3

Big Changes (updated)

From the Big Island to the Big Trees of Sequoia National Park, the McEntee Family is on their next Big Adventure.

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Some of you long-time-readers might recall that every summer we fly back to California so Tom can work his tail off at a piece of mountain paradise up in the Sequoias called Hartland Christian Camp.  Hartland is conveniently located within a few hours of most of our family, so spending our summers there affords lots time with the grandparents as well as fellowship with all our Christian friends there at the camp.  The boys spend their days with their buddies bouncing around from one camp activity to the next, riding bikes, catching critters and generally acquiring more dirt to their persons in a day than they could in a year in Hawaii.  Some days the only time I see them is at meals in the dining hall.  Camp life is heaven on earth for moms and boys.  I don’t have to cook or find anything for them to do and they have all the free-time, fresh-mountain-air, friends, and fun you could ask for.  This year, the best part about camp will be that we don’t have to leave at the end of the summer.  The Lord has blessed us Big Time once again with a year-round-position there for Tom, so we have officially made Hartland our new home.

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Before I overwhelm you with pictures of our new life, I have a little bit of catching up to do from our last days in Hawaii. We finished up our school year with a projects presentation.  Each boy chose a continent, country, climate and creature to report on.  Sam chose Africa, Egypt, the Nile river, and crocodiles.  Nathan studied North America, Canada, woodlands, and beavers.  Joel did Asia, Japan and then realized there weren’t a lot of creatures there so he studied bamboo forests and giant pandas of China.  Titus wanted to really economize so he picked Australia for his continent and country, the outback and wallabies.  This was a great way to wrap up our world geography and animal studies.

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Besides that we spent a lot of time in the water.

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And then it was time to say goodbye to a place and people that we had all grown to love. Goodbye neighbors. Goodbye church.  Goodbye students from Daddy’s work.  Goodbye lava.  Goodbye beach.  Goodbye mangos within reach.  Goodbye ocean.  Goodbye sand.  Goodbye sushi made from Spam.  Goodbye sunsets.   Goodbye shave ices.  Goodbye ridiculously high prices.  Goodbye condo.  Goodbye vog.  Goodbye readers of this blog.

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A big mahalo to all of you who have faithfully followed our  island adventures via this blog.  Thank you so much for the many kind and encouraging comments along the way.  Internet access will be limited in our home so I can’t make any promises regarding future posts but if I do start blogging again you’ll hear about it right here.  Aloha!

3

Around Our World in a Dozen Pictures

After Boys Day I realized that I had spent a number of weeks without posting anything except my series on “Industrial Waste” and the Omas might be wondering what all their boys have been up to.  They have in fact been hard at work with piano and paddling,

5k running and window revamping,

lava viewing and lobster hunting,

swimming with dolphins and sewing with Mom, bag-piping and baking, and somewhere in there we manage to throw in a little school work and sleep.

You may be surprised to find cooking and sewing in the mix of activities after my five week rant about letting boys be boys, but there are two very good reason for their sudden interest in domestic affairs.

#1:  I started working on this little project:

My version of a Hawaiian appliqué quilt.  Each of the boys decided what they wanted their own square to look like and the other 4 squares depict Big Island landmarks.  The red background is a Boys Day print.

My version of a Hawaiian appliqué quilt. Each of the boys decided what they wanted their own square to look like and the other 4 squares depict Big Island landmarks. The red background is a Boys Day print.

which project was immediately hijacked by the subjects of the quilt images themselves who insisted that if I was going to use their likeness they were going to get to do the stitching on their own profiles.  So what began as a solitary quilting project for Mom has now become this:

#2:  We’ve been studying world geography and have had whole lot of fun learning about the history, culture and cuisine of different countries through these supplemental books (thanks again Kristin C):

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Each of the boys has chosen a different continent to study and then focused their attention on one of it’s countries.  They each cooked us a meal using recipes from this series and with the exception of Sam’s Egyptian Palace Bread they all turned out great!  The absolute highlight of our geography studies has been reading this book aloud:

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We followed Phileas Fogg’s journey in our atlases, learning about all the different countries he passed through along the way and trying some recipes from each one.   We kept waiting for the part with the balloon ride as the book cover portrays but alas, a balloon ride is actually not a part of the story.  New assignment:  Design a book cover that actually portrays the story inside…

So that’s what’s been going on around our little world.  Hope all is as full of God’s goodness in your own.

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9

Boys Day 2015

I would think it would be a little bit hard to be a boy growing up in an era where the advancements of women are continually lauded but any success by men is just par-for-the-course and probably unfairly earned.  Imagine seeing “Girls Rule” t-shirts all around while the slightest bit of enthusiasm over your own gender is met with disapproval and downright disdain.  That’s why I am such a huge fan of the Japanese holiday, “Boys Day,” which is still celebrated every May 5th here in Hawaii, although it is slowly morphing into the more politically correct, “Children’s Day.”  After finishing up a rather dismal series on “Industrial Waste,” it felt good to give my boys a chance to celebrate being boys.  While our Boys Day celebrations have taken different shapes every year (click here and here for examples) the following 5 elements are absolutely essential:  comrades, competition, Japanese cuisine, candy and carp.  The carp comes first.

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This fish is revered for it’s energy and power which enable it to battle it’s way upstream and thus symbolizes spirit, strength, courage and determination to overcome all obstacles.  These aren’t exactly the traits most cultivated in our boys today.  Traditionally each family hangs out one giant black carp-shaped wind sock for the Dad and then a smaller, brightly colored one for each boy in the house.  Since the big ones cost about $75 here, we just hang out our five small small ones, which sadly aren’t nearly as brightly colored as they used to be. After paddling practice at 5:05 (since 5 is the special number for Boys Day, I thought the party should be at 5:55 but they weren’t about to wait an extra fifty minutes), the boys met a couple of their buddies by the pool where they did some Japanese calligraphy.  Sei’s mom is a very talented artist and is always ready to share her finer skills with a bunch of rowdy boys.

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Then we played a couple games which included a rather violent Japanese version of “Paper, Rock, Scissors,” and diving for nickles in the pool.

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After an amazing feast of roll-your-own sushi it was time for another competition, this one involving racing to pick up tiny beans with chopsticks.  Our Japanese friends were kind enough to use their left hands but I was still so proud of my winning score that it is now posted on our fridge.  I guess the boys aren’t the only ones with a competitive spirit in this house :).

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By the way, there is also a Girls Day celebrated on March 3 and whether you have boys or girls I think these are great holidays to honor the unique God-given design and characteristics of each.  Happy Koinobori, everyone and remember to let your boys be boys!

16

Industrial Waste…part 3

This week my boys completed their biggest project ever.  They did it together and they did it for the Church.  In honor of Mokuaikaua’s 195th Anniversary Celebration I wrote down the true story of the coming of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to Hawaii which the boys then illustrated, copied and assembled into coloring book form.  They then spent all day Saturday at the street fair selling the books to raise money for the church.  It was a real 9-5 job and the culmination of hours of labor and more than one late night standing assembly-line-style putting these things together.  Needless to say, a lot of school books lay neglected for a couple weeks as they poured over Hawaiian history texts studying pictures and then creating their own renditions.  They even came up with some cool shadowing effects using clear overhead sheets.  Each boy contributed their own artistic talents to the project and then worked tirelessly to see it from conception to production and then on to sales.  Our goal was to share the amazing story of God’s redeeming work in the islands with 195 children and we nearly met that goal in just two days!

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Obviously Tom and I were super proud of their artistry, hard work, team effort, and willingness to contribute to a greater cause.  But mostly I was struck by how my children have so much more to offer the world than I gave them credit for.  It seems like all my work from morning till night is all about turning these boys into men of God.  Teaching them basic manners and social skills, how to take care of themselves and the space around them, educating them in all the subjects a liberal education requires, cultivating their talents, encouraging them in their gifts, protecting them from harm… all so they can make it into adulthood and start doing whatever work God has prepared for them to do.

But what if He has work for them to do right now?

When I started this series on Industrial Waste (hopefully the title will begin to make more sense as my thoughts unfold) my intent was to explore how the modern education industry is depriving our boys of the satisfaction, self-confidence, independence, and practical skills that productive work can provide.  But after researching this story and learning how God used a couple Hawaiian boys in their early teens to bring the Gospel and the written word to these shores, how both spread throughout the islands like wildfire culminating in a 95% conversion rate and 75% literacy rate where 30 years prior there had been no alphabet and one of the ugliest forms of paganism imaginable, and then after seeing first hand how my own boys could be used in building up Christ’s Kingdom, I was struck by an even greater form of waste.  Not only does compulsory schooling deprive the workforce of a huge percentage of potential workers, it deprives the Kingdom of some of it’s most valuable laborers as well.

I am not at all saying that all Christian children should be pulled out of school and sent out on the mission field (after all schools themselves are a field ripe for the harvest).  But I am saying that forcing every child to give up more than 12 years of their life to a system that isn’t fully designed for their personal benefit doesn’t show much improvement over the circumstances the child labor laws were designed to prevent.  And further, if compulsory education is stifling a child’s God given talents then we as parents and teachers are doing nothing short of quenching the Spirit’s work in their life and the lives they could be impacting for His glory.

As I am preparing our lessons for this new week I realize that the boys are now a bit behind in their math, grammar, and geography texts and we are going to have some major catching up to do in the weeks to come.  But there is a dear Hawaiian lady on the little island of Molokai with a stack of coloring books that she is eager to distribute to children in her community.  Another Hawaiian “Aunty” has a stack set aside to put in the shoe boxes she fills every Christmas for Samaritans Purse.  Who knows how far around the world this true story of God’s love for an isolated people in the middle of the Pacific might go?

It’s time for me to reevaluate our education goals.  Are my efforts to turn these boys into productive citizens and godly leaders of the future hampering the work God has gifted them to accomplish for His kingdom RIGHT NOW?  I’m not talking about forcing my kids into religious servitude.  That’s not any better than child factory labor or compulsory schooling.  But is my drive to make sure they measure up to some bureaucratic standards squelching their opportunities to develop the talents God gave them for His glory?  I was truly humbled to see what they could accomplish when given the freedom and opportunity to step up and serve in this way.  And I’m more than excited to see the ways God will be using their gifts, not just far off down the road, but right around the next corner.

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Industrial Waste… part 1

My boys were granted a rare privilege today.  They got to do yard work.  Because we live in a gated community where all the landscape upkeep is hired out, they never get to enjoy the thrill of raking or weeding or mowing.  They’ve even asked on occasion if they could help the workers but were told “No” on account of “liability.”  So this morning they were amazed to see two young adolescents pulling out the fern bed around their favorite banyan tree.  They were even more amazed to see how slowly and begrudgingly these two seemed to be performing their task.  “Mom!”  Joel exclaimed, “We could finish that job in 5 minutes!”  “Oh really?” quizzed I, “Why don’t you go tell Albert (our property manager) that?”   So I followed them out the door where Albert happened to be passing on his way to check the progress of the two young men (now hard at work on their cell phones).  “My boys want to know if they can pull some ferns, too.”  To which I casually added, “And they seem to think they can do it a lot faster.”  Albert explained that the other two boys (still busy on their cell phones) where being punished for some unmentionable crime against the homeowners association and would need to finish that patch of ferns themselves but if my boys really wanted they could work on the other patch across the way.

They dove right in.  Even Gideon managed to get a few leaves and stems into the trash can for which accomplishment we clapped and cheered like he’d just won the Nobel Peace Prize for Industry.  It ended up taking them about 8 minutes to finish the job but if Gideon had been a little more focused and if Titus hadn’t left early to make butterscotch pancakes they probably could have had it done in 5.  Meanwhile, the dawdling delinquents across the way had a long mornings’s work still ahead of them.

I had long suspected that given the choice, most boys would prefer the opportunity to work rather than sit inside a classroom all day.  My suspicions were quite confirmed by an informal survey I conducted on that very matter just last year.  The question arrises however:  What made pulling up ferns a punishment for one pair of boys and a privilege for some others?  

I have my own theory, but I’m curious what the rest of you think.  And before any of you flatter me with speculations of how naturally industrious my sons are, let me assure you that it just ain’t so.  In general they tend to do the minimum amount required to get the job done  There are exceptions at times but I’ve pretty much resigned myself to the fact that there’s not an over achiever in the bunch so let’s just put THAT theory to rest.

Can’t wait to hear your comments and Lord willing, I’ll do much better at responding in a timely manner.  I owe it to you, I know.

7

Leap Frog and Lizard Tycoons

The whale season this year has been extraordinary.  I am not exaggerating a bit when I tell you that for the last couple of months anytime we fixed our gaze on the water for at least ten minutes we would see some kind of whale activity.  3 mama humpbacks chose to give birth right off shore from us and have stayed within eyesight since then.  Mostly you see them spouting, always one big spout and one little one close beside.  Sometimes you just see their glistening black backs surfacing as they glide through the water.  But other times they wave their mammoth side fins in a giant Aloha or whack their tails against the water over and over and over again with such force and in such proximity that you can actually hear the echoing “Crack!” each time the tail comes down.  The most amazing sight of all is when their whole bodies torpedo upward out of the water and then come crashing down like a tower.  I can’t help but gasp in awe every time they breach.

About as good a shot of a whale as I could get from shore with my phone.

About as good a shot of a whale as I could get from shore with my phone.

My boys however seem to have lost interest.  I suppose it was exciting enough for them at first but now they are quite bored of the humpback antics.  This ambivalence might be attributed to the fact that while they can see a whale at a distance and if they’re lucky, hear it from far away, that’s about the only interaction they’ll ever have with one of these magnificent creatures.  And frankly. that’s not really the kind of relationship they’re looking for.  Boys like to be a bit more hands on when it comes to nature.  For evidence of this just scroll back to my previous post entitled “Lizards and Snakes…and the boys who love them.”  Who cares about a big old whale way out there in the ocean when there might be a renegade Coqui frog needing to be caught just right outside their door?  And it’s not that they prefer land creatures to sea creatures.  They just seem to prefer the kind of sea creature you can pull out of it’s hiding place in the tide pools and temporarily house in a bucket for “observation.”

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I really feel that environmentalists often do a great disservice to their own cause when they make nature so inaccessible to everyone but themselves.  Children will never grow to have an affinity for or sense of responsibility for something that has always been held out at a distance from them.  If nature is off limits then why should they care about it?  They’ll put their attention and affections toward whatever’s within easy reach.  Like lizards.  Which brings me to an update on last week’s epic lizard haul.  Exactly what happened to the poor reptilian captives?  You’ll be happy to know that most were released back into the wild but a few fell prey to a rather exploitative operation.

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That’s right folks.  For just 25 cents, you too, could have a close encounter with a Gecko or for just pennies more, upgrade to an Anole and have it all memorialized on camera for posterity or next years Christmas cards.

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The little tycoons brought in 7 bucks after just an hour’s work.  Not counting the half a day spent catching the poor, unsuspecting critters. And I mean the lizards.  Not the tourists.

So while Tom and I spend the sunset hour sitting on the beach or the golf course watching the whales frolic, the boys seem perfectly content ignoring the spectacular scenery and focusing on the more important tasks at hand.  Like playing Leap Frog.  And catching critters.  And plotting their next day’s adventures.

7

Lizards and Snakes… and the boys who love them

I’m a huge fan of delight directed teaching.  The popular trend of delight directed learning is all well and good but if my boys were left to direct all their learning according to their own delights I shudder to think of the exact nature of knowledge thusly acquired.  Besides, delight directed learning is basically what’s going on every minute of the day that school’s not in session, so for just a couple of  hours they get to learn about all the things that Mom happens to delight in.  The past couple of weeks were an exception to that.  You see chapter 10 in our Apologia science text was all about lizards and snakes.  As much as I delight in God’s created world and Apologia’s exceptional methods of presenting it, I HATE lizards and snakes.  I can bait a hook, catch and clean a trout, pull those nasty gizzard things out of a turkey, and deal with all those gross infant and childhood bodily issues that only other mothers can relate to, but lizards and snakes still make me shudder. My boys know this and delight in that knowledge.  They were thrilled to get to chapter 10 just to watch me squirm and gag as I read aloud to them each day.  Thrilled to add their own bits of expertise to my uncomfortable narrative.  Thrilled to do extra research and illustrate their knowledge by making me piles of pictures of slithering creatures with horrid, beady, glittering eyes.  And especially thrilled to hunt down as many live specimens as could possibly be found.  And while there is a shocking abundance of lizards to be found here, one of the very loveliest features of this island is it’s absence of snakes.  Hawaii is said to have no snakes at all but leave it to my Joel to find the only one on the island right outside our building and get himself bitten by it.  Apparently, there actually is one kind of snake here and it is called the Blind Snake and while the Pacific Islands National Parks website assured us that they are harmless and do not bite the tiny little puncture wounds on Joel’s index finger prove otherwise.  Incidentally, it was also Joel who at the age of 4 walked right up on a big old rattle snake back in California and thankfully had enough sense to back away while Dad “disarmed” it with a shovel.  Enough about snakes.   On to lizards.

Hawaii is absolutely crawling with geckos.  They get in your house, your car, and if you have little boys around and aren’t careful they’ll even end up in your hair.  According to my boys there are several species of geckos on our island but the most popular is the Madagascar variety after which the Geico mascot is modeled.  Only here they crawl on all fours and don’t talk.  They do chirp however.  At night.  Usually from the ceiling right over your head.

Oil-on-canvas Gecko by Titus

Oil-on-canvas Gecko by Titus

There is also the much slower moving Jackson’s Chameleon to be found which the boys have made pets of a couple times.  The first one we named The Reverend and the second was Stonewall.

This chameleon got away before we could name it anything.

This chameleon got away before we could name it anything.

Today I sent the three middle boys downstairs around 9:30 to burn some energy by running laps.  They got sidetracked catching yet another kind of lizard called Anoles and by 2:00 had relocated about a dozen of them to the pineapple patch outside our building.  Yep, when they’re too busy to even come in for lunch you know they’re having a good time.  Now that was some hardcore delight directed learning going on there.

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This week we’re moving on to amphibians.  Oh joy.

I did find one pretty thing in the pineapple patch... our first baby pineapple!

I did find one pretty thing in the pineapple patch… our first baby pineapple!