Monday, December 27, 2010

A Christmas Wish for You

(This was one of the "articles" from our Christmas letter. If you did not receive a copy and would like one, send me an email at and I will send you one.)

On a warm evening a few days before Thanksgiving the family and I headed outside to hang some Christmas lights. As dusk was giving way to darkness, I found myself up on a ladder hanging our wreath on a familiar hook, as I have done every year for the last eight years. “OK,” I called down to those on the ground, “plug it in.” As the wreath lights came to life bathing all that was around me in a warm glow, I was surprised by the wave of emotion that swept over me. It was the same feeling I get when crawling into my own bed after having traveled too far for too long. It was a sense of peace and rest. It was a sense of home.

That the glow of Christmas lights could bring forth such strong emotions stemming from a sea of countless memories of Christmas’s past should not have surprised me, I suppose. Christmas, with its blending of faith and family through rich traditions, embodies all of the same qualities that a sense of home does.

So as I go through this Christmas season looking for those moments of home amidst the hustle and bustle, I will be wishing that you would be able to find a sense of peace and rest this season. The theme of peace could be heard long ago when the angels declared to the shepherds in the field that night, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” (Luke 2:14)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Four Square Mania

There are lots of advantages to having a large family - like being able to run two grids when you step outside to the driveway to play four square.  Over thanksgiving break, we had a lot of four-square fun by having one square be the top division (or the pros) and the other be the lower division (or the minors).  When someone lost in the pro square, he or she went all the way back to the lowest spot in the minors and the person in the top spot in the minors got called up to the pros.  You will see in the video how Anna rides a hot streak all the way to the top.  Go Anna!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Lighting the Town Tree

F.G. won a coloring contest and got to light the town Christmas tree along with two other winners from different age divisions. It was great to bundle up, head out to the town "square," and be a part of the official tree-lighting ceremony. Here you see F.G. with Louie the Lightning Bug - the official mascot of the power company that sponsored the tree. If you notice, the switch is up so F.G. had already done the deed.

Here is F.G. alongside her winning entry.

And, of course, the tree!

Friday, December 3, 2010

My Thieving Rascal

“Buddy!” I exclaimed. “What do you think you are doing?”

My wonderful chef of a mother had just baked homemade granola bars and had brought some to Miss Bookworm, Buddy and I as we labored over our studies. Once again Buddy had tried to take the rest of my bar after his was gone. Guiltily running across the room, Buddy stood head down awaiting what was sure to come. Fortunately for him, a slight diversion aroused Miss Bookworm's attention.

“No! Sodo! No! Ed Look!” she cried.

Turning around I saw in a flash that my prized possession, which moments before had almost been taken from me by Buddy was now being stolen again. The naughty rascal was merrily chomping away when I reached in the slobbery dungeon to grab the now spoiled loot. Trying not to laugh, we dealt with the thief. Buddy was a great accomplice in the theft.

(Editor's Note: Please welcome Ed as a new author on this blog!)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Great Video from Project Hopeful

We are fans of Project Hopeful. It is an organization that is involved in "educating, encouraging, and enabling families adopting children with HIV/AIDS." They just released a great short video which is especially relevant today since it is World AIDS Day.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Mixed Up About Mixed Vegetables

"Hey Mom, can I eat this for lunch today? I was standing in the kitchen, holding what appeared to me to be a can of vegetable soup.

"Vegetables?" Mom queried. "What else?"

I, in my disconnected state took this to mean that I needed some vegetables in my lunch.

"It's vegetable soup," I replied. "It has vegetables."

Mom proceeded to stare at me in the way that informs me that it is time for me to engage my brain. I busted up laughing. What I held in my hands was not a can of vegetable soup, as I had presumed, but a can of mixed vegetables. What a riot.

(Editor's Note: Please welcome Miss Bookworm as a new author on this blog!)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thankful for . . . Technology!

There are lots of things to be thankful for this thanksgiving - God, country, and family to name the big three.  But let's not forget about technology!  The turkey-day tech fest began while GrandpaD and GrandmaD were still in the air on the way to our house.  Even though they were flying privately, they let me know how I could track them online while they were still in the air.  I was thrilled that I could see just about everything related to their flight - that they had left early, where they were in the air, that they were diverting north a little to get around some weather, and their estimated time of arrival.  Here is a screen shot.

Ahh, the wonders of modern technology.  As we sit back and enjoy the old traditions of today it will also be good to enjoy the new tradition of googling any question that comes up during the day.

Monday, November 22, 2010

A House Divided - OSU vs. Iowa

OSU had a big game against Iowa last Saturday, as most of you know.  Rather than having the wonderful experience of sitting down with the family and rooting for OSU, I had to navigate the difficult waters of watching the game with an Iowa fan.

It all started a few years ago when my Iowa-born father was in town for an OSU/Iowa game (OK, I was born in Iowa as well).  He engaged the unethical practice of trying to brainwash some young minds to root for Iowa.  When that did not work, he turned to bribery.  Most of my kids were able to say no to the temptation, but two fell to the dark side.  Anna has mostly recovered from it all (notice she is shrugging in the photo and is wearing an OSU jersey but Iowa sweats) while poor K.D. has had to suffer through year after year of losses to OSU while donning Grandpa-provided game gear.  I was doing my best to comfort him while they interviewed Coach Tressel, but it was hard after all.

But now that we have this game behind us, we can all root together for OSU against Michigan and Iowa against Minnesota.  Oh, wait.  My sister and her family are in Minnesota . . .

P.S. A very special thanks to our friends who donated an old tube TV to the cause so we did not have to watch the game on our only surviving TV which is a measly 10".

TV Saga

Note:  It is not really football if you can never see the football.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Haste Makes Waste

“Um, Hi.” It was CrazyMom on the phone and I could tell that something was not right. I was driving home from F.G. and Buddy’s soccer game with five kids and two grandparents in the car. CrazyMom had beaten me home from a soccer practice and was supposed to be getting dinner on the table.

“You know how GranpaF said he wanted to buy dinner. Maybe you should go ahead and do that,” she said.

That morning we had been in Hocking Hills camping with GrandmaF and GrandpaF. We made it back to our house with 1 hour to spare before we had to head out to a soccer game and a practice. GrandpaF had offered to buy dinner after the game to make things easier, but CrazyMom and I thought we would be able to get the kids to bed earlier after our big weekend if we ate at home.

So in that 60 minutes of unpacking, taking showers, and getting the kids in uniforms we added into the mix cooking dinner. Everything was going according to plan until CrazyMom got home with the two girls from practice to find the house full of smoke. It turns out that a burner had been left on under dinner, on high.

After several days with all of the windows open day and night, we finally called our insurance company. After days and days of professional cleaning, the smell has subsided and we are optimistic that by the time all the work is completed, the smell will be gone.

Oh yeah. Turning the burner off was not the only thing we forgot to do that fateful night. We also forgot that K.D. and LittleFoot had a soccer game in addition to F.G. and Buddy’s game. Oh, well. I guess you can’t remember everything.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Rainbow in the Sky

We all just ran out in the drizzle to take a picture of this rainbow in the sky.  It was fun that you could see both ends of the rainbow.  If you look close, you can see that there was actually a double rainbow.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Camping at Hocking Hills

A couple of weeks ago GrandmaF and GrandpaF came out to see us and we went camping in Hocking Hills. The leaves were turning, which made the whole area delightful. Also, the days were warm while the nights were cool. It was the perfect fall weather for camping. We had a lot of fun while camping, but one of the highlights was when GrandmaF and GrandpaF headed back home . . . in the RV! One less thing to get rid of before heading to Africa!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Rift Valley Academy Video

Since some of you may not be on our email list, I wanted to share a video that I shared with the list. Africa Inland Mission (our mission agency) has this video on their website about Rift Valley Academy. This is the school in Kenya that, Lord willing, we will be teaching at in less than a year. In just 7 minutes it does a great job of not only giving you a feel for RVA, but also for seeing the impact that the school is having in enabling the work of missionaries in Africa.

Click here for the RVA video.

Click here to check out RVA's website.

I keep thinking that the excitement about the move to Kenya may fade a little here in our home, but it has not.  It seems like it is hard to string together two hours in a row where the move is not mentioned.  It is a fun time for the family as we dream about the future.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Breaking of Bathroom Use Policies

“Why don’t you take a little rest when you go up to change?” suggested CrazyMom. I had just gotten home from work last night (Friday) and it had been a long week for me. CrazyMom knew I was dog-tired and, as always, was looking out for me.

So I did.

Well, the rejuvenated me then stayed up too late. But I knew that I would be able to sleep in on Saturday morning because the first of three soccer games was not until 9am (sleeping in is a relative term, I know).

Because of our big family we have certain fair use policies about when and under what circumstances certain bathrooms can be used. I would like to note that these policies state that if a child has to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, our master bath is off limits.

But rules are meant to be broken.

When K.D. needed to make a run to the bathroom this morning at 6am, the kids’ bathroom was already in use – yes, we have lines for the bathroom even before it is time for the kids to get up. He hung out as long as he could, but then the situation went to code red. According to policy, the next bathroom that should be investigated for availability is down on the main floor, but since the situation was now critical, K.D. burst into our room. So much for sleeping in.

While I am excited about our upcoming move to Kenya to teach, it is moments like these that make me think about some of the lifestyle changes that lie ahead for us – like moving from a home with four toilets to a home with two. Maybe we should also sign up to be dorm parents. Surely there would be more bathrooms in a dorm.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Winning First Dibs on the Leftovers

Ah, the leftover meal. We pull everything out of the fridge, line it up on the counter, fix plates like short order cooks, and then pop them one-by-one into the microwave. There are two main issues that we face in this whole process. The first is that if you heat a plate in the microwave for 90 seconds, then by the time the 7th kid’s plate goes into the microwave, so much time has already passed that the first kid is already back in line waiting to have another plate of food warmed. This can make for an experience worse then cooking.

But that is not the real issue. The real issue is that the kids who are first through the line take all of the good stuff much to the dismay of the kids later in the line. So CrazyMom solved the problem tonight by having a drawing. Yes, the kids drew numbers from a hat to see the order in which they would go through the line.

And the winner was . . . Buddy. Here is Buddy with a plate full of the best of the leftovers.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

An “Adequate” Education

“I believe that [Miss Bookworm’s] educational experience will be adequate to meet State Standards,” states the recent letter we received from the Executive Director of Business and School Improvement for our local school district. As a family that home schools some of our children, we are required to notify our local school district each year of our decision to home school and to provide a curriculum outline. Then we always get a response that the education we are providing our children at home is “adequate.” It makes me chuckle a little since I suspect that they think that no homeschooling family in our district can provide an education that is better than adequate. I am not complaining, however. I am pleased that we have the right to educate each of our children in the way that we think is best for them – including picking a writing teacher from Canada, having a heavy dose of two-column proofs in Geometry, and taking a literature-based approach in history. We love homeschooling - even if it is only seen as “adequate” by the state.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Lame Tooth Fairy

"Hey, Anna! Did the Tooth Fairy come last night?" Buddy just asked Anna at breakfast.

"No," replied Anna. "The Tooth Fairy sometimes takes two days to come."

Yes, Anna lost a tooth last night. Yes, she put it under her pillow for the Tooth Fairy. Yes, we forgot about it.

Maybe the Tooth Fairy will be able to remember tonight. But if the Tooth Fairy forgets again, at least Anna understands how things work in large families.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Yes, We’ve Got Problems

When I sat down in church today, a 5-year-old girl I knew was sitting in the pew in front of me.

“Hi! How are you?” I asked.

“I fell on my scooter yesterday and I got these,” she replied pointing to her legs that were stretched out in front of her on the pew. Visible through her white tights were two band aids on her left knee and one on her right.

“Band aids! Oh, my! Were you bleeding?”

“Yes, and I also got this,” she said as she held out her arm to show another scratch on her wrist like it was a trophy.

“That looks pretty bad. Was your mom watching you when you were scootering?” I asked. Of course, I already knew the answer. I know how large families work and she was the youngest of four kids.

“No, she wasn’t there!”

“How about your dad? Was he watching you while you were scootering?” I was focusing hard to keep a straight face.

“No, he wasn’t there either.”

“So neither of your parents was there?”

“No, and I had to go inside to get them and it hurt because I had to bend my knees.”

“Well, let me tell you something. We had a scootering accident at our house yesterday and there were not any parents outside either,” I confided.

“Really!” she said in a totally shocked voice. “You guys have the same problems we do?”

I nearly lost it. “Yes, we have the same problems you do.”

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Little Foot Turns Nine

Turning nine is a big deal in our house. Since we have so many kids, we usually don't invite friends over for birthday parties. After all, every day is a party in our crazy home. But the planets happened to align the year Miss Bookworm turned nine and we had a friend party for her. Since then it has become a tradition that every child who turns nine gets a friend birthday party. We had a total of 17 nine year old boys at our house recently to celebrate and it was a fun (and energetic) time.

CrazyMom had the opportunity to make an ice cream cake for Little Foot for a celebration with grandparents, cupcakes for a classroom celebration, and then the cake for the official birthday party. It certainly takes a lot of cooking for all of that celebrating.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

My Missing Jeans

“Um, Hon . . .” I said sheepishly. “Can you help me find my jeans?”

The whole family was supposed to be headed out the door in about 10 minutes and here I was begging CrazyMom to help my find my pants. It is always rather humiliating for me to have to go to CrazyMom with such requests – the type of requests that our kids make of her all day long.

She started up the steps quizzing me along the way.

“Did you look in your dresser?”

“Yes,” I replied. (I mean, come on hon. How bad am I?)

“Did you look in the pile of clean clothes by your dresser?”

“Yes,” I said, wincing because I knew that the clothes had been there a week and I had not put them away yet.

“How about the laundry?”

“Yes, I checked the laundry.”

Upon entering our room, CrazyMom went straight to my unpacked suitcase from a trip two weeks ago, reached into the bottom of it and pulled out my missing jeans. She held them out to me with an I-am-so-good-and-you-know-I-am-so-good-so-I-don’t-have-to-let-the-kids-know-about-this-like-you-would-have-to look.

“Thanks,” I said truly appreciative and in awe of how CrazyMom always knows where everything is. But I also wondered if she knew the whole time where my pants were but just wanted to be there for this moment.

You know, I guess part of me is looking forward to selling most of what we have as we go off to Africa. Maybe with so much less stuff even I will be able to find things like CrazyMom.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Soccer is Back!

Today was the opening day for the new soccer season with two teams playing five games. What a great day for soccer!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Smokies

Last week Grandma and Grandpa hosted us in the Smokies.  It was wonderful.  Lots of hiking, playing in mountain streams, and seeing bears.  I highly recommend that all of you start planing a vacation trip to the Smokies.

If the above slide show does not work, try this link.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Hey, Blog Readers!

If you have read our big news, then you know we are looking to move to Africa, Lord willing, next summer.  CrazyMom and I are putting together an email list where we will occasionally send out updates about this move in our lives.  We will certainly still be sharing about some things here on the blog, but the updates will provide another avenue of a slightly different nature to find out what is going on.  If you would like to receive updates from us, then simply send us an email at welovebigfamilies [at] gmail [dot] com and we will add you to our list.  Also, it would be great if you shared a little bit about yourself with us so we can get to know you more.

We look forward to having many of you along for the ride as we look ahead to Africa!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Trip to Rift Valley Academy

On the last day of school this year I attended graduation in the morning where I am teaching and then headed to the airport to go to Africa. As I was sitting with the faculty on the senior quad watching the graduation ceremony, I simultaneously felt more distant and more present. Thinking about my imminent departure made me acutely aware of all of the details around me.

The purpose of my trip was to visit Rift Valley Academy – a large boarding school in Kenya for the children of missionaries all over Africa.  Maybe it was an indicator of my lack of faith, but I was hesitant to head off to candidate week with Africa Inland Mission the next week without having the opportunity to stand on campus and see firsthand the work that the Lord is doing there. So I asked if I could “stop by” to check things out.

The trip was wonderful in so many ways. I had the chance to see the campus and meet a lot of faculty, staff, and students. It was a study of similarities and contrasts for me as I could not help comparing all of the different aspects of RVA to where I am currently teaching.

Here are a few photos of my trip that should help you get a feel for the school.

Above is the main administration building.  In front you can see a commemorative rock that was placed there on their 100 year anniversary.

This is the main academic quad.

A math classroom.  Go Math!

A chem classroom.  Go Science!  (OK, so I am partial to math and science.)

Look!  They even have computer labs.  (Note the nice thin client solution.)

Here is a second grade classroom.

Here is a rugby field.  The school is on a mountain so a field like this has a retaining wall on the left and an apparent cliff on the right.  In the distance is the Rift Valley.  It was great to be there during the rainy season when things were green.  Things get pretty brown during the dry season.

One last shot of a walkway on campus.  Not much is flat and with the 100 year history, they have a lot of beautiful trees on campus.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Big News. Really Big News.

No, we are not adopting.

It is always good to state that right up front and even though I do, I suspect I will still be congratulated sometime soon about our upcoming adoption.

This time it is news of a different nature. No sense in beating around the bush – CrazyMom and I have joined a mission agency (Africa Inland Mission) and, Lord willing, our family will move to Africa next summer.

Now some of you are probably thinking that you always suspected something like this. After all, we are crazy. Others are probably shocked because you never really believed we were crazy. Now you know better.

But, in fact, while it is a bit scary for us, it does not seem crazy at all. It simply seems like the next step that the Lord is asking us to take.

Now you may have a few questions about all of this –Why Africa? What will you be doing there? Have you been consuming illegal substances? Some of these answers can be found at our website here and others I will try to answer over the next few days as I post here.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Update Sidebar Photos

Yes.  Finally.  I have been hearing complaints for over a year that I have not updated the sidebar photos on our blog.  I did not think that is had been all that long, but when I just went back to look I see that it was all the way back in April of 2008.  (You can see the old photos here.)  After putting it off for so long, it was a little embarrassing how quickly we were able to step out back and snap the photos.  I just wish CrazyMom had not been around.  Then I could have told her how I labored all morning long on the project!

Here are the new and old photos for posterity's sake.