Teacher Work Day

I had Labor Day off from work, and so I took the children away on a day-trip so that Kathy could enjoy a badly-needed Teacher Work Day. We hadn’t yet formally started school, and Kathy had been struggling to put together schedules and lesson plans for all five.

When I was employed at Amazon, I enjoyed a four-day work-week, with Mondays off. I used to take the kids away for the day, on some adventure or other, and let Kathy stay home. She is with the kids nearly all the time, as mother and teacher. I joke that we need to give her some ‘down time’ or we’ll end up checking her into the Whispering Pines Clinic for Homeschooling Moms, an imaginary treatment center for teaching moms who experience nervous breakdowns.
Whispering Pines
Maybe it isn’t quite as imaginary as I thought.

My parents hosted a Pastor’s Retreat at the Refuge, and so on the Sunday afternoon before Labor Day I loaned them Joshua as a Gibeonite (a hewer of wood and drawer of water) to help set up for the event. The other four and I followed Monday morning, so that I could serve as a photographer and the younger kids could help out as needed.

Pastor's Conference
There were about 25 pastors and their wives in attendance at this year’s conference.

Some Dads dread a day with their children, but not me; my children are a lot of fun to be around. Everyone seemed cheerful as we set off; the younger three read books quietly in the back of the van while Rachel and I chatted companionably in the front.

Joshua and David
Setting up for lunch

At the Retreat center, the kids helped out while I snapped pictures, and then waited patiently for everyone to be served before sampling the lunch buffet.

Refuge Dining Room
The Refuge Dining Room

After helping to move all the chairs back to the meeting room (there was such a large crowd that we needed to use the meeting-room chairs for dining) the younger four and I went geocaching, while Joshua stayed to enjoy the second half of the Pastor’s conference. In spite of the rain, we tramped up and down the coast of the Hood Canal and found all six of our intended caches.

Geocaching boy
A typical geocache is found in an old ammunition box, often hidden in a dead log.

Daniel, my middle boy, felt that he was badly treated by his siblings at one of the caches, and was inclined to sulk. “I’ll just sit in the car, then,” he told me grumpily. Such incidents often spiral downward with Daniel, so I braced myself for a long afternoon of rebukes and punishments; but God had more cheerful plans. I was pleasantly surprised to see Daniel reverse course quickly and snap out of his selfishness, kindly offering treats from his backpack to the others and working hard to engage them in smiling conversation. I was proud of him for the effort he took to restore his relationship with his siblings.

David, Rachel and Sarah
Some geocaches are much smaller, like this one (the size of a pill bottle)

We returned in time to sample the dessert buffet.

“How do you do that?” Joshua asked me. “You arrive just as the line clears, but before all the dessert is gone. You must teach me this.”

I smiled mysteriously – I don’t tell all of my secrets.

My parents were tired after the guests departed, and it seemed that we would be more trouble than we were worth, so we didn’t stay to help clean up.

Leftover Dan
We did manage to score some leftovers, though.

Worried that we might return home before Kathy was quite ready for us, and wanting Joshua to get some after-dark driving experience, I decided to stop off in Shelton. “We’re here to stall,” I told the kids, in the Wal-Mart parking lot.

Usually we are quite anxious to get home, but for some reason, everyone seemed to accept this cheerfully. “I really want Mom to finish my chart,” Rachel insisted, “so we should take our time.” We wandered the aisles of Wal-Mart and managed to find one or two things that we hadn’t realized we ‘needed’. No one (except Sarah) seemed to want to eat at McDonalds, so we jumped back into the van and I cruised the shopping center for an alternative.

We’re pretty frugal about some things, and so we don’t eat out at restaurants very much. I spotted a Godfather’s Pizza and hustled the kids inside to enjoy the all-you-can-eat buffet, much to their surprise and delight. “You have been hiding this place from me,” my oldest son reproved, eyeing the pizza hungrily.

Godfather's Pizza
Not our actual Godfather’s Pizza restaurant.

One of the cool things about parenting is that your children often reflect facets of the two people you love best in the world: yourself, and your spouse. I was very impressed to see all five of my children hit the salad bar first, and only then did they sample the pizza selections. Kathy has been an excellent role model in healthy eating, these past five years. They took after me in terms of the quantity of pizza that was consumed.

Having the dining area to ourselves, I asked to have the big TV turned off, and we laughed and told stories and carried on as though we were at home in our own kitchen. We played the “What are you thankful for?” game, always one of my favorites at meal times. Eventually the buffet closed, and we reluctantly tore ourselves away and staggered to the van.

Joshua drove us home, contravening all custom and common practice by staying in one lane and observing the speed limit, much to the consternation of the other drivers. I reflected on the cheerfulness of the day, and how devoid it had been of bickering, selfishness and mean words.

Sarah laughs
Laughter, yes; mean words, no.

How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! — Psalm 133:1

My heart was full of joy and pride, thinking of the grace, kindness and positive leadership that my children had shown to the retreat participants and to each other.

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. — 3 John 4


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Bittersweet Return

It is always bittersweet to return from a vacation, especially a long one. Two weeks in the hot Texas sun, playing games with my family and reading books poolside – what a glorious way to end the summer! But I am glad to be home, to feel the crisp morning Northwest air, to sleep in my own bed, to jump back into the river of time that sweeps us along in this life that God has given us.

this is a motley crew

Film maker Joshua and his crew.

Our plane was delayed in Dallas, and it seemed quite late when we finally got home. Our dear friend Jen-Bob, not content with picking us up at the airport, also cleaned our house and stocked our fridge with surprises, regaling us with stories and laughter until we could no longer keep our eyes open. A “Welcome Home” sign from Michelle and Jen-Bob’s “10 Reasons I’m Glad They Are Home” on our whiteboard, helped us to know that we had been missed.

pretty girls

swimming girls

Sarah and her cousin, Aydia, have a LITTLE too much fun together.

I had big plans for our 14 days in Texas, some of which failed to materialize; even so, it was a very successful vacation by any measure. Along with Kathy’s parents, all three of her brothers were there, with two of their wives, four cousins (including the celebrity, Baby Logan), a friend from Michigan, and a Great Uncle and his friend, rounding us out to 21 in all.

family gathering

Hot and sunny and one big family.

We swapped stories, played cards and board games, drove around in golf carts, ate many delicious meals, hunted geocaches, and devoured bowl after generous bowl of ice cream at the local PICO’s store. The pool (the length of a football field) was mostly ours alone, and many happy hours were spent splashing, floating, swimming and just sitting with our feet dangling in the cool spring water.

tahlia and rachel

Tahlia and Rachel are buddies!

We worked on several crafts and projects as a family, and gathered each evening to hear the kids read aloud “the Chapter” from the gospel of Matthew, and to discuss it together. I was permitted to teach Sunday School the first week at a local church, and Kathy’s Dad was invited to preach there the second Sunday.

chapter time

Time to read the Bible chapter!

Several went fishing, some visited the local museum, and there were many shopping excursions to replenish food stocks. I worked from the library two days, and we checked email sporadically. Kathy’s Dad quashed a termite infestation and worked around the yard. Nerf wars raged and pictures were snapped by the hundreds. Everyone seemed to work hard to get along and to be kind, which was no small accomplishment with so many people underfoot.

we love grandad!

Grandad (and the golf cart) are the true favorites of our time in Texas.

Normal life is sometimes hard. We are busy people, and it is no easy task to serve in our church, raise and school our children, do our work and maintain our home. But it seems easier, somehow, to put our shoulder to the wheel, with such warm and golden memories treasured up from this summer vacation.


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Still Summer

We need a new blog picture and theme. However, since I haven’t blogged about our time in Texas yet (where it is eternally summer, from our perspective), I figure there’s no hurry.

Today Tim has the children and will be gone until dark. Can you hear the angels singing? I have the entire day to myself. There are school books and binders spread across the dining room table. My hope is to have some sort of a school plan established by the end of the day.

Hence my time here on the blog. There’s too much pressure over in the other room – books to sort, curriculum decisions to make, a transcript of Joshua’s freshmen year to document, meals to plan.

Instead of dealing with all of that, I’d much rather think about our vacation, where it was hot and sunny and there was no talk of school allowed.

red shirts unite!

Yes, we settled on red as our theme traveling shirt this year. It was a tough battle between green and red, and one child voted for a Christmas look, combining the two favored colors. Needless to say red won.

With that said, I must get back to the table o’ responsibility that awaits me. Cheers on this Labor Day!


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