Monday, February 27, 2012

Celebratory Battle {Joseph's 14th Birthday}

Joseph awoke in a celebratory mood on his 14th birthday, and dressed for Church without parental prompting.

Joseph spent most of the waking hours of his 14th birthday in battle (save a few peaceful hours at Church).  The weather cooperated, although for a neighborhood Nerf battle, the weather cooperating is of little consequence.  Big brother Zachary brought his A game, leading a crowd of willing warriors in a full-scale military-ish operation; complete with written 'missions' to follow for set points toward the ultimate victory.   And Zac's was the only true party foul, hopping in his car and driving away to foil Ezra's defensive maneuver to stay attached to it as a home base.  Suddenly relocating the home base out of Ezra's reach was a fine tactical move, but one that did not meet with (required) parental approval.

 Connor takes aim.
In a heated battle against the enemy, Ezra races for safety.
Collin and Joseph team up to defend against Zachary.

On Joseph's birthday party menu: Italian sausage pasta toss for dinner and ice cream pie for dessert.  On the party agenda: greet guests; battle; open a few gifts; battle; eat; battle in the dark; open a few more gifts; say good-bye to guests.  Outcome: a good time was had by all. 

This next year in Joseph's life promises to bring the beginning of his high school studies (continued home school with sports participation at the local high school) and the build-up to the beginning of a driving-permit experience.  He may very well choose to begin making steps toward an Eagle Project of his own, and will undoubtedly continue to seek high adventure in the great outdoors.   His texting skills continue to improve, and a big desire to maintain his cell phone privileges reign him in when he's almost heading out-of-bounds attitudinally speaking.  Good to his friends; one to love a prank and a good laugh; competitor extraordinaire; Joseph is a delightful, intelligent, and thoughtful young man, and a joy to know and love. 
There's no such thing as TOO prepared for battle.

Given to planning and organizing, Zachary's gifts were put to good use in leading Joseph's birthday battles. 
With perfect appeal, this gift for Joseph fit the day's theme to a T.
 Mini weapons of mass destruction... how fitting!
Fourteen and growing... we love you, Joseph!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Axe Wednesday {Dam Construction}

 Peter VS the fallen tree

If there's one thing the boys won't be giving up for Lent this year, it's their new axes.  Given by a variety of givers at Christmas, these hand held tools of destruction construction would be sorely missed.  The latest favorite home school science project, dam building, just wouldn't be the same without these axes.  After years of attempting to successfully inhibit the creek's flow, Joseph and Peter have finally met with a quantifiable measure of success.  The new lake across the street is proof; the new resident Mallards are witnesses.  It's been a long time coming, and this new success story is worth sharing.

{No living trees were injured in the making of this project.}

Our new (feathered) neighbors take a leisurely paddle.

Unfortunately for our downstream neighbor who taps into the creek for home made hydropower (and who has been spotted busting up the boys' past dam projects under the cover of darkness), this new dam might actually be having some minutely measurable effect on the flow power of the current.  We shall focus on the positive side of this story: boys with free time playing (and working) for hours in the woods, celebrating a small victory over nature.

the creek with natural and boy-made blockages from years gone by

the new dam home school science project

Like an axe, Lent offers us another opportunity for small victories over nature.  Simple sacrifices offer us a chance to chop off some of our natural inclinations to prefer the comforts of a soft life to the type of disciplined life the Gospel calls us to live.  When we tell you we are entering into a holy season of profound preparation for the celebration of Christ's Resurrection (Easter) we are most certainly NOT talking about plotting out an egg hunt or blowing up inflatable bunnies (nothing against bunnies or eggs).  This is the real deal: the special time we set aside each year to purposefully choose ways to grow closer to God and to one another.  Happy Axe (Ash) Wednesday; may your Lent, too, be blessed!

 Newly created habitat for our feathered friends and probably others yet to be discovered

Monday, February 20, 2012

Washington State AA Champions {Sehome Swim and Dive Team}

Sehome HS Swim & Dive Team

Making headlines and winning admiration from all corners of our state, Sehome HS swim and dive team captured the title of Washington State AA Champions for the fourth straight year.  Front page spreads yesterday and today celebrate the team winnings and the individuals who made it happen:

PREP BOYS' SWIMMING: Close-knit Sehome team hoping to continue championship success


Read more here:
FEDERAL WAY - Sehome senior Zac Adams wore a smile as big as the trophy he was lugging off the pool deck at the King County Aquatic Center on Saturday, Feb. 18.
And why shouldn't he?
(Read the rest of today's Bellingham Herald article.)

Read more here:
4th straight title: SHS Swim & Dive State Champions '09, '10, '11 and 2012

True to his super-analytical side, Zachary figured out the team's stroke and distance statistics for the season:
  • 7 million strokes swam by the team this season
  • 150 thousand strokes per swimmer
  • 142 miles swam per swimmer this season
  • 5000 yards swam per day, per swimmer
 Impressive numbers, impressive team, impressive season.

Prior to the state meet finals, Captain Zachary lead his last team cheer with gusto.

Hauling off the loot, Zachary claims the trophy for Sehome 


Friday, February 17, 2012

Breaking News {College Admission}

When a fat envelope arrived in today's mail for Zachary from Thomas More College in New Hampshire, we decided to bring it to him down at the AA state swim meet where he is team captain and an alternate swimmer for a relay.  After the prelims tonight we met up with him in the lobby of the King County Aquatics Center for an envelope opening party.

Although I had a nightmare last night that he was denied admission, the contents of  the envelope proved otherwise.  The congratulations letter announced not only his admission to Thomas More College, but also offered him a presidential scholarship to offset the private school tuition.  A T-shirt was also included, and Zachary was very pleased indeed with the mail call.

Of course there may be additional admission letters coming to our mailbox soon.  And who knows, maybe other offers of scholarships and awards?  At any rate, this one is the first, and is an incredible gift for our home school senior on a big weekend, now with even more reasons to celebrate.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Prayers Please {Owen and Apollo}

Owen and Peter 

Among our closest circle of family friends from home schooling and Scouts are two amazing little boys, each of whom needs all of our prayers in a big way.   Owen was born (blue) at his rural home after his mom and dad were sent away from labor and delivery and told to come back later.  He came back later alright~first by ambulance, then airlifted by helicopter to a Seattle hospital for urgent life-saving care.  In his first days of life, the medical staff hinted that his parents might as well remove his life support, since his chances of having a 'normal' life were very slim.  Look at this little guy!  Praise God his parents  resisted temptation were appalled at the insane suggestion to end his brand new life based on unfounded fears of his 'normalcy.'   Today Owen and two of his big brothers are our guests as his mama has prenatal care for a sibling on the way and I am reminded of what a blessing Owen is for all of us who have witnessed his family lovingly caring for him and his special medical needs.   Please pray for an end to his seizures and that he will grow strong and healthy, and for his family...

Ezra's littlest brother Apollo will be having heart surgery in a few weeks to repair a double aortic arch.  Apollo nearly died at birth due to complications with a prolapsed cord.  His daddy saved his life with the help of his mom's clear thinking in the midst of an absolute emergency birthing experience.  Tirelessly advocating for Apollo's health for over a year, knowing that something just wasn't right, and going to great lengths to research and uncover the truth about his condition, his parents saved his life again in pushing forward until the right tests revealed the double aortic arch a few weeks ago.  Please pray for Apollo's successful surgery, full recovery, that he will grow strong and healthy, and for his family...

Big brother Connor, Owen and Peter 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Goodbye Piano {Simplified Home School}

Today our piano was relocated from home to our new music shop, where two lesson rooms have been set up for local music teachers to meet with students for instruction.  The old upright piano originally belonged to my grandparents and was played by my mom in her youth. Rather than continuing to collect dust in our family room, it will have a new life and hopefully be played regularly at its new location.  Delivered to our house when my parents divorced and the family home was sold and literally demolished, the piano joined three fiddles, two guitars, a drum and a mandolin already in play at our house.  I had high hopes that our instrument-filled home would someday resonate with pleasant sounds of family musical escapades.

The piano quickly became a source of great agony for (pre-reader) Peter, who was probably too young at that time for piano lessons.  Joseph enjoyed piano lessons, as a secondary instrument to the fiddle, which he had been playing for a few years.  Within about a year, the piano lessons fiddled out; a few years later the three boys' fiddle lessons also ceased after the instructor moved out of state.  The guitars, mandolin and drum fell into disuse as other hobbies, Scouts and sports (plus Zac's classes at the community college) rounded out our ever-evolving daily home school routine.

As it played out, my hopes of growing musically gifted children gave way to the reality of "you can't do everything."  Something had to give.  In this case, the various instrumental (and voice) lessons and the accompanying sounds of music in our home gave way to other interests, which is not a bad thing.  In fact, it's probably a good thing that we were able to simplify our to-do list and lighten the daily calendar a bit to avoid the likely burn-out and stress which comes from trying to do too much.  A particular temptation for us who home school ~ filling up the hours of would-be school time with a variety of wonderful extra-curricular electives.

The boys' fiddle performances, though relatively few and far between, will stand out as highlights in our home school extra curricular activities.  Although I had hoped that surrounding our boys with musical instruments and providing years of private lessons would produce musicians, our piano-era might have had a more lasting effect: teaching our children to foster a love of learning (for learning's sake), and helping them discern when the time is right to let something go. 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

NW Distict Champs {Varsity Swim and Dive}

2012 NW District Champs! 
Next stop: State
Way to go Sehome Swim and Dive Team!

Zachary swims the 100M butterfly

At the finish

Placing 7th in the district, Ezra competed well.

Local news report here.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Post Season Begins {Shaving Event}

In a garage-turned-barbershop, Zachary's teammates buzzed and clipped away months of growth in preparation for the beginning of post-season swimming today.  In hopes that their silky smooth skin will help them go faster and improve their times, they willingly sacrificed vanity for efficiency.   The buzz cuts and full body shaving certainly set swimming apart from most other sports.  Of course, not all the swimmers and divers {Ezra} desired to have any part of the barbering action, and took precautions such as disappearing (leaving without saying good-bye), wearing hoods, wearing caps and hoods, and hiding in the dark bushes {Ezra}.

In an attempt to convince Ezra to lose the doo, Zachary sneaks up on him with the clippers.

Hunting Ezra in the dark of night, Zachary and teammates attempt to coerce him to get clipped. 

In the end, only those desiring a buzz cut were shorn.  The rest escaped the clippers.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Scholarship Award {Zac's Winning Essay}

Zachary today 

Placing third in the Thomas More College of Liberal Arts student essay contest, Zachary earned a $10,000 scholarship!  Should he decide to attend TMC, a truly Catholic college located in New Hampshire, the scholarship will be a great start toward his first year's tuition.  The essay question, "What does Christ offer to young people today who are looking for something greater?" elicited a strong response from our oldest son.  I posted his essay in its entirety as a page (see sidebar); here's a snippet:
...such a dedication and love of God is attained that we may say, as St. Chi Zhuzi did, that “every piece of my flesh, every drop of my blood will tell you that I am a Christian.”   To the modern man and especially to the youth of today, reason is key to finding Truth and faith. Christ offers everything worth offering; we must only follow the path of faith and reason to find Him and His inestimable gifts. With these gifts, we may recover from the tumult of the last century and forge ahead, ever journeying forward in the life of Christ and “looking for the blessed hope and coming of the glory of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ.” (Titus 2:13) 
 Zachary's passion for truth, his voice of reason, and his zeal for the faith is truly an inspiration.  We continue to pray for his discernment, in particular in selecting a university (your prayers appreciated, too).  We praise God for the gifts he has given Zachary and for the great gift of being his parents.

Congratulations, Zachary!
Good luck at the district and state swim meets...

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Loft Building 101 {Pigeon 4H}

A Home School Project
with Grandpa Cliff
Power tools replace pencils in the hands of our middle schoolers.

It's not an Eagle Project, it's a pigeon project ~ an extension of the 4H Pigeon program in which Joseph and Peter participate with Grandpa Cliff.  It all began with a few pigeons given to Peter on his "anything that breeds" birthday in 2010.  From there, the interest and enthusiasm spread to the point that we will soon have a racing pigeon loft in our back yard. 

the frame goes up
 It's not an official break from (home) school, but due to the enormity of this construction project, there is very little actual desk work being accomplished during pigeon loft work weeks.  The exception is Joseph's math homework, since he's enrolled in an algebra class taught close to home on Monday and Wednesday mornings.  Speaking of math, before the pigeon loft project took off, Grandpa Cliff taught Joseph and Peter how to use the plans and measurements to determine the projected materials list.  He has included them in every step of the project, his patience is heroic. 

Yesterday after a full day's work with hammers, drills and power saws, Grandpa Cliff left the boys with a gallon of paint plus supplies and instructions for painting the interior and the untreated exterior.   Peter stayed outside painting until it was dark, but Joseph called in quits in time to make swimming practice. 

Physical education is involved, particularly climbing and balancing acts. 

Once it's complete, the loft will have sectioned off areas for the fancy birds, the racing birds and the
sick birds.   Pairs of pigeons will have their nest boxes, and in non-breeding seasons the males and females can be separated.  Expect great things from these pampered birds, their new home is fit for kings and queens.

planning, measuring, assembling 

Joseph paints the inside of the loft, before construction of the nest boxes.

Painter Peter