Monday, January 21, 2019

End of a Very Long, Very Good Break

Well, our Christmas break is officially over now--everyone has gone back to school, even the college kids! 

We left to drive to VA Dec. 27, and we were there for about a week.  A whirlwind week of social activities!  I went out to lunch Friday with my friend Lynnea, and then out to breakfast Saturday with my friend Rabia.
 Saturday night was an open house at the MC's, welcoming Isaac home and celebrating his birthday.  I got to catch up with a ton of friends I might not otherwise have been able to see, and it was so much fun.  I was hoarse the next day from all the talking!
 Isaac's party was the first time that Nathan's girlfriend Elena and Luke's girlfriend Elissa had been able to meet each other, as well as a lot of Nathan and Luke's friends. So fun!
 The younger friends had play dates too, like this one Monday morning.  Luna had a play date here too, wrestling around with Denver the whole time.
 Monday night was New Year's Eve, and we went over to the L's house for our usual New Year's Eve party!  We brought Telestrations and Code Names, both of which were well-received.  The Telestrations game was hilarious, as always.
 We counted down at 9:00, like we usually do.  Verity was not scared at all this year, and she participated fully in the noise, lol.
 It was so fun to have all these guys together again. 
 New Year's Day we headed down to Richmond, where we spent the afternoon with Nathan's girlfriend's family at their beautiful house in the woods!  We helped them eat leftovers from their own VT bowl game watching New Year's Eve party the previous day, and we really enjoying getting to know them.  Here Micah is showing off his newly-learned cornhole style.  Luna was also invited for this get-together, and she had an absolute ball running around the whole time with their dogs Ivy and Clementine.  This tired her out so she slept like a champ when we drove back to OH the next day!
 On our drive back to Ohio, we were able to stop by in PA to see Bob's dad for a little while.

Back at home, we did start school (in a somewhat desultory manner) again.  The whole reason we had to rush back on Jan. 2 was because Jonathan's beloved electronics class started again Jan. 3, but the rest of us started the next week.  We left Luke in VA to drive back to AL from there, but Nathan was still with us in Ohio, so it was hard to feel like we were entirely back to our normal routine.  For this break, Nathan worked as a Lyft driver.  He made a nice bit of money, and he was able to just work when he wanted to, which was great.

The weekend of Jan. 11-13, Bob and Nathan headed back to VA to work on the house.  I decided it would be fun to have Amanda and Elissa come out Saturday for dinner, since we would be so lonely here.  I started hearing rumors of snow, so I told them to bring stuff to spend the night.  They drove out Saturday afternoon in a bit of a lull in the already-falling snow, and we had a real snow slumber party!  Hot chocolate, chocolate chip cookies, sleeping late on Sunday--so fun!  We ended up getting about 9 inches, so it was a good storm!
 The kids had a ball playing in the snow.  Luna loved it too--as long as there were people out there with her!
 We had to do a lot of shoveling so that Amanda and Elissa could get their car out to go back to Cedarville Sunday afternoon.  Also, I had foolishly not even thought about the big van, and so it just stayed out on the street where we normally park it.  This meant the snow plow plowed around it, so it was really buried, and also we had to dig out our mailbox.  Grrr.  I won't make that mistake again!  We had the same experience several times in VA, so I can't believe I didn't think about it here!  I think I really didn't take the forecast very seriously, lol. 
 Jonathan racing around with Luna. 
 The kids built snow forts in the back yard with neighbor kids on both sides of us.
 Amanda and Elissa preparing to venture out back to Cedarville.  They made it back safely, praise the Lord!
 I even found our snowshoes in a box in the garage!  I bought these after the great snowstorm of January, 2016, but then we never got another huge snow like that to use them in.  Well . . . they were okay, but I don't know that they really helped me stay above the surface much, lol.  I still felt like I was wading through snow, except now I had these giant things on my feet as well!  But it was fun.
 Luna, snow-loving Newfie.
 While we were frolicking in the snow, Bob and Nathan were busily getting things done on the house, and on their way home, they stopped in PA to visit Bob's dad again in the new place where he is living!  Bob's sister Ann and her husband Wally were also visiting.
 Last Wednesday night we had one last big dinner, inviting Grandma and Grandpa, and Aunt Claire and Uncle Jim over to say goodbye to Nathan.  He left Friday morning to drive back to college.

But wait!  Things still weren't back to normal!  Luke doesn't have classes on Friday, and with Monday being a holiday, he also left Friday morning to drive up here for the long weekend!  He went to Cedarville and picked up Elissa Friday night, since word was another winter storm was on the way.
 We baked a ton of ginger snaps, at Luke's request.  We had also gone to the library Friday afternoon to pick up a bunch of movies, so we were set!  Lots of games of Mastermind were played, as well as some other games.
Drew and Verity have really been into our "I Spy" books, and they spent a lot of time with Luke and Elissa, pouring over the pages.  Those books are actually pretty darn tricky.  Good thing both Luke and Elissa have sharp eyes. 

Church was cancelled this week, so we missed a second week in a row.  It was very relaxing to sleep in, and I made a breakfast casserole (for "brunch", lol).  Sunday evening, we headed over to my parents' house for dinner.  I had made spaghetti sauce in the crockpot, so I brought that, plus bread and salad, and we cooked the noodles over there.  Even though we were disappointed by the outcomes of both games, it was a lot of fun, and we also made tons of progress on a puzzle, which is really fun and relaxing for me.  Such a nice weekend!

Luke took Elissa back to Cedarville last night, and he left this morning.  So now we really are ready to get back to our usual routine, even though no one wants to.  Sigh.  What a tremendous break!  Now--to hang on until summer . . .

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Christmas Break

It seems like I'm only blogging on holidays anymore . . . We've been having an absolutely lovely Christmas break.  Luke got home really early, on Dec. 4, early enough to go Christmas caroling at the VA hospital with us and the chapel/OCF Bible study group.
 Nathan came home the next Tuesday, and after that, we basically went on break from school, at least for the little kids.  The older kids just kept doing math and grammar a little longer, and Caleb finished his last exam that Friday.
 The next week the girls and I made a zillion chocolates.  We made caramels in the square dark chocolate molds, and we made a creamy filling, which we divided and flavored half maple and half raspberry for the bells.  The milk chocolate bells were maple, and the dark chocolate ones were raspberry.  But we ended up having some shells, because we were too ambitious in our mold-painting, so we needed more filling, but I didn't have enough fondant sugar to make more.  I decided to make ganache and use that as a truffle filling. It worked really well--but then we had too much ganache left, so I needed more shells . . . but I had no desire to keep painting more molds.  So I ended up filling the bell molds like I do when I make peanut butter cups (which we did not do this year)--squirting in melted chocolate, dropping a rolled ball of ganache in, and then squirting more chocolate to cover.  The result is not as smooth as when I paint the molds separately, but it surely is a lot less work.
 On Wednesday, Dec. 19, Bob took the afternoon off, and we went skating!  He had won some tickets at a work silent auction.  Nathan was the only one who didn't go.  This rink allows you to rent a little plastic frame for beginner skaters, so we did that for Verity, and by the end, she was doing great!  Maybe she will really get the hang of it if we go more than once a year, lol.  We really missed the annual skating party with our VA co-op.
 Saturday was a wonderful day!  It started out with me meeting 2 of my closest friends from high school, Amy and Julie, for breakfast.  We spent 3 hours catching up and laughing, and I'm sure we could have spent at least 3 more!  The waitress had to come back at least 3 times before we could even stop talking long enough to look at the menu enough to order, lol.

Next, we had a very special promotion party!  My cousin and his family had driven up late Friday night, and we were able to have his pin-on ceremony to lt. col. at my parents' house Saturday afternoon!  Bob and my dad both put on their uniforms again (I didn't think we'd be unpacking THAT box anytime soon, lol), which was really special, and Bob administered the oath to my cousin. My dad had commissioned my cousin originally, so it was special for us all to be together for this promotion.  It was neat to think that Nathan will be commissioning in a year and a half as well, continuing our long Air Force history!
 After the ceremony, we had pizza to celebrate.  This table right here was where the action was!  All sorts of witty repartee ("My name is Chandelier!"  "My name is Ice Crust!") and hilarious banter (at least, they cracked themselves up!).  Verity held her own with the 3 boys, lol.
 My cousin's wife Sarah helped all the girls do their nails with Christmas Color Street strips, which they loved.  Even Verity got her nails done--such tiny strips!
 This was the first time my kids had met my cousin's 2 boys.  This is a picture of the "second cousins".  They all got along very well, and we hope it will not be this long before we can visit together again!
 Monday (Christmas Eve) the 2 boy cousins came over to our house!  They had a very busy day:  they played with toys, Anna took all the younger kids plus Luna on a walk to the playground, Anna and Grace got everyone set up with wax paper stations to make Christmas cut-out cookies, we ate homemade mac and cheese for lunch, and then they decorated the cookies.  Whew!
 Everyone came back to our house for a spaghetti dinner before the candlelight service.  We were able to seat 21 people!
 Our annual picture at the front of the chapel after the candelight service.  We were just missing my brother and his family!
 Christmas morning we woke up to snow flurries and a bit of snow on the ground!  It wasn't much, and it didn't stick around long, but it definitely made for great Christmas ambiance.
 We hung the stockings on our downstairs mantle.  It's longer than the one in our house in VA, which is good, because we got a stocking for Luna too.  Maybe next year I'll actually buy a stocking holder for her--at least we know it will fit!
 We have no room for our regular 9 ft. tree, or even a smaller tree, in this house.  But a few weeks ago, Jonathan and I were in Sams, and we saw this cute 4 1/2 ft. tree at Sams on sale because it was mid-way through December, so we bought it.  We had it in our dining room (you can see it in the picture of us eating spaghetti), but Christmas Eve, Nathan moved it to our school room table, and we put the presents under the table.  LOL!  It only has a few token ornaments on it, but it was better than nothing.
We had a really small Christmas.  Part of that was because I just couldn't get my act together (I still haven't even sent out our Christmas cards, even though I have them!), but also, we just really can't fit much else into this house of ours.  
 After we finished our presents, we went over to my parents' house and exchanged presents there.  Verity was so happy with this Christmas Minnie Mouse from Aunt Claire and Uncle Jim, and new Minnie Mouse panties from my parents!
The boys got some nice sweaters from them too.  There were also lego sets, books, ornaments, and lots of other fun things!

Then we had a delicious dinner for 23 people, including both ham and turkey, sweet potato casserole, mashed potatoes, my mom's squash casserole, green beans with almonds, cran-apple-pear sauce, my mom's orange jello salad, and a green salad.  We were all stuffed!  I was ready to never cook again after all the making of it, lol.
 Then we had our usual birthday party for Jesus, going through Scriptures about the promise of a savior, the place where he would come, how it all happened, and his preeminence.  Doing that allowed us to make some room for dessert!  We had a chocolate birthday cake (of course!), chocolate pecan pie, two chocolate pies, a pumpkin pie, and lots of cookies.

Then we played games--2 rounds of Telestrations, which we played for the first time at our friends' house in Patch Barracks on our Germany trip (just as hilarious this time!), and Codenames, a new game Nathan and Luke gave to the girls.  It was a bit hard to explain, but very fun to play.  I liked it because it was a thinking game, but not a classic strategy game (which I'm terrible at and don't enjoy at all, lol).  It was so much fun!
For some reason, Anna decided to wear this dirndl in the morning.  After we opened presents, she was going to go up to change, but I told her to leave it on, because I knew my mom would love seeing her in it.  The dress used to be my mom's--she bought it when she and my dad were stationed in Germany before I was born.  Then I wore it in junior high and high school to Halloween parties, and especially for international nights at White Sulphur Springs.  Now Anna is wearing it, which is pretty fun and special.

All too soon, Christmas was over.  People had to go back to work the next day, my cousin and his family needed to leave early the next day to drive back, and the kids were getting very overtired and overstimulated.  It was really such a very special Christmas time, capping off a wonderful Christmas break. 

Monday, November 26, 2018

A Happy Thanksgiving

 We have always said that the way to have a child who travels well is to do a lot of traveling with them, especially when they are young.  Now, apparently, we are trying that same tactic with Luna.  Tuesday afternoon we loaded up the big van again and took off to VA for Thanksgiving. 

A few weeks ago, Bob had come home saying he had some training to do that he could take with him over Thanksgiving, so I made all these lovely plans for us to be there for a week.  We'll see friends!  We'll spend a day down in Richmond with Nathan's girlfriend's family! 

Unfortunately, I completely neglected to realize that Caleb's community college in fact had classes last week, so alas, my wonderful plans were for naught, and we left Tuesday afternoon, after his last class. 
 This picture is of Luna on the floor of the big van, sort of behind and in between the driver's seat and passenger seat, by the feet of the passengers in the first row.  It's her favorite place, and we moved our snacks to a smaller, thinner box, so she has a little more room.  She will scoot under the bench seats and go visit people in the back rows though.  It's like her own "Clue" secret passages!  She really has been a rock star traveler on these long trips. 
 Nathan got there Tuesday afternoon, about the time we were leaving Ohio, but Luke didn't fly in until Wednesday, a little before noon.  We cleaned up the yard at the old house, and I was able to get an updated "stair steps" picture, even including Luna!  I was so sad to realize that only the last 5 are stair steps anymore.  For the older ones, the second in each "pair" has passed up their older sibling in height, even down to Grace passing up Anna!  I guess our even-numbered, narrow-jawed kids also have the superior height genes, if you can call them that, since none of us are actually what you might call "tall", lol.
 We had to supplement our folding plastic table with the card table, and our folding chairs with some camping chairs we had left for use at cross-country meets, but we were able to have a family meal at the old house with all 12 of us Wednesday night!  I made spaghetti in our "extra" smaller crockpot by bringing frozen browned ground beef, and by already cooking up 3 pounds of noodles and bringing them from Ohio. 

Thursday we went over to the L's for Thanksgiving dinner, like we've been doing for the past 14 years.  It was wonderful as usual!  I think it was the easiest Thanksgiving day for me personally, because I did pretty much everything in Ohio.  I roasted and mashed the sweet potatoes (12 cups of them!), and then mixed them into the casserole, and I brought them in 2 gallon ziploc bags, with the topping (minus melted butter) in another ziploc bag.  I also made the cran-apple-pear sauce and brought it in a bulging ziploc bag.  I did make a pan of cookie dough brownies in VA, but that was easy.  Anna had to cream the butter and sugar for the cookie dough topping by hand, since we didn't have any kind of mixed, but that was fine. 

We really enjoyed catching up with our "friends who are like family" all day long.  We were able to bring Luna and her crate over, so we didn't have to keep going home to let her out, which was really nice.  We could just keep right on visiting!  It was so relaxing, we ended up staying until after 8:00.
It was especially nice to have all the older boys home and back together with their friends.  They were able to spend a lot of time together--well, not Nathan, because he drove back to VT the next day to go to the football game, but everyone else!  When we started Rivendell, Christine and I had taken Proverbs 27:17 as our verse:  "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another."  There are a few boys missing from this picture, but I know that these friendships have been the "iron sharpening iron" friendships we prayed for, and  I'm so grateful for the Lord's answer to our prayers!

Friday was another really relaxing day.  I even did a crossword puzzle!  Wednesday I had rushed out to Costco first thing (I got there at 10:20, and already all the spaces in the entire lot were filled except for a few on the side close to the road.  I do NOT miss that Costco!) and bought one of their big chicken pot pies for Friday.  Usually the Friday after Thanksgiving I cook my own turkey (since Ed L. always smokes turkeys for everyone on Thanksgiving day), and then we have that along with leftover of the stuff I usually bring to the L's--sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce most years.  But this year there was no way that was happening, so instead we had the chicken pot pie plus leftover cranberry sauce and sweet potatoes, and it was so good!  And easy!  I'm thinking that will be a new, good tradition, lol.

Saturday we went over to the Mc's for dinner and stayed to watch most of the Clemson game. They had a houseful too, and we got to facetime with Isaac, so that was wonderful.  But all too soon we had to head back to the house.  After church on Sunday we packed up (always takes longer than I expect), battled the crowds at Dulles to drop Luke off, and then started the long drive back to Ohio.  We were so glad to be heading west instead of east.  The traffic on eastbound I-70 was much thicker!  We didn't get home until about 11:45, so it was a late night, and everyone is still recovering this morning, lol.  I'm not planning on getting much done except laundry!  It was a wonderful Thanksgiving time though.  I definitely don't take the times we can all 12 of us be together for granted, and they definitely don't happen very often anymore! 

Friday, November 09, 2018

End of a Season

A season of driving maybe?  Actually the cross country season.
 I know people thought we were crazy, but we decided to have Anna and Grace run cross country with their team back in VA.  Since we really weren't in Ohio until August, there was no way to make anything happen with a team here.  We've been running with this VA team for the past 7 years (through several name changes), even since Nathan and Luke started running with them.  We have so enjoyed the team members, and the coach is one of the godliest people I know!  The older girls on the team have been such good examples and role models for Anna and Grace.  I am often saying things like, "How would Tess talk to that person?"  or "Do you think that is the attitude Annie would have?"  or "How do you think Carol would act in that situation?"  It is such a blessing to have older girls in our lives that demonstrate such wonderful character qualities!  I wanted to keep that connection as long as possible.
 But it wasn't all easy.  We drove back for meets and a few practices, but mostly the girls were running the workouts of their own back here in Ohio.  Anna and Grace are not really the same pace, so Anna was definitely by herself.  It is hard to really push yourself when you are running on your own!  That led to some frustrations in the beginning of the season for Anna, but she was able to push through, and by the end of the season her times were faster than the ones for last season.  And it definitely made her and Grace appreciate all the more the times when they were able to practice with the team!
Faith was the rock star for Grace.  She ran with Grace for pretty much all of the workouts, which was a huge help and motivation for Grace, who was much less enthused about this long-distance running plan than Anna was.  Faith is going to be an amazing runner, I think!  She's got a good start anyway.  Grace really is a social runner, it turns out.  In the meets, she always chose to run with a friend of hers because "we have really good conversations, Mom, and she's just so nice to talk to."  Hey, that sounds like fun to me! 
 The last meet was last Saturday, Nov. 3, and all the little kids plus Luna came with us!  Bob, Caleb, and Jonathan were at a VT football game with Nathan and his girlfriend, so we couldn't leave anyone at home!
 It was a really great experience for Luna.  She got to meets TONS of people, as well as some other dogs.  Pretty much everyone stops to pet a cute puppy, and Luna really does like people a lot. She's scared of other dogs, so all the more reason to have her meet a lot!  She was pretty tired after all  the walking around though.
 The meet was held in a park with a lake, so there was a sandy "beach" part.  The kids had so much fun digging and building sand castles, even though it was actually a fairly chilly and windy day!  When the sun was out, it wasn't too bad, but Verity (of course) got her shoes and her jacket sleeves all wet, and then she was less than happy.
 Luna enjoyed digging in the sand, and she kept gazing out over the water like she was thinking about diving in.  I had no desire for a wet, sandy dog in the van, so I kept a firm grip on her leash, lol.  Some other time she can explore her water dog ancestry!
You can see Faith here acting like it is a warm summer day.  Do not be fooled!

The season was a good transition help for the kids, I think.  It really was so nice to go back to VA so many times to see friends, and to work on the house.  It made the move seem like a much more gradual transition process.  I will say I am glad for a bit of a break in the driving now.  In less than 3 weeks, we drove 54 hours of long-trip driving, most of with lots of kids and a dog!  Good thing Luna turned out to be such a great traveler!