Wednesday, September 30, 2009

International Celebration Through the Years

Sweden- 2015

Indonesia- 2014-

Venezuela- 2009

Romania- 2007

Historic Texas- 2006

Tanzania- 2005

Australia- 2004 Turkey- 2003

Vietnam- 2002 Ireland- 2001

Mexico- 2000

India- 1999

Pilgrims- 1998

Denmark- 1997

Israel- 1996

France- 1995

Nigeria- 1994

Brazil- 1993

Russia- 1992

China- 1991

So here we are at the very first of our international celebrations! One day, Mama was telling Papa that she was tired of having turkey for Thanksgiving every year. Why couldn't we have Chinese food instead? Being the homeschoolers that we are, we couldn't stop at just food, so we turned it into a whole unit study.

The study became our annual Thanksgiving tradition until we decided several years ago that we wanted to free up the Thanksgiving weekend for other activities.

Monday, September 28, 2009


Once a year our family does a unit study on a particular country. For several weeks we do research, with the younger ones writing reports, and then we have one day with food, costumes, decorations, and music from that country. This year was Venezuela, and our day of celebration was Saturday. I did the research and most of the cooking for the meal this year, which I really enjoyed. It's fun to try new things in the kitchen and get to make some things that we don't usually have.
This year we had the treat of having a native of our focus country with us! Javier has lived in the U.S. for several years, but he was born and raised in Venezuela. He came early to help us make arepas, which are a type of corn cake.

The finished meal! Pabellon Criollo includes, from left to right, rice, a meat and vegetable mixture, black beans, fried plantains, and arepas.
Dessert was Bienmesabe, a layered coconut cake whose name means something like "it tastes good to me." I think that was true for all of us!
We always enjoy learning about a country in more depth than usual, and experiencing a bit of that country's life and culture.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

September Newsletter

From Laura, 10 … Last Saturday John and Seth were going to help some friends move, but the van wouldn’t start. So, they tried to jump it with John’s truck. That didn’t work, so we started pushing the van out of the way so that John could use his truck to return a trailer that we needed to give back, but there was a bump in the way. So, John asked the neighbor to help push. When he and his friend came, they cleaned the battery terminal and jumped it with the friend’s truck, which started the van. Then John went to the car place, got a new battery, and finally was able to return the trailer with his truck!

From Becca, 13 … I did a science experiment with beans. I had eleven groups of beans. I did something to each group before I planted it, except one. I did nothing to that one as a comparison. The ones that didn’t sprout were the ones I baked, soaked in weed killer, soaked in bleach, soaked in alcohol, and soaked in dish soap. The ones that did sprout were the ones I coated with petroleum jelly, exposed to sunlight, microwaved, froze, and soaked in water. The most interesting result was that the microwaved ones sprouted, but grew badly. They were smaller and sickly. Besides the microwaved ones, all the others that sprouted seemed to do fine. It was a very interesting experiment and some of the results surprised me.

From Seth, 16 … A few days ago John and Ray took me to a shooting range here in town, which was very kind of them, as they paid my way and let me use their ammo, guns, and shooting lane. It was my first time to shoot a gun, and it was quite fun! The whole experience was very fascinating: racking the gun, squeezing the trigger, seeing the flash of the burning gun powder, hearing the bang of the explosion and the clatter of the ejected shell, feeling the kick, seeing the hole in the target, smelling the smoke…It was quite a novel experience! Also, it was nice to become comfortable with firearms, and to see what they are really like.

From Anna, 19 … As we’ve been doing work on the property, most of it has been correcting overgrown, neglected areas, so it was nice recently to be able to put in some new bushes. There was already one crepe myrtle bush outside our dining room window, but we decided we wanted a whole grove, so we added seven more. We also have a rose bed that was looking pretty scraggly once we’d cleaned it out, so we added one bush. The weather has started cooling off, which has felt good for working outside.

From John, 25 … This has been a busy autumn for me in the dance department. I directed a show at the end of August at an event organized by the local Indian community. Most of the other groups were classic Indian, Bollywood, or Bhangra, so we were the stand-out act of the evening because of our distinctiveness and our energy, which really is impressive for a bunch of old folks. We repeated that show at another event last Saturday, and I’m directing a pair of Czech shows next month. In November I have another show, which I’m thankfully not directing. I enjoy dancing and performing, but this is a bit much. I think if I’m going to dance this much, I need to start getting paid. Dancing is a pastime which I enjoy greatly, but I have to keep the leash short or it will usurp the more important things in my life.

About Ray and Katie … (by Judith) Katie is feeling quite full of baby these days as one would expect. Happily the baby has turned and is now properly head down! We had fun the other day watching Katie’s belly move with the baby’s activity. It seems that every time she sits down the baby gets very busy. We are all sure looking forward to meeting this new little person!

From Judith … Every year since 1991 (except for skipping last year due to Ray and Katie’s wedding) we have had all the children spend about a month, sometime during the year, studying a particular country in greater depth than what they would do in their usual studies. The study entails writing reports and making posters and other displays. The study then culminates with a celebration which includes native costumes, food, decorations, and music. It really is special and fun and something we all look forward to.

This year we are studying Venezuela. To add to the fun, our Venezuelan friend from church will celebrate with us. Delightfully he will be coming early to make authentic Venezuelan arepas for us!

From Gerald … Last weekend, Judith and I went to San Diego. It was just a quick trip to visit her father and his wife. They are unable to travel, so we needed to go there. We had a nice time visiting with Al and JoAnn and were able to do a bit of sightseeing as well. We had excellent food and were able to spend some time at Balboa Park. Among the sites we saw at the park were a model railroad museum, an art museum, a botanical garden, an outdoor pipe organ, an international festival, and some really huge fig trees.

Our Love, Gerald, Judith, John, Anna, Seth, Becca, and Laura

Friday, September 25, 2009

What We've Been Doing Lately

(I had this ready a few days ago, but then our modem died. We’re up and running again now though!)

In September, 2008, in San Diego, there was a party/reunion to celebrate my dad’s 80th birthday, which we missed because Hurricane Ike grounded us. It was very sad. We resolved that we would still try to get out there for a visit as soon as we could. To that end, Gerald and I flew to San Diego last Friday to visit my dad and his wife. We had a lovely visit and all went well with our travels. We came home Monday.

Meanwhile, back here at home, all went mostly well. A busy weekend was planned with helping two church families move and with other outings. The help to one of the moving families was derailed when the van required having its battery replaced.

We don’t like to leave the family, but it is reassuring to know they can manage the household without us. Anna has become quite capable with the home tasks. To one extent or another, they all contribute. We felt confident that, between them all, they could deal with any problems that might arise.

Besides our trip, we have also been busy studying about Venezuela. Our study will culminate with a celebration this weekend when we will enjoy the food, music, costumes, and decorations of Venezuela.

Thank you for your interest in our family!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Lightgiver or the Lit Object?

I've been reading through Augustine's Confessions lately. When I first started, I wasn't entirely sure what to expect, but I've certainly appreciated it so far. The Confessions are written in the form of a prayer, and it definitely gives a glimpse of the heart of this renowned man of faith. I have been particularly impressed by his active recognition of God's work and presence in his whole life.

He also shows how nothing, even "good" things, have no real meaning apart from God.

"How can I boast that I read every book I could find on the arts and sciences, and understood them all, while I remained the worst slave to my own desires? Reading them gave me pleasure, though I was blind to the source of whatever was true or solid in them. My back was to the light that lit them as I faced them. Thus my face, even as it saw what was being lit, was itself in shadow."

I really liked his word picture in this quote. Everything in the world that is good, true, or beautiful ultimately comes from God, but they are trite and meaningless without him. It is possible for someone to devote himself to truth or beauty--both good things-- but if he fails to look behind himself at what illumines those things in the first place, then he has missed the most important thing of all and his life will be wasted.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Bathroom Progress

Work has been moving along in Mama and Papa's bathroom. A few weeks ago we textured and painted all the walls and ceilings, and replaced the toilet. That end of the bathroom was looking quite nice...

...especially compared to how it used to look.
Unfortunately, we discovered water dripping through our dining room ceiling the next morning, which is particularly disheartening in a house where we've redone pretty much every surface at least once already.
So we tried putting that toilet in three more times, trying various rings and flanges to no avail. Finally, we took it out to the back porch, set it up on a couple of trash cans and ran water through it to see if there was a leak. Sure enough, there was a little crack toward the back of the toilet which appeared to be a manufacturing defect and had been the cause of all our trouble.
With that behind us, we've now been able to turn our intention to the vanity side of the bathroom. When we bought the house, the bathroom just had a little narrow vanity sandwiched between two AC ducts. When we were still doing major patching and painting, we had rerouted one duct in order to open out the space and put in a bigger vanity.
With the walls painted and ready, we've now added a new light fixture...

... and started on the vanity.

Looking good!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Happy Birthday, Becca!

Becca turned 13 on Sunday! I'm not entirely sure I'm old enough to have two younger siblings in their teens! The years just seem to fly by.

It has been neat to watch Becca during this time as she transitions from little girlhood to young womanhood. She desires to know and understand the truth of God's word, and she is rapidly growing in maturity and skills. Her zest for living and exuberance for everything bring joy to all who know her!

Friday, September 4, 2009

One Big Wasp

This wasp and locust came falling out of a tree yesterday. They grappled on the ground for a minute before the wasp succeeded in stinging and killing the locust. Then the wasp went crawling off, dragging the locust with it. The locust must have been too heavy for it to fly with, but it went pretty fast, all the same! It used its wings to help propel it along and went zipping off along the ground, then straight up the wall!