Monday, December 12, 2011

A Caribbean Family Vacation

At the beginning of November we took the kiddos to the Caribbean to celebrate Chris's brother's wedding.  Heat and bugs aside, it was a beautiful trip.  I don't have much to say, because it's been over a month and I'm deep in the middle of lists (gift-buying, party-preparing, trip-packing etc etc) but I thought (especially as today is a lovely rainy day) that a photo tour of our time at St. John would be just the ticket. Enjoy!
We flew into St. Thomas, and then Jon picked us up and we boated to St. John
Andrew in the water before the wedding.
Chris transported everyone from the villa to the boat to the beach (and back)
for the wedding.  
Michelle's mom, Pam, became one of Audrey's new favorite people.
Secluded beach wedding @ 11:11am on 11/11/11
Jon and Michelle, with his boat, Alcyone, in the background.
Andrew and Audrey were straight off-with-their-clothes-and-into-the-water
as soon as the ceremony was done.
Picture perfect couple--and a new sister-in-law! Yay!
The view from our villa--so lush!  It gets unbelievably loud at night, the
animals in the jungle are quite amazing.
Iguana in the tree top.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


I find such joy in discovering how other minds work, (well, usually...reading Lolita introduced me to a mind I could have done without knowing,) and every once in a while someone says something succinct that makes me pause.

Chris is usually pretty level-headed, rational, etc. but every once in a while he'll come out with a bizarre thought (like space elevators...which turns out to be more scientific than bizarre in some circles,) that leaves me giggling.  Recently, Chris expressed frustration at how much time he wastes in tying his shoes every morning...and how much cumulative time is wasted by everyone that has to tie shoes each morning.  He is absolutely certain that the world would be much more advanced if it weren't for being hindered by shoelaces.  We could be living in space right now if it weren't for shoelaces.

Someone who is always good to quote is Andrew.  Andrew always comes up with insightful observations.  Ever since he was a toddling 2 year old (or somewhere thereabouts) wondering about what was inside of blue (!!!), up until yesterday afternoon (a good decade later,) he's always impressed and entertained me with the way he looks at the world.  So we were sitting in our living room, filling boxes for Operation Christmas Child, when he said this: "War is such a small, simple word for something that is neither small nor simple.  It deserves at least a four-letter word."

Think about that for a while.  Very true, isn't it?

Saturday, November 5, 2011

There's Always More to be Thankful For

because really, it's all a matter of perspective.  For every thing there is to be frustrated with or discouraged by, there is at least one way of seeing the opposite.

51.  That there IS a bright side.
52.  That there is rain to be distracted by...even though vehicular accidents are a common result.
53.  Pumpkin Spice ANYTHING
54.  Mexican food (have I listed that one already?)
55.  Sebastian Barry
56.  Willa Cather
57.  teenagers  (really.  mine caught a mouse in my house.  with tongs!)
58.  giggling girls (especially Melindas and Audreys)
59.  meow-meows
60.  apple blossoms
61.  not feeling guilty about not answering the telephone
62.  sewing machines
63.  quiet
64.  cursive handwriting
65.  clean water
66.  that it is snowing somewhere, even if I'm not there
67.  it is still possible to snail-mail a letter
68.  sleep
69.  waking up without an alarm clock
70.  bulbs peeping out of the earth
71.  flowers that you can eat (like artichokes--amazing flowers!)
72.  people in my life that understand me (like Andrew!)
73.  veterans
74.  the faithfulness of God
75.  scarves

Friday, October 7, 2011

In Which Hamsters Run Amok*

One uneventful day, Audrey and I walked into Centinella Pet Supplies to buy some hamster food.

No, let me back up.

When Melinda was 9 1/2, we--by which I mean I--bought her a hamster.  A small furry little Roborovski Hamster who was subsequently named Candy.

Candy lived a happy little life, for what hamster lucky enough to be owned by an adoring child would not live in bliss?  At a ripe old age of almost 2, she keeled over and breathed her last.  It was a difficult time for Melinda, but was helped when we brought home a new pet a few days later.  This time, we (ahem, I) with amazing argument-avoidance-foresight, bought two hamsters: one for Melinda and one for Audrey.  Two little female Robo hamsters that were used to each other, and no risk of being suckered into buying a different pet later on that required more cages and different supplies--perfect!
Contrary to what you may think, this is not a photo of a
 dead hamster.  One of them simply enjoys
looking dead whilst sleeping.
Thus Rosy and Snoozy joined our household.  They got on so well, and were such adorable things to watch.  For about a month or so.  At which point they started "fighting" (quotes necessary as you soon shall see--or may have already guessed.)  Fighting hamsters plus out of town trip equals very worried girls, and therefore more cages and different supplies.  Sigh.  Foresight not so foresightful after all, perhaps.

Everything seemed to be moving along quite nicely, and we went on our second out of town trip, leaving Chris and Timothy to take care of the house and all it holds.  One morning I awoke to a text:
*slaps forehead*
Quick research told me that Robo Hamsters usually have 4-6 babies.  We were blessed with 7, and Rosy was soon re-dubbed Peter.  We found a website that gave us the necessary information to become quasi-experts in rodent rearing.  A good friend took one of the babies, a teacher took another two, and now we have 6 hamsters total: 3 boys and 3 girls.  In our early baby-raising-phase we happened across an interesting scientific phenomena: how is that a small creature who can barely walk and whose eyes aren't even all the way open can somehow find a wheel and know that it would be a good thing to run on?  It is all very perplexing.  What did hamsters do before wheels??

Which brings us to the beginning of the story: One uneventful day, Audrey and I walked into Centinella Pet Supplies to buy some hamster food.  To Audrey's delight, we discovered that the store would soon be hosting Hamster Races!  We could enter as many hamsters as we wanted (for free!) and each would receive a free ball to race in.  Oh the anticipation!

It was quite a bit of fun to watch, actually.  Some hamsters just wouldn't move.  Some hamsters were about 800times as big as ours combined.  We ended up entering the boys: Peter, Cotton, and Fang.
A brag on my Linnie:  While we were there, Melinda noticed a boy and his dad next to us who were enjoying the races.  Something they said led her to inquire, "Are you just spectating?"  The dad looked at her for a few seconds and then said, "What?"  Melinda rephrased, "Are you just here to watch?"  Recognition dawned and the man nodded, answering, "Yes," with a smile.  (Aren't vocabulary/smarty stories the best? Who said eavesdropping is bad?  Eavesdropping on that conversation was delightful.)
Anyhow, Fang won 2nd place and brought home a fancy princess carriage for his sisters and momma to run in.  They've enjoyed learning how to run in their big huge orbs--something Shasta (Ana & Jack's dog) has greatly enjoyed as well.

But the story doesn't end there.  With all the excitement, the cages must have gotten bumped around because the next morning as Ana was leaving the house, she saw a hamster dart across the entryway floor.  Forget trying to catch it, those things scamper like nobody's business.  Sure enough, the girl's cage (which, by coincidence, is not the pink one--the boys get that pleasure) was housing only two furballs.  We figured she was gone for good, because the part of the house she was seen in the lowest portion, with insurmountable stairs.

There is, however, one section of the baseboards that had a moderately-sized hole drilled in it.  I had assumed that the hole dropped directly underneath the house, but started to get skeptical when two days later I saw a shredded Nerf dart in the adjoining room.  Sure enough, the next morning as I was stumbling back from my alarm clock duties, I saw a little hamster sitting outside the two hamster cages.  Hungry, I assume, the little one was caught without too much fuss and now we are back at full hamster capacity.

Anyone up for a little furry pet?

* (As an aside, the title of my post alerted me to the fact that amok is yet another English word in which one is allowed to choose whether to spell it amok or amuck.  Ah, the freedom of spelling choice--what fun!  Both variants derive from the Malay work amoq: "a psychic disturbance characterized by depression followed by a manic urge to murder".  Thank you, that was fun!)

Friday, September 16, 2011

Back to School

This year is the first time Andrew (12) and Melinda (10) have been in a classroom with over 10 students or a school with over 30 students.  This is the first year they have schooled outside our home in the big, sprawling city.  Little by little it is getting easier for me to drop them off and drive away, but I do miss them.  On the flip side, Audrey and I are enjoying our days together very much.

Timothy was a bit blindsided by the amount of homework he had in his first week of 10th grade, but seems to be getting caught up as his classes even out and get into rhythm.  He is regretting not having much time to work at Traffic Management, but did manage to go in all day Saturday, and put in a few hours after school on Wednesday.  He's done a fabulous job this summer with work and responsibility.  Chris was very happy to have him as an employee, if only temporarily.  Tim saved up enough to pay off a debt he acquired due to a stolen bicycle, and went on to buy himself 2 surfboards (!!) and an iphone (with money leftover to pay for those monthly bills).  He impressed me by being bold enough to figure out the city's bus system (motivated by a desire to get to the beach and surf) and now isn't intimidated by it at all.  He walks about a mile from our house to catch the bus to Bolsa Chica, and even manages to catch a bus back.  I guess he's really growing up.

The most difficult part of adapting to school for Andrew is waking up in the mornings.  Now he understands TGIF and the loveliness of weekends.  He has made friends (is going to a birthday party this weekend in fact) and enjoys his classes.  He's in 7th grade now, and the middle school he attends has only 7th and 8th grade (love that!).  One of his favorite classes is elective for people who just love to read.  He says that the environment in that class is the best, since it is filled with people that are there because they want to be there.

Andrew hasn't had any problem in organization, and does an excellent job at getting his homework done without being asked.  He says that one reason he likes going to school is that it takes up part of his day.  His least favorite part of school is his math homework.  Not the class or the difficulty, but just how long it takes to show your work and do everything thoroughly.  The hardest part socially has been the direct exposure to people who are unkind or unjust to others.  Already Andrew has confronted 8th graders for teasing a boy for his looks.  I love that he isn't intimidated and is willing to stand up for others and what's right.  He amazes me, this one.  Brings tears to my eyes actually.  What a guy.

Poor Melinda was out of school for most of her second week of 6th grade with an icky Back-to-School far nobody else is showing symptoms.  She's back today, but a little stressed at the thought of trying to catch up (in fact she actually wondered aloud why she ever wanted to go to Valley in the first place--that's how you know she's stressed!).  She has some friends (mostly due to a summer craft day-camp she went to at the school) but is still working on finding her place.  The elementary school operates so differently from the middle school or high school that it has taken me some getting used to.  Melinda hasn't been very impressed with the hot lunch system, so we are going to have to do some shopping to aid our daily lunch-making process.

Melinda has decided to be in band this year, and is very excited to learn to play flute.  When I was growing up I felt like the only girl who didn't play flute or clarinet (always had a thing for the piano) so it's fun for me to have a flute in the house.  Math is going to be a struggle for Melinda the next couple of months as she tries to get used to a new curriculum (Everyday Mathematics, yikes) and new ways of thinking.  She's always been great at understanding the concepts, but some of her math facts still elude her.  She is growing into such a beautiful young lady, and is doing a wonderful job at handling the surges of conflicting emotions.  She loves people and loves to serve.  Wonderful things are in store for this darling.

Audrey couldn't wait to start school, and has really loved getting to spend the entire day with me.  It took her a little while to "get her math brain on" (as she says) but as soon as I told her that I'd scheduled extra math because she had liked it so much, and offered to decrease the amount, she perked up and plowed through.  She said, "Nope, that's okay.  I can do it."  And she has.  I'm using Math Mammoth 2 and Jump Math 3 for her this year, and she's doing great.  We used Math Mammoth 1 last year, and she had no problem making it through all the work (the program seems more advanced to me than others I've tried.)  She discovered regrouping in double-digit addition on her own...when I told her she wasn't supposed to know how to do that yet, she glowed.

Other things we are using and enjoying include Moving Beyond the Page (which I find to be too Social Studies focused rather than History/Geography focused...yes, there is a difference...but Audrey is enjoying it, and it is on track with what Valley is doing, in case she wants to give it shot at some point in the future.)  The photo above shows a 3D map that we made when we were talking about Communities.  We are also using Queen's Language Lessons for the first time, and I'm enjoying it so far.  I started her at a lower level in order to build confidence, which seems to be working.  We're doing 4 lessons/day right now!  At this rate we should be moving onto the next level before Thanksgiving.  I adjust the pace of her work as we go, speeding up or slowing down each subject to make it fit her just right.

That's about it!  The last two weeks have been craziness, but I'm sure everyone can relate.  We'll get settled in before long.

Monday, September 12, 2011

More Things to be Thankful For

I'm hoping I'll get around to posting more family happenings this week, but in the meantime I wanted to add another installment of things I'm thankful for.  It really has been a good exercise in changing my thinking around...there are so many little things to be thankful for.

26. thunder storms
27. snow
28. mexican food yummm
29. textiles
30. bird nests
31. dew
32. vacuum cleaners
33. brownies
34. choice in how I spell GREY
35. finished projects
36. organized garages
37. thimbles
38. artistic friends
39. lotion
40. elastic
41. pianos
42. trees
43. ponytail holders
44. the self-healing power of our bodies
45. comfortable couches
46. thermometers
47. water
48. fever reducing medication
49. band-aids
50. aloe

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Crazy Little Thing Called Camping

I always expect summer to be a time of slow days, relaxation, and a chance to get caught up on all those things that the school year doesn't allow.  In some ways summer is like that, but I've come to the conclusion that the warm months will likely never pass as slowly as they did back when I was nine.  The very fact that there is so much that I want to do is guarantee enough that time will pass all too quickly.

We did manage to go camping with my parents this summer, and it was a fabulous trip (apart from the stomach bug I had and the head wound Chris had).  We all relaxed, enjoyed nature and each other, cooked food over a campfire, etc.  Here are some highlights:

Hey Tim, Hug-a-Tree!

A duck's head? crocodile? very strange knot in a fallen tree?
Giants in the midst
Papa and Andrew walking into a Giant Sequoia.

We made it to the top of Moro Rock! Piece of cake.
Mmm...campfire food...
Summer is already coming to a close, I suppose, and our family may not get another chance to enjoy nature and each other for a few months, but these few days were great.  The kiddos seem to have been growing by leaps and bounds the last couple of years; sometimes it is these times out of the fury of life that we are able to make memories and connections that last.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Matter of Perspective

This may look like any other tree...until you see
Audrey at the bottom.  Puts it in perspective!
Isn't it amazing how a story changes depending on who is telling it?  Not only do we all process and interpret things differently from each other, but something as simple as the passing of time can make our own viewpoints change drastically.

The last couple of years have come with extra challenges for many of us, and throughout that time I've found that I tend to default into cataloging the negatives instead of the positives.  I have found myself subconsciously listing the imperfections of these years, as if focusing on those will make future years seem brighter in comparison.

But I don't think that's how it really works.  I think what happens is that a habit of looking for the bad points forms, and the all of the positives flit by without much notice.  I've realized that not only do I have a choice as to how I look at things, but my change of focus will affect how those around me view life as well.

I can't help but feel that this should be elementary.  I should have this down by now, you know?  But I don't.  So in hopes of training myself to refocus, I'm starting a thankfulness project. There really is so much to be thankful for--big and small--and they deserve a larger place in my life and mind than the pitiful things I've found myself dwelling on in the past.  Here are 25 things I found joy in this weekend:

  1. fresh air
  2. hot showers
  3. strong coffee
  4. overcast mornings
  5. silence
  6. books (duh)
  7. rustling leaves
  8. my husband & kiddos
  9. sense of humor
  10. bunny rabbits
  11. imaginations
  12. extended family (be they related or not!)
  13. dishwashers
  14. English
  15. ice
  16. internet
  17. purple
  18. tulips
  19. creativity
  20. refrigeration
  21. men who cook
  22. curry
  23. cool night air
  24. stars
  25. sleep
I plan on building this list to an unwieldy size...until it topples over and I'm buried in thankfulness.  Sounds like a happy problem to have, don't you think?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Another School Year is Over

Completing a school year is no small feat, whether student or parent, so I thought it would be good to take some time to reflect on it.  Maybe that will help prepare me for the next round which is quickly approaching!  The next school year is bringing big changes for our family, as Andrew and Melinda venture into the world of schooling in a classroom with more than 4 students (technically they've experienced that at Tahoe Montessori, so perhaps I should have said that this will be their first time in a daily classroom with more than 10 students.) They are both positive about going, and Melinda (in true Melinda fashion) is thrilled.  I am alternately relieved (preteen is not my favorite age, as it turns out) and depressed (I'm going to miss them!).  Audrey is pretty excited that she gets me all to herself next year, although I find myself wondering how long it will be before she wants to be at Valley Christian too.

Audrey was in 1st grade this year. Structurally, this was the year that Audrey became accustomed to doing school every day, even when she didn't feel like it or didn't enjoy the material.  She [mostly] completed her Headsprout Phonics program and is doing a good job reading, but where she really shines is math.  She worked through Math Mammoth 1 this year, and just loves being able to figure out her own math tricks. We used Sonlight for history (cultures) and science, and both of these she finished early.  She also listened in on history for the older kids, as well as most of the other books I read to them, so she got in more school than she realized.  Next year we're going to use Moving Beyond the Page to keep us on track with Valley Christian's topics.

Timothy completed 9th grade this year, and officially passed his dad up in the height department.  9th grade was much easier for him than 8th in some regards...especially in the time and attitude management department.  This isn't to say that this year was easy, but that somewhere in the 3rd quarter he seemed to come to terms with the fact that school is not fair, easy, or fun.  He will be continuing on at Valley Christian for his Sophmore year, which we are all hoping goes more smoothly still.  He is glad that next year will not include band or Spanish, bummed that it will include English.  You can't win them all.

For Andrew, this was the year of blissful sleep--one of the things he most loves about home schooling (another thing being his delight at being able to finish all of his school work in a fraction of the time a normal school day consumes.)  He made huge progress in his writing skills, and is no longer afraid of a 5 paragraph essay.  He's looking forward to making friends and taking electives in 7th grade at the middle school next year, even at the cost of early mornings.  It's going to be hard on him, but hopefully the benefits will outweigh the frustrations.  Personally, I'm glad that it will force him away from his computer--where he's been contentedly immersed much of the year (even with time restrictions!)

Melinda will be in 6th grade next year, which I'm having a difficult time comprehending.  She's young for her grade, and sometimes struggles to keep up--especially in the area of comprehending year should be fun. :/
She loves to be busy, so hopefully the jam-packed school days will be right up her alley.  This year she amazed me with how much school work she can pump out.  She loves earth science and creative writing, merely tolerating history and math.  She's growing a lot emotionally right now (translate: hormones are kicking in!) but we'll figure it out.  We'll survive!

NOW I'm ready to start summer.  If only it weren't already half over. :(

Friday, July 8, 2011

7 is SO Much Older than 6

As very wise and learned adults, we enjoy teasing children about how much bigger they suddenly become on their birthdays.  Wow! Look how much you grew!  Well this year the trick was on me, since Audrey really did seem to get so much bigger and older overnight.  She was really looking forward to turning 7, and she did a great job. :) 

We let her choose a place to go out to dinner (doing that this year instead of throwing parties) and her first choice was the small Indian restaurant we like to go to...but she ended up changing her mind so that she could bring more family along.  Gramps, Tutu, Grandma Barbara, Uncle Jon, and cousin Drew were able to join our small celebration.  She was thrilled to be with her family for her birthday.
The Ruby's staff sings Audrey a Happy Birthday.
Audrey loves her goofy brother!
She's opening presents, but if you ask me, she's the real gift.
She had a thing with cards this year...kept reminding me to get
her one to go with each gift.
Audrey designed her own cake.  It went
through many shapes, forms, and colors
during the design process, but she ended
up with mega-chocolate.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Spring Cleaning

If you've ever been to my house, you may understand the overwhelming prospect of trying to keep the landscaping neat and tidy.  Not only is there a ton of square-footage, but it is filled with old, overgrown plants.  Finally, this month, we had a major cleanup of the front yard.  I wish I'd taken a picture of the container the gardener and his helpers filled with the trimmings; it was an impressive sight.

Just for comparison's sake, here's a "before" photo of one section taken about a year ago (before clean-up, but also before another year's growth compounded the problem) followed by an "after" photo of how it looks now:

Hey look!  There's a dry creek under all that mess!  Fascinating!

There was more taken out (and in a quicker, less thorough way) than I'd have done myself, but it'll soon fill back in, I'm sure...just in time to be excavated when we begin our remodel. Hrm.
Wish I had a "before" picture for this area--such a difference!
Love this little pathway!
Melinda was sad to see her jungle taken away, but since she never made use of it, she has lost her right to an opinion on the matter. :)  Overall, I'm very's like my "To Do" list sunk exponentially in a singular Saturday.  Of course, now the trees need trimming. Sigh.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

My Almost Driver

All of a sudden I realize the terrified look in my parents' eyes when we finally approached legal driving age.  This stuff is scary.  This is the age when The Hardest Part is Letting Go really kicks into high gear.  Timothy is now 15: the countdown is in full swing.

It has actually been a fabulous adventure--seeing Timothy grow and mature.  He has a brilliant sense of humor and a great big loving heart.  This year was the first (in quite some time) that he not didn't plan out (months in advance) which presents he wanted from whom.  Not only that, but he didn't want a huge party (which worked out quite well considering the fact that I'd declared 2011 to be a non-party year).  We went to a restaurant for his birthday dinner, and then came home for Key Lime Pie and some Lime Sorbet.  A simple night, but spent with some of the best people around.

Cue the crazy singing!
Lime and Fire: 2 of Tim's favorite things.
This guy has a great smile and laugh!
What a goof. Isn't he great?
No complaints from Andrew.
nom nom nom
Serious thoughts? or serious dramatics?