Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Scenes from the Season

Jesse, holding up his can of pop to my brother at the Christmas party: "Now, this right here really means it's Christmas"

Leah, watching It's a Mad, Mad, Mad World for the first time: "They would've gotten there first if they'd just drove normally!"

Jesse - clearly his father's son - after walking in the house after the final travel of the final Christmas party: "VACATION!"

Delaney, filling her plate with the cut-up veggies I'd set out when we got home today: "I'm not eating another piece of candy or anything with sugar for a week. Maybe 3 months. Maybe till my birthday."

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

If I Made a List: Christmas Music

[I am the one for whom the media makes end-of-year or Best-of-year lists, ok? Just in case you were wondering. I love them. They fill up my wish lists and library cards with new books to read and music to find and recipes to try and ideas to test. So this year I'm going to try and contribute instead of just consuming.]

Top 5 Christmas Albums

     - I can't bring myself to rank them, so "no particular order".
     - I don't like all the songs on all the albums, but there is no way I could do "top 5 Christmas songs", so just consider this imperfect. Favorite Songs have an *.
     - I could go on with disclaimers all day long; you know that, right? : )

#5. Amy Grant: A Christmas Album
One of the first cassette tapes I owned myself. Best played while cooking or decorating. Top songs: A Christmas Hymn*, Hark! The Herald Angels, A Mighty Fortress, Praise the King.

#4. Barlow Girl: Home for Christmas
Close to my favorite. Crisp, clear harmonies that ring out through the speakers. Best way to start the Christmas music season, or to wake up the kids early in the morning. Top songs: Go Tell it on the Mountain, Carol of the Bells, O Come O Come Emmanuel, and Hallelujah (Light Has Come)*.

#3. Transiberian Orchestra: The Lost Christmas Eve
By October we are all itching to play it. We hold off until after Eric's birthday and this is one of the few Christmas albums he can take the whole season. We pick and choose among all their Christmas albums, but this is the one we discovered first. Top songs: Wizards in Winter, Anno Domine, Wish Liszt, Christmas Canon Rock*.

#2. Harry Connick, Jr.: When my Heart Finds Christmas
Ahhhh, Harry. Smooth. Best played while working on computer or doing schoolwork or having a party or driving around looking at Christmas lights. Top songs: I Pray on Christmas*, Parade of the Wooden Soldiers, The Little Drummer Boy.

#1. Anne Murray: What a Wonderful Christmas
Purely nostalgia. I can hear it playing on the record player while we decorated the tree growing up. Who can do The Coventry Carol like Anne? Or It Came Upon a Midnight Clear? Beautiful voice. Other top songs: Silver Bells, O Come All ye Faithful.

Honorable Mentions:
Any of Michael W. Smith's Christmas albums
The Chieftains: Bells of Dublin (LOVE. Could've been on top list. I Saw Three Ships, The Rebel Jesus)
Randy Travis: An Old Time Christmas (*God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen)
Vince Gill: Let There Be Peace on Earth*
Martina McBride: White Christmas (Best version of O Holy Night*)
Sara Groves: O Holy  Night (Cradle in Bethlehem*, Toy Packaging)
Toby Mac: Christmas in Diverse City (new, but quickly becoming a favorite; love Mary's Boy Child)
Andrew Peterson's Behold the Lamb

I leave you with our favorite original Christmas song performance of this year. This young Christian was inspired by this song and bringing what we have been given and laying it all out for Jesus. He played all the instruments in this arrangement and produced the video with help from his sister. He has totally inspired us here.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Because an engineer is really just a glorified mechanic

Eric (driving us all home from an event): ...and he was telling me what he does, and I was struck later by how many in our group are professionals in their careers.

Me: Yeah, you're right. I never noticed.

Levi: Yeah, except for our family.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

No "what if"s, No "if only"s

"Wherever you are, be all there." 

- Jim Elliot

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

What I really want to eat this week

I will miss making all of my husband's family's favorites...whipped sweet potatoes, broccoli casserole, the "dressing", the green beans, the endless lines of pies, the apple stack cake

But we will eat together, and I will not miss the stories, the games, the time.

I will miss my grandma. My first Thanksgiving without a living grandparent. Their traditions, their steadfastness, their ever-present love.

But we will make her noodles, and pile them on mashed potatoes, and make a ham instead of a turkey, and remember her in each bite.

I will miss my "boy"...his willingness to hold my hand in public - or any motherly PDA; his boyish features; my slight advantage in strength....all have been fading, and with this, the 12th birthday, are disappearing.

But we will eat his All Boy birthday menu on his Thanksgiving Day Birthday (who else gets to eat corn dogs on Thanksgiving Day? Anyone? Anyone?) and sing to him and be so thankful for the boy he is and the man he is becoming.

I will miss the "way things were" - I've always been bad at change - but I will embrace the "way things are" and remember the One Who Always Is - He is my Rock.

And I will eat...

"Come, all you who are thirsty,
    come to the waters;
and you who have no money, 
    come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
    without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
    and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
    and you will delight in the richest of fare.
Give ear and come to me; 
    listen, that you may live." 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The urge to scream is strong in you, I see*

I can take it from here/
And have no where to go.**

I can take it for years/
And have nothing to show.

I'll wait for you/
Now more than ever.

I see it's true/
Now more than ever.

I'll wait for you, now.

Sara Groves, Invisible Empires

*How big would the font have to be (and soooo big to hold all the irony) to make "WAKE UP PEOPLE!" actually cause some to just. stop. the. madness? Why do we insist on storing up "treasures" that will rust and rot and that have no value in what really matters?

** "....not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord." Zec. 4:6

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A "Real" Man

I asked God for strength that I might achieve. I was made weak that I might learn to humbly obey. I asked for health that I might do greater things. I was given infirmity that I might do better things. I asked for riches that I might be happy. I was given poverty that I might be wise. I asked for power that I might have the praise of men. I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God. I asked for all things that I might enjoy life. I was given life that I might enjoy all things. I got nothing that I asked for, but everything I hoped for. Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered. I am, among all men, most richly blessed.

Sometimes I marvel because of how different your life must look than how you imagined it. Ohio? Five children? No 4-wheeler? Really? But then I think of how your life is just like you imagined it: Ohiofivechildrenno4wheeler so inconsequential...faithfulness to God in whatever circumstances.
You are a real man.

Sometimes I can't stand you. I take all of my exhaustion and undone dishes and undone repairs and undone goals and undone responsibilities and I pile them up on the easily accessible corner of my distorted mind called Your Fault. You did not sign up for this. You do not fight back. You do not blame back. You don't do the same thing to me because you know I would crumble under the accusation because my patience-meter is always hanging by a measly thread. You wait. You hold no grudges when I regain my senses.
You are a real man.

Sometimes you mess up. Or get lazy. Or ignore consequences we agreed upon for the kids. Or let depressing thoughts control your actions. You are not perfect.
You are a real man.

Sometimes (All The Time?!?) you are faced with career detours. Oh, that long-lived goal of being an engineer has been fulfilled - probably, in reality, when you were born. But life and poor decisions and good decisions and opportunities seem to arrive like a weekly package. I love your dreams. I love your ideas. Don't stop.
You are a real man.

Sometimes friends, family, strangers, restaurant patrons compliment our well-behaved children. How wonderful and sweet and quiet and mature. They assume - oh the irony! - they assume because I'm home with them that it's because of me. I, the Lord, my family, and you, know the truth. You defy every misguided stereotype this world places on a father. You are so strong, and so gentle. You discipline with the long view. You have always seen them as the people they are becoming. They know, deep in their hearts, that you enjoy being with them and always will.
You are a real man.

And I pray that your 41st year is real and good and blessed in a way that only the Lord can do. I love you. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Another reason why I wish I drank coffee

Scene: our living room, 7:09 a.m., everyone curled up in a chair or couch as we start our day

Me: So, in John this morning...."He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.”

Leah: Mom. I have an interesting question.

Me: (smiling) Lay it on me.

Leah: So, how do you know if you actually love Jesus?

(Maybe we should move Bible lessons to a different part of the day...!!)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Balancing October

In my former life: whether to go start tailgating in the morning on Saturdays, or closer to game time
In my current life: whether to stay up later and read OSU game recaps online, or just get to bed

Former: whether or not to play Christmas music or wait until Nov. (ok, that's still a debate)
Current: keeping track of what month I'm in

Former: whether it was worth it to pack up 4 babies/toddlers and all their stuff to go try to keep them on a blanket for an hour while the 4-year-old played soccer.
Current: whether I can ever get to the place again where I can sit with 4 of my kids and watch 1 play.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A little (much needed) inspiration

Proverbs 31:10 An excellent wife, who can find?
For her worth is far above jewels.
11 The heart of her husband trusts in her,
And he will have no lack of gain.
12 She does him good and not evil
All the days of her life.
13 She looks for wool and flax
And works with her hands in delight.
14 She is like merchant ships;
She brings her food from afar.
15 She rises also while it is still night
And gives food to her household
And portions to her maidens.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
From her earnings she plants a vineyard.
17 She girds herself with strength
And makes her arms strong.
18 She senses that her gain is good;
Her lamp does not go out at night.
19 She stretches out her hands to the distaff,
And her hands grasp the spindle.
20 She extends her hand to the poor,
And she stretches out her hands to the needy.
21 She is not afraid of the snow for her household,
For all her household are clothed with scarlet.
22 She makes coverings for herself;
Her clothing is fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is known in the gates,
When he sits among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
And supplies belts to the tradesmen.
25 Strength and dignity are her clothing,
And she smiles at the future.
26 She opens her mouth in wisdom,
And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
27 She looks well to the ways of her household,
And does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children rise up and bless her;
Her husband also, and he praises her, saying:
29 “Many daughters have done nobly,
But you excel them all.”
30 Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain,
But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.
31 Give her the product of her hands,
And let her works praise her in the gates.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

In the Midst of it All

He fixes the mower, which I left sitting in the yard where it quit.

He coaches the team.

He reads and laughs at and share with me something funny I found.

He fixes the dryer.

He packs the coolers, and chairs, and everything else.

He leads us through John.

He makes Big Breakfasts.

He trims, and clips, and fixes the shutter.

He takes them creeking.

Oh yeah - he works full-time and extra time and provides for our family so I can homeschool.

I. am. so. blessed.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Don't let...

...the busyness overshadow the small stuff
[6yo's who light up at being the "shark"; excitement over new uniform colors; sunsets that overwhelm the world with the reality of Him]

...my detailed self make mountains out of molehills
[really? I have to get that paper over to that place right this instant? will school planning get done by worrying about when I will get it done?]

...my kids miss the people, the purpose
[my attitude is reflected in them; do they see stress or joy? do they understand why we are putting others before ourselves?]

...me forget:

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the LORD your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

And another hits double digits...Crazy!

Absolute favorite pic of her! Happy birthday Lady Kay!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Living Well: the in-between

Observations on a phenomenon:

Your family? Easy. You love 'em. You take care of one another, listen, get mad, forgive, eat, dream together.

Strangers who catch your attention? Clearly, Americans and the western developed world find them easy to give time and attention to - actors, celebrities, those whose mistakes and crimes attract our curiosity, those who write interesting things. Newscasters and pundits whose entire livlihoods are wrapped up in making sure we know what complete strangers are doing and saying each day.

Those in between the 2 groups? Not much time and attention left to spread around, is there? Strange, then, that that is exactly to whom Jesus called us. To our neighbors. Those in our town who are hurting. The lonely. The elderly. Those who would disciple us and love us right out of our comfort zones.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Living Well: The Lists

I was determined this year to do better at doing the "next thing" instead of stressing about the "next thing".

On a good note, I am doing better at this. On a bad note, I'm getting a little wrapped up in my to-do list.

(Note: if you did not know previously how I can be a little *obsessive* about lists, you should probably stop here and keep your well-polished image of me intact.)

Instead of putting "Call ____" on my list, and then spending a night or two wondering how they will respond, or what to do if they don't respond, or whatever, now I just call them. Immediately. Done. Move on. That's working well.

However, since I'm becoming my mother and all, I know that I'm more prone to forgetting something, and because I don't want to lie awake all night wondering what I've forgotten (my ONLY cause of insomnia), I've been writing everything - even things I just might WANT to do - on my to-do list. This is creating problems, because my to-do list? It gets done. And I mean, done. I really can't stand to have a lingering, been-on-there-forever to-do list item. So, even when I have gotten a LOT done, I feel the pull...what's next? What else can I cross off?

So what does all this have to do with my musings this year about living well? Well, my children, my husband, my relationships? They can't go on my list. They don't get crossed off. But too many times, too many days, I'm getting all wrapped up and in love with and - yes - consumed with my get-'er-done list. Sometimes I think: "put 'do _ with kid' on the list!" And then I think: "that's terrible. That is NOT living well".

I have no answers right now. E has always been the one who can pull me away from my lists...maybe I should ask him.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Art of Getting Things Done

If I hadn't flown to Texas to see my new nephew, I might not have realized how easy making breakfast burritoes in bulk could be.

If I were my sister, I would've done this for my husband a long time ago. If I were Lisa or Pam, I'd have headed to my backyard farm for these 36 eggs, instead of the $1.59 per 18 deal I got at Kroger.

If it weren't for my mom, I wouldn't have had this handy-dandy tool for chopping up the sausage and eggs into perfect form. Oh, modern convienences.

If I hadn't married a southerner (by heritage) with a penchant for protein for breakfast, there would probably be nothing more than Cheerios on this bar.

If I were in control of my life, I might not have these three beautiful daughters (assembly-line workers today!) to make the process go quickly and easily. I thank God for all my children!!
If I were my husband, I'd be up early and hard at work each day designing machines and solving problems, providing for our family. The least I can do is give him some breakfast!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

I'll Give You Organic

Open Doors+

All glory to the One, True, Living, Eternal God.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

When the Plan Comes Together

So, you know what it's like when you have spent years teaching the letters and their sounds, and reading to the child, and putting words together, and slowly they start to read, and sound their words out, and you have to set times for them to practice reading each day? And then one day it's really quiet, and you check on them, and they're engrossed in a chapter book that you didn't even suggest and it makes you want to cry?

Well, the construction equivalent just happened. Counting, measuring, math, power tool instruction, years of patience with "helpers", and more have just come together. Daddy's tearing up. : )

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Event of the Year

So as soon as my sister told me last year the big news, we knew 2011 would be "The Year of the New Cousin". When I announced that I was going to fly down when the baby was born and take Delaney, all manner of excitement and anticipation and who-will-have-the-better-time discussions ensued.

And now the baby - henceforth known as Evan! - is here. And the trip is done. And the other kids' week with Daddy is done. And we're back to the routine (except for the yearly excitement of getting the Barn Sale ready, which has not quite kicked in because it keeps raining). For DK and I, it was such a great trip to bond more closely as she heads into a different phase of growing up. The fun of experiencing her first airplane ride with her was a privilege (Said as she put her shoes back on after getting her bag scanned and the body scan: "I was all like, 'tight', and now I'm just like, ahhhh, and let's get on the plane!"). She absolutely loved every minute of the plane ride, and had her face smashed against her window during the entire take-off. Priceless.

And Evan! He was 2 weeks old when we arrived, and completely perfect and adorable. He has beautiful eyes and we got to see them quite often. Delaney did great holding him and became more comfortable as the week went on. She liked to ride in the back seat with him, keep his pacifier handy, and give a running commentary on his faces and wild arm swings (future OSU quarterback?). John and Karyn are doing a great job as new parents and I know they'll face the long haul with wisdom, prayers and lots of love. Other things DK liked: sleeping with mom (me) in a big ol' bed; hot cocoa and danishes every morning at the motel (so like her father: she made me buy sausages that we could microwave in our room because it was only a continental breakfast); shopping!!! at Ft. Worth mall and other stores with actual selection; eating at Delaney's Irish Pub where her not-so-common-and-never-found-on-gift-shop-trinkets name was plastered everywhere; the beautiful botanical gardens; really good Texas burgers with really good Texas beef.
We road-tripped home through Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois and Indiana with grandma, where snacks and other food was so available she declared she would never eat again until her birthday. After arriving home Sunday afternoon and settling in a bit, she had quite a few tears and lots of sadness. For Texas, for Evan, and probably for the "let-down" from the end of a big, once-in-a-childhood special trip with mom that had been building up in her mind since December when I told her. New emotions, new experiences; our biggest little girl is growing up.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

I Could Get Used to This

So far today...

...tons of hugs and kisses...

...they made my bed...

..."Interviews About Mom" videos with each kid answering questions and sending messages to me. Best. Gift. Ever....

...Originial songs written and sung for me...

Here's one of the interviews. You can see in the clothing question that I have passed down the sarcasm gene completely intact.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Some homework...or Heather-work

So a good friend and I snuck out and had a great evening recently discussing life, kids and breakfast, schedules, books, music, Africa, and a multitude of other deep-to-shallow topics that only 2 mothers of 9 children could squeeze into 4 hours. A phrase that rose to the surface throughout the evening: "living well". She and I are going to continue the discussion - what does it mean to live well? As a Christian? As a mother and wife? As me?

I thought I might start to flesh some of that out here...feel free to add on, weigh in, disagree, etc. Brainstorming is on the agenda first, as all good students know, and since there is not much in my brain, I'll stimulate my thinking by seeing what others have to say.*

"There are two educations. One should teach us how to make a living, and the other how to live." - John Adams

"If you can't make it better, you can laugh at it." - Erma Bombeck

"An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity." - Martin Luther King, Jr.

"Come now, you who say, today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit. Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.'" - James 4: 13-15

*Fine print disclaimer: just words that make me think...not necessarily an endorsement of the sentiment.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Welcome to Our World

Leah's not the youngest cousin anymore...

The kids want to oovoo (video chat) with him asap...

"I wonder what his first word will be?" they ask. "I wonder what he'll look like when he's seven."....

"Has he worn any of the shirts we made him yet?"...

I think they love him already...I know we do! Welcome to the family, Evan Riley!!!

April 26, 2011

Sunday, April 24, 2011

One Body

We sat on metal, plastic, canvas, wood -- whatever could be gathered in close quarters before dawn this morning. The 40 or so of us - from new babies to great-grandparents - were surrounded by flats of flowers and rows of hanging baskets, their colors barely visible in the dark.

We started to sing. Then the roosters started to sing, and before our eyes the greenhouse lit up like someone had flipped the switch. We kept singing, about the One who flipped the switch, who rolled away the stone, who lives today and forever. We talked about how the darkness has not won, and will never win.

On the other side of the world, though, our brothers and sisters did not get to leave their gathering and go eat ham or baked beans or cake or relax with their families. They tried to gather and sing, and pray, and talk about the One whom we celebrate this day; they were arrested. Some are in various jails, others are in unknown locations.

I do not take for granted my freedom to gather and proclaim the name of Jesus Christ, and I will not forget those who are without that freedom.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Wrapping Up, Heading Home

Our last full day of the retreat was a day of no plans. We slept in, I tackled most of the laundry (again), and started the packing process. We continued to watch basketball (did I mention that having 4 televisions with cable helped tremendously with a fun opening weekend for the NCAA tournament? It would have been a real bummer at home since they took so many games off of CBS and we don't have cable!). We also took a drive and made some time to see the "glass house" - highly recommended by the MOMYS family from Iowa that we had gotten to know a little during the week. The glass house is near Historic Jamestowne and is a replica of a glass-making set up that was found there. Two men were stoking the kiln (fire?) and working with the glass. They would take what looked like a little "ball" of hot glass out of the fire, and blow, roll, contort it into large vases, pitchers and more. Truly amazing, and truly hot. I can't imagine what it is like for them in the heat of summer.

Side note: Eric and I got a date-night Saturday! We ate at Panera - yummmmmmm. We had both eaten there separately but never had a chance to together. Once again, highly recommend taking grandparents on a vacation!

Sunday morning was stuffing everything into the vans and trying to get on the road as early as possible. I got up early to cook the cinnamon rolls that I had bought but never used during the week, thinking that would be a nice way to ease the "we're leaving" morning blues. However, the best-laid plans...etc. I put the rolls into two pans that were in the townhouse kitchen. Timer beeped, I got them out, set them on the stove-top, turned around to look for a knife to spread the icing on, PAN EXPLODED. Yeah, not cool. Glass everywhere. Thankfully, the kids were not awake yet and I didn't get cut or anything. Eric and I cleaned it all up, dumped the rolls in the trash and he went and got donuts. : )

We had a pretty nice ride home -- the kids did absolutely GREAT the whole trip in the van, barely any arguing and "are we there yet"s. The two negatives were detouring to Monticello for a "drive-by" and realizing that you couldn't see it from your car and it cost an arm and a leg to see it, and my incident at a gas station in SE Ohio where the van-lock alarm went off and Eric was in the bathroom and I could NOT get that thing to go off no matter what we tried. : ) Those are the memory makers, though!

We did stop at a great attraction in WV, and got a good workout climbing down quite a few stairs to see the old and new bridges. The kids didn't think it would be anything to climb back up, (even after reading the warning signs), but we were all quite winded.

We got home at around 9:30 p.m. or so, ready to be home but sad to be ending our adventures. Many, many request of "Can we go back next year?" I'm sure we would enjoy it, but if I know us, I think we will have to strike out somewhere we've never been.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Beach-Ball Day

Eric had looked ahead at the weather forecast and thought Friday would be our best Atlantic Ocean day. He was right! We all headed to Virginia Beach, parked right by the boardwalk, had the beach practically to ourselves for most of the time we were there, and had beautiful sunny 80+ degree weather. It was exactly what we all needed.

Long walks on the beach...they're such romantics...

Always the engineer...even made his own beach chair...

Their first time at the Atlantic Ocean...

Someone had to be buried!

After the sun had started turning our skin pretty red, and the sand had made it's way into every thing we brought, we headed back to the resort (again, through crazy-slow Virginia Beach/Norfolk/Newport News traffic) to shower and get ready for The King's Ball. All the families were dressing up (either in period garb or just nice clothing) and putting our newly-learned colonial dance skills to use. Sara was nervous from Monday until Friday at the ball, worried, she told us, that she might forget some of the moves for the dances, or not remember their names and that she knew them. She really, really, liked the dancing. : ) Levi asked me to dance - so sweet! - and Delaney, yet again, rejected invitations from young men to dance with her. She is going to be a tough one for some young man someday.

We weren't too great with our cameras Friday night, but I have a few pics, plus the "big reveal" - pics from Monday night including the parents' and grandparents' outfits!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Separate But Equally Fun

Thankfully, we had front-loaded most of the planned stops/activities into the first part of the trip, and left free time at the end. This worked well (I think) because given our usual propensity not to be "boxed in" on any vacation, we were pretty worn out from scheduled activities by the end of our day at Colonial Williamsburg. We had a few things that we knew we wanted to fit in, but because we only had 3 days left, it was looking a little crowded and that was causing a little, ahem, tension. We made a good decision: we went our separate ways for most of Thursday and everyone had more time to relax. Mom and I and Delaney and Sara rolled down the windows and enjoyed the beautiful, sunny 70-degree day by hitting the many outlet malls and Yankee Candle Flagship store. The Yankee store was really entertainment in a very, very large store, and the girls got to make their own candle, eat some chocolate-covered popcorn, watch the "snow" come down in the year-round Christmas section, and peruse the toy shop while I picked out some great new votive candle scents (lemonade! yum!). Alas, I have no pictures of shopping. : )

Dad, Eric, Leah, Jesse and Levi headed south to Norfolk, the Nauticus Museum, and the Wisconsin Battleship tour. Other than the traffic on the way back, they had a great day and said the museum was really hands-on and worth the trip. Eric remembers his dad taking him on a real battleship when he was a young boy and had been looking forward to doing the same with his kids for a long time.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Wagon Trails....Or "How to Make History Real for Your Children"

When I was in high school, my parents took us on a trip out west. My mother, the schoolteacher (also just a generally interested-in-history-person), kept throwing in "extras" along the way. Like, museums. One late afternoon, on which I remember being particularly anxious to move along and get to the hotel (pool), we made a "detour" and drove to the site marking the start (portion?) of a famous wagon trail, where many pioneer families made the journey west. Quite literally, there was a small area in which to park, and then you got out and looked at a large grassy plain, and then you walked to the spot where you could see some ruts in the ground, and a sign. Now, my mother will stop the story at the point and tell you that - ahem - it is worth noting that I remember the wagon trail. This is true. It is also true that experiences such as those has made me somewhat conscientious of how we present "history" to our children, and made it very interesting to see how they did on what was really our first history-type trip. On Tuesday of the trip we went with some others from the MOMYS group and got a tour of the Jamestown Settlement - the reenacted Jamestown site that is more kid-friendly than the actual historical Jamestowne. Levi hung in and seemed to retain quite a bit from our private tour guide, but the others faded quickly as it involved standing for long periods in the wind, just listening. They were also distracted a bit because they could see the Indian homes and the large ships and the fort, but we weren't going in them yet! They did really enjoy it all once we started exploring and it was great to see them connect what they were seeing to some of the things we had learned.

Jesse, grinding corn the old way.
One of the replica ships - the Susan Constant (note: random girl walked into picture beside Eric at the last second!)

Tuesday's hands-on history wasn't done, however, as the retreat organizers had planned a girls/mothers tea and a militia drill for the boys/dads in the afternoon back at the resort. Our outside picnic/tea was cold but absolutely beautiful in its set-up and planning. Each lady got a custom-made mug with raspberry lemonade plus wonderful "crumpets" in a basket.

The boys had their replica muskets and LOVED the drill instruction time. We had quite the time the rest of the trip getting them to stop "drilling" and remember that the dear people of Virginia Beach/Norfolk/West Virginia/Ohio did not know they were pretending to be minutemen.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Monday, Monday

So, because we attempt this whole literature-based, Charlotte Mason-influenced, global curriculum around here, the kiddos never get the pleasure of pop quizzes, except when they are in the van with their father, or when my dad checks to see if they are actually learning math. Therefore, to satisfy my deeply-ingrained love of multiple choice questions, and to cover more ground, I'm blog-quizzing.

1. Did you survive dressing up in your colonial outfits and meeting the other families?
a. No, we took one look at ourselves and fled.
b. Yes, our outfits were 100% authentic and everyone complemented my exceptional sewing skills.
c. No, the kids were desperate to put their regular clothes back on and flee far from the dancing.
d. Yes, everyone was so welcoming and we were pleasantly surprised at what a fun evening we had.

Answer: d. The kids looked great. We adults? Well, we tried! I will hold off on the "big reveal" of all pics of our colonial wear until the end of these posts, but will give a few glimpses now. Some of the families were completely authentic and that was neat to see, and some didn't dress up and that was great, too. The best thing was that it was all good and everyone had so much fun as one of the dads, who is a well-versed dance caller, taught us all many customs of the dancing and many dances. All ages were on the dance floor and it was a blast. Eric, who looked quite comfortable in his chair against the wall, did not disappoint his three daughters, and was a willing dance partner for each of them. The real joy was watching the twins, who took to colonial dancing like nothing you've ever seen. When Jesse was completely lost, Sara would just grab his hand and drag him through it all. But he caught on, and when the rest of us were too tired to keep learning, they would just grab each other's hands and head back out for the next one.

2. What desserts did Brenda and Heather pick at The Trellis, a wonderful restaurant in historic Williamsburg?
a. White Chocolate Truffles
b. Dark Chocolate Tart with sea salt and pecans
c. Turtle Pudding with Toffee Cream topping
d. Seven-layer Death by Chocolate

Answer: b (Mom) and d (me). I was headed for the dark chocolate but the waiter talked many of us at the table (all the moms' went out for an evening dessert after the larger get together and we got to know some wonderful ladies) into their award-winning death by chocolate. It was huge, it was decadent, very glad I got it.

3. What's the strangest difference between the Williamsburg, VA walmart and the Richmond, IN walmart?
a. A much bigger store
b. You couldn't find it from the road - like everything else in this very-zoned city
c. Nearly all the "junk" food was compartmentalized into its own area between the grocery and clothing sections.
d. The bread section.

Answer: d. I know, I know, analysis on Wal-mart differences is totally not pertinent to our trip and anything historic. But I have never seen a bread section with so little wheat bread. And I have not seen that much white bread since the 1980s. Seriously, people, the bread was IN the junk food section with the chips and candy.

As promised, a few pics from the Monday get-together:

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Retreat

Would you like to hear about how we were all pretty worn down by now from the drives, living out of the clothing tub, and managing the pig-sty level in the van? No? How about how, by the time we were headed to our resort on the 1st Sunday of our trip, I was about to throw up if I had to bend down one more time and scour my bag (or under the van seats) for the right map or more gum or a pencil, and Eric was probably ready to throw me and the GPS out the window? Yes?

Well, too bad, because we're going to do positive highlights and happy pictures.

This Williamsburg retreat has been going on for about 10 years through an email group of which I am a member: MOMYS - Mothers of Many Young Siblings. You have to have at least 4 children within 8 years to be a member; we are one of the smaller families, and in fact, had one of the few minivans in the parking lots. Most were 12- or 15-passenger. My mom and dad joined us on the road when we were heading to Williamsburg, and the kids happily separated into 2 vans. : )

We checked in that evening at the Historic Powhatan Resort between Williamsburg and Jamestown, and we have to say that the accomodations were great. Spring was springing, and we all spread out into the 4-bedroom, 4-bath townhome, and then explored the grounds a bit. It had indoor pools, game rooms, tennis, a historic manor, a general store and many ponds in which to fish (I think Levi caught a stick). Some of the week's planned activities (militia drill, tea party, dad's breakfast, etc.) were on site, and others (tours, mom's dessert, etc.) were in historic Williamsburg or surrounding areas. One of the great parts of the week was meeting the families in the buildings beside us (all MOMYS families had their names on their doors) and watching as the kids took over the parking lots/grassy areas through the week and played together.

We didn't remember to take a lot of pics at the resort, but you can get some idea of what it looked like.

While waiting for check-in time, we took the Colonial Parkway and hit the "beach" on the James River. Similarly, we found no gold.

We did find rocks.
On our "street" at the resort, our first day there.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Washington D.C. Meets the Nortons

So, the whole trip was really set for this year because the kids and I have spent the year studying history between the explorers and the early 1800s. Before the trip, we had just finished up the Revolutionary War and the creation of the Constitution. AND, the selection of a large tract of land from both Maryland and Virginia to be the home of the nation's capitol; you know, a spot in the "middle" of the country. Such foresight. ; )

So, considering we took one day and saw the Smithsonian American History museum, Union Station, the Capitol, the Washington Monument, the Senate and Supreme Court buildings, and the Botanical Gardens, what do you think the kids' favorite memory of D.C. is? Only if you guessed the mode of transporation that took us to all of those places (or if I've talked to you) would you have the correct answer! Yes, they love the Metro. Seven one-day passes to ride the subway was money well spent, let me tell 'ya. The rest was just icing on the cake for them.

The excitement of the day produced well-seasoned Metro riders.

What are we most interested in at the Smithsonian? Hmmm... I blame Eric.

We really, really want this Liberty Bell replica to ring.

No taxation without representation!

The irresistible urge to touch the cactus was only magnified when the mother said, "No, for goodness sake! Don't touch the cactus." The Botanical Gardens was an unplanned (Dad, looking for a shortcut) but very lovely stop.