Monday, March 30, 2009

And the inner tiger is unleashed...

I've always had a sneaking suspicion that Jacob has the potential to be the star athlete in the family; however, because of his lack of confidence, I've never observed an opportunity to prove this theory.

I've already mentioned that we gave the boy a forceful gentle nudge out of his comfort zone and on to the soccer field. He's had a chance to wear in his cleats with a few practices and a game. Again, though, his shyness and lack of confidence have really caused him to hold back. In his last game there were many moments where he gave the ball a tentative kick and then stood back to allow his opponents take over.

Today was different, though. I wish I could say It was the last minute of the 4th quarter...but the kids play six six-minute periods, and by the 4th minute of the second period I've already lost track. So I'll just say that at some point in the game, Jacob received the ball from his teammate, took a shot...and SCORED! The boost of confidence he got from his goal unleashed the tiger inside my little boy, and after that, he was a maniac. It didn't matter if Coach put him in a forward or fullback position, he was all over the field. He was dribbling through and around his opponents and attacking the ball with a vengeance. It was so much fun to watch.

Of course, there is some tiger in Michael as well, and he had a few great shots on goal.

He has a natural instinct for soccer which he doesn't possess on the basketball court. He's aggressive and pretty skilled with his feet. Although he's better as a forward he prefers being on defense--preferably in the goal. Which we find interesting because he clearly has too much energy to just be sitting in the goal; we came to this conclusion as we watched him climb the goal posts and perform his own little calisthenic routine as he waited for the ball to come his way. I will admit he is quite an effective goalie and stopped some good would-be goals.

So with my two little tigers out on the field, I guess you could say I'm a pretty proud mama cat. It's so much fun to see them take over the field. And at the risk of badly mixing my metaphors, I couldn't be more pleased to see my littlest tiger cub pounce right out of his shell.

From the sidelines:

Friday, March 27, 2009

Brick by Brick

We have been counting down the days with as much anticipation as fills the days preceding a birthday or a trip to Disney World. At least Michael has been. I suspect the other three, if given a choice, would opt for the birthday or Disney over assisting a Master Lego Builder in the construction of an 8-foot R2D2. But Michael is our resident Lego and Star Wars expert, so you can't fault his enthusiasm.

Every year, the Lego store at the mall builds a giant-size model with the help of all of the local children. It takes two days for the Master Builder to assemble the model using the bricks the children build. I thought today would attract a light crowd since it's a school day and pouring down rain to boot; however, there were school buses parked outside the mall, so apparently this is a pretty big deal. We waded in to join in the fun.

Michael quickly made himself at home at one of the worktables and had a brick finished before the other three had one row assembled. At first, Michael would complete a brick and turn it in before beginning another. However, I saw him steal a glance toward another little boy who was accumulating quite a pile of completed bricks. A collection is certainly an easier way to show off your work, so he began his own pile.

Finally, I was able to drag him away from the tables, and we headed to the money trap Lego store to redeem our coupons for Master Builder Assistant certificates. Since Giant R2D2 is still in phase 1 of construction, we had to settle for a photo in front of last year's project.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Homeschool Writer's Block

Because I don't have enough to do, I am starting another blog. This one's for the kids, though. I have forever been racking my brain for an effective, sensible way for homeschool kids to share their writing. I think the final stage of the writing process--publishing--is such an important one for building confidence in kids, yet it often gets neglected, especially in the home school. At the beginning of this year, I aspired to put out a monthly newsletter which would include writings from all contributing children. Can you imagine how much work that would have been to throw together on a monthly basis? Needless to say, it never happened.

So then it dawned on me some time ago that since the internet is indeed the way of the world, why not? So I've added Writer's Block to my growing "bloggertoire". I'd love it if you would visit. There is only one entry so far, and it just so happens to be the same entry as the post preceding this one, but I wanted to give readers an idea of what I envision. And if you have a child who wants to share his/her writing, please let me know, and I'll make you an author of Writer's Block as well!

Listen to a Life

I was pleased when my sister-in-law told me about the Legacy Project because I knew it would be right up Alex's alley. She loves to write, and she loves to win things. The essay contest she entered is called "Listen to a Life." Alex was very professional as she interviewed her grandmother about all she accomplished as a missionary in Africa.

Alex's concern now? She is worried that if she wins, she won't know what to do with the i-Pod since she already has one. Uh, hello! Your mother doesn't have one. Anyway, here is her essay:

My grandmother always dreamed of becoming a missionary. As the kid of a missionary, she lived in Africa. This prepared her to become a missionary.

She found her life partner in college: Milton Pierce. He proposed to her on a hill behind their college. She accepted, and they were married shortly.

Both my grandmother and my grandfather went to work on the mission field. They taught people about Jesus Christ. My grandmother also helped in translating the Bible into Black Bobo, a language that had never before been in written form. My grandmother's biggest accomplishment was seeing people believe in Christ.

Another thing my grandmother always wanted to do was raise a family. She had five kids and three are now missionaries!

A retired woman today, my grandmother loves seeing all of her children grown, married, and loving God. She also loves being a part of her grandchildren's lives. My grandmother accomplished lots, and I am proud of her.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

I am such an old lady.

Volleyball has always been a passion of mine. Even as a child it was part of my life; every Monday night on the mission station, everyone would assemble for a few rounds. And by "everyone" I mean EVERYONE. Sometimes we had 12 people on one team because, you know, everyone needs to be included from the littlest little girl (me) to those who would soon retire from the mission field (I can't mention names here). I learned then what the term "missionary volleyball" means. (By the way, I've always wondered: is this an internationally known term, or just one we made up based on our observations?) I made the team in 9th grade when I was on furlough and learned a lot that year. Played every year after that and was captain of my team my senior year. After we got married I played in various leagues with my husband who shares the interest. And of course when the Olympics came to Hotlanta, we immediately got our hands on volleyball tickets.

I enjoy watching professional volleyball. In fact, in my college days in Cali, I would go to the beach to catch Karch Kiraly, Sinjin Smith, and Steve Timmons in action. If you follow professional volleyball now, you'll recognize those names--they are the announcers. The announcer's chair: the place where professional athlete's go to die; find yourself behind that mike and you know you're a has-been.

And I know I'm a has-been too, but every once in awhile when there is an opportunity to recapture my glory days, I grasp the opportunity and hold on for dear life because I know my glory days are becoming more and more distant with each passing year. This past weekend we were presented a glory days opportunity. A friend of ours from church plays volleyball every week, and he invited us we invited ourselves to join him. Mark was certainly more enthusiastic about the whole thing. Me, I just pictured myself being the person who would bring the term "missionary volleyball" to everyone's mind when I stepped on the court. That is, if "missionary volleyball" is indeed an internationally known term. If it isn't, I would have just been the loser who stepped on the court to ruin the game.

I have to say after not having played in 10 years, we didn't do so badly. We kept up pretty well with all the young'uns out on the court. And there were some young'uns...some in college even. (Since when did I become so old that I refer to college kids as "young'uns" or even as "kids"?) The old lady part came afterwards. Mark made the remark that we were going to pay for this when we tried to get out of bed the next morning, tried being the operative word. I blew it off with a mocking laugh. And then I proceeded to harrass him after the game every time he winced in pain.

So now you see why I have had to hide my own pain. Yeah, it hurts to move. And my poor tender arms may or may not be bruised for life because they haven't bumped a ball in a decade. And my knees hurt from diving after the ball. At least I dove after the ball. (Do you think I would look goofy wearing knee pads for sand volleyball?) And yeah, it is painful trying to get out of bed in the morning. But I refuse to admit these things to my husband. You better believe I'll hide my old lady self this Sunday when we do this all over again!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

St. Patrick's Day Blues

I woke up this morning with a MONSTER headache. One of those headaches which makes you feel like throwing up. One of those headaches where a puppy barking or a child asking for breakfast makes you think your head might just blow up. So I went back to bed...and my sweet girl took over. First she gave me a nice head rub and sympathized with me by saying, "You must really have a bad headache; you didn't even come wake us up this morning."

As the kids began waking up and coming down to see where their food was, she informed me that she would get everyone breakfast. And as I heard peaceful voices emanate from the kitchen, my headache did begin to lift a bit.

The peace was interrupted when I heard the puppy ring the bells on the door indicating he wanted to go out. Normally, I would just yell out to Alex to take him out, but I couldn't bear to yell that loudly, plus she was already doing so much, so I headed out to the kitchen to take him out. "What are you doing, Mom?" she asked in a very concerned and motherly way. When I told her, she said, "Don't worry. I'll take him out. You just go back to bed."

Seems the other little ones stepped up a bit too. Michael spilled milk, and he got his own towel and cleaned it up. Audrey got herself dressed. Alex had already issued dress code instructions: "We have to wear green today for co-op, boys." Audrey overheard and got dressed in a white turtleneck. When I saw her, I congratulated her on getting dressed by herself but informed her that she would have to change into something green. "But Mommy, there's green paint on my sleeve!" she said indignantly. Sure enough. She's got green on.

These precious children God has given me amaze me.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Common Bonds

Potatoes, antibiotics, soccer, King Tut, Amelia Earhart, Y2K, Hurricane Katrina, Charles Lindbergh, Environmental Center

Common bond: all part of this crazy week.

Potatoes - It seems like it was just Silly Tater night at AWANA a couple months ago, but when I complained that there was only supposed to be one such theme night involving potatoes per year, the kids were VERY quick to remind me about ALL circumstances surrounding last year's potato night. These reminders set me straight. It was last year after all; it just seems like I get bombarded with these crazy assignments constantly. Because there was so much going on this week and because this potato thing was, after all, an optional thing, I told the kids that they could do potatoes but that they would be completely on their own. No help from Mom. And they rose to the challenge. To avoid any burning hot glue adhering to little fingers, I did end up handling the hot glue gun, but everything else they did by themselves. Alex took 1st place for her Moses Bibliotater, and Michael took 3rd in the Silly Tater category for his Porcupine in the Jungle. Jacob also did well assembling his Potato Raceway.

Antibiotics - Wednesday Audrey woke up all out of sorts. She cried and cried saying her ear hurt. We have all been sick the last couple of weeks, so I had no idea what was brewing in her ear. The doctor said it was "pretty bad" which makes a mommy feel "pretty bad" for not knowing something for which it would be impossible to hold her accountable for knowing. But we got the good ol' pink medicine, and she's good as new. I suppose I can't complain; we've hardly had any sickness the last couple years, and antibiotics haven't entered our home in at least that long.

Soccer - With nary a break, we made the smooth transition from indoor bleachers to outdoor field. Alex is sitting this soccer season out because we decided it was high time for Jacob to get involved. Left to his own shy decision-making devices, there wasn't a chance we would get him out on that soccer field. So we resorted to good ol' fashioned parental force. We signed him up, got him excited about his new soccer cleats and soccer ball, and sent him out on the field. He had a great time! And...I was so proud of how clearly and loudly he introduced himself not only to his teammates, but to all of their parents as well. Can this be the same boy who wouldn't say a word in public a year ago?

King Tut, Amelia Earhart, Y2K, Hurricane Katrina, Charles Lindbergh - On any week when there is a big AWANA theme project, there is bound to also be Book Club the next day. Because that is how the Calendar works to conspire against stressed out moms. The assignment this month was to report on great historical happenings on each child's birth date. On Michael's date of birth, Howard Carter broke open the seal on the burial chamber of King Tut's tomb. Whether or not they planned it, on the same date 5 years apart, Amelia Earhart and Charles Lindbergh made aviation history on Jacob's birthday. Audrey "reported" on Hurricane Katrina, and Alex took on the Y2K bug. They all did great on their presentations, and we had a lot of fun doing Alex's project. We couldn't come up with a good, creative visual for a presentation on Y2K, so I came up with her doing a news report as a reporter in 1999. She took the idea and ran with it, creating a brilliant script. I wish I could post the video, but she also wrote and performed a hilarious Used Car commercial using our cars, and I really don't want to throw our license plate numbers out into blogdom. (As an aside, the kids think it's really funny that I went all the way to the store with a sign reading "$582" still attached to the car--surprisingly, no takers!)

Environmental Center - No, I'm not getting all green. It's just that the Abeka Materials Display happened to be at the Environmental Center. I always order my math materials at these displays because it's free shipping. Of course, the money I spend on things I hadn't planned to buy but once I get there realize I absolutely NEED, I'm sure, makes up for the shipping savings. As has become our tradition, we explored the grounds of the center a bit after we finished shopping.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Proverbs 31 Woman

I'm a big fan of Proverbs 31. I've read countless books on the passage. I receive daily devotionals from a women's group with the same name. I even have a keychain with a reminder of verse 28a. I strive to be a Proverbs 31 woman.

My Proverbs 31 morning began alright this morning. I "[got] up while it was still dark" (15a) thanks to Benjamin Franklin's brilliant Daylight Savings idea. Yes, there's a little sarcasm there. While I appreciate the extra daylight in the evening hours, the darkness that still lingers at 7:00 AM throws me for a loop. Since I am not a morning person, I really need the extra daylight in the mornings so I'll get my butt out of bed. (Of course the fact that my lamp often does not go out at night--or at least until late in the night--could account for some of my morning blues.)

I would like to say that the children arose and called me "blessed." Yeah. Right. There was the customary forced uprising since I've decided the children should start acting like "regular" children rather than staying in bed long past the time schoolchildren have settled into their neat little desks. And rather than throwing me a blessing, there was the habitual "Where's my breakfast?" growl. Well, not really. They are more polite than that. Maybe I'm just reflecting my own morning grumpiness on them.

Then suddenly chaos broke out as it often does on a busy morning like this one. I found myself comforting a sick baby on my lap, addressing an email, talking on the phone about said email, prying a dead bird from the puppy's mouth, yelling at the children to wash their hands--with soap!--so they wouldn't get Avian Flu, getting the dog in his crate, and trying to get the kids to start their school work knowing the day would be cut short by a doctor's visit for the sick baby. All of this at the same time.

As all of this was occurring (did I mention at the same time?), verse 25b suddenly popped into my head: "...she can laugh at the days to come." I'm beginning to wonder what was behind her laughter. What was the motivating force behind such hilarity? I mean, I can laugh too, but if I was really honest, I'd have to say that sometimes...sometimes that laughter is just a coping mechanism to deal with all of the chaos that surrounds a week like this one--a week working with a struggling reader, co-op, Book Club projects, AWANA projects which involve potatoes, a sick baby, a crazy puppy, soccer practices, church meetings, lesson writing, paper grading, and trying to run a homeschool home without a husband.

Of course, this husband is an amazing man who "praises [me]" (28b), and perhaps one day--probably the day when they themselves become parents--my children may call me blessed. Until then, I will laugh through the chaos and, most importantly, everyday learn more about what it means to "fear the Lord" (30b).

Sunday, March 1, 2009

A Shocking Task

We've developed quite a love/hate relationship with this little puppy of ours. We strongly dislike him (yes, I've always encouraged my kids not to use the "h" word) when he's peeing or pooping on our rug, or when he's shredding a piece of paper or the carpet or the Reading Corner chair or my baby's toes. We love him in the evening after the kids have gone to bed; he's so cuddly and calm then. In these evening hours he konks out on my his chair and is the most lovable little pup in the world.

Because we can't live all of our hours in the evening hours, we decided it's got to be boot camp around here. (And if you're some type of PETA freak reading this, just stop now and move on to another blog.) It came down to a decision: kick puppy to the curb or train him right. So after a very pricey vet visit, we bought him a very pricey collar...of the shocking sort. Our last dogs were trained very efficiently on the invisible fence, so we know this type of "therapy" works. And so far it has been quite effective. The only thing is that obviously you have to catch him the act to zap him. So what time he spends out of his crate I follow him around very faithfully and train him with my little green remote. Now he's to the point that he generally just needs to hear the audible beep as a warning and he stops his unwanted behavior. Of course on a couple of occasions I've had to zap him one. He's learning, though, so hopefully we won't be booting him to the curb, and our relationship will begin to tip the scales on the love.

I must add that when we first got the collar, unpacked it and assembled it, we explained the whole process to the kids and also warned that the little green remote is off-limits to little fingers who love pressing buttons. The kids listened with rapt attention, and Michael asked, "When he gets shocked, will we be able to see his bones?"

Perhaps the boy has watched one too many cartoons?