Friday, January 30, 2009

The sock matching olympiad!

Outside may be a bit cold....but...

....who says you can't have fun inside?

Actually, fun necessitated by a sock crisis! Bekah needed a hand....or twelve!

Fun is in the eye of the beholder.

Grand total: 150 pair! That's what Mommy calls fun!

Joshie is just too cool to match socks, says he.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Five months and 2 teeth later!

Here's Joshie!

He can sit for seconds at a time!

He also enjoys laying around the house.

Toes... the natural snack!

Time for work!

Here he is with his "home business".

Monday, January 19, 2009


"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to His abundant mercy hath begotten us again according to a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time." I Peter 1:3-5

A couple of weeks ago, my friend Nita sent us her book, Strength in Weakness. It is a compilation of poems she has composed over the years. We have really enjoyed them!

One poem in particular, Bubbles, seemed like a great one to read with the boys. It touches on many ideas and principles we have often discussed as a family and has some great word pictures. She has given me permission to share it, so here it is:


Today I watched the bubbles,
That floated through the sky.
So gentle and so graceful,
Their colors floated by.

And infant's hand had blown them;
A darling little boy;
So light at heart and cheerful,
He found a moment's joy.

So like the world's brief pleasures,
They won't remain in hand.
They linger but a moment,
And pop if e'er they land.

When all is still and quiet,
No trouble in the air,
For just a little longer,
Perhaps they'll linger there.

Perhaps they'll give some pleasure;
Perhaps they'll catch your eye,
And grant a brief diversion,
Like bubbles in the sky.

But there is nothing in them
To satisfy the heart.
As quick as they're inflated;
So quickly they depart.

There is a truer substance,
Not seen with carnal eyes;
But faith has eyes to see it,
And hands to grasp the prize.

Not like the bubbles, flashing,
To only disappear,
Its hope is long enduring;
Its joy, eternal cheer.

It is the hope of heaven,
Which God for us has made;
Not blown for just a moment;
Its joys will never fade.

--by Nita Brainard, May 2007

A couple of weeks ago, we used this poem for the topic of school time with the little boys. First, we started in 1 Peter 1. That was a good chapter to introduce the poem. We have an audio message by a missionary pilot, Paul Dye, which we have listened to zillions of times, so we occasionally referenced his talk. He speaks of the encouragement he drew from reading 1 Peter 1.

Here is an edited video of morning time with Noah, Sammy and Gideon (and Joshua!) reading and discussing the poem. Kinda long, 12 minutes or so. We include it because there are a few really neat responses from the boys, where you can see a bit of their comprehension. (Not that our kids are brains, but just to demonstrate how kids can begin to get abstract things, if that is what they are accustomed to. More on this later.) I had the big kids set up the camera on the tripod and the boys eventually just ignored it. We started off with 1 Peter 1, and then moved on to Nita's poem.

We are noticing how you can kind of train them to listen when you read, even without pictures. We are using the words corruptible and incorruptible. Despite the occasional yawn, they really enjoyed the poem!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Not warm enough to be cold

We are basking in the sunshine of a THIRTEEN BELOW ZERO morning. It's about 10:30 am. With barely any wind, the wind chill factor is like 30 below!

When it's cold, you go outside and feel cold. You shiver. You cuddle up inside your jacket.

When it's sub-arctic, you go outside, look around, think "Wow, thirteen below zero isn't so bad," because your skin is instantly numb! When you come back inside, you realize your front teeth and nose have no feeling.

We are shooting for a scorching 5 below zero today....we'll see.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The law of the LORD is perfect!

Our family went verse by verse through Psalm 119 for over a year, with the goal of memorizing it. We do well when we recite it all together, helping each other. We don't consider it a done deal; we try to regularly review it (portions of it). It's the biggest "chapter" in the Bible!

The little boys are probably the ones with most of it best memorized. Little children memorize so easily. We think its not a coincidence!

Today, for our school time with the little boys, we worked through reviewing it. Noah led the charge by reading it, and me and the mostly illiterate (Sammy and Gideon) try to say it by memory along with him.

The next part is a little tricky for me to introduce. We started doing some things to better understand Psalm 119. That is our primary goal in teaching the children, understanding God's Word.

Reading through this Psalm, you notice the repetition of various synonyms for "law." So it seemed natural to talk about this, and why....

Why do we keep reading different words that are similar to law?

Just this morning, when it was 5 below zero, Bekah was out feeding the ducks. She accidentally dumped a bucket of water on our front steps. It turned to smooth ice. It was very treacherous, because if someone dashed out to take out the trash -- ouch! So I immediately assembled everyone and told them:

There's ice on the steps. It's dangerous. You have to be careful. It's slippery. The ice will not melt in this cold. If you step on the ice, you will slip and fall. Don't forget about the ice on the steps!

That was my attempt to get everyone to pay attention, because if just one person forgets, they will probably get badly hurt.

Well, it looks like the LORD was doing the same thing in Psalm 119: remember the law or you will be in trouble!

We had already started talking about synonyms last time and began making a list of the ones we found (don't know if you should list law on a list of synonyms for law, but oh well!).

After going through the first three sections of Psalm 119, we found six words similar to law ("statutes" is not visible).

As we hunted, Noah would occasionally find words like "declare" or "rejoice" and ask if they were synonyms. So we discussed the difference between action words and nouns (specifically, synonyms for law, which is a noun). We don't test the kids for things like this, but since it is helpful to know about words like this, that is why we looked at it. (Learning the definition of the word synonym is not a big deal to us, and isn't helpful in understanding what a synonym is, but we did that too.)

Then I remembered some math sheets we had, which were used for a math activity. In the activity, you interview family members to see what their favorite color, food, etc is. The child picks a color for each choice, and counts up the colored cubes representing the votes of the family members. Then they graph the results. So I dug the sheets out and modified them to accommodate our needs.

We wrote each synonym under the baseline, assigned each a different color.

Noah and Sammy transferred the colors to each sheet.

Then, as Noah read through Psalm 119, he would pause whenever he came to one of the synonyms (which we already had listed). Sammy and Giddy would take turns identifying the word on the sheet (so they could figure out which color cube to get) and then selecting the cube and putting it in a pile.

It worked out really well, as Giddy practiced his colors, and Sammy practiced identifying the words (mostly by the first letter sounds, which happened to all be unique). They had to wait for turns and they all listened attentively, because they knew what we were looking for.

What is interesting is that it gave me another opportunity to observe Sammy's skills in letter recognition and letter sounds and things like that. He is really learning. It really seems like scripture memory adds such a important dynamic to learning to read. Its hard to explain. He is honestly sounding out the words. He is not just mindlessly saying words that start with the same letter, as our older kids would do when we used regular phonics programs. Sammy knows what the word is supposed to be, so he works with the letters there to make it right.

For example, he asked "Is the p silent in Psalm? Because its supposed to say salm"

This explains what we observed with some of our middle girls. They learned about 4 letter sounds, and then it just seemed, bang! they were reading. Well, what was also happening was they were following along in in the Bible and in hymnals (which we use almost daily at home). Duh!
So we amassed a certain number of colored cubes. Then came the fun task of forming them into various sized rods. Then, they began to work on coloring in the appropriate number of squares in their appropriate columns...

The title of the graph is: Synonyms for "law" in Psalm 119:1-24 and the stats are:

law 2
commandments 4
testimonies 4
judgments 3
precepts 2
word 2
statutes 5

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The green team

We went to a wonderful wedding yesterday. Will post more about it soon. Here is a current family photo!

Friday, January 09, 2009

Doing the dishes in Mexico

For several years (and hopefully again in 2009!), our family has been privileged to visit the country of Mexico. We have met many Christian workers there. We have seen some examples of missionary life, the challenges and blessings. So our view is not too extensive, but rather pretty limited...

but what we have seen is the impact of Christian families. An imperfect but sincere Christian family, seeking to function according to God's Word, really makes an impact.

"Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place." 2 Corinthians 2:14

We have seen that in Mexico. We have seen the people come to them. People are drawn to these families, because they see something that is so different and beautiful. Not a program, a drama, or face painting... just a Christian family, many members with different functions all working together.

A missionary friend once told us about a short-term team which visited their home in Mexico. One of the visiting teens, while washing dishes, lamented, "I came to Mexico to do ministry, not wash dishes!" How sad that our perspective of ministry doesn't include simple acts of service in the home.

Meet the Dappens! A major part of their ministry, as you can see, includes washing dishes!

The father of this family, Art Dappen, is the author of the book about copying the Bible, which you can read or listen to on our website. Before his home-going in November of 2006, we were able to visit with his family at the homeschool conference in Saltillo, in August of the same year.

Thinking out loud, he said, "What comes after copying the Bible? I think caring for orphans."

At that time, they were just starting out in that ministry. Currently they care for ten. Matthew and Suzy are holding down the rancho in the southern state of Chiapas. Their ministry includes chores, cooking, and all the normal kinds of activities that make up a Christian home. After all...

"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." Deuteronomy 6:7

It doesn't sound "strategic" according to modern "missions strategies," but it certainly is Biblical. And it touches so many hearts outside of their own family! Many Mexicans can't figure it out, why these Americans would want a bunch of illegitimate or special needs children!

Linn Dappen (mom) and some of the younger Dappens are currently in various parts of the States with family. Since Art's homegoing, their lives have obviously been changed in many ways. We continue to pray for the Dappen family and trust that the seed of their parent's teaching will bear much fruit, even as it already is. Please pray with us!

Truly, Mexico, and the whole world, needs many more dishwashers!

Friday, January 02, 2009

Then and now

We are trying to get a handle on our digital media this year. Abi is going to be filing it, little by little, on a big media sponge thing up in the attic. I don't know what it's called, but it's got all of the photos we have ever taken, just about. So, here are other things we've worked on since we've been up here.

Here is our front yard during our first year. We arrived in June and again in August. We moved in two very long trips!

The yard was all grass up to the highway, and a sandy, dirt path led from the driveway to the house. Actually, upon excavation, we found that it had once been a brick path. The brick was under the sand.

To make use of the great, south facing yard, we put in a garden -- large by our experience. Larger than the square footage of our house! Our dear friends from church, Dave and Joanne, came with their rototiller to help us. The vision was for rows bordered by grass (to minimize sand tracked into the house. Who knows, maybe it did help! ).

Dave B. shows Solomon the ropes.

The kids marked out all the rows and selectively sprayed Round Up. Then they carefully measured and staked out the fence posts and fence. The result: a perfect parallelogram.

Since we were outside almost all the time, we decided to make a path to the house, and other popular destinations. Our awesome neighbors donated a bunch of stone and brick that they didn't need. Sarah was our engineer. In fact, she did nearly all of the work herself. But Susanna and Hannah did help.

Before we knew it, we were farmers! Our first year garden did really well, praise the Lord! If you click on this picture, I think you can see the stone path, and all the mis-matched yard furniture!

The Great Zuchinni Uprising. "Oh, you mean you're supposed to pick 'em and eat 'em?"

Meanwhile, inside the house....

Here is our living/dining room soon after we moved in. The first thing we did when we arrived was rip all the carpet out of this room. We really enjoy the big picture window, which we call "the flat screen".

We had lots of free standing furniture, which was routinely rearranged. In fact, we had lots of boxes of stuff, with absolutely no place to put the contents! We had an idea to build built-in cabinets and shelves on either side of the window, connected by a storage/window seat and overhead shelves. This was Zak's first oak project.

Here we are a year plus later, in one of the many versions of the dining/living room. The table was hauled in an open U Haul trailer behind the bus from the Mexican border -- it's a piece of plywood, with various maps all over it, covered with clear vinyl.

Here you can see the nice base cabinets, and the formica countertops, and a hint of the roomy storage/window seat. It has been a BIG blessing! We really needed the space.

In the foreground, the new tables, which Hannah decoupaged with new maps. We made two tables this time, which can be pushed together, or separated (for extra seating around, when we have company).

Well, there's a bit of history.