Ben agreed to play a shepherd role in the pageant during the ward Christmas party. (For those of you who can't see the photo too well...he's the one in the sheepskin). No bathrobe for this boy! Heather was kind enough to loan her stinky sheepskin, and Nate loaned his Irish cane. He spent the whole time waving to people in the audience - whether or not they were waving to him.
If your news has been taken hostage by Britney's troubles, you may not have heard of the great science education debate regarding teaching of evolution versus intelligent design. I have watched it with varying degrees of interest and opinions because it didn't directly effect me. That ended on Nov. 4th, when the Texas Education Agency forced the resignation of Chris Comer, the state director of science, over this same issue. (search net for: chris comer texas)
My opinion has been and continues to be that our God designed such a marvelous world with such forethought and attention to detail, that humans will spend eternity discovering all the many miracles that make it work. In my opinion, evolution is one of those miracles that allow species to adapt to changing forces and is a part of His plan. That being said, I in no way believe that one of the miracles involves humans evolving from another species.
My real moral struggle over this issue is do I want to be forced to teach either of these theories?
I have to say that I would prefer not to teach either (total neutrality). As a second choice I would give equal time to each and label them as theories.
The issue at the base of all this is the issue of free agency - that same issue that we all fought valiantly in support of in the pre-existence, and should continue to support today, while living as examples of Christ. I believe that all people should have the chance to choose for themselves and that involves allowing freedom of information and ideas so that one can educate himself/herself and thus choose wisely. Censorship of information and ideas can only lead to less freedom and further bondage.
Okay, now that I've said my piece, feel free to leave comments regarding your stance on this issue. I will always love and respect my family and friends. I reserve the right to change my opinion if yours brings to light information I had not considered.
Ben is definitely in middle school...my how fast he grows! He informed us a few weeks ago that he thought it was time to rebel. After a little shock, we asked in what way this rebellion was going to occur. Currently it seems to be in hair length, "forgetting" about homework, and grunting instead of answering.
Ben wants to play electric guitar. He spends his free time listening to guitar riffs on rhapsody.com and practicing his moves. (Kim is grateful for all that time she spent listening to rock growing up....it sure comes in handy these days)
Ben will be representing the Phillipines in Dallas at the GEMUN (model UN) in May. The whole idea gives Nate the willies, since Nate believes the UN is Satan's answer to the United Order.
Ben is struggling more with balancing all the requirements that middle school has. He can't wait to turn 12, and has asked for a suit. He is suffering through these last months of Primary - and did a great job in his last Primary program. His take on the whole thing: its for little kids! For Christmas, he wants an electric guitar.
I am spending this year in a regional science collaborative which is 106 hours in addition to the rest of my workload. I am learning amazing things, but boy is my life out of balance again! I am trying to rein it back in, and am having more success at keeping an even keel than in past years.
My only life is family, church and science/school. I did redo my bedroom over Thanksgiving and am quite pleased with it. It is much more inviting. I still need an overstuffed chair to curl up and read in, as well as new nightstands, oh, and I need to get the artwork framed. But for now, its good enough.
I'm looking forward to hanging with mom and dad and Heather over the break...and just taking a break.
What do I want for Christmas?? A treadmill! I miss going to the gym and working off some of the stress.
Nate is not really getting older, it is just a rumor from his enemies. Actually he is 24...really (historians report that he will be turning 41). His wish for his birthday is a Day Stretcher (so he can have enough time to get more done).
Nate is hard at work on his first novel. 1 week has produced 2 paragraphs. No chance we will be hitting the bestseller list anytime soon.
He continues to take iron supplements and s l o w l y gain strength. We noticed an improvement over the Thanksgiving weekend. He made it from the parking lot to the restaurant without taking rest stops. (In June at the same restaurant, he had to stop twice.) The big struggle now seems to be learning not to overdo it, which causes setbacks.
First, a note about Nate. He finally called the doctor to see what was up since we hadn't heard anything. All his bloodwork came back normal for the things they were testing this time. (They did not test hemaglobin or iron levels.) He does NOT have lead poisoning. However, his urine samples are missing. 3 days worth. So he has to repeat the test next week. No news until September. How much longer can this drag on...or rather how much longer can Nate drag on?
Second, why no pictures? I managed to mess up my computer and now I cannot click links on a webpage. I have pictures, but can't click the link to add them. Ho hum...
Ben's middle school life started early Monday morning at 5:20 a.m. when the alarm rang so he could get ready. His bus leaves at 6:17 in the morning. School begins at 7:53. Yes, we are the first stop on the route. Ben arrived at school and started his day with GSG. GSG is homeroom. Ben will have the same homeroom and locker for all 3 years. He has 6th, 7th, and 8th graders in his homeroom class. The 8th graders lead the others in leadership activities and character learning. When Ben reaches 8th grade, he will help lead the younger ones in his class. Interesting program and seems to work to diminish bullying. Ben says he already knows lots of 8th graders and they are nice.
His middle school works on the block program. They have red day and purple day. On red days, he starts with math, science, then lunch, followed by reading, music/art but he is switching to drama. Purple day begins with PE, world cultures, lunch, English, study lab. He comes home on the bus, where mom meets him at 4:30.
World cultures is his favorite because they don't give homework, it is fun, and it is interactive and he filled out an application for a classroom job. Ben's least favorite subject is math because it is a tough subject and the homework is hard.
After 4 days, we are all very tired and fall asleep by 9:30. Ben thinks middle school is better than elementary, while mom and dad are adjusting and thinking it's not so bad......this week.
Nate is slowly recovering from the 3 day round of blood tests. We are still waiting on the results.
Kim has been busy with preparing for teaching all grades (K-5) science lab and recovering all her files that were deleted in the server migration this summer. She learned podcasting in one of her teacher inservices and is excited to find time to play.
Ben went to the 6th grade orientation for middle school. He immediately hooked up with his friends from elementary school, found his classroom, and thought the parent meeting was "BO-ring!". Mom thought the music was too loud, the other kids too big, and the school just plain huge. It wasn't like that in my day! Monday should be a big adjustment for us all. :-)
with Wyoming! Dad drove Ben & I up a few days before Kim's wilderness school to tour Yellowstone National Park. The pictures don't do it justice - you really have to experience it. Since they hire teachers to work and live in Yellowstone for the summer, Kim is lobbying Nate to allow her to "earn extra money" in the summers.
Before we actually made it into the park, we got settled in at Al's Westward Ho Motel in West Yellowstone, Montana. Very clean, but spartan - definitely within budget.
At Ben's behest, we visited the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone, MT. Ben was able to take part in hiding the bears' food and then watching while they found it. He took great pride in learning everything he could about bears and then sharing his knowledge with innocent bystanders.
Ben & Kim traveled to Utah to spend time with family. Bryce's family was very kind to drive up to the Jones headquarters in West Jordan so that we could all be together. It was very, very fun and we enjoyed getting to know cousins that we hadn't seen in a year. Unfortunately, I'm missing the roll of film for those days. I did take a couple of pix of Betsie's girls with my digital.
Ben and Tyce spent every spare second together as did Mary & Kess. I'm not sure I even had a conversation with Mary. It was good to see them! We enjoyed hiking around Silver Lake where Bryce's twins kept the family in one-liners for the next year.
Harrison(upon encountering a fallen pine): uh oh....The tree fell down? We have to fix it! Maybe tomorrow.
Cameron (while viewing 2 female mallard ducks and a duckling). That the mommy and daddy? Kim: no, it is 2 girls. Cam: That the mommy & baby? Kim: Yes. Cam: That other one the daddy! Kim: No....its the aunt. Cam: Oh, okay. Say bye ducks. (ducks quack). Another 150 yards down the trail. Kim: Look Cameron, there's the daddy duck. Cam(screaming so loud it echos across the lake: Bye daddy duck! Bye daddy duck! BYE DADDY DUCK! (continue for next 10 minutes). Kim (to self): please duck, please quack
Did you miss us? Ben & Kim spent a month visiting family and doing teacher training out of state. Unfortunately, Nate was unable to go with us.
Nate's tests came back negative, but he had to wait a month for the hematologist appointment. After the hematologist reviewed everything, he insisted that Nate has a GI bleed or cancer and all the previous tests had missed it, so we are back to the drawing board and Nate is doing 3 days of testing to try and detect the signals. UGGGGHHH! We are frustrated and worried, but not much we can do right now. Please keep Nate in your prayers.
On another note, with our increased consumption of red meat (for Nate's iron levels), both Kim & Ben's cholesterol is elevated, so now we have to have 2 diets in the family. Kind of makes us laugh and the dietician groan, but so be it.
As soon as we moved into our house 2.5 years ago, I went about creating a butterfly habitat. Within week of planting milkweed, we had our first monarch caterpillars. I researched what other butterflies were native to our area and planted host plants for their eggs and caterpillars. I planted nectar plants to attract the adults and waited. The passionflower quickly drew in the gulf frittaleries, and while I saw tons of swallowtails, none deemed my little nursery sufficient. This year, I was too busy to change or add to my little plot, and the 2 late freezes seemed to have killed off the monarchs that live in Texas year-round, so imagine the surprise when we walked outside and saw 6 huge, fat swallowtail caterpillars on the fennel. Too cool! Ben poked at one and it raised orange horns and sprayed him with a rotten scent. He was very intrigued by their defense mechanism.
On another note - we are still waiting for results on Nate's biopsy and barium swallow. If those are negative (which we expect), then he will be referred to a hematologist to see what they can do about increasing the iron absorption of his blood and red blood cell production. We appreciate all your prayers and concern. Please continue praying that we will be able to find out the cause of his difficulty.
I want to park in the garage! That's a perk of not renting an apartment that I haven't had the joy of yet, because our garage was PACKED with boxes. Even reshuffling wouldn't allow us to park one car. So...
Friday and Saturday we held our biennial garage sale. I opened space to ward members who may want to bring stuff, because I knew I didn't have as much as in the past. People knocked on the door at 6:45 a.m. and we didn't have a break to sit down until 1:00. All told, by the end of Friday we had sold $400 worth of stuff (Ben sold $65, I sold $150). People were buying plants out of my garden and waiting for me to open another box from the garage. (in between sales, I would go into the garage and start to clear out space). I think I could have sold almost anything on Friday.
Word spread around the ward and more people came and set up tables, but Saturday was stormy and alot fewer people came out. We put tarps up over everything during the rain, and de-tarped when it stopped.
Finally gave up at 1:00.
Total sales for the Ottosens....$300 and change. Total sales for other ward members...275 or so (not everyone would brag). Parking in the garage...Priceless
We took a long weekend to San Antonio for Father's Day. Nate really needed a break and we took advantage of one of those timeshare sales scams to get a hotel room for the weekend. We have seen the Alamo and Sea World and other common attractions in the past, so we focused on the smaller, lesser known attractions. On Friday, we visited Natural Bridge Cavern. It was a really great cave! Lots and lots of formations in many different rooms. We only went .5 mile of the 2 miles they have, but will definitely return for more.
On Saturday, we went to the Institute of Texan Cultures museum. It was fascinating to see all the collections they have for the 21 different cultures that settled Texas. Ben went through the dragon exhibit (focusing on how dragons are viewed in different cultures), Nate spent a lot of time in the Danish section, and I learned how to spin cotton and wool into thread...and how to share that with my students. Sunday was set aside for flyfishing. We drove to 1.5 hours west of SA to source of the Guadalupe river and Nate and Ben fished while I tried to catch all the fry that were swarming the river...as usual with no luck. Ben caught a small Guadalupe Bass for the first catch of the day and Nate caught several perch and a bass.
Ben spent the week at Lanier Middle School in a reading/math camp. He had a great time despite his reservations about going to school during the summer. He has found a new love for "quzzles" (logic problems)and wrote a really great story. Everyday showed him more confident about starting middle school until Friday, when he found out that the boys have a group shower in the gym locker room. That was very disturbing to him.
Kim has been working out everyday and using the FlyLady system to get back on top of things at home. I still need Mary Poppins to come and help me in the garage, though!
Nate has been under enormous stress from work. He is restoring a flintlock rifle from the 1700's and is finding it quite challenging. He is looking forward to our weekend trip to San Antonio.
We ended the work week by going to see Pirates of the Caribbean 3 and having Ben beat both of us at chess.
Ben and Kim went on a fossil wood hunt with HGMS on Saturday. (Where was Nate? Camping with the scouts, of course!) We drove 2.5 hours to Sam Rayburn Dam and met up with 25 other rockhounds. Then we traveled onto Temple-Inland property (with permission) to "hunt" for fossil wood. Only, the wood wasn't hard to find..
...every log you see was petrified. The hard part was hauling it up out of the creekbed that was 10-12 feet deep and then up the steep hill another 100 yards to the trucks. Of course, we're in SE Texas so it was in the mid-80's for temperature & humidity.
Once everyone was spread out along the mile of creekbed, it was really peaceful. We saw all kinds of forest invertebrates like centipedes, millipedes, weird blue&black dragonflies and these neon orange mushrooms. Reportedly these had ridges underneath and were edible. If they have paperthin sections then don't even touch them!
We didn't try them.
After hauling out two buckets full of small pieces and two backpacks/arms full of large pieces, we were beat. It was a great workout and a beautiful spot. Too bad the company is selling that property - we won't be able to go back.
But we did get enough to do some polishing and to make great accents in our garden.
Last night we attended Ben's 5th grade promotion (graduation). It was a very nice program and I really held it together until they showed the kindergarten graduation picture of my boy. Even thinking about it makes me cry. He was so little, and now he is so little...compared to the big hairy scary 8th graders.
Ben did very well in his end of year state exams (TAKS). He had commended performance on both Reading and Science and was only 2 questions away from commended on Math. He is looking forward to being a 6th grader at a vanguard middle school.
We came home last week and found a dog sleeping on our porch. He stayed all week, but we couldn't get anywhere near him. Saturday morning he decided that we were the ones and can't stand for us to be out of sight. Ben is thrilled to have a dog, but is finding that training isn't as easy as he thought. We still are looking for the owner, but a dog is definitely in our future!
Update: May 30th - Dog was adopted by an elderly lady and her daughter.
Today, Ben got to meet his favorite author, Rick Riordan. Mr. Riordan's newest book, The Titan's Curse, came out Tuesday, and there was a book signing in Timbuktu, Houston on Thursday. Amidst Zeus' thunderbolts and Houston's famous torrential downpours and resulting flashflooding, many drenched fans both young and young-at-heart, gathered at a teeny tiny bookshop to have their copies signed. Mr. Riordan spoke for a couple of minutes and then allowed time for questions. We were only #65 in line, and he took several minutes to speak with us and sign Ben's books.
Ben celebrated his birthday by go-karting. None of his friends had ever driven anything, so it really was a BASH! A good time was had by all and we came home and had birthday cake and played basketball. Fun! Ben received so many video game gifts that I'm afraid he'll turn into a shriveled up white raisin.
Kim has recovered from her fabulous trip to St. Louis for the NSTA conference. My students aren't even grossed out by the brain dissection pictures...I've taught them well! I won a trip to the American Wilderness Leadership School near Jackson, WY. I'll be spending a week there this summer!
I have lots of creative outlets this year:
Bookbinding - start my photo album next week. 1 book finished.
Beading - I created a lapis lazuli & gold necklace and bracelet combo that the instructor liked so much she copied the design to make a matching one. 10 necklaces finished.
Stamping - Heather & I love stamp camp. We are making slider cards next month. Look for our designs in your mailbox!
We still go to work most days and play Settlers of Catan with our friends once a month. Summer is only 6 weeks away....I can't wait!
Nate has been researching the next blackpowder rifle he wants to make. That handcart trek reminded him of how he used to have fun. He has even agreed to schedule a day to clean out the garage to make a workshop. He must be serious!
Nate was also extremely disappointed that his, oops...we mean Ben's pinewood derby car didn't win top honors.
Ben went to the district pinewood derby and came in 17th out of 34 Webelos much to his disappointment. He really thought he would take home the championship trophy. I guess learning how to handle disappointment is easier when you are 10 than when you are 20. At least I hope so.
Ben's birthday is Tuesday and he'll be 11. He wants to race go-carts for his party and so we've sent out the e-vite to his friends. He wishes that his cousin could come from Vegas.
We just paid the "graduation fee" for 5th grade graduation. Ben's graduation will be May 22nd. Please join us if you would like to come.