Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The last leg

We are on our last leg with the move from Wisconsin...literally and figuratively.

Figuratively because we are hoping to soon head back to St Louis after wrapping up our third and possibly final bus trip to the old house, after working on cleaning, paining and finishing up, etc.

Literally, because the boys discovered what might be a major mechanical problem on the bus. It looks like the brake line is broken.

Our prayer is that we can get it into the shop and it won't turn out to be as major as it seems right now. We were hoping they could head home tomorrow morning, but of course, as long as they make it safe, we'll be happy. We are very thankful that this didn't happen on the road.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

We made it back praise the LORD!

We made it safely home this morning at 2 am. We had to make numerous stops, as more hose leaks sprang up. The boys did one more repair, and then we started a regimen of stopping to add a couple of gallons of water every 30 miles. However, Dave came out with the wagon for the last 70 miles, letting me drive the wagon. It was nice, as we had to drive most of the way with our heater OFF to help retain coolant. The kids were all warm with blankets, but driver has to run the c c cold defroster! So he was our knight in shining station wagon! Today, we will start unloading. Heavy rain and thunderstorms expected all day, but we shouldn't have to work in the mud today!.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Out of hot water praise the Lord!

We finished the last minute packing this morning, which took quite a while. We left about noon, got diesel and burgers (for brunch), and headed south. About 40 min south of Madison, the coolant light went off, so we pulled over on the shoulder of the interstate. Coolant was steaming under the hood. Traffic slow because of the plows on the road. We called a mobile truck mechanic, who brought more coolant and 'accidentally' found a hose leak while checking our oil. He checked oil for lack of anything else to do, not able to find a leak! Praise the Lord! So we are traveling later than expected into the evening.

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Monday, December 21, 2009

Thinking inside the box

We stumbled onto a great idea for a substitute highchair for Joshie! It's hard to let him feed himself with no highchair here, but we wanted to conserve space in the bus for the next trip. This highchair is durable, educational, disposable and recyclable. We are having rice and beans tonight and packing the night away, except for Mommy. I am not crucial for packing personnel, so will probably go to bed earlier so I can drive.

Doing his part

Noah found the impact driver - no stopping him now! Zak put out the call for stuff in bags, to use the arched roof space remaining. It's getting dark outside.

Loading up the bus

Solomon and Ben are the main movers, bringing out the Zak-specified furniture. Noah hit some tight screws and is looking all over for the impact driver. We have a long way to go!


We are basking in our 24 degrees today, really, as we move. It had been even colder, but below 22 is pretty difficult, even for the occasional sledding trip. Zak is supervising and specifying which items to bring. Our empty dressers were loaded with homeless items, and now we are bringing in more furniture. We are all ready to use every nook and cranny for the trip. Noah is removing our coat hooks and other screwed in organizers. The house here is nearly chairless, which was how we left the house in St Louis.

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"Mommy, I don't have a single winkle pair of socks!"

Perfect timing!

We had a special blessing this weekend! Some friends from Upper Michigan came for a visit for a couple of days. They are praying and working towards returning to Romania to serve the Lord. We had been praying we could get both our families together for the first time, somehow, before we moved. When they called last week, we thought ideal for a visit this weekend because it might be our family's last time in Wisconsin altogether. It worked out! We had a great time of fellowship and sharing missionanary stories and singing in Romanian and Spanish. Sunday, we all headed to church in our bus and we enjoyed a special time with our church family in Madison. We are so blessed. The Lord has allowed us many special visits with friends old and new during the last couple of months! Today we hope to pack the bus for our second trip down. Lord willing, we'd like to go tomorrow.

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Saturday, December 19, 2009

Snow place like home

The boys are loading up the pickup for Dave's return tomorrow. He has to be back at work Monday, and we remembered certain items are too tall for the bus. It's about 30 degrees with light snow, making things a little interesting. After this trip, we will transition to calling the new place home, as the majority of the stuff will be in St Louis. We should be heading back with the second busload on Tues or Wed, Lord willing.

Friday, December 18, 2009

We're off like a herd of turtles!

We are back on the road now, after a quick return to the house to get some forgotten JACKETS! I think we have most everything else. Chance of snow in St Louis. (We credit the Tauberts of Beaver Creek Minnesota for the reptillian similie! Love you guys!)

One more time!

Today we are putting it in reverse and getting ready to head back to Wisconsin for the next load. Bekah is getting things ready for a fun snack dinner on the bus tonight. The kids are strategically packing for about five days. It's a huge job! There is no clothes washer at the old house, as we brought it here, so we have to bring enough but not too much. Plus, house trash cans, rugs, brooms, kitchen items, can opener, bedding, linens, empty boxes that we can reuse, tools, all winter wear, including our pressure washed snowboots which were encased in Mississippi mud from the pre-move yardwork in the rain, etc. We are looking forward to a weekend trip with Daddy. He will have to head back in the pickup to St Louis for work Monday, and is bringing our queen box spring which does not fit in the bus, among other things. I think that is the only thing that we can't get into the bus. Lord willing, the rest of will follow back with a busload on Wednesday or so.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Where to find the sharpest knife in the drawer!

This gentleman is nearby and has a sharpening shop in his garage. After hurricaine Katrina, he took his chainsaw sharpening machine with a chainsaw team and sharpened 70 chainsaws a night!

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Getting ready for more

Today we are shifting gears a bit and getting ready for the return trip to Wisconsin for another bus load. We are getting our chainsaw sharpened by a gentleman who says he can clue us in on level spots where we can do some bus maintenance. The boys will be working in the sweltering 40s (Wisconsinites, do I jest? Nay!) to change oil and trans filter, both of which are leaking badly. Guess you could say we are leaving a mark on Missouri.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Spacing out

Those who visited out Wisconsin home will note a slight increase in the size of the new place. I had the interesting experience yesterday of having to leave the kitchen, and travel down the hall, to check on nappers yesterday. In Portage, all the children could be checked on while I flipped pancakes, without leaving the kitchen!

Stump? What stump?

By the light of the hallogen worklamp, as the temps plunged, the boys' objective was achieved! Wow!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Keeping busy

Sammy is unwrapping dishes and flattening the paper for safe keeping.

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We're in!

Dave just picked up our conditional permit to occupy the house! We still have to remove, re-seed and mulch the stump area by Jan 13, but now we can just relax and MOVE IN! Praise the Lord! The boys are celebrating by trying to take out the last of the stump! It's getting dark and cold...but I guess it's exhilarating in some way. Taco Bell tomorrow with Daddy!

Don't tell them it's impossible...

The inspector was out this morning and seemed somewhat impressed with overall progress. At seeing the moat- encircled stump, he looked bewildered and sympathetic, recommending a grinding service. Not in our budget right now, however Taco Bell may be...the boys have made LOTS of progress since this morning! Praise the Lord!

Checking it twice!

The bus tug did not budge the stump. We are back to working on roots. Sarah finished washing siding yesterday. All required before we can move in! We've gotten much done, but two items remain on list!

Monday, December 14, 2009


We are trying to see how loose we've gotten thus far, by pulling on the stump with the bus, a modfied tip from my growing up/baby tooth years (Grandpa Bill knows what I mean.) We'll keep you posted.

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There goes the neighborhood.

One small complication is the 35 foot bus. The driveway is really steep, but it must be parked off street and off grass. We may downsize after the move. Sniff.


I noticed that they increase the pace when I say I'm taking a photo.

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Sunday, December 13, 2009

George Washington - Help!

This is our morning project! We are cutting roots and will use bus to dislodge from earth!

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We made it fine yesterday afternoon! House is an awesome provison but we have work to do before city lets us move in.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Off to a great start this morning. Made it to Illinois! 7 degrees but bus is toasty!

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Getting ready to move...maybe!

If you have to move in the future,
we strongly suggest you borrow boxes
from friends who make soap in their home
.....mmmmmm, their boxes will smell so good!
Anyone who has become acquainted with us over the last year or so may recall, upon our introduction, that we are currently from Wisconsin, but are, Lord willing, moving to St Louis, sometime in the future.

Well, we seem to be nearing the end of a touch and go escrow that has spanned three seasons! Lord willing, we will be in Ferguson, Missouri before 2010!

All along the way, the Lord has given us grace to wait on him in the uncertainty. As a family, we have constantly prayed, "Lord, close the door if you don't want us to move." We have seen so many situations related to the loan process so obviously orchestrated by the Lord. If the Lord wills, after we are settled in Missouri, I hope to sit down and bullet point it, or do a flow chart or something. Wow.

One of the biggest helps to aid us in the waiting has been work! Along with the bus removal process, and the clothes dryer repair incident, we have had plenty to keep us busy. Now we are hunkering down with our packing tape and UHaul boxes, and we mean business.

The earliest we should be able to get into the new place is a week from Friday. But as always, that can change.

Uncertainty and waiting go hand in hand and are good teachers for us all. We are thankful for this opportunity to teach our children to be flexible! What a stress-reliever it is to be flexible! One of the things we have most admired in others is flexibility -- not striving to be in control of things over which we really are not in control. Peace that passes understanding is from trusting the Lord to work it all out for us. No doubt we still have much to learn in this department!

But that is not to say we are not looking forward to moving!

We'll keep you posted!

Monday, November 16, 2009

"Just wait until they're teenagers!"

As we began having children, we would often hear that ominous phrase, usually prefaced by a comment on how sweet our baby looked. "They look so sweet now," the onlooker would grant us, "but just wait until they're a teenager!"

The unspoken continuation of the thought was: then they'd become ungrateful, deceitful, aloof, disrespectful and lazy.

At some point, we calculated that for the next 20 years or so, we'll have about six "teenagers" with us. So we realized we needed a strategy to deal with teenagers.

The strategy was simple and practical: denial.

We decided years ago to not refer to our young adults as teenagers. "Teenager" is a new term crafted by those who have profited from creating a subculture with its own dress and hairstyles, music, entertainment, church programs, and speech. Rather than having a goal of being an adult, the goal of this subculture is to extend childhood.

From the Bible, we see young adulthood as a time of training for bigger and better things. After all...

"When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things."
1 Cor 13:11

"But don't they need to break away and be independent?"

We find that this thought is just fed by the non-Biblical idea that people need pride in themselves. Self confidence and self esteem. (Like the world doesn't have enough of that already?) We have observed that the biggest problem people have with young adults, and people in general, is PRIDE. The Bible has nothing good to say about pride! Pride is in fact the enemy of learning anything worth learning! The humble receive instruction, but the prideful think they know it all already...sound familiar?

As parents, we find we need to give up our pride! What regret we have of reactions and words born out of pride. Ug. As new parents, we eventually realized we were ignorant of the wealth of instruction to PARENTS found in the Bible! Likewise, for the good of our children, we need to point them to God's wealth of instruction in his Word, much given as warnings to young people (the Book of Proverbs). And when you take a look in the book, there is no doubt: pride is like cancer! Cut it out!

So anything aimed at instilling pride in our children, in their abilities, their income, appearance, potential, etc. we want to steer away from it like the plague. We sure haven't got perfect discernment and we have had regrets. The Bible says God resists the proud and that is not the boat in which we wish to be. We feel there is a real difference between feeding our children's pride versus helping them recognize that the skills and experience and knowledge and opportunities they are now gathering demonstrates God is preparing them for his service.

But back to the independence idea: We feel that, especially for those of our children who will eventually marry and have a family, gaining the feeling of "independence" can often contribute to planting selfish ways of doing things. How many parents struggle with frustration because they feel "tied down" to family responsibilities? Where does that begin? Probably from independence!

On the contrary, if a goal for our young adults is real responsibility, it seems you can't beat living at home as a young adult: learning to put others before oneself and other real Christian virtues, the real world context of a family, with increasing real responsibilities, the experience of being depended on and depending on others, the inconveniences, and stomach viruses, and just operating in a real home, preferably one with a very high person to bathroom ratio.

And further, if we follow the world's wisdom of "letting them find their way" aren't we rather just leaving them at the mercy of others who desire to influence them for evil, for self-profit (merchandisers on TV for example). How much better is God's plan...

"My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother: for they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck."
Proverbs 1:8,9

So, responsibility - YES.
Independence - doing it my way - NO.

We are happily discovering God has a plan for people of all ages, even young adults. It is definitely a demanding time for all of us, primarily because of the importance of us as parents being real godly examples, and because the human tendency in ourselves and our children towards pride is real. We do feel God has given us ample opportunities to show our children a better way.

So, that is why when a stranger sees our baby and warns "Just wait until they're teenagers," it doesn't strike our hearts with fear and foreboding. Yes, parenting is always a challenge, but we are trusting that God will help us guide each one into fruitful service for Christ, which is the only thing that will last!

How wonderful that the Lord Jesus gave for us all, young and old, the example of humbling himself and being a servant.

Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto,
but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

Matthew 20:28

Our website contains a new pdf with some articles on this subject which we have found helpful. It's called "Training our Children for Leadership" and asks the question, "Are we training our children to be servants?".

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Random recent photos

Here are some photos in the order that they got uploaded, just to make things fun.

Joshie loves to toddle all over, and you can see the backside of his first haircut!

Here are some of the children doing a leaf journey...a favorite fall activity...hauling leaves to our compost bin using a tarp.

After cutting all the big boys' hair one evening, I sat down to rest a while. As I watched shaggy Joshie toddle by, I realized it was time. I sat him on my lap and powered up the clippers. He absolutely loved it! He got all cuddly with me! It was so precious!

Later we will post a sequence, but this is basically our old bus chassis. Today we finished scrapping it, dropping off the last load at the metal recycler...with NO accidents, praise the Lord! This was such a blessing for us, that the kids could get this done, as we are trying to sell the house, and the "broken down bus in the backyard" look does not aid in making your home attractive to buyers.

You may be wondering how we got these beams into the back of the bus to haul...

Our wonderful neighbor again came through with the lending of his acetylene torch. Solomon took to it like a fish riding a bike! It was waaaaay faster that the reciprocating saw we used for most of the bus!

In case I confused you by mentioning how we got the chunks of old bus into the back of the bus, I will remind you that we, until recently, have been a two bus family!

Here are pieces of the walls of the old bus. They were disassembled largely by popping screws off the panels. This was a great job for the younger kids, with earplugs!

Oh yeah, here is that cutie pie again, enjoying the leaves!

Here is the last of our trees to turn and shed leaves. By the time you read this, the leaves will all be gone on a leaf journey...

We hope to post more thematically organized photos soon...including those of our new source of Swiss Rolls!

Reading comprehension

Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them,
I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock:
And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house;
and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.
And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not,
shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand:
And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house;
and it fell:
and great was the fall of it.
Matthew 7:24-27

As we continue to work with Sammy, we keep seeing amazing benefits from teaching children to read using the Bible.

Reading comprehension means that you are trying to teach the child to get information from what they are reading, that is, to understand it. In the schools, this is often tested by asking children multiple choice or fill in the blank questions. (I remember being pretty good at fill in the blank tests, because I would just scan the subject passage for words with over 3 syllables, and that was often the one.)

Everyone agrees it is pointless to labor over sounding out the words without knowing what you are reading. However, if we are just trying to follow the Bible's instruction to parents in teaching our children God's Word, it's all in the bag. We are coming to think its not even a separate step: if we are trying to follow the Bible's instructions to parents...we are teaching the WORDS and their application, reading for meaning, reading for living. Perhaps the learning is in increments, but its simultaneous, at least it seems that way.

Schools need to separate everything into TESTABLE steps. That is one of many limitations of schools, and its not because its the best way to teach a child a thing, but for the convenience of the teachers. Parents who teach their children at home are not so limited in how we teach. If we are teaching our children the word of God, we are steering towards a known point on the horizon. Is the goal literacy? No, that would fall short of the Bible's instruction. There are plenty of literate people who are lost. We have to be so careful to seek first the kingdom of God, not literacy, and not even literacy as a tool to seek the kingdom of God. Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, Jesus said, and all these things (including literacy) will be added unto you.

We are really seeing the more we try to make this our focus, it really works.

We are working on the book of Job, and Sammy is doing pretty well on most of the words. In the first chapter so far, most of the words he is reading without much effort. I noted these words which he either didn't already know, or needed extra help sounding out, so we can put them in his notebook:

upright - we have an " - ight " page in his notebook, to which we added this word
eschewed - we had to sound this out and define it, old word
perfect - in sounding it out, he used the soft c sound
thousand - define
hundred - use this in thousand
yoke of oxen - I am thinking a yoke's worth is two oxen...
household - defining this word
nought - adding this to the " - ought " page in his notebook, and defining this word.

After reading through verse 3, where it says Job was the greatest of the men of the east, we stopped and looked at all the stuff we know about Job so far, what made him great? He picked out things we had read.

Now he is working on a two page spread in his notebook, where he is making pictures and copying phrases about Job and all his stuff from the first few verses of Job.

As he was reading and doing his spread, he commented that the word daughters has the "aught" sound, which we have a page for, so we are adding that. In my mind, back when we made that page, I didn't think he'd memorize it, but he does seem to remember that letter combination.

I have noticed my tendency to want to present certain things as a classroom teacher would. But many times, before I have it all laid out, Sammy already has the concept. I don't think its because he is precocious. Rather, outside the artificial confines of a classroom, things are so connected, and in a real context. It's kind of a habit we have to form: to teach children as a parent rather than as if we are a classroom teacher. Parents came first, and teachers are often just imitations for parents.

As parents, we pray our children will build their lives on a rock: hearing and doing the Word of God!

Thursday, November 05, 2009

It goes like this:

We found a twin bed and mattress and dresser for sale. It's a good price and includes delivery. Such a deal!

For the interim, we want to keep the new bed in the girls' room, even though they are good for beds right now. To fit the bed in the girls' room, we have to move the plastic storage tubs under their window. The large tub cannot be moved once its filled, and we want to put the extra blankets stored on Zak's bed in it. They are on Zak's bed because his cot is torn and he has been sleeping on the floor. So, we are going to take the full size mattress from the back of the bus and put it where Noah's cot used to be, and let Zak have Noah's cot. Zak's broken cot will go in the scrap pile, growing in the backyard. (These are old army stretchers, which we use for our trademark triple bunk beds. They are very sturdy, but still were not built to withstand daily use! Zak's only lasted 8 years...)

However, we realized that moving the full size mattress from the back of the bus into the boys' room will make it impossible to open the boys' main dresser.

So, we were going to put the full size mattress in the girls' lower bunk spot, and give Zak their cot. But if we put the mattress in the girls' room, there is no room for the new bed.

The full size mattress, coincidentally, HAS to be moved from the back of the bus so we can haul scrap metal from our old bus. It's just a coincidence it came up today. Sorry if that is confusing.

Well, so either way, Zak can get a new cot out of the deal, except, we are storing all kinds of stuff on his old broken cot. Most of it could go in a large tub in the girls' room. But, again, until we get a location for the large tub, it doesn't make sense to put it in there.

So, the temporary solution is to leave the new stuff in the driveway until we figure out where the other mattress is going to go!


After we got back with a swapped oxygen tank for the torch the boys have borrowed to chop up our old bus, we found they had moved the new dresser to the dining room and the new bed in girls' room. The mattress from the bus is stuffed up in the attic somehow...for later! However, I just remembered we still have one more dresser in the bus to bring in.

Glad we already found a home for the 5 drawer file cabinet we used to have in the bus -- that would have been really crazy.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Waiting on the Lord...

It is a blessing to be so busy during a time when we are basically waiting. Waiting usually implies doing nothing. But we are far from doing that! There are so many uncertainties in our circumstances, but some things you can count on...

  1. Things break! Our dryer has been making strange noises, but we hardly give it a break. If we had the space, we'd be a two dryer family. So, we took it apart, even though it was limping along, and in the process, we broke a new part. So, we have been thankful for windy and partly sunny days to hang our wash, but we are still getting backed up. Nothing a couple of hours at the laundromat can't take care of.
  2. Things wear out! We are nearing the 3/4's mark on the remodel of the bathroom formerly known as "yucky". It is coming together and looking great. Sarah is working on the wallpaper now. After that, its only trim work...except for the hairline crack in the toilet tank (see #1).
  3. Seasons change! The recent blustery winds are causing major leaf drifts all over town. We have to be very dilligent in putting away rakes, shovels, and demolition tools, as we work on dismantling and scrapping our old white bus (see #2), lest they are buried in leaves. Our woods are lit up with sunshine on sunny days, and today we can see through the trees to the marsh, where the wind is fantastic! Attempts at raking are cheerfully undertaken, but border on pointless.
  4. Children grow! Joshie is a full time, Cheerio-munching, duck-calling, 14 month old toddler, desperately in need of his first hair cut! As Gideon and I cuddled last night at bedtime, he asked to read John 3 and asked about how I became a Christian, starting with my 10 commandment charm bracelet, which I modified in a disobedient tantrum, my realization that I was headed for hell, my attempt to save myself by later wearing a cross necklace (he thinks that part is hillarious, and it actually is). Sammy's favorite verse, which he copied into a tiny notebook, and reads with little provocation, is John 3:17. Noah is an aspiring Mr. Fixit with his new cordless drill set, helping Solomon with the bus scrapping project in his spare time. Zak is looking at his 2nd head gasket repair, and he and Ben have officially launched their first client's website. I think I'll save the rest of the milestones for our annual year-end letter! You get the picture...
  5. The Lord is good. We could never thank Him enough for all our blessings. Life is a miracle, every moment. There are innumerable things that have to be perfectly operating for you to even read these words, and you can't even control them! We are looking to Him to lead us and keep us focused on the things that matter.
Maybe next time, we'll have some news...or at least have the dryer working...

    Thursday, October 15, 2009

    Gideon's calendar questions

    Giddy is almost 5 years old.

    He asked, "Are the Bradfords coming Friday?"

    Mommy: "They are coming today."

    Giddy: "Are they coming Thursday?"

    Mommy: "Yes, they are coming today."

    Giddy: "Is this today?"

    Thursday, October 08, 2009

    Hooked on scripture!

     Zak helped us set up video conferencing with Daddy, sent to the projector, so we could have our evening Bible time with him!  It is, second to him being here, absolutely wonderful!

    In the last few months, Sammy has jumped into the shallow end of the pool of literacy. He is reading and writing. Very fun! What makes it the most fun for us is that his reading instruction has been almost exclusively from the Bible!

    Why does this matter?  Do we think this is the only approved way to teach a child to read?  

    For many years, we have used a certain homeschool phonics program, for many of our children. They would get about half way through, and then it would click, and we'd discard it, and they'd go on with reading and writing.  However, as we have made changes in our family through the years, we have noticed how God seems to have laid out an excellent reading instruction program in Deuteronomy 6:4-9...

    Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD:
     And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.
     And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:
     And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
     And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes.
     And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.

    We have tried to dedicate the first and last hours of each day to family devotions, and so even the pre-readers are present and absorbing Scriptures.  While the oldest of us don't memorize as easily, the youngest ones are like sponges.  They look like they are zoning, but later in the day, at the strangest of times, they will start reciting the verses we are working on!

    Not with total understanding, no, that comes slower.  But it does come, and it has to start somewhere, and it seems like it starts with God's Word!  Just like that scripture says, we have to talk about it all the day long.  It seems I am always hearing friends tell me how surprised they are that their young children can grasp so much Bible!  It's not what we parents are told to expect. 

    Many phonics programs are designed with the assumption that children aren't being immersed in the Bible.  For example, commercials tell us, "Give your child delicious Ovaltine, which is balanced with all the nutrition and vitamins they need,  if you can't get them to eat a healthy diet."   Reading programs just seem designed for children who aren't normally exposed to reading, let alone, the Bible.  Rather, the assumption is that in order to appeal to a child (who will like what they are brought up to like!!!) you have to make everything Disney or whatever.  This is called:  "the child's level."  And you hear things like, "...will introduce your child to the world of literature..." or something to that effect.

    It's almost like if you have stairs in your home.  When your baby is young, you obviously carry them up and down the stairs.  As they crawl, you supervise them and keep them off the stairs.  As they begin to walk, you stay with them, and eventually they get to the point where they can use the stairs safely on their own.  But they have been observing and absorbing the whole while, real stairs.

    You don't have to create a rubber, primary-colored replica of child-scale stairs, and give them 5 minute daily lessons on using the stairs, or demonstrate using rainbow colored animals. 

    Getting back to that question, which I kind of anticipated in my paranoid way, "Do you think teaching reading with the Bible is the only approved way to do it?"  It seems like God has the verses in Deutronomy wired in such a way that if you try to follow them, your child will learn to read.  Like the hokey example about rubber, primary-colored stairs, by following God's direction to dilligently teach our children the Bible by talking about it all the day long, you are already teaching reading.  It's more than phonics.

    In fact, in one book, I remember the author talking about how you teach the child all these phonics sounds, using the letter dice and the cue cards and the puppets on popsicle sticks,  but they still may not get it until one day, click, they are decoding. Its so funny how, up until that time, you introduce the letter sounds in some scientificly prescribed order, but that's not enough, there has to be this spontaneous click, and then they get it.  

    Well, we are now wondering  if that click isn't helped along by having packed away lots of scripture in their hearts and minds, and starting them on reading the Book they are most familiar with.

    We kind of observed this with our middle girls, that they required much less phonics instruction.  They were hearing God's Word daily, plus they were very handy with hymnals.  That exposed them to all kinds of nutty English words which followed no regular rules.  Since they MEMORIZED the songs, they could figure out the letter sounds.  They followed verse by verse, and eventually started selecting songs they didn't know, and would sing along, out of tune, since they could READ the words!

    As Sammy once said, "Is the P silent?  Because its supposed to say 'salm'."

    When I used to hear people say, "Historically, people taught their children to read with the Bible," I found that hard to comprehend.  I was thinking "Hooked on Phonics."  Maybe there was more to it than that.  If a child is memorizing the Bible before they ever see a page, you can show them a passage they know, and they have a head start.  In his reading, Sammy generally wants to figure out a word.  Some times, a child says a word wrong, and you correct them, but they just skip over it and don't even repeat your correction.  But Sammy knows the Bible means something, so he doesn't normally do that.  Currently, we are finishing up memorizing John 3, so many of the words are fresh in his mind. 

    But what about the King James English?  We happen to use the King James Bible.  You know, it has been no big deal, because they can differentiate between our spoken English and what they are reading.  They have enough exposure to modern English, that they are actually translating anything archaic to what it means...because of course, we explain it to them.  (Archaic just means an old word, not a meaningless word.)  Of course, there are days when we conduct all our conversation in our mock Old English, but they realize we don't normally talk that way.

    Well, this is, of course, just our experience.  But it is so wonderful to hear Sammy wanting to read John chapter 3 twice in a row, with Gideon listening and saying "The Bible is the best book of all.  It's the only thing I like!" which may not always be true, but it sure is a neat aspiration!   Its not a video curriculum or an incentive program that did that...it's just hearing and reading the Bible and believing it. 

    I guess this is such an exciting thing for me because it just demonstrates that God has a plan for families, and if we seek HIM first and HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS (by transforming our minds in HIS WORD), then all these things (reading) will be added unto us. 

    Here are some of the things we have been doing with Sammy, and have done with most of the children.

    He has his Bible in a case, and a composition book.  In the book, we write something down to remember.  Sometimes the goal is learning some kind of rule, like apostrophes (possessive vs plural), sometimes it is similar words (spelling or meaning), one time we did forming irregular plurals (which is when he told me, "You can only have ONE WIFE!"), sometimes its compass points, whatever.   We compare or classify words, or find other words spelled similarly. 

    In the beginning, I did the writing.  Now he copies off a small white board, or I dictate.  Lately I have had him sound out words. 

    Some of these things you don't have to teach, because the child just figures it out.  Since we are not using a "child's Bible", Sammy has to figure out that titles are not Bible verses, footnotes are not Bible verses, etc.  He caught on right away.

    He is also doing letter writing, which is largely copying a draft we write for him.  He is already trying to write his own sentences.   Letter writing has been the biggest tool we have used in teaching writing, because all aspects have to be working together.

    So, we are getting ready to start him doing Bible copy in Genesis.  He works hard on his handwriting, and is still learning all the letters (how to make them by the book -- we use italic basic).  We've noticed that our children generally do very well with penmanship if their attitudes are right.  We've never had messy penmanship without an attitude problem or a distraction problem.

    From our earliest days of homeschooling, Dave and I felt that if it was really the Lord's plan for families, it wouldn't be dependent on man-made programs and such.  It would be a tool for us to teach and train our children in the way they should go.  We have had (and continue) to rethink a lot of our assumptions about what we are trying to accomplish and why and how.  God continues to show us how little we know. One of the most thought-provoking message we have heard, and continue enjoy listening to, is "Homeschooling versus Discipleship" by Jonathan Lindvall.

    Friday, September 25, 2009

    The Egg-noggeration

    Sarah made and hung her famous birthday Bible verse signs all over the house.  She embellished them with artwork cut from the cereal box...

    Specially appointed guardians guarded the specially mixed Cheerio/Honey Nut Cheerio blend for the morning festivities.

    We had a special celebration on Joshua Arthur's first birthday, August 27.

    Unknown many, including Joshie, we have worked up the following trivia for him. It goes like this:

    1. Joshie is the president of the country of Penguinlandia.
    2. It is the only country in Antarctica.
    3. The penguins are his constituents.
    4. He is financing road construction by selling icebergs to north African countries on Ebay.
    5. He is offering discounted citizenships to friends and family.
    6. The national anthem of Penguilandia goes like this:
    You've got a friend,
    in Penguinlandia His name is Sven, 
    in Penguinlandia You've got a friend, 
    in Penguinlandia
    It's the only country 

    Immediately after he woke up he started saying "Wow, wow, wow..." but that was before he saw the decorations that his big siblings had created the night before...

    We found an adorable "penguin suit" at Goodwill last spring, but rarely have had opportunity to use it, until now.

    Here he is, greeting his constituents, with his handcrocheted penguin bath body scrub (???) we found at Goodwill.  Though he looks like he knows what is up, he is normally just a very happy baby boy.

    What to wear to the Egg-noggeration? Penguin suits!

    Fitting in with the constituents.

    One of his first acts after the egg-nogeration was to eat cake.  Joshie enjoyed his carrot cake (Mommy picked that flavor).  His gifts were all penguin-based, but he finds it easier to say "duck", in two syllables:

    du ----- ck!

    We are so thankful for our littlest blessing!

    Tuesday, September 08, 2009

    The way it is

    In discussing a kind of crossroads our family is facing (actually it's more like a cloverleaf), Dave made the statement, "Christianity is not making it happen, but following the path laid out before you."  Very encouraging!

    Monday, August 17, 2009

    Sunday, August 16, 2009

    Walking on watermelons

    Last weekend Dave took the four oldest boys on a little trip, so we decided it would be a great time to tackle the girls' bedroom. Our goals included: painting walls and ceiling and replacing the carpeting. Those tasks are pretty substantial. But in order to do them, we had to empty the entire room and closet, disassemble and remove the built in bunks and curtain hardware, pull out the old flooring and do some patching and priming.

    But typical to our manner of working, we decided to do some preliminary work on the rear (a.k.a. the "yucky bathroom"), which meant disconnecting our front loading washer, and moving all the stuff we store in it to the mudroom. So our laundry was being processed outside on the wringer washer, and every usable nook was used for storing things that could not be in their normal place.

    Since Walmart had seedless watermelons for $2 a piece, we had stockpiled a bunch of those on the front porch as well. So, certain of us were literally walking on watermelons! (We don't recommend this though!)

    Well, the boys helped with moving the big dresser, and then we bade them goodbye, and got to work. Our girls LOVE power tools!

    The pre-painting work went well, but took longer than expected. The girls kept finding long, lost items....

    Giddy enjoyed helping (or would that be looting??)...

    We sure got our money's worth out of this coat of paint, don't you think?

    Further complicating things, our garden was really needing some attention, so we tried to do a batch of salsa.

    My hopes to can green beans were happily postponed, so we just froze them.

    Joshie spent a lot more time in his high chair, as there were few safe places for him to make his rounds. Sometimes when we are packed like this, we will eat at the dinettes in the bus. Our normal practice of eating outside all summer didn't work during the rainy weekend, though.

    After putting a few coats of Kilz on some spots, we painted. The old color was a sunny green color, even in the closet and on the ceiling. The closet is under the stairs, so painting that (which was also green) was pretty time consuming.

    The walls went fairly quick.

    The carpet was a provision from the Lord...from the side of the road. I found it last summer, very plush, high quality, with pad, and in nearly new condition. No smoke or hair. And, it was pink! So we stored it all winter in the old bus, and then the garage. There was a lot of it, but we did need to do one seam to cover the girls' floor. So, we rented a seam iron. We got some instructions off the internet for installing carpet and doing seams, and Sarah gave them a good read.

    The weekend was rainy, so we did everything indoors.

    The boys were on their way home by the time we got to the carpet laying part. First step was to install the tackless boards, which actually have tacks....

    However, the instructions Sarah had didn't mention that the tacks should point towards the walls, to hold the carpet. So after they had done the whole perimeter, I remembered to tell them, in some literature I had read, that the tacks had to point to the walls! Fortunately, they only had to remove and replace 3 of the strips! All the rest had just happened to be installed correctly!

    During most of this time, Abi was hard at work doing all our tons of wash on the wringer washer outside, and Joanna was priming and painting the girls' bunk beds to match the walls. There was no way around re-installing the bunks, but they would look much more "inviting"...

    The pad was very high quality, and both carpet and pad was so clean! Abi and Sarah pieced the pad together and stapled it down, taping the seams with duct tape.

    After a brief break to clear out the boys' bedroom so they'd have a place to sleep, we were back to the carpet. It was a little hard to find a place outside to lay out and measure the carpet, so we could figure out how to cut it to fit the room. The ground was still wet. And there was no place in the house, obviously. We used a tarp on the grass. Zak helped in cutting the corners of the carpet, so it would lay properly in the bedroom. The whole house was filled with smoke from the seam iron...but Sarah was able to figure it out, and it was securely bonded.

    The next step was using the knee-kicker to hook the carpet perimeter onto the tackless strips. That was pretty simple. Sarah got some help from Zak with the tool and cutting. Abi also did quite a bit. Here, Solomon is just enjoying being on the nicest carpeting in our house!

    Installing the trim and the threshold for the door gave the room a finished look.

    The closet also needed some help. After being painted to match the room, we realized with a couple of inexpensive closet rods placed just so, we could double the amount of storage we had previously (with just one rod). This design used the space under the stairs more effectively.

    At the earliest opportunity, the girls had Joshie into the room to try out the new carpet! He enjoyed the nice laminate flooring in the main rooms, but the carpet was such a treat and he crawled happily in circles all over the room!

    We had a fair amount of carpet left, even after the closet floor was done, so we decided it would be so nice to do the attic stairs as well! They were painted wood, and were pretty worn and did not look that great. Working late one night (out of necessity, as nobody could use the stairs during the process), Sarah transformed them into a plush, non-squeaky, pink elevated pathway. Dave really enjoys his trot up to the office now!

    So, while they are not completely done with everything, the room is mostly put back together, and the sisters are really enjoying the transformation...everyone is!