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.


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.


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!


15 Glimpses of 2015… so far

I know it’s been a long time.  I haven’t written a thing since LAST YEAR!  So here’s a glimpse of what we’ve been up to in 2015, including a few of the days leading up to it.

1. We celebrated Ti’s B-day with Aebelskivers for breakfast and blueberry cobbler with all the neighbors for dessert.  He and I also went to see Handel’s Messiah together.  Just the two of us.  I was so proud of my handsome date.

Titus turns 11

Titus turns 11

2. All the boys paddled down Alii Drive in their racing outrigger for the Light Parade and won a 2nd place trophy for their efforts.  It was way longer than their usual regattas but I didn’t have to worry about them huli-ing (tipping over) the whole time.

Joel paddling the Keauhou Canoe Club into Light Parade history

Joel paddling the Keauhou Canoe Club into Light Parade history

3. After living in it’s shadow for 3 1/2 years we finally made the hike to the top of Hualalai.  We’d heard rumors of volcanic craters with parrots in them.  No parrots.  But plenty of seemingly bottomless craters to tumble to your death in.

My guys on top of Hualalai with the Kohala coast line behind

My guys on top of Hualalai with the Kohala coast line behind

4. Tom took Nate out for his first night-time snorkel with the manta rays and they were both thrilled to have a friend visiting from Hartland join them for their adventure.  I was just thrilled to have my little boy back safe and sound.

Vince, Nate, and Tom heading out for a night swim with the manta rays

Vince, Nate, and Tom heading out for a night swim with the manta rays

5.  Then came the glorious 2-week visit from Oma and Opa.  You have no idea the thrill it is to have family around.

Opa, Oma, and the stars of the "Grandparents Recital"

Opa, Oma, and the stars of the “Grandparents Recital”

6. The boys’ dear, sweet piano teacher hosted a recital just for the grandparents.  Of course, we had to invite all the neighbors, too.  What a long-suffering crowd we are surrounded by here.

Sam and Linda's duet

Sam and Linda’s duet

6.  Gideon.  He makes every minute an event.  As soon as all his older brothers had finished playing he climbed right up on the piano bench like his name was next in the program and pounded away like he’d been practicing all week.

Gideon's turn

Gideon’s turn

7.  New Year’s Eve in Hawaii.   Every year we walk down to our beach when it gets dark and watch a bunch of old guys light stuff on fire.  Then by 9:00 all our neighbors go to bed but we suffer through another 3 hours playing games until midnight at which time we go outside and light louder stuff on fire in order to wake them all up for the New Year.

Old guys light stuff on fire

Old guys lighting stuff on fire

8. I got my first pedicure.  It was a gift from the dear lady downstairs I help take care of.  A lot of wisdom comes with 90 years and the successful raising of 7 children.  Getting this mama into a day-spa for the first time in her life was certainly evidence of that 🙂

I went in a tired mom and came out a movie star.  The  boys all wanted me to get red but I had to go with pink just to be rebellious.

I went in a tired mom and came out a movie star. The boys all wanted me to get red but I had to go with pink just to be rebellious.

9.  Tom and I celebrated our 16th anniversary by utilizing a sweet Cyber Monday deal at the local Hilton.  This could only happen because Tom’s folks were here.  For 3 days and 2 nights we got to live like the wealthy kid-less crowd.  Except we ate peanut butter sandwiches in our room and talked about our kids a lot.

Living like the other set

Showing off my toes again and a very relaxed husband.  Paradise indeed.

10. After our anniversary trip we gathered everyone up and headed over to Volcano National Park where I got to enjoy some solitary hikes on rain forested trails like this one.

That bench through there clearly had my name on it

That bench through there clearly had my name on it

11. We also had a chance to visit the new lava flow in Pahoa.  This is where it crossed the road and took out a house but skirted neatly around the garage.  Even lava has it’s priorities.

That's the newest rock on Earth folks!

That’s the newest rock on Earth folks!

12.  In the winter we do a lot of whale watching but with the recent epic surf we’ve been doing a lot of wave watching as well.  This particular swell lasted several days and just pounded our coastline.  It was like having constant thunder over head and our condo shook like an earthquake every time the waves hit the shore.  Today all was calm and placid again and the whales and dolphins were back out in force.

"The seas have lifted up their pounding waves" Psalm 93:3

“The seas have lifted up their pounding waves” Psalm 93:3

13. We’re still enjoying our monthly service with the folks at the nursing home and love seeing our boys grow in their own capacity to encourage others.  This time even Gideon made sure to give everyone a cheery personal greeting right before throwing a fit over not being able to accompany the hymn singing on the piano.

Our brothers and sisters at the nursing home

The boys enjoy turning pages for our service at the nursing home and the older ladies enjoy letting them whether they need the help or not 🙂

14. Hockey season is in full swing which means heaps of stinky gear to keep organized.  Congratulations to Dad who helped lead his own men’s team to 1st place!

No gear for Gid yet but he makes good use of his cubby anyway

No gear for Gid yet but he makes good use of his cubby anyway

15.  School’s been back in session for a couple weeks now and bag-pipe lessons start back up tomorrow, so with piano and ukulele and sports and friends and the general rough and tumble activity that comes with boys, it’s just a whirl of noise and mess and motion around here.  That’s life in a manger.  And the year has  only.  just.  begun.

From the oldest to the youngest we love to fill our days with music and laughter

From the oldest to the youngest we’ll be filling 2015 with music and laughter.


Resolve: Take the Family to Family Camp

If you haven’t made your New Year’s Resolutions yet, put this one at the top of your list.  Resolved:  this year we will take the family to family camp.  Moms, imagine a vacation where you drive to one place, park the car, and don’t get back in until it’s time to go home.  Imagine the fun of the whole family falling asleep in close quarters as you giggle and talk over the adventures of the day.  Imagine 3 meals a day prepared by and cleaned up after by other people and all you have to do is show up.  Imagine enough activities at your disposal to keep the whole family so busy that by the time it’s bed-time everyone actually WANTS to go to sleep.  Imagine spending meaningful time worshipping and being encouraged through the Word all together.  Imagine, just imagine, a few days without cell-phones, lap-tops, video-games, and T.V.  Imagine nothing to distract you from the beauty of God’s creation, the bounty of His Word, and the blessing of fellowship with other believers.  That’s family camp and it’s the best gift you could give them all year.

If you are blessed enough to live in California there are probably any number of Christian Conference Centers offering family camps within a few hours drive.  My husband grew up going to Mt. Hermon and Hume Lake and I grew up going to several smaller camps.  But our favorite by far was Hartland Christian Camp near Sequoia National Park.  Years ago we were thrilled when some good friends of ours (Hi Eric and Amber!) went on full-time staff there and not long after Tom joined the summer staff team.  Our family has now spent 8 summers living the camp-life and loving every minute of it.  If you are a homeschooling family, you may be interested to know that Hartland offers two Homeschool Family Camps, one in May and the other in September (the perfect way to end or kick-off the school year).  Dads, if you have an overworked homeschooling wife on your hands, this is probably the most relaxing and rewarding family vacation you could give.  It’s an investment, but it’s worth every penny and it will absolutely be the highlight of 2015.  Happy New Year to all you friends, family members and long-suffering blog followers!

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Christmas Mad-Libs

When it comes to homeschooling I like to put the bulk of our time, energy and resources into the fun subjects that we do all together like science, social studies and Bible.  When it comes to the 3 R’s I’m pretty much a cheapskate and use simple essentials that get the job done.  This means that math can sometimes get a bit boring.  My solution to this has been, instead of switching to a glitzier, costlier math program, to let them take a 1 or 2 week long break from their usual math drudgery and work out of an alternative workbook or read from some fun math-based series like Life of Fred or Sir Cumference (Thank you again, Kristin C.)  The same thing goes for grammar.  We use Rod and Staff’s “Building Christian English” series which is notoriously dull and thorough to the point of being repetitive.  But it is also cheap, has a long shelf life, and effectively gets the job done.  Every now and then I get the sense that the natives are restless and about to revolt if forced to read one more chapter which means it’s time for a break.  Lately, their grammar substitute of choice has been doing Mad Libs. These humorous fill-in-the-blank activity books were around when I was a kid and now come in every subject you can imagine.  Titus just finished reading the entire 60+ book Hardy Boys series and is thus currently interested in all things forensic. Yes, there’s a Mad Libs book for that and yes, I let he and Joel do nothing but that as grammar for a week.

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Here’s how Mad Libs work:

You’ve got a story with blank lines in every sentence and instructions to fill in each blank with a noun, verb, adjective etc… The reader asks the word-giver for someone’s name or a place or some descriptive term and writes it in the blank.  Then he reads back the story with the word-giver’s answers and of course it always comes out very silly and confusing and not making any sense at all.  Listening to my boys giggle over these non-sensical stories I couldn’t help but think of how many things in our post-modern society resemble Mad Libs in their philosophy.  When there are no absolutes pretty much anything can be used to fill-in-the-blank.

Take Christmas for example.  Sometimes I wonder if the inventors of this holiday didn’t use some kind of Mad Lib type format in it’s development.

Let’s make a holiday to celebrate Christ’s birth.  We don’t know exactly what day he was born on so let’s choose     (random date)   .   For his birthday we will always depict him as being    (random infantile age)   and not as the Exalted King of Glory and Eternal Judge that he is.  We will also make    (random store)   rich by buying presents for    (names of everyone you know)   even though it’s not their Birthday.  We will deck our homes, businesses, and public places out with    (names of plants, animals, mythical characters, and particular weather patterns common to the Northern latitudes and not at all relevant to Christ’s actual place of birth)   .    We will feast on    (random foods no one from Bethlehem ever tasted)   and participate in parties, programs, and parades no Nazarite ever knew.  All in all, this celebration will be as far removed from the Judean culture as the North Pole is from    (random middle-eastern location)   .  Everyone from   (random country)   to    (random country)    will join in celebrating the birth of someone they either ignore, don’t believe in or downright hate the other 364 days of the year.  We will call this celebration of his birth a Christ-Mass, which is actually a commemoration of his death, unless we’re a public figure in which case we will refer to the holiday as    (some other secular seasonal greeting)   .

Before you get up-in-arms and start shouting “Scrooge!” at me, I’m not attacking Christmas nor anyone’s particular methods of celebrating it.  I’m just suggesting that as referenced in Joshua 4, when our children ask in times to come, “What do these [traditions] mean?” we better have something more substantive than the typical post-modern Mad-Lib-fill-in-the-blank response to answer them with.  Especially when it comes to the worship of our King.


A Noiseful Joy

The week before Thanksgiving our memory verse was Psalm 100:3.
“Know that the Lord, he is God! It is He who made us and we are His;
we are His people, and the sheep of his pasture.”
The next week we cancelled school and instead used the time to memorize the rest of the Psalm in it’s blessedly brief entirety, verse 4 being particularly timely.
“Enter His gates with Thanksgiving and His courts with praise!
Give thanks to Him and bless His name!”
But the part that really hit home with me was Psalm 100:1.
“Make a joyful noise to the Lord all the earth!”
I suppose this really “struck a chord” because the boys have recently started bagpipe lessons. Now I’ve never considered bagpipes a “joyful” kind of instrument, just kind of “noiseful.” But a neighbor of ours happens to play the pipes and we’ve thoroughly enjoyed our little concerts on the beach. So when he offered to teach the boys and even ordered them a practice chanter straight from Glasgow we jumped at the opportunity to learn something new.

Most memorable bagpipe concert ever:  a salute to some old Marine Corps Veterans Nov. 2013.

Most memorable bagpipe concert ever: a salute to some old Marine Corps Veterans Nov. 2013.

10, even 5 years ago, I never imagined my children would be learning to play the bagpipes, nor that they would pick up the instrument in Hawaii of all places. Before moving here I had visions of those delightfully refined chamber orchestras made up entirely of siblings from the same family. You know the ones- the oldest boy standing straight and tall behind a string bass while his graceful sisters hug a harp or cello and all the younger ones hold up violins of varying sizes. That’s exactly the kind of family I envisioned.

Joel trying out their new practice chanter

Joel trying out their new practice chanter

But I got a whole passel of boys and a one-way ticket to Hawaii. And then I got another boy and an Ukulele for each of them. And then none of them really cared to learn to play one, which in Hawaii is a bit like a Brazilian not caring about soccer.

Titus, rediscovering the Ukulele after 3 years of neglect.  Entirely self taught.

Titus, rediscovering the Ukulele after 3 years of neglect. Entirely self taught.

Then God led me to our neighbor, Linda’s place where I spied a piano- quite a rarity in the islands. Turns out she had given lessons for decades before retiring here and she offered to teach the boys if we got a keyboard to practice on. For months I prayed that the Lord would provide a keyboard for us and of course, He did! Only Titus and Nathan were interested in lessons though, and having learned from the whole Ukelele endeavor that you can’t force an instrument on kids I settled for a slightly smaller talent pool. But after spending a year in the recital audience Joel and Sam decided it would be much more fun getting all the applause than giving it. So now dear, gracious Linda has all 4 boys under her tutelage and they are flying through their books.

Nate basking in his piano teacher's approval

Nate basking in his piano teacher’s approval

My friends, just imagine for a second how at any given time I have the joy of hearing in our little condo a bagpipe chanter, keyboard, or ukelele often all at the same time.

Substitute choir members

Substitute choir members

Oh, and did I mention they can also sing? Our entire bass and tenor section was absent from choir for a couple weeks so I volunteered Tom and the boys to fill in (if there’s one thing I can provide when called upon, it’s “man”power). I thought you might enjoy hearing the vocal talents of our two youngest choir members.

Yes. Mine is indeed a noiseful joy.