Sunday, August 31, 2008

Now This is Texan!

Shortly after moving here, we learned about the great rivalry between Univ. of Texas (Longhorns) & Texas A&M (Aggies). While silly at times to see adult alumni "duking it out" over loyalty to their school, it's also extremely entertaining. It didn't take us long to get caught up in the fun. Our oldest is in his second year at Texas A&M. Not only is he a student, but he is in the prestigious Corp of Cadets, the keepers of the Aggie Spirit. We now thoroughly enjoy all things Aggie!

We love that the school continues to follow an Honor Code used at the great Military Academies in the USA. We also love the school traditions, the fact that they are known as the friendliest college in the country, and their openness to family involvement. Each outfit in the Corp hosts a family picnic on home football game days where we munch on BBQ brisket & ribs and socialize with the other family members. We then are allowed to go into the Corp dorms (holes) and watch the upperclassmen call out the freshman (Fish). It's out in the quad after that to watch the band parade by and the entire Corp march past. We love it! Here's some of the experience we had at the first home game this weekend. (too bad they lost)

"Fish" lined up against the wall while the upperclassmen inspect them:

Out on the quad:

Brian is second one in the first row from right.

The kids pose in front of the cannon with one of the soldiers:

The cannon shot starts the festivities:

Brian's company marching by:

All the kids giving the Army Thumbs-Up! Gig 'Em, Aggies!!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

School Days, School Days

It's that time of year for all six kiddos has officially started in our household, and just in time before my teens' brains turned to complete mush! It seems forever ago that it was the beginning of summer and we were totally immersed in the summer league swim season. Not to say we haven't been busy all summer. I at least know that it feels like I haven't had a break from all the driving, endless doctor appointments, and to-do list errands. However, lately I'd return home from driving all over the area to find my two high school boys lounging on the couch, eating snacks, and staring at the boob-tube while they watched "The Price is Right" or "Family Feud"! The survey says........" Get off your butts and help me clean this house!". (Oops, that's what mom says) They both assured me that this was what summer vacation was all about. Yep, it surely was time to get back to school.

It's our second year of homeschool for the three youngest. Kaitlyn was very excited to officially start Kindergarten (even tho she's not quite 5 yet). She started our day with the flag salute and then we did our morning prayers before starting lessons. Andrew has been doing schoolwork on and off thru the summer so that he retained what he learned last year. He is in First Grade now, and in typical little boy fashion, he let it be known that he'd rather be playing with his toys than spending the day in school. I think it'll take a few days to realize that 1st grade is a bit more challenging than last year had been.

Michelle's summer days were spent at the gym gaining skills to move up to the next competitive gymnastics level. She achieved her goals and has already had two meets of the new season. Her summer schoolwork consisted of reading the entire Laura Ingalls Wilder series ("Little House" books) which she finished before the end of June! She's happy to return to school and is in Sixth Grade this year. Her favorite subjects are History--she's studying the Old World this year and Science- she's learning about Sea Creatures and the Aquatic World.

Halfway thru our first morning of school, Brian called from college during a break in his classes. It was also his first day and he filled me in on how it was going and how the weekend had been while the older Corp guys (including him) got to break-in the new "Fish" in his outfit. He laughed about how nervous the new guys all were and I reminded him that it sounded just like him last year at this time! "It's so much more fun watching from the other side!", he laughed. We'll visit him this weekend at their first football game march-in.

Kyle and Reid headed off to high school early in the morning and both had positive reports when they came home. Reid will have long days, being done at 5 from his ROTC duties and Kyle will swim for the high school in the morning and then head down to club swimming afterschool, not to return home until 6:30 everyday. If that doesn't tire them out, than I don't know what to do!!

As for me, I am glad to get back to our normal routine. I never did get those long, lazy days I used to cherish in summertime. I mentally had a list of projects I wanted to work on, and somehow got none of them done! If summer is going to be just as busy as the rest of the year, then I'll gladly take the structure of the school year vs. the random chaos our summer seemed to bring. As for homeschooling, the most popular comment I receive when discussing our choice with others who don't homeschool is "You must be very patient. I just couldn't do that!" The truth is, I've never been particularly patient with my own kids. For some reason, I can be very patient with other people's kids tho! For me, it is a practice in learning to be patient with my children, and believe me, it is a challenge every day. It is also what I feel is parenting the way God intended it to be. We are entrusted with our children to teach them in all facets of life. When we homeschool, I feel I am satisfying the true meaning of parenting in the purest, most complete way it was meant to be. I certainly don't condemn those who send their kids to schools, as I still do my older ones and previously did for Michelle as well. I just wish I had known the truth about homeschooling 10 years ago. It definitely would have been a Blessing to our family!

Monday, August 18, 2008

We (Sort of) Found the Boardwalk

Had to take another technical break from blogging. Seems once we got the new computer up and running, it didn't like any of our old software, especially the one from my digital camera. Back up and working now!

One of our goals this summer was to find the beach in Texas. Okay, we aren't that stupid that we didn't know to look down by the Gulf. It's just that if you've ever grown up on the east coast somewhere between NJ and FL, you know what the beach, or as we say "the shore", is supposed to look like. Our first visit to Galveston Beach a month after we moved here was very disappointing. I knew there had to be better. I've spent the last two years jumping in on any conversation I hear when people are discussing beach vacations. I grill these people on what the beach looks like, is there a boardwalk, are there real beach houses or a beach town atmosphere? I've gotten some promising information from some Texans that makes me feel optimistic until I talk to someone who knows about the beaches on the east coast. These people shake their heads at me and say, "Don't listen to anyone here. They just don't know how it's supposed to be." This whole investigation reminds me of when I used to look for real pizza, but that's another story.
Here's what we're used to:

I've heard there is a somewhat decent beach 8 hours south of Houston called South Padre Island. I've heard it's somewhat like we're used to. But, I could drive two more hours in the opposite direction and be on beautiful Florida beaches where I know it's real!
If we couldn't have a beach experience this summer the least we could do is visit the Kemah Boardwalk here in Galveston. We spent a Sunday afternoon exploring this place I'd heard a bit about. Okay, weird as this is to me, the boardwalk is about half hour from the beach! It sticks out in the bay, it is about five blocks long and isn't even made of real wood! There were about ten little shops, many very expensive restaurants, and a small amusement park area. We took our family on a little train ride to see if we missed anything......we didn't. No Kohr Brothers soft custard, no waffles & ice cream, no homemade fudge, no touristy tee shirt shops, or seashell jewelry boxes, and no Hermit Crabs!

Here's what we found:

It did feel good to smell the sea water and watch the many boats out on the bay, but overall, I think it's one more thing I have to bid good- bye to while living in Texas!