Wednesday, January 30, 2008

School Update

I always start to feel the pressure of the calendar at this time of year.
School seems like it's going well, but I always feel like we have a lot of things to do before the end of the year. I have so many things that I want to accomplish and we are almost to February.

The basics are going great. John is doing really well in math. He has passed the middle of the book and he is still getting A's on all of his tests. He rarely misses more than two on his assignments. His writing is coming along. He does great with anything creative. We haven't done enough formal writing yet though. I want to have him write a couple of reports and some letters. His typing is progressing so well, which really makes writing less painful. He can fly through the writing and the editing is so much easier than when we used to have rewrite papers over and over.
He is doing great on the computer and most of that is just stuff he does for fun.
His music is coming along and in Religion he has almost finished the requirements for the year.
It's the History and Science that I want to work harder at. I love history and I really want to make it more fun and be sure it's sticking. He does great on his tests, but we have to go into World History next year and I want to be sure that what we've learned about the US is going to stick.

Brendan just went into the 3rd grade Math book. He is doing really well. Not liking it, but he is cooking! He is also starting to write and I am very impressed with his ability to memorize. He likes to play with words and he's a great speller! He seems to like any subject that he can read his way through.

I am going to have both John and Brendan take standardized tests this year, which is a new one. We haven't done that. I have just figured that until now, if they were working above grade level, they certainly must be on par with their peers. But now I am thinking that I can really use the information to find the areas where we need to strengthen our program.

Paul is so funny. He is just putting along. He is so easy to teach! In fact, I don't think I am teaching him. I'm not sure how he got where he is. I just give him a lesson to do and he does it. He has no idea of where he should be or what kids his age should be learning, so he just kind of soaks up everything. He is doing Science with the boys this year and we are doing Astronomy, when I quiz them on terms and concepts, he answers as many of the questions as the other two.
He is five. He doesn't need to be doing first grade math, or reading at a 2nd grade level. I don't push him at all! I don't slow him down either. It is just a joy to watch him learn!

So I guess I have convinced myself that all is well. I am going to have a few extra projects to do with them, but most of those things are just fun. We got a really great gift from the Bowens for Christmas, a planetarium! The boys, especially Brendan, want to spend every evening with it, as soon as it gets dark! They are learning to find all the constellations and the computer is a wonderful teacher. Now there are several winter constellations that they see as soon as they look up!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Rainbows in Winter

We didn't get to go to the March For Life because the weather people were just sure we were going to have a winter weather event, and we don't drive on the DC beltway in the sleet. Of course, they were wrong. No I'm not bitter, just very disappointed. This article gives a great description of the rally though, and over on Mommy Life there is an awesome Photo Show of pictures that Barbara Curtis took.

Read all the way to the end of the article. I got goosebumps!

225,000 Take Part in National March for Life in Washington

By John-Henry Westen

WASHINGTON, DC, January 23, 2008 ( - Hundreds of thousands of pro-life activists gathered on the national mall in the nation's capital yesterday standing in the cold on a cloudy day with a slight rain. The weather however did nothing to dampen the spirits of the vast crowd nor the political and spiritual leaders who addressed them prior to the march.

Following the phone-in address by President George W. Bush in which he said he was proud "to be standing with you" (full text published yesterday here: ), dozens of politicians spoke of their pro-life convictions and thanked the massive crowd for their support and witness to those in power.

Powerful addresses were made by spiritual leaders and with a prayer and a rousing rendition of America, the march commenced. What would normally be a 15 minute walk took the line of marchers hours to complete.

Fifty across and thousands deep the march was an unbelievable sea of people. Some near the front who had completed the march went for lunch and returned to their hotel rooms only to see thousands of marchers still progressing toward the Supreme Court. spoke with John Alger, the Convention Director of the March for Life about the attendance at this year's march. "The largest estimate to date was 225,000," said Alger. "But we think this was at least as big as the largest if not larger, it was just an overwhelming turnout."

Leading the March were a large group of women who had had abortions and regretted them. At one point the March stopped briefly as Alveda King, the niece of Martin Luther King invited the marchers to join her in singing "We will overcome".

At the conclusion of the March those women shared their testimonies in front of the Supreme Court. After the women were finishing their presentations, a rainbow appeared just over the Court building.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The New Thing...

The boys are all set for a whole new adventure.
Today I took them to the Edgewood Library for a look at the Tech-Brick Team's Lego Presentation.
It was touch and go today as to whether we would actually get there. Everyone was just not up to speed as far as the schoolwork was concerned. I was holding the Lego deal over their heads and they just managed to finish in time.

The First Lego League is a team that competes in Lego Robotics competitions. They are 9 to 14 years old and this particular team is all homeschooled kids. They are really good!
They compete in several different areas. There is programming, a public speech to the judges, and demonstrations. The kids have to do it all.
Lego provides a kit and a theme every year. The kids have to create the rest.

There is also a younger age bracket that just builds projects based on a theme. Can you guess what it was this year?
So we are looking into joining a couple of teams. John would be on the older and Brendan and Paul would start with the younger kids.

Earlier today John put his Lego guys to work portraying one of the Joyful Mysteries.
Can you guess which one?
Hint: Anakin is Jesus, Lea is Mary, and the various other figures are the elders who were amazed.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Question of the week...

So a little while ago Paul comes bouncing into the room and asks, "What does it mean to covet?"
I answered "It means to want something."
"Oh" He said, and bounced back out.

A few minutes later he walks slowly back into the room and says "Well I'm not going to covet my neighbor's wife, because I don't want Mrs Kochenderfer, and Mr Lemar doesn't have a wife!"

Wow, how simple life is when your five.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Notes from Jesus...

Now here is something that hasn't ever happened before...
Jesus passed me a note at Walmart.

This is just too neat!
So the boys and I went to Walmart today to do our shopping. Big Shopping!! Ugh!
I have taken to grabbing a couple of little things for the house while I'm there. Today it was a couple of hand towels for the upstairs bathroom. Boys are really hard on hand towels.
So I got home and put everything away. I put the towels on the stairs going up, still in the bag, to put away later. A few minutes ago I was going upstairs and I grabbed the bag to put them away and since the towel ring was empty I grabbed one of the towels to hang.

A small piece of paper slipped out...

...and this is what it said.

And it's amazing the effect that something like that can have!
I am SUCH a control freak. And I am always praying that I will be able to handle everything!
Now I don't feel like I have all that many problems, but I know HE can handle anything that comes along much better than I ever will.
As for being strong, all my meditations lately have been about being humble and small. Trying to be strong can be a real downfall.

If this little note is to you too...consider it passed...

Marching for the Dream

We are going to pack up, brave the cold, and drive down to DC next Tuesday for the National March for Life. We haven't gone in recent years because of the cold and the serious nature of the whole Abortion issue. I have tried to bring the boys up to consciousness on the issue, without the graphic details. I am still not sure that I want John, or the other boys for that matter, to see the huge posters that adorn the Mall all day, but I have told them what abortion is and we are studying Martin Luther King much more intensely this year. I think it's really important for the boys to learn about the Civil Rights Movement, and how hard Dr King worked to bring about change. It cost him his life. As we march in the cold on Tuesday, I want them to understand that many people are willing to make big sacrifices for freedom and for those who have no rights. The right to life is the right that we are sacrificing for today. We are so blest to live in a place where so many people can show their solidarity with each other and the truth.
As we unite on Tuesday, we will be carrying forward the dream of Dr King, that all people have the basic human right to Life, Liberty and Love.

Blogs For LIFE!
I just heard about this over on "Mommy Life", and I think I am going to have to pass this year because I will have the boys at the March with me. I doubt they would enjoy sitting around while I blog. Next year, however, I want to try to go.

I will be taking lots of pictures on Tuesday and I will post them here.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Third Commandment...

Here is a hilarious take on God's reasoning behind the 3rd Commandment.
Mary is a wonderful writer and I sure enjoy her blog.
She's even more fun in person!

Mair's Mommilies

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Dan's Mountain

Well today was our last day at the Cooke's house. Laura and I got a lot done, Lucy seems to be getting better, but the boys were starting to seem like six rather than three in the apartment. Don't get me wrong, they were SO very good while we were there, a little backtalk notwithstanding, but they are boys and boys are bouncy.
So Andrew was home today and did the sweetest thing. He took the boys out for a trip to Dan's Mountain and a hike up to the rock. While he was there he took some great pictures.
The boys had a blast and saw all kinds of neat things, while getting some much needed exercise.
Then they went to Walmart. Andrew had one of the best pictures developed into an 8x10 and he put it in a nice frame. It was so thoughtful! I am going to hang it on the wall on the stairs.
I love the country up there. It was good to be home, but coming down into the city, the traffic felt really confining after the mountains. We may have to get a couple of acres up there. It would be so nice to have a place to get away to.
I enjoyed Lucy so much this week. She is such a cuddly, funny little thing! The boys had so much fun with her.
She really knows her audience!

Thursday, January 10, 2008


Well gee, where to start?
When we last left the Merkels, the boys were industriously building with LEGOS.
Jen was enjoying the last relaxing days of Christmas break.
Tim was going to put up the new handrail and put drop ceiling in the pantry.

He did. It looks so nice. The handrail is really beautiful!
The pantry looks so clean and well lighted.

This was our first week back to school. It seemed like it was going to be a long week. It is.
I worked really hard last week getting all the planning done. The boys are moving along really well. I added a couple of subjects and changed some of the books.
John is doing more reading comprehension and I have added a new Art program for all of them.
Paul is flying through phonics and is reading at a second grade level.
Brendan has moved into the fourth grade books and is almost ready to move into a new math book.
John is loving science. Astronomy is a great motivator.
We will be going up to the Franklin Institute next month. They have a lot of great space exhibits.

So on Sunday Laura and her family came back to MD from Washington state. They had a wonderful visit and really enjoyed catching up with everyone. Lucy had been sick, but seemed to be recovering fine, however, on Tuesday she seemed to be wheezing and Laura took her in to the doctor, where she was diagnosed with pneumonia. It was just getting started and they got her on antibiotics right away, however, between that and the jet lag, she has been a very unhappy little camper. Wednesday morning I popped onto Gmail and Laura was having a REALLY bad day. Lucy is not supposed to cry very hard, to rest her lungs, so all she wanted to do was to be held and entertained. Laura had a house full of unpacked luggage, laundry to do, meals to cook, and it's nice to take a shower occasionally. So I asked her if she would like me to come to Frostburg for a few days to help her out.

I packed up school, canceled a couple of appointments, and tied up a few loose ends and off we went. The boys were so good on the ride up.
We spent the day doing school, laundry, shopping and organizing the house. We got a lot done.
It was a very good and productive day. Lucy seems better. She doesn't have a fever and she is eating pretty good, but has a nasty cough. I am really glad we came.
The boys are being so good! They finished school today, they ate what we fed them. They have been playing the Wii all night with Andrew and having a great time!

We will be here for a couple more days. Tim is being so patient, he had to work so he is home alone with Bosco.
So that's what we are up to...

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Post-Christmas Joy!

So all the boys got Christmas money from Grandma and Grandpa, and Nina and Johnny this year.
This makes for a wonderful extended Christmas. Opening gifts is so much fun on Christmas morning, but there is also a certain wonderful anticipation in thinking about what you might be able to buy with your new-found wealth.

John was able to get a Lego set that he had had his eye on. It's an X-Wing Fighter from Lego Star Wars. He put it together in short order and it is now sitting in a place of honor in his room. He also got a Semi-truck and trailer that are the right scale to go with some of the models that he is collecting.

Paul knew exactly what he wanted. He has gotten quite proficient at surfing the Lego website. He had seen the new "Indiana Jones" Lego set, and he was quite smitten. He just loves anything that can help him build a mental scenario. He has never seen an Indiana Jones movie, but he knows all the stories from talking to Tim and I and from the little clips on the Lego site. I have to say, this set was worth every penny. It is so detailed, and it is just exactly the way the scene in the Temple in "The Lost Ark" was set. It has all the props; boulders that roll down, skeletons, a pit for Indy to swing over, and all the Characters.

Last, but certainly not least, we have Brendan's choice.
Brendan is an avid reader of catalogs, with Lego being his favorite.
Last summer sometime, he informed me that his Lego dream-come-true was the Imperial Star Destroyer. The set is an imposing 1300+ pieces, with an equally imposing 100.00+ price!
I told him that it was going to take some serious saving for him to be able to buy it with his allowance, and so he had kind of given up.
At Christmas he had saved over 25.00 of his allowance over several weeks, and then he got his gifts.
We decided to go to Toys r Us because I told him I wasn't putting anything else on my card until I have it paid off. No mail-order.
We got there and as we were browsing the aisles, we spotted the Destroyer. There were only two left. With tax it was a bit more than he had, but I bent my own rule and advanced him one week's allowance. I knew he wouldn't again be in the position to buy it for a long time.
He proudly brought it home and started putting it together.

Brendan is seven. The model is geared for ages 9-14. It is huge and very complicated. There are TWO instruction books!
It took him three days, but he finished it last night. He really didn't need much help. Tim would go up to help build, and Brendan would tell him all he wanted him to do was to open the bags and sort the pieces. I am amazed at his ability to concentrate and attention to detail.

I can't wait to see what he wants for his birthday...