Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Merry (Belated) Christmas and Happy New Year!

From Dec. 2009 Snow

Though Christmas Day is past, we hope you are still enjoying a wonderful holiday season with your family and friends! We certainly are! Right now we are enjoying an extended holiday in Arkansas and more snow is falling outside as I type this letter. For Southerners, this is a real treat!

2009 has been an interesting year for our family. The biggest change is that Terry is no longer an engineer at Eastman, and he shares his perspective on that in a letter below.

Here's what's up with the rest of us this year:

As far as travels go, this year was much more tame. Instead of traveling to China on a free trip to the Olympics, we went camping at the lake a few times and took a trip to Williamsburg. We celebrated some family milestones - Terry's mom's 70th birthday and his parent's 50th anniversary. I chronicle most of the highlights of our family life in this blog, so if you're really interested you can read my old posts - otherwise I'll skip the details!

Rebecca (16) is driving now and is taking dual enrollment classes at the local college. She loves art, photography, theater, music and literature and is best friends with her Mom. She's recently become interested in sewing and costume design, and she got piles of vintage clothing patterns for Christmas. You might think that she would be headed for an artistic career, but right now her plans are to become a pediatric physical therapist.

Nathan (13) became a teen in June and enjoyed a "manhood initiation retreat" at the lake with his father, grandfather, uncles and a close friend. He is now taller than both his Mom and his older sister, and he has the biggest feet in the house! He also no longer gets mistaken for Mom when he answers the phone.

Caleb (12) recently performed in the local production of "A Christmas Story" and also took up trombone this year. He is not as tall as Nathan yet, but he is right on his heels and never lets him forget it!

Noah (10) enjoyed being in the local theater production of "Cheaper by the Dozen" with Rebecca and Nathan this summer. He has lots of fun playing with kids in the neighborhood - most of the ones his age are girls, so I'm not sure how long that will last.

Terry shares what's been going on with him in the letter below. Let me just say from my perspective that this has been the best year of our twenty-year marriage! Watching Terry follow the Lord during this tough season and witnessing God's faithfulness to us has been a huge blessing. We both look forward to 2010!

Terry's Letter

My family’s current adventure started in the Summer of ’07 when I finally told the Lord that I would go anywhere or do anything He wanted. Several things have transpired since then, but I will limit my sharing to the highlights of ’09.

God prepared me for the April 7th “down-sizing” at Eastman in a fabulous way. First, He put me in a situation where I told my brother, Scott, on 2/28/09 that it might be a blessing to be laid off. I even pondered the idea of trying to “volunteer”, but Susan discouraged that --- and I’m glad she did. He also motivated me to start meeting with local businesses in order to find ways to “create jobs and wealth for God’s glory” --- my new mission. And finally, He had me doing everything I could think of to help my coworkers prepare not knowing that He was really preparing me.

So on 4/7, He enabled me to hit the ground running ~ I actually had a 3 wk plan in hand. First, He motivated me to let the first hour of every day (well almost) be spent pursuing Him. Next, He led me to apply Psalm 127:2 by limiting my working hours to a reasonable amount and trusting His provision. I could not have survived the past nine months without Him or by working excessive hours.

I’ve started a business focused on helping businesses. God has put me in front of the right people at the right time all year. Literally, the main thing I can contribute this year’s success to is simply trusting in Him. Though I have still yet to receive my first income from this effort, God is providing. His timing is perfect but rarely early. I will begin to receive income from two sources in early January - just when my severance pay ends.

Though I have often professed that God is my provider, I am only now beginning to understand a lot of what that means. Though I am “the provider” in my family this really is simply a title. There is only one creator, one redeemer, one comforter, and only one true provider. He is my Lord and Savior Jesus. Praise God for this great adventure He has started in my life!

May the Lord bless you and your family in a very special way this Christmas!

Friday, December 11, 2009

You'll Shoot Your Eye Out!

From acs

"A Christmas Story" has been THE STORY of our lives the past few weeks - especially for Caleb and me --- Caleb because he's playing the part of "Schwartz," and me because I'm playing the part of chauffeur to and from practice and cast photographer. Yesterday was the first performance, and there will be five more performances at KTG over the next week and a half. Rebecca and I are putting together a Blurb book for the cast, and below are some of my favorite photos so far. Keep in mind that these photos are taken without flash in some very tricky lighting.

From acs

From acs

From acs

From acs

From acs

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Seamans Sweep 3rd Place in Lego Competition

All our boys were in a Lego competition this past Friday. Another mom and I planned the event for all the local homeschool Lego enthusiasts. Channel 11 News even came out and filmed it! Thank goodness my boys were all in different age groups. As it was, Caleb was mortified to be beaten by a girl (hey, she built a cool orthodontist office out of Lego!), but to be beaten by a brother would have been worse.

From 2009-12-04

Nathan built this cool model of a B-17. It had a nose gun, tail gun and top turret, but he couldn't figure out how to incorporate the ball turret gunner below. It opened up to reveal a cool cockpit. I think he was inspired by a book he's reading ("Behind Enemy Lines - A Young Pilot's Story") and also the B-17 we saw at our airport recently. By the way, here are some pics of Nathan from our airport field trip that I never got around to blogging about:

From 2009-12-04

From 2009-12-04

From 2009-12-04

Back to the Lego contest . . . Caleb built this giant mini-figure:

From 2009-12-04

His legs and arms could move, and Caleb named him "Bob." He was pretty cool. Good thing we got a photo because he was so upset at getting beat by the "orthodontist office" that he broke him up into thousands of pieces after we got home. Don't worry - Bob's parts will be recycled and put to good use.

Noah built a "Wookie" base with a spider droid clinging to the side:

From 2009-12-04

and this other base (I think it was a spy base of some kind, but I'm not sure):

From 2009-12-04

Interestingly, our kids don't have Lego on their Christmas list this year. They haven't outgrown it - they've just reached a point where they have most of what they need to create whatever they want.

I have one last Lego picture. This one won 1st place for the 3rd/4th grades. It is a Lego helmet, and you can actually wear it. I thought it was very clever.

From 2009-12-04

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Cousin Cookie Factory

From Thanksgiving 2009

On Black Friday, while everyone else was shopping, I had fun baking and decorating cookies with my kids and their cousins in Knoxville. Of course, it's always more fun when you get to mess up someone else's kitchen.

From Thanksgiving 2009

Sara and Rebecca were not too old for the fun!

From Thanksgiving 2009

All the girls were trying to be artistic,

From Thanksgiving 2009

But the boys just made creations like this one which they aptly named "Don't Eat Yellow Snow"

From Thanksgiving 2009

Rebecca called this one "Martha Stewart in Jail."

Speaking of Martha, I don't think she'll be calling us to feature our cookies on her show or in her magazine, but we had fun with our own photo shoot featured in the slide show below:

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Costume Parade

Here's a video I put together for a Panasonic challenge.

I think one of the most interesting things to note is how Rebecca has changed. She's "come a long way, baby!" from her days as Wonder Woman. This year she went as Elizabeth Bennett from Pride and Prejudice. Instead of relying on mom to dress her in her pajamas, she made her dress herself - and also made one for a friend! One thing hasn't changed, though - she still loves chocolate!

From Elizabeth Bennet

From Elizabeth Bennet

From Elizabeth Bennet

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Birthday, Caleb!

From Caleb

I can't believe my little boy is twelve years old now! He had a great time yesterday having friends over, playing capture the flag, watching "Pirates of the Caribbean" on the Blu-Ray (again!), and working on the 1294-piece Lego set and 2000-piece puzzle he got for his birthday (everything he loves comes in little pieces, great!).

I put together a slide show of past birthdays, but a few years are missing because they're either not in albums yet or are on a hard drive that isn't easily accessible.

Also, I'm working on transferring all our past video into digital format, and I found this cute video of the older three kids singing "Happy Birthday" to Terry - who just celebrated another birthday last week.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Hiking the Balds

From 10-20-2009 Hike

"It is the most beautiful of the high mountains . . . where a person may gallop his horse for a mile or two, with Carolina at his feet on one side and Tennessee on the other, and a green ocean of mountains rising in tremendous billows immediately about him." ~ Elisha Mitchell, 1836

Well, Terry and I didn't have horses, but we did see some beautiful scenery during our hike on Tuesday. We are so blessed to have these mountains close by! We could spend a lifetime and not hike all the trails in the immediate area. We hope to eventually be able to do a good portion of the Appalachian Trail in NC and TN.

This hike was mostly along the Appalachian Trail near Carver's Gap. The kids opted to stay home (party poopers!), so it was just Terry and me. Most of the leaves were gone at the top of the mountains and not yet peaking at the bottom, but there were some red berries and bushes that provided some contrasting color. We also saw snow that fell recently, though it was plenty warm for us - in fact, we both got sunburned.

From 10-20-2009 Hike

From 10-20-2009 Hike

From 10-20-2009 Hike

From 10-20-2009 Hike

From 10-20-2009 Hike

From 10-20-2009 Hike

From 10-20-2009 Hike

From 10-20-2009 Hike

Monday, October 12, 2009

How to Do Stop-Action Videos (A Tutorial for LiHD Families):

Edited in 2014 - Yahoo Video has removed all personal videos, so I've had to redo this post. I can't embed videos anymore, but there are links to most of the videos on YouTube now.
First a little background – Last year, Panasonic had a challenge for the LiHD families. They were going to choose a family to attend the Olympics in Beijing, and they asked us to submit essay entries. Well, we did our essay, but we really wanted to go, so we thought we should send a video as well. We really thought lots of families would send a video because we all had this cool video equipment, so we thought we’d better do some sort of special effects. We wanted to try and use the green screen, but we decided stop action animation might be a little easier to do.

Terry and I had grown up with Gumby and Pokey and also Mr. Bill from Saturday night Live, and we had seen some stop action animation videos on YouTube. So we did some google searches to find out about the technique and brainstormed possible ideas. The result was a stop action “torch run” through our yard and a claymation Olympic ring sequence at the end of our short video. We were really happy with the results. We knew even if we didn’t win that we had really created a great memory.

This link is to the video we submitted.

The kids caught on to the technique and spent quite a bit of time over the next few days doing videos. Rebecca made a claymation dance movie, and Nathan made an Indiana Jones Lego movie. Here they are below, complete with music:

Claymation Dancing

Indiana Jones Lego

Now for the instructions:

• You will need three pieces of equipment – a digital camera, a tripod and a computer with movie editing software (you can use Pinnacle, Microsoft MovieMaker, Roxio or iMovie). We used Pinnacle as it was the software we had received from Panasonic, so I will give directions that are more specific to Pinnacle but could be adapted to any software.
• Set your camera to the lowest resolution. This is important as you will be taking lots of pictures and if they are on high resolution, it is much harder to work with them in your software program. The boys have several movies that still haven’t been constructed because they accidentally forgot this step.
• Do a trial movie first – we suggest something easy like going down the stairs sitting cross-legged or showing a piece of clay growing bit by bit.

• Set up your scene and tripod. Try to keep the action in a small enough area that you do not have to move the tripod during the entire scene.
• Take your photos. If you make a mistake, just keep going. You can delete it later. You will need about 500 pictures for a 2-minute video.
• Once you have your pictures taken for your trial movie, import them into your movie software.
• Go to Edit movie
• Select all pictures
• Set the time on the pictures to about 0.05 seconds.
• Add titles and music if you wish.

Now you are ready for a bigger project:

• First, you need a plot. Here are some ideas:

1. Rebecca has had fun with Claymation dancing. Our daughter is great at making nice looking figures from clay, but you could have plenty of fun with Playdough. After all, Mr. Bill wasn’t that artistic.

2. You can also use Lego figures to make action movies. My boys have made movies using Indiana Jones Lego, Star Wars Lego, and Secret Agent Lego. If you need good music to go with action movies, I suggest getting a John Williams CD or one from Henry Mancini. Even though this music isn't "cleared" for use on videos, I think it’s OK to use it on your TV at home. At least, I don’t feel guilty since we did purchase the music! So far, yahoo video has allowed the music on all our videos to stay!

3. You can make yourself a musical instrument. We did this with our Chopsticks video. We used chairs at an airport to represent a keyboard. If you do this, when you add the music, you will need to use a metronome to get the timing exact.

Chopsticks Video
 (sorry, but this video got lost when Panasonic took down their website)

4. For the holidays, you can try setting up the tripod while you trim the tree, wrap a package or make cookies. Just have someone taking a picture every 30 seconds or so. Then add holiday music. We did this last year while setting up our tree, and we also did a “disappearing pumpkin pie” video.

5. Do a school assignment – this is how this Hamlet video came about!

• Set up your scene. Try to keep the light source steady. For instance, if you’re filming outside, you need it to be sunny or cloudy but not constantly changing or your video will not look as real.
• Set up your tripod, take your photos (don’t forget to lower the resolution) and load and edit them just like you did your trial movie.
• When finished, we usually save the movie three ways: as a file, as an upload to YouTube or Yahoo, and as a DVD.
• Then share your video with the LiHD family!

And now, for a video never before shared with the LiHD family. Here is a video made by my youngest two sons, Caleb and Noah (who were 8 and 10 when this movie was made). It would have been featured long ago, but an argument broke out over what music to use!

Secret Agent Movie

Hope you are inspired! Our next goal is to learn to use the green screen. We understand the concept, but we haven’t actually tried it out in a video yet.

Monday, September 28, 2009

We Ate the Louisiana Purchase!

We discovered several years ago that salt-dough maps were not worth making. After all, what can you do with them when you're done? So we converted to cookie maps. We recently finished up a study on the Lewis & Clark Expedition. Here is our cookie map.

From School Year 2009-2010

Lewis and Clark are not to scale. Well, actually the whole thing is not to scale, but Lewis and Clark are particularly large! At this size, it wouldn't have been much of a trip!

From School Year 2009-2010

We used candy corn for the Indian tribes,orange slices for the mountains, and chocolate chips for the Buffalo herds.

From School Year 2009-2010

It was a fun project. After taking photos, we dug right in. Nothing much is left . . .

We are seriously considering a "Lewis & Clark Expedition" of our own next summer. We are looking into renting canoes for the Ft. Benton to Judith Landing portion in Montana and/or a hike on Lolo Pass in Idaho. Would anyone like to join us in St. Louis and head west?

Here is another fun picture from last week's school. Nathan built a periodic table from Lego for his chemistry class at co-op.

From School Year 2009-2010

Monday, September 21, 2009

Noah's Birthday

From Sept 09 - Noah's Birthday

I can't believe Noah is ten today! He celebrated his birthday on Saturday with a party at the lakefront in our neighborhood. He invited his brothers and the neighborhood kids to a "Survivor" party. Rebecca and I helped plan the team challenges. They had a treasure hunt, filled buckets with lake water using only one cup per team (and a little help from a rainstorm), had an eating challenge where they ate baby food, and hunted for the right key to the pool gate at the bottom of the neighborhood pool. It was a simple but fun party! Here are some photos:

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Our Spot

It seems that most families have a spot that they love to return to over and over. For many, it's a place on the beach or in the mountains or maybe even Disney World. When I was growing up, our spot was Gunner Pool - a camping spot on a clear creek in Arkansas. Our family added another spot - Devil's Den - in later years. Terry's family's "spot" was his grandparent's cabin on Boone Lake (which ended up being our first home!). These places bring back great memories of adventure and togetherness.

Terry and I found our spot thirteen years ago at Little Oak Campground on S. Holston Lake near the Tennessee/Virginia border. It's a little hard to get to - you need to travel more than 20 min. down a deserted gravel road - but for us it has been worth the drive. It's a great place for skiing since there is a slalom ski course in a cove just five minutes from the campsite. The campsites are huge and have great views. There is no electricity, but that just serves to keep the crowds down.There is nothing like the combination of mountains, a clear lake and quietness to nourish your soul.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

My First Bagels!

From For Blog - created Sept 09

First, a little background. My kids are starting to eat us out of house and home! My older two are especially fond of blueberry bagels. If I allowed just Nathan to eat his fill, I have calculated that my bagel budget would be $40 per month! And that's just for one child. So I decided to try making them myself - mostly just to see if I could save some money but also because I was curious about the process.

You see, I've had some excellent bagels when visiting different parts of the country, but we don't have much in the way of gourmet bagels around here. You are pretty much stuck buying Sara Lee at Walmart. There is a nice bagel shop (Manna Bagel) run by some Messianic Jews in the next town over, but they visit the Holy Land and close their shop about six months of the year - plus my cost savings would definitely disappear if I went that route. So having had a Southern Baptist grandmother instead of a Jewish grandmother, I had to rely on the internet for this one.

I used the recipe on this website and added dried blueberries. Rebecca thought they looked like huge, soggy Honey Nut Cheerios when they were cooking.

From For Blog - created Sept 09

In spite of that unappetizing metaphor, they actually turned out quite good!

From For Blog - created Sept 09

They were crispy and crunchy with a nice blueberry flavor. They really needed a few more blueberries to be wonderful - which may put my cost up in the Sara Lee category unless I can find a cheap source of blueberries. It really wasn't difficult or messy to make them, and they have no added fat -which leaves plenty of calories left for the cream cheese! I can't wait to try some new flavors like cinnamon, chocolate, bacon,cheese & onion, Asiago cheese, etc.