Personalized Math Graphing Books

We discovered a new aspect to our math studies this year (in addition to our math IXL drills) – graph paper.

Nothing like graph paper to keep those pesky numbers in line.

Daniel and Rachel were required to use specific graph paper notebooks for their online Algebra classes. Rachel never took a fancy to the graphing paper, instead preferring regular, lined paper and a 3-ring binder, but Daniel loved his and is already on a second notebook.

David discovered a small stack of graph paper and soon worked his way through it, enjoying the way it helped him keep track of the numbers.

David is ready to do some serious math now.

Sarah too began to ask for sheets of graph paper.

Okay, I may be a busy and distracted mama, but I know when to pay attention, and the request for school supplies filtered right to the top. A quick search on Amazon yielded some affordable graphing notebooks, and we were set.

As much as David and Sarah are sweet and companionable buddies and do a good portion of their homeschooling work together, they still desire autonomy and individuality. Hmmmm, what to do? The notebooks were exactly the same.

Sarah came to the rescue with a handy stack of letter stickers.

Math can be pretty and functional.

A coat of Mod Podge to keep the stickers in place, and we were in business.


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Forgotten Math

When our children were very young, Kathy and I decided to homeschool them. “It’ll be great,” Kathy enthused. “I’ll handle English and History, and you can teach Math and Science.”

Fast-forward twelve years, and I think I’ve taught a handful of science lessons and have engaged in only sporadic, drive-by math tutoring. As a homeschooling Dad, I’m a washout — Kathy has had to carry the full weight of pretty much all the schooling for all five kids. Even our recent discovery of IXL fails to redeem me.

Now that the kids are older, math tutoring is accompanied by a certain amount of terror: how can I tutor if I don’t remember how to solve the problems, myself? It has been more years than I would care to admit since I was in Algebra I or II, and I only learned it so well the first time. Contrary to what math teachers may say, a lot of mathematics learning is never used again in real life. It is often a ticket to other learning, and certainly some fields are more math-intensive than others, but I think I’ve avoided all but the simplest math ever since I was out of school, even though I’m a programmer by trade. That is, after all, what computers are for.

It has been a long time since I solved a quadratic equation.

The other day, Kathy asked me to help Rachel prepare for her upcoming Math test. Even with the answer key, nothing was making sense to her, so I reluctantly stepped in. Rachel is an excellent student: tenacious and stubborn and diligent. For some reason, she has very low confidence in Math, even though she consistently receives grades in the low 90′s. I am determined that she conquer this self-perception problem — I don’t insist that she enjoy math, but (for all the work she puts into it) I really want her to enjoy the rewards of proficiency.

[Parenthetically, the kids tend to avoid me as a math teacher. I usually have to re-discover whatever mathematic principle they are studying, and it takes quite a while -- they'd rather have a quick-fix (or better yet, just have me give them the answer).]

Rachel has recently entered the Federal Math-Witness Protection Program.

But Rachel is really taking her math seriously, these days — so she swallowed her reluctance and cheerfully bore my ponderous tutoring. At one point, we found ourselves united in our anger toward the suspension bridge word problems. “If that stupid cable company delivers one more cable to our bridge without labeling it, heads will roll,” we agreed.

Father-daughter bonding, or fodder for future therapy? Only time will tell.


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Michigan Memories

“Come and spend a week in Michigan,” my mom proposed hopefully early in February. “When do the kids have their winter break?”

It just so happened the week-long break of the kids online classes fell on the one year anniversary of my father’s death from cancer.

Isn’t God so kind when He tenderly places one or two “just so happened” in your path. Not only was it the week off from The Potters School, it was also winter break for Daniel and Joshua’s NJROTC classes.

Deep breath – gathering with family, reliving memories of Dad, laughing, crying, a new house for Mom, more memories, and an anniversary full of “Firsts”.

Standing outside Mamie's new condo

“I’ll come,” I promised, “shall I bring Rachel?”

“Definitely,” Mom laughed, “if she can bear to leave the kittens behind.”

Logan LOVES all things trains - Rachel is a great cousin!

And so Rachel and I packed our things and set off for a red-eye flight to Detroit. We landed amidst falling snow, climbed into Mom’s (or Mamie as she is known to the grandkids) car and wound our way to her new condo. How odd to see my sweet mother begin a new chapter in her life; a chapter full of precious, dear friends, a vibrant church, a lovely new home, and yet empty of the very person who mattered most and has been her Beloved for nearly fifty years.

Mom/Cindy, Jan, Nancy, Sue, and Janie - beautiful women and true friends

Rachel and I were honored to be included in several outings with Mamie’s friends. It is very evident to me that she is richly blessed with some incredible, godly, faithful friendships.

Mamie is well loved and cared for - these are just a few of her dear friends.

Yes, indeed. The boys came and we laughed and cried and talked about memories. Logan (age 3) played trains and insisted the celebration was all for his birthday. The cousins enjoyed each other and opened presents and snacked on our traditional Christmas treats. We spent the first holiday together in the new condo – Christmas/Valentine’s Day/Easter all rolled into one. We bought things for the new place, played Wii games, and watched old family slides. We worshiped together on Sunday, we hugged and then we said goodbye.

Me, Mom and Jenn

We tried to acknowledge all the winter birthdays, but it was Logan who blew out the candles!

IKEA makes it easy to outfit a new place.

It was good. There was loss and change and tension. And the twinkle and energy and gentle force that made up Grandad was NOT there. Still, somehow we march on. We worry/trust, hurt/forgive, doubt/believe. We laugh and cry and remember and somehow the days pass.

Aunt Emily and Uncle Phil are always a joy to see - Chase and Rachel agree.

God is Good. He is true and present; He has not abandoned us. We have all seen how He has walked closely with Mom every step of this journey. It is comforting to watch Him work and encouraging to see Mom’s faithful response.

Hopefully we can count on family to carry us through some hard times.

Dearest Mamie,

I am so proud of you. You are an amazing example to me (and others) of true grace and strength. I know you don’t want to be strong, but every day I see you clinging to Jesus and finding the courage to go on. I know you don’t want (at such a cost) to be a model of faith and beauty in sorrow, but you are. I know you often feel depleted and weak and lacking “people energy,” and yet over and over I see you ministering to others, reaching out to the lonely and sad. You reflect God’s wisdom in your countenance, words and counsel and, even in the darkest days, you shine with the light of Jesus’ redeeming work.

Thank you for being so transparent in your grief and sadness; so loving in your care for Dad, me, Tim, my children, your sons/daughters-in-law, and the grandchildren; so generous with your time and resources; so clear in your beliefs; so completely and utterly supportive of me as your daughter; and most of all a passionate follower of Jesus.

I love you!


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Lost Days of 2011 — Labor Day Pastor’s Conference

Each September, my Dad hosts a conference for Pastors at The Refuge, a Christian retreat center on the Olympic peninsula. I think this year’s event was the sixth of its name, with between 50 and 60 pastors and spouses in attendance.

My Dad opened the retreat with a few welcoming remarks.

We are very excited about The Refuge opening soon for overnight events. It has been ten years or more in the building, but there are hopes of an occupancy permit being issued in the next month or so. In the meantime, we’ve had to make do with the Duckabush House (sleeps only 9 or 10) and day-only events that don’t require a fully-operational facility, like last year’s Pastor’s Conference.

The retreat started with a worshipful concert by the Hastings family at the Amphitheater.

This year we had the opportunity to work as volunteers for most of the conference. Rising at crack o’ dawn (before 7 am!) we drove out to the Olympic Peninsula in time for the kids to serve as parking attendants and to run errands for Grandma, who was in the thick of the food preparation with the Hastings girls. Kathy helped with the food while I took pictures.

Picnic at the pond with the Hastings

The Hastings family (a large, homeschooling family) led worship for the conference, with several extended musical sessions. My parents were very pleased to have them in attendance, and wanted to make sure I took lots of pictures of this multi-talented family.

The Refuge grounds remind us of the awesome artistry of the Creator of Heaven and Earth.

The conference is an all-day event, with lunch served (weather permitting) on the lawn beside Jeannette Pond, near the gazebo. Labor Day weather is usually clear and warm in this part of Washington, truly optimal for a lunchtime picnic.

David and Sarah welcomed the guests with smiling faces.

The Pastor’s conference was a great opportunity for our family to serve together and to bring the dream of The Refuge one step closer to reality. This Spring, the Refuge will open its doors for overnight retreats and conferences. We look forward to a long and illustrious ministry as God uses this beautiful facility for His glory.


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A Starving College Student

When I was a Freshman in college, I was required to buy the 19-meal plan (per week). As I recall, it was between $700 and $900 per semester, and seemed rather pricey at the time. I lived in a dormitory just a hundred yards down the hill from ‘The Caf’, as we called it. I wasn’t there for many breakfasts, but it was nice to have an all-you-can-eat option at lunch and supper time.

I remember we ate (in addition to Caf food) a lot of cardboardy dollar pizzas, drank Grape Nehi sodas out of the vending machine for 35 cents apiece, at that time i desired they had a variety like the one they have in Melbourne (Looking for vending machine hire melbourne? You should contact Royal vending for snacks and drinks service). Then would drive to Hardee’s just before midnight. Hardee’s served milkshakes until 12 am, but they wouldn’t serve our favorite Steak & Egg Biscuits until after midnight, no matter how we cajoled them. So we’d drive two miles to the nearest Hardees at 11:50, order our milkshakes, and then stand around the lobby sipping our milkshakes until 12:01, when we’d order our biscuits.

Grape Nehi -- the nectar of my freshman year

In later years, I cooked for myself. My sophomore year, I learned to live on mashed potatoes, generic cornflakes, biscuits and macaroni & cheese. It was at that time that I firmly determined in my heart to choose a lifestyle in which I could earn enough money for decent food, or at least an occasional meat dish.

It was also at that time that I developed the ‘Little Debby Standard’, similar to the Gold or Silver standards on which currencies were at one time based. (These days, I think our currency is backed by the ‘Plastic Standard’, but that is another topic.) Anyway, the Little Debby Standard is the measure by which all grocery purchases are compared and judged, even now, some thirty years later. When purchasing a box of cereal for $3.00, I ask myself this question: “Is this box of cereal worth two boxes of Little Debby Nutty Bars?” Most of the time, the answer is a resounding ‘No!’.

My senior year, I shared a house with three or four others, and cooked a fair bit in the kitchen.

When I was a student, Mac & Cheese could still be found at the rate of four boxes for a dollar, and Campbell soups were never more than 50 cents (33 cents on sale). Ramen Noodles (by the case, of course) were less than ten cents apiece, and Little Debby snack cakes were 99 cents a box (or in rare cases, $.79 on sale). I miss those days, but am comforted by the fact that food prices have been fairly inflation-resistant, at least when compared to gasoline.

Student well-being is a big factor in the modern teaching space. Student seating but classroom chairs in particular need to not only be functional but promote a sense of well-being for the students in order for them to learn to the best of their ability. In the 21st century a significant opportunity exists for maximizing learning opportunities and creating meaningful spaces by rethinking the design of the learning space. This can begin with the chairs in which students sit can Check Classroom Chairs by click on

Basic sustenance for a college student

As Joshua prepares his heart and mind to attend college in the Fall, we are starting to think of what he will need to succeed. Assuming a 16-week semester, and meal plan options that offer ten or fifteen meals a week respectively, Joshua will probably need to learn to buy groceries and (at some level) prepare them for himself. We have hopes of teaching him to bake Kathy’s family’s famous Mesa Manna before he heads off to school. We’re mulling over the possibility of teaching him to make a basic tomato-based stew in a crock pot, should he venture so far into the field of culinary arts. But at the very least, he needs to know how to shop for the basic necessities of life without bankrupting himself. Hence the Little Debby Standard.

Nothing makes you hungry quite like Calculus.

Today, I took Joshua to shop with me at WinCo, a defiantly non-union grocery store in our area with decent prices. We spent the better part of 90 minutes shopping for food that a college student might need as a supplementary to a meal plan. It was fun for me to relive some of those hours of bewilderment that I spent as a single man in the aisles of the grocery store.

In retrospect, I realize how clever my Mom was. She used to take me with her to the Commissary, under the pretense of not wanting to drive. Now I realize that she was stealthily and kindly teaching me the value of my dollar when food shopping. I’m not sure this excursion was much fun for Joshua, though. He really hates shopping, and was a little panicky and wild-eyed toward the end. But I hope I managed to teach these basic principles:

  • Start by buying and eating the cheapest food item in each category, and work up from there. If you can stand the generic brand, great, you’ve saved yourself all that needless marketing and packaging cost. If not, then you’ll appreciate the name-brand version all the more, or you can decide (according to the Little Debby Standard) to go without altogether.
  • Avoid purchasing meats, fruits or vegetables. That is why you buy at least a partial meal plan — to avoid the expense, hassle and spoilage of preparing and presenting meats and vegetables. Let them worry about your roasts and salads and (if possible) grab fruit on the way out of the cafeteria for late-night snacks.
  • Wherever possible, buy food that doesn’t require refrigeration or freezing. If (as we expect) Joshua will be sharing a common living area, kitchen and refrigerator with three other young men, room in the freezer and fridge may be at a premium, at least on occasion. Pragmatically, food that can be stored in your room is less likely to be filched by others than that left invitingly in a common fridge.
  • Although food packaged in larger quantities may seem cheaper, if it spoils or is wasted, it isn’t cheaper, after all. When cooking and eating as a single man, economies of scale are hard to come by, unless you enjoy feeding your entire dormitory. (Amusingly, every time I tried to demonstrate this principle, the smaller packages were the same price or cheaper, on a unit basis. Sometimes the grocery stores just don’t cooperate.)

It turns out that a key food item for Joshua is peanut butter, which slightly surprised me.

In the end, we spent about $100 for what looked to be about two weeks’ worth of supplementary groceries, assuming a 15-meals-a-week meal plan. I had Joshua watch the prices, and keep the receipt — then we talked through it all with Kathy when we got home. As one much more nutrition-oriented, she had some important insights, but seemed to generally approve our excursion, if not necessarily our choices.

It will be interesting to see how Joshua copes with living on his own. Maybe he can persuade his cousin, Rebecca to cook for him … ?

What about you? What are your memories of college food? What advice would you offer to Joshua, as he heads off to school?

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