Archive for December, 2010

Such a Change!

Both John and Brock write stories for pleasure.  Usually they are high-adventure episodes that take place in outer space or something like that.   I think this has developed because of their increasing love for books.  They just devour good books, and I’m thankful for that.

Writing has not, however, always been easy for John!  He is such a detailed kind of guy!  When he was little, he would just agonize over trying to put his thoughts onto paper.  I remember one time specifically when he was supposed to use the word “blue” in a sentence, and he just struggled and struggled trying to think of just the right thing to write!  During the past couple of years, John’s writing has really changed, and I think a lot of it is from the instruction he gets from A Beka Academy Language classes.  They are not his favorite classes, but they sure have helped him to fluently and descriptively record his thoughts!

I asked John if I could put a sample of his writing on this blog, and he agreed to let me do that.  He wrote this paragraph for an assignment in Mrs. Schmuck’s 8th grade language class.  For this exercise, he was to write a paragraph describing the interior of some place.  He was to include details that appeal to the senses to convey his overall impression of the room.  Here is what he wrote:

The clinic’s waiting room seemed extremely rigid.  There seemed to be an exceptionally large crowd in the room, a majority of which were anxiously glancing at the doors and the clock.  No one was talking in tones louder than whispers.  Even the few children that were there seemed to lack their normal rambunctious energy.  The dull gray wallpaper and medical smells seemed to accent the tension.  About the only sound to be heard well was the ticking of a clock.  On the other side of a glass window, a few fretful nurses were shuffling around, staring at the floor while a doctor looked for something.  A minute later he picked a file from a shelf.  He pored over the papers that spilled out of it with wide eyes, pacing worriedly.  Whispering something to a nurse, he stole out of the room into a long corridor.  A nurse beckoned someone gloomily to follow her.  Once the woman caught up with her, the nurse lowered her voice and told her follower the bad news.  The woman fainted from disbelief.

Sounds like the beginning of a great story, doesn’t it?!  I am so pleased with how well John’s writing is coming along.  Maybe someday he’ll have to be the author of this blog!  😉

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Our family recently finished reading Jenny Cote’s newest book, The Prophet, The Shepherd, and the Star. It is the third book in her series that features a dog named Max, a cat named Liz, and their friends as they observe and participate in Biblical events.  This latest book is quite long–it has 517 pages and includes the stories of Isaiah, Daniel, and the events surrounding the birth of Christ. It is currently available at The Epic Order of the Seven website as well as Christianbook.com .  It will be more widely available in the coming months.

This book begins in the times of the Old Testament even though its main plot involves the birth of Jesus Christ.  Max and Liz are present as prophecies about the coming Messiah are written, and they follow Daniel into his Babylonian captivity where he leaves instructions for the future Magi to identify the Messiah’s star.  One of the most captivating scenes occurs at the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace. As they bravely refuse to bow to the king’s golden image and are thrown into the furnace, the animals recognize that the 4th Person in the furnace is the Messiah, and it is quite a worshipful scene.

The lengthy background information that is given in this book causes the reader to see how historical events relate to one another.  God works in longer periods than a single lifetime.  His purposes are great, timeless, and extend world-wide. Human life-times are not always sufficient to see the working out of His plans. Growing up, I knew the Bible stories from Sunday School, but it wasn’t until I was an adult that I understood the sequencing of the stories and how the Bible is really an unfolding of God’s redemptive plan.  The stories of Abraham, Joseph, Isaiah, Daniel and other Biblical characters are all vital steps in  His overall plan, and this book helps the reader to tie some of those pieces together.

Of course, the story of the birth of Christ is the central message of this book, and it is very well written.  One of my family’s favorite characters, Rabbi Isaac, appears in this portion.  He is a Jewish rabbi in Nazareth who has studied the prophecies concerning the coming Messiah and is looking for His soon appearance.  He knows Mary and Joseph and is quick to believe that God was working out His glorious plan through them and helps others to believe the same.  Eventually he even loans them his beloved donkey, Amos, for their difficult journey to Bethlehem.  Rabbi Isaac is a  precious character–very funny, but sincere.  He has a habit of saying, “True?  Of course, true!”  and that has become a familiar phrase in our house too!  🙂  We would love to see Rabbi Isaac make future appearances as Mrs. Cote continues her Max and Liz series.

My son Brock had an interesting comment about the portions of the book that portray Jesus as a baby.  He said it made him feel strange to hear Jesus referred to as “cooing,”  crawling, and doing other normal baby things.  When I asked him why, he responded that it just seemed kind of irreverent or humiliating to think of Jesus like that.  I pointed out that that is the whole point of the incarnation!  Jesus purposefully humbled Himself to take on the form of a baby, live a perfect life, and as a Man sacrifice His life so that we might be forgiven and receive eternal life.  It was a giant, lowly step for Him to do this. So, yes, it does sound a little strange to read about Jesus being a baby, but it is a great reminder of His great sacrifice for us.

The Prairie Family highly recommends this book.  We read it together throughout the Christmas season, and it made a wonderful addition to our holiday.  It definitely helped us to focus on the reality of what we are celebrating.  It is rather long having 76 chapters.  I am not sure when we began reading it, but it did take us several weeks to complete.  It was, however, well worth the investment of time, and my kids did not in the least lose interest through the entire book.

The Prophet, the Shepherd, and the Star ends with quite a cliff-hanger!  There is a new member that is to join the Epic Order of the Seven, but that member is never clearly identified.  Of course, we have our suspicions on who that member will be, but we are looking forward to reading the next book in the series when it is completed to know for sure!  The next book will be about Jesus Christ’s ministry, and I believe that it will include the crucifixion.  I’m not sure when it is to be finished, but I know that we will be reading it as soon as it is available!

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Dan and I have been working on a project in the garage.  What is it???  Stay tuned…..  It’s going to be something helpful for school!  I’ll post about it when it is finished!  🙂

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I love Christmas Eve!  In fact, I almost enjoy it more than Christmas Day!

This year our Christmas Eve was wonderful.  We actually had to have school until noon on Christmas Eve to fit in all of the semester exams before the break, but the kids were good sports about that whole thing and worked very diligently.  They all agree that it’s nice to have those exams finished, not having to worry about them until January.

To reward the kids for their hard work, we took them to Montana Mike’s Steakhouse for a Christmas Eve lunch.  We always have such a nice time there:  the food is excellent, and really the prices aren’t much higher than eating at a fast food place if we go at noon on a weekday.  It’s nice going to sit-down places like this now that the kids are older.  We enjoy our times together while we wait for the food to come–nice and relaxing.

We opened our Christmas “stocking” gifts in the afternoon.  I learned many years ago to use bags instead of our actual stockings because nothing fits in those silly Christmas stockings! The kids all enjoyed the games, movies, and candy in their stockings, and Kara was especially delighted to get her own “Big Girl” Bible with both the complete Old and New Testaments.  I had old fashioned cap guns in the boys’ “stockings,” and they are having as much fun with those silly cap guns as they do their new-fangled Nerf guns!

Before Bed, we watched The Nativity Story DVD.  I think this is our 3rd year of watching this wonderful movie on Christmas Eve, and it is turning out to be a tradition that the kids really look forward to.  It helps us all to get our focus on the true Meaning of Christmas. As each year goes by, that Meaning grows more precious to me.  What a wonderful Savior we have!

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The girls and I are between merit badges in American Heritage Girls, and rather than starting something new before Christmas Break, we decided to do some crafts during our last couple of meetings for fun.  So, if their leader (hm…….) can get her act together over the break, we should be ready to start up in January with brand new focuses and projects.

I have gotten crafting kits for several years through the Creative Girls Craft Club, but the girls are just now at the ages to be able to work on them.  So, they had a lot of fun looking through my boxes of projects to pick out what they wanted to do.  These kits are so complete—they have everything needed to complete the crafts except for things like glue. Paints, brushes, decorations, needles, etc. are all in the kits, and the instructions are so well written that they are quite easy to understand and follow.

Cosette has been working on decorating a hanging organizer that is turning out very cute. This has been a good project for her because it is something that has taken time and patience to complete, but it’s a neat, usable final product.  Kara has made a couple of simpler things:  a decorated purse, and a pretty glitter frame.  These little projects are so much fun that I knew once we started working on them, I’d get asked if we can do more on a regular basis, and that has indeed happened!  🙂

We have talked about ideas for what the girls would like to do next in American Heritage Girls, and we will have some fun and exciting things to do in 2011!


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This has been making the rounds this year, but it has to be one of the cutest Christmas videos that I have seen!  🙂

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Prayer Request

I’d like to ask my readers to pray for my son Luke.  Sometimes I find it easy to only share the happy, joyful moments on this blog, but I am reminded that God is glorified in both those experiences as well as in the day-to-day trials that we all face.

Back on December 5, Luke began to complain of some itchy spots on his arm.  He had been on a float in a Christmas parade where he had been sitting on a hay bale, so we assumed that it was a skin irritation from that.  As the days went by, the spots turned into a rash on his chest, back, and belly, so we began to investigate things further.  My next thoughts were that maybe he was allergic to the new high efficiency laundry soap that we were using in our new washing machine.  Every day the spots spread.

We then thought that maybe Luke had the chicken pox.  Yes, he had had the vaccination as a baby, but I did read on the internet that sometimes kids can get the illness even after having the vaccination.  The biggest problem with that, though, was that Luke has never complained of feeling sick.  So, we just watched and assumed that the rash would begin to go away.

Such was not the case!  Over the weekend, that crazy rash continued to spread and got redder.  We decided it was time to have him checked by a doctor, so I took him to the clinic yesterday.  The doctor took one look at him and asked me if he had been sick around Thanksgiving.  As I thought back, I remembered that he had a sore throat/cold type of thing around that time frame, and the doctor told me that he is pretty sure that this outbreak is Guttate Psoriasis which is an auto-immune condition that can be triggered by various infections and illnesses. Only time will tell whether this will be a one-time kind of thing, or more of a chronic condition to be managed, but it sure is a mess right now!

Poor Luke!  He has spots all over, and his hands are all cracked and dry.  The doctor gave us a prescription for a steroid cream to try to get this under control, but the doctor said to expect it to take a while.  Luke is being very good about not scratching, letting me apply the cream, etc., so I am thankful for that.

So, please join us in praying that we can get this episode to clear up and that God will help us day-by-day as we walk through this.  He is truly good all of the time–in every situation He is to be honored and praised!

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Dear Family and Friends,

“For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6 Those words get more precious to me as each year passes. As I check off each item on my to-do list during this holiday season, I pray that I will never lose my focus on my precious Savior.

2010 has been a busy year of growth in the O’Brien household. Everyone told me that the years with the kids would pass very quickly, and I am learning how true that is. We are already in our 9th year of homeschooling, and next year our oldest son will start high school. Unbelievable…

John is 13 years old and is in 8th grade. His main interests are reading and anything involving technology. What is true in other families is true in ours now too: if we have a “techno” question, we now turn to our son for help!  If he doesn’t know the answer to whatever issue we are having, it doesn’t take him long to figure it out! John is still involved in Boy Scouts, and reached the rank of Star Scout this year. That is two levels below Eagle rank, so he is beginning to be excited about achieving that milestone.

Brock is 12 years old and is in 6th grade. He is definitely our gaming boy. He enjoys video games very much, and has recently taken a fancy to guns/shooting sports. Brock moved up from Webelos into the same Boy Scout troop as John’s and has completed his first rank of Tenderfoot. There is a group of four boys that are his age, and they have developed into the “four-pack.” They are good buddies and have a lot of fun at each scouting activity.

Cosette is 10 years old and is in the 4th grade. Her biggest love is participating in community activities. She has taken several classes offered by various groups including cooking classes and art classes, and loves every single event. She took an acrylic landscaping class this summer and discovered that she has a natural talent for painting—she definitely did not get that from her Mother! She also enjoys music lessons, and shows real promise on her violin.

Luke is 8 years old and is in the 3rd grade. He is our music/math guy. He is so quick on mental math that I can’t keep up with him, and he can sight-read music on the piano very well. He is a Bear in Cub Scouts, but because his brothers are in Boy Scouts, he often gets to attend activities with the “big boys,” and from what I have heard, he fits right in as one of the group.

Kara is 7 years old and is in 1st grade. It has been neat to see her develop academically this year. Her reading and writing are just exploding and opening up new interests all of the time. She is a very happy, social butterfly, and she and Luke are best buddies. September was a hard month for Kara because she had several medical procedures to go through, but it looks like those things are behind us for now, and we don’t anticipate anything more, Lord willing, in the near future.

Dan’s job has kept him busy this year. He has taken on additional responsibilities in the area of grain marketing, but he enjoys it tremendously. His focuses this year have been on grain market price outlook, performance of the Kansas City Board of Trade wheat futures contract, and researching ethanol/bioenergy issues. (Dan says that only an ag economist would think these things are fun! ) He is heavily involved in leadership in all of the boys’ Scouting activities and that has led him to try all kinds of new things like tracking wildlife, learning morse code, camping, and making pinewood derby cars.

Lois’s job of homeschooling has kept her busy this year too! Just keeping up with that and the house work keeps her busy most of the time. After many years of absence, however, she was pleased to be able to rejoin the community orchestra this year playing both the violin and the clarinet. She was also excited this year that she and her girls were able to start the Trailblazer program of American Heritage Girls. This organization has been wonderful and gives the girls a similar scouting experience to the girls that the boys get through Boy Scouts, and it shares our family’s values and beliefs. She continues to play the piano at church and teach the Junior Sunday School class. Lois, John, Brock, and Cosette have also begun a violin ensemble that has played several times throughout 2010 at church and at the nursing homes. This has been enjoyed by all.

So, God has richly blessed us this year, as He always does. I am continually amazed at His goodness to us! We don’t know what 2011 will hold, but we do know this: He will be faithful and good all along the way. May He richly bless you at this time and always.


Dan, Lois, John, Brock, Cosette,
Luke, and Kara

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