Sunday, December 14, 2014

Olivia's Holiday Recital

Olivia had another recital today and she did wonderfully! As a dad, I'm anxious for her whenever these things come around. I really want her to do well because I know how hard she's practiced. This time, we picked a version of My Dreidel that was pretty tough for her. It was fairly long and had a key change in it that took her a while to master. I really can't express how proud I am of her and how well she's been doing with her lessons and practicing. 

Afterwards, There were the usual collection of cookies and since it was a nice day, we took them outside to eat. Nana and Pop-pop came to support Olivia and gave her some beautiful flowers and a candy cane. :)

  After their cookies, they burned off some of that excess energy.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Women's Only 5K 2014

Rebecca stepped up again this year to run the Women's Only 5K. She signed up for the Women's Running School and trained hard every week for 4 months. She did it two years ago and finished it in 34:46.

 This year they ran the race much later in the year and the weather was FREEZING! Still, she ran it in 35:07  and came in 371st overall and 57th in her age class. We are so proud of the hard work she put in and seeing it through!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Goodbye, Keith. You will be missed.

A few weeks back, I got word that a close family friend had died. In truth, Keith Collins was more than a friend; he was family. I was, and still am, proud to call him "Uncle Keith". I was blessed to spend a summer with him and my Aunt Kathi in Mississippi between my junior and senior years in high school. At that time, Keith ran a roofing business and he put myself and my cousin, Matt, to work. Let me tell you: putting a tin roof on a house in Mississippi in the summer is no picnic. It gave me a healthy respect for the job Keith and others like him do. But he wasn't all about working. He was quick to make a joke, loved to have a good time with friends and family. He loved gardening and was fiercely protective of his bird feeders. He used to keep a pellet gun by the back door to pick off squirrels that were foolish enough to try pilfering from them. 

About 16 years ago, Keith suffered a massive stroke and heart attack. They left him mostly paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair. While he was physically incapacitated, the times that we were able to get together left me no doubt that he had retained his sharp wit and good humor.

I am grateful that Olivia had the chance to meet him. She was only 3, but she was instantly fascinated by Keith. 

When I heard that there was going to be a gathering in Mississippi to honor Keith and his memory, I, of course, wanted to go, but with Rebecca's work schedule, it was  (I thought) impossible in the time frame necessary. Well, as usual, I underestimated my wife. In a matter of days, she managed to arrange for other folks to watch the kids so I could go. While I knew I was only going to have about 12 hours, I also knew it would be worth it to be able to be there with Kathi and the rest of the family.  I dropped the boys off at her parents' house in Waxhaw on Friday and left from there at 3am Saturday morning. I drove straight through to Brandon, MS and got there right at noon, which was earlier than I expected. I realized as I pulled in that it had been 23 years since I'd been there. It brought back so many good memories. I remembered Keith putting me to work on the very first full day I was there digging a stump out of the back yard. I remembered Matt and I trying to burn a nest of fire ants out of the front yard with a can of gas and nearly setting the entire lawn on fire. I was suddenly very glad I had come.

The real gathering didn't start until 6 or 7 that evening, so there were a few hours for the family to catch up on things. My Aunt Mary Jane and Uncle Joe from MD had made the drive down. My sister came down from Nashville and Kathi's children, John and Amy, were there, too. We spent the afternoon watching college football and sharing memories of Keith. 

Later that evening, friends started arriving. There were quite a lot of people there, which was a wonderful testimony to the lives Keith had touched in his too-short time here. 

Everyone had a wonderful time and I know that Aunt Kathi was greatly blessed by all the people who showed up. I am very grateful to my fabulous wife for her hard work in arranging things so I could be there on such short notice.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

These Pajamas were made for...

Walking! Well, maybe not really walking, but she did take her first real steps tonight! :)

 We were hanging out in the hallway and she just stood up and went for it. 

 She does tend to get over excited and lead with her head, tho. 
 But when she takes her time, she can take 2 or 3 steps in a row.

 But then things turned silly. 

 And then the siblings had to get in on the act. Of course, they can already walk, but they wanted their pictures taken, too. :)

It only a matter of time now....

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Olivia's Summer Term

From a history standpoint, her studies became much more focused now that we are entering the time of the Renaissance and Reformation. We spent a great deal of time studying the Medici family which was instrumental in the Renaissance. We were amazed at just how far their power and influence reached. They had two popes elected from their family. They were responsible for sponsoring such artists as Michelangelo, Botticelli, and DaVinci. We then spent quite a long time looking at these artists' works and learning just how influential their work was on the rest of the artistic world.

As for the Reformation, we spent several weeks each on Erasmus and Wycliffe. While we were aware of each of those men, I, in particular, had no idea who they really were and why they were important. Erasmus was referred to "The Man Who Laid the Egg that Luther hatched" because it was his writings on the Church's doctrines and practices that birthed the ideas in Luther's mind that he later gave life to when he started the Reformation. Erasmus also made the first side-by side translation of the New Testament from Ancient Greek into Latin. Later, men like Luther would use Erasmus's Greek translation to create their own Bibles in the native tongues of their respective countries, which greatly increased the common man's access to the Scriptures. We also read the story, The Beggar's Bible, which was about John Wycliffe. Wycliffe created an English translation of the Bible which spread far and wide throughout England, much to the dismay of the Church. He also put forth the idea of preaching directly to the common man in his own language without all the pomp and ceremony and Latin of the traditional Mass. His writings, which were highly critical of the Pope and Church Doctrine and practices at that time. Those writings eventually led to his being branded a heretic and  his excommunication from the Church. Interestingly enough, some of the Popes that these reforms were aimed at were from the Medici Family! Olivia really liked what she heard about Wycliffe and his teachings. She thought it was great that he wanted everyone to be able to read the Bible. We will continue to study more about the Reformation and some of its major characters in the next term.

In Geography, we focused mainly on Christopher Columbus while also reading from Around the World in a Hundred Years, bringing in other important explorers from that same time frame like Vasco De Gama, Henry the Navigator and Bartholomew Diaz. An additional read aloud was Christopher Columbus: Adventurer of Faith and Courage. She is reading through a book called The World of Columbus and Sons throughout this whole school year which puts together all these major figures of history from different areas of the world that were alive during the time of Columbus.
Along with the explorers, she does a map drill each week, which is really helping her learn where countries, oceans, seas and other landmarks are. She has Europe pretty much mastered (even all those teeny middle-Europe countries that seem to change every year) and is getting started on Asia.

For Math, she worked through some Kumon books to reinforce concepts she had learned in the spring. They also expanded on the basic concepts of multiplication and division, adding longer problems and introducing her to remainders. This is a becoming a bit of a struggle for her. She says she doesn't like math because it is hard and she just can't seem to get it in her head.

In Science, she finished the Apologia Astronomy and moved on to The Queen's Homeschool Fearfully and Wonderfully Made, which is a health and body curriculum. In particular, so far we focused on the five senses. This science is all about self-discovery as she is very much in charge of working through it on her own. The plan is to use the researched based Queen's human body curriculum and then followup with Apologia as we progress through the body. Olivia is really enjoying science. As a read-aloud at the table, we're reading The Storybook of Science which is filled with some fascinating subjects. It's all set around "Uncle Paul" who teaches his nieces and nephews to be curious about everything and then explains in great detail about the myriad things they ask. 

Because we were studying the Renaissance, we started working on the Artistic Pursuits art lessons with everyone. We posted pictures of some of their earlier work, but here's some more. It's really neat to see them trying so hard to do the work like the instructions tell them to. 
Gabe's self-portraits
 Olivia's self-portraits
 Layering oil pastels (Olivia)
 Watercolors (Gabe)
Texture (Ezra)

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Bath time for the Littles

There's nothing better than a bath! The older kids usually get showers, but the littles (no, Ezra's not a little anymore) still get baths. 
 Sadly, it's pretty rare that they're really happy in the bath, so I'm glad we captured a few pictures of them really having fun. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Apple Picking 2014

With Sukkot already having been so rainy and an imminent threat of severe storms, we gave up camping 2 days early and decided on a whim to drive up to the mountains to go apple picking. We went to our friends' house in Winston for a potluck/birthday party/wedding vow renewal. We figured we were already halfway there, so we found a decent room for $60 in Hickory and spent the night there. After breakfast, we drove the rest of the way to Hendersonville. When we went looking online (literally at 4pm the day before...ha...told you it was last minute and spontaneous) for well reviewed apple picking farms, Stepp's Hillcrest Orchard came up. We were a little late in the season, so it pretty much the tart varieties that we had to choose from. We got some Law Rome, Stayman Winesap, Granny Smith, Pink Lady, Blushing Gold, and Arkansas Black. We picked 3 1/2 bushels and bought another half-bushel of Fuji to round the batch out with some sweet apples. One bushel was for another family that requested them. Our habit is to make applesauce to keep us through the whole year and Rebecca also wants to make apple butter. 
 The first wagonload. Each of those baskets is half a bushel. We wound up filling 7 baskets total.

Of course, the kids ate as many apples as they could while we picked. :)
After apples, we went for a drive up the Blue Ridge Parkway for a bit and saw some beautiful fall colors. Our spontaneous trip turned into great timing for enjoying our favorite season. Sadly, our camera battery was dead that morning, so we had to make due with the dumbphone's camera. And sadly, I (jeremy) got very ill with a severe case of food poisoning on the way home from the mountains. Not fun. I was sick for the good part of a week.

We caught site of a waterfall along our route. Glassmine Falls. It was a view from a distance but a pretty cool find since it often is dry and not flowing this time of year.

So far we have eaten quite a few apples, made 34 pints of applesauce, and 7 pints of applebutter with another bushel or so left to go... if Irene doesn't eat them all before we get to them. She can frequently be found just grabbing one from the bags to snack on.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Sukkot 2014

For the rest of Sukkot, we camped out at our friends' farm in Climax, NC. They have a beautiful new (old) farm that they bought and are homesteading on. Matt and I put up a sukkah the Sunday before and then Kallie, Rebecca and the kids worked on decorating it. On the green penants, the scriptures regarding the celebration of sukkot are written. Kallie had a wonderful vision for this lovely sukkah! This is a family favorite time of year. We love The Feast of Tabernacles AND we love camping. We all (esp Rebecca and the kids) look so forward to camping each year. Sleeping outside, more easy relaxed pace of the days, celebrations and fun, cooking outside, campfires, etc--all really good stuff. It has become such a wonderful tradition.

It was big enough that we could all eat under it. Sadly, it rained almost every evening, so we only got to eat in it as a group one time. While it usually does rain on Sukkot, this year was particularly wet (i mean it rained a lot) so things like the sukkah and our tent were perpetually damp. We didn't even get to have a campfire. But it was a good week nonetheless.
Our kids made Citron (Etrog) suncatchers and foam lanterns in the colors of the Israeli flag in the days leading up to Sukkot to add to the decorations.
"Shabbat Shalom"
One of the traditions of Sukkot is to invite "Ushpizin" to come visit your sukkah. The Ushpizin can be any of the forefathers like Abraham, Jospeh or Moses. In keeping with that tradition, we focused each day on a particular ancestor. Throughout the week, all the kids did crafts based on the various forefathers. We made rainbow wind socks after telling the story of Noah but they got pretty well ruined by the rain shortly after we hung them.
This particular craft was from Moses and the burning bush.

We painted rocks after reading Ex 33:12-23. Moses is interceding for the people and asks God to show his favor and presence on the people. God tells Moses to stand on the rock as he passes by him and puts him in the cleft of the rock and covers him.

This craft was based on Ruth and Boaz, who are ancestors of David and therefore Yeshua. The kids went out into the fields and "gleaned" some of the wildflowers that were growing and made bundles of them. The kids also made hearts after hearing the story of David and learning about his heart for worship and obedience for God. And they learned about Daniel and how he stood up for the truth and prayed to the One True God.
The kids had made pinwheels to put outside our tent as decoration, but sadly, they were pretty well destroyed by the rain. Amazingly they survived the first 3 rains but then couldn't stand anymore. We gave into the poor weather and abandoned our tent and camping on the Tuesday the 6th/7th day of Sukkot. It had rained multiple times that night (and pretty hard) and we woke up to rain and drizzle that morning. We decided to head home to dry off some. And then we even took a very last minute spontaneous trip to the mountains (where the weather was a better than in Greensboro) that night and the next day to pick apples. We had been wanting to do this since Yom Teruah and just hadn't had the opportunity. So we made some last minute arrangements and just went. You will see more about that in the next blogpost.  

The last tradition and highlight for us surrounding Sukkot is the birth of Yeshua. He is God and came to dwell among us for a time. He embodies the Torah and teaches us how to live it. He is our Messiah and we would be no where without the grace and mercy of our Abba God and his son Yeshua. There's a lot of evidence that this is the time of year when he was actually born, so we baked a cake to celebrate his birthday! The end of Sukkot is also the end of the yearly cycle of scripture readings in the Jewish tradition. So we would celebrate that by unrolling and rerolling back of the scroll in a day or so. More about that in an upcoming blogpost too. But Yeshua is the living breathing scriptures. It is all a celebration of God's word and his very being among us. Our connection to God. And we would be no where without that.

 We also did our variation on the Jesse Tree starting about 3 weeks before Sukkot so that we finished on the first night. We talked about the lineage of Messiah Yeshua and the prophecies that he fulfilled as Messiah.