Monday, November 20, 2006

The Three Alberts

JT and Ben finished up their Viking unit by studying the folks who were finally able to drive the Vikings out. They made statues of Albert the Great, the first English king to whoop their butts. Of course, JM had to get in on the action as well...Pictured here is Ben's Albert, then JT's and on the right is John Michael's.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

A Word of Advice

When you have one of those really crazy days and you change your baby in between activities and take a shortcut by not unsnapping the outfit all the way and just shoving the clean diaper up his pants and closing it really fast, make sure the baby's "equipment" is *not* aimed right out the leg-hole so that when you dump the baby on your friend because you need to run out to the car and get the third thing you forgot that day he doesn't pee all over himself, his clothes and your friend....

So sorry Nancy!!!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Topography of a Continent

Today we did a fun topography project. We made topographical maps of the continent of Africa. I was working w/my 3 special needs kids and a kindergartener so I did some of the prep work for them. I also needed to help them spread the glue around effectively and for the mountains, I tore the clay into small pieces for them so they could just pick up a piece and mold it into the right shape. My older boys (9 yo's) could have done this fairly independently, though. I've decided to describe how we did the project here and highly recommend it.

1. Be able to visualize the topography of a land mass.
2. Understand the relationship between a map and its key.

Supplies Needed:
Light-weight cardboard
Black marker
blue colored pencil or crayon
different colored sand
different colored clay (playdough or sculpy would work too)
white piece of paper
glue stick

First, I gathered up pieces of cardboard and traced the African continent in black Sharpie on each piece. Then I wrote in the names of the oceans and seas surrounding the land mass.

Next, I had them color in all the oceans and seas with a blue crayon or colored pencil (the crayons worked better on the cardboard).

Next we did the rivers. I outlined in pencil the rivers for them and they followed the path of the rivers with glue sticks. Then they covered the glue with blue sand (I happened to have a bunch of colors left over from a craft project we did last year) and shook off the excess.

Next we did the deserts. I outlined in pencil where the deserts should go and they filled in my outlines w/glue and then a couple used yellow sand and a couple used orange sand. Then shake off the excess sand.

Next we did the rain forests. I outlined the boundaries of the rainforests and they covered in the outlined areas with green clay flattened onto the cardboard.

Next we did the mountains. I outlined the boundaries of the mountain ranges and they made little mountain peaks out of clay and covered the outlined areas w/them.

Last we did the plains (which we should have done before the mountains and rain forests). I outlined the plains in pencil and they filled in with glue and then colored sand.

Finally we cut out small white pieces of white paper and made a key for their maps. I wrote the words on the paper w/the marker and drew a little circle next to each word. It looked something like this:

Rain Forests

They glued the paper to the cardboard somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean and then put a small clay mountain next to the mountains label, a small circle of colored sand next to each one which used sand and a small circle of flattened clay next to the rain forests.

It was loads of fun -they really enjoyed it. You could use all sand or all clay too. They clay looked neat b/c it really added a nice texture to it and I wanted them to understand the basic topography of a land mass. I also wanted them to understand how the key is connected to what they see on the map. They really got those two points and understood it. Realistically, all four of the maps turned out differently in terms of the colors they used but also there were some misplaced rivers, absent mountains and rambling deserts. That didn't matter to me so much as them understanding our two goals.

Here's the pics:

Miriam's AfricaBetsy's Africa
Ruth's Africa

Philip's Africa

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

There's a Shortage of Babies in the World...

That's the conclusion to which I came recently when I realized there are women - generally of the grandmotherly age - who just might be willing to come to blows for an opportunity to hold my baby. It's sad, really. Where are all the babies? They should be everywhere - in grocery stores, dangling their little legs from front-riding Snuglis, in church, at the movie theaters hiding under blankets nursing while their moms enjoy a night out.... But they just aren't there and so our babies get a lot more attention than is probably their due. While on vacation, Fr Joel and I had the opportunity to go out together with Nathan to one of our favorite restaurants. The couple at the next table shared proudly that they had parented six children and before long the baby was in the arms of a new surrogate grandma and being cuddled through the restaurant and shown off to fellow diners.

A baby is truly a wondrous creature. What better way to attest to God's amazing creation than to reflect upon the form and functions of a newborn. It's truly difficult to look at a critter so small and helpless, straight out of the womb and not recognize our own helplessness in God's sight. Who else can knit together a whole, perfectly formed human being out of an egg and a little wiggly torpedo? Out of THIS comes a PERSON?! Amazing! And then to consider the whole symbiosis of baby and mother while the child is in utero. The mother eats, the baby grows - first a head, then a body, hands, feet, skeleton, brain...slowly a person emerges with a heartbeat, soul, dreams, the ability to feel pain and move toward light, respond to a mother's voice. And this is all within the first 14 weeks of gestation - incredible!

Unfortunately, many do not see the connection between bearing and birthing babies and the hole in the soul of our culture. Even those who are pro-life (anti-abortion) still feel the need to get things "fixed", to teach us large familied parents how "it's" done, to control God's ways and means of expressing His love - CREATION. God lives to Love and He expresses that love by creating us and by continuing to create. I am so blessed to be a woman and be able to cooperate in this creation process with my Lord and Lover of my soul. My womb magnifies the miraculous womb that bore our Savior within it. When my womb is occupied by a little developing life it becomes a prophetic picture of the tabernacle, God's grace poured out within the depths of my being.

Sadly, though, even those who love these lives when they arrive are willing to cut themselves off from the grace that flows from them. How many babies are aborted in this country and never see the light of day, never live to have a hundred surrogate grandmas doting on them? And how much life has been cut off in the midst of the marital embrace by abortifacient birth control, or the manipulation of our bodies to cease to function the way God created them to function? We are more willing as a culture to see our men made sterile and our women's wombs stripped from their bodies then to open our eyes wider to God's greater plan. He put those parts there, it's tough to justify taking them out of the picture for our own comfort.

Yep, there's a shortage of babies around here and it makes me sad. Babies have the ability to minister to the souls of others at levels no adult could ever hope to match. Fresh from the plans of the Maker, they exude innocence, unconditional love, hope and joy. They are God's greatest ambassadors to a hurting world. Don't you think it's time we go back to co-operating with grace and allowing them to enter the world? Then maybe those granny wanna-bes wouldn't have to come to blows over mine.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Finally Nine!

There's nothing that bugs Ben more than those months between July and November when his brothers are officially an age ahead of him. Starting July 4th, he wants nothing more than for his birthday to roll around so he can join Philip and JT in their climb up the age maturation ladder. This year Ben decided to celebrate the big event with an over-nighter. He invited cousin Sam and neighbor-friend Dan over for a sleepover. Friday night they hit up the batting cages (a first for him and Sam) where he did swimmingly well, hitting about 18 out of 20 balls. The boys came home to their own private showing of Narnia, complete with hot buttered popcorn, and went to sleep strewn upon the basement couches.

The actual birthday was on the following Monday so Ben opted to save his dinner, cake and gifts for the real deal. He invited another neighbor-friend, Gabriel, on over for this event. Since Adora has been cooking for us on our super busy Wednesdays, he's become pleasantly acquainted with her fried chicken for which she obliged to a command performance for Ben's birthday dinner. Dinner was fun. We regaled Gabriel and Adora with stories of Ben's childhood, giving particular attention to the more embarrassing ones. Of course this meant we just *had* to tell them about the time he wanted to be in a play at his friend's house but didn't have a costume so one very enterprising mom found him a plastic grocery bag, stuck his hands through the handles, cut holes out the bottom for his legs and called it a tunic. Ben was so enthralled with his costume he wore it for two weeks straight. After we related that story to the masses (with JT taking particular glee in the embarrassment it may have been causing), we were afraid we had overstepped the boundaries of good clean fun when Ben stormed out of the dining room and stomped down to his bedroom. His dad followed closely behind to assure him we meant no harm and see if he could be convinced to return for tapioca and cake but Ben was not to be convinced. He did come back upstairs, stormed through the kitchen where he grabbed a plastic grocery bag and with great hilarity shoved it in JT's face and announced "Now it's *your* turn!" His little act worked and we were glad to see that he made the joke on us.

Now dessert was quite a story...Rarely the conformist, Benjamin requested Mamaw's sour milk coffee cake and tapioca pudding for dessert. Here you can see the coffee cake with the nine candles in the shape of a number nine sharing the counter w/his tapioca pudding. If you look closely, you might notice something peculiar about those candles...yes, they are melting. The cake was hot (it was coffee cake, afterall, which is meant to be served warm, yes?!) and it melted the candles faster than we could light them and sing the traditional song.

Here is the whole melty mess after our hurried rendition of Happy Birthday and an equally as hurried blowing out of the fiery mess.

I love Ben's expression in this picture - it does seem pretty incredible that these were birthday candles just moments before... It took some awfully creative carving of the cake to serve up pieces not tainted with variegated molten wax. I must say, the plate of birthday dessert dished up in Ben's honor seemed a little less than appetizing when viewed from this angle...

Dessert over, we moved to the living room for presents, the two key presents being a lego set from Grammy and Tata and the Lord of the Rings Mines of Moria starter set from Games Workshop. The lego set had arrived via the USPS a few days earlier but there was no suspense for Ben - afterall, he'd carefully informed his grandmother of the URL for his birthday gift...ah, birthdays in the 21st century...we didn't have that when I was kid! The girls outfitted him with a lion mask to match Betsy's mouse mask and John Michael gleefully announced "They're chips, Ben! They're chips!" before Ben could even rip the first piece of tape off the can of Pringles presented to Ben by him and David. All in all, I think Ben had a nice birthday. He certainly seemed to enjoy himself (and may have enjoyed himself more if he'd actually had the chance to *play* with his own presents!) and now he is officially NINE. He can relax and enjoy himself....until January 8th when JT turns 10 and the cycle of age angst turns another revolution....

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Death of a Viking Chieftan

JT and Ben spent their morning making paper models of Viking raiding ships. They turned out right cute but when I mentioned to them that their friends had made the same models last year *and* had put them out to sea in a flaming dearth they gained a new zeal for the project. Turns out that Viking chieftans were put in their boats after death, along with their weapons and possessions, and sent out to sea in a fiery tribute to their leadership. Upon gaining this little tidbit of knowledge, the boys quickly set to work making less detailed models, along with cardboard effigies of their own Viking chieftan - Chief Going to a Burning Death and Chief Barney (translated out of the ancient runes to mean Burning).

Here are the raiding ships awaiting the funeral procession. The little cardboard guys are inside.

The ships have been put out to the Tubby Sea (located somewhere around the coast of Norway I'm sure).

Let the burning begin!

Unfortunately, the boats got water-logged and sank before we could get a good fire going.
The end of our Viking Flames of Death experiment.