On the Pontoon
My husband has wanted a boat for a long time. A really long time. But we have a couple of other “big” goals that need to happen first. But a couple of weeks ago, he took the first step toward getting a boat anyway – he took the DMV boater’s class and got his boating license! And we headed to a (fairly) local lake where we rented a pontoon and spent the afternoon on the water.
To get to the lake, we had to drive about an hour and fifteen minutes. Of course, with eight people (and two cars), that ended up being over three hours because we had to stop for lunch on the way. And to get coolers and drinks to take on the boat.
Will had reserved the boat earlier in the week, so when we arrived at the lake it was smooth sailing (pardon the pun) to get the rental finalized and load everyone onto the pontoon. He had just finished his boating license course really late the night before, so this was to be his first time driving a boat. This meant he was a bit nervous in the beginning, and it took us quite a while to get out of the “no wake” zone and into open water. We had a lovely time just puttering around the lake for about an hour and a half, but then someone had to use the bathroom (of course!). So we found a dock that had facilities and made everyone go so we wouldn’t have to stop again. Though, it turned out that the restroom was right near the swimming hole, so everyone but Will spent some time in the water. I’d forgotten my swimming suit, so I just went in ankle deep, staying with Bumblebee, who just kicked his fear of water (literally everything water, even basic stuff like handwashing) the night before. He did great going into the lake and getting his feet “all wet” (his words). Everyone else (Ballet Boy, his girl friend, Scorpion, Grasshopper, and Dragonfly) went out much deeper in the water. The younger kids wore life jackets. Will undocked the boat and sailed around while we all played in the water.
An hour before our rental was up, we loaded everyone back onto the pontoon to finish out the afternoon. Will had so much fun driving the boat, and by the end of the 3-hour-rental, he was much more confident. What had taken 15 minutes when we left the dock (navigating through the no wake zone) only took 5 at the end of the trip. And we finished the evening up with dinner at one of our favorite Mexican restaurants.
Have you ever been on a pontoon? Did you drive, or were you a passenger?
The Homeschool Review Crew challenge this week is Fathers – rather appropriate since Father’s Day is coming right up here in the US. I’d like to take a small moment to honor the fathers in my life.
My mom and dad divorced when I was small, so I grew up seeing my dad the standard “every other weekend.” Because of this, his love language for us became gifts and experiences – the stereotypical Disneyland Dad. When my brothers (I have two – one is 2 1/2 years younger than me and the other 8 1/2 years younger) and I were small, this meant tons of camping trips, going to the amusement park, bowling and pizza, and movie rentals.
We grew apart during my teenage years, but I realized the folly of my ways a couple years on and clung to him later. When I was old enough to get married, he walked me down the aisle with tears (of joy) in his eyes. When I started having babies, he was always there (maybe not in person, but mentally and emotionally). He was a really great grandfather. I could always count on him to babysit in a pinch, even if he wasn’t the “best” at it.
I remember when Dragonfly was a tiny baby, we asked him to babysit so we could take the other boys to see Willy Wonka in the theater (one of the local cinemas ran it when Gene Wilder died). He had to call us before we’d made it all the home because the baby just wouldn’t stop crying. Dad was pretty stressed out, but he pulled through. (We were on our way home when he called, so it was just another 10 or 15 minutes of cranky baby for him.)
When Bumblebee was born, Dad couldn’t make it to the hospital (he’d moved a couple of hours away by that point), but I called him from the hospital to share the news. Telling him that we’d given the new baby Dad’s name as baby’s middle was one of the most touching things I’ve ever experienced. He and his fiancee both cried tears of joy on hearing that news. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that phone call (I hope I don’t anyway).
Last year, I lost my dad to undiagnosed cancer. He was a stubborn man who would never go to a doctor. My mom told me once that when they were still married and Dad was sick, that he made her go to the doctor and give his symptoms as her own in order to get the medicine, and then he’d take it instead of her. Crazy. He knew he had cancer (obviously not officially), but he was tough as nails to the end. I still miss him a lot, but things are easier now than they were a year and a half ago.
When my parents split up, I was just 5. By the time I was 6, my mom had remarried, and she and my stepdad are still married to this day. John was always a good provider for us. He worked really hard to support the family, and was never one that I had to fight with (“you’re not my dad”). He taught me to drive when I was 15, and a lot of the cooking I did in my earlier years came from his recipes too. He has been as much a father figure to me as Dad was. I asked him to join in the “walking down the aisle” duties, but he declined, not wanting to step on my dad’s toes on that special day. My kids call him “Grandpa John,” and I think he has definitely earned that title.
My husband… He is an amazing man, and I don’t think I praise him enough. We got married very young, but have stuck together through thick and thin. You know in your wedding vows when you say “for richer or poorer”? We’ve been both! Fortunately now, we’re in a “richer” time in our lives, both financially and in family. He humors me through all of my hobbies, never being stingy on getting me supplies. He has always been supportive in our quest to keep our kids out of daycare. This means that we’ve been a single-income family for over 17 years. I know that’s been stressful for him before, but he never complained. It was important to him too.
When our oldest son was eligible for Kindergarten, sending him to public school was never even something we talked about. Even though sending him off to school would have made things easier (I could have gone back to work), it was as big a priority for Will as it was for me (maybe more so) to keep the boys home for school. He was always willing to help me try to figure out what homeschooling should look like for our family. We spent many hours together in Lakeshore Learning Stores, going over different curricula and workbooks when the teens were small. Now that we’ve got a younger crop of sons in the early years of their homeschool careers, things are different. But Will is always excited to hear from the boys what they “learned about in school today.”
Without him, I can’t imagine what my life would be like. I know it would be different, but there’s no way it would be better. I am thankful every single day for my husband – the father of my children.
Head over to the Homeschool Review Crew website for other people’s takes on the theme “Fathers” today.
Meet the Family: Will
Will and I have been married for 19 years. He runs a publishing and graphic design company. The publishing side deals with his own books (he draws comics and writes and illustrates picture books). He also has a magazine, which features comics, stories, and non-fiction profiles. The goal of the magazine is to promote art and literacy in schools. As such, he offers copies free to schools for their students.
The graphics side focuses on helping other self-published authors get their books ready for print. He takes the text and illustrations (when applicable) and sets up the appropriate title pages, fonts, etc.
Outside of work, his favorite books are Cold Mountain and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series. He enjoys mobster movies and spy shows. His favorite beverage is iced tea, and one of our regular date nights is to hit our favorite restaurant, sometimes just to drink tea and talk.
Though he works hard, he also likes to play hard. He isn’t opposed to getting down on the floor to play horsie with the little kids or grabbing a Nerf gun to shoot the teenagers.
He is a great interior designer; our home is beautiful because of his eye, not mine. He prefers his music on vinyl, as is proof by our collection of nearly 200 records.
I am blessed to get to spend my life with him.
Meet the Family: Me
Because I took a long break from blogging, I though it might be a good idea to introduce my family. I’ll do one member a week until we’re all done, and will likely give the three older boys new “blog nicknames,” so if you’ve been here a while, don’t get confused when that happens. (Their current names were chosen many years ago, and their interests/sizes have changed, which was how I chose the names in the first place. Since I’m kind of starting fresh, it makes sense to do so fully.)
Let’s start with me!
My name is Wendy. I’ve been married for 19 years, and together my husband and I have 5 boys, ages 16, 13, 7, 4, and 1. I’ve been blessed to be able to stay home with my boys since the day our oldest was born. (Actually, I quit my job 3 weeks before he was born.) Four of my boys have been born via c-section, and while I was crushed when I was having my first one (with our second son, an emergency), I actually don’t mind them anymore. The first time we got to “choose” a birthday it was weird, but it’s kind of par for the course now. We have chosen to homeschool our boys, and to help with that I’m a member of the Homeschool Review Crew.
My hobbies are knitting and crocheting. I go back and forth between the two fairly regularly. I like knitting for anything that will be worn, and crocheting for things like blankets and toys. I’ve made many things in many categories over the years. I used to make quilts, but (almost) 3 years ago I got rid of my sewing machine. I’ve recently been bitten by the quilting bug, though, and hope to get a new sewing machine soon.
I sometimes enjoy reading, but it is more for work than recreation these days because I do copy editing for my husband’s publishing company. I also enjoy writing, and a recent children’s story I wrote was published in my husband’s magazine and distributed to over 10,000 elementary and middle school kids.
My favorite animals are elephants (though ladybugs are second place). My favorite colors are pink and brown.
I think that’s it for now. I’m sure you’ll learn more about me as you continue to spend time here.
Several years ago, when we first took the big kids to the eye doctor, Munchkin was diagnosed with an astigmatism. It turns out that this is very minor, and is easily correctable with glasses. He’s worn them since he was 5. Just this year, we let him switch to contacts. It was quite a learning curve for him, but it’s been really good. He’s super happy with them, and now has the benefit of being able to see during dance class and performances when the kids go back next month. His astigmatism is so minor that the eye doctor (a different one than the one who first gave the diagnosis) was comfortable and able to prescribe him “spherical” contact lenses.
Seahawk had a different diagnosis, and one that is a bit more unusual. We were told way back then that he is red/green color blind. This doesn’t mean that he doesn’t see in color (as a child version of me thought when she heard “color blind”). It just means that he can’t see certain combinations of colors, and some colors may not look the same to him as they do to a person with regular color vision. A couple of years ago, I went over the Ishihara Color Blindness Test with him, more for my own curiosity than anything else. In case you’re not familiar, it’s just a series of images. If you can differentiate the designs (mostly numbers) from the background, then you have regular vision. If you can’t, then you’re color blind. Seahawk couldn’t see any of the numbers. I found that absolutely fascinating, because I didn’t have any trouble seeing them at all. I believed him when he said he couldn’t see anything there, but at the same time I couldn’t comprehend it. The numbers all seemed so clear to me!
Because this has been such an interesting diagnosis for him, we told people (especially grandparents and other close relatives) right away about it. My dad was the most interested/concerned. He always wanted to be able to do something to help Seahawk see colors better, but what?
Grandpa was watching TV one day and saw a piece about how a man had invented a “cure” for color blindness completely by accident. I don’t know the full story, but apparently the guy was trying to invent some other kind of lens and when he gave it to his friend to try out he was told, “It doesn’t work for [that], but these are still amazing! I’m color blind and can see things in a completely different way now.” The inventor had no idea his friend was color blind, so this was quite a shock to him, but he rolled with it and started marketing the glasses. My dad heard about them and immediately decided he wanted to get a pair for Seahawk. It took him a while to save up the money (he’s retired), but he did it, and just a couple of weeks ago brought the glasses to us for Seahawk.
He never told Seahawk that he was planning to buy him a pair, or that that was the reason he was coming to visit. (Living two hours away, the visits can be pretty sparse sometimes.) He bought the other kids regular sunglasses on his way so that it would be less “out of the blue” for Seahawk to get a pair. With everyone’s glasses on their faces, we went outside to try them all out. Seahawk took one look at Grandpa’s truck with his new glasses on and was instantly confused. “I thought your truck was purplish…” It’s actually dark blue. For the first time ever, while wearing these glasses, he was able to see the color for what it really was. We all just stood there quietly while he processed what he was seeing, and the moment he did was pretty magical. “Wait a minute… are these color blind glasses?!” He was pretty excited to be able to see true colors for the first time in his life.
Seahawk has never been much of a glasses wearer (the eye doctors always say that he could benefit from reading glasses, but I know from experience that he won’t wear them so we don’t get them – the eye doctors are okay with that because his vision isn’t that bad), so he doesn’t wear his color blindness glasses all the time. But there are times when he really wants to see the true colors of things, and he always wears them then. These include activities such as watching movies, going to the duck pond, playing Jumanji (the game uses red/blue “hidden messages” with a decoder), and more.
Will and I – and especially my dad – are so glad that Seahawk can now see in true color!
2017 Oregon State Fair (part 1)
We took the boys to the State Fair for the second year in a row, and it was really a lot of fun. This year, we did the real “fair” things and skipped the carnival rides. Today, I want to talk about Small Fry and one of his very favorite activities and how it related to the fair.
So, my 5-year-old just loves watching How to Cook That on YouTube. It’s a channel run by an Australian woman named Ann Reardon, and she makes all sorts of amazing cakes and other sweet treats. Small Fry especially enjoys watching the cake decorating tutorials. Until recently, his favorite was the Play-Doh bucket cake. In fact, I was going to make him that one for his birthday this year, but then we had to move and ended up not doing a party. How does an Australian woman’s YouTube channel relate to the Oregon State Fair? Well, front and center in the artists room was a whole series of elaborately decorated cakes! As you can imagine, this was really fun for us to see. We looked at all of them and each chose our favorite.
My favorite was this hot air balloon cake.
Munchkin’s favorite was this turtle cake.
And Small Fry, being the cake decorating “connoisseur” that he is, had a difficult time choosing. But in the end, he picked this Totem pole cake that was as tall as Will.
His runners-up were the Princess Castle cake
and the pirate cake.
More on the State Fair early next week 🙂
We are fortunate to live in an area where there was 100% coverage during the solar eclipse yesterday, and we took advantage of that! (We’re right on the very edge of the totality zone; even just 18 miles NW of us, in the town we used to live in, was outside of it. They had over 99% coverage, but not quite the full 100 we got to experience.) Will took the morning off from work (one of the benefits of being self-employed), and all six of us headed outside for some eclipse fun and learning. We had just one pair of protective glasses to share, but it was totally fine. We took turns, and no one felt like they didn’t have enough opportunities to see the sun. It was fascinating to see the sky go dark as the moon got in the way of the sun, and to feel the temperature drop. Being in an area of totality, I loved looking at the eclipse during that one minute of full coverage. It truly felt like the experience of a lifetime!
To help us get a gauge on what was happening, we used a makeshift pinhole camera in the form of a colander we took outside. By aiming it just right, we were able to see the crescent-shaped shadows on the paper we laid out. The paper allowed us better visibility than the sidewalk did. It was also really neat to watch the shadows from the trees go from regular to crescent and back again.
My only regret was being unable to get a photograph of the eclipse itself, at any moment. Even when I put the eclipse glasses over my camera lens, all I could get was a bright circle of sun – never any blockage from the moon. Despite that, I have the memory of seeing it in real life, and that’s pretty awesome.
Here are a few pictures from our time outside.
Seeing a full solar eclipse was an absolutely amazing experience, and I’m really glad we got to have it.
Our Week in Pictures (July 14)
Here’s a photographic glimpse of our week.
Seahawk got a haircut.
And he opted to not just go for a shorter version of his old style; he picked something completely new, which we supported since he’s not really a little boy anymore. He needed a new style, and we’re all really pleased with how it turned out.
I dyed some yarn.
I’d been watching a lot of YouTube tutorials on the subject lately (just for fun), and decided that I wanted to try it myself. I’d picked up a skein of plain white, wool yarn from my local yarn store on my birthday (they offer a 25% discount if you shop on your birthday), specifically to experiment with dyeing. It took several days of thinking before I knew what I wanted my dyed yarn to look like, but once I had, I went to work quickly. I started by dying the whole thing a light teal blue…
…and then I added spots of purple, blue, and red. It didn’t turn out exactly the way I’d envisioned (I was hoping for more speckles than spots/globs), but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it. It’s very beautiful, and I look forward to knitting someone a gift with my hand-dyed yarn.
We went to “museums” at the Oregon Coast.
My birthday is July 3rd. Will’s is July 5th. Small Fry’s is July 12th. That’s a lot of birthdays, all really close together, so we usually try to do one big trip to celebrate them all (we also do special stuff for Small Fry by himself). This year, we went to the Oregon Coast and picked up my dad (he moved to a small coastal town between two of the bigger ones back in March, and now we don’t see him as much as we’d like), and took everyone to what’s called “Mariner’s Square.” It’s down on the bayfront, and it consists of three small museums: Ripley’s Believe it or Not!, Wax Works, and Undersea Gardens. Will had found a groupon for a set of 4 tickets to all three locations for a reasonable price, so we had fun going to the three spots. The above picture is Small Fry as a “pickled head” at Ripley’s.
Dragonfly enamored with the mirror at the end of Wax Works.
Munchkin and Small Fry exploring the “petting zoo” at Undersea Gardens.
I took Small Fry bowling.
As another birthday treat for this guy, we went on a special “Mommy and me” date. I took him bowling, which he loved! We played two games, and I could tell he was really tired by the end; his score for the second game was about half of what he’d gotten on the first game.
We had birthday cupcakes
For his 5th birthday, Small Fry chose spaghetti for his special meal, so I made that at the house for him. Afterwards, we had cupcakes topped with orange frosting – his favorite color.
I read to the little boys.
This is something that happens fairly often, but this time was worth noting because it was Dragonfly’s idea. He found the book (Llama, Llama Red Pajama) in his room, brought it to me, and climbed up in my lap. Small Fry loves to listen to stories, so he quickly joined us. I love this picture that Munchkin took. Not only is it a very sweet moment between the three of us, but Dragonfly has his hands folded so nicely in his lap, and Small Fry has him arm draped over his brother’s shoulders.
So there you go – a little peak into our week.
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.
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.