Wednesday, December 31, 2008

What Christmas looked like

Coffee-filter snowflakes
Christmas sugar cookies...

...complete with a arm-mangled Santa and a headless angel (because it's us)
The tree "we" cut "ourselves" (thanks Tobes, for that)
Mince pies - a necessity (because it's us)
A belated Merry Christmas, everyone.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Aquarium

Here are a few photos of our day at Baltimore Aquarium...
Pretty much the only picture of Ellie, as she was on my back the whole day

Apparently, the aquarium employs elves, in this equal-opportunity world of ours And for your entertainment...

There, wasn't that fun?

Monday, December 15, 2008

I'm an Idiot

What can I say? Trying to redeem the amazon gift card Mum sent for Christmas, I keep putting in the code, and it keeps telling me it's already been redeemed - aka "Someone's stolen our gift!". Get sulky and cross with amazon, emailing to find out how they're going to fix it all, when Toby realizes that the code that I'm using is for the gift card we received last year and has definitely been used (by us). With dunce hat firmly in place, email amazon back to apologize for such folly.
So there we are: a fool, with fun Amazon toys.
For those interested, the aquarium was great, especially when I managed to adjust the rucksack that Eleanor was in so it didn't feel like she weighed 100lbs on my shoulders. Everyone loved the dolphins the best, even though they weren't wooden. I think they would have been a little less dramatic, somehow.
I'll post some photos when I come up for air from my frenzied Christmas-making...

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Wooden dolphins?

I was explaining to Abigail this morning that we're due to go to the aquarium this afternoon as a field trip. She was really excited to hear about the dolphin show...
"A dolphin show? I'm so excited, even though the dolphins are only wooden."
"What? The dolphins aren't wooden! They're real dolphins, performing tricks and things."
"You mean the dolphins on the stage aren't wooden? How do they do that?"
Stage? Wooden porpoises? I think she's in for rather a great surprise...

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

A little excitement

So, I'm having a wonderful morning and afternoon, hanging out with my friend Emily and her son, chatting and such like. The phone has rung a few times this morning, but as I have company, I've been ignoring it. Abigail suddenly comes up the stairs to report that there is a message on the machine from our neighbor saying that Thor (the dog) is wandering around in the front yard! Huh.
Since Emily was happy to babysit while I did a spot of dog-chasing (Praise God and Bless Emily!), I jump in my car, driving around our road and go stomping around in the woods behind the house, looking for this blasted dog. He sees me coming, does a runner, and I manage to corner him on the neighbor's front porch and sweetly persuade him to return home with me. Mind you, this isn't that big a concern for most dog owners (I suppose), but throw in the fact that Thor doesn't like other dogs AT ALL and will happily devour a cat, particularly our neighbor's cat (who is the fattest creature I've ever seen and delights in taunting our canines), and I start wondering just how many cookies I would need to make to apologize for my animal eating someone else's animal.
Who says that housewives have no excitement!?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Getting together

Every year, my siblings all get together at Lisa's house for a little holiday cheer and a lot of food. Here is the evidence...

First up - Baby in a Bucket

Don & Derek, transfixed by the Eagles (for some reason)

Billy and Dave, my brothers - it explains a lot...

Abi, Leah, Anna and Amy, enjoying their ill-gotten candy canes

At least it wasn't only the adults stuffing their faces

Anna with Joy (top) and Mojo (below), the newest members of the Straga family.

That's all I got! I had hoped for more, but some of you (Lisa!) are rather hard to nail down. So don't forget to email me some great photos - they may be immortalized in blogworld!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Feedback time

Okay. So, we've adopted a three-month-on-one-month-off schedule to our homeschool, which means that for the entire month of December, we're free as birds. So, what kind of stuff should we do? We've got plans for the aquarium, can't afford Port Discovery, booked the Baltimore Museum of Art on the calendar. Any other ideas? What about crafts and projects? I'm terribly unmotivated about these sorts of things, so any suggestions would be most appreciated!

Evidences of stir-crazy kicking in

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

More making

It took too long, but I finally finished the hats I'd been working on. First is Noah's - he needed a hat that wasn't pink! Fortunately, the hat I made for Toby had loads left over, so I did one for the boy. Now the boys are coordinating...

Also made a hat for Eleanor. She's so cute in it, though she likes to eat the ties. The white one will be for her cousin Abbie White - hope her parents aren't looking! All the hats came from Last Minute Knitted Gifts, borrowed from the library so often I'll have to go buy my own soon!

The bread came out nicely yesterday!

Finally, the demolition and reconstruction of my kitchen. The wall has been cut out, cupboards bought, painted and installed. Now we need to get ourselves and a counter and we'll be in business!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Enjoying John Piper and Thanksgiving

Toby's read Don't Waste Your Life by John Piper and suggested I read it. I'm working my way through now, and though I've not finished, feel struck by two different people groups he addresses. First, retired believers, who, having raised thier children and retired from their jobs, decide to coast along, playing in the sun until they receive their Heavenly Reward. The second group was teenaged believers, who are busy preparing for a life of fruitful work by trying to get in as much partying as possible. To both, Piper pleads, "Don't waste it!" For the older believer, use your retirement to do something great for God! Don't waste your time collecting shells at the end of your life, for when the time comes to give an account, what do you have to show for your time? '"Look, Lord. See my shells."' The world, the church, the lost still need you, your skills, your wisdom, your time. For the teenager waiting for the opportunity to do big things, you will NEVER have more time, energy, or opportunity to do big things, hard things, for God. To this end, read Do Hard Things, by Brett and Alex Harris. It's written by teenagers for teenagers, but read it anyway. Dare you.
Eleanor's cutting teeth - talk about doing a hard thing! Poor girl, her smiles are fewer of late, but just as dazzling as ever. She's also going on to 'big girl' food. Loving that grain cereal and pear!
This week is Thanksgiving. "Duh", for the Americans; "Oh, yeah!", for the Brits. Just to clairfy, Thanksgiving is the celebration of the first English settlers managing to survive their first year. Go here for a full-er story.
Off to make lunch...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Our church

Everyone else at our church seems to have linked this to their blogs, and I was beginning to feel inadequate, so I've done it too. In truth, we really wanted our UK (and other US) friends and family to see some of the people that we are privledged to worship with, as well as see all that God has done in the lives of some of His children.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Our homeschool

I've realized that we have shared little-to-nothing of our homeschool, which is weird, since it's such a big part of our day/lives. So, here it is: The Gayner Family Homeschool...

What we use:
Abigail (1rst Grade)
Rod & Staff Penmanship
Ordinary Parents' Guide to Teaching Reading for phonics
Apologia Astronomy for science
Simply Charlotte's Genesis Through Dueteronomy for Bible and History
Math U See for math

Plus an assortment of books for read alouds (right now it's Charlotte's Web), Scripture Memory, Art, Music, Hymn Study, and probably something I forgot.

I really like the Rod & Staff curriculum for all things. It's very workbook based, which is my thing (and Anna's thing, as it happens). Abi's doing really well with Math U See - not a tear in sight, which is an improvement on last year. She says Science is her favorite, so thumbs up to Apologia! The phonics book is not flashy and exciting, but it does the job of teaching kids to read, and does it well. Bible and History is fine, but I might look for something a bit more gripping next year. (Goodness, already thinking about next year!)

Anna's Pre-K and does the Rod & Staff Pre-K workbooks, as well as listening in on Bible and read alouds. She LOVES it. Granted she says she LOVES anything that she's actually only mildly interested in, but I'm inclined to believe her this time. She's doing really well and has gone from scribbling to good coloring (I'm a stay-in-the-lines freak) and went from no real writing experience to writing almost all numbers and letters. She also does the phonics book, though is on earlier lessons than Abigail. Again, it's doing the trick.

Noah does pretty well while all this is going on. He sits and does some listening and some playing, going back and forth. He has to keep it down, which is a challenge, but he manages. He's learning his letters through flashcards and actually retaining a bit. Amazing. I've decided to go through Before Five in a Row with him, just for fun. Google Five in a Row for more info. If his quieter moments, he plays with my exercise band. Why not? Nothing like a little elastic-inspiried injury to start the morning off right.
And then there's Ellie. I could say she's our "Early Childhood Training Consultant", but really she's just for motivation and morale-boosting. Of course.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Some things I'm learning

I'm afraid that this will be a photo-less entry, so if you're all about the visual, check back with us later. For the rest, here are some things I have discovered recently:
Vision Forum and Westminster Bookstore: 2 great places for good, proper reformed-theology books and media. Often cover books you couldn't get in places like Barnes & Noble and even Amazon. Received a Jonathan and Sarah Edwards biography from my Mom from them - thanks Mom! Vision Forum has launched a new media website call for downloads, etc. I haven't looked at it yet, but if it's anything like the rest of Vision Forum, it's bound to be pretty good.
Mark Driscoll: He's the senior pastor at Mars Hill Church in Seattle, and I'm sure many of you have been listening to him for a while, but for the uninformed, he's worth checking out. He's speaks the truth - not always tactfully - but listening to his training sessions on Spiritual Warfare leads me to believe that the man knows his stuff.
Sovereign Grace: I know, big "Duh" coming there, since we've been going to a Sovereign Grace church for more than 18 months. However, our church, formerly known as Chesapeake Community Church, one week ago became Sovereign Grace Church. Changes are afoot, which is exciting, though I am naturally one to be very nervous about change. When God is in the midst of and in charge of the change, though, then it's the best place to be. For more info about Sovereign Grace Ministries, check out
Other things I'm learning:
For a 2 year old boy, puzzles and mega blocks are most fun when thrown on the floor and kicked around.
Eleanor can reach new heights in volume and pitch - I'm worrying about the windows.
I am completely insufficient to parent my children, but God is faithful and His grace is enough.
I can survive without the DVD player for a couple of months! And Samsung take ages to ship parts to fix their broken TVs!
If I find that I have more to do in a day than can actually be done in a day, then I am doing things I wasn't meant to do.
Children are masters as remembering something you told them you would do, allowing you to forget what you said, and then reminding you when it's too late to do anything about it.
Children are also masters at showing you the worst part of yourself, either by drawing it out in your own sinful attitude and behavior or displaying it in their attitude and behavior.
Anna looks like a little Laura Ingalls Wilder in braided pigtails.
Abigail can run almost as fast as me (shameful).
Finally, that God's mercies are new every morning. Okay, that one I kind of already knew, but it's shocking how quickly I forget and wonderful every time I remember.
Anyone else learning anything interesting?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

It's been a while...

...but we've been busy! 10 days in the UK to visit family and friends just wasn't enough time.

Some of the (vast) Gayner clan

The Cousins

First, it was a day and night in Southend with the family after a long and sleepless flight over the Atlantic. Respect to immagration at Terminal 5, though - they saw all the children and led us to the front of the queue!
Then it was on to Birmingham to see (in order): The Lane and Styles families, The Wards, The Fergusons, St John's Church, The Davies, The Varleys and The Harrisons - whew!
The Davies

Then we had another few days in Southend, visiting family and 'resting'. Finally, we had some time with the Delves family, who set us safely on our way to the airport.
Noah and Jason

It was great to see so many people, even more than we had initally hoped. God was so faithful and good to us - time with friends and family was wonderful, though never really long enough. It's so great to know that there are still so many people in our lives who we may not see enough of, yet can still pick up where we left off.
The Gayner-Ward Alliance

Now we're looking forward to playing host to all of these lovely people who so generously hosted, fed and generally put up with us and all our STUFF!
The Gayner-Lane-Styles Coalition
Thank you to all who prayed for our trip. We were very blessed and He was very good to us in every part of our journey.The Delves (trying to steal Ellie!)

Monday, September 29, 2008

Chillin' at Port Discovery

We had a great couple of (free) hours at Port Discovery's homeschool afternoon. Some of our discoveries included the bubble tube... ...a big green train...

... and what looked to be a really cool exhibit on 'making things', if only it were open.

The best part, by far, was the water area. Of course.

And to make up for an awful lack of Eleanor & Toby photos...

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Abigail turns 6!

So we begin the night before, with snuggly girls, asleep...

Hysterical, I know...

Abigail and her birthday dress

Marshmellow-toasting and s'mores-makingScary!

A beautiful sky to end a lovely birthday

Happy birthday, my sweet, funny, crazy, beautiful girl. I adore you!