Thursday, January 8, 2015

Christmas Break in Idaho

This was the first Christmas in four years that we did not spend almost two weeks in Iowa, and probably the first Christmas season since we were married that we were not with family.   Since we knew we would not be travelling this year, we decided to put up a real tree again.  Funny, Seth didn't remember even having a Christmas tree.  He was just turning four when we moved to Michigan.  Because of that, it was a lot of fun to watch his excitement.  Caleb did most of the decorating which was totally fine with me.  (What will I do without him next year??)  We did not have a fireplace mantel for the stockings this year, but we found the kitchen wall to work fairly well.

The first Christmas activity was the church Christmas program on the evening of Dec 14.  Russ continued his "Advent from Genesis" series preaching from Genesis 22.  The words of the children's songs matched his sermon perfectly and it was an incredibly rich service.  

The following Tuesday the women's Bible study had their annual Christmas Tea.   Since Anna and Lydia babysit on Tuesday mornings so women with young children can attend, they were also invited.  We all chose a hat as we came in and just enjoyed a time of fellowship and good food.  We had a wonderful blueberry fruit dish followed by scones, tea sandwiches, and other goodies.  All the youngish ladies brought food so the hostess wouldn't be overwhelmed.  After stewing for days, I managed to finally combine a few recipes and make little tomato/dill sandwiches on bread with herbed cream cheese.

The kids were so impressed with the tomato rose I made.  No need--it was super easy.

The little gift the girls and I won for doing well on a game.

The older boys finished up their last finals on Friday the 23rd.  Both were fairly sick with bad colds and coughs.  They were happy to put their school books on the shelf for awhile and enjoy quality game time with their siblings and also to read books for pleasure!  It was good to see Nicolas back in a chair or corner of the couch with a book and some type of hot/cold drink concoction.

On the Saturday before Christmas we arranged to play Christmas songs at a local nursing home where a couple from out church lives.  We played in the early evening (before Lawrence Welk at 7:00!!); the boys played cello/violin duets and the girls each played a few Christmas pieces.  Seth feels a little left out, but hopes he can join us soon.   The old ladies always fawn all over him, so he isn't completely neglected.

Gifts for the music teachers.  Thanks for the toggle buttons, Mom!

On Christmas Eve Russ finished up his "Advent in Genesis" series by preaching on Genesis 50 and Luke 1:  "God Visits."  We also enjoyed beautiful music from the church choir and from some handsome brothers who accompanied on the cello and violin.  Those same brothers also provided the music for the prelude and offertory.   It did require several hours of extra practice with the pianist and the choir, but they had the time once school was out.   The kids loved that it started to snow while we were in church and ended up snowing a little over an inch. This made it official--we would have a white Christmas!

View from my bedroom window on Christmas morning
After spending a relaxing Christmas morning at home we went to Dan and Kim Van Grouw's for a Christmas ham dinner.  I brought a fruit salad, rolls, and dessert.  We didn't stay too long since Kim's parents flew in from California around 5:00 and they needed to get to the airport pick them up. 

The Tuesday after Christmas the girls were invited to an American Girl Mystery party.   They had to dress patriotically, (or in a Halloween costume), so I think it was a Molly mystery.  Anyway, I stayed and visited with the other moms that had brought their girls.  It was good for the girls to have a little social time and get away from their little brother for awhile!  

That evening we were invited to the Ribben's home for paella and games.  Paella is a Spanish/Basque dish.  Some was made with chicken and some with shrimp; the shrimp was awesome!  (The chicken was great too, but I found I really do enjoy shrimp).   The kids played a few games on their own, but then we all got together and played Cranium.  That game is always good for a bunch of laughs!

Chocolate fruit fountain for dessert. Katie did a great job setting this up for us! 

On New Years Day an elderly lady from the church invited us to her daughter's home for a meal.  She is pretty much wheelchair bound and lives with her daughter.  Her daughter and husband bring her to church, but they are actually members of another church.  We had great time meeting three of their eight grown children.  They were fun to talk to and the kids loved their sense of humor and story telling.   Besides the great company we appreciated a wonderful prime rib dinner.  When we arrived back home we Skyped my family as they were celebrating their Christmas.   We were able to participate in the mystery gift opening, watch the cousins open their books, and Dad and Mom open their gifts.  Best of all...we were able to see the faces and hear the voices of those that we love so much.

Friday, according to Russ, was another national holiday--his birthday.  This year he asked if he could celebrate with a game night at the church with the church family.  He sent out an email earlier in the week and we had an awesome turnout.  I made a chocolate cake and two of Russ' favorite strawberry cakes.  We added lots of other food--veggies, fruit, chips/dips, bacon wrapped wienies, etc.  I think everyone had a great time and Russ just might make it an annual tradition!

I think that pretty much sums up most of our Christmas break.  We seemed to keep busy on the other days too.  Russ and the boys went to the Hobbit movie one afternoon, and he and I went on a date to see Unbroken another afternoon.  I met Julie and Marilynn Ribbens for lunch one afternoon and tried sushi for the first time.  (It was shrimp and tasted great:)!  CJ had several violin rehearsals to prepare for scholarship auditions, but took time to paint the downstairs bathroom and reorganize the Christmas decorations.  We also took time out to clean a few closets (things were just thrown in when we moved and needed to be sorted out), and rearrange the homeschool room upstairs.   Nicolas spent a day shadowing a small animal veterinarian and also had a few outings with school friends.  

Seth collects nutcrackers so we try to get him one each year.  This year we bought him a kit to paint and decorate his own.  I think he did a great job with the help of his brother Nicolas.  I guess he still needs his beard or something, but I wanted to post what we had thus far.

Lydia crochets, Anna plays solitaire, and now Seth has something of his own to do during read-alouds.  Loves his latch hook!
Did we miss family over Christmas?  Absolutely.  Did God fill our days with productivity and fun
and allow us to enjoy the love and warmth of our new church family?  He did.  We feel truly blessed.

One of my favorite quotes of the holiday season.  Caleb:  "I love all this food on the counter.  It looks just like Grandma's house!"  The church family blessed us with many goodies!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Book Day

We just love books in this house.  So when the flyer for the Scholastic Books warehouse sale came the house, we couldn't resist.   After a quick breakfast that morning, we left to go book shopping.  The place was filled with teachers filling boxes with books for their classroom.  We showed some restraint, but still filled a bag of  half-price books that will be great for homeschooling and fun reading!

From the warehouse sale we zipped downtown Boise to the main library branch to meet Jan Brett.   She gave a drawing presentation while showing us her artistic skills as she sketched Big Snowshoe Hare.   Following that we stood in line to have her new book The Animals' Santa signed.  We were toward the end of the line so it took a little bit, but Lydia stuck with me the whole way!  Ms. Brett was very sweet, asking Lydia lots of questions about her interests.  Being toward the end of the line had its advantages--she began signing more than one book/person and began personalizing the messages when there were about 5-6 people in front of us in line!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Homeschool Weeks 7-13

We started week seven by studying the Civil War in the United States.  The kids read several chapter books that dealt with the Civil War and/or Abraham Lincoln to supplement "just the facts."  We started and finished the read-aloud Across Five Aprils, and the kids will probably tell you that I cried at the end when Abraham Lincoln was assassinated.  The author had just sucked me into the life and emotions of Jethro that I felt his pain:)  Anna memorized the Gettysburg Address, and we all attempted to memorize the poem "Oh Captain! My Captain!" by Walt Whitman.  Right now I am enjoying Ken Burns PBS series on the Civil War.  

We later looked at how the United States was becoming more modern with transcontinental railroad and establishment of time zones.  In this unit we engraved our own railroad "spike").


The presidents we read about and completed a study page on were Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Johnson, Ulysses S Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, James Garfield, Arthur Chester, Grover Cleveland, and Benjamin Harrison.

Other important people we read about:  Clara Barton (a personal favorite of Lydia), Robert E. Lee, Hiram Revels, Thomas Edison, and Francis Elizabeth Willard.

The rest of the time in history we were all over the world, investigating what other important events were going on at the end of the 19th century.  Here is a recap:

     Afghanistan:  How Britain and Russia fought over this territory

     South America:  Paraguay vs the triple alliance of Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay (we drew our own political cartoon about the leader of Paraguay); War of the South Pacific--Peru, Bolivia, Chile (we made a model of the ship Huascar specifically to see the benefit of a rotating turret with guns)

Okay, so this is a little rough, but the 360 degree rotating turret concept was cool to demonstrate...

Canada:  How it became independent from (although not free from) Great Britain

France:  By 1871 it had been an empire two times and a republic three times

Prussia:  "Second Reich" (the kids wrote fairy tales in honor of the Brothers Grimm and Seth made his own Pikelhaube)

Japan:  Opened to the outside world and became more modern; samurai rebelled in the Satsuma Revolt

Dutch East Indies:  After years of war the Dutch take over all of the area in 1903

Egypt:  building of the Suez Canal

Australia:  The famous bushranger (bandit) Ned Kelly during the time when Australia was a British colony and how it became a Commonwealth in 1901

Africa:  The scramble to control Africa and how it was carved up into territories by Germany, Italy, Britain, Portugal, Spain, and France.  The lines they drew ended up separating friendly tribes while locking hostile tribes together within the same country borders.  Sounds like a recipe for disaster! (The kids made textured maps to show how Africa was "carved up")

South Africa:  History of the treaty between the Afrikaners and the British called the "Peace of Vereeniging" which united all the South Africa colonies under one nation.  Unfortunately, in this new Union of South Africa three groups who hated each other now lived together--white British, white Afrikaners, and black Africans.

Ireland:  Potato famine; veto of the Home Rule Bill by Great Britain's Parliament which would have allowed Ireland to have control over their domestic affairs.  This meant Great Britain chose the road of "Perpetual Coercion" which would lead to many years of unrest and violence in Ireland.

Read aloud--As mentioned before we read Across Five Aprils and are now reading the life of Hudson Taylor, missionary to China.

Science--We covered the following topics:  energy, converting energy, energy of motion, forces, gravity, heat and cold, friction, sound waves, and crystals

Energy of motion:  A balloon rocket up the stairs

Music: Listened to a CD on the life and music of John Philip Sousa

Last but not least we enjoyed an art day at the World Center for Birds of Prey.  The girls took awhile to warm up, but Seth jumped right in drawing his peregrine falcon.

Caleb and Nicolas continue to enjoy Cole Valley, both academically and socially.  Now that XC is done, Caleb has been working hard on college admission  and scholarship forms.  He and I took a trip to Iowa this past weekend for a Dordt visitation day.  He enjoyed his visit and had many of his questions answered, but no firm decisions were made.  He still would like to visit Calvin College and compare scholarships.  

An added bonus of the college trip was to meet Merrick and Roman, David and Nikki's twin blessings.  They are so sweet!  We were also able to celebrate the Bleeker Thanksgiving last Sunday and see everyone except Michael.  I just wish the other five could have been with us...

Nicolas had two orchestra "gigs".  The first was his fall concert and the second was a flash mob at a local grocery store.  They filmed the flash mob playing Christmas music for a Christmas commercial for the store.  It was hard to do the "flash mob" thing when you are carrying a cello in a grocery store that allows very few places to "hide".  It was still pretty neat, though, and they sounded great.