Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

So what do a bunch of non-socialite families with little children in Texas do on New Year's Eve?

We hang out in someone's driveway and have a pot luck cook out...complete with a chiminea and S'mores!

Happy New Year!
Feliz Ano Nuevo, y'all!
Gelukkige nuwe jaar, Nici! (Afrikaans)
Gutes Neues Jahr, Reinhard! (German)

P.S. I'm loving my SLR for night shots like this!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas Day

Sometimes it's warm here on Christmas, sometimes more frigid (comparatively speaking...and I'm not comparing it to Minnesota). This year it was balmy. Those grilled ribs tasted even better sitting out on the deck. Yep, that's Kathleen in shorts and bare feet. Although sometimes I do think Jimmer should wear a protective helmet at all times(!), he was just wearing the play (non-protective) S.W.A.T. helmet Santa gave him.

He still had on his spy gear while he played on one of his favorite new toys, the Whirly Wheel.


Another fun Christmas gift--the Green Machine.

A serious hockey game broke out on the driveway.

I love it that our kids believe GAP stands for God Answers Prayers. (They saw this explanation written on a friend's baseball cap.)

It'll be a while before Kathleen fully gets the hang of riding her unicycle. Practice. Practice.

It'll also be a while before I fully get the hang of using my new dSLR. Practice. Practice. At least I have plenty of subjects and material around here on which to practice. I hope to post better photos in the future. For now, I'm just trying to figure out how to use the thing.

Merry Christmas!
Feliz Navidad, y'all.
Geseende Kersfees, Nici.
Froehliche Weihnachten, Reinhard.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

We haven't sent out Christmas cards yet, and we're not sure if we'll actually get around to it this year. So...


These photos were taken after we celebrated Christmas at Mass tonight!

Here's one without the electric power surge look. (We like to play with our camera!)

As always, the Calvin photos (as in Calvin & Hobbes) were a big hit with the kids.

After the kids donned their jammies, they put food out for the reindeer and a snack out for Santa. Now they're snuggled on the sofa with Dad as he is reading 'Twas the Night Before Christmas.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Just one more reason I love my husband...

He snuggled in with the kids this morning and read most of the book, Little House in the Big Woods. Then he made a pancake man for each of the children...just like in the book when Ma made them with Mary, Laura and their cousins on Christmas morning!
The legs fell off this little guy before he got to the plate!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Texas Christmas Lights

These pictures were taken last night.Something just doesn't seem right.

It was 81 degrees, the kids are in shorts, and the hot chocolate they got in this prolifically decorated cul de sac hardly seemed enticing.(Yeah, that's a hot chocolate stand right in the middle of a cul de sac.)

Today it's in the upper 30s/low 40s and our furnace is keeping us warm. That's more like it--even if we don't have a white Christmas!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

A Christmas Performance

For your viewing pleasure...

Jingle Bells
by: The Blazing Bows

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Seuss-esque Grinch

...from one of Dad's fallen birthday balloons.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Dad's Birthday--how many balloons?

Today, Joe celebrated a big birthday. How old is he, you ask? If you can count all the balloons, you'll know how old he is. If you're off by a couple of balloons, just know it was a milestone birthday!

Happy birthday to the man of my grandest dreams.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Homemade Christmas Gifts

Our children wanted to make some homemade Christmas gifts for each other. Not all of our gifts will be homemade this year, but I think it's a good start by having the kids make things for each other. I'll also hand make something for each child.

The kids realized that it can be tricky to work on their projects with everyone else always around. So, they even built a hidden workshop.They think it's really cool when they get to bring in a flashlight, turn it on, and work alone in their little cave shop. Sometimes a couple of kids hide away in the fort working on their projects. It's amazing how quiet they are when they are working so diligently!

Here are some of our works in progress...

Chimpy is having a fitting.

Here's another requested item that Kathleen is knitting.

Mary Kate thought up this one by herself. You can see the edge of her project on the right side, but we wouldn't want to give it away before Christmas, right?
Mikey is working on something with cardboard, but I haven't been allowed to see any of it yet.

Same for Jimmer on the secretiveness, but I know he's making something with felt.

Here are a couple of other projects going on around the house.

Children are naturally creative. I just learned to knit last year when Kathleen checked out a knitting book from the library. Now the girls are learning embroidery stitches, something I haven't touched since childhood. So, these homemade gifts are a way for all of us to use our give!

May you all give or receive something handmade for Christmas this year!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Butterfly Award

At Home Science awarded this to me. I thought it was quite sweet since SHE is the one I get a lot of great ideas and resources from for homeschooling science. Most recently, her advice on microscopes and even pocket microscopes has been much appreciated! I have also enjoyed checking out the books on her sidebar. Her widget is in my sidebar. Thank you, Kris!

Here are the rules for this chain-award:

1. Link to the person who gave you the award.
2. Post the graphic.
3. Pass the award on up to ten other bloggers whose blogs you consider cool.

Here is my list...
Angela at All 6 Happily Ever After who got me started blogging. She's the closest thing to a sister that I have, and she's so darn sweet!
Kristin of Peanuts and Pumpkins who is very sweet and a wonderful musician and singer. Maybe she'll post some more of her own music soon.
Leah at just like camping who is super cool, all natural...and whose apparent musical talent is (so far) in hiding from her blog. With all those guitars, your home can't always be as quiet and peaceful as your photos make it seem! Please give us a little clip, Leah!
Lisa who has Two Boys and a Baby Girl is quite funny and entertaining about her family. She is also a talented photographer to boot.
Brasher Girl who also posts some of her beautiful nature photos, as well as quotes, poems, etc. on her Snapshots blog.
Tracy at Pinewood Castle is a wonderful homeschooling resource...and she makes me homesick for my homestate! Check out her recent post on an entertaining conversation between churches!
Robin from The Simple Life. Her posts always make me think...about being a better person!
Kathy at Art Projects for Kids. She a wonderful art resource. Her project suggestions are SO super cool that you'll want to make them all. Oh yes, I guess you can let your kids make them too! I've also got her link in my sidebar.

Now, all y'all enjoy your butterflies!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Now Showing: Lights & Trains

No, this isn't our festively lit and decorated house. It's our neighbor's. See that boxey building (with no lights or decorations) to the left of this home? That's our home. We didn't want to make our neighbors look bad and go Griswold on them--you know, with an overabundance of lights. Like I've been trying to reinforce in our household for many years, we're all about simplicity! That's easier said than done in a state like Texas...especially when you have neighbors like this.

Check this out.Our neighbor builds this train platform anew every year. It displays two of his train sets.

He also annually builds an elevated train track system in the middle of his yard...and surrounds it with mulch. See the other train tracks on top of all their landscaping brickwork?

Well, last year they had five sets of trains going on all their tracks. See the track system on the brickwork around this tree?There's no train there this year. They only have four trains running right now.


I think they're building up for a finale of sorts, because they actually have a new train this year. They just haven't put it out yet. They're so tricky!

Every year, our neighborhood has a contest for best decorated house. I vote for our neighbors who have, for many years now, delighted kids and adults alike with their many train sets on display this time of year. Complete with chick-a-poof sounds and smoke. Outside. Every. Evening!

(Okay, so we're not ever actually asked to vote. But if I was...)

Did I mention that these neighbors also have almost 500 Santa figurines displayed in their home? (That doesn't even include their tree ornaments!)

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff

We have lots of little people stuff around our house. With four young children, I guess it comes with the territory (and oftentimes takes over the territory). Around here, when the "small stuff" is on the floor, it is referred to as "people rollers." When it is shoved in a drawer, I consider it in transitional housing (in waiting for the round file). I found a big stash of said stuff in a drawer I was going through this morning. The collage (below) is just a handful among numerous handsful of the small stuff that I am not allowed to "make disappear"--yet. Hmmm. Now I forgot what I was actually searching for in the drawer.

If you're wondering about any of the items, please continue reading. If not, please just say a quick prayer for me. Thanks!

Upper Left--ball of wax from a round of consumed cheese
Mary Kate: "No Mom, don't get rid of my sculpting wax. I still like to make things with it."
You can see her fine work with this wax at the bottom of this post.

Upper Middle
Jimmer: "Mom, we just got these vampire teeth. Don't get rid of them...and don't put them away with the other Halloween decorations either because I want to wear them."

Upper Right
Mary Kate: "I still have my doll, Annabelle, so we can't throw away that part that came off her neck."

Middle Left
Mikey: "Mom, that's not garbage. We use it to trap bugs and watch them."

Kathleen: "I made that smoke pipe for our stuffed animals, Mom. If I put little bits of paper in it, it can also be a confetti blower! Don't throw it away yet."

Middle Right--rubber band wrapped around a toothpick
Mikey: "Don't throw that away. It's a handy tool. Sometimes I need something pointy, and sometimes I need rubber bands to hold things together."

Lower Left--Knitting spool cord (made by Mary Kate)
The kids still make snakes, snails, and who knows what else with it. It's been around for at least three years.

Lower Middle--rock
Mary Kate: "Mom, that's my favorite best skipping rock I found at Hamilton pool. That's a rare rock to find."

Lower Right--cloaking device and (hopefully not underwear but) hat.
Jimmer: "I made the outfit for (stuffed TY pet) Iggy. It's the first outfit I made myself."

This stuff is priceless to the kids. I'll try not to sweat the small long as my drawer will still close!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Random Acts of Studiousness

Stories by Jimmer

Days like this...

This morning, Jimmer presented me with an unsolicited, unassigned writing. He handed it to me and said, "I just made up this story for English class today." Since he just turned six, I usually don't assign story writing to him--although I do ask him to do penmanship, copywork, and a little journaling (one or two sentences with a picture). He was thrilled to surprise me with his story since he hadn't asked for any help with it.

It reads:

Once upon a time, the king
was mad. Since he was
mad, he was really mad.
He threw off his cap and he said, "Why do I have to be king?"
Suddenly, he snapped his finger and he
said, "I could let my brother
be king!" And his brother, Ro,
said, "Why do I not have a queen?"

Days like this...

The other day, Jimmer also wrote out his own history narration about the British and the Boers (diamond mining in South Africa--Nici, are you out there?)--before he practiced the use of word spacing. To understand what he's comprehending from a story, I usually have him do a short oral narration after I read history. I ran out of time to have him tell the story back to me, so he just wrote it down on his own and handed it to me. Way to pick up the slack when I get busy, Little Guy. Thanks! Maybe I shouldn't really claim to be the kids' teacher.

It reads:

The British
attacked the guerrillas
and three groups. The
three groups hated each other
over a million diamonds.
(They) were driven out of the
hole because (of) two boys.

Days like this...

Lastly, while I was creating this post Jimmer came up with another story that is quite timely. (The Christmas story starts in the middle of the page and ends at the top of the page.) It reads:

Middle of page:
Once upon a time,
the newborn king
was born in a
stable and his name
was Jesus, but
his mom's name was
Mary and the dad's
name was Joseph and three (fre!)

Top of page:
wisemen came with
gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Thank you, Jimmer, for your random acts of studiousness.

I love days like this!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Paper Cranberries by Kathleen

All made with a paper hole punch.

Carefully strung with thread and needle.

A festive garland.

For her own little tree.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Christmas decorating by the kids

The kids were excited to decorate the tree, so we got it out and set it up. (Yes, we have one of those pre-lit fake trees...and we enjoy having it!) After Joe made sure the lights were all working and I fluffed it out a bit, we sat back and didn't even touch it again. The girls put on some Christmas music, dragged out the ornament bin, all of them dove in, and (besides the few patches of empty spaces in the back) the tree is now full of ornaments and looks wonderful. All they asked help for is to drape the beads and icicles...which I'll get around to one of these days.

Christmas is in the air.

Our furnace, however, hasn't even been turned on yet!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Fall Violin Performance

The kids had their fall performance this morning. Mary Kate got to lead the beginner group.While Mary Kate led the group, Jimmer did an excellent job singing.

Kathleen lead the whole group in Allegro. Here's the camera video.

We finally snapped a picture of the kids with all their violin instructors. This is really what they were looking forward to after a job well done.The snacks and treats! (We brought pumpkin cheesecake brownies.)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

No toys!

After clearing the living room of small toys the other day before we took care of our little (and newly mobile) friend, I'm really liking the room's new simplicity.

The kids were so excited that little Isaiah was coming, they quickly cleared the living room and vacuumed. They know that he can choke on their magnets, Legos, and Playmobile pieces. So, we put the toys (that pretty much meant ALL toys) that he can't play with in our back room.

Today, because their regular playthings are still in the back room, the kids ended up finding more productive things to do. After getting something to drink when we finished our history reading, I came back to a living room of children doing these things.

Mikey read a story aloud as Jimmer scratched his back.
Kathleen got busy making a Christmas outfit for one of her stuffed cheetahs.
(Mary Kate had already completed this outfit for her little dog "Tiny" earlier today.)
Mary Kate picked up a book of poems and read them aloud to Kathleen.
I love our new simplicity. I think we'll keep the toys in back room a little longer.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Wednesday--not quite wordless!

We got our baby fix yesterday and this morning as we enjoyed taking care of this happy little guy.

He'll celebrate his 1st birthday next month!