Saturday, August 29, 2009

Knights of Freedom Summit 2009

Knights of Freedom is a club for boys ages 8-12. They are organized into chapters of approximately 12 boys and they meet bi-monthly to share what they are learning about and lead each other in activities. We've been involved at different levels for the last two years. At the end of summer there is a 2 day Summit activity where all the chapters meet together and the boys earn swords and make shields and learn about the virtues of knighthood. There is a story line and the boys are involved in protecting their queen and fighting against an enemy. It is a blast for the boys.
It's suppose to be all about the boys. But guess who else really enjoys it?

The grown-up boys!
The dads get to come as the villians and fight in the final battle.
Abe got to be a special kind of villian this year (thus the fancy-pants outfit).

Abe got to be the head of the "Elitists". This was a group who were a part of the camp, but wanted reforms because they were nobles and they knew a better way. They ended up as traitors, fighting with an enemy country.
Their chant was "We are noble, We are Wise, We are better than you guys! Huzzah, Huzzah, Huzzah!"

Abe really got into his role

Here is Abe demanding that the Queen Emily sign the surrender. She refuses and it is almost time for the final battle.

Bethany put it well just before the battle when she said, "Mom, this is scary!" It was pretty intense.

They battled for a good 20 minutes and Abe was quite a target as he had been such a despicable character for two days.

Here's part of what made Summit so fun for Clark and Abe. Stuart and Adam (Abe's brother and nephew) came down from Portland for the big event.

Here is Stuart trying to persuade the Knights to come over to the side of the Elitists.

Cousin Adam won one of only six Chivalry Awards for being a great leader in his camp.

And Abe won the "UN-Chivalry Award" because his motto was not "Quest for the Truth" like the knights' motto.
Abe christened himself Duke Fox and his motto was "Quest for the Best".
When I arrived at Summit this afternoon I was bombarded by compliments on Abe's very entertaining performance. He really added a great element to the Summit this year.

But like I said, (cough, cough) it's all about the boys!

Daddies and Daughters in Paradise

Our ward had a fabulous daddy/daughter Hawaiian Luau for the Activity Day girls. It was a very well planned, enjoyable activity for all. Not to toot my own horn, but I did make those beautiful tissue paper flowers on the backdrop! Who knew I was so crafty?
The first leg of a relay was the girls shaving whipped topping off their dads with popscicle sticks. The second leg was the girls putting a tie on their dad.

The third leg was the dads putting pigtails in the girls hair and then the final leg was the dads painting the girls fingernails. Sadly, as Bethany's hair would suggest-- Abe and Bethany didn't do so well.

This is my favorite picture. They were learning the Hookie Lau. Now THOSE are real men.

I was at the activity in my primary president role, but I couldn't help getting into the spirit of the evening with my moo-moo.
This is my honeymoon moo-moo and I was just thrilled I could still wear it-- it just wasn't quite as baggy as it once was.

Mom Sale

There are several things I can do to make myself feel better when I get feeling stressed and anxious. One of my favorite things is to start throwing things away. It is soothing to have a few less things to worry about. A couple days back, I was organizing and chucking a few toys. Here's the conversation regarding a rarely, if ever, played with doll.

Mom: Els, can we get rid of this doll?

Elinor: (with feeling) No!

Mom: You never play with it.

Elinor: But it is special to me.

Mom: I'll give you a dollar if you'll throw it away.

Elinor: (with excitement and smiles) OKAY! What else can I throw away for a dollar?

Thus began the "Mom Sale" as opposed to the garage sale. I paid kids to throw out stuff they don't play with anymore. I did it. I do have some issues with it, but I did it and I slept just fine last night. Actually, I didn't sleep well at all, but for other reasons entirely unrelated.

"I should have" organized some garage sale so they could learn about earning money by selling stuff.

"I should have" some really organized system of earning money with extra jobs at home or an earned allowance.

"I should have" taken all the things we don't need anymore to D. I. (goodwill) to help those less fortunate than we are.

Sigh. There are a lot of things I should do. But, as a good friend told me and I quote (but you have to read it aloud) "Quit should-ing all over yourself".

Well put.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Homeschooling Story Part 2

Clark was a SUPER cute baby. I may be biased, but I don't think so. And he loved animals. He made animal noises before he ever said a word. He would sit in his high chair and I would ask him about animals and he would make their sounds. We did this A LOT. He would carry around the Little People farm animals. He did go through a very serious spoon phase wherein he loved spoons and slept with them and bathed with them and took them to church, but that only lasted a few months. Mostly it was animals all the time. One time I bought him a huge Little People city hoping to turn him on to cars, but no. He just placed his animals in the city.
He learned all his letters and sounds because each letter had an animal. A-alligator, B-bear, C-crocodile. You get it.

Meanwhile, there was this issue about what to do about education. Now I knew that there were other options besides public school. I did not feel I had to homeschool and I really didn't want to, but this idea had been planted in my head. I saw that there were some benefits and I also knew that I had a child who operated just a little bit different from all the other little tikes I knew.

I went to my first UHEA (Utah Home Educators Association) conference the summer that Clark turned one. I heard ideas that inspired me. I came to feel that homeschooling not only had some benefits, but that it was something I COULD do and SHOULD do. But I was scared. What if I didn't do a good job? What would people think of us? What if I went crazy? What if my children couldn't function in the real world? What if they can't get into college? What if? What if? What if?

I was definitely afraid. Then I made up a mantra for myself. "Fear is not a good enough reason not to do something". If there are other good reasons, then I will consider those and deal with them, but fear alone is not a good enough reason not to do something.

So for the next few years I went to lots of conferences and read books and talked to everyone I could. During this time it seemed that everyone in our similarly aged neighborhood were taking their tots to preschool and I didn't take Clark. I sometimes mentioned that I was considering homeschool, but I felt quite alone on that note. We read a lot of books-- lots of juvenile animal encyclopedias. We learned all about the continents and habitats and mammals, reptiles and insects. We hunted for bugs and watched Steve Irwin (the Croc Hunter). We went to museums and the zoo- a lot.

By the time kindergarten rolled around we had decided that we would homeschool. Partly because we were already reaping the benefits of home education and partly because I didn't feel school would be a positive experience for Clark at his age and stage of development.

To be continued.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Space Mission

A couple of months back Clark got to go to a day of space camp. He said it was "the best thing he has ever done. EVER!" I guess he liked it.
He's had some friends over lately to do space missions at our house. It's kind of a Star Trek idea. They have several positions: communications, radar, captain, admiral, doctors, pilot.

Their mission didn't go so well this week because we had a case of a whole lot of chiefs and not very many indians. Actually, I don't think there were any indians in the mix. There was a lot of yelling of opinions of what would happen in their mission and whose job is was to declare what would happen and how and when they were going to land on Pluto.
Here, Faith is being taken to sick bay before take-off because she had radiation poisoning. Serious stuff.

These kids are so much more clever than I ever was.

Getting Pampered

When I was a little girl I always wanted to brush my mom's hair. She had beautiful, full, curly hair. She did not like me to brush her hair. I don't know if she had some sensory disorder or if she just didn't want her hair messed up. My dad would let us comb his hair, but not my mom. Sigh.
But, I LOVE to have my hair brushed. Any child who will brush my hair gets to be "the chosen one" for the day.
Fortunately, Faith loves to brush my hair. She says, "Me brush your hair. Me make it pretty." And then she runs her cute little, short-legged run to find the hairbrush. And she can always find the hairbrush, even if it is left out in the wrong place, because Faith can find ANYTHING. If you are missing something in my house, just ask Faith and she will find it We don't know how she does it. It's a gift she has. A very useful gift.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Homeschooling Story Part I

Every August moms everywhere are celebrating "back to school". We home-school. So while we do enjoy getting back into our regular, full schedule and activities, our celebration is somewhat muted as there is no BIG change to our lives and routine.

I must confess to occasionally feeling a wee bit envious of the "back to school" revelry. So to comfort myself, here is part I of my homeschooling story.

I knew one homeschooling family when I was a young teenager in California and I was horrified at the very thought of homeschool. Why would anyone do that to their kids? How mean! And to my sister and I, they were "weird". We were sure they would not be weird if they went to school.

Then as an older teenager in Virginia, I met a really friendly homeschooled girl who was a part of an LDS youth singing group. I asked her if she liked doing homeschool and she said she loved it. Nice girl, but homeschool was still way too weird.

At BYU I met Abe and found out he was home-schooled during his high school years. He got into BYU, with a scholarship no less, and seemed to be a really great, social, smart, "normal" (as in not weird) guy. How could this be? His four older siblings all did public school for their school years, with the exception of a short private school stint for one brother. His parents began home-schooling Abe and his younger siblings when Abe was going into ninth grade.

When Abe and I talked about getting married I knew some of his older siblings were beginning to or planning to homeschool their children. I didn't want to marry under false pretenses, so I made it very clear-- I WOULD NEVER HOMESCHOOL!!!! He said he was fine either way. He did really like me, after all!
But I realized that this homeschool thing was going to be a part of my life (because Abe's family would now become my family) and I would need to be prepared with arguments as to why I WAS NOT going to homeschool. At the time I was taking a Sociology of Education class and for my project I decided to research homeschool. I talked to a family in our ward who home schooled and she directed me to books and essays and the Utah Home Educators Association. I brought Abe into my class as "Exhibit A-- a home schooled person-successfully functioning in the wider world". It was my first look at a different way to think about education and I thought, "Well, okay. I can see that there could be some good things with homeschool, but I would never want to do it".

Then I had my first baby.

To be Continued. . .

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Dad has the BEST job in the World!

This weekend was Abe's summer work party. It started off going to a free showing in a theater of a Feature Films for Families movie. We had actually seen the movie, "Slow Moe" before, but the kids loved it and were very happy to go again.

After the movie we drove to the location of the party and on the way the kids made Abe feel really good and appreciated by telling him he has "the best job in the world!"

"We don't ever want you to get another job! We get to go the the movie theater!---We get tons of free movies!
And we get to go to the summer party!"
It is a fun party for the kids and the adults. There is lunch, face-painting, free cotton candy and snow cones, little kid games, a big bouncy slide, a miniature golf course, and this year there were competitions that families could participate it.

These two little cuties won the three legged race. They won a DVD of "Slow Moe".

Abe and I did not do so well in the race. We were in the lead at the half way point, but we got all tangled up turning around to come back. Oh, the shame--we ended up last.

We also did the water balloon toss, but Faith just wanted a water balloon to hold. She took very good care of it.

Bethany really enjoyed the blue snow cones. And she would like it to be known that her face-painting is a cat, not a mouse.

Clark wanted to participate in the pie eating contest, but it was just for the adult representatives of the the different offices for FFFF. Darn-- he probably could have done pretty well.

The Foxey Ladies. I love these girls! Faith is pointing out her princess crown face paint.

This picture was taken much later during the day on Saturday at the annual Clark family BBQ at Uncle Lane's house. Cannon and Kaylee (Chip and Laura's almost 2 year old) sat down together for a farewell dinner.
Chip and Laura and Kaylee move to Northern Virginia tomorrow. We will miss them and little Kaylee.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Torture or Good Parenting?

Piano lessons. Violin lessons. Here are a few of the arguments against music lessons I've heard from my children.

"Why do we have to do this?"

"I hate this"

"I do like being able to play, but I don't like practicing."

"This is the worst part of my day!"

"Why do you spend so much money for something we don't even want?"

"My teacher is SO MEAN!"
And yet, I am unmoved.

Here is my response to the complaints about why they have to learn piano/ violin: "It will make you happy."
Sometimes I expound a little more, but that's the general idea.

I am very grateful that my parents consistently found me piano teachers at all the places we lived in the military. Some were really crummy teachers and some were pretty good. I know that all of my children have excellent teachers so I am not impressed with complaints about their teachers.

From experience myself with piano teachers, helping my children with their practice, and teaching seven piano students myself I have learned ONE THING--- It's all about the PRACTICE! If you practice you get better. If you don't practice consistently, you don't get better.
I have found when children get older they are quite capable of practicing on their own, but they still enjoy the company occasionally (or more than occasionally). If you want younger children to take lessons--which I think is just fine--- you should plan to do their practicing with them.

Is This the Place? Yes, This is the Place.

We have gone to "This is the Place" state park twice in the last week. This picture is of the second trip with my Sister in law, Mary and her kiddies, Mary's mom and brother, and Lori and her kiddies.
The first trip was for a sort of special home school day where we got a super good deal to get it. We had so much fun we were more than happy to go again a few days later.

These two were THRILLED to be together again. Cousin Eliza lives too far away, so they don't get to play as much as they would like.

My favorite building was the old fashioned one room school house. I think I tend to romanticize pioneer times. I found myself longing to live in one of the cute pioneer homes. Not a log cabin (I'm not cuckoo) but just a really sturdy, wooden floored, multi-room pioneer home. Ah, simpler times.
Here are Elinor and her best gal pal, Gentri playing school. You can't listen to a funnier conversation than these two regularly have.

"This is the Place" has a great train that can take you all around the park. It is mostly all walkable as well, but the train does speed things up and it is fun to enjoy the "pioneer air conditioning".

Cannon's first pony ride. He loved it and was grinning and screaming with delight.

There was old-fashioned music playing on hidden speakers on main street and it made Abe feel like dancing a jig. He had his girls join him and I LOVED IT!
Abe went into work really early so he could join us in the afternoon and we were so glad he did. He more fun than anyone.

If you come to Utah I do highly recommend this park. It is fun for big people and little people alike. Just bring good walking shoes.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Reptile Whisperer

Clark and his latest catch. I'm sorry if you are horrified of snakes. Abe and Clark caught this Gopher Snake up Spanish Fork Canyon. They bought a feeder mouse from the pet store and the snake ate it. It is very interesting to watch a snake eat a mouse. Sorry, if this is too much for you. However, if he was catching spiders I would be horrified. The snake does live in a tank in the garage if that makes it any better.

Clark recently did a couple of "Nature Experienceships" down at the BYU Monte L. Bean museum.
This picture is of the outing with the entomologist (studies insects).

Afterward, Abe took Clark and a couple of his friends back to where they had gone to catch reptiles and that's when they found the snake -- Ledge is his name. They also caught a little lizard.

Winston Churchill Fox

This is our dog, Winston, in his guillotine.
Our fence has this hole broken from the bottom of one of the fence slats. It fits Winston's head perfectly and he can easily move in and out. We think it is so funny to be walking by this long fence and see a dog's head poking out. I'm sure it has alarmed neighbors walking by.

I'm Julia Child. Bon Appetit!

I can cook and I am not afraid of cooking, but I would not consider myself a "gourmet" cook. I am a utilitarian cook--meaning I cook for the purpose of feeding my people, not really because I enjoy cooking.
But I'm really enjoying the renewed interest in Julia Child. The girls and I had a really fun time watching a "French Chef" episode the other day about how to roast a chicken. We all agreed it would be really fun to get a chicken and roast it the fancy way.

We had so much fun. We tressed the chicken which basically means we tied the chicken closed in a fancy way. We didn't have a large tressing needle or regular string so we had to improvise a bit with a large embroidery needle and embroidery thread. It worked!

Aren't our birds beautiful! We learned (from Julia) that we should have used roaster size chickens, but the grocery store only had fryers. Once again, we made do.

We were just so delighted with ourselves and our fabulous chickens!

And here's the finished product. It was very tasty and we all enjoyed plenty of roasted chicken. I mentioned at the table that since this experiment had gone so well I might watch more episodes and try more things. That made the kids pretty nervous. Roast chicken was one thing, but "we like what you make--don't do new stuff". I'll take that as a compliment!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Cheap Knock-Offs

I love this picture of Bethany because it perfectly shows the stage of life she is in. She is still very much a little girl (the dolls keeping her company), but I can see her transitioning into a little lady (reading her book).

Let's talk about the dolls keeping her company. When Bethany turned 8 this year she wanted an American Girl doll. I wanted one when I was a girl, but they are not cheap and so I didn't get one. I hold no grudge, but I did always want one. So I actually did want to buy one for my girls. But Bethany saw the look-alike dolls at Target for 1/4 of the price of a "real American Girl doll". Bethany pointed out to me (THE MOTHER) what a better deal that was. I was rather ashamed that she was convincing me to buy the less expensive, but just as lovely doll.
She and Elinor both got dolls and thought they were lovely dolls, but would they really play with them?
Oh yes, they play with them everyday. We don't shop for clothes for Bethany and Elinor anymore--we shop for doll clothes--cheap knock-off clothes, that is.

The Match-Up

In this corner, weighing in at 100 lbs-- he's loud, he's large, he likes to be in charge--- IT'S CLARK FOX!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And in this corner, weighing in at 35 lbs-- she's short, she's sweet, she can be very sassy-- IT'S FAITH FOX!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

An unlikely match-up, but these two have quite a battle of wills going on.

In fairness to Clark, Faith (AKA: the informer) loves to tattle on Clark. She will rat him for anything. She doesn't negotiate or made deals with him. On our recent trip to the northwest my brother gave Clark is old Nintendo Game Boy. Clark was THRILLED and on the way home Faith saw Clark playing with it and said, "Uh Oh! Clark took something of Matt and Misty's!"
If Clark sneaks an extra piece of candy or doesn't get off the computer when his time is up, Faith is very quick to let us know. She doesn't rat out anybody else-- just Clark.

In fairness to Faith, Clark does seem to derive joy from teasing and tormenting his younger sisters. Actually, he has left Faith pretty much alone, but she is very sympathetic to Bethany. I think she has taken up Bethany's cause.

Maybe Clark has finally met his match!