Monday, November 19, 2012

Happy (early) Holidays!

I can't believe it's almost Thanksgiving.  Even more, I can't believe I actually just ordered our Christmas photo cards!  Thanks to Shutterfly's holiday card sale ending tonight (and yes, I know they'll have many more sales between now and Christmas), it put just enough pressure on me to get on the ball early this year.  Maybe most of you will actually receive our Christmas cards before Christmas this year!!! :)  I know, I know - that would just make your holiday, wouldn't it?  And speaking of making your holiday, I'm even going to give ya'll a sneak peek of our holiday card.  Here it is:

Stationery card
View the entire collection of cards.

Now that just made your Thanksgiving, didn't it?  I thought so.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

O Happy Day!

Though Lauryn has been a born again Christian for many years, she's just recently decided to take the plunge and be baptized.  I think many people questioned her sanity when she announced she wanted to be baptized IN THE OCEAN ONLY, and here it was the middle of October!  So on a bright, sunny day with a high of 55 degrees, we made our way to the Atlantic Ocean on the coast of Maine to see Lauryn take this significant step.  Here is the full video of her baptism for those who missed it so you can rejoice along with us:

Monday, July 30, 2012


Every year, we sign the boys up for the town's local indoor soccer program, and they love it!  However we've had a difficult time finding out whether the program still exists or signing them up in time for it the last couple years so the boys have been missing it.  This summer the boys were invited to take some classes in Judo, and since the price was right, we jumped at the chance to allow them some extracurricular fun.  Visiting the dojo was a great experience as it's owned by a karate school, and we not only got to watch a judo demonstration but also got to see the karate classes in full swing while there.  Jayce had taken karate years ago and loved it, however the time, energy and money it took was too taxing for a growing family at the time.  So though I would love to have the boys also take karate, judo fit the bill quite nicely for their introduction back into sports.

Wikipedia explains judo as:

Judo (柔道 jūdō?, meaning "gentle way") is a modern martial artcombat and Olympic sport created in Japan in 1882 by Jigoro Kano. Its most prominent feature is its competitive element, where the object is to either throw or takedown one's opponent to the ground, immobilize or otherwise subdue one's opponent with a grappling maneuver, or force an opponent to submit by joint locking or by executing a strangle hold or chokeStrikes and thrusts by hands and feet as well as weapons defences are a part of judo, but only in pre-arranged forms (kata) and are not allowed in judo competition or free practice (randori).

Gee, sounds violent!  Since I didn't even really know what judo was, Michael simplified it as a martial art form of wrestling.  Which is exactly what it looks like to me as a spectator.  This must thrill Michael since wrestling is very big in the Midwest, and he himself has experience as a wrestler.  Anyway, the boys have been enjoying the exercise, discipline and learning the moves.  Here they are in their gis...

 And here they are practicing their moves...

The only downside is Landon who isn't quite yet at the allowable age (6) and complains every time the boys leave for judo, and he gets left behind.  We've tried to remedy this by letting him dress up in Jayce's old karate uniform and letting the boys "teach" him some karate moves. :)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Two Wheelers

One of the things I've always disliked about the places we've lived is they are not good places for kids to learn to ride a bike.  Maybe my perception is a bit flawed since I grew up on a dead-end street which is a *perfect* place to ride a bike.  But trying to teach a child to ride on a road where one is constantly keeping an eye out for traffic can be a little nerve-wracking.  Not to mention all the cars parked on the side that present wonderful learning opportunities for one's child to learn about  So up until now we've* had to take the boys to the nearby park to teach them how to ride.  Which is a bit more inconvenient than just stepping outside one's door and using one's driveway or, like I said, non-busy road.  This is why we have a 9-year-old who is just now learning how to ride without training wheels.  Granted, he's spent the last year or two practicing without training wheels, however I can count on my two hands how many times he's been able to do that.  The nice part about having an older child now though is seeing the common sense that starts to grow in their little brains which makes it easier to let them ride on one's own street.  Having the ability to keep a lookout for cars is enormously helpful.  So now as I sit here at the computer typing, I'm also keeping an eye on the boys who are enjoying riding up and down our street.

Here is Mike videotaping the boys riding on their bikes for the first time this season.  Notice Reagan's brand new neon green bike.  This video is also an example of why we wear our helmets at all times.

And even Damien got into the action with his own wheels. :)

Why did the baby cross the street?  To check out the Cherokee!

Update: Jayce is now a speed demon on his bike and Reagan has never gone as fast since his fall. Landon, who inherited Reagan's small bike, prefers to "practice to run" on the sidewalk instead.

* What am I saying?  Of course we are not teaching our boys to ride bikes.  I give Michael full credit for taking on these kinds of challenges all by himself while I nervously watch.  Or rather ideally not watch at all and hide inside the house pretending there is no possible way for my children to get seriously injured during an expected and natural childhood activity. (See video above for example.)

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Violin Recitals

I want to make good citizens. If a child hears fine music from the day of his birth and learns to play it himself, he develops sensitivity, discipline and endurance. He gets a beautiful heart.  ~Shin'ichi Suzuki

While attending the annual homeschool convention in Massachusetts two years ago, I sat in on a workshop that, at first, threatened to bore me to death, and I almost walked out.  It was about the significance of classical music, and the presenter was extremely educated about the finer scientific points of how different types of music affects the development of the brain (Yes, rock music actually stunts your neural connectors or some such thing).  But as time wore on, it actually started to interest me, and by the end I was fascinated!  Apparently, he did such a good job convincing me of the importance of classical music (he stated if as a parent you do nothing academically with your child other than teach them how to play an instrument and listen to classical music, they will end up smarter-than-average students), I promptly came home and researched different instruments, different teachers and different teaching methods.  We settled on the violin and the teacher, a wonderful woman who teaches using the Suzuki method.

Never heard of the Suzuki method?  In a nutshell, the way I like to think of it is teaching a child how to play music before reading the notes just like how a baby learns how to speak before learning grammar.  It also helps the child feel accomplished and be rewarded almost instantly by having the ability to play a simple song.  Anyway, it has worked wonders with the two boys as they have come a long way musically-speaking since learning the first notes of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.  So without further ado, here are the unedited, uncut videos of Jayce and Reagan's violin recital:

 I look forward to posting videos of their next recital in June so you can hear the difference they've made in five short months so stay tuned!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Easter's Here!

I came across an online article showing how to dye eggs naturally.  Since I hate the idea of my kids having their breakfast consist of Eggs a la Red #2 and hate the idea of throwing out the eggs even more, I decided this was something we should try.  However I only had a couple of the suggested food items to make a couple different colors.  The rest would have to be soaked in Blue #4 and Yellow #782 (or ya know, whatever numbers they tag onto the so-called edible colorings).  Mike and I turned the fun into a homeschool experiment/family night project and were pleasantly surprised by the results.  See if you can tell the naturally-dyed eggs from the unnaturally-dyed eggs:

So yes, there was no comparing the bright neon-blue and green eggs to the natural dyes, but we actually preferred the look of the natural eggs (last 5 eggs on the right after the blue and green eggs).  Mike thought they looked more "earthy" and liked the softer colors.

Eggs courtesy of Yellow #5, Yellow #6, Blue #1, Red #3 and Blue #2
For the pink dye, we used juice extracted from beets mixed with some vinegar.  The three pink eggs shown here (on the right) are eggs dyed in the beet juice at various lengths of time - you can see the longer you soak them in it, the pinker they become.  We then chose to leave an egg in the beet juice all night which made it almost a burgundy color (see top photo - next to the blue egg).

The two most surprising results were the purple egg and the yellow egg.  The purple egg was a last-minute thought after noticing the wine glass full of Cabernet Sauvignon on the table. (Yes, Mike brought some home and was actually drinking it with dinner.  I know, who *is* he and where is my husband??)  After dipping it straight in the wine (obviously no need for vinegar here), it came out a beautiful dusky purple.
Turmeric egg on upper right
The yellow egg was achieved from soaking in a bowl of warm water with turmeric and vinegar.  At first, we thought there was no way it was going to come out very yellow as the turmeric kept settling to the bottom of the bowl and each time we checked on the egg, it was a only tinted a very light yellow.  However when all was said and done, it actually did a better job than the yellow dye.

Overall, we felt the natural method of dyeing Easter eggs was so effective, we'd like to try again next year and with even more colors such as green and blue (we were missing the spinach and blueberries this time).  It didn't take up a huge amount of time to make the dyes (about the same time it took us to boil the eggs), and I feel a whole lot better about eating the naturally-dyed eggs than the others. We highly recommend you try it!

Our "Natural" Eggs

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Happy Easter!

I took advantage of a great little offer from Shutterfly and decided to create Easter cards for close family to enjoy. You can see it below.  May you too have a wonderful and blessed Easter!

Stationery card
View the entire collection of cards.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Handling Haikus

This year we have been studying geography pretty in depth, thanks to Expedition Earth homeschool curriculum, and we love it!  In our study of Japan earlier in the school year, we came across the practice of writing haikus.  (See definition below.) The boys wanted to share their haikus with you so please enjoy.

noun, plural 
1. A major form of Japanese verse, written in 17 syllables divided into 3 lines of 5, 7 and 5 syllables, and employing highly evocative allusions and comparisons, often on the subject of nature or one of the seasons.
2. A poem written in this form.

This is Jayce's haiku:

Bohdan is my friend.
He took a long trip to France;
I miss him a lot.

Here is Reagan's:

Christmas is coming -
My favorite holiday.
So is my birthday.

On a funny note, I just came across Visual Latin's haiku of the day which made us laugh.

It reads:
Haikus are easy.
But sometimes they don't make sense.


Monday, March 5, 2012


As most of you know, Landon has from birth struggled with verbal skills and been tentatively diagnosed with speech apraxia or as having a speech motor planning problem.  This is why for about a year, he attended weekly speech therapy sessions and still would be had it not been for the birth of his young brother and the subsequent stage of colic limbo in which he put us all.  It is also why we still use Reagan sometimes as Translator as he seems to know what Landon says better than most.  We do still hope to have him reevaluated soon but in the meantime I've been very intentional with helping him with his letters, numbers and even starting reading.  To my great surprise, Landon has done remarkably well in the one week we've started.  We have the old bulky LeapPad with the Phonics system that worked great with Reagan, enabling him to learn to read at the tender age of 4 so we decided to go ahead and see how that worked with Landon.  So far, so good.  But as luck would have it, I received an email only a day to two into our "schooling" that invited us to try out Reading Eggs on a trial basis.  It's a very fun way for Landon to learn to read while playing games.  I do it with him to ensure he's not skipping ahead or not understanding something, but overall, it's very easy and fun.  And only one week in, he's learning how to read!  His first words so far that he has read completely on his own (independent of the computer and in a real book) are F-O-X, F-A-T and S-I-T.  Needless to say, I'm extremely impressed with his fast learning and can't wait to see where this takes him!  

Earlier I mentioned him reciting his ABCs and wanted to share a little video of that so enjoy!