Sunday, December 28, 2008

And the winner is . . .

Well, we reached a decision with the fireplace dilemma. In order to make the French door idea work, we would have to move another doorway on the inside of the house so we wouldn't lose space for seating. Right now it just seems like one more thing to add to a list that seems to get longer every day, so we just decided to stick with the original plan of a wall. And Greg is framing the wall even while I type this, so there's no turning back now!

I hope we don't regret it in a couple of years, but I think we'll be happy with it either way.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Our own little Jericho

After three days of work, Greg finally made it to the end of the fireplace demolition. I had this vision in my mind of taking a sledge hammer to the thing and just busting it out (I think we both pictured that, to some extent), but come to find out the inside of a fireplace isn't hollow. There are several layers of bricks nestled inside of each other.

Here he is somewhere in the middle of the outside portion.

Finally time to start on the inside!

This was the moment we waited for. Goodness gracious, it took a lot longer than we thought!

And somewhere around in here . . .
. . . is when all the fun started. I finally had a relatively unobstructed view of my backyard, which has never happened from inside my living room, so I said, "I have a great idea!" Greg rolled his eyes and said, "Great." (If you read that enthusiastically, like, "Wow, Honey! That's great that you have a great idea! I can't wait to hear it!" then please go back and read it the way it was really stated, which was the same kind of "Great" you say when you see red and blue lights flashing in your rearview mirror. There you go. Now you've got it!) So I proceeded to tell Greg my "great" idea, which was to put French doors where the fireplace used to be rather than just making a wall.

Because my husband adores me
Because my husband knows my ideas are always nothing less than amazing
Because my husband tolerates my indecisiveness and at least attempts to entertain my various and sundry ideas, he patiently . . . lovingly . . . grudgingly rearranged furniture for the next hour to see if we could come up with something we like that will allow us to get more natural light into our house and have this great view of the outdoors.

As of now, we still don't know exactly what we're going to do, but the brick guy is scheduled to show up on Monday, so we better have a decision made by tomorrow!

Friday, December 26, 2008

On the third day of Christmas . . .

Today was our day to celebrate Christmas with Grandma & Grandpa and Uncle David's family. It was a quick celebration as they are all headed to Florida early in the morning to vacation at Disney World and watch Ashley perform during the halftime show at the Capital One Bowl.

Because Mom and Dad had packing to do and didn't need to be tied up in the kitchen and because I have been wanting to try some new recipes, I prepared a couple of dishes for our gathering. I made Ham & Swiss Quiche and Crabmeat Parmesan Quiche, with White Chocolate Fruit Tarts for dessert. Yep, here we are with 5 days left in 2008 and I finally decided to do my fancy cooking for the year! Mom and Dad also put together a deli tray and some chips and dips, so we had quite a spread!

Here are a few highlights from our evening together:

I know I'm a little biased, but don't my parents have a good-lookin' bunch of grandkids?

The hit of the night for Hannah was her pink Leapster from Grandma and Grandpa.

Millie loved this Disney Princess dress-up chest from David and Shasta.

She immediately dressed up as a princess and stayed that way the rest of the evening.

Somehow she even managed to get Greg in on the action!

By the way, Greg doesn't ever read this blog, so let's just keep it our little secret that that last picture is on here, okay? Thanks!

Thursday, December 25, 2008


Today I celebrated the most unique Christmas in all of my 34 years. Oh, forget "unique." It was odd. Bizarre. Downright weird. And I have to confess: I didn't like it one little bit.

Here's a rundown of our CHRISTMAS:

Children woke up eager to see what Santa had left for them.

Had breakfast together.
Realized Greg planned to take down the fireplace today since he had the day off.
Immediately took down our Christmas tree (which was inconveniently located right next to the fireplace) and undecorated the mantle.
Stuffed all the Christmas decorations in their boxes and put them in the attic.
Tore down the bricks. Well, started to, anyway. Turns out there's a lot more to this job than meets the eye!

Made steak, baked potatoes, and broccoli for Christmas dinner.
Attempted to defend myself when Hannah said, "This isn't exactly Christmas food." I said, "Oh, yeah? And what exactly is 'Christmas food?'" (I was sure that she was picturing a juicy turkey, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, etc.) "You know," she replied. "Things like candy canes, cookies, brownies . . ." That got a good laugh. Even if our Christmas hadn't been so bizarre, we still wouldn't have had what she considered "Christmas food."
Sadly realized we had let Christmas go by without even reading the Christmas Story from Luke. Good thing we read it at MeeMaw and Kimpaw's last night, but still . . .

Next year will definitely be more traditional!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Giving from the Heart

We just got back from Houston for our Christmas celebration with MeeMaw and Kimpaw. Had I remembered to take my camera with me, this post would most certainly be littered with pictures of my kids, faces full of joy and hands full of their newest treasures. But since that's not an option, I thought I'd share with you one of my favorite treasures of the evening. It's a poem MeeMaw wrote for all of her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. She gave everyone a copy, and Stephanie's youngest daughter, Grace, read it aloud for us.

Here are the words:

Life's Treasure

Oh, You—so very dear to me
I see your pain and agony
In life's trials as you walk,
Heavy; yet, I plead—Do not balk!

These storms and thorns I would withdraw
But then you'd miss the joy and awe
That lost strength holds to be the key
If you would deign to bend your knee.

For in that place that you reveal
The weakness that you deeply feel
Our Lord is there to comfort you
And wipe your tears and see you through.

Men err to think life is just for pleasure.
Heaven's value becomes each man's treasure.
The temporary storms will pass away
And your salvation assured will stay.

So look closely at your burdens' choice
And listen to the still small voice
That shines a special, loving light
On salvation's love—truth to delight!

Oh yes, it may take some time
But that is the path to the sublime
And glorious truth that God is real
And gives you truth no one can steal.

So you will see clearly then
Each trial is a step to heaven
If you will but gather humility
To bow your will and bend your knee.

As each trial comes and goes,
Remember me in my repose.
I await your finished life
To share your joys, now free from strife.

What a sight that we can share
In heaven's glory now aware.
For this you must salvation see
So please be sure to bend your knee.

Shirley E. P. Bonvillain
Christmas, 2008

Great is our inheritance; great is her reward! We love you, MeeMaw!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Gg Goat

Today we finished our Gg Goat unit. That's right: goats. Because as a homeschool family, if you're not going to own goats, you at least have to study them, right?! (wink, wink) The goat unit is actually the first of three "farm" units, so I have a feeling the authors are trying to familiarize the students with life on a farm more than trying to make them experts on goat behavior and anatomy. But you know me; we did a little bit of all of the above just to be safe. (By the way, can you believe there are books written about nothing but goats?! And can you believe libraries actually shelve them?! Amazing!)

Anyway, as we read about goats, we learned some things that were new to both of us. For example, did you know that goats' pupils are rectangular? And did you know that they like to climb trees? No, not like monkeys; but if there's a ramp that will get them into a tree somehow, they climb up it just like a kid (no pun intended) on a jungle gym. And speaking of "kid," Hannah learned that that's what a baby goat is called; and we both learned that a female goat is called a "nanny" and a male goat is called a "billy." I had heard these words before but just thought they were different kinds of goats. (Just in case you were wondering why I'm going back and doing Kindergarten again!)

We also read a book called Life on a Goat Farm that gave us great insight into all the hard work that goes into maintaining a successful goat farm. Of course, it wasn't all work. The boys in the book did get to run and play with their baby goats sometimes, and Hannah thought that sounded really neat! She was surprised to learn that goats can make milk just like cows can. I told her that Mommy has had goat's milk cheese on pizza before and it was delicious! She asked if I had ever had the milk, and I told her no, but we would look for some at the store. Sure enough, we found some at Wal-Mart and bought it. Hannah loved it even more than cow's milk, which is really saying something! Millie and I decided we would just stick with cow's milk instead. Daddy wasn't even willing to try it.

Someone posted an idea on the My Father's World message board that I really liked, which was to read The Goat in the Rug, a book that follows a Navajo mohair goat from a shearing through the cleaning, carding, spinning, and dyeing of his fur and untimately the weaving of it into a Navajo rug. (The whole story is told from the perspective of the goat.) The follow-up activity is to use a potholder loom to teach the student how to weave. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get my hands on the book, but we still talked about how some people use goat hair, llama hair, etc. to make rugs, and I went ahead and taught her how to weave anyway. She loved it!

Another fun activity we were able to do with Millie was to print some pictures of farm animals and glue them to popsicle sticks to make puppets. Then Hannah and Millie would take turns picking which animals were on Old MacDonald's Farm while we sang the song. We also planned to load up and head to Beaumont to feed the goats like we used to do with Ms. Rachel, but that plan is postponed until the weather is more cooperative.

Our special words for this unit were "Jesus died for my sins" . . .

. . . which brings us to the most amazing part of this unit: the Bible lesson. We actually looked back at passages from Leviticus that describe the sacrificial system and talked about how Jesus is the fulfillment of that system. He was God's perfect sacrifice that didn't have to be killed over and over but was sacrificed once and removed our sins forever. I love how her lessons teach these amazing truths, but they do it so gently! She totally got it! I mean, I didn't learn this until I was...oh...maybe 25, and here she is learning it as a 5-year-old. Praise God! The timing of it was so sweet, too, since it's during the Christmas season. Although we do Santa, presents, Christmas trees, etc. in our home, we absolutely focus on the fact that Christmas is a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus. But because of this lesson, Hannah has a better understanding of what his birth meant. He wasn't just a person who happened to be born and then God said, "Hey, I know! How about if you die for everyone's sins and then we won't have to do that silly old sacrificial system anymore?!" No way. In fact, he was sent to earth as a baby for the very purpose of being sacrificed, just as much as those goats were sent to the altar at the tabernacle and temple with the very purpose of being sacrificed. What a generous Gift! What a generous Giver! Jesus was nobody's afterthought. And I think it's really amazing that a 5-year-old can get that.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Home Decorating for Kids

Today the girls and I headed to Mrs. Cyndy's house for a much-anticipated day of decorating gingerbread houses. She had already assembled the houses for the kids before we arrived, so they were able to dive right into the decorating fun!

Here are a few pictures. Enjoy!

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Friday, December 12, 2008

Day of Redemption!

Today was my Day of Redemption! The girls and I loaded up and headed back to Houston so Hannah could finally have her special reward day at The Children's Museum. (And don't think I didn't check, double-check and even triple-check the museum hours on their web site before we set out!) We ate lunch at McDonald's on the way there, spent a few hours playing at the museum, then stopped by MeeMaw and Kimpaw's for freshly baked cookies on the way home. M'mmm! Here's a slide show with some highlights of our day. Enjoy!

Click to play this Smilebox scrapbook: Reading Reward Day!
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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Snow way!

I'm pretty sure I could blog for the next ten years and never have another post similar to the one I'm about to do. It was simply amazing!

I guess I should really start with yesterday morning. We were getting ready for BSF when Hannah looked at me and totally out of the blue said, "I wish we lived in Chicago. It never snows here!" (Never mind the fact that we went to Chicago in early October and never experienced anything more severe than the 60's. But I digress.)

Then last night after church, Greg and his dad were talking on the phone. His dad mentioned that it had been snowing in Houston since about 4:00 that afternoon. We knew it wasn't snowing in the Golden Triangle because we were just out on the roads an hour earlier and only saw rain. But there's some childlike quality about a Texan whose ears have been tickled by that magical "s" word, and you always cling to the hope that maybe—just maybe—it will really snow this time. So when they got off the phone I opened up the back door and, sure enough, little snow flurries were drifting down into our yard.

I ran inside to tell Greg that it was snowing and convinced him to wake up Hannah since she had just made that comment earlier in the day about the snow. We let Millie sleep through it because she's probably too young to remember it anyway. Actually, Hannah pretty much slept through it, too. I was expecting her typical huge reaction, but she was too groggy to even get the tiniest bit excited. I was disappointed, to say the least, because I knew she probably wouldn't remember when she woke up in the morning and, honestly, when is she going to see something like this again in Southeast Texas?!

Little did I know that we would wake up to a winter wonderland this morning! We actually had six inches of snow! I opened up all the blinds so the girls would see the snow as soon as they came out of their room. At 7:00 I sat on the couch and waited and waited and waited. 7:10. I waited longer. 7:20. I waited a little longer. 7:30. My patience was growing thin, and finally at 7:40 Millie woke up.

"Millie," I said, "what color is the grass?"

She looked at me and said, "Green."

"No, Millie, look outside. What color is the grass?"

"Mama, the grass is green," she replied without even so much as a glance at the window. Then she wandered off into the playroom. About five minutes later Hannah woke up and gave me just the reaction I was looking for! It was the ultimate "kid on Christmas morning" face!

All day long we have been alternating between playing in the snow and coming in for hot chocolate so our hands can warm up. Most of the snow is gone by now, but there are still a few patches of it here and there. It was an amazing day that I'll definitely never forget, and I hope my kids won't either!

Click to play this Smilebox postcard: 2008 Snow Day
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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Ii Insect

Today, with the help of The Magic School Bus: Bugs, Bugs, Bugs, we finished our Ii Insect unit. I would imagine that most little girls probably look forward to the Hh Horse unit or the Bb Butterfly unit—maybe even the Jj Jewel unit—but Hannah has been counting down the days until we could finally study BUGS!

Our curriculum is pretty orderly in the way information is presented, but Hannah was so eager to dive in that it all got jumbled this week. I did start off the unit by reading some non-fiction books about insects to the kids, and we learned that there is actually a difference between bugs and insects. "Bugs" is basically a generic term that includes insects, spiders, beetles, and other miscellaneous critters that I can't think of right now. "Insects," however, is a specific term for those bugs that meet the following criteria: They all have an exoskeleton to protect their bodies from enemies and the elements, they all have three body parts (head, thorax, and abdomen), they all have three pair of jointed legs on their thorax, most have a pair of wings on their thorax, and most have two antennae on their head. After our reading time together, I pretty much just sat back and let The Magic School Bus do its thing. The DVD had three episodes: one about how bees make honey, one about how each ant in the colony has a special job, and one about a caterpillar's metamorphosis into a butterfly.

We were supposed to set up an ant farm as part of our unit, but that only happens to responsible moms who send off for the ants more than one week in advance, so we'll have to come back and do our ant farm whenever our ants arrive. Our curriculum also suggested that we make an insect trap and even offered instructions on how to "build" one, but we chose to skip this activity because we already have a huge assortment of filled bug keepers randomly placed throughout our yard and garage.

One idea that did work for us—or, um, at least me—was to let the student try some honey on the day we studied bees. The authors offered a recipe for a snack, but I thought it would be fun to go to Crazy Jose's instead and eat some sopapillas drenched in honey. (Awful, isn't it, how I'll even use school as an excuse to eat Mexican food?!) When it was all said and done, Hannah was just as psyched about the trip to CJ's as I was, but she was not into the sopapillas at all! You can just imagine how awful it was for Millie and me to have to eat the entire plate of sopapillas by ourselves! Torture, I tell you! Torture, plain and simple!

Our special words this week were "I am a wise child, so I work hard."

We talked about how hard an ant works, and how the work it does is for the good of the entire colony and not just for itself. I tried to explain to Hannah that we don't just need to work hard when it's something that we will benefit from, but that sometimes we need to work hard for the good of our family (such as Mommy cooking and doing laundry or Daddy working to repair our house) or the good of our community (such as collecting food, clothes, and toys for families who are struggling, whether from the hurricane or for some other reason). We looked at several Bible passages about working hard and even read The Little Red Hen, which the kids enjoyed. We also read Eric Carle's The Grouchy Ladybug and learned to tell time to the hour and Leo Lionni's Inch by Inch, after which we got out a ruler and measured some of the kids' favorite toys.

So far Hannah's favorite unit has been Aa Apple. I think it still is, but this was a really, really close second!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Santa's stinky socks

When Hannah and I arrived at AWANA last night, we discovered that it had been cancelled for the night. Hannah was heartbroken and cried the entire way home. When I got home and told Greg what had happened, we decided this was the perfect opportunity to put up Christmas decorations because (1) the night was now free, and (2) I was tired of listening to Hannah cry and I knew this would cheer her up.

We let the kids stay up late so they could help us finish decorating the tree, but we decided to do the rest of the decorating on our own after they were asleep.

After breakfast, Millie noticed the stockings hanging from the mantle. "Mom," she asked, "are those Santa's socks?"

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Ice skating!

Today after church we took Hannah and Camille ice skating for the first time! The City of Beaumont set up an artificial ice rink in the parking lot of the city's main library branch. It was only $5 apiece for 30 minutes of skate time. Not a bad deal! The girls enjoyed watching the group before us until it was their turn.

Millie did amazingly well, but apparently she felt quite a jolt when she finally fell because she kept telling us her hiney hurt and she didn't want to skate anymore. In fact, her ice skating adventure was so short that this is the only picture I have of her actually skating!

Hannah, on the other hand, started off as wobbly as a newborn calf, but she hung in there and ended up doing really well by the time her 30 minutes were up.

Assuming I uploaded these video clips correctly (and this is my first time, so who knows?!), you'll be able to see Hannah in action! The first clip shows you what she looked like most of time, and the second video shows her twirling on the ice. (Sounds quite impressive, but I think I just happened to be filming at the right time!) Sorry for the sideways video! Someday in my "free time" I'll learn how to edit it.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Oh, how the truth can hurt!

Today my Mom and Dad were planning to swing by the house for a quick visit while they were in town. As is always true when someone is planning a visit, the house was at its worst—toys strewn throughout every room, clean clothes that were washed and dried but never folded and put away, clean dishes in the dishwasher waiting to be put away so the dirty dishes in the sink could have their turn.

I knew there was no way I was going to allow my parents to see my house like this, but I also knew I wasn't going to have time to pick up between breakfast and lunch because we had plans to try out a new homeschool co-op. So I set the alarm clock ridiculously early, drug myself out of bed, and cleaned like a mad woman.

When Hannah woke up, I was just about finished. She walked into the living room, saw me dusting the tables, and said, "Mom, what are you doing?"

"Cleaning," I replied.

"Oh," she said. Then after a couple of seconds of silence, she said, "Why are you doing that?!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Up on the House Top

Greg, his dad, and a very good friend of ours spent a couple of weekends working on the roof to replace all of the decking that was damaged during Ike. Now that that's done, we have been waiting for someone to be able to come out and reshingle our roof. Understandably, roofers have been a little bit busy lately.

Greg was at Home Depot in Mid-County the other day and saw a roofer's business card on the bulletin board, so he grabbed it and gave him a call. The guy was busy, but he told Greg he would see if he could pass the job on to someone else. Well, Greg got a phone call today from a guy who said he was ready to come do our roof now. Like "right now." Like the "right now while Greg is at work" kind of "right now." Normally it's not a big deal for people to come do work on the house while Greg's at work; but because we decided to take the chimney down and remove the fireplace, there was some work he needed to do in that area after the old shingles were removed but before the new shingles were put on, which meant he had to be there while the guys were working. But today was Day 1 of the Bulldog Classic; and as pretty much every coach will tell you, when your school is hosting a basketball tournament and you're one of the basketball coaches, you don't miss your tournament for anything. Period. But then again, pretty much every coach doesn't have the wonderful Brian English for a head coach. Brian told Greg to go ahead and go.

Fast forward 30 minutes. Greg has permission to leave the tournament so he can be there to get done what he needs to get done, when the guy calls again. Turns out they're turning around and heading back home because the weather is too nasty to work on a roof. Greg explains to the guy that he has to be there with them and won't be able to be there again any other time, so can't they just come out and least try to work if it's not raining too badly. So the guys agree, and to make a long story short, the rain clouds were right there but not one single drop ever fell!

They worked until dusk, but they didn't completely finish. They'll come back tomorrow morning and do the rest before the girls and I leave for a new co-op we're trying out. After they left, Greg felt a definite responsibility to get back to the tournament and at least finish up the evening, and the girls and I decided to go with him. I'm so glad we did because this is what we saw on our way:

It looks like mountains in the background, but this is actually the wall of storm clouds that I'm convinced God held back for us, showing us once again that He is taking care of us through this whole process!

Rejoicing that He cares about the details in our lives,