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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Star of the Week- Daniel

I'm starting a new tradition around here: Star of the week.

Don't kids love it when they get to be the star in school? I'm thinking  it's a pretty nifty idea to point the spotlight on someone and let them shine for a bit in our home.

This week's star is Daniel!

Name: Daniel Lincoln Kingsley. (He's named after one of my favorite Biblical heroes, Daniel, and one of my favorite modern people, Grandpa Lincoln LeCheminant. Grandpa Lincoln is one of the kindest, most loving people I've ever met. He's also named after Abe Lincoln, one of my favorite Presidents.)

Age: 7, although he's counting down days until his 8th birthday. Literally. He keeps reminding me how soon his birthday is coming, even though it's still over 180 days away. Eight is a Big Deal around here. That's when he can choose to be baptized, that's when kids in our family get to start enjoying gum, and it's when they can choose to start fasting once a month with the family. we celebrate this birthday with a huge feast and party to commemorate his baptism.

Best Feature:His laugh. It sounds like bubbles erupting from deep inside of his chest. It's delightful to hear and absolutely contagious!

Grade in school: 2nd

Favorite subject: PE, because sometimes they play games. His favorite game is Crab Tag.

Favorite thing to do in his free time: Read books, mostly Calvin and Hobbes.

What he wants to be when he grows up: "I want to be one of those guys that gets paid to test out new ice cream flavors." I think he just invented a new job description. Good luck with this one, buddy!

Favorite Talent: Playing the recorder. He memorized the haunting melody to "If You Could Hie To Kolob" and it sounds beautiful. He is very musically-inclined and loves to sing, play the piano, and play the guitar. He seems to be always humming or singing or whistling.

Favorite book: Calvin and Hobbes. I can't tell you how many nights he falls asleep with these books on his pillow after staying up late reading. Those poor books are sorely abused from frequent perusals.

Favorite color: Blue, Green and Gold

Favorite food: Spaghetti and meatballs. Ramen noodle soup is a close second, except he prefers the Thai version with a name we can't spell with English letters or pronounce. We pick it up from the oriental market in Austin. It's much better than normal Ramen- it comes with dehydrated veggies, chili oil, and lots of flavor.

Number of kids he wants when he grows up: 3

One more thing he's really great at doing? Reading!
He's at the top of his class for Reading, and he loves to read books several grades more advanced than him. He ALWAYS stays up late reading books in bed.

This year he has grown to be so much more responsible. Without me asking him to do so, each night he diligently packs his lunch for the next day, packs his backpack, and sleeps with his shoes on so he can leap out of bed and be ready to go. (I try to talk him out of sleeping with shoes on, but he is determined to do so. I figure it doesn't harm anything to let him do it, so he does it. He sleeps with his blanket pulled up high under his chin so his feet can stick out from under the bedding. Silly boy.)

He is also very empathetic. Daniel is so thoughtful and is regularly volunteering to rub my feet or brush my hair or bring me a cold drink. He's so generous with his time and really tries hard to make people feel loved.

We are so glad to have him in our family!

We love you, Daniel!!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Talk Like a Pirate Day

I needed to lighten up and do something spontaneous and fun with the children last week, so I proposed a crazy idea. I asked them to dress up in their best pirate costumes so we could drive 30 minutes to the nearest Krispy Kreme shop for free donuts. I don't even like Krispy Kreme donuts, but I thought this was a unique opportunity to create a fun family by golly, I was going to do it. Our family needed to do something fun and lighthearted anyway. Even though it's a long drive, to me it was worth it to create a bonding experience with the family. I figured this was the type of silly adventure they would remember their entire lives, so it leaped to the top of my priority list for the day.

Sarah and Matthew dug out costume pieces from our Halloween box in the attic. When they realized we didn't own a stuffed parrot for their shoulder, a duck substituted just fine, although they did joke about catching a live chicken to wear on their shoulder.

I joined the fun and donned elements of my steam punk costume, accessorizing for a pirate-y look while we all practiced pirate lingo.

Not to leave Dnaiel out of all the fun, we stopped by the public school to check him out. I swaggered into the office where the secretary eyed me and asked (with a completely straight face- big points for that!) "Are you checking him out for a dentist or doctor appointment? Or something else?"

Daniel's eyes lit up in excitement when he saw my costume, and I whispered in his ear that we had a costume waiting for him in the van. As we walked through the parking lot to the van, Matthew popped out of the van with a fist raised in the air as he shouted, "Avast, ye yellow-bellied land-lubber! Load the cannons!" Sarah popped out of another window, trying not to giggle while she added, "Ahoy matey! Ahoy!"

Since Diego didn't understand the entire game, Sarah helped him out by carefully penning the word, "Ahoy!" on the palm of his hand. She reasoned, "This way whenever he waves at people, he can be saying 'Ahoy!' even if he forgets."

The boys all donned plastic stickers shaped like mustaches, with Diego eagerly imitating them. (Although Diego looks much more like Mario than a pirate...) Together we swaggered into Krispy Kreme, and together we shared exuberant pirate phrases with the cashiers. Together we were shocked beyond words when we were EACH handed a dozen donuts. I had thought we'd get one dozen to divide amongst ourselves, and even considered that to be too many donuts. Now we had 48! Oh yikees!

We promptly took them home and the children delivered some of their donuts to the neighbors. And then we ate donuts for DAYS on end. At the end of the week, we declared we were throwing a birthday party for our poultry flock, and we fed the chickens the remaining stale donuts. It was such a silly sight and the kids laughed and laughed as they watched the chickens eagerly dig in to Krispy Kreme goodness. The end.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Little Things

Little things about today that I don't want to forget:

1- Sarah and Matthew spent the afternoon practicing archery in the shade under our big oak trees. They made targets out of large cardboard boxes, with wobbly concentric circles carefully drawn on with marker. They have a delightful time shooting arrows together and discussing their grand plans to become skilled marksmen. I love the fact that they can do sports like this on our property! This is exactly the type of childhood I want my kids to have- playing outside and getting dirty while having fun.

2- Today I spotted Daniel purposefully marching towards the back of our pasture to a thick stand of trees. Over his should was casually slung a huge set of sharp limb loppers. When I inquired to his plans, he hollered over his shoulder with glee that they were constructing a new secret fort and needed to trim away the branches that blocked their emergency exit. One of the girls from the DI team had brought a cute strappy purse today, from which she proudly extracted some pruning shears as if it were contraband. Evidently last week the entire team schemed for today's outdoor projects. They spent all recess busily shaping a cozy home out of several juniper trees. The goats who live in the pasture were pleased with so much company and the children were so delighted with their work. Things like this feed my soul and I am so thankful our kids get to experience days like this.

3- My children have been asking me for a Pride and Prejudice movie night for quite some time. It's been ages since we've watched it together, so tonight we began the BBC version, otherwise known as the 6-hour marathon of estrogen. We had a picnic on the game room floor for dinner while we enjoyed the movie, laughing together at the witty script. I delight in the fact that my boys are big enough to understand and enjoy movies like this, and I really enjoyed cuddling with them on the couch for a couple of hours. We paused the movie after 2 hours since it is a school night, so we'll pick it back up again tomorrow. Daniel was particularly funny tonight when he did some spot-on impersonations of Mr. Collins.

4- Today was quite a whirlwind of activity, with non-stop commitments from 7:00 am until 6:00 pm. I am quite tired, but today was overall a wonderful day. I am immensely thankful for Sarah and Matthew and all the help they give around the house. They are wonderful kids to have around all day, and Daniel brings home plenty of sunshine each afternoon. I feel very blessed with the family I have and I sometimes wonder (well, I OFTEN wonder) how it is possible that they can be so good in spite of all my failures as a parent. I think the Lord is really making up for some of my many inadequacies, for which I am truly grateful.

5- My art classes are going so well and the students are really enjoying the class. They are SO excited to begin painting 'Starry Night' after sketching the outline today. Our DI team is making fantastic progress at a rapid rate, so I'm quite hopeful they will compete phenomenally at the competition this year. They are coming up with some clever ideas and are pulling together as a team really well.

6- We invited our neighbors over for lunch today and had a lovely time chatting and letting the children play together after lunch. We feel very blessed to have neighbors who are also home schooling and who have children the same age range as us. They are such good people, and I always feel enlivened after our conversations.  Today another friend from church, our Texan Nana Precious, stopped by to say hello, deliver treats, and check in on us. She was so kind and is always so generous with her love. The greatest blessings of living here has been our kind neighbors, tight-knit neighborhood, and loving local congregation. We are surrounded by good people everywhere, and I feel so privileged to know them.

I feel very watched over by the Lord lately. He has answered my daily prayers so promptly and generously, which makes me feel very humbled and filled with gratitude. Even though my life is in the fast lane for now, I feel peace.

Monday, September 16, 2013

House of Cards

(Hanging my head in shame) It's been so long since my last real update on here! Oh dear! I had thought the summer would slow down our schedule a bit, but it didn't ever slow down. And now the school year has really accelerated life.

Here is a recap of the Big Things:

In mid-August returned from a rejuvenating family vacation across the USA. We traveled through a whopping seventeen states in 12 days. Posts and pictures will be coming soon, if I'm lucky to get them posted.

The first week of August was a bit of a doozy, just trying to take one day at a time. In addition to running a Pack Night and prepping for our big trip, I had two double-booked days of party entertaining. (Have you ever raced between job sites dressed as a fairy? Those darn wings get in the way so much! They don't fit very well in the drivers seat. Erg!)  The gigs were successful, and Matthew was able to shadow me to his first corporate party. We did balloon twisting and walk-around magic together. He's getting better at balloons and is feeling more comfortable interacting with clients, so it's great to watch him grow in this new skill.

I also ran my first-ever Pack night for the scout troop in our area. I'm the Scoutmaster, so I get the *fun* job of planning and executing the monthly Pack Nights and any advancement ceremonies. I think the Lord is really trying to coax me into learning better organization skills. My previous church calling was in a presidency. I love working in a presidency because there is a team working together (and most importantly, a SECRETARY to keep track of all the details!). My current calling is a  one-man show. I'm terrible at this without a secretary to keep things organized. I'm learning and growing though. Bright days are ahead as I get better at this.

Our Destination Imagination team is going full steam ahead for the new school year. We have a great team called, "The Hooptyloops". It's full of seven little bright minds who are already impressing me with their creative ideas. We have a jump start on this year's challenge and are already making steady progress towards research and solutions. They come to my house each week for a 90-minute meeting. This year I'm much more organized as a coach and we've managed to recruit families who are happy to volunteer and share the burden of running a team. I'm immensely thankful for the wonderful women who are helping run the show! It really isn't possible without their help.

I'm also teaching art classes twice a week for home school families. Earlier this summer, I had been thinking about what marketable skills I might have. I had wanted to get a side job other than party entertainment, since the entertainment business is often Feast-or-Famine. I wanted a more reliable monthly income that I could use towards paying off our van loan sooner, save up for Christmas shopping, and put towards some of my self-reliance wishlist items. So. I had the idea of teaching children how to paint with acrylics. The response has been great, and I have 17 students divided into 2 classes.

For now we've been meeting under a pavilion at the local library, but we are moving the classes to my dining room starting today. This should be interesting. I'm a bit nervous about paints in my house in the inexperienced hands of elementary students, but I'll lay out plenty of rules, plenty of tarps and hope for the best. I love these classes- the air is filled with strains of classical guitar music while paintbrushes steadily stroke the canvas. The kids seem to be enjoying the class, and this week we will begin our work on a rendition of Van Gogh's 'Starry Night' masterpiece. This should be fun!

I'm thankful for this opportunity to teach art classes. It not only serves as a bit of extra income, but it also serves as the Art class for Sarah and Matthew. They love to paint and it's something that I seldom wanted to do since it requires so much setup and cleanup. But when I'm teaching an entire class, I don't mind the extra work, isn't that silly?

Matthew is delighted to be on a competitive math team this semester. He really really loves mathematics. When he was in second grade he taught  himself how to multiply and divide and figure out square roots. He'd do math in his head and drive public school teachers crazy because he couldn't 'show his work' on paper but he always had the right answers. I am so thankful he gets to participate in this math league this year. Our friend, Gail B., coaches the elementary team and offered to drive him to the weekly meetings. It wasn't an option without her generosity, since the meetings are so far away and I wouldn't be back in time to pick up Daniel from public school. So we feel very blessed with her kindness.

I don't know if I've mentioned it on this blog yet or not, but we are home schooling Sarah and Matthew this year. Daniel was blessed with a fantastic, loving teacher in public school, so he is attending the local elementary. We are very busy every day juggling everyone's different schedules, but so far everything is okay. It's pretty crazy at times, but we are managing to focus on what's truly important (most of the time): strong family relationships, following Christ's example, and serving others. With that in place, I feel like we can handle just about anything else.

I do feel like I have built a house of cards, ready to fall at the slightest disturbance though. There are too many commitments on my plate: Providing home school lessons, teaching art lessons, coaching DI, various cub scout duties, hosting book club (I'm dropping out after this month), doing my party entertainment business, and expanding into educational shows. That doesn't even consider the house work, caring for the animals (goats, poultry flock, rabbits, cats, dog), cooking meals, keeping our daredevil of a toddler alive/safe/fed, and caring for the outdoor part of our property.

I don't feel like I'm drowning, but I do realize it's a fragile existence. I am trying so hard to simplify things,  but good things keep coming up (like organizing group field trips for home school friends, or serving friends in need, or volunteering at the public school, or hosting friends for family activities, or sewing Christmas presents early, or a million other good things).

I keep reminding myself of this inspirational counsel regarding time management, and find myself struggling to prioritize the Good things from the Better things. We'll see what makes the cut.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Make way for fairies

Things I love about my job:

1- Kids LOVE it when I arrive and ring the doorbell. I flit around the doorstep, peeking in the sidelight windows much like Tinkerbell and get to be slightly mischievous with the party guests. I love having a regular opportunity to enjoy my acting skills. Being in character as a fairy is so fun!

2- They love to hear my stories while I work. Among other things, I tell them I used to paint butterfly wings in an enchanted flower garden. I love the magical look in their eyes while they suspend reality and believe every word. This age is so priceless, when kids are eager to believe in fantasy and wonder. 

3- Every little girl wants to sit by me during the party games. It's so fun being the center of a short, smiling fan club every day I head to work. 

4- This work environment is also riddled with positive feedback, adoration from my little clients, and (best of all) no boss but myself. I LOVE having control over my own work schedule and no bureaucratic tape to worry about. 

5- What girl honestly doesn't enjoy dressing up? Enough said.

There is one small problem though: the wings. 

I designed them badly, so they require a helper to put them on. Erg. 

This means either Sarah or Nathan helps me don my wings, then I have to squeeze them into the car and drive to work without leaning back against my chair. That's not too fun if you happen to have a 45-minute commute to your next job site. 

The pink fluffy skirt and huge wings don't fit very well into the driver's seat, making it a bit comical to observe me driving down the highway.

I always cross my fingers and  hope there's never a reason for a cop to pull me over. Can you imagine the conversation that would follow? Yikes!