our "family crest" that Rand designed
yep. he likes the hairdo.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Raising our Boys::Vol. 1

About 5 years ago, Rand read the book Raising a Modern Day Knight: A Father's Role in Guiding his Son to Authentic Manhood, by Robert Lewis. It was good and got us really thinking about a plan to intentionally raise our boys. Well time went by, and as you know, lots of life happened, and all of a sudden we realized that we were approaching Brendan's 8th birthday. If we didn't start getting "intentional" this was never going to happen. We started doing a lot more "we" I really mean Rand. He would print things off, and I would read them and we had lots of talks about it. Mostly this is a task left for Dads, however, I really enjoy being involved as I can and Rand desiring my input as we decide on a path to intentionally raise our sons to becoming true men. So we have a pretty good plan that includes goals and tests and ceremonies along the way. We have these little dudes for just a while and we are intent on doing our best!
We are using "knighthood" as a model and also the Hebrew/Old Testament model of a family which includes a special ceremony at age 13 declaring our son a "man" (sounds young, doesn't it?!).

This is the beginning of Brendan's first phase of training. A page. Here is a little info.:
At age seven, a nobleman's son began training for knighthood. During this first step of training, boys were called pages.
As a page, a boy learned how to fight, how to use weapons, and how to ride a horse into battle. He learned manners from the nobleman's wife.
Like everyone, pages had a strict rule of conduct, a certain way of behaving that they had to follow. The rules were very detailed and very clear.

This weekend Rand and Brendan are heading north for a short retreat to signify the beginning of his training. When they get back we will have a special dinner and present Brendan with a plaque (each phase will have a special gift). The hope is that these will be significant moments in his life on his way to independence and manhood.

While we won't be teaching our boys how to fight (well, not like medieval knights), how to use weapons, or how to ride a horse into battle, we will be teaching other things. Things like practical life skills, worldview education, character development, and theology are a few of the (very broad) topics that he will be expected to begin mastering by his 13th birthday. The hope is for his role in our family to change by the time he is 13 and for a significant "letting go" to happen on the part of his parents! (yikes) His training will continue in a different way between his 13th birthday until he leaves home.

Rand and I are excited about this and think it is really important because our society seems to be producing a lot of confusion in this regard. When exactly are you a man? Is it when you get a car, graduate from high school? Turn 18? Turn 21? Move out? What is a man? Is it just your age that makes you a man? Having a legitimate job? Having a family? The ability to fight? Is it being "tough"? Is it being mature? What is it? Boys get thrown into the world without a handle on how to make decisions and understanding their place in the world, and who they are (this is true for girls too). They are left to figure it all out, trial and error. I think that all boys can benefit greatly by an intentional effort on the part of their parents, especially their dads, to get them ready for the world, to teach them how to be leaders and to know what in the world they are doing! It's much more than just being a loving's about being strategic.

There will be much more to share along the way. I'm hoping to send a camera with them this weekend so hopefully I can share about their retreat when they get back.

By the way, we covet your prayers along the way. We would love for other Christian men, who love us and our boys, to be involved and walk with us (specifically Rand and the boys) on this path, and to leave a little bit of your wisdom-print on our sons as well. It is a big enough deal to do this once, but we have 3 (maybe 4!!!) sons to raise. Here we go!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Kid Quotes::Vol. 38

the boys were sitting calmly at their table drawing pictures and I heard this very polite (sort of) exchange.

Wyatt: (speaking in a very sweet, high pitched if talking to a baby) Ah Bren. I'm going to punch you in the face.

Brendan: (not even phased and returning the sentiment in the exact same way) Oh Wyatt, I'm going to upper-cut you in the chin.

..and they continued their non-violent art work at the table.

Life with boys?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

First Day of School::2011-2012

I was really dragging my feet this year about starting. I don't feel organized enough. I can't keep the house clean enough. Easton is a lot of work, how can I do school and him at the same time? I had lots of excuses. I was talking to Rand about it last week and he said, "Why wouldn't you start next week?" Hmmm, good question. I answered, "Well, I guess the only real reason I wouldn't start is because I am scared."
Last year I struggled with motivation and desire. Last year we added Easton to the mix and we moved (don't we always?). It just seemed so hard! So I thought that being scared wasn't a very good reason not to start so I made a plan to get everything we needed and get on it! I started with Ann Voskamp. :) My daily dose of perspective. What did she write?? Organizing Head and Heart to Homeschool. Perfect. Her fifth sentence: "I am scared to homeschool this year." Oh thank you! I'm not the only one!

I think I can do it.

We started today. Yes, schooling on a Sunday is unconventional, but we go to church on Saturday nights, and Rand heads to work on Sunday morning, and well....what else are we going to do? It was a perfect first day. Easton was pleasant until his morning nap. We had pancakes for breakfast. The boys were thrilled to start again after only a few moans about it in the weeks prior. We breezed through reading and writing and math. We ended with Science and were amazed at how fast we went!

"I love school. It is so fun." That was how we ended our morning.

Sometimes I think about what I loved about the first day of school. Fog, cold weather, a new backpack, pictures by the front door, new outfits and new shoes...a new year. I wonder what excites my kids? I know they love their new workbooks and reading books. They get excited about their new pencil boxes and fresh crayons.
But they don't wear cute outfits (half the time we don't get out of pj's, although today they both chose their "my mom rocks" t-shirts), their hair isn't done up. They don't walk out the door with a packed lunch and they don't have a new teacher or a classroom full of new kids. There is something I really like about that.

Is it possible this is our fifth year??? They are growing, and we are learning, and I get to see it all. I don't regret the work and the fear and the sacrifice.

This is 3rd and 1st home.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Box Day::2011

School is here. Well, we haven't officially started, but we have the equipment for another full year.

This year Brendan and Wyatt are starting Intro. to World History (year one of two). We have some great books to get through this year.

I love getting all our new books. It's so fun. And then I start putting all my Instructors Guides and schedules into my giant binder and I start thinking, 'Oh my gosh. How am I going to do this?' Both the boys have quite a bit of work to do each day.

Here is a little sneak peek at school arriving.

these are Brendan's grade 3 readers

Here is history, geography, and read-alouds

and here is my huge schedule
In that big ol' binder is our schedule for our Core (history, geography, read alouds) and then Brendan's language arts (spelling/phonics, readers, handwriting, vocabulary and creative expression), Wyatt's language arts (same) and our study guides for all that. Crazy. I have another binder for Science which we all do together and the boys each have their own maths. We got an art elective this year, too, which we are all really excited about.

I just need some school supplies and a little more organization and perhaps another school room re-vamp and then we are off. Grades 1 and we come!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Our White Horse Moment(s)

I read this today, here:

"How a white stallion had rode into the paddocks of an old man and all the villagers had congratulated him on such good fortune. And the old man had only offered this: “Is it a curse or a blessing? All we can see is a sliver. Who can see what will come next?”
When the white horse ran off, the townsfolk were convinced the white stallion had been a curse. The old man lived surrendered and satisfied in the will of God alone: “I cannot see as He sees.”
And when the horse returned with a dozen more horses, the townsfolk declared it a blessing, yet the old man said only, “It is as He wills and I give thanks for His will.”
Then the man’s only son broke his leg when thrown from the white stallion. The town folk all bemoaned the bad fortune of that white stallion. And the old man had only offered, “We’ll see. We’ll see. It is as He wills and I give thanks for His will.”
When a draft for a war took all the young men off to battle but the son with the broken leg, the villagers all proclaimed the good fortune of that white horse. And the old man said but this, “We see only a sliver of the sum. We cannot see how the bad might be good. God is sovereign and He is good and He sees and work all things together for good.”
~An Old Story from South America
Written down by Ann Voskamp

I almost want to apologize for my life. These things cross my mind: 'I'm sorry we can't get it together.' 'I'm sorry we aren't just normal people with jobs and money and consistency.' 'I'm sorry I have to keep writing the same thing, explaining again and again what has happened and why it is all changing....again.'

I, like the story, don't know whether it is a blessing or a curse. Did I explain this well enough before? Rand's company is becoming a 24 hour/day facility. That means all the over-time he does at night, between 5pm and 8am will become another shift. He won't be getting the overtime anymore. The over-time is how we survived. SOO, where does that leave us? It leaves us in that all too familiar position of knowing that something is coming to an end, and something new will have to begin. But what? And where? What if there is nothing here? Are we willing to move? Where are we willing to move to? Since we are in the business of "starting over", what do we want to start over doing? Do we stay in funeral service? Do we pursue pastoral? Do we pursue anything that would keep us where we are?

Rand and I are having a lot of the same conversations that we have had in the past (2006, 2008, 2010). I am having trouble having an open mind, a good attitude, a supportive role. I'm mad and wonder why it is that it can't just last. Anything. We had one job lead that seemed like perfect timing and a perfect fit. It is now a closed door. We are pushing open other doors. Some of them require moving. Some of them don't. Today, we spent 4 hours in the car, driving around with Rand, dropping off resumes.

Are we really doing this? AGAIN??? I just want to cry, really. Poor Rand. It isn't even his fault. Partially it is mine. I feel guilty that much of what we are going through is the "sacrifice" we have made in committing to raising our kids the way we do. We are still committed to that, but I am feeling the weight of that burden. Knowing a second income would change this story significantly (in some good ways, and in some not so good ways).

I appreciate so much Ann's post today. Is it a blessing? Is it a curse?

"How can I really see if a seeming disaster or dilemma, is actually dire? "

"My focus need only be on Him, to only faithfully see His Word, to wholly obey. Therein is the tree of life."

"God’s only up to good work"

"We see only a sliver of the sum."

"It is as He wills--and I give thanks for His will."


Rand's Aunt Joanie is here this week, visiting from Minnesota. We always have lots of fun with Joanie because, well one, she is just fun, but she always spoils us severely. She travels a lot and always stays at Marriott's. Phoenix has a beautiful JW Marriott Resort that she stays at when she is here and over the weekend she booked a room for us for 2 nights, too. It was the most exhausting, fun weekend we have had in a long time. The big boys slept in her room and stayed up until who-knows-when watching movies. Rand and I had Easton and he was so much work during the day, I guarantee we got more sleep than those in the other room! We were tired!
 We had a beautiful room overlooking the grounds behind the hotel which includes lots of water(!) and a great desert view and a golf course. The resort has several pools and water falls and a lazy river and a water slide.
We spent a lot of our time wrangling Easton in restaurants. Not his favorite place to be at the moment. He is busy and wiggly and not at all patient! He eats fast and then he is ready to go. Not exactly the resort lifestyle.
All in all, though, it was a great break from reality. We weren't far from home, but boy did it feel like it! :)

Thank you Aunt Joanie for such a fun weekend!

(entertaining Easton)

(these little guys are everywhere at the marriott)

(ahhh, the view. surprise, surprise, another sunny day)

(3 happy boys)

Monday, August 8, 2011


We have a new 8 year old in the house! Over the weekend we did nothing but celebrate Brendan. Big pool party on Saturday evening (cooler temps and more shade) with all our friends and some of our family. It was fun to see the yard and pool full of people and lots of kids. Rand's hard work out there paid off and the yard looked fantastic. Sadly, I have no pictures of all the craziness. Note to self: assign someone else camera duty!

Brendan made out with some of his most wanted gifts. He got catchers gear and a catchers mitt, stilts, a magic kit, and plenty of art supplies to last a while. I have no idea where this came from, but he has been asking for a DJ. I finally asked him one day if he meant he wanted someone to come to his party and play music or if he wanted to be able to scratch records? Well, scratch records, of course. So he told everyone that's what he wanted for his birthday. Well, Jojee to the rescue. He is getting DJ hero for wii with a turn table. He hasn't received it yet, so hopefully he won't read this! :)

He is one lucky kid.

Oh, he also got face paints, which will explain the scary green monster in the pictures to follow.

Brendan has a big weekend coming up that is directly related to him turning 8 and I will write more about that soon. 8 is a big deal at our house and begins his official "manhood" training that will continue for the next 5 (ish) years. He is going on a special retreat with Dad and we will have a little private ceremony for him when they get back. I'll share more after.

We're pretty proud of our Brennie-boy!

This year I steered the planning conversations away from a "theme" birthday and we went with blue and green decorations. I was relieved to not be making an iron man cake or something like that!

Instead, at Brendan's request, I made a delicious 4 layer lemon flavored cake with raspberries in between the layers, complete with star decorations which were my favorite thing to make this year. Easy!

Can't have a party without cake pops anymore. They are always a big hit, plus they are cute! (I only had a couple disasters this time)

face paints! (and stilts)

Look how we've grown!