Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope everybody had a happy Thanksgiving.

We were able to celebrate with some long-time college friends who are also stationed here in San Antonio. They had family in town so it was quite a fun experience meeting new people, sharing life stories, and enjoying our time and delcious food.

The kids played. The adults chatted.

It was a good evening.

There are so many things to be thankful for. Today I am most thankful for my little family, my big extended family, and our many, many friends spread out all over the world. God has truly blessed us, and I thank Him for it.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Parent-Teacher Conferences

This month brought parent-teacher conferences for both of my kids. Though some parents complain about having to go, I am usually excited to hear from the adults who spend so much time around my little ones and know how they are doing.

Both meetings were insightful but we didn't learn anything outrageous.

When it came to Will's parent-teacher conference we were, overall, satisfied. Ryan and I were already aware of his weaknesses, but found he is doing alright with his work (as long as they can get him to focus). To our immense relief and happiness we were told Will does have a friend in class that he likes to spend time with specifically and he is well-liked by his peers. He can play with anybody in his class. Out of the different subjects and topics, his teacher said Will seems to be strongest in his math concepts. And really, with his dad being who he is, that is not surprising.

Then there was Alanna's conference. She is excelling. She is ahead of all of her peers in the class. Her teacher said that Alanna needs to be tested for the gifted and talented program before Kinder or she will be angry. The way my daughter just absorbs vocabulary and concepts is like a sponge but the fact that she retains and recalls makes for an especially bright student. She is still working on using her words to express her emotions, but she's 4 and this is expected. Apparently the teachers have discovered having her paint and make art has a calming effect on her.

Services for speech are still provided for Will per his IEP. Sometimes he is a pill leaving the classroom with the therapist but at least he is doing his work. While I'm on the subject of speech, we agreed to have Alanna evaluated at school since she has some speech issues as well. We have no objections to her also receiving speech if she qualifies, it won't harm her. This isn't surprising since her main conversationalist is her brother. She has grown up around and adapted how he talks so she has some bad habits. I have discussed this with therapists, doctors, and other teachers... all agree that with her being around her peers it will improve, but even now she is not speaking as clearly as she should. Her teacher was mildly amused when I told her, "she has issues with the /r/ sound, the medial /s/ and /s/ blend sounds, the /l/ sound, and she often omits the final sound of her words." I guess it seemed like I knew what I was talking about.

In the end I was happy with our meetings. These wonderful teachers knew my kids and I was glad to see where they stood in their class work.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Teaching Kids a 10-Digit Phone Number

My family and I have had the pleasure of moving every few years. This means that although we are residents of one state, we have an address in a different state, our car is currently registered in another state, and our cell phone numbers are from, you guessed it, yet another different state.

Since we have moved "frequently" and change home phone numbers, it makes memorizing our local number difficult for the kiddos. It is hard enough having them learn the new home address without mixing it up with the previous one (or two). To be honest, there are times I have to pause and run through 3 or more zip codes before I get it right.

With this in mind we decided it was important for Will & Lana to memorize my cell phone number... all 10-digits of it.

How to best help them? With a SONG! I did some quick searches online for tunes to help with a 10-digit number. Most were for the basic 7-digit, but I did strike gold.

Row Row Row Your Boat is a tune that works! See the lyrics below and then my suggestions for the rhyme depending on your final number.

10-Digit Phone Number to the tune of Row Row Row Your Boat
I know my phone number
It is so much FUN
0-9-8... 7-6-5

Suggestions for rhyming (or make up your own variation):
  • 1 - it is so much fun
  • 2 - let me sing to you
  • 3 - listen to me sing or listen and you'll see
  • 4 - hear me sing some more
  • 5 - I will sing it live or listen to me jive
  • 6 - this is just the trick or here is my fix
  • 7 - I can shout to heaven
  • 8 - I am so first rate or listen and I'll state
  • 9 - I really know it fine
  • 0 - I'm a super hero

I hope this little trick can help your kids as well as it did mine!

Monday, November 17, 2014

What I've Been Eying VI

Wow... November is halfway over! We had family come into town and my blogging kind of just went on hiatus.

But now I'm back and I hopefully will keep up this month!

We are getting close to Christmas and although I have purchased a few of the items on my previous posts I think some of them will end up on my list this year.

So, here's what I've Been Eying!

1. Let's play a game! Board game, card game, word game... Apples to Apples is kind of all 3-in-1! Well, it isn't really a board game, but it is fun for a family game night! We have a closet shelf that is pretty full of all our different games, but I discovered we don't own this one! I love Apples to Apples! I think I need to get it soon.

2. Pasta Roller Attachments for my KitchenAid Mixer. It's no secret that I love my mixer. Ryan got it for me several years ago and it is a special possession of mine. Learning to make fresh pasta is one of my goals and I think if I had these nifty attachments it might just help. Though the price tag definitely gives me pause. (ouch!)

3. Jewelry organization is lacking in my bedroom. My necklaces are always tangled and it drives me nuts. A couple years ago a friend showed me her new purchase: an over-the-door mirrored jewelry cabinet. SOLUTION! There are several options online to look at with different color choices and many of them can even be free standing.

4. When it comes to shopping for my kids Alanna is super easy to buy for. Ponies, barbies, princesses... her interests are pretty typical for a 4 year old girl. William is more difficult. Although he does like Spiderman, he is more interested in toys that require manipulation, piecing together, and spatial thinking. Legos and Lincoln Logs are fun, but we are always searching for something new. At a previous church they had something similar to these Interlocking Gear Toys I found online (but these ones have lights!!!) so I think I may have found his Christmas present.

5. This month's book choice is slightly off for me considering I have been enamored with the Outlander series for the past several weeks. I love it when an author allows me several books to really get close to the characters. I will be sad when it ends. With that in mind I was looking for another series and Jim Butcher's Dresden Files has peaked my interest. I've read his Codex Alera series (and enjoyed it) so I'm tempted to take it on. It is not yet a finished series (even at, what, 16 books??) but it might be fun to jump in and tackle it.

Now that you've seen my window shopping... what have YOU been eying??

Friday, November 14, 2014

The images of a farewell

Today marks 1 year since the passing of my Grandfather. This was written shortly after returning from my trip home for the funeral.
The service was beautiful. Heartbreaking and beautiful. And so fitting.

The oldest son, a pastor, honoring his father and holding the weight of the large family upon himself. The grief was etched in his face but he kept the strength. Only from God and the love of us all was he able to sing so purely "It Is Well" while sniffles and sobs escaped from the rows behind me. My Uncle's appearance has always been one of warmth and cheer with his rosy cheeks, full beard, and sturdy frame... but I can see he is weary. I don't envy what he has to do.

The oldest sister, widowed and orphaned, stands with pride. In any uncertainty on what to do we all look to her for the example. Stand. Clap. Sing. It's okay to cry.

The youngest son, also a pastor, takes to the pulpit to share family memories and stories. He's always been easy-going and a bit of a goofball. It's good to see him in this role of responsibility. This is very hard for him. We laugh. We cry. There was so much to say about such an amazing man who lived a long life.

And he did live! Although his life may not seem like much to others, he was something special. 86 years old when he breathed his last. Served his country during World War II, returned home to finish his school and later marry his love. Living on their quiet hillside they were married for 50 years before she left to be with the Lord. Raised 10 children and was the grandfather to 36 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren. A hard-working man. A man of wisdom and insight. And most importantly, a stalwart man of faith.

Something to be shared with everyone: He is not in heaven because he was a good man. He is not in heaven because he loved his family. He is in heaven because he loved and accepted his Lord, who offered grace to us by dying on the cross; Christ's blood forever covering our sins.

Be sure no one leaves this place without knowing the name of Jesus!

We line through to see him one final time before the lid closes. He looks good. He seems at peace. Oh, how I'm going to miss him!

Off to the cemetery. We've really run late but the honor guard is still there. We carefully traipse along the spongy, soft earth and are actually granted a reprieve from the ever constant Pacific Northwest drizzle though the gray overcast stays.

We smile in our grief. We are all sad, but there is joy. The oldest sons of his children bring him to his plot. Next to his wife.

He is committed to the ground.

The bugle plays. Those 24 notes bring lumps to the throats of all who can hear...

And we watch as Old Glory is folded and ceremoniously presented to the oldest, "Oh behalf of a grateful nation..."

I watch as my uncle's shoulders shake and his body, racked with sobs, is held in check. Three of the sisters sit beside him, a few more behind him, all portraying the unimaginable grief that comes when you find yourself an orphan... no matter what age.

The grandkids and great grandkids partake in what has become a family tradition -- a balloon release. Everyone is represented. We watch as the blue balloons drift up and quickly float away through the large evergreen trees which surround this peaceful place.

"Take these images in!" I tell myself. "Don't forget what you see here - the dreary weather, the soft ground, those flowers left atop the casket. He's here but not here. Say goodbye! Notice the love of the family. They are here, together, and will reach out for any one of us if we need it."

Once again at the church. There is laughter and a sense of relief. It is over. We will miss him but he was tired and he was ready to go. There is also an emptiness -- the Patriarch of our family is gone... who will hold us together? When will we all get together again?

Family photos are a must, now! More laughter. As rarely as we all gather this seems practiced.

just the grandkids and great grandkids
the family: children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and the spouses (and we're still missing a few people)
the 10 children

Family members begin to trickle away. The crowd starts to dwindle, and before I can realize what is happening-- everything is finished... and I'm left to process my own emotions and memories of what has just happened.

And I find peace in my soul.

*** Thanks to several family members for their photos used in this post.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Halloween 2014

Halloween came and went. I can't believe how quickly it showed up! I meant to post about this on Monday... life happened. But, anyway, it was a fun night.

Usually I make the kids' costumes, but this year Will wanted to be Spiderman. I hemmmed and hawwed for awhile about how I would pull that off considering he wanted the "muscles" from the store costumes. In the end I decided to make life easy on myself and just bought them both the costumes they wanted off the store shelves.

It was done. It was simple. And in the end I probaby saved a bunch of money.

The night before Halloween we carved our pumpkins. Not surprisingly, I ended up doing most of the work. Will was scraping out quite a bit but Lana kept saying how "gross" and "sticky" the insides were and not wanting to do the work. Helping me to clean them out, hubby came to the rescue.

Since we went with small pumpkins we didn't do the fancy stencils. I gave the children choices of eyes, nose, and mouth and they got to create their own pumpkin faces for me to carve. Doubling the lights inside gave them an interesting appearance.

On Halloween we all put on in our fun costumes (except Ryan). Will as Spiderman, Lana as Belle, and I pulled out my trusty pirate costume I made back in 2009.

We started kind of early (6:30-ish). It hasn't been getting dark here until rather late so the sun was still very much UP when we did our trick-or-treating. Since our kids don't need a ton of candy and they are still young, we just took them around the block of our neighborhood. They loved it, of course.

Back at our house we settled down to hand out candy. This is my favorite part... I love to see the fun costumes and the cute little kids too shy to say anything. I think it is Will and Lana's favorite part too! With it being a warm evening (very different from in Ohio) we sat on the porch in our chairs to greet the trick-or-treaters. At one point Alanna's Pre-school teacher came by... apparently she lives just a street over from us. Will and Lana were crazy excited to see her and show her our decorations and their costumes.

Eventually the night ran down. Treats were gone. The lights turned off. We tried to limit the candy being consumed, but I'm pretty sure they sneaked more than we saw. Oh well. That's the fun part of being a kid on Halloween!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

A Look Back: Lake Kawaguchiko & Shiraito Falls

After being able to find and download all my old Myspace blogs I am doing some look backs on the adventures we experienced while living in Japan. These have been left exactly how I wrote them in my early 20's -- in all my immature, na├»ve, and ineloquent glory. Pictures have been added.

This was William's first real exploration outside of our city in Japan. He was just a couple weeks shy of 3 months old.

May 23, 2008

This memorial day weekend I decided that we MUST get out of the area. Ryan needed a break, but more than anything I really wanted to go somewhere since I hadn't really gone anyplace since Will was born.

So... off we went to the Mt. Fuji area. Our first stop was at Lake Kawaguchiko (where I went with my parents). Problem was that Ryan was navagating and we took a wrong turn. It all turned out well though because we ended up at a different park. Will ate, and got a change, and we walked by the lake and saw some ducks. Then off we went to find the original park I was looking for. We walked along on the nature trail then stopped off and got some ice cream. Of course every person we ran into had to stare at Will and exclaim "kawaii!" translation: "cute".

What made Ryan really happy is that there were very few people around... an uncommon occurance in our area.

Next we decided to go to Shiraito falls. I'd heard about it, knew the base took tours there, and saw it on our map so we decided to head over there. It was about 30-45 minutes away from Kawaguchiko... not too bad. We got there (with some directional issues thanks to the navagator) and headed to the falls. Ryan decided to bring the stroller... I was against it 'cause I figured there would be some climbing or something.

We followed the walkway to the falls: beautiful! Some guy even took a picture of the three of us for us. Then I see the real Shiraito falls part and there is a long stair trail to them. We asked some shop keepers if we could leave our stroller in their place by their bikes and they said that was fine. We hiked on down and enjoyed the view.
Otodome Falls (translation: Stop the Sound)

They really are pretty! Will seemed facinated by the people and smells and noises. These old guys stopped us as we were heading down so they could take a picture of us three like we're some freak show. I think they were more interested in our baby... you know he is just adorable!

Shiraito Falls (translation: threads of silk or silk curtain)
Anyway, after the falls we headed back, stopped at McDonalds for food and then went all the way home. It was a lovely day. I only got a little sunburnt and I think it was mostly from driving.

Will was WONDERFUL! He slept practically the entire time we were in the car. He isn't eating as often now so that makes things easier too. His only issue was when we were going home. I think he was just ready to be done and cried off and on the entire way - about 2 hours. Ryan said he enjoyed himself too and was happy to see another aspect of Japan.

I think in the future I want to make another trip out to that area. On the drive I saw signs for Icicle Lava Caves and Bat Caves and I still want to see the other 3 lakes I haven't been too. We also discussed making a trip to the 5th station of Mt. Fuji just to re-visit and such --- I'm not climbing that thing again.

Oh, and I should mention that we, of course, had lovely views of Mt. Fuji. Unfortunately there was a lot of snow on it and many clouds so it doesn't turn out too well being photographed.

All in all, great day! Tomorrow we relax, recover, and clean the house.