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Farewell, ’14

It’s 2015! We’re excited for a new year, packed with possibilities for all kinds of adventures and activities. But before we look too far ahead, we wanted to take a quick look back at our 2014, and all of the “firsts” and “favorites” that each member of our family enjoyed:


age 14
Firsts: mock trial (he played a defense attorney); speech tournaments (he especially loved delivering a Duo Interpretive speech with a friend based on William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope); science fair (he won 1st place in his category and 2nd place overall at his homeschool co-op fair, and 3rd place in his category at the state science fair); PSAT/NMSQT exam (for practice); graduation (from 8th Grade).
Favorites: Beats headphones and Sphero Ollie (electronic gadgets); Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand (book—the Young Adult version); The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (movie);  Latin (school subject); Owl City (musical group); team sports (he played basketball and baseball for the James Madison Preparatory School Patriots, and flag football for the East Valley Athletes for Christ Eagles).


Kerrick: age 12
Firsts: entrepreneurial endeavor (he made and sold 70 tin whistle cases out of PVC and Duck Tape); double Memory Master distinction (he memorized and recited more than 900 facts in six subject areas); junior high team sport (he played flag football for the East Valley Athletes for Christ Eagles).
Favorites: new pet conure, Pip (which he purchased with his business earnings); science (school subject — he especially enjoyed dissecting a squid); Pentatonix (musical group); Studio C (hilarious YouTube video series); The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (movie); The Fantastic Family Whipple, by Matthew Ward (book); IQ Link (game); cherry pie (dessert).


Kennah: age 9
Firsts: stitches (two kinds: 1) to close up a gash on her chin after splitting it open on the tile floor, and 2) to hand-piece and embroider her first quilt — the perfect size for her American Girl dolls); desserts made entirely on her own (a special cake for her dad’s birthday, and rice krispy treats just for fun).
Favorites: girls-only extracurricular activities (a book club with friends from our homeschool co-op, and her American Heritage Girls troop); art (she loves to draw); crafts (she loves to make stuff); Mallory on the Move, by Laurie Friedman (book); Dolphin Tale 1 and 2 (movies); math (school subject); IQ Twist (game); chili (meal); Jessie (TV show).


Keillor: age 7
Firsts: lost teeth (two: one on top and one on the bottom); birthday party with friends (they played at a park and at Pump It Up!); book read  (Eat); shoe-tying success.
Favorites: Cub Scouts (extracurricular activity); Arizona Cardinals (football team); Planes Fire and Rescue (movie); Stubby the Dog Soldier: World War I Hero, by Blake Hoena (book); Hawaii (state visited); Risk (game); VIP, by Manic Drive (song); Miss Shell (new pet Sonoran Desert tortoise adopted from friends); geography (school subject); scooter and Legos (toys); ice cream (dessert).


Sonya: aging rapidly
Firsts: A-Plus: Challenge A Extras (ebook published); full-spectrum homeschooling (she’s teaching elementary school, middle school, and high school).
Favorites: Flagstaff and Northern Arizona University (she enjoyed a summertime visit to the cool pines and a flash back to her college days); Call the Midwife (book, TV series, and music based on the memoir by Jennifer Worth); Traditional Cooking School by GNOWFGLINS and The Nature Conservancy (free-lance editing clients).


Shawn: ageless (Ha! His turn!)
First: Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts (he’s wearing multiple hats — and shirts — as he serves in Pack and Troop leadership roles).
Favorite: a glass of wine and a football game (way to unwind when he gets the rare chance).

Here’s hoping that 2015 brings even better firsts and favorites!




January 1, 2015   2 Comments

Happy New Year!

OK, this is more than a little embarrassing. Almost a whole year has passed since I’ve found the time to post here! I won’t bore you with all of the reasons. Let’s just say, “We’ve been REALLY busy!” So busy, in fact, that this is our Christmas card — a week late and only produced in digital form. But — whew! — at least it’s here! The pics of the Littles were captured on Christmas Eve, just after we finished making our traditional holiday treat: gluten-free sugar-cookie stars stacked into Christmas trees and topped with icing and sprinkles. Now it’s New Year’s Eve, and we’re rested (a bit), refreshed (sorta) and ready (almost) to make a fresh start in 2013. Here are a few of our highlights from the old year and hopes for the new year:

Kellen, age 12
• baptized on Palm Sunday at Grace Community Church, Tempe
• achieved Classical Conversations Memory Master distinction (memorized and recited a humongous number of history, science, geography, math, Latin and English grammar facts, learned in 24 weeks)
• performed as The Turkey in a homeschool theater production of Honk! Jr., The Musical (signature line: “I survived Thanksgiving!”)
• swam with the Tempe Tigersharks (his fourth year on the swim team)
• attended Boy Scout camp with Dad at Fiesta Island in San Diego (earning merit badges for kayaking, motor-boating, oceanography and basketry)
• resumed piano lessons after a yearlong hiatus
• adopted his cousin’s turtle, Squirt
• to watch The Hobbit movie with friends this week (Mom made him read the book first!)
• to survive the spring semester of his Classical Conversations Challenge A class (Mom is a tough tutor!)

Kerrick, age 10
• baptized on Palm Sunday at Grace Community Church, Tempe
• learned to skateboard at a friend’s birthday party, and then bought his own board (but, unfortunately, not his own medical insurance)
• attended Cub Scout summer day camp with Mom in the sweltering desert heat (earning badges for archery, BB-gun shooting, engineering, swimming and meteorology) and Camp Geronimo in the cool mountain pines
• swam with the Tempe Tigersharks (his fourth year on the swim team)
• went to war with his brother and their guests at a summer Nerf birthday battle
• performed as Mr. Post in a homeschool production of Wild West Tales — which included Cindy Ellen, a western version of the Cinderella story (signature line: “Howdy, Miss Cindy!”)
• to achieve Classical Conversations Memory Master distinction (yep, now he’s memorizing a humongous new set of history, science, geography, math, Latin and English grammar facts, which he’ll have to recite after 24 weeks)
• to cross over from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts in the spring

Kennah, age 7
• read her first book (title: Eat!)
• lost her first two teeth (on the bottom, in front)
• spent a week by herself with Grandma and Grandpa (brother-less bliss!)
• joined an American Heritage Girls troop (ahhh! girls galore!)
• watched Soul Surfer and decided that Bethany Hamilton is her hero
• learned to ride her bike without training wheels
• completed numerous art projects (drawings, paintings, collages, etc.) and craft projects, too (sewed pillowcases and dresses, wove friendship bracelets and learned to finger knit)
• to lose at least two more teeth (especially the loose ones on the top, in front)
• to take a trip someday with Mom to the American Girl store to choose a special doll

Keillor, age 5
• spent a few days by himself with Grandma and Grandpa (and got a little homesick)
• participated in a weekly Classical Conversations class (without Mom, but with big sister)
• rode a camel on his own and fed the giraffes with his siblings at the Phoenix Zoo
• learned to ride his bicycle without training wheels (and how to hop off before crashing!)
• to visit Cars Land at Disneyland someday
• to become a Cub Scout in the fall

Shawn, age undisclosed

• enjoyed working at a new job close to home (within walking/biking distance!)
• took time off to attend Boy Scout camp at Fiesta Island with Kellen and Camp Geronimo with Kerrick
• hiked and canoed with Kellen’s Boy Scout troop
• helped design Kerrick’s last Cub Scout Pinewood Derby car, Raingutter Regatta boat and Space Derby rocket (fortunately, he’ll get to do it all again with Keillor next year!)
• stayed busy with several side jobs (handyman extraordinaire!)
• to have a less-hectic home life (including maybe a laundry-free sofa to sit on in case there’s ever a minute to relax) 🙂

Sonya, ageless (ha!)
• tutored a Classical Conversations Challenge A class (third time’s a charm, with Kellen as a student!)
• led a small squad of six sweet girls in Kennah’s American Heritage Girls troop
• continued to fit in some freelance writing/editing for The Nature Conservancy, as well as for GNOWFGLINS.com (even got to meet mentor and friend Wardeh Harmon when she visited Arizona in June!)
• enjoyed a much-needed getaway to California’s central coast
• sewed costumes for a homeschool theater group, sewed matching dresses with a friend for our daughters, and sewed numerous badges onto Cub Scout and American Heritage Girls vests, plus a Boy Scout sash
• read a few good books (including The Help, One Thousand Gifts, and Cleaning House: A Mom’s Twelve-Month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement)
• to slow down the pace of life a little bit (if at all possible)
• to continue to learn all that I can and help my children do the same (with plenty of God’s grace)
• to someday spend a year living with my family on Ireland’s Bere Island — and write a book about it (just need to convince Shawn to go for it!) 🙂

Above all, our family hopes that your family is looking forward to an amazing and blessing-filled New Year!

December 31, 2012   No Comments

A Half-Dozen …

… Homeschooling Life musings to share (answering prompts from The Homeschool Mother’s Journal):

1. In my life this week I was once again reminded that time simply won’t stand still, no matter how much I might like it to. Ever since my oldest son (Kellen, now 11) was of kindergarten age, we’ve participated in C.A.S.A. Vida, a once-a-week enrichment program for homeschoolers offered by local a public-school district. Two years later, he was joined by his younger brother (Kerrick, now 9). And this year, as the traditional school year began, I realized that we had approached some major milestones. Thursday marked not only the first day of Kellen’s last year of the program (which ends after sixth grade), but also the first day of the first year for his younger sister (Kennah, 5), who shares the same beloved kindergarten teacher that her two older brothers had. I managed to keep myself busy while they were gone all day — especially with the help of my littlest Little (Keillor, 3) — but all I could think of was how empty our house (and my life) would be if I they went away to school every day. Author Elizabeth Stone likens motherhood to having “your heart go walking around outside your body,” and that is exactly how I felt as I watched Kennah — dwarfed by her brand-new, sparkly-pink princess backpack and matching lunch box — walk into the classroom with the other kindergartners. Of course, she had a terrific time and can’t wait to go back. And of course, I know I need to let go a little. But that doesn’t make it easy. I don’t even want to envision what it will be like when Keillor heads down the same hallway two years from now — though I’m betting the backpack in that picture will look a bit different. 🙂

2. In our homeschool this week I began teaching my third child to read — something that in my pre-parenthood days I never imagined I would do. What’s interesting is that — thanks to my retired-teacher mom, who saved some of her favorite curriculum from her teaching days — I’ve been using the same program that was in vogue at my small-town public school when I was learning to read: Open Court (the 1973 version), which differs from most other reading programs in that it teaches long vowel sounds before short. It’s so fun to see the light come on in their little brains when they start to understand the ways that letters work together to express words, sentences, paragraphs, stories and ideas. Kennah’s first reading words (which form her first oh-so-simple reading sentence) are “See me.” (The accompanying illustration shows a clown looking into a mirror as he gets ready for a circus performance.) Can’t wait to hear her read the rest of the story.

3. Things I’m working on include our homeschool room, which I’ve spent much of the summer purging, cleaning, organizing and streamlining. I’m still not finished — there are a few more big piles to tackle as I decide what works, what doesn’t, what’s worth keeping and what to pass along (there’s that “letting-go” thing again!). But it’s a much neater and more welcoming space for all of us to use as we get back into a regular school routine. I’m also gearing up for another year of tutoring for a tuition-based homeschool program called Classical Conversations. This is my second year tutoring seventh-graders in six different subject areas: math, Latin, writing/literature, geography, science and rhetoric. I’m pretty sure I acquired as much knowledge as much as my students did last year, and I can’t wait to do it all again. This week, I’ve been busy reworking my personal stash of Latin flashcards to make them more user-friendly. Though it’s not a part of the curriculum, I’m throwing in a phrase supposedly uttered by Michelangelo toward the end of his life (and that I’ve adopted for my class motto): “Ancora imparo,” which means “I am still learning.”

4. I’m reading two books: Lumber Camp Library, by Natalie Kinsey-Warnock, and The Peacemaker, by Ken Sande. The first one I’m reading alongside my sixth-grade son, with plans to discuss its characters, setting, plot and theme using a simplified version of the Socratic method as outlined in Teaching the Classics, by Adam and Missy Andrews. The second I’m reading as part of my Classical Conversations training, with the idea that I’ll gain some wisdom for handling conflict effectively and from a Biblical viewpoint.

The Homeschool Mother's Journal

5. I’m grateful for the encouragement of a new friend, Sue (a k a The Homeschool Chick), to get back to blogging. Her prompts — shared every Friday in The Homeschool Mother’s Journal on her site, www.thehomeschoolchick.com — helped me pull this post together. I’m sharing it in today’s link-up, along with some other homeschool moms who’ve written about what’s happening right now in their lives.

6. A video link to share that pretty much sums up my thoughts at the end of this momentous week is Stephen Curtis Chapman singing Cinderella (who, incidentally, is the favorite princess of my own little growing-up-all-too-quickly princess).

August 13, 2011   6 Comments

A Half-Dozen …

… fun facts about Keillor:

1. His first name was borrowed from the last name of author and radio host Garrison Keillor, of Lake Wobegon Days and A Prairie Home Companion fame. (It’s pronounced KEE-ler.) His middle name, Steven, is of Greek origin and means “crown.”

2. He loves Cars (the movie) and cars (toys with wheels).

3. In the above image (taken earlier this year), he’s wearing a much-loved and much photographed outfit first captured on film when his dad wore it in 1969, and then worn for special photos by his brothers Kellen (in 2001) and Kerrick (in 2004). This photo is also a reminiscence about something more than the outfit: his hair. Today, Keillor is bald, thanks to a head-lice scare at our house last week that made Shawn panic, whip out the clippers and shave all the boys’ heads—including his own. (Kennah and I escaped the same fate by opting to endure vinegar and tea-tree oil treatments.) In addition to being bald, Keillor is a little banged up, having fallen in the backyard and bumped his head right after his haircut. He acquired a sizable goose egg, which, combined with his lack of hair, has rendered him cute in a way that only a mother could love.

4. He memorized his first poem this year (“Love That Dog,” by Walter Dean Myers—click the first audio button below to hear him recite it) and can belt out the ABCs with the best of the preschool set (click the second audio button below to hear his latest rendition):

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5. His favorite color is yellow, which matches his sunny disposition. Oh, he can frown, but it’s easily turned upside down. 🙂

6. He’s 3 years old today! Happy birthday, littlest Little!

November 9, 2010   4 Comments

Costumed Cuties—Halloween 2010

Kellen as a Union soldier—complete with a Dad-made musket.

Kerrick (a k a Mysterioso the magician).

Kennah (the cutest Raggedy Ann ever in a costume I made 12 years ago for her cousin).

Keillor as a super-cute superhero.

November 1, 2010   3 Comments

Bye-Bye, Babyhood

Sometime during the past month and a half—don’t ask me exactly when—we reached a milestone around our house: Our diapering days  officially ended. Now you might think that when Keillor—age 2 1/2 and the youngest of our four children—made the transition to wearing “undies” (his word) around the clock,  it would be a big deal. Such a momentous occasion, you might say, is certainly worthy of a paragraph or two in the journal I started for him before he was born—or at least a one-liner in his baby book. And you’d be right. (Note to self: FIND Keillor’s journal and baby book and write something—anything—in them.) Did I mention he’s our fourth child? Best intentions aside, I definitely suffer from that syndrome you hear about—you know, the one in which the mom painstakingly documents every detail of her first-born baby’s life and then slacks off just a little more with each subsequent child until the last one is lucky if his birthday makes it onto the calendar each year. (Another note to self: HIDE all other siblings’ journals and baby books.) 🙂

The thing is, life’s been a little busy lately, and it really does seem like the whole thing happened rather suddenly—literally overnight, in fact. The truth is that we probably kept Keillor swaddled and Velcroed in his little bumGenius-brand cloth diapers a bit longer than we  needed to. So when he fell asleep late one night recently with nothing but his favorite Lightning McQueen briefs on under his jammies and woke up completely dry the next morning, I had one of those forehead-slapping, “duh” moment as I realized he’d actually been waking up with a dry diaper every morning for a few weeks. And that’s when I surprised myself by getting a little sentimental about—of all things—the diapers.

Don’t get me wrong: I’ve been looking forward to this time for about five years. That’s how long I’ve been laundering a load of cloth diapers every two to three days. With both our pocketbook and the planet in mind, I made the decision to use cloth diapers when our third child—Kennah, now 4 1/2—was born. And after using the same set of diapers on both Kennah and Keillor, I like to think that all of my effort did save a couple thousand dollars (for us) and a little landfill space (for the Earth). At the very least, I’m crossing my fingers that we’re kind of close to even-steven in both regards after using disposable diapers on our first two babies. 🙂

So why the wistfulness? I’m sure it has something to do with what the diapers symbolize: babyhood. Or, more precisely, that that fleeting period of time is, in fact, over for our family. (Don’t tell Kennah. As our only girl, she hasn’t completely given up on the idea of getting a sister someday.) Sure, it took some work to wash the diapers and hang them up to dry on our backyard clothesline every other day. But after I had a system down, it was actually kind of satisfying to look out the kitchen window and watch those pretty pastel colors pinned up and swaying in the breeze. Or to see them—on the rare occasions when I managed to fold them and put them away—stacked neatly in their cubby beneath the changing table.

In addition to the nostalgia for what is no longer, my misgivings might also be a little bit about the uncharted territory that lies ahead. As I let go of the diapers, what other—maybe more demanding—parenting challenge will take their place? (We are, after all, entering the tween years on the other end of the childhood spectrum.) If you already know, don’t tell me. I’m sure I’ll discover it sooner or later. And chances are, whenever I happen to realize that the next milestone has passed, I’ll want to write about it in someone’s journal or baby book—if I can find them. 🙂

I’m sharing this post in the Simple Lives Thursday blog hop, hosted by four bloggers, including my friend Wardeh Harmon at www.gnowfglins.com. Click here to see what everyone’s sharing today.

August 18, 2010   1 Comment

Boys of Summer

Kellen and Kerrick underwent their annual summer transformation yesterday (with Keillor joining in for the first time), when Shawn lined them up and sheared them down in the backyard. Usually, I’m the one who cuts the hair around here, but this head-shaving tradition falls squarely into their dad’s jurisdiction—a throwback to his Navy days, I guess. I do admire Shawn’s efficiency—he got three boys finished in the time it would take me to carefully cut one boy’s hair (and I noticed none of them uttered a single complaint about itchiness, either!). The boys all love their extremely short hair for several reasons: 1) It keeps them streamlined for swim team, which begins tomorrow; 2) it makes hair-washing a cinch; 3) it means they don’t have to comb their hair for the next few months. As for me, I’ll be glad when it’s time to let it all grow back. 🙂

June 1, 2010   4 Comments

Timeline: Happy Easter!

Goodwin children (from left: Brenda, Nora, Sonya and Kenneth); Safford, Arizona; 1974.

Goodwin children (from left: Brenda, Nora, Sonya and Kenneth); Safford, Arizona; 1974.

Hemmings children (from left: Keillor, Kerrick, Kennah and Kellen); Tempe, Arizona; 2010.

Hemmings children (from left: Keillor, Kerrick, Kennah and Kellen); Tempe, Arizona; 2010.

I thought it would be fun to show my sisters and I wearing the coordinating Easter dresses my mom made for us when we were young, and then show Kennah wearing the dress I made for her this year. (My brother and my sons had to settle for store-bought attire in these photos, but I’ve promised my boys that I’ll try to at least give their Easter shirts some mom-made attention next year.) 🙂 Here are a few more fun shots of Kennah (and her baby doll, Mary) wearing their matching dresses. (I don’t know how my mom made three whole dresses for her daughters several years in a row! It was all I could manage to put together one dress—plus a quarter-size replica—in the weeks leading up to today!) 🙂

Kennah in her "sparkly pink butterfly" confection—because it reminds me of cotton candy—of an Easter dress.

Kennah in her "sparkly pink butterfly" confection—because it reminds me of cotton candy—of an Easter dress.

Perfect match: Kennah and Mary.

Perfect match: Kennah and Mary.

April 4, 2010   7 Comments

Timeline: Keillor’s First Haircut

Keillor; Jan 16, 2010; 4:01 p.m.

Keillor; Jan 16, 2010; 4:01 p.m.

Keillor; Jan. 16, 2010; 5:16 p.m.

Keillor; Jan. 16, 2010; 5:16 p.m.

January 16, 2010   7 Comments