So, the blog has been silent for a few days because I simply haven't had time to write! We have been gadding about town, working on projects, and had to fit in a trip to Shriner's for Kenny this week for a post op and Cleft Team review. Forgive me? I have a lot to share! Warning, this will be a loooonggg post, complete with photos, some of which might make you gag...hahahaha! I gotta get them in before the 2011 Pie Splat gets posted, it's only fair! Ha!
We intended to have a lot of down time for school in December, which I guess we have had...sort of. The problem is that all these great educational opportunities arise and we end up learning more when we are NOT doing "official" school than when we are! Haha! Our church family is pretty involved in the arts around town, and as such often receive extra tickets which they kindly share with us to make it possible to go to things we otherwise could never add in as an extra for our family. We have appreciated it so much, and the kids have learned a great deal from being exposed to great music and artistic talent of all kinds.
Before being audience members on Saturday and Sunday, we first were the entertainment ourselves! We have created a small youth group at church called Explorers, and we have been meeting for a couple of months now. Kids of all ages are together sharing experiences, and Saturday afternoon we took the group to go caroling and visit our church's shut ins and a couple of nursing homes around town. Can we sing well? Uhhh...in a word...no. Were the kids cute? Yes, absolutely. Did those for whom we sang care one whit about whether or not we were on key? Nope...they were simply delighted to know someone cared about them. We took along handmade wreaths the kids created, and doled them out along with hugs and smiles. It was a great opportunity for the kids to become more comfortable with nursing home residents, and to see the joy that comes from just being present can bring.
Prior to going our family had been talking about how it didn't really yet feel like Christmas. We have no snow on the ground here yet, and also the kids are growing older and that childhood excitement surrounding the holiday is beginning to fade, and it is our job as their parents to help them find a new, deeper satisfaction that comes from understanding the real meaning of Christmas and acting upon it. I think we were successful with the caroling, at least with Kenny. On the way home that evening we were talking and he said "You know what Mom, I think NOW it finally feels like Christmas!". Also realizing Angela gets real satisfaction from doing anything at all with elderly people, and we need to see what we can do to work with that gift for her. She loves older folks, finds them fascinating and is not at all uncomfortable with them. She had the biggest smile on her face when we left the nursing home where the residents were quite disabled and she whispered to me "Mama...did you see them? We make them so happy! I like this so much!". Wondering if a family ministry to the elderly is somewhere in our future. What a gift to us to see our kids discover joy that comes from giving and not have anything at all to do with receiving.
Later that evening we went to see a children's Christmas play which was very well done and had the kids rolling on the floor laughing. It was a Christmas treat to us from a dear friend, and we drug along a couple more friends as well to enjoy it with, so the Big Blue Ugly Van was put to good use this weekend! I swear I am only half joking when I threaten that we are going to get a huge set of Sharpie pens and let the kids go to town on it...might be a spring project:-0
Saturday we also had the COOLEST (Warning: Gross Pictures Below) surprise as we received a phone call from Joshie's best friend's dad who said "Hey...your kids wanna see me dress a duck? I went hunting this morning and got one! Come on over!". Are you kidding me? Of COURSE we wanted to see it, so we quickly grabbed the camera and off we went, Joshie's eyes were lit up.
I know...EWWWW GROOOOOSSSSSS!! But how much more interesting could you get for a kid who loves science? This was the next step up from the baby birds of summer. Mr. Donald, our friend, was so kind to do this and share his considerable knowledge. Just be thankful I didn't share the pics from my wonderful suggestion of detaching the intestines and stretching them out to measure (3'5" in case you were wondering). It was hilarious to watch as one by one each of the older kids got a bit queasy and stepped away, but Joshie and his buddy remained enthralled the entire time. We went a little too far though when Josh then asked if we could dissect the brain, and we elected not to using not having the right tools as an excuse to stop.
Sunday was less gory as we attended the local symphony and chorus concert with our adopted Grandpa, then had him over for dinner and a game of Scrabble...which once again...I lost...but only by 30 points. With anyone else I will often win, but even coming within 30 points with this gentleman is quite a victory. The day I beat him I will be doing the Happy Dance!
One huge bonus to homeschooling (at least for me...Dominick goes along with my thinking on this one quite nicely thought! hahaha!), is the opportunity to have our kids have more exposure to the arts. Our schools try, but with little funding arts is the first place where cuts are made. Think about a life without music of any form...without visual arts...without drama...how dull that would be and how much we all would miss out on!! We also don't always think of the numerous ways in which the arts can be used for career purposes. Graphic design, computer animation, architecture and drafting, make up artists, disc jockey, web page design and layout, landscaping, interior design...all these careers and a million more could benefit from a basic education in the arts. Having the funding from our homeschool program allows us to offer the kids the chance to take music and art classes, and then there is the kindness of our gifted friends who are willing to invest time with our kids, which means so much.
Today was the end of Matt and Angela's pottery class as well as the end of their semester in their regular art class, so it was definitely Art Extravaganza day. Their pottery teacher, Mr. Rog, is a gifted potter himself and he made the 10 week class interesting and helped the kids create some really nice pieces. He and his wonderful wife threw a little pizza party for our whole family and had a little "show" of their work this afternoon. Here are some photos:
In their art class they made some really adorable ornaments that are fired glass, and they created self-portraits as well. I'll try and get pics of those up soon.
We have had a lot of very interesting conversations around here, ranging from theological in nature to women's rights. Angela made a connection and comparison the other day which was insightful. Somehow we ended up talking about the sinking of the Titanic and how it was "women and children" first in the life boats. Angela looked at me funny and then asked why that was, as she knew women had few rights at that time and it didn't make sense to her that on one hand, women would be saved, and on the other they couldn't even vote and were often viewed more as property by men. Hmmm...hard one to answer with logic, isn't it? I guess a women's studies class is in our future.
On our way home yesterday, Kenny surprised me when out of the blue he said "Mama...thank you for all the things you do for me, I know it is a hassle a lot of the time." I turned to him and said "Kenny, you don't have to thank me, and it isn't a hassle at all! It is what parents are supposed to do for their kids." . He then said "I know, but lots of parents don't know ahead of time that it will be so hard, and then they are stuck. You and Daddy knew before I ever came home that it would be harder and you still wanted me! Sometimes I think about all you do for all of us, and homeschooling is even harder for you and we don't always say thank you. Then I have a harder time learning things too and it makes it a bigger job for you to teach me. I know not a lot of mommies and daddies would do all the stuff you guys do for us. Sometimes I can't believe how much you both love us!".
All I could do was hug him...
As I type this Joshie is sitting next to me typing his first real document, a journal entry on what he thinks Christmas means. I am looking over his shoulder as he painstakingly has spent 45 minutes typing his sentences (He asked to do it on the computer, I didn't assign it for school) and he has typed thus far: "Christmas is about Jesus not about presents and Santa it is all about Jesus being born. In Kazakhstan Christmas was very, very cold it was -20 F and sometimes -50F. Are apartment was a big apartment it had one bathroom one livingroom and one bedroom and one kitchen. Jesus was the true meaning of Christmas. Christmas Eve is the day when Jesus was almost born."
As we rapidly approach the eve of Christ's birth, I hope the remainder of Advent is a warm and special time for you all. The Pie Challenge fulfillment will be happening soon, keep on checking back!