Monday, August 29, 2011

Not Quite Ordinary Observations

For Today...Monday, August 29, 2011

Outside my window...the hint of fall. Smile.

I am thinking...about the best order for tackling the rest of my day. And a nap. Just being honest!

I am thankful for...technology; there are days it drives me insane, but it has also served to keep me in touch with my parents for well over a decade, and now allows me to stay in touch with other people dear to me who are scattered all over the world. Not to mention the new people I’ve gotten to know even though we’ve never been able to meet face to face. Words cannot do justice to the blessing those relationships are to me.

I am wearing...black knit capris; purple top

I am creating...Angie’s birthday celebration. It’s not that it’s going to be bigger than our normal celebrations, but it’s going to be something new and different. So, it’s taking some extra thought and creative energy. And, I’m enjoying it!

I am remembering...when my usage of a computer was limited to word processing and occasional games. Goodness, how that has changed!

I am going...to get a lot more done than I did last Monday. And post more on this blog.

I am reading...Horse Dreams by Dandi Daley Mackall, and then I will be moving on to a biography of George Washington Carver.

I am hoping...for a productive week.

I am hearing...the computer humming. Yes, it’s that quiet in here right now. It’s nice.

On my mind...prayer requests. I’m trying to be more diligent to make prayer my continual and habitual “background” thought, no matter how my brain is otherwise engaged.

From the learning rooms...more experiments in light, color, and magnetism; World War I – some pretty heavy details about it, too. Thinking about how to teach it well to my girlies.

Noticing that...highs in the 90’s are much more bearable when the lows get down into the 60’s and 70’s and the highs aren’t even approached until mid-afternoon.

From the kitchen...mandarin duck and tri-colored noodles, plus menu planning for the next few weeks.

Around the house...projects, projects, projects. When fall really does arrive, I’m going to celebrate with a week off school for projects!

One of my favorite things...being productive.

A few plans for the rest of the week...a normal week until Saturday. Then it’s a Tea Party Birthday! Well, a birthday party, anyway – the birthday itself is not until Sunday.

A picture worth sharing...on the combine for corn harvest. Steven was convinced he was “doing all the work.” Mr. Gary did take his hand completely off the wheel and let Steven steer all by himself (Steven was in Gary’s lap). And, Steven managed the auger when it was time to off-load the corn from the combine to the grain cart. The girls got to drive, too, when their turn rolled around. I love how comfortable Gary seems with kids in the cab with him, because my kids sure do love getting to go for rides!

IMG-20110826-00018

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Zoo!

I love it when God gives little promptings! Week before last, Doug was glancing at the weather forecast. He said, “Monday needs to be a zoo day.” So, we planned to grab those membership cards and head to Memphis for the day, if the forecast held up. And hold up it did. Oh my goodness! After the insane heat we’ve had – and now have again – last Monday was absolutely, incredibly perfect!

Doug blessed me with a stop at MDO on our way, so I got to get some hugs from some awesome ladies. That place is like a haven in the middle of a city I just don’t like very much. It was such a blessing to see everyone again!

Then after a few more errands, we headed to the zoo.

First stop, the picnic tables! This trip was officially our school year promotion celebration. It marked the end of 4th grade, 2nd grade and preschool, and the beginning of 5th grade, 3rd grade, and KG. I made a giant cookie for our picnic for a little extra celebration.

Zoo11

Then it was off to see the animals!

 Zoo3It was a really neat day to be at the zoo. A lot of the animals were more active than we’ve ever seen them, and we got to enjoy several “firsts.” The hippos are usually just resting in their pools, but we managed to hit lunchtime this trip. Zoo10

Then there are the pandas. They are always sleeping when we go. But, this time we got to see this panda up and eating! And, boy was he ever intent on his lunch. It was truly fascinating to watch him work through his bamboo. We also managed to see the rhinoceros moving around, which was a first. He’s usually hiding in a back corner, almost blending into his surroundings.

Steven wanted to see the komodo dragons, and we stopped to have a chat with the giant turtle.

Zoo14 Zoo13

Another first was our visit to the enclosure where you can actually feed the birds. To get in to see the birds, you first pass through a honeybee exhibit, which fascinated the kids (and Mommy). This is a glass-encased hive with a tunnel of sorts leading from the hive to the outdoors. I think I could have stayed there watching the bees (and hunting for the marked queen) for quite some time!

Zoo6

Then you get out where you can buy sticks of birdseed that the beautiful birds will come and perch on for a nice meal. It took a few minutes for everyone to catch a bird, and no one caught one of the beautiful blue birds. But, it was fun to get to feed these!

Zoo4Zoo5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We love the new exhibits where we can see the beautiful gray wolves and grizzly bears.

Zoo7Zoo8

But, a Memphis Zoo trip is not complete for us without stopping to say hi to the polar bears. Oh how we love these fun and beautiful creatures!

Zoo15Zoo9

The neatest thing about this particular visit was that in school we were just in the process of learning about how light bends when it hits water. Being able to watch the polar bear both above and below the water was a perfect example to the kids of this phenomenon. I love this picture where the body looks like it’s a yard away from the head!

Zoo2The kids were troopers and had such fun. But, they were also thankful for a strong daddy as we were headed out after a fun tour. After all, they had to save their energy for one last stop. They all had their money with them and really wanted to buy something at the gift store. So, we made that our last stop on the way out.

I love what they all picked out! They loved the wolves we had seen, and decided that they each wanted to take a wolf home. They were each drawn toward completely different wolves, which I thought was really sweet. May I introduce (from left to right) Wolfie, Belinda, and Lizza, our beloved new stuffies. Zoo 1

Another fun zoo trip in the books, and a new school year kicked off with a great celebration.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Not Quite Ordinary Observations

For Today...Tuesday, August 22, 2011

Outside my window...I can’t see out it, but I can definitely hear, and the sound is of the mighty cicada chorus.They are definitely out full force this evening.

I am thinking...not much. My brain is mostly missing in action after a long day of use.

I am thankful for...my wonderful, incredible, amazing husband who finds delight in doing for me. Today he surprised me by walking in with a crate full of library books after I shared my discouragement over planning history for the girls to do with Steven this week. He’s my hero.

I am wearing...cool, comfy pajamas so I can write (if I can find my brain) right up until bedtime.

I am creating...Angie’s birthday plan. Tea party. Oh, and I’ve got to get back to working on her dress this week!

I am remembering...Steven as a three-year-old who wanted to do school so badly but couldn’t do much without Mommy. And Mommy just didn’t have nearly as much school time to spare as he wanted. That age was so precious, and there are days when I want my “baby” back, but I have to confess that I’m absolutely loving where he – and his sisters – are in school right now. Even with days like today when planning just bogged down my whole day, homeschooling is definitely fun right now!

I am going...to find time in my week to accomplish the things that I didn’t get done today because the school prep that should have just taken all morning took all day!

I am reading...um…I’m between review books again. Not sure which one comes next.

I am hoping...for a smooth and productive week.

I am hearing...the aforementioned (I love that word for some reason) cicadas; the ceiling fan; the tapping on my keyboard and Doug’s; the silence of the house as the kids have book time.

On my mind...things I want to write about.

From the learning rooms...science: learning about and experimenting with light and color, starting our weekly experimentation with magnetism, the evolution of the piano and the camera; history: World War I, including the story of the unofficial front-line Christmas truce of 1914. It’s a story Doug and I have both grown to love, but this is the first time I’ve ever seen it recorded in a history textbook. I was thrilled!

Noticing that...Steven seems to have gotten taller again. Angie is less than thrilled because she wants to go through big growth spurts like Steven and Olivia do. She’s just a slow and steady grower, and will probably be our shortest child.

Pondering these words...none specifically, but the more I learn the lyrics to Downhere’s new album Altar of Love, the more challenged I am by them. The official release is tomorrow, and it’s one I highly recommend.

From the kitchen...breakfast smoothies! We’ve been experimenting with them this week, and they’ve been oh so good!

Around the house...a little more rearranging and reorganization. I’ll probably blog about it soon.

One of my favorite things...the sight of my wonderful hubby and precious son enjoying time together.

A few plans for the rest of the week...school, sewing, Gideon’s pastor’s banquet tomorrow night, hopefully some swimming.

A picture worth sharing...

DSCF0340

Friday, August 19, 2011

New School Year!

Schooling year round is a wonderful thing. We get to take off when we need to and plug in to that routine when we need to.

Using a curriculum like Sonlight is a wonderful thing, too, because it isn’t bound by grades. We can combine our kids and stretch it out or shorten it without worrying about getting too far ahead or behind.

And, homeschooling itself is great because we can let each child move at his or her own pace. Or, when something doesn’t work (like language arts), we can switch gears mid year without worrying about the fact that we won’t be able to finish the book before a defined point of time.

But, it also causes a little bit of confusion. While many homeschoolers still work on a very traditional school system with defined grades, many of us don’t work that way. So, if you want to confuse many homeschooled children, just ask them what grade they’re in. You’re likely to be answered with a rather confused stare as they ponder the question!

Many families don’t have a problem with their kids not really knowing what grade they’re in. But, we like for our kids to know. Up until this past year it hasn’t been too hard, mainly because they’ve been working through their math and language arts books right in line with what grade they’d be in were they in public school. But, this year was different. First, there was the aforementioned mid-year LA switch. Second, we’ve let Angie speed up in math and Olivia slow down a little bit to meet their individual needs. So, between that and the fact that we’re actually at the halfway point of our current curriculum, it was hard for them to answer the What grade are you in? question.

So, we came up with a solution. While everyone else is celebrating “Back to School,” we decided to celebrate “New School Year.” That happened this week.

Monday’s weather was forecasted to be beautiful, so we decided to surprise the kids with a trip to the zoo. We took a giant decorated cookie and enjoyed a celebration day. (Pictures of all of that to come.) That marked the separation between the old school year and the new.

Then on Tuesday morning, we pulled out new folders, pencil cases, crayons, and glue sticks. New School YearWe cleaned out their book crates and reorganized them for the new year. So, as of Tuesday morning, all three kids were officially promoted: Olivia to fifth grade, Angela to third grade, and Steven to kindergarten.

It was really quite neat how just giving the day that attention helped make everything seem fresh! Nothing else was really new. And yet the celebration of the new year just gave us all the refreshment we needed.

One thing did change for Steven. Up until this week, I’ve planned independent work to have on hand when he’s needed it. When he wanted to do some work, I’d show him which page to do. But, starting this week, I have made him his very own independent work checklist to put in his folder just like his sissies. He was so incredibly excited! It has given him such pride to be able to read his own assignments, find the pages himself in each of his books, check off each assignment when done, and then hand me his completed work to check when we come to “Work with Mommy” time. He has had a fantastic first week of being an official kindergartener.

And then you have my silly girls. Several years ago there was a plain blue dress mixed in with a bag of hand-me-downs. New School Year 1They loved that dress! I had to chuckle because I knew the dress was a school uniform. Olivia outgrew the dress about three years ago, and Angie outgrew it last year. Both of them have wanted another one since then! So, when school uniforms came out this year, we went ahead and got each of them one. They were so excited! We finally had to tell Olivia that she had to put hers in the laundry after wearing it to school three days this week!

Yes, I would say that a “New School Year” celebration did the trick beautifully.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Couch Cover

Well, it’s done! I didn’t have enough fabric to take it all the way down the back and cover the arms, but my in-house fashion experts assured me before I started that it would be just fine. I wasn’t even planning on making one – I had looked online for covers and found that they weren’t going to be too awfully expensive. But, this couch is an odd size. It’s not a full-size couch, but in loveseat terms it’s oversized. So, when I was looking for fabric for a couple of other projects, I ran across some that I thought would work for this – naturally derailing the other projects until I got this one done!

Before…couch1

After…

couch

I think I like it. Of course, I’ve always been pretty partial to blues.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Not Quite Ordinary Observations

For Today...Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Outside my window...more green than I’ve seen in a while. A few fallen branches, some quite large, from our recent storms – the day we were going to clean up the yard and mow, it rained again; we didn’t complain! A few clouds building up in an otherwise pale blue sky. Much stillness.

I am thinking...that there are days when I wish I could send my kids off to school. There are days I would love for my schedule to not have to make room for regular interruptions, questions, or hours of teaching. There, I said it. And, contrary to the warning voices screaming in my head, I surprisingly do not feel like a horrible mom or homeschooler for saying that. I just feel like an honest homeschooling mom. Thanks for listening. I feel better – and ready to keep on going.

I am thankful for...the cooler weather. Words cannot express how much better I am functioning since the heat broke last week!

I am wearing...blue flowered skort, white polo.

I am creating...a record “book” (really just a couple of pages in a notebook) for keeping grades. This is a first for us, but the girls and I talked and we all felt that regular progress reports would be helpful. 

I am remembering...our first trip to Jordan 27 years, 7 months, and 16 days ago. Mom and Dad are making their last trip back to the States today, opening the door to a very new and different life for the entire Browning family.

I am going...to finish the couch cover this week – maybe even today!

I am reading...Before Ever After by Samantha Sotto. Just started it. Not too sure about it, but we’ll see.

I am hoping...to get started on Christmas gifts this month. 

I am hearing...the kitchen fan rattling and the kids playing, reminding me that I need to go tell them it’s time to move on to rest/independent school time.

On my mind...my parents moving back to the States permanently; the Choates moving back to the village for a month; our friends Bart and Tara moving to Texas; college friends the Palmers moving into their first full-time ministry position. Moving is tough, whether you do it several times a year or are doing it for the very first time. Many prayers going up for all of these.

From the learning rooms...light and color, the start of World War I, the Wright Brothers, and our official promotion to new grades: Olivia – 5th, Angela – 3rd, Steven – KG.

Noticing that...it takes a whole lot longer for me to recover from a sleepless night (or two) than it used to.

Pondering these words... Where there is no passion for the Word of God, other passions take over. D.A. Carson

From the kitchen...leftover spaghetti and the need to menu plan.

One of my favorite things...fall; it’s coming!

A few plans for the rest of the week...not much out of the ordinary that I know of.

A picture worth sharing...we gave the kids milkshakes one day. I looked back and saw this. Her logic? Preventing brain freeze!

Preventing Brain Freeze

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Party Time!

So, how does a five-year-old boy celebrate his birthday? Cars style! We typically don’t do “parties” beyond whatever extended family can show up. But, this time Steven really wanted his friends from church to come celebrate with him, especially since we’ve been welcomed into their family and invited to share birthdays with them! So, we planned his party for Tuesday night. Then Steven decided he wanted to do all of his celebrating on Tuesday instead of waiting until Wednesday. So, all day Tuesday he was “pretend five” while we celebrated. Then he got to wake up on Wednesday and be “real five.” What fun!

S2The day started with a sausage ball breakfast, per the birthday boy’s request. After breakfast the girls and I wrapped presents and “hid” them in my room. He found them! I hung the birthday train banner and some balloons in the living room and got all of the presents moved in there for pictures.

 

S1

While we waited for pretzel dogs to cook for lunch, Steven opened presents. The girls were so excited about his birthday this year because they were able to spend money to get things he really wanted, and they’ve been holding on to them for months!

Angie got him a Razorback helmet and jersey, and then dug in to her true specialty – construction paper gifts. She made him all sorts of things that he loves, from Star Wars ships to cutouts of his stuffed dog! It was so sweet to watch them go through the bag together!

S8S9

The girls used their Christmas money this past year to buyS7 themselves large bean bags. They’ve loved them, but they were a little sad that Steven didn’t get one (he chose other things with his money). So, way back in March, Olivia found this red one and decided that this was what she was getting Steven for his birthday. It’s been hard to hide it all this time, and even harder to keep Steven from using his own hard earned money to buy one himself! He was delighted!

He opened the rest of his presents, then moved on to lunch and naptime while patiently awaiting the arrival of UPS. He had gotten birthday money from his Grandma and PopPop a few days before and had used it to order a Lego Mack from Cars to go with his Lego Mater. It arrived, and he and Doug worked hard to get it assembled.

S6S5

I was so proud of the way he followed directions and stuck with the project. This is the first big Lego kit he’s assembled – the others have been small vehicles with under 20 small steps. This had two instruction booklets with four separate sets of steps. He is SOOOOO proud of his Mack!

S4

Finally party time rolled around!

S3S10

He had his four friends and their younger siblings over for pizza.... S14

…and cake…

S12

S13

S11

…followed by lots of play time! A fun way to end a fun day of celebration. And that, my friends, is how a little boy – well, our little boy, anyway – celebrates turning five! I think he planned his day pretty well!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Celebrating Steven

I can honestly say that I did believe people when they told me it would fly by. But, believing something still doesn’t keep my head from spinning when it actually happens. As we celebrate five years of Steven today, my head is definitely spinning. The past five years have flown so quickly!S9

In so many ways, Steven is the same sweet little boy he’s always been. He’s still a mama’s boy who loves his puppy and his silkies. He still loves all things boy: balls, trains, cars, tractors, airplanes, space shuttles. He still isn’t huge on getting dirty and trying new things. But, he’s also still full of energy and vitality and isn’t afraid to go forward into life full force.

S8

He is still a verbal processor. Actually, that might be too narrow of a description. I think he’s a kinetic verbal processor. When he’s going over something in his mind, he not only talks it out, but he incorporates every muscle in his body. When he’s excited, he’ll jump up and down so much while telling us something that we can’t always understand what he’s saying! He just gets so excited! One thing’s for sure – that little brain is always going. He doesn’t miss much!

S10

And, he’s still very silly. But, I don’t think he can help that. It’s in his genes.

S4

This past year has seen a lot of changes, though, too.

S6

Since turning four, Steven has experienced the joy and challenge of having local friends his age. That has been fun to watch. He has also soared academically. He has learned to read, write, and do addition and subtraction. Teaching him has become phenomenally easier through the course of this year!

S5

And, of course, he has gone from being terrified of the water to being an all-out water bug. He is now jumping off the diving board with no floatie – with close supervision, of course. I almost want to cry when I see how proud he is of his water accomplishments!

S1

His household chore participation has expanded this year, and he got his first paying job. We talked just today about learning to spend his money wisely – he’s got a pretty big wad of it in his money pouch! He already knew about giving an offering, but we’ve tried to start teaching him about a tithe, too. He doesn’t quite get it yet, but he does it cheerfully.

S3

There are days when he feels a little frustrated to be the only little boy in the family. But, his big sisters are still his best friends. He adores them, and he loves sharing life with them.

S11

The past five years have been such a delight. Words can’t express how delighted I am over God’s give to us in this sweet little boy. Part of me hates the thought of him growing so quickly, but the other part of me is so excited to see what God is making of this precious life. I’m so proud to be his mommy!

S7

Happy birthday, my precious Steven! We love you!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Not Quite Ordinary Observations

For Today...Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Outside my window...sunshine after a night of storms and a morning of clouds and light rain. There’s something much prettier about the sun after a rain. And no, I’m not going to contemplate the spiritual implications there right now!

I am thinking...about how quickly my babies are growing.

I am thankful for...rain, cooler weather (it’s 11:15 and still in the mid-70’s!), and the piano now sitting in our living room! Several men from church moved one of the extra ones from the fellowship hall down to our house.Thank you!!!!

I am wearing...summer attire – skirt and top.

I am creating...a rather ambitious project – a couch cover. Without a pattern. The first piece came out perfectly. The rest are a little more complex. We’ll see how it turns out.

I am remembering...when Steven was born and my oldest was five. Now my oldest is ten and my baby is turning five. I don’t want to think about when my oldest is fifteen and my youngest is ten.

I am reading...Desiring God by John Piper

I am hearing...one of the kids tapping out a tune on the piano. The whirs of fans. Music from an iPod somewhere in the house.

On my mind...things I need to be praying over instead of just mulling over.

From the learning rooms...Teddy Roosevelt, light, and the invention of sticky notes. Now what could be cooler than learning about sticky notes?!

Noticing that...it’s warmer in the house than it is outside. That hasn’t happened in a long time.

Pondering these words... Having enough illumination to decide on an action does not guarantee enough information to know how things will turn out. ~D.A. Carson

From the kitchen...the menu planning of the birthday boy! (Tomorrow is his actual birthday, but since his party is tonight, he decided to do all of his celebrating today.) Sausage balls for breakfast, pretzel dogs for lunch, and pizza, cheese dip, and Lightning McQueen/Mack birthday cake for tonight’s party.

Around the house...birthday decorations going up. Most of Steven’s gifts are pretty big in size this year, so there is what seems to be a huge pile of gifts, even though there are only four! I still need to hang up some balloons around the happy birthday banner.

One of my favorite things...watching my sweeties grow. I miss some of their younger days, but I wouldn’t miss where they are now for anything.

A few plans for the rest of the week...birthday partying today, and that’s about it. A nice, calm week, it seems.

A picture worth sharing...

100_9627

Monday, August 1, 2011

Not Quite Ordinary Observations

For Today...Monday, August 1, 2011

Outside my window...I don’t even know – other than another heat advisory. The shades are closed to keep out as much of the hot sun as possible.

I am thinking...that there are several projects I need to get going on!

I am thankful for...summer because it makes me much more appreciative of fall and winter. That was my FB status first thing this morning as I asked the Lord to help me count my blessing instead of complaining.

I am wearing...black knit capris, pink tank over a white cami, hair about to go up in a twist.

I am creating...hopefully one of these for myself very soon, but only after I get one of these (view C) made for Angie for her birthday. Oh, and a plan for helping Olivia make a sock doll for Angie for her birthday. Fortunately, I’ve gotten a few of the “tricks” figured out by now!

I am remembering...how slow I was when I first started cooking. Trying to use that memory to remind me to help Olivia get the practice she needs. It just might have to be when we’re not trying to work other things into our day!

I am going...to have to skip writing a book review post on my other blog this week. I read a book over the weekend and planned to review it this week, only to find out that I was two weeks early! Don’t think I’ll get another one finished by tomorrow.

I am reading...two biographies of George Washington Carver (one for school and one for review) and one of Johann Gutenberg (for school).

I am hoping...for a break in the heat and rain. I know I say that a lot, but oh how we need both!

I am hearing...the ceiling fan and the ticking of a clock. Hmmm…all three kids are up, which leaves me wondering about the silence.

On my mind...not much, sadly. I’m quite scatterbrained today.

From the learning rooms...a short school week in honor of a visit from Aunt Alli! (And there was much excitement and rejoicing!) We will only have school Thursday and Friday, and that will mainly be catching up on some science we didn’t get done last week and starting our new read-aloud. Happy week!

Noticing that...time is flying. In a crazy way.

Pondering these words... From the finer things to the shirt on my back, the less I have the less I lack. ~Downhere from the song “For Life”

From the kitchen...fresh bread baking right now. Oh, and for lunch we had salmon burgers – first time to try them, and they were good. It’s kind of like the difference between a hamburger patty and a good steak – the salmon burgers definitely weren’t as good as a salmon filet, but they were still 100% salmon and were MUCH cheaper than filets. Definitely a much more affordable way to eat salmon now and then!

Around the house...several “put away” projects, from school books not needed right now to some sewing stuff to miscellaneous things stacked on the laundry room counter.

One of my favorite things...new Downhere music combined with being reviewers. Sneak peaks are fun!

A few plans for the rest of the week...visiting with Alli over the next couple of days; trips to the pool; fellowship dinner with the awesome ladies from the book study group; sewing for Angela’s birthday.

A picture worth sharing...there’s something about playing in a closet. I remember doing the same thing with Legos and Little People – and I remember loving my brother’s closet the most, too.DSCF0164