Thursday, December 18, 2008

What I Love About Small Towns

I was thrilled to receive a Christmas card from a good friend, Emma... even more so because the card actually made it to our house without an address (at least a complete address)! It didn't even have one of those yellow stickers listing the corrected address. Nope, just the Howards in Hettinger!

Friday, December 05, 2008

Christmas Party -- Down Under Style

For social studies this week the boys learned about how Christmas is celebrated in Australia -- sun, surf and Christmas pudding. So we cranked up the heat, put on our beach-wear, decorated the living room, learned how to say "Merry Christmas" Aussie-style ("Merry Christmas, Mate!") and had a Christmas picnic on the "beach!" We listened to Beach Boys, and Wade gave the kids surfing instructions -- it was a stellar time!

Our little surfer dudes.

Levi took his surfing very seriously!

Picnic time!

More serious surfing from Levi.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Isaac turned 7 on November 17! He requested a space cake, as you can see below. In addition to opening presents from grandparents, uncles, aunts and friends, his choice of family outing was the swimming pool in Dickinson, which also provided an ideal opportunity to redeem the boys' Book-It Pizza Hut gift certificates (alas the closest Pizza Hut is an hour from here!).

He was hoping for "some spacey presents" and was not disappointed -- space seemed to be the theme of this year's celebration!

We've had some interesting wildlife in the yard during the past couple weeks -- two families of deer have made their way through my flower beds, nibbling at the little bits of green sticking through the snow. One night after being tucked into bed Luke called out, "Mom, there are five deer outside my window!" Sure enough, there were five deer walking right up Seventh Street in the light of the street lamps!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Birthday Feast

Me: "So Isaac, what would you like for your birthday dinner? Hotdogs, burgers, pizza?"
Isaac: "Sausages!"
Me: "Okaaaay. Would you like anything else with your sausages?"
Isaac: "Hmmm, maybe some ketchup. Yeah, sausages and ketchup sounds good."

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Fall... and winter too

Ack, the seasons have gotten ahead of me! This is what happens when winter decides to arrive mid-fall (and I go a month between updates!).

Jim and Bev from church took us out to some sand dunes hidden in amongst the rolling hills of South Dakota. Who know there were sand dunes in the mid-west?!? It was a beautiful, warm, sunny day -- particularly nice for the beginning of November!

Wade had sand EVERYWHERE after this little stunt! I think there was a miniature beach in the shower when we got home!

For the first time ever, we took the boys trick-or-treating. They were delighted to dress up (and are still enjoying it)...

and were even more delighted by the huge stash of candy they came home with (and are not still enjoying that... it is long gone).

We also enjoyed the lovely fall weather and a big pile of leaves at the park.

Ready... set...


And then a blizzard struck! Only a few days after being out in short sleeves, we were unable to get out the front or side doors of our house (thank goodness for a back door out the master bathroom!).

The snow was a good two feet deep on the deck, and drifted much higher in many places...

... like this one where the drift dwarfs Wade.

We attempted to take a family picture out in the lovely snow for Christmas cards, but alas the boys just weren't into smiling (except Luke -- good job buddy!). Maybe we'll use it anyway?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

More School

The highlight of every Tuesday and Thursday for Isaac is doing science. Well, actually I'm not sure he even knows what "science" means, but our science topic for the year is astronomy (yes, astronomy for an entire school year), which he is CRAZY about.

A homeschooling friend recommended "Exploring Creation Through Astronomy." I bought the book and have been blown away! It's geared for students in first through fifth grades (just read/adapt activities to your particular student's level), boasts lots of beautiful pictures and has projects and activities galore (including a list of what materials you'll need for those projects each week -- yea!).

This week we're learning about Venus. Very few photographs have been taken of the planet's surface, because it has a thick, cloudy atmosphere blocking the view, and the surface isn't entirely suitable for spacecraft landings. So scientists have used radar to create a topographical map of the planet (because radar can go through clouds). But how does one explain the concept of radar to a 6 year old? Never fear, activity to the rescue!

This one actually had a bit of parent prep. Yesterday I created a landscape inside a shoe box using newspaper and a flour and water mixture (note to self: would have been easier to use play dough), covered the box with foil, poked 25 evenly spaced holes in the box, created a grid on paper with 25 corresponding squares, found crayons in a variety of shades of brown and marked a popsicle stick with numbers indicating depth (this was by far the most parent preparation intensive one we've come to yet, most are much simpler).

Today Isaac poked the popsicle stick into each of the holes in the foil, and marked on the paper grid the number on the popsicle stick -- a 15 indicated it didn't go very deep, a 2 went down quite far. Then he colored the grid using lighter browns for the lower areas (lower numbers) and darker colors for the raised areas (higher numbers). We studied the "map" and then removed the foil. Voila! Without ever seeing the surface beneath the foil, we had a pretty accurate map of what the surface looked like with it's mountains and valleys. It was too cool not to share, so here's a picture.

I'm thrilled that there are four more books in the Young Explorer series, "Exploring Creation Through Botany" and "Exploring Creation with Zoology" I, II and III (aka "Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day," "Swimming Creatures of the Fifth Day" and "Land Animals of the Sixth Day").

Levi's Alphabet

Rather than writing a boring old alphabet, Levi jazzed up his letters a bit this morning (someday we'll make it all the way to "z", but for now "o" is as far as we go!).

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Picture time

New grandson photos are now available! Let me know which one(s) you'd like Mom and Mom!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Produce anyone?

We've had a beautiful and mild fall thus far, but this week's forecast lists several nights with lows in the mid-20s. Thus I am picking everything that's left in the garden... and it's a lot! Tomatoes or peppers anyone? I may have to do a few more batches of salsa.

The squirrels have also been enjoying our bountiful harvest. They've gotten good and fat off our sunflowers!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Ideas anyone?

During the past several weeks, as I've come to terms with the fact that summer is ending (over?), I've started looking ahead to Christmas. Oh yes, I know, fall is a lovely time of year too, and I have already enjoyed putting out some autumny decorations. But Christmas, CHRISTMAS! and Advent! They strike a thrilling chord in my inner part.

One of my personal struggles the past several years has been how to make Christmas meaningful for our family. The real celebration is that Christ came to earth so save us, not that we get presents... but presents are so much more tangible, especially in this house full of little boys. One Advent tradition we've done for a couple years is to make an Advent wreath and light a candle each morning as we make (memorize) our way through Luke 2. This is one I personally enjoy to the max. The boys like it too, but every morning there will inevitably be a fight over who gets to blow the candles out. Oh well, so it's not perfect. Neither was the manger.

Anywho, back to the title of this post... I've been seized by the idea of hosting a Christmas open house in December. I love having people over, and I've desperately missed having large gatherings at our home since leaving Washington. So I'm taking initiative and inviting the town! But, um, what do I do? I've got some ideas... spiced cider and hot chocolate, Christmas cookies, snacks and appetizers, candy canes on the tree for the children (and adults too), background music, perhaps some games like a Christmas word search sitting on a counter for any who want to try (not completely sold on that one yet). I'm toying with the idea of favors of some sort, but not quite sure what, especially for a potentially large group of people. I've got lots of pinecones if anyone has a super-simple pinecone craft idea!

But once again, I'm struggling with how to make this gathering a celebration of Christ and not just an excuse to sip hot beverages and eat nummy snacks. Any ideas, either religious or party-oriented, are welcome. No, more than welcome -- wanted, yearned for, desired, longed for, dare I say needed?

Friday, September 12, 2008

A special occasion; a large fruit; and a weekend at camp

First things first, Wade and I celebrated our 8th anniversary on Sept. 9 -- yea! Although we didn't go out and do anything special, Wade did pick up a beautiful bouquet of roses for me, and I made one of his favorite desserts for him.

Our garden produced the largest tomato I've ever seen... and I turned it into spaghetti sauce. Dude, when you've got almost a dozen tomato plants you just do what you gotta do!

Our family extended the summer and postponed the beginning of school until after the homeschool family camp at Trail's End Ranch the weekend following Labor Day. There were horse rides; archery lessons; great music by The Fiddlers Three (unfortunately they don't have a website or I'd link it), a group of four siblings who play fiddle, banjo, bass fiddle, accordion, guitar, drum, penny whistle and harp, and who provided rousing music, an instrument "petting zoo" and insightful talks; good food; and of course the high ropes adventure rides -- zip line, big swing and flying squirrel.

Here Isaac helps out by ringing the bell for dinner.

Isaac thoroughly enjoying his ride on the big swing.

Levi also got a thrill out of the big swing.

Levi finally got up the courage to ride a horse, a loved it (as did Luke, even though there's not a picture here).

Lij even took a go-round, smiling most of the way around the corral.

All that walking plum tuckered Luke out. Good thing Daddy was there to help out.

Lij tried out a violin...

... and a the harp during the musical petting zoo.

Luke and I (Kerri) coming down the zipline -- even though we were harnessed in we still both felt the urge to hold on tight!

A view from a bluff at the camp. Trail's End Ranch is located maybe 10 or so miles south of Ekalaka, Montana, which is about 35 miles south of Baker, Montana, on Highway 94. It's a different kind of beautiful than I grew up with, but breath-taking nonetheless.