Hazy Days

the shadow of the life to come

Hazy Days

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2014 CHE Sports Day

Every year the Cape Home Educators hold a sports day event for home educators in the Cape.  We’ve attended on and off over the years and every year the kids have a blast.  This year being their best yet.  I’ve found that the littlies in the family take a few years to warm up to participating, but once they’re in, they love it. 

An event like this is a huge undertaking to organise and not a small feat when the organisers are a small team of dedicated homeschooling parents with a lot on their plate already. 

Some changes were made this year that worked well, other changes not so well, but mostly it was a really wonderful time and I love the fact that my kids get an opportunity to experience track and field events and the camaraderie that happens when they meet other homeschoolers for the first time and just get along like a house on fire.  That, for me, is the best part – for every year my girls end up hanging out with girls they’ve never met, but instantly they’re chatting, getting to know each other and supporting each other on the sports’ field.  And some years it’s a reunion and in other years it’s been girls they know outside of this event too.  Blessings!

In the whole month of February, other than building project photos, this event got the main attention from my camera!

So here goes – photos from Sports Day 2014:

Sam racing his little heart out – short legs and no running-speed-genes advantage left him at the back of the pack – but boy he had fun!

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Katie gunning it – I think she came second or third in this race.

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There was an unfortunate incident where a young boy hurt his back in the long jump event.  It was the first time in 8 or so years of this event running that an incident that required more than a plaster happened.  Big shock, but good news is that he is totally fine!

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Kiera running her heart out – she came second, if I remember correctly!

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Love the excited brother on the sidelines running her in…

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This year some “boeresports” were added – tug of war:

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Yellow team won hands down!

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Egg, spoon and sack races too. 

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We also had a free demonstration, try out and competition of bow shooting that the kids AND parents enjoyed!

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There are two sessions of prize giving – this helps for those families with smaller kids who can’t stay until after lunch.

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Here, Victor, as chairman of CHE, awards the kids their placement ribbons:

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Kiera at the high jump …

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And shot put:

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She came first for shot put.

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Katie, third for running.

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And Kiera, first place tied with two other girls for high jump.  A sweet story here: Kiera was awarded first place and the other two second and third.  But, at the event itself, because all the girls couldn’t get over the next height, they were told that they tied first place.  So, Kiera spoke up politely and told Victor that they had been told that the other two were also supposed to get first place.  A quick check and sure enough – the two other girls stepped up to the first podium in time for a smile for the camera.  I was proud of my girl for speaking up.

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Dads practising target shooting with bows and arrows.  Move over Katniss, here comes Craig! Winking smile

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The event ended and then it was off to the next event.  Leendert Van Oostrum from the Pestalozzi Trust spoke to all home educating parents who came to attend a special meeting.  The meeting was to discuss the home education registration and policy document of the Western Cape and how we as a home education body are to address it.  Leendert spoke a little on the history of home ed and also spent some time outlining some of his concerns and fears.  The floor was given an opportunity to speak, by which a couple of parents spoke up to question some of Leendert’s thoughts.  Then, the main purpose of the event happened – to elect a body of home educating parents to serve as a body of home educators whose aim it is to engage government on the issues of policy documentation and how best to work it so that it properly represents the best interests of the children.  That resulted in the formation of the CHE’s Steering Committee on Education.  The team and the purpose and mission is explained further at www.liberty-in-learning.co.za 

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All About Extra Murals

Homeschooling is not necessarily a total DIY educational experience.  It can be.  Most successfully too.  But, it’s seldom the case.  Most homeschoolers rely on help.  Help that can take the form of a formal curriculum, computer based programmes, outside tuition, support groups, and extra-curricular activities.

Which is where we find ourselves.  We homeschool with a little bit of an eclectic approach.  Sonlight, our much loved literature-based curriculum for our base, a little of this and that for our extras* and a whole lot of outside help, also known as extra murals.

Since the June SACHS Carnival is soon upon us, talking up this very subject, I thought it would be fun to consolidate our list of extra murals here too.

We’ve had a little ballet, gym-minis, swimming, horse-riding, cooking, and Jumpstart moms-and-tots type classes come across our schedule since the kids were little, but nothing intense or long-lasting: just whatever happened to come along our way, provided for by the generosity of grannies and grandpa and loved by the kids.  And I’m glad for that.  I know that, had we the money, I would ahve struggled within myself not to provide my kids with every opportunity to learn every available discipline … and burnt the poor kids out.  I would love my kids to learn tennis, hockey, soccer, gymnastics, swimming, horse-riding, drama, art and numerous other languages that I could never teach them.  But, a schedule like that would defeat our vision for our family, run everyone ragged and fragment the family into time-scheduled segments of disconnection.

So, now that we do have some wriggle room in the “schooling” part of our budget, we’ve kept the formal extra murals to a minimum, hoping to maintain our “hang out and just connect” family time.  So far, it’s working.  And as each new year approaches, we will reassess for the coming year: each child’s requirements and desires, and how it impacts on the family as a whole.

The extra murals that we do enjoy all have a specific purpose and all complement our learning experiences, both as a family and as individuals.  A comprehensive list follows…

Lunch Bunch – Our Homeschool Co Op Group

I list this group as an extra mural, simply because it happens outside of our home (mostly) and includes other people teaching my kids.  But, the reality is that Lunch Bunch is the most natural extension of our homeschooling lifestyle.  This group meets weekly, from 12:30-3:30.  We read great stories together over lunch, enjoy art projects, music sessions and even a little bit of Xhosa learning too.  The kids get loads of play time with their buddies and the moms enjoy much-needed support and help from like-minded friends who care about each other deeply.

COST:

Free (occasional materials costs)

REASON:

for extended learning and fun with other families; and consolidation of excellent friendships
CONTACT: N/A – a group like this is easy to start!  Gather a few homeschooling friends, or advertise in homeschooling forums and get started! Smile

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Minichefs

Last year, when we had fewer paid-for extra-murals, Minichefs was a weekly event and we loved it!  This year, we’ve pared things down a bit and Minichefs doesn’t feature the Hayes kids nearly as much.  But we do hope to get more Minichef action in the second semester – we’re all missing each other loads!  Minichefs is simply an extension of the Spatula magazine – the brainchild of Yuppiechef – the best online kitchen store ever!

COST:

Free (occasional materials costs)

REASON:

fun kitchen and cooking learning experiences
CONTACT: N/A – again, whether you’re working in your own kitchen, or colloborating with other families, this is an activity easily reproduced with no formal help Smile

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Gymnastics

The girls have been doing gymnastics for three years now, and thoroughly enjoy it.  Sam joined this year and he looks forward to it every week.  He and Katie have classes on a Thursday afternoon and each Friday Sam starts asking when it’s gymnastics again!  Kiera joined the competition class this year and has really grown so much in her discipline and commitment to hard work.  We head off to Oudtshoorn next week to the Kaaplands Competition where she will compete at Level 1.  (UPDATE: We’re back and I’m very proud of my girl for winning silver in beam and for her excellent comeback after falling off bar in the beginning of her bar routine!  Western Province trials up next!)

COST:

R400 – R600 / term (more for competition classes)

REASON:

exercise, discipline, control, excellent co-ordination and core-strength training.
CONTACT: Brawns Gymnastics, Bergvliet and Wynberg,  Smile

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Violin

For years and years the girls have wanted to learn violin.  Ever since seeing André Rieu perform, they’ve been hooked.  Since they were very little, they’ve had a lot of exposure to classical music and instruments through the fantastic Classical Kids Collection and other great resources (Story of the Orchestra, Leonard Bernstein’s Favourites and more).  Violin was their instrument of choice.  From what I’ve read, learning an instrument is hugely beneficial for the development of the brain, helping kids with conceptualisation, memory and much more.  Plus, it’s one of those skills that translates into relationships – being able to contribute musically to a group is a wonderful skill worth acquiring.

Will they continue?  I don’t know.  At this stage both girls have lost their initial infatuation.  The difficulty and discipline required has caught them by surprise.  I’m still trying to decide whether it’s one of those things that we should push on through with, or whether I should entertain their desire to switch instruments.  Kiera shows great aptitude for enjoying music – she already has taught herself a few piano songs using Piano Wizard, a fantastic piano computer programme that teaches skills within the context of games.  And she’s even figured out how to play a couple of her piano pieces on her violin.  Katie is still very flighty and would probably benefit from a less strenuous requirement.  Or benefit from the steep learning curve in discipline.  I am not sure! What do you think?

COST:

R400 – R800 / term (depending on instrument and hiring needs)

REASON:

brain-development skill that is enormously beneficial to all areas of life; teaches discipline; enjoyment of creating music; joy of sharing in music with others
CONTACT: Beau Soleil Music Centre

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Drama

The girls love drama with a passion second to none.  Honing this craft has been worthwhile as dramatic arts is another wonderful way to impart a message.  These are skills that can be used in later life in all manner of ways.  The friendships developed, the self-assurance, the vocal skills, are all worthy skills.  I also appreciate that Spotlight, their drama group, is run by a fantastic drama teacher who holds moral values quite highly – there is no danger of the children acting out inappropriate scripts or dancing to inappropriate music.  Debbie, their teacher, also enters the children in eisteddfods and the children have opportunities to perform for an audience every year.

COST:

R380 / term

REASON:

enjoyment, speech skills, dramatic expression, exploring themselves within the safety of a character and more, performance opportunities, memory – lines learning
CONTACT: Spotlight Drama: Debbie Gildenhuys

Swimming

Thanks to granny and gaa’s kindness, the girls learned to swim through a professional teacher.  We thought we may be able to teach the boys ourselves, and while that would’ve worked with Micah, it would’ve been a long hard road with Sam.  So we took him off to Swim with Tandy and watched our young guy transform from a terrified quivering mass of water-phobic limbs into a confident little swimmer before long.  Tandy has a very gentle approach with the kids that was exactly what Sam needed.  Micah joined this year and both boys look forward to their lessons.  Tandy works in groups of 3-5 kids per half hour session. I prefer this to the 15 minute private sessions, because the kids get more pool time which builds their confidence and their strength.  While Tandy spends a few moments with another child, the others wait their turn while exploring their own swimming abilities within the safety of her pool.  They do so much of their learning while waiting and then Tandy helps them hone specific skills.  It’s also a lot cheaper this way!

COST:

R40/ 1/2 hour lesson

REASON:

water safety, swimming skills, enjoyment
CONTACT: Swim with Tandy

Horse Riding

The kids do not do horse riding as a regular extra mural, but our eldest loves horse riding and horses in the same way as her maternal granny did.  So, when we do have opportunities and money to match, we try to let them have a chance at riding.  This means that some birthdays have included a few lessons for riding and a few holiday opportunities arise too, especially when Granny Sally is involved!  They have stables nearby where they live and Granny treats the kids from time to time with a lesson or two.

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Outings

We enjoy plenty of outings to places near and far.  With our co-op group, with other homeschooling families, with nature club, and with our own family – all these experiences enrich our homeschooling journey!

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Church activities

As Christians, church life is part of the fabric of our lives.  So much so, that I don’t regard our various church activities as “extra murals” – but, for the purpose of this post, I think it’s worth mentioning.  Holiday bible club, Friday night kids’ club, children’s church on Sundays, church camps, braais, family days and even the occasional Sunday night with us in “big church” are all part and parcel of life for the kids.  Here they meet families from all walks of life, all backgrounds, all ethnic groups and even languages.  Our church is a real melting pot of culture, with one thing that unifies us all: Jesus Christ.  I not only love that everything we teach at home is reinforced at our home church, but I also love that our kids have plenty of opportunities to grow in the knowledge and act out their faith even in the ‘safety’ of a church context.  So, while church life is not strictly an “extra-mural” in the traditional understanding of the word, it is a wonderful extension of our home and teaching that happens outside of our home itself.

That’s us, on an extra-mural front, in a nutshell!

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This post features on the South African Carnival of Homeschool Bloggers (SACH Bloggers) where South African homeschoolers share experiences, ideas, philosophies and much more.  You can join the carnival too by heading to the South African Carnival of Homeschool Bloggers sign up page. We hope you enjoy the carnival as much as we have!  Read more from this June 2012 Carnival here: Extra Curricular Activities

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* A full breakdown of the resources we use in our “homeschool” is as follows:

  1. Language and Literature: Sonlight programmes: Language Arts 1, 2 and D
  2. History and Geography: Sonlight Core D, snippets of Sonlight Prek 3/4 and 4/5
  3. Maths: Math-U-See (recently switched from Singapore Maths)
  4. Afrikaans: Ant Books
  5. Xhosa: Simply Xhosa
  6. Science: Sonlight Science D
  7. Handwriting: HappyHandwriter
  8. Spelling: Sequential Spelling and Spelling Power
  9. Piano: Piano Wizard
  10. Variety of online games to cement basic concepts: Starfall, BBC typing, BBC Bitesize and other games

2011 CHE Sports Day

2011 saw the CHE sports day arrive a month earlier than last year.  We almost didn’t go as it felt a bit rushed, what with all the other beginning of term stuff.  We didn’t even tell the kids until the last minute, so there was no practising running like last year.  But, it’s such a wonderful opportunity and it only comes once a year, we decided to get it together and head out.

Craig had just arrived home late the night before from a conference in Franschoek.  And he was leaving the next day for a trip to Ghana for the week.  Squeezing a hot day in the sun watching kids running around the field is not always fun, especially under those circumstances.  But he got us all there on time and between chasing the boys, taking photos and making sure we had a place to rest, he kept busy and had fun with the kids.

Enjoy the photos!

Sitting soccer – a fun ice breaker event before the big races begin.

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Kiera tries out being goalie…

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Turbo javelin – this event introduces kids to throwing a javelin.  They throw what looks like an overgrown shuttlecock.  Katie wasn’t too interested in it, but Kiera was dead keen.  She threw better and better with each throw and ended up placing 4th in the 8-9 age group.

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The bigger kids did high jump, long jump, shot put and of course all the longer races.  I was impressed with how many teens took part.

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Families camped out on the sidelines.  We were again at Symmonds Field in Camps Bay.  A beautiful venue!  But the no shade factor can make it really really hot.  Fortunately this year the breeze was up a bit and the temperatures didn’t soar like they did the year before.

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The girls ran the 60m and the 80m race each.  Kiera in her age group of 8-9 year olds, and Katie in hers of 6-7 year olds.  The both ran their hearts out – so very cute to see the determination on their faces as they gave it their all!

Kiera managed to place 3rd (60m) and surprised even herself with a 1st in the 80m!

run Katie run!!!

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She almost got Mary Dekker-ed off the track at one point.  Bt she ran ran ran with all she had.

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Methinks Kiera should go with the “no practising” training programme – it worked a charm this year!  Actually, I didn’t think she’d place, as she didn’t last year.  She tends to take losing quite badly, so I had a few good discussions with her about the fact that we are there to have fun.  Losing is disappointing, but it is still important to be grateful for the good things like running and being able to take part.  And it’s always good to congratulate the winner.  Little did I know she’d be the winner once!

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Getting her name entered in as 3rd place in this photo below.

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While the girls ran, the boys played.  They could take part in the potato race, but Sam was not interested…

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And, well, just take a look at Micah.  Does that look like a face of sporting interest?

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Bev and Chris came for some of the morning, so they got to see Kiera place 3rd in the 60m.  Both Bev and I yelled ourselves silly.  I videoed the races (see below).  For Katie’s I had placed myself in an awkward spot – she couldn’t really hear me so I only ended up yelling as she came past.  By the time Kiera came along, I had learnt that it was better to stand near the end – hence the fish-wifey sounds emitting from my mouth as I cheered her.  Of course, the girl was winning too, so that just trebled the volume … and shriekiness!  Oh boy!  Poor kid!

Below is a 1 minute video of their races.  Enjoy!

First Gymnastics Competition

IMG_9924On Saturday, the girls had their first ever gymnastics competition.  It was a fun in-house competition between all the different classes (grade R-3) from our club, Brawns Gymnastics.  Each grade had a time slot to complete 4 apparatus.  It’s a lovely way to introduce the littlies to competitions without making it so serious that they’re scared silly!  They march in to funky music – all looking so sweet – and then the competition begins.  They do a practice round first, and then they are graded on their execution. 

Our kids do gymnastics for the fun of it.  They don’t practise their moves (well, except for Kiera who insists on cartwheeling everywhere, including in the store!) and I don’t push them.  It’s supposed to be fun at this stage.  I don’t want them feeling pressure to perform.  But, a competition like this, that is about enjoying the experience, sounded like loads of fun.  Only when we got there and I saw how slick the whole operation was, did I begin to wonder if I’d short changed my kids by not giving them an opportunity to practise at home!  It was a brief moment of doubt, before I remembered that it didn’t matter.  It was all about experience, exposure and fun.

And since my kids aren’t complete naturals, I did not expect them to win rosettes or prizes beyond the participation awards.  Once I reminded myself of all of that, it was "sit back, take photos and shout loudly for my kids" time!

Katie was up first, being in Grade R.  Such a cute little thing, she is!  She beamed at us whenever she could and showed such deep concentration whenever she tackled her moves.   

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She was so chuffed to get her fancy certificate and chocolate!  She demolished that in no time at all. 

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Killian VB is in the Grade R boys group.  He did so well and had a lot of fun!  Very sweet, indeed!

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Then it was time for the bigger girls.  I love these photos of the serious little girls having a pep talk with their coach.  Too cute!

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Kiera tends to be super competitive.  (Hmm, wonder where she gets that from?) She took it all quite seriously and was hoping to win a rosette.  We primed her beforehand gently – it was unlikely that she would because she’d only been doing it for one year and only goes once a week.  Our pep talk focused on the positives – the fun it was, the certificate she’d get, the importance of doing one’s own best, and remembering that our attitude to the entire thing was the most important thing.  I talk about that a LOT at home with the kids – Kiera, especially.  Glorifying God in the way we deal with situations and others is what matters most.  (Wish we could be better examples in that regard – always easier to tell others how it should be).  My hope was that she’d manage to enjoy it and cope with the disappointment of not getting rosettes or medals graciously.    So, off she went.  We had no idea whether or not she really took to heart what we said. But, she did take it seriously and battled with nerves!  Can you see the pensive look on this little girl’s face?

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Leanna also took it all quite seriously.  She did SO well on the beam.  On her practice round she fell off when she did the balance stand.  On the competition round she concentrated so hard and did it so carefully.  She did it beautifully, perfectly and gracefully!  Her smile of relief and accomplishment afterwards was priceless!

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Kiera’s best apparatus was the bar.  They have to lift themselves up, do a forward roll over the bar and then hang with their knees up for a bit – chin above the bar (for bonus points).  Her legs weren’t that neat, but she did the chin thing well 🙂

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Getting their certificate and chocolate created loads of excitement – I love this picture of the two girls comparing their certificates. 

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Then came the bit that I was worried about.  Katie hadn’t been fazed much that she hadn’t got a rosette.  She did ask, after the initial excitement of getting her certificate, why it was that she didn’t get a rosette.  She seemed happy enough with our explanation and determined that she’d just practise more for next time.  (Sometimes I believe that child is more mature than me in some areas!)  Kiera, however, tends to let these sort of things bother her a lot!  We had no expectation of her winning anything.  We only had expectation of having to help her cope with disappointment.  Well, we were wrong.  And so very surprised and delighted when she was called up for second place on bar!  She was just as shocked and excited.  She told me later that she had been repeating to herself, over and over, "you’re not going to win; you’re not going to win" so that she wouldn’t be disappointed!  She didn’t even realise she had been called straight away.  They had to call her twice.  She was one very excited little girl when she came over to us and received her congratulatory hugs and kisses!

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My concern switched now from having to deal with her potential disappointment to having to deal with her potential boastfulness.  And then with Katie’s disappointment.  Instead, I was pleasantly surprised by the girls.  These sort of emotions are difficult to deal with – especially for kids.  I was expecting the natural emotional responses.  I expected to have to talk them through it.  I didn’t expect Katie to be bursting with excitement on behalf of her sister.  I didn’t expect Kiera to be sensitive to her friend and her sister and not brag on and on about her win.  I didn’t expect Kiera to ask if she could wear the badge at the party we headed to straight after the competition.  Nor did I expect her to readily agree when I suggested that it may be a bit boastful.  I was surprised.  And thankful. 

On the way to the party, I told the girls how proud I was of them – proud that they enjoyed the competition and had fun, but mostly proud of their attitudes.  Katie had been such a supportive and sweet little sister.  She had been so well behaved during the competition (Craig told me how polite she had been to the tuckshop lady, saying ‘Thank you, daddy’ and ‘Thank you, ma’am’, that the lady commented, wide-eyed, that it was good to hear kids say thank you).  And she had accepted that the competition was more about having fun than anything else.  And, while I was excited for Kiera that she had won her rosette, I was more proud of her for handling it so humbly and happily.  What a rewarding conversation it was as we drove down the M3 – talking about the goodness and joy that comes from glorifying God in our words and deeds. 

Whoever would have thought that a gym competition would have been an exercise in godliness?!  My prayer is that this will overflow into all areas of their (and my) lives as they grow and mature. 

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Hazy Days