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Finally!

Well, Hello again.  It’s been a very long time, I know.  Our new home is so perfectly situated amid tall trees and mountain ridges as to render cell service and internet connection impossible.  I had already figured there wouldn’t be much need to continue blogging now that there isn’t a giant ocean separating our boys from those people who have a keen interest in their daily activities (mainly their grandparents).  What I hadn’t figured is that during our four years in Hawaii we would acquire other “Ohana” who now want to be kept informed about what’s going on in our new neck of the woods.  So how does one go about keeping in regular contact with various acquaintances spread about the planet?  In the olden days, we wrote letters or newsletters and sent them in the mail.  Thankfully we have a handful of friends (Hi Labuns!) and family members (Hi Idaho cousins!) who still indulge in such old fashioned antics.  Now days I hear Facebook is the best way to keep in touch.  I’ve never had a Facebook account but the other day a friend showed me what it looked like and some wise lady had just posted a quote that said, “Cleaning with kids in the house is like brushing your teeth while eating Oreos.”  That is so true!  If Facebook is full of wisdom like that I can see why people are so addicted.  But alas Facebook requires internet, as does email and blogging, so I’m struggling to find a way to keep in touch with folks.  And boys grow fast and uncultivated friendships fade and there are so many of you that I want to keep a part of our lives.  Of course, the best way to keep in touch is with a good, old-fashioned face-to-face visit and we really appreciate friends from far and near who made the long, winding trip up to see us.

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So I just wanted you all to know that I haven’t forgotten you and if you have the time try to remember us in prayer here at Hartland Christian Camp.  We just said good-bye to 200 homeschoolers who spent 4 days fellowshipping together at our Fall Homeschool Family Camp (there’s another one in May, if you’re interested, click here for some reasons why you should be).  This afternoon the sky is brilliant blue but this morning, just as it has often been for over a month now, the sky was a smoky reminder of the 100,000 acre wildfire burning just miles away.  The Lord graciously spared a sister camp (Hume Lake) and we pray for His protection over Hartland as well.

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When the internet provider was trying to explain to me why we couldn’t get service I said to him, “So the bad news is because of the trees we can’t have internet but the good news is you just saved us $60 a month.”  I really, really don’t want to suddenly make an appearance on-line and announce, “The bad news is the entire Sequoia National Forest just burned down but the good news is with all the trees gone, I now have internet connection.”  So please pray that this camp which has been ministering to families just like yours since 1946, and the homes of all the staff members who serve here and the beautiful Giant Sequoias which have graced this rugged landscape for millennia would be spared.

As for future updates, I’ll just have to figure something out.  In the mean time, here are some pictures of the boys in there new stomping grounds.

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Oh, and “Happy Fall Y’All!”  This is the first time I get to experience my favorite season in four-long-summer-filled-years.

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Why the house is suddenly so quiet with only 5 boys in it…

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It’s always a treat to have Grandparents on-island. But this last visit from Oma and Opa sent our boys over the moon. Not only did they bring candy, they brought more grandkids. So while Oma and Opa enjoyed their ocean-front cottage, Tom and I shared our condo with not 5, but 7 wiggly, giggly, having-way-too-much-fun-just-being-together boys. The amazing thing is, our two extra guests were about as easy to accommodate as could be. They just blended right in and they all got along together beautifully. Really, I’d add these extra two to my crew anytime.

2 of the nicest house guests anyone could ask for.

2 of the nicest house guests anyone could ask for.


But oh, did things turn dreary once they were gone. It’s like being left with only 4 brothers in the house is the worst form of loneliness imaginable. But I think we’ll pull through. Thankfully we have the summer to look forward to, which means visits with not just these 2, but all 18 cousins, Uncles and Aunts, and 2 sets of Grandparents besides! Oh the familial bliss! In the meantime, we’ll just have to savor a fun-filled week’s worth of memories as pictured here…

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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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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!

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Industrial Waste… part 5

I do apologize for not being able to wrap this up sooner. It’s a big topic and I’m trying to do it justice, but at the same time there are oodles of other things going on here that I’d like to write about and scant amount of time to do so. Here are 7 points I would like to throw out there. No pictures. No frills. Just my two-cents worth and a hope that you will add yours.

1. Boys are made for work. I’m not pigeon-holing males into a meat-head role here, but Genesis 2 is very clear that God created Adam first and “put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” This was his primary created role and he was perfectly equipped to fulfill it. This role was also the subject of his subsequent curse, “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground.”

2. For thousands of years that is exactly what boys grew up doing. They worked. And when they weren’t working, they played. Except for a few exceptions who were devoted to scholarly work at a young age, most would already be apprenticing for a career by 14.

3. With the advent of the printing press, Reformers like Martin Luther envisioned an entire population that could read the Bible for themselves (a noble and worthy goal) and primary schools were born.

4. The Industrial Revolution took this concept to an entirely new level with the effort to create a uniformly educated workforce universally equipped for factory operations.

5. Until the last century the purpose of schooling was to either provide a rudimentary
understanding of reading, writing and arithmetic or to prepare a student for a career particularly conducive to academic rigors.

6. Fast forward 100 years and social engineers now have boys as young as 3 years old spending the vast majority of their time in a classroom setting for the next 15 years of their life. Add to that the immense pressure to continue into higher education and another 2-6 years in an industry they possibly neither like nor excel at. Nor is this prolonged existence in academia any guarantee of a profitable career. There are some careers that necessitate a long and arduous classroom education. And I reiterate my awareness of those boys who thrive in a classroom setting. But the sad by-product of the education industry is the vast population of boys who not only fail to thrive in the classroom setting, but are also deprived of years and years of potential development actually doing what they were created to do.

7. Boys want to be good at something. It’s part of the drive God instilled in them. If they find out early on that that something is school then by all means cheer them on in that regard. But if the classroom is just not their thing, then give them a chance earlier on than 18 to find out what is! By 18 that drive to succeed may be already wasted due to the years of frustrating failure being forced to do what they are just not made for! That is industrial waste of epic proportions.

The video below has been widely circulated for a while now but I thought it illustrated a few of my points well.

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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 2

Boys are my world. One boy shares the sofa with me as I write this, his freckled nose buried in a well-loved copy of Huckleberry Finn and his shockingly dirty feet periodically jabbing me in the leg. Through the sliding door I see the two blond heads of my oldest and youngest sharing a pillow, the one finally asleep for his morning nap the other smiling triumphantly for having gotten him there. The house is unusually quiet with the two other younger ones off on an overnight trip to Volcano National Park with Dad and a visiting cousin.
They may be gone but their hasty departure left evidence all the way to the door of the everlasting presence of boys in my life. Beach towels and boogie boards still drying from yesterday’s use line one side of the lanai. Hockey gear from last night’s practice is strewn all over the other side. Cereal bowls and spoons dot the table from breakfast. Peanut butter and jam linger yet on the counter while the sandwiches they went into are traveling, bagged and labeled according to the tastes of the adventurers who will be inhaling them later today. These, incessant reminders of our ever-increasing food bills. An assortment of discarded flashlights, dead batteries, and dull pocket knives lie jumbled where they were sorted out in favor of more operational adventuring gear. All this just in my line of sight. The bedroom and bathroom down the hall remain mercifully out of view. I shudder even to think…
There really are only 2 reasons I don’t have pictures posted so you too could revel in this scene, and they are as follows: 1. Tom took the phone/camera with him so I don’t have anything to take pictures with, and 2. My dear, uber-sauber, German mother would be so mortified it would probably send her to an early grave. And I haven’t even mentioned the layers of sticky handprints on the glass, the Crayola art on the slip-covers or the containers of lizards and bugs next to the pile of shoes on the front porch (I think I’ve lost her for sure now). Hopefully description will do justice where pictures lack because a real picture is what I want to give. A picture of my manger full of boys in all it’s noisy, sticky, grimy glory.
I love these boys. I love all the other boys that come around to play with them everyday. I love my husband who remembers enough about his own boyhood to be a great Dad to them. So naturally I’m a little partial to boys. Naturally I’m pretty passionate in matters pertaining to their current and future welfare. And because education and work play huge roles in a boy’s current and future welfare, I’m more than a little interested in both. Especially in how they relate to each other.
So you see, somehow I’ve managed to get back to the purpose of this post and it’s place in this series. I just had to give you my qualifications as a means of introduction first, namely the mere fact that I am living, breathing, teaching, studying, scolding, feeding, mending, clothing, chasing, cheering-on, worrying-over, praying-for and cleaning-up-after boys 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I think that might make me somewhat of an expert.
Oh, and this just in. While I might not have the phone/camera to take pictures of home with, Tom just emailed a few shots he took with it on their adventure. So at least I have something to appease the Omas and Opas with. And now I had better go clean house.

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