Sunday, October 31, 2010

Another Halloween!

Well, we made it through. Another Halloween. My Halloween Conundrum was solved. We had two cowboys

and a princess.
We had a good evening. We went to the Fall Family Fun Night at my parents' church. Had a yummy tri-tip sandwich for dinner and then wandered around through firetrucks and school buses, bounced in bounce houses, threw footballs through tires and bean bags into sombreros. And collected candy. And more candy. And even more candy. My philosophy towards candy has definitely changed over the past couple of years. I used to allow the kids to eat one or two pieces and then collect it and dole it out in ones and twos over the next several weeks. Well, this lead to lying and stealing and whining and all sorts of irritating behaviours. So now... I just let them have it. They could eat as much as they wanted today and I'm going to let them gorge tomorrow afternoon and be done with it. I don't care anymore. I may end up throwing some of it away tonight, just so they won't have quite so much, but don't tell them that. They'll get mad. I may eat a little, too. I saw a Heath bar in there, and a Butterfinger. Two of my favorites.

Friday, October 29, 2010

My Lovely Lady!

"We may pass violets looking for roses,
we may pass contentment looking for victory."
Bern Williams

Every woman should have at least one rose bush in her garden. Even a small bouquet of blooms can brighten up the saddest day and roses are the queen of flowers. I have seven rose bushes in my little rose garden and they are quite lovely. However, if I were only able to have one, I would have to choose this one - Nancy Reagan. It is a wonderful rose, beautiful and long lasting.
Even now at the end of October it is still producing lovely apricot blooms. These pictures aren't that great. I haven't pruned my roses yet after this last bloom period, but the Nancy Regan is a wonderful little bush. It is small and slow growing, but as I said before, it blooms and blooms and blooms and the flowers remain lovely. Sometimes at the end of the season other roses are not of very high quality, but Nancy continues to produce lovely flowers .
True, roses are not the easiest flower to care for. They must be pruned and fertilized and dead headed; high maintainance to be sure. But, it is worth the work in every way because,
"One may live without bread, but not without roses"
Jean Richepin

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

On the Chopping Block!

Boy, for someone who doesn't really like Halloween, I'm sure doing a lot of Halloween-y things. Today, we carved pumpkins. Well, we had to. We got those pumpkins from the pumpkin patch last week
and after one miserable attempt to make a pie out of an actual pumpkin (as opposed to the canned variety) I will not be doing that again, so... what do you do with the pumpkins? Stand on an over-pass and drop them on unsuspecting cars? I think not. So, we made jack-0-lanterns.
The first thing we did was clean them out. That was interesting. The kids weren't too in to the slimy part, but I told them unless it was completely cleaned we wouldn't be able to put a candle in them. They did a pretty good job.
Then, they drew a face on their pumpkin with a Sharpie marker. I made no promises as far as how accurately I'd be able to cut out their faces, but I did my best.
Then, I started carving. I had a nice little knife I found in the back of the drawer. It was very sharp, but small enough to be more precise. Check out this shot! One of the boys took it. I could be a surgeon!
And here's the finished product. Pretty scary, wouldn't you say?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Halloween Conundrum!

Hmm, it's that time of year again, and I am facing the Halloween conundrum. What to dress the kids up as. When they were little it was easy because they didn't really care. When Missy Lou was an infant someone had given us this darling little Piglet (from Winnie the Pooh) costume, so that was great for her. The boys have been cowboys over the years, last year they were pirates (easy costume to make, the only thing I bought was a sword from Walmart) and Missy Lou was a princess. Now they are getting to the age where they actually have an opinion on what they want to be and I'll be jiggered if I'm going to spend $20 each at Target for some stupid costume they're only going to wear once. Plus, there's the added consideration that we're going to the Fall Festival thing at my parents' church instead of trick-or-treating. I refuse to stay in our neighborhood on Halloween because it is a zoo, I tell you, an absolute zoo. People drive in from all over town to trick-or-treat in our neighborhood. A person could go broke supplying candy for everyone who rings the doorbell in this neighborhood. So, we're going somewhere else. Anyhow, so... we're at this Fall Festival and there's bounce houses and games and firetrucks, which means the costume has to be comfortable enough for a child to bounce around in and not get all tied up. Plus, it can't have too many accessories or guess who will be carrying them around? No, not gonna happen. So, there you have it. I actually had this cute idea of having the kids dress up as an Oreo. All three of them. Get the boys black sweats and put a little sign that says, "Oreo" on their chest. Then get Missy Lou white sweats and have them all walk around together. You know, the boys are the chocolate cookie and Missy Lou is the frosting on the inside. It's the perfect costume - cheap, they can always use more sweats, warm, no accessories. But, ya know what? They wouldn't get it. They never get anything. Especially Bubba. Things just go right over his head. So, I guess we'll head for Walmart sometime this week and hope for an inspiration. And the thing is... I'm not all that in to Halloween in the first place. I don't like it much as a holiday and I really don't want to spend money on it. So there you go! My Halloween Conundrum.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Awesome Saturday Soccer Games!

Saturdays in September, October and November are devoted to soccer around here. I would estimate there are about 500 kids involved in youth soccer here in our small town, so it is a big deal. Our kids love it, and Hubby and I enjoy watching them play. This year is Missy Lou's first year playing soccer.
She's on the Wildcats (5 year olds and under) team and she's doing really well. There she is, number 14, right in the middle of things.
She seems to understand the game pretty well for a four-year-old and has good focus. She can dribble the ball down the field quite well, even with a mob of kids running after her. This morning she was the only girl on her team for a while, until Maya showed up at half-time. That didn't daunt her, though.
The boys' team is called the Chivas. At first I thought the coach just couldn't pronounce "Cheetah", but no... it's the Chivas, which is Spanish for "Goats". It's their second year playing soccer and they have improved tremendously. Last year the best Duh-duh could do was stand out there and watch the ball go by. This year he's doing very well and today he got in three really good kicks. We were very proud of him!
Although sometimes he likes to cheese for the camera a little much instead of watching the game!
Bubba has just been amazing this year. He's got a pretty good idea of how to play the game and is really showing his skills as a goalie. He enjoys the position and does well at it. He also decided it might be a good idea to listen to the coach and take his advice. Once he figured that out, he improved in his skill level by leaps and bounds.
Today, he was pretty bored in the goalie box; all the action was happening on the other end of the field. So after the first half the coach let him play offense and Bubba was in his element. He head-butted a couple of times and even scored a goal. He was on top of the world!

The boys have an awesome coach this year. He really works well with the boys and he actually teaches them skills. Their coach last year, while she was a nice gal, didn't do much in the way of actual teaching.
This has been a great year of soccer for the kids. They have had a good time and they all have improved so much over the season! We're very proud of them!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Fun at the Pumpkin Patch!

What could be more perfect on a beautiful October day than a trip to the local Pumpkin Patch with the homeschool group? Nothing! So, that is what we did today. It was a wonderful day and a wonderful Pumpkin Patch. They started out telling the kids a story, then it was a walk over the hanging bridge (I had four little 6 & 7 year old boys in front of me and they kept jumping to make the bridge swing. I was walking funny for several minutes after getting off the bridge and so were they!)
and through the little castle and down the slide. Then, we had a hay ride
and then it was off to pick out pumpkins.
The wonderful day ended with a picnic lunch and Mommy chatting with her friends and the kids playing in the pond.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Just call me Ma!

You know, like Ma Ingalls. She bakes bread. But, I'm not Ma Ingalls, I'm Ma Kroeker. Anyhow, today is baking day. I didn't really plan to bake, but we have soccer tonight and Hubby has a Session (what we Presbyterians call our Board of Elders) meeting tonight, which means I have to take Missy Lou at 5:00 and then the boys at 6:00, so I decided to make something that could be easily re-heated. So, I'm making beerocks. I love beerocks, but they are very labor intensive. But, I did have some cabbage that I needed to use up and beerocks are an easy dinner and they freeze well. So, I made beerocks. I also made taco flavored beerocks... without cabbage. But with cheese. Which wouldn't make them beerocks, but I'm not sure what to call them. The kids don't like cabbage and I know I shouldn't necessarily cater to their pickiness, but sometimes it's just easier to make taco beerocks and avoid all unnecessary unpleasantness. Like, "Ooooh, what is this? Is this an onion? I hate onions!" So, I made taco beerocks, with the meat seasoned with taco seasoning, no cabbage, but with cheese. The kids should like them.
And then... I ran out of filling so I just made plain old zwiebach. My Mennonite grandmamas would be so proud of me right now. Hopefully it makes up for us turning Presbyterian.

Monday, October 18, 2010

An interesting weekend!

We had a weekend like we have never had before. We did a respite. What is a respite? I'm glad you asked. A respite is basically helping out another foster family. We have our foster care license because we'd like to adopt again from the foster care system. But, we have no foster kids right now. So, a family we know in the area asked if we could take one of their foster kids for the weekend. There are various reasons to do respite - sometimes the family needs to go out of state for a reason and cannot take their foster kids with them, sometimes they just need a break to regroup as a family, sometimes it's just for a rest. So, we said we'd be happy to help and Friday night they dropped off Little Girl, a sweet little 6 year old with long blond hair. Foster Mom hadn't told me much about her, only that she was a real handful. So, I'd spent the preceeding two weeks praying about this situation and really dreading it. But, I figured, it's only 48 hours and it would really minister to this family.

Well, Little Girl was just fine. I'm not doubting for one minute Foster Mom's assessment of this child, but we didn't see this behaviour. I'm guessing it was a combination of being in a new place (which always creates better behavior in children), being away from her siblings and being kept busy that toned her down considerably. There's always the "honeymoon" phase with kids.

That second night I put Missy Lou to bed early (she was completely worn out and asking, yes, you read that right, asking to be put to bed at 7:00) and I spent a little longer in her room than usual, singing to her and playing with her hair (what is it with playing with the hair? She loves it when I run my fingers through her hair). When I came out, Hubby was reading to the rest of the kids and I just sat down and watched them. Little Girl was curled up on the couch next to the boys in her little Minnie Mouse nightgown, listening intently and my heart really went out to her. Whatever her issues are, at that point in time, she was just a little girl who loved being read to. And then my heart ached for her because I thought to myself, "What is to become of this child?" This little "outsider" snuggling up with my family. I wondered what she was thinking about what's happening to her. She seemed to fit into our family. She wasn't shy or afraid. I wondered why that was. I know nothing about her family of origin and the circumstances that brought her to this place. But I do know that unless her biological family gets straightened out, or she gets placed in a home with some permanency, she is going to really struggle, and that really made me sad.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Little boys and Manet....

This afternoon we were doing art appreciation. It's a very primitive study, to say the least. Today we studied "Argenteuil" by Edouard Manet.

Mommy: What do you think about this picture?
Bubba: I like it.
Mommy: Why do you like it?
Bubba: I like the colors he uses.
Mommy: You can't say that. You've used that answer for every single picture we've studied. Think of another reason you like it. And actually, you don't have to like it.
Bubba: Then I don't like it.
Mommy: Why not?
Bubba: I don't know. I can't decide if I like it or I don't like it.
Mommy: Whatever!

Then, it's on to Duh-duh!
Mommy: What do you think about this picture?
Duh-duh: I like it.
Mommy: Why do you like it?
Duh-duh: I like the colors he uses.
Mommy: You can't use that answer. Tell me something different.
Duh-duh: I like it because he did a nice job coloring in the lines. He's a very good artist.
Mommy: I have no response to that.

Manet would be flattered, I'm sure!

Homeschooling Boys!

Homeschooling boys is.... challenging.... interesting .... exhausting. If I wasn't so committed to it, I certainly wouldn't be doing it because it is a lot of work. You want proof? Well, let me submit... exhibit A. This child. Can you just feel the energy? He's not even sitting down (sit down? can he sit down?). He's got his knee on the chair, but he's certainly not sitting. Notice the Lego car dangling off the table? Notice the mess? But... he's doing his math.

The people submit... exhibit B. Then there's this one. See those colorful things dangling there. Those are my math manipulatives. They're little plastic froggy counters. We use them to count, sort, explain addition and subtraction, and tons of other math activities. I've had them for a couple of years now and the only reason I still have most of them left is that I am tenacious in guarding them. But... he got in to them and now they are decorations on the zebra-tiger.
And lastly, but most convincingly is this... the people's exhibit C. These are what most people would call writing utensils. Notice that there is not an eraser to be found on the end of any of them. They are all completely chewed up. They are broken. The bits and pieces of erasers at the top of the picture have been chewed up, too.
This is what it is like homeschooling little boys. But, that's ok. I can keep buying pencils and trying to find decent pencil sharpeners and I can put up with doing their work standing up (as long as they get it done), because I am committed to teaching these little squirts at home. I believe it is the best thing for them!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Baby Pictures!

You know, babies are really cute. I read some place that God created babies to be cute so that we would take care of them. I guess if they weren't so cute and cuddly we'd just ignore them at the peril of the continuance of the human race. Baby animals are cute, too, but today I want to talk about the cuteness of baby plants. Here's a picture of my lettuce that is just coming up. Isn't it adorable? I think it should be ready to eat in a week or so. I planted another row of seeds yesterday. I love baby lettuce.

And here is my baby fennel. It's so delicate. It won't be ready till spring, but it sure is yummy. I love fennel. It smells good, too!

Here's my baby broccoli. Broccoli is my experiment this year. Every year I have to have a gardening experiment. This year, it is broccoli. I'm not even a huge fan of broccoli, but when a seed packet is a buck, you just think... oh, come on. It could be fun!
Please don't pay attention to the weeds. There are so many weeds in my garden. And so many canteloupes. That's one of the problems with composting if you don't get your compost hot enough to kill the seeds.... you get lots and lots of volunteers. I'd let the canteloupes stay if I knew they'd grow and produce, but they just aren't a winter crop. So, I try to pull them out.

Oh, and here's another cute baby. Well, he was a cute baby. Now... he's just cute!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Blessing of a Friend

"A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother." Proverbs 18:24
"Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend
comes from his earnest counsel." Proverbs 27:9

I mentioned in my previous post that I'd been feeling a little down. There are definitely reasons for that, and also probably my own temperment lends itself to that kind of thing. But today, I spent some time with a friend and I must say, I'm feeling much better. There is nothing like that easy companionship that comes from a long and established friendship. Linda and I have been friends for 28 years. We met in band our freshman year in high school. She played saxophone and I played flute. We also were in the same PE class that year and found a common bond of non-athleticism. We were best friends throughout high school and I still have a big box of the notes we passed in class to prove it. We did everything that best friends in high school did - went to football and basketball games, tried out for cheerleader and neither of us made it, hated algebra, had crushes on various boys and rock stars and made up our own secret code so if any of the thousands of notes we passed in and between class got confiscated we would not be humiliated.
That friendship has lasted through the years. I was maid-of-honor in her wedding and she was matron-of-honor in my wedding. We both have 3 kids, we both homeschool and even now when we get together and take the kids to the park we still have tons to talk about, just like in high school. So, today we got together and let the kids run around in the park. We talked about all sorts of things - both trivial and deep. It doesn't matter. There's nothing like a good friend!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Various and sundry things....

I've been a little down lately. Don't know why, exactly. I feel like I've been battling the kids an awful lot. Bubba's been disobedient, Missy Lou's throwing tantrums and today I'm bending over helping Bubba with his math and Duh-duh is standing behind me picking at my underwear. I'm like, "What is going on here? I cannot get a grip on life!" So, I thought I'd just post some pictures because if I really wrote about what's going on, I'd probably come across as a big fat whiner.Getting ready to climb Buck Rock. Duh-duh and I chickened out and sat at the bottom and waited!

The glamour-puss!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Caesar who?

"In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered." Luke 2:1.

Who doesn't know those words? Even the "un-churched" knows those words, which begin the Christmas story. I've heard them all my life. However, I am looking at them now from a completely new perspective. I know I've been writing a lot about the merits of learning your history, but it is something that has become so fascinating to me that I just have to share it, especially since my interests have been turning more toward ancient history.

So, just who is Caesar Augustus? We read his name and assume (correctly) that he is the ruler, but just who is he? And how did he get to power? And what was going on in the world at that time? Well, to start with Caesar Augustus started out life as Octavian, the great-nephew and later on adopted son of Julius Caesar. Yes, that Julius Caesar. The great dictator for life of the Roman Empire. We learned last time that Julius Caesar was assassinated on March 15 by his "friends" (et tu, Brute'?), and his will stated that Octavian would be his heir. However, Octavian was young and not that powerful, so Mark Antony (former high official of Caesar) and Lepidus (another high official) formed the Second Triumverate. The First Triumverate was none other than Julius Caesar, Crassus (who was killed in battle), and Pompey (who got his head chopped off and handed to Caesar in Egypt). So, with the other two out of the way, the First Triumverate became a dictatorship. The Second Triumverate wasn't all that successful, either. Octavian and Mark Antony have a show down and Octavian wins, resulting in the suicide of Mark Antony and his lover the famous (or infamous) Cleopatra. The winner took all and Octavian became.... drum roll please.... Caesar Augustus.

Most of this information I'm getting from the book "Cleopatra" by Michael Grant. It's a fascinating book, although sometimes he gives too much information. Not gory information, but rather stuff like... I don't need to know every last bit about the cult of Dionysus, and.... is it really that important that Mark Antony's wife Fulvia may or may not have her likeness on a coin from some outpost of the Roman Empire. But, some things were really interesting. For example, I didn't realize that there was a pretty good sized Jewish contingency in Egypt at that time (I thought they just all left with Moses, didn't realize some of them came back!), so when Scripture tells us how Joseph took Mary and Jesus to Egypt to get away from Herod (who I also learned about) we can assume they probably joined an already established Jewish community, possibly with some distant relatives. They didn't just set up camp under a pyramid like I always imagined. So, reading about this and the politics of the middle east, the power grabs, the jockeying for control and there sits Judea right smack dab in the middle of it, really gives a greater context for understanding what the world was like when Jesus was born.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Beware the Ides of March!

So... if you go outside to look at your horses and they are crying and not eating, if your wife has a dream that you are stabbed to death and if you're on your way to your pagan temple to ask the priest why your horses are crying and a fortune-teller says, "Beware the Ides of March!"... it might be a good idea to pay attention. Unfortunately, Julius Caesar did not. If you hadn't noticed, we've been studying Julius Caesar. I've never studied him before. He's one of the world's greatest rulers, ruling the greatest empire the world has ever known and I knew next to nothing about him. Well, that is being remedied. After going through his life in our history book, The Story of the World by Susan Wise Bauer, I've got a grown-up biography that I will start after I finish the biography of Cleopatra that I rented from the library.
History is one of my favorite subjects and I never really liked it until I grew up and started reading biographies. I started by reading the bios of all the wives of Henry VIII. That was extremely interesting. I think I liked Catherine Parr (his last wife) the best. Then, I got interested in Eleanor of Aquitane. She lived in the 1100's and was first the wife of the King of France and then they divorced and then she married Henry II and together they started the Plantagenet Dynasty. She was the mother of Richard the Lionhearted and King John of Magna Charta fame! I think I've read about 3-4 bios about her alone. I've also read a bio about Henry II her husband and also several books about how he came to power.
I think reading about people is the best way to learn history because that's what history is... it's people. The times and places are incidental. Well, I suppose that a man like Julius Caesar may or may not have had the success he did if he lived at a different time in history. Maybe his methods would have been different. But, my point is... history is made by people and if we are going to study history and learn history, we need to know the people who made history.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Biopsy results!

Yesterday as I was driving home from the dermatologist, this scene from "Monty Python's 'The Holy Grail'" was running through my mind. I apologize if you've never seen that movie. The following will probably make no sense to you, but try to picture a scene in a medieval village with a mortician pushing a cart of dead people, walking through town clanging a gong and calling out "Bring out your dead", collecting the bodies that have died of the plague in the night.

Mortician: Bring out your dead.... Bring out your dead!
Customer: Here's one... nine pence.
Dead Person: I'm not dead!
Mortician: What?
Customer: Nothing.... here's your nine pence.
Dead Person: I'm not dead!
Mortician: Here.... he says he's not dead!
Customer: Yes he is!
Dead Person: I am not!
Mortician: He isn't!
Customer: Well, he will be soon. He's very ill.
Dead Person: I'm getting better!
Customer: No, you're not! You'll be stone dead in a moment!
Mortician: Oh, I can't take him like that. It's against regulations!
Dead Person: I don't want to go in the cart!
Customer: Oh, don't be such a baby!

Well, if you haven't figure it out by now.... I'm not dead yet. In fact, I won't even be stone dead in a moment. I got the biopsy results and the moles weren't even melanoma. One was a "sun freckle" and the other two were "atypical" but she said they're gone so I don't have to worry about them. When God answers prayers, He really goes above and beyond. Praise the Lord. He is good.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Big storm last night.

Now, if I were The Pioneer Woman, I would have gotten some spectacular photos of the storm last night. For a while the thunder and lightening were constant and for about ten minutes I thought that the house was going to wash away, the rain was so coming down so hard and the wind gusts were violent. But, I am not Pioneer Woman. I am a cowardly, California city girl, who, after running around the house at 11:30pm closing all the windows just in the nick (or is it neck) of time, lay huddled in bed counting the seconds between lightening flash and thunder rumble. And I kept getting messed up because it was all coming so quickly that I couldn't figure out which thunder clap went with which lightening strike. (OK, is that 3 seconds or 5 seconds? Aaack, another lightening. Oh, I hate this!) And then I was worried that the kids would wake up and I would need to suck it up and be brave for them because they are terrified of thunder storms. However, they all slept right through it, thank goodness. So, then, that storm was gone and I really wanted to fall asleep, but we're trying to get Missy Lou out of nighttime pull-ups so one of us has the 2:00am shift and I didn't want to wake her up in the middle of the storm or then I'd really be in trouble. So, I lay there waiting for the storm to go away so I could get up and take her potty. That was successful trip, which was good because Saturday night Hubby had the 2:00am shift and she threw a fit and grabbed hold of the bed and wouldn't let go. So, after all that, and having to turn on the air-conditioning at 2:30 in the morning because it was stinkin' hot and we couldn't open the windows because of the rain, and then another small thunder squall, I finally fell asleep around 3:00am and then Hubby woke me up at 6:00. It wasn't a great night for sleeping!