Friday, July 22, 2016

This Month...

The test results are in! In our state, yearly standardized testing is required for homeschoolers, and we were excited to see the results. (Grey didn't get tested, as grade 1 is the first year for testing, and he just finished Kindergarten). Kenna scored "High Level" overall, and Brooks scored "Highest Level" overall, and they were quite pleased with themselves. Brooks puts forth minimal effort and interest with his school work, generally, but does well. Kenna did really well this year at improving on her reading, comprehension, and spelling. Although she "tests fine", I know that she is not as strong of a reader as she could be, and same with comprehension. It's just something that does not come easy to her, yet, but I think it will get better as her brain develops more. One of the advantages of homeschooling is being able to work with the kids on an individual basis to meet their needs, and I like that.

Brian's commitment to scaling back on work hours has been coming along wonderfully! He went from 90 hours of Woodard work, (plus Youth Group commitments) per week - which was really just a bad thing in lots of ways - so we stepped out of Youth Group for a little bit, and scaling back work through hiring of new people and delegation and turning down "difficult" (night and weekend) jobs has all helped GREATLY toward accomplishing a less-stress life. Last week he logged just 46 hours, his lowest weekly hrs yet! 55 hrs seems to be pretty achievable and is working really well for our family! Pray with us and for us as we keep our priorities in check.

We swim everyday unless it's raining of course:-) Our lovely neighbours are retired, and don't use their pool at all, but we have free reign, and aren't shy about using it! It's so so so nice to be able to have that, we are so grateful to them for letting us use it whenever we want. We still go to the beach, but walking across the street is just a little less commitment involved, since we don't have to drive there. But there is always something magical about the beach for sure.

We've been having lots of playdates and lunches and fun! It's the first summer in about 3 years that we haven't traveled (saving that for the fall!), which is both a bummer, and cool! My facebook timehop keeps showing me "this day last year" and it's amazing to me how much a shambles this house was last July with the ripping out of everything. It's so nice and comfortable now! Time sure does fly!

My summer goals are fairly consistent year to year - try to never use the oven. It isn't always possible, but I think so far this summer, I've only had to turn it on 4 times, and that's always for baking dessert things, so I think I'm doing ok! Lots of stove top, grilling, and fresh foods! Taco salad is a massive fave around here, as are chicken gyros, so we do those once a week probably. And burgers. You have to OD on burgers since you won't get them through the winter. Kenna still asks for her all time fave - homemade chicken noodle soup - and doesn't seem to understand my "that's a wintertime food" designation:-D


Pole-ish: Such a fun frisbee game - anyone can play (if they can throw a frisbee, even at all - like I can play too, haha!)

Our 24 Family Ways: A wonderful family devotional book that Lauryn recommended to me. It's even got colouring pages included for young kids.

Cold Brew Coffee: It's easy to make, and it's delicious! I don't like to sweat drinking coffee, and this does the trick!

Peppermint: Peppermint essential oil - it's soooo cooling. On the hottest of days, a little on the neck and it cools you down! We love to use it all the time, and then we smell like York Peppermint Patties. That's got to be a huge advantage, right?!

Nails: Jamberry gel polish (and wraps), still a fave. I just love having my nails done, and not having to do them very often

Monday, May 9, 2016

Achievable Beauty

Well, life seems to have converged into a strange triangulation of happiness, sadness, busy-ness, growth, change, and peace. I guess that's more like a strange hexagulation, but I'm fairly confident that's not a thing. Which would actually be fitting. Because that's kind of how it feels sometimes.

In April I was on my way home from Canada, and while I'd been there, a friend was visiting England. My always-wish-it-was-my-home England. The pictures posted online were breathtaking. Literally breathtaking, and it's hard to believe that places like this exist. And that they are able to be captured. And I laughed at the thought - the thought of my pictures, if I should ever see such beauty. How is it even possible that all the pictures I take seem to indicate that I live in 2D? They're flat and boring, and no where near representative of the beauty that I'm actually taking in.

I was scrolling through the pictures on facebook, and seriously, legitimately, wishing that such prettiness existed where I am. I was driving home from Canada - And I saw something. It wasn't England, or Edinburgh... it wasn't even Colorado or California. It was just plain old Pennsylvania. But it was really beautiful. Not in the obvious way, of course. It wasn't overwhelming. But it was...pretty. It wished I had the skills to capture the beauty contained in the picture of my eyes. Because if I could, you'd see it. I was trying to think of a way to describe it, and the thought came to me...

It's achievable beauty.

When I was a teenager, and interested in the dissection and classification of the prettiness of the world at large - which is fairly ill-advised, but human nature nonetheless - I developed a "system". It was actually more of a revelation as I observed all the faces... It wasn't like a 1 to 10 scale or anything. It was more like a breakdown of the "other worldly" into the realm of the achievable. Hollywood actress on the cover of a magazine? Achievable beauty. Given just a little attention by way of make up, clothing, and confidence, (and a good photographer) anyone would be able to look that good. I was sure of it. These people weren't more naturally beautiful than anyone else, and in some cases, less so. And yet they are admired. It might take a little work, but I saw their beauty was achievable.

And somehow I thought my strange teenage classification system worked better in this broader way. It might not take your breath away. But it probably should. It might be achievable, but that doesn't make it less beautiful. The "other worldly" beauty of the swiss alps or the grand canyon can be appreciated in the smaller scale hill full of back yard variety wildflowers that kids like to roll down. But I've seen Grande Beauty that overwhelms me, and the pretty little hill full of kids isn't it. Or is it?

I bet as life wears on the people of Venice, they somehow don't view their picturesque existence as all that grand. They see the inconvenience, and the old, and wish for something different. But I'd trade places with them, wouldn't I? And I bet to one who's wanted a husband and children, the flower-full hill with messy children would bring tears to the eyes.

I think that as I was driving home from Canada, halfway through the journey in the boring bits of Pennsylvania on April 2nd, I realized - in the heart revelation kind of way - something old, and yet something new. It's an old idea, and one that I am familiar with. But it wasn't mine, not completely. I guess it finally traveled from my head all the way down to my heart, and it settled there on that day. I came to see the beauty. I came to appreciate the beauty that I have, not in the literal sense, but as a picture of life, on the whole. Instead of wishing it was better, different, older, newer, cleaner, brighter, and more picture-perfect. Because it doesn't have to be England. Sometimes it can be Pennsylvania.

To me, Achievable Beauty is a good reminder to look up, and see that all I have is enough - It's not an uglier version of something more beautiful, it IS beauty. It might overwhelm at times, and be slow and steady at others, but it's possible to be wholly immersed in beauty, in a totally "achiveable" way.

While I am completely unsure I am sufficiently translating my heart in to words, I'll have to let it rest there for now, and write more later perhaps. My poor neglected blog is on the not-so-short list of things I love and writing is something that helps me sort out thoughts, and I'd like to do a bit more of that - so I'd like to get back to regular posting, but this is all the time I have for today:-)

A Mother's Prayer

Mom, There are so many things that could be said, and yet adequate words are elusive. But I'll try anyway. I guess it always comes down to the valiant attempt, doesn't it? There are so many days, and moments within those days that I feel at a loss. Because life holds challenges, and surprises, and God rarely takes to the task of fitting us for His Glory in a way that we anticipate, and feel prepared to handle. So much of His plan feels beyond our control, and we are left with our worrisome inclinations. We have not much to lean on, as the bits of self are stripped steadily away, and we look in the mirror at all that remains, and what started out as "not much" has whittled itself down to a pathetic "even less". And we feel that loss. What do we even have to offer? But then, there is Wisdom. It doesn't always look like you want it to, and seems to always require more than one is readily prepared to give, because aren't we always more inclined to take the widest road with the clearest skies? Wisdom doesn't come in neatly wrapped packaging, tidy lists, or structured how-to's. It has to be searched. It has to be obtained. And it costs. On the road less traveled, it can cost a great deal by way of comfort and self-interest. I am forever grateful to have seen Truth sought after, and held close. I am so glad I've benefitted from your exchange-of-payment. You were willing to do what the Lord required of you. It's an example I turn to often, and it gives hope for the journey. I have seen a life with "even less" be blessed with abundance, when circumstances of difficulty, tragedy, pain, and sadness have threatened to unglue. But then, God. It's been a flawed journey, as they all are, but, at the end of the day, I know that lessons will be learned, applied, taught and lived, because that's kind of a mom thing isn't it? So thank you Mom - Because I was Mothered well. And your example lives on, as we raise the next generation to love the Lord, search out Truth, and pray, daily, for Wisdom. We learned well from you. Thank you for living life openly for us to see first hand that nothing is above God's sight or care.

"This world is not as it should be,
But the Saviour opens eyes to see
All that's beautiful and true."

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Quotes Archive 2016

Am I willing to spend and be spent; not seeking to be ministered unto, but to minister? Oswald Chambers

Though You slay me, yet I will praise You. Though You take from me, I will bless Your name. Though you ruin me, still I will worship. Sing a song to the One who's all I need. Though You Slay Me (Shane & Shane)

The longer I live the more beautiful life becomes. If you foolishly ignore beauty, you will soon find yourself without it. Your life will be impoverished. But if you invest in beauty, it will remain with you all the days of your life. Frank Lloyd Wright

So maybe having a big family is the way to go, because you get at least a taste of all the other lives you'd like to live. Dorcas Smucker

Surely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of man he is. CS Lewis

Monday, March 21, 2016

Grey Turns Six!

Our baby boy is all grown up now! It's amazing to think of just how quickly the time has passed. We are so proud of our boy, and so grateful he's ours! Here's his big #6 birthday video!

Brooks' six year old video is here, and Kenna's is here:-)

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Baseball Baby Shower

Baby Knox was not quite here yet, and we decided to throw a surprise shower for his Mommy in early January. The pulling off of the surprise itself was actually really complicated, involving bringing people in from out of town, and "casually" hijacking facebook conversations...and it worked. There were so many moving, it was scary. But we pulled it off! So rare. So wonderful. She was completely surprised!

The planning team (a few friends) decided on a baseball theme (because Daddy was a college baseball player), and they love the Red Sox, and have a dog named Fenway, so it all seemed to fit. Instantly, the ideas started flowing. It was perfect!

We decided to have all "ball game foods" served, and that was really fun...and our menu kept growing and growing!
We got those little hard plastic baseball hats on amazon, and used them as bowls for ice cream sundaes. We also had black forest trifles (in a cup)

Drinking Root Beer, Coke, and cold coffee from glass bottles...and plenty of peanuts in the shell for the taking too! Amy's 11 year old daughter (house host) made that chalkboard sign for us! So perfect!

A diaper cake!

The "Concessions" table - see the banner?
We had: Red licorice, and Baby Ruth (fun size)
warm, soft pretzels and mustard
popcorn & flavour toppings for it
nacho cheese dip and chips
Oreo cookie pops (made into baseballs)
Mini hot dogs wrapped in a crescent roll
Cracker Jacks
Cheese ball and crackers
Veggies and dip in cups

A mini oreo dipped in white chocolate, a topper for the trifles, and I made big ones too from normal oreos and put them on a stick for a "cake pop". YUM.
We had a baseball for all the guests to sign, and I gave her a wooden baseball bat with "Knox" inscribed on it for a shower gift.

It was way cuter than what is portrayed in my lame phone pics. It was truly off the charts adorable, and super duper fun to put together.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Bible Quiz and Winter Retreat 2016

Presenting two members of the winning teams from Colonial Baptist Church, for the Awana Bible Quiz 2016!

Our church participates in the Awana Bible Quiz each year, and Kenna and Brooks were both selected, and were members of a three person team. You compete as a team, and do a written test, multiple choice "paddles" questions, and then the "buzzer" portion where it's every man for himself (you have to buzz in first, and then correctly quote the verse/answer with no mistakes). Brooks was on a team (there were many teams, from our church and other local churches) for the "First Book" and Kenna was on a team for the "Second Book". 

They both won (along with teammates) in their age categories!! (Last year, Kenna and her 2 teammates got 4th place). They were pretty pumped - awesome for one of them to get first place, but for both of them too was really really great!!

During the "buzzer" portion - There were 2 members of each team participating (in each age group, so there were "4 sets" of everything), and then the 3rd team member would sub in/out as needed (if you buzz out in a good way, getting 3 questions right, or in a bad way, getting 3 wrong, or your coach can sub you out for any reason) - This was the "First Book" only up on stage. There were about 16 kids in each of the 4 age/book groups, and so it's hard to buzz in first!

It was a LONG day...from our 7:45 arrival, until it's end at 1pm. Grey and I took a couple breaks - and we had a starbucks together. It was the first time I've ever bought any of my kids a drink from there, and he loved it. Later in the day "Thanks for that hot chocolate, Mom. It was actually one of the best I've ever had". The moment called for a selfie using the photo props at the Starbucks:-)

First through Fourth place winning teams for Book One - Brooks' first place team on the first row

First through Fourth place winning teams for Book Two - Kenna's first place team on the first row. Her teammate (boy beside her) won an individual award for the highest scoring single person in the entire event with an absolutely PERFECT score (so very rare!!)
Brian missed watching it with us, and he was bummed about that - but scheduling conflicts!! We are involved in Youth Group at church, and Brian teaches on Wednesday nights. That weekend was the Winter Retreat, and Brian was teaching a few sessions there...
One of his sessions

Youth Pastor's baby, Zeke.
They were away Friday evening and came home Sunday evening, late. Brian said it was a super great time - he loved it! I hope that next year there is no conflict on the dates, and then I can go to the retreat too!