Monday, April 27, 2009

Burning, Planting, and Planning

A couple weeks ago, Aaron experienced a slightly traumatic event. His beloved Nemo rocking chair broke.

He has had this little Nemo rocking chair for 3 years, which he used daily to sit at the coffee table in our living room while eating his snack and watching TV (I know, I know - bad habit!)

It had taken quite a bit of abuse from Aaron over the years. We could tell that it was starting to fall apart, so Rashed had tried to tighten up the screws just the weekend before. But unfortunately, it really was beyond repair. A few mornings later, one of the chair legs cracked, split, and gave up. It just couldn't hold itself together anymore. Aaron was so distraught for while. "Where am I going to eat my snack?" he cried. (seriously!)

A few days later, Isaac was searching around for something he could burn in the fireplace. (Can you tell where this is going?) After only finding one little box, he came upon the broken Nemo chair in the garage. "Can I burn this?" Rashed and I said it was okay, but didn't think that Aaron would agree. But he did! Isaac and Aaron pulled 2 chairs up to the fireplace and watched it burn!

Bye, Nemo . . .

You've been a great chair . . .

A few weeks ago, we started to prep our vegetable garden for the season. We gave our garden (and ourselves) a break last year and didn't grow anything. So I'm really looking forward to fresh-from-the-back-yard vegetables again this summer.

Weeded and raked

bags of Compost/Maure and new Topsoil to be added to the planting areas

Last week we got snow peas, spinach, and lettuce planted - some of the few things that can be planted this early. Our average last frost date is late May, so the rest will have to wait a few more weeks.

We've also been busy outside getting a couple estimates on having a retainer wall replaced. Along the entire east edge of our property, an old cement-block retainer wall runs from the front all the way to the back. It was there when we bought our house almost 11 years ago. We've never liked it, but it's been really showing it's age the past couple years, blocks fall off into our neighbor's yard all the time.

from the street all the way to the back fence (our house on the right; our neighbor's yard on the left)

the section along our back yard - we're also going to replace the chain-link fence with a wood privacy fence that matches the rest of our back yard while everything's all torn up

goodbye ugly, old cement blocks! I won't miss you!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

American Idol Top 7

It's Disco Night on AI - Overall I enjoyed it more than I had anticipated for a disco theme.

First up was Lil, but I missed it because I was still in the bathroom rinsing out my semi-permanent, light golden brown hair color (if you must know!) But from the judges opinions, it sounded like I didn't really miss much with Lil; same kind of thing as the past several weeks.

Second - Kris, singing She Works Hard For the Money. I loved it! He did a great job with this really cool, different arrangement. He gets better each week.

Third - Danny, singing September. He also did a great job with an interesting arrangement. It had some unexpected moments, which made it even more fun! I really liked it.

A little interruption to say that I am in awe of people who can take a song that's been heard a thousand times, and change it up, and make it sound different and new. That's quite a talent, I think, a natural gift.

Fourth - Allison, singing Hot Love. She sang it well, but it was a little weird and edgy for me; not my favorite of hers. (Wow - those are some shoes she's wearing, that I'm not planning to run out and buy any time soon! She's almost always wearing something to comment about!)

Fifth - Adam, singing If I Can't Have You. I was all prepared for some wild, crazy DISCO arrangement, but he surprised everybody again and made it slow and mellow. He's amazing too, like Danny and Kris, at arranging songs. His vocal was really good, except his high notes sounded a bit screechy, as usual.

Sixth - Matt, singing Stayin' Alive. The most true disco sound of the night. He tries to change songs and make them into his own style too, but I don't always like his arrangements. Tonight's was okay, he looked like he was having a good time, but not my favorite of the night.

and Last - Anoop, singing Dim All the Lights. He seems to be getting more confident and comfortable each week, and his voice is sounded so clear and strong. His performance wasn't horribly exciting, but it was well done (except for that one note right toward the end). I hope he doesn't leave yet.

Two leave tomorrow night. I think Lil, Matt, and Anoop will be the bottom three; and I hope that Lil goes home - the others are just better than her.

My prediction for the final four is Kris, Danny, Allison, and Adam. We'll see. There's almost always a surprise in the last few weeks, so you never know . . .

I also have to add that I agree with Randy saying that this is a really talented group this year. Some great vocalists, and great "artists", which makes it very enjoyable to watch.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Homeschooling - Part 1

How we became a homeschooling family . . .

Years ago, when our oldest was not yet of school age, I found myself admiring the few homeschooling families that we knew. Their kids usually seemed very well adjusted and confident, and the families as a whole seemed to be strong and close.

At the time, as much as I loved him, I was so looking forward to sending my very busy and talkative son to school! I even remember saying "I hope God never convicts me to homeschool!" more than once because I really didn't think I wanted to do it, or would be able to do it.

After sending Noah to public school for kindergarten, and then Christian school for 1st grade, we still weren't satisfied with either situation. There were plenty of positive things and great teachers at both schools, but still, neither felt right to us. For Noah personally, school was lots of fun and he loved being with friends, but it was also over-stimulating for him and he came home wired and bouncing off the walls. He had used up all of his "good" at school, and at home, we had to deal with his "leftovers".

I was also dealing with some chronic health problems at the time. I didn't think there was any way I would physically be able to homeschool Noah. But after praying about it, and seeking out other options, which resulted in closed doors, Rashed and I began to feel strongly that God was convicting us to do just that - begin homeschooling.

We started in the fall of 2002, when Noah was in 2nd grade, and Isaac was 3 1/2. I still remember our first day clearly. Everything was great! It was new and exciting; Noah and I both enjoyed our day and I thought "Yes! I can do this!" And then came the second day. Noah didn't want to do anything, he didn't like any of his books, I had to give him a thousand time-outs, Isaac kept interrupting us . . . It was an awful day; nothing went right!

But we stuck with it. We had the usual ups and downs of adjusting - figuring out that some of the curriculum I had picked out wasn't going to work for us, organizing things for Isaac to play with while Noah and I worked on school, finding a routine and time schedule that we could all live with. We eventually got into our groove, and found that we really like homeschooling.

Since then, we've been homeschooling - with the exception of a 1 1/2 year time period in 2005 and 2006 when Noah and Isaac went to public school during a particularly stressful time in our lives. Even now, there are days when I sure wish I had the house to myself, or when none of us feel like "doing school", but overall, we love homeschooling. We've learned that homeschooling is exceedingly more than just a schooling choice. It's become a way of life, where we are more connected as a family than we would be if the boys were gone most of the day and spent more time with friends than with brothers.

In many ways, we didn't really know what we were truly getting into when we began homeschooling. But now, we can see so many benefits of it, of which academics are only a part.

We've found that homeschooling allows the parents and the family to be the major influence upon a child's development, not teachers and peers.

We've found that learning is more enjoyable when you can tailor your curriculum to better meet both the parent's and the childrens' needs, interests, and learning styles, and move at a child's own pace.

We've found that having freedom from a school schedule and homework allows more time to enjoy hobbies and personal interests.

We've found that homeschooling enables children to have a better opportunity to grow into the person that God has designed them to be. It's a privilege to watch my boys discover who they are, and figure out what gifts and talents God has given them. And that alone is worth all the hard work.

I'll write more another time about HOW we homeschool - what a typical day looks like and what books/curriculum we like.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Spring Break

Last week was Spring Break around these parts. We kept to our tradition of not going anywhere. But we did try to plan a few fun things to do in our own area (which now has an official title of "Staycation").

Noah had a friend sleep over one night. His friend slept for 2 hours after dinner with a bad headache, but they still managed to fit in plenty of fun.

Another afternoon went to see the movie "The Tale of Despereaux", which was at the second-run cheaper theater. It was disappointing - we'd only give it a 2 out of 5 stars. I've heard the book is much better (yay, books!)

Thursday, we had good friends over, whom we don't get to see often enough. Barb and I have known each other since 5th grade in Illinois and now we both live in Michigan, although in different towns about 25 minutes apart. Her 2 kids have known my 3 boys since they were born, and at one time the kids even thought they were cousins!

The highlight of that day for the kids was making a little bonfire in our back yard! It started out with Isaac showing them how he likes to burn things with the sun and his magnifying glass. (I tell you, that boy loves fire!)

They moved to a different location in the back yard, and started adding more leaves to the one Isaac began with. Quite a while later when we checked on them, it had become a little bonfire actually - which is, um, slightly illegal in our city! oops! They sure had a good time with it though.

(Isaac, Marisa, Brandon, Noah)

Friday, Rashed took the day off. We had heard about an event called "Kidz Fest 2009" held inside a small arena. It looked fun, so we took the kids there. Unfortunately, the advertisement made it look way better than it actually was. But the boys did manage to have a little fun.

(Noah and Isaac boxing with super-sized boxing gloves)

(Noah on a surfing simulator)

(Aaron holding on for dear life on the surfing simulator)

(Isaac surfing)

After that over-priced adventure, we drove to a small town outside of our city, had a nice lunch, and had a true adventure of the outdoor kind (our favorite kind), exploring along the dam and river.

(Rashed and boys overlooking the dam in Rockford, MI)

(walking on the new boardwalk trail along the river)

(wandering OFF the trail!)

(I'm IN a picture instead of taking it! and looking right into the bright, mid-day sun!)

Even if we didn't go anywhere tropical or unusual, I've been so glad to be getting some energy back, feeling more "normal", and being able to get out and enjoy the world around us. And now, it's back to homeschooling and life as usual - which is not a bad thing!

Thursday, April 2, 2009


This afternoon, the boys and I went on an outing to Frederik Meijer Gardens. We LOVE every thing about this place and go several times a year. Every March and April they have a Butterfly Exhibit in the tropical conservatory - it's lush, beautiful and warm in there. (the new, springy flower and butterfly photo behind my blog title was taken there 2 years ago). Over the two months, there are up to 40 different species of butterflies, but I think we only saw about 10 or 12 today. Many are still transforming in their chrysalises and more are brought in each week from around the world. We plan to go again before the end of April to see some of the later species.

This was my first real outing in several weeks. I'm so thankful that I've been feeling a little better the past couple days, and felt up to getting out, because seeing the butterfly exhibit is one of our annual spring adventures.

So if you'll indulge me, here are a whole bunch of pictures . . .

A few of the tropical flowers in the conservatory . . .

and a few pictures outside . . .

(these were in the front atrium in pots - bulbs in the ground around here are just starting to come up)