Square Dancing

Seahawk spent one day a week for the past several months going to a Square Dancing class with our good friends, who live in our old neighborhood. Even after we moved, we took him in every week so he wouldn’t miss out on the dancing – or the friendship. Today, I have a couple of pictures to share of their “graduation” ceremony from the beginning class, and a few words from Seahawk about the dancing itself.

From Seahawk:

The way a square is arranged is first there are the “head couples.” These are the couples opposite from each other, facing the caller. The others are the “sides.” These are the other two sides of the square. If you’re a male dancer, on your left you have your “corner,” and on your right, your partner.

When the caller says something, you just have to do what he says. For example, when the caller says, “Circle to the left,” everyone joins hands and walks in a circle to the left. Calls have names, so they’re not all as basic as “circle to the left,” but they work essentially the same. An example of a more less obvious one is “Grand Square.” This means that the dancers will go to every position of the square and back again to their original position. To start this call, the members of the side couples turn to face their own partner. Then they start walking backwards. The rule of square dancing is “unless the call contradicts this rule, you automatically face the center of the square.” So, for a grand square, the sides will walk backwards so they stay the facing the center. Then when you get to the end of the square, you pivot toward the center again. Now you are facing the other side lady in your square (not your partner). After walking forward a bit, the side couples are in the head position and the the whole thing repeats until everyone has been in each position. (I’m struggling to put this into words very well, so here’s a video that shows what the Grand Square looks like in action.)

I like Square Dancing because it gives me a brain challenge. It’s the kind of thing that shouldn’t be as hard as it is. But it definitely is. Listening and moving your body the proper way is a really fun challenge. That gives me a fun way to spend productive time with my friends.

Here are the pictures from their graduation ceremony last month. Since then, they’ve moved up to the “Plus” class for the summer.

 

 

Seahawk, his friend "A," and A's mom.

Seahawk, his friend “A,” and A’s mom.

Seahawk, A, Mom to A, and the Square Dance teacher/caller

Seahawk, A, Mom to A, and the Square Dance teacher/caller

Blessings,

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Paquita

I had the honor of being in the audience when my boys danced in Paquita for the Sunday afternoon matinee closing performance a couple of weeks ago. I have tons of pictures to share, but first, I want to provide a brief synopsis of the story.

From Wikipedia:

The story takes place in Spain during the occupation of Napoleon’s army. The heroine is the young Gypsy girl, Paquita. Unbeknownst to Paquita, she is really of noble birth, having been abducted by Gypsies when she was an infant. She saves the life of a young French officer, Lucien d’Hervilly, who is the target of a Spanish governor who desires to have him killed by Iñigo, a gypsy chief. By way of a medallion she discovers that she is of noble birth, being in fact the cousin of Lucien. As such, she and the Officer are able to wed.

And now, here are the pictures from my kids’ dance studio’s version of the ballet.

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Paquita

Paquita

Gypsy boys

Gypsy boys

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The gypsy king trying to poison ___

The gypsy king trying to poison Lucien

Lucien playing dead.

Lucien playing dead.

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This scene was during Lucien and Paquita's wedding, and I thought it was one of the most impressive of the whole ballet.

This scene was during Lucien and Paquita’s wedding, and I thought it was one of the most impressive of the whole ballet.

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There are more pictures, but this selection provides a decent feel for the ballet. I hope you enjoyed the pictures!

Blessings,

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Journeying with our Sons into Manhood (Manhood Journey review)

Today’s review is a guest post by my husband, Will. Enjoy reading his thoughts instead of mine for a day 🙂

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For a lot of parents, there’s a big challenge in knowing the right way to pass on your values and beliefs to your children. Manhood Journey & City on a Hill Studio hopes to help bridge that gap with the Manhood Journey Father’s Starter Kit. The concept is straight forward: they’ve built a weekly curriculum that takes the key concepts that are important in spiritual formation, and they focus them down into a form that’s easy to use as conversation-builders and study groups.

I know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but I was immediately impressed with the packaging. The size of the books was great, and the package looked great and felt great. It made me want to open it immediately.

Inside were five items: A book by Manhood Journey Co-Founder, Kent Evans entitled Wise Guys. Along with this book were the Embarking Group Discussion Guide and The Embarking 1 on 1 Discussion Guide. There was also a DVD of introductory videos and a pack of ten “Maprochures,” which are helpful in recruiting dads to join your group and to help the groups select which modules they’d like to do.  

The Group Guide encourages the leader to use the material as a foundation and then adjust it to fit the specific tone of the group, so I spent quite a bit of time mulling over the content from the first session and working out how I would present it to our boys. The session was built around an analogy of Big Rocks and Small Rocks, paired with a few Bible verses to draw deeper meaning from the “word picture.” This was great. As I presented the concept, the boys’ eyes lit up with understanding. Then I presented the scriptures and challenged them to meditate on how they were all connected.

I let them perk on the ideas overnight and we arranged a time to continue our discussion. Then, I helped guide them through refining their insights.

If you can get a larger group together on a regular basis, this will be a good tool to use as the foundation for that group. I also find that it’s flexible enough that you can make it work on your own with your own children if that’s all you have.

My only critique of the program is that some of the references to pop culture feel dated. I’m sure that some of the parents would get the references, but I’m not sure many of the kids would. I think if you are using this with your own children, you may find that it’s useful to adjust things so that they relate to a younger audience. I’m not referring to the meat of the program (which is excellent) only the supporting examples. For instance, one of the goals of the discussion is to create a “porch moment” like on The Andy Griffith Show when Andy and Opie would talk about the day’s events. If you’re familiar with The Andy Griffith Show, you’ll get it. But you might find that a more modern example (or skipping the pop culture reference altogether) would be better in your specific group.

Based on the Starter Kit, it seems like a great tool for helping fathers open a spiritual dialogue with their sons.

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As always with Homeschool Review Crew reviews, there are several others talking about this product this week. Make sure to click the banner below for more information.

Blessings,

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Manhood Journey Father's Starter Kit {Manhood Journey & City on a Hill Studio Reviews}
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How Dad Helps in Our Homeschool

A lot of homeschool families rely on one parent (usually Mom, but not always) to do the bulk of the schooling with the kids, and ours is no exception. However, we do have one “advantage” over others in that my husband is self-employed, and works from home most of the time. This means he has the opportunity to be more involved than he might otherwise be if he worked a traditional job. Here are some of the ways Will helps us out in this adventure we call homeschooling.

He takes the little boys out during school hours.

This might not seem like a way he’s helping with our homeschool, but it totally is. While Small Fry is nearing school age, and therefore isn’t usually too much of a distraction, Dragonfly (at only 16 months old) definitely causes problems sometimes. Sending him away with Dad for a few hours in the mornings assures that I can help the older boys with some of the complicated things that they need help with. While Will doesn’t do this every day, I always appreciate it when he does have the time to make it happen.

He’s really interested in history…

…and he shares this passion with the boys. My husband absolutely loves reading old books and learning about bygone eras. His current favorite is the French Revolution, and they’ve been doing a lot of studying together about this time period. Together, they’ve been reading Les Miserables, watching the film version of the opera in spurts, and learning everything they can about Napoleon. This included watching a 4-part documentary that they found on YouTube. Past units they’ve worked on together include WWII and the US Civil War.

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He’s teaching them the “family business.”

Our family business is pretty non-traditional. My husband works in publishing both as an author/illustrator and as a graphic designer creating books for other self-published authors. He also puts out his own newspaper with content that he creates himself, including selling the ad space. On some of these outings (to deliver the papers or sell ads, mostly), he’ll take one of the boys and teach him what needs to be done and how to do it. Learning by example is a great way to understand things.

On the other side of things, he’s passed his love of drawing on to the children. They are all most comfortable with a pencil or crayon in their hand. This is definitely something they get from their dad. Sometimes we all work together to write the jokes for his comic strip, and this too is valuable life experience for the boys.

He encourages me when I’m feeling down.

This is another thing that might not seem like it really is related to our homeschool experience, but it’s definitely a helpful thing when things aren’t going perfectly. Knowing that my life partner is supportive of this endeavor we’re on is vitally important in our success. He’s a constant reminder that what we’re doing the right thing, even if it sometimes feels like we’re floundering.

He helps come up with big projects for the boys.

Because our two older boys are getting to the point where they need to learn to be self-starters, I often assign them bigger projects to help teach them time management. This is always in addition to whatever regular schoolwork we’re doing at the time. Sometimes I’m not very creative in coming up with what those projects should be, so Will is always helpful in coming up with ideas.

He’s a good disciplinarian.

I tend to be kind of a pushover sometimes, but not my husband. He can definitely be playful, but he takes his job as Dad very seriously. He knows that we’re not just raising “our kids,” but rather “someone else’s future husband.” We want our boys to be good husbands one day, and having a firm upbringing is part of this. Having such a strong leader in our family is a real blessing for both me and our boys.

These are just a few of the ways my husband helps out in our homeschool and our home lives. He’s a fabulous person to be married to, and I’m grateful for him every day.

How does your husband help you in your homeschooling journey? I’d love to hear your experiences, so leave me a comment below.

Blessings,

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This post is part of the roundup “Dad in Our Homeschool” through the Homeschool Review Crew.

Dad in Our Homeschool

Kids in the Kitchen: Mixing a Marinade

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When my older two boys were little, I wasn’t very good at involving them in the cooking. It’s something that I knew I should have been doing, but it was just never something that “fit in” to what I was doing at the time.

Now that I have a “second chance,” so to speak, with the little boys, they get involved a lot more. Especially Small Fry (4). He absolutely love helping out in the kitchen. And if it’s a meal where there’s not much for him to be helpful with, he at least likes to stand on a chair and watch, so he’s still learning. I understand now that I really missed out in my impatience as a younger parent; having kids help in the kitchen is a lot more fun than it is work. I never expected it to be such a blessing, and I know that I’m giving him something that will last a lifetime. With the older boys, it will be an uphill battle from now on teaching them to cook. It’s something that will have to happen, because I’m sure they’ll be living on their own at some point and they’ll need that skill.

But for now, I’m going to enjoy having my littles in the kitchen with me. Even if just doing tiny tasks like dumping in the premeasured ingredients or mixing up a marinade.

How do you get your kids to help in the kitchen?

Blessings,

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From Boy to Man (Celebrating Manhood review)

Celebrating Manhood Review at Ladybug Daydreams

In case you don’t know, I have sons. Four of them. And no daughters. I sometimes feel “incomplete” because of this. I often feel sad at not having a girl to raise (to be clear: I’m not sad about having sons. I’m sad about not having a daughter). I was going through an exceptionally difficult time with my emotions a few weeks ago, when I first learned of the book Celebrating Manhood: a rite of passage guide from Home School Adventure Co. There were several e-books being offered for review, and some of them looked really neat. But at that time, I knew that I was supposed to review Celebrating Manhood. I can’t tell you why, but there was something about this book that I felt would be a salve to my soul and help to heal the pain I felt at the time. I knew that I needed to embrace my boys and love my life for what it is (a boy mom) rather than what mourn what I wished I had (children of both genders).

So even though I was quite interested in Creative Freewriting Adventure (a book full of writing prompts), I’d Rather Be Your Mommy (a storybook for moms and young children), and Walking with the Waodani (a unit study on missions in Ecuador), I had to choose Celebrating Manhood instead. (In case you’re interested, all of these books are being reviewed by members of the Homeschool Review Crew. When you’re done reading here, head over to that blog for links to other reviews. I’ll provide a link at the end of this post.)

After all that blither-blather, let me move on to what Celebrating Manhood is all about. Author Stacy Farrell opens the book with this statement:

Extensive research asserts the importance of acknowledging a young man’s entry into adulthood. However, most of Western culture does not mark the transition from boyhood to manhood in any meaningful way. Consequently, an important opportunity is often lost.

celebrating manhood coverBecause Seahwak, my eldest (13 years old), is basically through puberty at this point, I thought this book would be a provide us a good opportunity to celebrate that with him. I want him to know that we (Will and I) understand that he’s getting older, he’s changing, and we want to bestow some additional responsibility on him. As much as I wish it wasn’t true, he’s not my little boy anymore. He’s rapidly becoming a man, and it’s time to acknowledge that. Celebrating Manhood is a book designed to help parents plan a “party” with just that goal in mind.

The book (I received a PDF version) is 37 pages, but really only about half of that is “usable content.” The first bit is the stuff found in most books: positive statements about the book, copyright, about the author, etc. Once you get to the meat of the book, half the pages are blank. I imagine this is because it was a print book first, and it’s designed to have the pages cut out and written on during your son’s rite of passage party. Even though you don’t need those blank pages with a PDF (your home printer will only print on one page at a time), they were left in for the e-book version anyway.

The first thing you’ll find (once you get to the main part of the book) is a timeline of events for your party. It’s designed to be planned by Mom but actually attended and implemented by Dad. The suggested timeline is four hours or so, but that’s easily adaptable depending on your situation. The first thing you have to do is work together with your husband (or son’s father or other father-figure) to decide who to invite to the party. The guests should be men who have a strong influence over your son – grandfathers, pastors, neighbors… Once you send out the invitations (which are included as a printable in the book), then Mom works on planning the main portion of the party, including preparing a meal for the men to share. The reason it’s suggested that Mom be the one to prepare this is to show your son and his guests an attitude of nurture and love by serving them.

All of my young men

All of my young men

Once the party starts, the suggested order of events is: sharing appetizers together, a physical activity lasting roughly an hour or less, having the men eat a meal together, allowing the men to share things they appreciate about your son (blessing him with their words), and ending the evening with dessert (not cake or whatever you normally serve at birthdays – it’s important that this party is nothing like a birthday party) and questions. There are question cards included in the book that you can print and pass out to the men during this portion for them to write on. These would then become keepsakes for your son.

The final thing you’ll find in the book is a printable poster stating “Welcome to the World of Men” with 1 Corinthians 13:11 on it.

Will and I talked, and we decided that before we have this party for him, we want to have something in mind that “being a man” means for after the party. We don’t want it to be a meaningless ceremony, and until we know what that will mean for our family, we’re putting off having a party for Seahawk. I fully intend for us to have one (and will write about it when it happens), but for now it hasn’t yet. But every time I reread this book, I’m reminded of just how important this ceremony will be for my boys – I’ll get to have the privilege of planning this at least four times! What a blessing! But I want to do it right, and for now, that means waiting. Despite not actually having been able to “use” this resource yet, I’m so glad to have been able to review it today.

As I mentioned earlier, the Homeschool Review Crew is reviewing lots of different products from Home School Adventure Co. today. Click the banner below to find out more!

Blessings,

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Year in Review: 2016

I’ve heard a lot of “2016 was terrible!” types of posts/broadcasts from different news sources over the past month or so, but that was not the experience our family had. I know there were a lot of celebrity deaths, most of the people who work in media were unhappy with the US presidential election results, and loads of other things that I’m sure made them feel like it was a rotten year, but in our home, we had a great year. Here’s just a glimpse.

In January, Will and I celebrated 15 years of marriage. This Friday, it’ll be 16 🙂

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In February, I learned to knit. This was an absolute game changer in my creative endeavors. Since then, I’ve made 13 sweaters, 2 hats, 10 washcloths, several baby teething rings, and a pair of mittens (maybe more stuff, but this is what I can remember of the top of my head).

In March, we missed out on all Easter celebrations because we were sick. The kids were sick about half a week before the holiday, and I spent most of Easter Sunday in bed, too exhausted to wake up. Fortunately, Will was feeling weak but not sick, so he stayed up with the kids and they watched movies all day. I woke up just often and long enough to nurse the baby.

In April, we had a nice time visiting with some old friends at our nephew’s birthday party. We also took the kids to a couple of concert band concerts at the local university.

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In May, the kids went to the eye doctor. Munchkin’s prescription got a little stronger (he has an astigmatism), but the others are still fine. We also went to the Elephant and Piggie party at our local library.

In June, Dragonfly had to have an ultrasound on his backside. He was born with a “dimple” in his bottom which can sometimes indicate incomplete closing of the spinal cord prior to birth. Fortunately his came back normal. Also, Munchkin and Small Fry attended the VBS (Vacation Bible School) at a local church we attend when we don’t go to my father-in-law’s church for whatever reason.

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In July, half of our family had birthdays – me, Will, and Small Fry. We had a cookout party for Small Fry (he loves doing that – good thing he was born in the summer!). For our immediate family’s celebration, we went to a theme park near here called Enchanted Forest. At the end of the month, Will and I went to the opera. This was the one and only time we’ve ever paid babysitters. Normally we just ask my mom, but it was going to be too late a night for this event.

In August, Will had a speaking engagement at the State Fair’s Author Day. While the event didn’t pay, it was a good time for him to get the word out about his books.

In September, Will and the three older boys, along with Will’s dad, went to one of the Comic Cons. Based on the pictures (which I promise I plan to share soon!), I know they had a fabulous time. Also, Munchkin turned 10 years old and Dragonfly turned 10 months old on the same day.

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In October, Munchkin, Small Fry, Dragonfly, and I went to see the Portland Opera To Go version of Hansel and Gretel, which was being performed at a library about half an hour from our home. That was the plan, anyway. What actually happened was that I took the boys to see it and Munchkin and Small Fry got to stay in the room and watch. I ended up having to take Dragonfly into the foyer because he wouldn’t hold still or be quiet. (My fault for taking an 11-month-old to the opera, I guess.) I was pretty bummed out about that, but there’ll probably be other events. Also, Seahawk became a teenager.

In November, Munchkin spent the first half of the month dealing with having a needle stuck in his foot. On October 21st, he was walking across our living room when he suddenly felt a sharp pain and discovered a sewing needle. However, the tip was nowhere to be found. Upon inspection, we were able to see a glimmer of “something” in his toe, but it was too deep to get out with tweezers. We took him to the emergency room that night, but the doctor was unable to get it out, even

Seahawk doing his toy soldier solo dance during dress rehearsal for The Nutcracker.

after x-rays, ultrasound, and cutting the toe open to the bone. After getting the runaround from several different doctors, we finally got him into a specialty clinic for feet and ankles, and that doctor was able to get the needle out in under ten minutes. Also, Dragonfly turned 1.

In December, the big boys got to dance in a local production of The Nutcracker. We all started taking ballet classes near the end of September, and the boys really took off in their love and skill of the dance, especially Seahawk. Because they were fairly new additions to the dance school (they’d only had one or two lessons by the time it was audition day for the recital), they didn’t have huge parts – Munchkin was an extra in the party scene and Seahawk played a toy soldier (he had a one-minute solo). They had a fabulous time, though, and are itching to get back to class (after the final performance, the school took the rest of December off for Christmas, but classes start again next week).

So as you can see, it really has been a great year for our family. I can’t wait to see what 2017 has in store!

Blessings,

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Picture of the Week: 11 Months Old

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Only one more month until baby Dragonfly has his first birthday! Oh, how time flies…

Vital stats:

Height: approximately 28 inches

Weight: approximately 21 pounds

Clothing size: 12 months. He’s been in this size since he was about 9 months old, so I expect him to outgrow them pretty soon

Teeth: While he was a late teether (none until nearly 10 months old), he now has 3, and one more is imminent

Other: In the past couple of weeks, his hair has gotten pretty thick and long. Just a couple more months and he’ll be ready for his first haircut. He started walking right around his 10th month birthday;  now at 11 months, he walks more than he crawls. Even though he was a late teether, he was an early walker.

Blessings,

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Exposing Children to Fine Arts

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2016 has been a big year for our family, especially in the realm of “fine arts.” Will and I went to our first opera back in July. We had tickets to see The Italian Girl in Algiers on opening night, and we did the whole dressing up thing for our night out. A couple of days after we saw it, Will got an email that included information about the opera house’s free simulcast of the performance. It was coming right up (two days later), and we decided to take the boys to see it. The simulcast is a time when they close the street outside of the theater and turn it into a courtyard of sorts, with tables, chairs, and restaurant food available. Because we’d enjoyed Italian Girl so much, we really wanted our children to see it, too. Seahawk was excited about it; Munchkin not so much. (The other two were too young to really understand much. Since this experience, Small Fry has become much more into opera.)

In addition to opera, I’ll be taking my first ballet class later this month. I’m really excited about that, but it’s really a post for another day – namely, after I actually take the class. I bring it up only to confirm the notion of “2016 being a big year.”

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At the Italian Girl simulcast

Back to opera, though, as that’s the main point of today’s post. Some people might think it’s crazy to take children, especially young ones, to the opera – even if it’s not to a ticketed performance. But I think it’s important to expose children to these kinds of things, especially in a movie and TV centric world. It’s really important that they learn about “real” things, and seeing live performances is a great way to do that. I’m not saying that recorded options are bad, but stage performances is important, too. As our children grow, we want them to become well-rounded, cultured adults. Taking them to things like operas, plays, ballets, and museums is a great way to accomplish this.

And from my experience, even if your children are very young (when we went to the Italian Girl simulcast, Dragonfly was only 8 months old), don’t be afraid to take them – especially to a free event, especially if it’s outside. People think it’s really cool that you’ve brought children, and they don’t even mind a bit of baby noise (for the most part). If you’re still unsure, even at something like the simulcast that my family went to, look for other opportunities to expose your children to fine arts. For example, just yesterday, we had the privilege of seeing the upcoming Hansel and Gretel opera in its rehearsal stage. The costumes were crude, and there were a lot of starts and stops because it was a working rehearsal, but it was still pretty neat. We looked at the website when we left and learned that the “real” performance for that will be taking place next month (for free at the library a few towns over), so we’ll take the children to that. It will be really neat for them to see the difference between a rehearsal and the official opera.

And remember: if your children – even babies – are brought up in these kinds of environments, it will become normal to them as they age, and they’ll develop a deep appreciation for fine arts.

Blessings,

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