Monkeying Around

I figured you all might be getting a little tired of hearing my two-cents worth so I thought I would turn this post over to the boys.  This year I haven’t been requiring them to type up summaries like I did on our previous blog sites (click here and here) mainly because we’ve been doing a much better job of recording what they’re learning using the notebook method inspired by Shannon at ihavenogreaterjoy.  Anyway they are all eager to tell you about what we’ve been learning about some of God’s silliest creatures:  monkeys and apes.

Notebooking time

Notebooking time

My favorite monkey is Spider Monkeys.  We made spider monkeys out of modeling clay and Kix and wiggly eyes and pipe cleaners.  Then we had them hang on strings and branches and we played with them all day (Sam, 5).

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We made monkey bread. You can make it too. Open 4 cans biscuit dough and  cut the biscuits into quarters.  Mix 1 cup brown sugar and 1 tablespoon cinnamon in a big ziplock bag.  Add the biscuit  pieces and shake it all up.  Put all the sugary pieces in a pan and then pour 1/2 cube of melted butter on top.  Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes at 375  degrees.  Turn it upside down on a plate and eat it! (Nate, 7)

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One thing I like about orangutans is that it’s the smartest ape in the jungle.  It eats fruit, nuts and bugs.  They swing around in trees like madmen looking for a nice place to sleep for the night.  As orangutans get older their cheek flaps grow bigger and bigger (Joel, 9).

Thank you Kristin C. for this Big Book of Animals which we have been pulling worksheets out of to supplement our studies.

Thank you Kristin C. for this Big Book of Animals which we have been pulling worksheets out of to supplement our studies.

My favorite primate is the orangutan. I like it best mostly because of it’s orange color and hairy body. Orangutans live on the two islands of Borneo and Sumatra in Southern Asia. They are very intelligent and their face has a close resemblance to humans at dusk. Orangutans build a small hut out of sticks and branches.  Orangutans are very curious animals and often sit up in trees and gaze intently at things for hours. Thus the name orangutan means ”man of the forest” (Titus, 10).

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Small Tokens

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uNpJ2lFk9yk I was overwhelmed seeing images of the display of 880,000 poppies (one for every British soldier lost in WW1) surrounding the Tower of London.  I can’t imagine what it must be like to see it in person. Looking around on-line I was disappointed that there didn’t seem to be any comparable observances here in the United States in honor of the 100th anniversary of the start of the Great War.  In fact, I’m not sure my generation is aware of any form of Armistice observance other than more sales at the shopping mall or a piddly parade.  Even our neighbors to the North still carry on the tradition of pinning on a bright red poppy. It’s just a small token, but it at least brings some sense of decorum to the day, which is something we Americans seem to have flung overboard as effectively as the proverbial tea.

small tokens

small tokens

In Joshua 4 we read about God stopping the waters of the Jordan so the Israelites could pass through. Then He commanded one man from each of the Twelve Tribes to take a stone out of the Jordan and to carry it on their shoulder to the other side.  “When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ then you shall tell them… So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever (v6,7).” photo 1-5 Americans need more stones of remembrance.  At the very least, they remind us to be thankful.  To show gratitude to God and others, because there is really nothing at all we’ve accomplished, achieved, or acquired on our own accord.

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Yesterday was a day for small tokens.  Tom read us a story about a lady who used poppies pinned to the shoulder just as the Israelites used stones to teach future generations to remember the great events, the great sacrifices, and The Greater Hand of Providence that governs them all.  The boys cut out little paper poppies while I made coffee and muffins for a small crowd of neighbors we had invited to gather on our beach.  Alec, our resident bagpiper, played a few tunes in remembrance of those who have given much fighting for the freedoms we now give away.  And we “talked story,” as the Hawaiians say.  Small tokens.  Plain stones.  But I hope each one there walked away a little more thankful and a little more determined to remember.

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Make sure you watch this next video, too!


Toddler Stations

You may be wondering after reading my previous post how we manage to get any school work done with Hurricane Gideon raging around us.  The secret is Learning Centers or Sensory Play Stations geared toward toddlers.  The idea behind learning centers is for the student (or toddler) to move independently from station to station, each designed to “teach, reinforce or extend a specific skill or concept.”  For toddlers, sensory play is the primary means by which these skills are introduced.  Because we are also very firm believers in “self-motivated learning” and wish to produce “independent life-long-learners” we allow our toddler to create his own sensory learning centers.  I followed him around with a camera one day in order to document his “education.”  Here are just a few of his favorite stations:

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Chances are if you have a toddler in the house you have many of the same learning centers already in place, maybe even a few that Gideon hasn’t thought of!  If so please share them!


Forces of Nature: Volcanoes, Hurricanes, and One-Year-Olds

Boys and fire.  We brought our neighbor, Phil, along and sure were thankful for the extra hands!

Boys and fire. We brought our neighbor, Phil, along and sure were thankful for the extra hands!

A few weeks ago we took a camping trip to Volcano National Park.  I know I’ve posted about our adventures there before (here and here) but the great thing about active volcanoes is that they’re never the same!  Also, this time we had a One-Year-Old along and that makes for an entirely different kind of adventure. Active volcanoes and active toddlers are really a lot alike.  They both require constant monitoring.  But even under the closest of supervision there is really very little one can do to prepare for their next outburst.  You are simply at their mercy. Here on the Big Island our thoughts are all with the residents of Pahoa where an active lava flow has arrived at their back door and already destroyed some structures.  The flow started back in June and they’ve been able to predict it’s course pretty well but like a stubborn, determined child there’s nothing you can do to stop it from destroying whatever lies in it’s path.  It WILL have it’s own way.


Trouble’s brewing.

Anyway, about the camping trip;  Phil, Tom, and the boys brought tents but Gideon and I opted for the luxury of an A-frame with a real roof and bed and that’s about it.  Sometime during the rather rainy night a few more boys fled their soggy tent and joined us but little Sam was a real trooper and stayed cuddled up next to Dad till morning.  Besides puddles in the tents there were plenty more outside for Gideon to splash around in!

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And just as an aside, if for some reason you’re heading out on a camping trip and not a single store in town has hot-dog roasting sticks or wire hangers to make them out of here’s a tip:  a two-pack of fly swatters is only a buck.  Just clip the plastic part off and voila!

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Anyway, a couple weeks later with Hurricane Ana bearing down on our island we thought, “What better place to ride out a storm than the edge of a volcano?”  This time, Tom’s folks were able to score us accommodations at the Kilauea Military Camp.  Since schools were all canceled Tom had an extra day off so we left early to get ahead of the wind and rain.

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We hit the first outer band of Ana around South Point but by the time we got up to the park it was clear again.  Which was kind of funny because the whole National Park was closed because of the storm.  They let us through the gate anyway because we were the only ones silly enough not to have cancelled our reservations and we ended up having the whole Volcano to ourselves that entire day.

The lobby was all boarded up for the storm but they left us to fend for ourselves in a cottage.

The lobby was all boarded up for the storm but they left us to fend for ourselves in a cottage.

The rain hit that evening just as we were eating our microwaved dinner outside at the picnic table.

Road food.

Road food.

It didn’t stop until 36 hours later.  Rumor has it we got the most rain of any other place in Hawaii.  A good 12 inches at least.  But we had chosen our shelter well and for the first time in over three years enjoyed family time around a real live fireplace with actual fire in it.  We played games while Gideon ran off with the pieces, drank hot chocolate and generally enjoyed all the things you Main-Landers will get to experience for the next  6 months.  My hopelessly generous sister even sent a big box of pumpkin goodies to enjoy.  It was Fall in a box.

Pumpkin treats from my sister, vintage table-cloth from my mom, red bamboo vase hand-crafted  by Titus, and wild orchids from God.  Must be my birthday.

Pumpkin treats from my sister, vintage table-cloth from my mom, red bamboo vase hand-crafted by Titus, and wild orchids from The Creator Himself. Must be my birthday.

Our last day there, I rose at dawn to catch the last little bit of lava glow.  The rain was petering out and by mid-morning all was loveliness again.

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Toddlers are like hurricanes.  Completely unpredictable.  You can’t ever know for certain exactly where they will hit.  Or with what fury.  THIS time we were spared. Next time, who knows?


Friday Funnies





photoI’ve mentioned before how much my boys enjoy this silly joke book.  It’s the quickest and easiest way to get them into the “school zone” each morning.  Originally I had a joke picked out for the days I didn’t have a funny animal poem to read.  But it didn’t take long for them to declare that my animal poems weren’t really all that funny, so now they chant “Joke! Joke! Joke!” until I bring out this little book.  Now the joke of the day is the first thing on the agenda and sadly sometimes it’s the only thing they remember.

Since I haven’t required them to type up a “Friday’s Factoid” this year (we’ve been keeping better track of what they’re learning on paper), I thought it might be fun if they all shared one of their favorite jokes from some of the different animal families we’ve studied so far.

Family Canidae (A Dog Joke submitted by Joel)

A jogger stopped for a rest.  Sitting on a park bench next to an old man, he noticed a dog curled up under the bench.  “Does your dog bite?” he asked.  “Nope!” the old man said.  So the jogger reached under the bench to pat the dog and it nearly bit his hand off!  “I thought you said your dog didn’t bite!” he yelled at the old man.  “He doesn’t,” the old man replied.  “But that there ain’t my dog.”

Family Ursidae (A Bear Joke submitted by Titus)

Once upon a time there were three bears that lived in a cottage in the woods.  Coming back from a walk, Papa Bear noticed something unusual.  “Who’s been sleeping in my bed and left the covers all messed up?” he roared.  The baby bear ran into his own room.  “Who’s been sleeping in my bed and left the covers all messed up?” he squeaked.  Mother Bear walked in and said, “Will you two calm down?  I just haven’t had a chance to make them yet!”

Family Felidae (A Cat Joke submitted by Sam)

A man once applied for a job as a circus lion tamer.  The ringmaster asked if he had any experience, and the man said, “Why yes.  My father was one of the most famous lion tamers in the world and he taught me everything he knew.”  “Really?” said the ringmaster.  “Did he teach you how to make a lion jump through a flaming hoop?”  “Yes, he did,” the man replied.  “And did he teach you how to have six lions form a pyramid?”  “Yes, he did” the man replied.  Impressed, the ring ringmaster went for the biggest question in the lion-taming world.  “Have you ever stuck your head in a lion’s mouth?”  “Just once,” the man replied. The ringmaster asked, “Why only once?”  And the man said, “I was looking for my father.”

Family Macropodidae (A Kangaroo Joke submitted by Nate)

The zookeepers started work one morning and noticed the kangaroo had escaped from its enclosure.  They rounded it up and erected a ten-foot fence around the enclosure.  The next morning the kangaroo was hopping around the zoo again.  They put it back in its enclosure and built the fence up to twenty feet.  The next morning the kangaroo was hopping around the zoo again.  And once again the zookeepers put it back in its enclosure then raised the fence to forty feet.  The kangaroo and its friend watched the workmen pack up their tools, and the friend said, “I wonder how high they’re gonna go with that.”  “I don’t care,” the kangaroo said. “Just so long as they keep leaving the gate unlocked!”

Hmmmm…  Makes me wonder how often I might be missing the obviously easier solution…

Oh, and we can’t leave out Gideon.  He doesn’t get jokes but he thinks the goldfish is hilarious.

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There is absolutely such a thing as having too much fun.  Since my last post we got so busy with fun activities that my body and mind finally collapsed into an exhausted heap.  My little meltdown happened to coincide with Ironman week and quite possibly the most epic meltdown by a professional athlete I have ever witnessed.   The fatigue set in sometime during our camping trip to Volcano which was marked by no sleep for me and the start of a series of fevers that passed through the boys which of course resulted in more sleepless nights for me.  The boys all happened to be well-enough to compete the day of the Ironkids mini-triathalon which is about as crazy as kids sporting events should legally be allowed to be.  It’s not timed and there are no places since all age-groups/distances have the same start and finish however, the fact that the majority of the young competitors are the children of the actual Ironman competitors makes this particular competition, well, extremely competitive.  For some reason, our boys love these races.  I find them stressful, chaotic, and exhausting which is probably exactly why our boys love these races.

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This is just the kick off for the real Ironman race which consists of over 2000 uber-athletes swimming 2.5 miles, then biking 120 miles before topping their morning off with a full marathon.  The race starts at 6:30 AM and they have until mid-night to finish but the professionals are usually done by lunch time, which is usually right when we’re all worn out just from watching.  It really is an amazing display of physical strength and endurance.  If only these athletes could exercise the same kind of self-discipline in their private lives.  Unfortunately the morning after the race there was a huge blow up between a neighboring Ironman and his Ironlady which resulted in her $10,000 bike being smashed into pieces, her Dad being pummeled, and a very large diamond ring being tossed back at it’s giver.  Oh yeah, and then about midnight there were the suitcases being thrown down the stairs and 2 front tires being flattened on the rental car.  I believe in the sporting world, this kind of premature and permanent loss of momentum is called “bonking.”

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See the beautiful white bell tower in the background?  That’s our nearly 200-year-old church where our dear Kahu David has been faithfully preaching The Word, most recently from the first part of the book of Revelation.  Here’s an excerpt from chapter 3 and the words to the Church at Philadelphia:  “I know your works…I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name…Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world…I am coming soon.  Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown.  The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God.”  What a beautiful picture of the Bride of Christ!  Our little church represents just a piece of that “patient endurance.”  Since it’s founding by some brave-hearted New England missionaries at the appeal of some very determined Hawaiians, this church has witnessed the rise and fall of kingdoms, the expansion of empires, the empowering and subjugation of peoples, the burning and rebuilding of pagan temples and their idols.  It has withstood hurricanes, earthquakes and tsunamis.  And yet those lava walls still house the continual praises of the people in this community.  The walls themselves will crumble, but be it ever our prayer that His people here will “hold fast.”  And be it ever our prayer that our marriages and our families will “hold fast.”



I want my family to have an Ironman finish.  Lord grant us the “patient endurance”  to “hold fast” and “conquer” the incredible odds stacked against families like ours.  Only His Sustaining Power will prevent us from a big-time “bonk.”

That mini-bonk I experienced last week?  Probably the result of “over-biking.”  I guess that’s what happens when a triathlete expends too much energy on the bike section and doesn’t have enough left for the 26 mile run.  I put so much energy into the fun extra stuff I just didn’t have any left for the day to day demands.  Gotta learn to pace myself!  Oh, and I need to learn to “slow down through the aid-stations” and take advantage of available nutrition and hydration which was the much talked about key to this year’s victories.  But oh, do the miles seem to stretch on and on between those roadside run-thrus!  Thank the Lord for those dear people that He has placed strategically along the way to hand out a cup of encouragement or a bit of spiritual nourishment to us Moms!  You just might prevent a bonk!


More adventuring…and Myth demolishing

As I write this, on the other side of our island, homes and businesses are being threatened by a steady flow of lava.  Some people have been calling for the government to take drastic measures to try to stop the flow but the response from government officials has been to let “Pele have her way”. “She (Pele) is just cleaning house and who are we to stand in her way?”  Over and over the mantra is repeated to the public to “respect Pele” and “stay out of Pele’s way.”  So much for separation of church and state.  The government can impose all kinds of religious jargon on the people as long as it’s a pagan religion they’re espousing.  Can you imagine the uproar that would ensue if the same officials claimed this lava flow to be the will of God and “who are we to stand in the Almighty’s way?”  Just a side note though, really.  What I really wanted to write about was this: 023_23 Those are our four older boys and Tom standing on British Soil!  And guess what?  They paddled all the way there! If you ever come to the Big Island, a must see sight (besides the active volcano and beautiful beaches) is the Captain Cook Monument which actually belongs by Hawaiian Royal Decree to Great Britain!  The only way to get there is via a really long hike (read about that adventure here) or by hiring one of several licensed kayak tours.  The parents of one of Tom’s students just happen to have said license and offered to take Tom and the boys across Kealakekua Bay on Saturday (Gideon and I opted for a walk to Farmers Market and a slice of quiche at a local coffee shop instead.  Poor us :)). Anyway, here are the boys paddling out on their Big Adventure:011_11  And here they are are enjoying the world-class snorkeling awaiting them on the other side of the bay: 025_25Here’s some more under-water pictures just because they’re fun and they happened to take about 100:

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When they got back home they were bursting with stories to tell of the amazing creatures they saw and all the interesting things they heard from their guide (he just happened to be a local private homeschooling tutor on the side and knew just how to talk to our boys in order to keep them completely enraptured throughout the entire excursion).  One of the stories he told them was how the Demi-god “Maui” had created Hawaii on a fishing trip with his brothers by getting a snag on the ocean floor and as his brothers rowed they pulled up this chain of islands!  “Isn’t that silly!”  My boys were quick to assure me of their own disbelief in such myths.  But actually, when I heard it, it sounded quite feasible.  At least a lot more feasible than the other explanations we’re inundated with about there being some “Big Bang” which accidentally resulted in this: 005_5 and this:004_4   and this: 020_20   and this:031_31 I could go on. But my point is:  That fish tail about the demigod, Maui, is a whole lot more believable than the one about you and I being the result of an accidental explosion of nothing. All of this was heavy on my mind as I headed off on my own Saturday adventure just hours after their return. Once a week I volunteer a couple hours at Mokuakaua Church and give tours and a history talk about the first missionaries bringing the gospel to this island in 1820.  Some guy named James Michener is responsible for profligating a whole bunch of myths about a truly miraculous story and I have to hear his version every Saturday as tourists step off the cruise ship and through the doors of our historic church.  My job is to dispel those myths with the true light of the gospel just as it was shown on this dark, death-filled land with the arrival of a few humble servants and a box full of Bibles two centuries ago.  Michener’s version reminds me a lot of that fish story of “Maui’s”.  And of a similar one by a guy named “Darwin.”  And the one about the volcano-god, Pele, that our local government officials are so fond of repeating.  It’s all the same story.  The one without Jesus in it.

Moms and Dads, Grandmas and Grandpas, we have one very important task.  It’s the same one Paul had in mind when he wrote these words to the Corinthians: “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.  We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ (2 Cor. 10:5).”  God has called us to rage war against the lies of our age, not to turn a blind eye to the Godless narratives of our time.  A story minus Christ, is a myth and a lie.  It’s not “History.”  And it’s not “Science.”  It’s a futile suppression of the one truth, The Author of Everything.  As Paul also says in Romans, “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.  For his invisible attributes, namely his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.  So they are without excuse.  For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened…they exchanged the truth about God for a lie (Rom.1:19-25).”  What’s even more pathetic, is that it’s not even a good lie!  Seriously.  Explosions of nothing and cosmic fishing mishaps?  And they think we’re crazy for believing in Jesus.  Get out there and shine the light people!  That’s the greatest adventure of all!