Tuesday, November 30, 2010

We're on Vacation - Ice Skating Adventure

We are officially on vacation from homeschool! I can't completely let it go... so we are doing Holy Hero's Advent Adventure but the kiddos like it and it is easy for me. We're busy making the ornaments for our Jesse Tree, learning about Advent and the traditions or our church, and even praying a decade of the rosary each day to prepare for Christmas. Other than that, we are doing some fun things that we wouldn't normally do... like ice skating!

A nice man took this picture of our family. It's amazing how well the kids pose when someone else takes their picture. This is a giant Christmas tree on our local "trail of lights."

So... I'm not sure what I was thinking when I came up with the idea to take 3 kiddos, ages 7 and under, to the ice skating rink... It was something along the lines of, "Well, we get two for the price of one on Mondays, so if it goes really bad at least it won't be too expensive." Regardless, I had some doubts about my decision when faced with 3 pairs of ice skates that needed to be laced up to get us going... but it ended up being a lot of fun. We had a ball! Emily went ice skating last year so she knew the basics and was independent enough to go out on her own. David had never been ice skating but as my sweet middle child, he had a good attitude about the challenge and went out by himself with his walker and tore up the ice. I was so proud of him! And Lia, as the baby wanted to do it all because her siblings were doing it... So how did I get her on the ice? Well, it wasn't pretty but she hung on to the walker and I skated behind her, while also hanging onto the walker but hunched over, almost at a 45 degree angle. I didn't get a picture of it... but I can imagine I looked pretty silly. Lia did amazingly well and we managed to scoot around the ice rink really well. It was slow going of course and all the kiddos fell down a lot but everyone agreed it was really fun and they want to come back and do it again with Daddy when he comes home.

Look at my big boy!

Here is Lia when she decided she was ready to do it "all by my own self!" The wet bottom is telling of all the falling down. But by goodness, she kept getting back up. And she kept telling me, "Let's go around again!"

After skating, we checked out the light display. David and Emily liked the gingerbread men.

And this one was Emily's favorite. She had dance practice earlier in the day and told me she wanted to wear it to the ice rink because she'd "look pretty" on the ice. And she did!
The next adventure is bowling. Stay tuned.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Happy First Sunday of Advent!

We were very excited to see the first advent candle lit at church today and even more excited to bless our own advent candle wreath at home. Emily collected all sorts of greenery and pinecones for our wreath and she led us in singing, O' Come, O' Come Emmanuel like last year.

Happy Thanksgiving

My cousin Tony hosted Thanksgiving again this year and we had a BIG turnout as usual. I didn't do the best job of taking pictures because I was too busy visiting with my family... but I did manage to get a few pictures.
Lia, David and Max

Sweet Lia with her Nana

Aunt Linda, Aaron, Cousin Nichole and Aunt Elaine

Making Christmas ornaments with Leisa - Fun!


Saturday, November 20th, we spent many hours at the International Festival. We camped out at this stage and watched Irish dancers (as seen below), a sampling of the Nutcracker ballet, Japanese dancing, and twirling baton performances to name a few! Emily enjoyed this very much. David and Lia put up with it... but found other things they liked better at the festival - keep reading...

Like this monster slide! There goes David. He only did it once.And the balloon guy. He made Lia this sweet butterfly and David got a fishing pole with a fish attached. The fish popped after about 30 seconds but the fishing pole lasted most of the night.

And of course, Santa made an appearance. The big screen showed him coming in live on the Waterway. Once he arrived on stage it was pretty crazy with all the kids going wild.

And then we found Emily's friend Elle. They were very excited to see each other.

And one of the coolest performances of the night was a pair of dueling ice sculpturists. We watched them carve a snowman, a christmas tree, and a pair of candy canes out of three blocks of ice. It was very impressive!

Alphabet Critters

The "Alphabet Critters" are still David's most favorite part about school. He asks to do these every day. I try to do them once a week but it is hard to say no. We have made it to U for Unicorn... and we're still going strong! Here is David in front of "his" wall where he proudly displays his work.

Lia has a wall too.
The little ones hard at work...

Emily likes to join in too.

Field Trip: Co-Catherdral of the Sacred Heart

I thought a good way to combat the "homeschooling blahness" would be to take a field trip and I had been wanting to see the Co-Cathedral in downtown Houston for a while. So, on Friday, November 12, the Nelli Family attended daily mass at this BEAUTIFUL church! For the benefit of those who would like to go, parking is free for daily mass and there is no problem finding a place to sit. This huge church made almost entirely of marble is probably full to capacity on Sundays but on that particular Friday there were probably only about 100 people there for mass and it seemed very empty. Emily loved seeing the 8 foot tall carved statues in the shrines of her beloved saints - Martin de Porres, Elizabeth Ann Seton, Juan Diego, Anthony of Padua, Therese of Lisieux and Joseph. I have been studying the saints with her since she was 3 years old and it was so sweet to see her eyes light up in recognition of her "friends" the saints. It struck me that having a faith you spend your whole life studying is something very precious. My 7 year old daughter pointed out a dozen things to me in her first five minutes inside the church. She noticed the 3 interlocking circles in the marble floor as we entered the church as being representative of the Blessed Trinity. She recognized the sacred heart of Jesus in a stained glass window and the dove representing the Holy Spirit at the top of the dome in front of the alter. She might not realize it yet, but I can see that the recognition of these sacred images are already bringing her comfort and I hope they continue to do so as she grows in her faith.

The self guided tour book can be purchased for $5 at the parish office across the street. The kids were given rosaries and holy cards in addition to our tour book. We even got to visit with a very sweet sister on her way out the door. After mass, we had a snack and tried to see as much of the church as we could. We had the place to ourselves for the most part and took some time to admire the stained glass and read as much as we could about the beautiful religious artwork we found inside. Now that I have the guide, I can study up for our next visit! With small children, it helps to be educated before trying to share new things with them. My kiddos respond better to the, "hey look at this"... rather than listening to Mom read long paragraphs out of the book. Ah well... I'm learning. All in all, a successful outing.

Cartooning with Bruce Blitz

Emily made these for "art class." We love the cartooning lessons on Activity TV! David's hungry Pilgrim looked suspiciously identical to Emily's drawing... When I asked her about it, she told me he needed a lot of help. Perhaps the concept of "helping" and "doing it for him" need to be revisited. Regardless, they came out great!

Time to Play Catch Up...

I see the last time I posted was in early November... Where have I been and what have I been doing all this time? My only excuse for ignoring my beloved blog is that I have been in a funk. I got sick and every member of my family suffered some form of illness. While nobody was seriously ill, the combination of being sick and taking care of sick kiddos while my dear husband was travelling really wore me down. While I was able to continue schooling, I was unable to go to the YMCA. Working out 2-3 times a week hasn't been happening. My peace of mind and balance has been a little out of whack. That said, I think I am coming out of the funk. In the meantime, I'm going to post November's highlights and move on. ;-)

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Chris's Family Letter

Dear Family,

Once again, I’m writing this letter on an airplane on a return flight
from China. This is time I visited Yantai, which is near Qingdao
(famous for its beer) on the Shandong peninsula. Yantai is actually
closer to Korea than Beijing or Shanghai. The purpose of the trip was
the same as in August, to support a very large project in China, but the
project has now been moved from Nanjing to Yantai. When I return, we
will have Chinese visitors in Texas next week for a plant tour and
discussions on a different, smaller project in Shanghai. I also have
another potential project in Malaysia that I’ve been working on since

When I have time this week, I need to book our tickets for North
Carolina for Christmas. We hope to stay to the week after Christmas
through New Year’s Day. We promised the kids this past summer that we
would go back to the Kings Mountain Battleground to hike the trail. I
think the kids will enjoy Christmas break, especially Emily who is
working her way through the Singapore math textbook that Michelle is
using for Emily’s 2nd grade math. We promised Emily we would take her
to the Cheesecake factory when she is done (her favorite dessert).
Emily is also taking sacramental classes this year in preparation for
1st communion. This is on top of the faith formation classes she is
required to attend and the religion instruction that Michelle gives her.
Emily has already read all of the Little House on the Prairie books, the
Fairy books, and the original Nancy Drew books. Michelle has been
reading Beverly Cleary books to David (Mouse and the Motorcycle, Henry
Huggins, Ramona, Ribsy, etc.). Since he just turned 5, he is still in
pre-school. David continues to improve his reading and letter writing.

We had David’s birthday party recently. We held it at a local park with
chocolate cake and presents. We gave David a football, which David has
shown interest in lately. The kids next door like to play football in
the front yard, and during the last game, David was the hiker on the

I had to miss Halloween this year (since I flew out the morning of the
31st to China) but I got to go a family Halloween party the day before
(Saturday). It is hosted by a family who lives on a farm outside of
Conroe. The weather was great and we had a great time. We bought our
bocce ball set that Bill and Kristen gave us years ago as a Christmas

Michelle has been doing a great job home-schooling. I’m quite impressed
her organization and with the quality work they do each day (I get to
see the results after work before dinner). It appeared to me that it
took about 2 months for both Michelle and the kids to get into a good
daily routine.

That’s it for now. I may be back in China in mid-December, so until
then or we see you at Christmas.


Chris and Michelle

Monday, November 1, 2010

Halloween Crafts

Thank you Aunt Stacey and Uncle TeTee for the fun Halloween craft materials. We put them to good use and have lots to spare for next year. The best part was putting the pumpkin ribbon on the cat's tail and the pumpkin's stem. Very fun! The magical growing pumpkin... well... we put it in water and it hasn't done much. Do you think we have to wait 24 hrs for it to increase six times in size? Hmmmm.... We haven't given up on it yet... the dinosaur egg we did last year took some time so we'll keep you posted. Love you!!!!

And updated on 11/2/10: The pumpkin did increase in size! It took over 24hrs... but it worked!