Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Happy Birthday, Ben!

Or, maybe I should have titled this, "Keep the Feds off My Farm!"

This post will probably lead to me getting some kind of red flag on my "PERMANENT RECORD," but I think I will take my chances. After all... Homeland security, if you are reading this, just because Christians are pro-life, homeschool, and own weapons, that does not make us a threat to society... Wait, this isn't supposed to be a political post. I'll save that for another day.

Ben, the son of our friends Ginny and Nathan, wanted to have a shooting party for his 9th birthday. Since we have a considerable amount of land, we got to host the party! I am not sure, but I don't think it could have possibly gotten any HOTTER for his big day... But heat is much to be preferred over rain, when shooting guns is involved.

Before I even get started, let me say that any and every safety precaution that could have possibly been thought of was put into practice. I know that young children shooting semi-automatic firearms can be a crazy thought, especially for y'all who live in cities! However, Nathan made sure that every child shooting had his or her dad there, the kids had to stay behind a bright orange spray painted line, only one child could go to the table at a time (with his dad escorting), no bullets were in the guns until right before firing, the safety was kept on, guns pointed in a safe direction, etc., etc., etc. My hunter safety teacher would have been proud!

Ben got to be the first one to shoot, and he started the day off right! (Did I mention how hot it was?) Way, to go, Ben!

Neo got first place... it was clear that he had done this before!

The girls with their targets... Sarah, Kelley, and Ruth had as much fun as the boys!
Will and Scott
Josh and Scott

After we finished shooting, the kids went back up to the house to have lunch and play with water guns! Most of the dads stayed out in the field to shoot a little bit, and I made it back down just in time to shoot the "big gun" that one dad brought (he will remain anonymous for security reasons... ha, ha... just kidding!). It was a civilian version of an M-16, but I forget what it is called. I just call it really cool; I have never gotten to shoot a large automatic weapon before!

We all headed in and had a great afternoon visiting with the families who were able to attend.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Running Camp

Question: How do you get a house full of 17 boys sound asleep (some snoring) by 9:00 PM?

Answer: Spartan running camp!

Last week we experimented with a running camp for our homeschool cross country team. Some friends from our church have a cabin on a lake, and they generously offered it to us for the week. It provided the perfect setting, because the cabin is nestled at the end of a road with nonstop MONSTER hills! (Evil chuckle from coach...)

(By the way, one more reason to love Mississippi is that the name of one of the roads nearby is Possum Trot Road!)

The boys arrived on Sunday night, rarin' to go and excited to be with their friends. We had 17 boys! In our welcome session, I explained that their day would be even MORE painful if I was awake all night. Later, I got a good chuckle when I saw that one of the only notes taken in a boy's notebook was, "Let Mrs. Heather SLEEP!" For all of their excitement, they did a great job going on to bed.boys during a session

The first full day dawned VERY early... about an hour earlier than planned, because an ambitious runner set his watch alarm for 5:45 and woke everyone up! We went ahead and had our bananas and headed for the hills (literally).
about to head for the hills

Monday and Tuesday were very similar. Each day we ran first thing in the morning, had two different meetings, strength and conditioning, free swim, and water workouts.
boys during strength training

The boys ran anywhere from one mile up to four. Remember, though, that four on those hills could probably be compared to a flat six or seven somewhere else! The purpose of our meetings was to communicate helpful and important information about cross country. We had sessions on TEAM, form, racing strategies, mind games, nutrition, strength training, and also covered many other topics. The strength and conditioning workouts were quite a challenge to execute, because there are 8 year old Spartans, and there are 17 year old Spartans! Fortunately, I think I made everyone sufficiently sore.... We had a good bit of free swim time in the afternoons, and we also did a water workout. Each day was pretty well packed full of exercise!

After dinner, we had an activity each night. One night the boys created commercials to present to the group, and they played board games the next.
Jamie and Kevin advertising hair growth shampoo

MAKJ... Shoe Rescue!

By the way, FORTUNATELY, we did NOT have typical camp food. In fact, I think I gained a few pounds over the week! Yonnea Chunn took charge of shopping for and putting together all of the dinner meals for the entire week. She, Julie McAfee, and Kim Killough then spent most of the week at camp cooking and cleaning up after each meal! This was SUCH a blessing... it REALLY made the week more like a vacation for me than anything, because I did not lift a finger in the kitchen... My favorite kind of vacation! :)

On Wednesday, the boys packed running, strength training, a session, swimming, and cleaning for the girls into the morning hours. At lunch time the girls began arriving, and we all enjoyed lunch together. The boys headed home, and then the girls (all 21 of them!) got to stay for their turn! (another evil chuckle from coach...)

The girls' schedule was the same as the boys'. We changed board game night to making a poster with the top 10 reasons to run cross country. The girls made some pretty creative posters, and here is my top 10 list, taken directly from the 4 lists created by the girls:

10. Because my mother said so!
9. For Health and healthy habits
8. For memories and fun activities
7. You get a cool watch
6. You learn to toss your cookies (and keep running)
5. So we won't be fat and flumpy; we'll be fit and fun!
4. You learn to BOW UP!
3. You learn to work as a team
2. For our social needs, of course!
Catherine presenting their list

The purpose of the camp was two-fold: I wanted the kids to begin to gel and become a real TEAM... I think there is some old saying about the team that gets tortured together... (just kidding!) I also wanted the kids to get motivated to begin running over the summer. If we come into August out of shape again, we will have no hope of being competitive... but huge chances of getting injuries. I thought this might be a little kick start towards both of those goals!Younger boys doing team exercise... changing places on a log

Here I am, trusting the girls to catch me!

Untangling the human knot

During our session on TEAM, we did a few "team building" activities like the human knot and the trust fall. We also inspired team work by having a friendly competition to see which group could gather the most seaweed! The girls won, hands down... and almost sunk the canoe in the process!
Emilee and Hannah paddling the seaweed canoe!

Boys working on their seaweed pile

It was funny to see the differences between the girls and boys activity choices. About half of the boys never took a shower. (Lake water... bath water... what's the difference?) During the girls' time, we had to take away about an hour from afternoon free time so that everyone could get showered!

During free time, the girls spent their time doing things like holding hands and running off the drop off.
Or, they would chant each others' names while the person did a trick off the dock.
Sarah doing her back dive

The boys, on the other hand, spent their free time grappling at the drop off. I think the goal of every boy was to "take down Cale!" Way to bow up, Cale!

While we were at the dock, the boys took turns going out in the canoe. Several boys took turns paddling out to the eagle's nest, and a few boys even swam that far! The girls got in the canoe some, but they stayed quite close to the dock... usually paddling in circles! LOL... you did a great job, too, girls!

Forrest, Cale, Kevin, and Nicholas in the canoe

I can't say for sure, but the camp seems to have worked, at least somewhat. By the end of each group's time, I saw the kids getting a little stronger in their running and also becoming friends with each other.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Boys at Nana's

After Sarah's recital , the boys went home with Scott's mom. She just emailed me some pictures from their visit...They went to an Insectarium one day in New Orleans. I have been tortured with descriptions of cockroaches! The boys loved seeing all of the different bugs... Will was very quick to point out that it is not only insects, there are many arachnids also... There is a cafeteria where the boys got to try cricket dip, and my mother-in-law actually tried fried meal worms!!! What a grandmother!

I suppose that the bug treats didn't hit the spot, because they did make a trip to Cafe Du Monde while they were in New Orleans. Josh is enjoying his, and Will is proving them to be, "finger licking good!"
They also went to the beach several times and visited the Stennis Space center. Here are the boys in front of a rocket...
The boys had a great time; they only called once, I think! The girls are going to take their turns individually later in June. They will not be doing as much sight seeing, however. They are going to take their sewing machine and have "Sewing Camp with Nana!" They are both looking forward to some individual time with her and Papa John.

Circle the Wagons

Since I like to go on blog binges... if you haven't noticed... why stop now? Hey, it's only midnight! (Yes, I had coffee after dinner... I have got to stop doing that!)

A good friend of Scott's told him years ago to "embrace every opportunity to be humbled."

What clear, Christ-glorifying advice. It is one of those sayings that we like to throw out there to others and nod our heads when it is mentioned in conversations. Christ, our Savior and redeemer did not count equality with God as a thing to be grasped, but HUMBLED Himself, became a man, and died for our sins. If Christ is truly our pattern, then humility should be one of our ultimate goals.

When these "opportunities" arise, it can be so tempting to forget that they are from our Father for the purpose of conforming us to His image. It is even more difficult to embrace them.

I am thick at times, and it seems that often the Lord will have to show me the same thing in several different ways before I see it...

These past two weeks it has been pride and vanity, particularly in the area of family and parenting. In two very different areas, I have had the option of embracing an opportunity to be humbled or the option of justifying self and claiming my rights. I hope I am choosing to embrace rather than stiff arm what the Lord is showing me.

I will not air all of my laundry on the world wide web, but we want to glorify God in our family. We are not experts, we have never raised children before, and we are dependent upon the mercy of Christ and the mercy of others. It is a humbling journey, and I am seeing how much I care about man's opinion of me, when I should be concerned with Christ's alone.

When I was young, I always assumed that "grown ups" had everything figured out. Of course, I also thought they were ancient and near death's door (My mother is only 20 years older than I)... I feel like I am 32 years old and still trying to figure out who I am in Christ, where do we fit, what is going to work for our family? I know these things will continue to change as we grow and grow older, but it is strange to be in a grown up body and still have those feelings of an insecure teenager, searching to be comfortable in her own skin and seeking the approval of her Father!

Oh, how often do I have to remind myself that His approval is based on Christ, and not my performance. That is so comforting, yet so difficult to believe at times, especially when we see our failures more clearly than anything and feel the condemnation of others for them. It is at these times I must not "bow up," but bow down, confess my need, and remember that Christ IS enough... but I must walk with Him in dependence.

Shoe and Camping Trip

Last week, some of our Spartans got together for a field trip to Memphis to buy running shoes. In Tupelo, there are a few sporting goods stores, but not any that really specialize in running. We made our first stop at Fleet Feet Sports. Most of the kids and several moms got new kicks... I think we kind of overwhelmed the staff when we all rolled in. It was pretty obvious that they were not used to being swamped with 20 homeschoolers and all of our surrounding chaos... I can't imagine! :) They made a quick recovery, though, and were very helpful and courteous.
Next stop: lunch. When you are used to New Albany, MS (we have about 7 stoplights in our whole town), lunch hour at Chick Fil-A on Poplar can be a little intimidating.... Especially when every parking spot is full and you are driving a 15 passenger van! Way to go, Yonnea... You're awesome!

Sarah's comments on the experience were something to the effect of, "Mom, I never want to live in Memphis... there are too many people here! When can we go home?"

It really wasn't too bad, and then we headed off for my old stompin' grounds. We went to Shelby Farms for a run... the plan was to try out our new shoes, but it was so muddy that most people ran in their old ones! We ran the cross country course that our team practiced on several days a week while I was in high school... the course is still the same, but they finally knocked down the nasty bathrooms and added a really nice facility... It just wasn't the same... I kind of missed holding my nose and flushing with my foot at the same time!
Some Spartan girls close to the start of the course

This was a cheesy, sentimental afternoon for me... I told the girls a few stories beginning with, "20 years ago... " (WOW, I am getting OLD!) and "When I was about your age..." I am sure they were all inwardly rolling their eyes and thinking how ancient their coach must be, but they were good natured and let me ramble!
Hannah, Me, Sarah at Shelby Farms... I got to run my course with my girls! What a special afternoon!

Right after our Shelby Farms run, the girls and I left for our annual camping trip with my family. My parents, the Pitts, and the Duleys were there for the weekend. (Scott, Kevin, and the boys met us at the river.)

Before I begin telling about our trip, I have to include one of those stories that will probably be told for many years to come... The first time we went on our camping trip, Hannah was trying to explain to someone what we were doing and where we were going. Her story came out something like this... "You see, we are going to go sleep in tents, but my Mimi has this trailer, and it is really nice... It is in this little neighborhood with all these other trailers right together, like a park." It was so cute, and for those of you who know my mom well... I don't need to say more! :)

The first day was cloudy and COOL! Too cool for swimming, in my opinion! We spent most of the first day huddled around a campfire, wrapped in quilts and drinking coffee. I do think that some of my children with no nerve endings braved the water a few times, though. (I acted as lifeguard, sitting in a lawn chair with a down blanket on my lap!)
Visiting around the campfire
The kids with my parents, checking out the water

The weather kept promising sunshine, and finally it delivered! The next day (about 2:00, just like the satellite told us) the sun came out and warmed us all up. We even ventured into the water and let the kids try their hand at skiing. Unfortunately, we ran over the rope on the wave runner, and Sarah was the only one to try that day! (She popped out of the water like a daisy, though!)Sarah discovered that she really enjoys fishing! Scott, Kevin, and Will spent a good bit of time fishing each day also.

We worked to get the rope off the shaft, but it still wouldn't start. Scott, Kevin, and I swam/pushed the thing about a half mile around to the boat dock. Strangely enough, that's the kind of thing Scott and I enjoy... give us a mindless goal involving physical labor, and we will dig the best ditch you ever saw!Hannah and Evelyn
Will and Josh

My parents' friends, the Tessreaus, came by on their pontoon boat Saturday and took us for a spin. Kevin Tessreau also let the kids ski behind his boat (since the wave runner was out of commission!)

Once the sun came out, I guess I just started having too much fun, because I don't have many pictures from the second part of the trip! I was in the water while the kids were skiing, and I hate it that I don't have any pictures of that, either!

Most of all, I wish I had a picture of us drinking coffee and eating our big breakfasts in the gazebo on the river. That is my favorite part of our trip each year. I love waking up and getting off to a slow start, sitting around in PJ's and visiting with each other for an hour or so with coffee, and then having some of Papa's bacon, Scott's eggs, and Mimi's toast! (We joke, because according to my children, my mother's signature dish is toast!)
What a fun weekend!

Summer's here!

Well, it's official... (music playing) "Schooool's out for summer... schooool's out for-evah..." Okay, not really... 8 short weeks, and we REALLY ARE going to do math this summer!

We have been busy the last few weeks. My neice and nephew came and stayed a few days with us while my sister and brother-in-law moved. They are 13 months apart, just like my girls, but I had forgotten how busy life is with a 2 and 1 year old in the home!
Evelyn and Levi had the most fun chasing chickens! City kids! :)
Levi loved Sophie, our cat.
Hannah and Evelyn

The kids have also had some opportunities to play with friends...

Sarah Riley and Hannah
Josh and Jon M... sitting on Scott's truck playing super heroes
Ruth Brandon and Sarah carving spoons out of some sticks from the creek

and spend some time with their Uncle Kevin!
Kevin (Scott's brother) is staying with us this summer. He lives in Memphis, but he really enjoys spending time in New Albany... and we are thankful to have him here! He and Scott have been working on more trails, and I have kept him pretty busy, too. (Many of you know how it is... you come stay with the Duleys, and you get to work for your supper!)