Wednesday, January 31, 2007

A Whirlwind

These past few days have been a whirlwind of activity, as I frantically try to pack for an airplane trip with 7 people, including a baby. Whew! Let's just say we are not traveling lightly, LOL. You remember the old Archie comic books, and how Veronica, whenever they all went on a trip, would always have this huge mountain of luggage? Yeah, that's us. Three suitcases, a hang-up bag, a pack-n-play, and 3 car seats. Traveling in winter stinks.

Of course, there is never a situation that can't be made more stressful by some unexpected crisis, and that is just what happened last night. For background, about a week ago, we loaned out our third car, an old Pathfinder, to a missionary couple who are visiting here from Kosovo. Now we are the new family in church, so of course we are hoping this makes a nice impression. But instead we got a call at 9:00 last night from the man saying that the Pathfinder broke down in Williamsburg, which is 3 hours away. Ack! We felt so embarrassed! So Bob, who had already started his leave, drove down there this morning in the Odyssey so they could use that while we are gone. He got the Pathfinder to a mechanic, and praise the Lord, he was an honest one. We were afraid of a price gouger in the tourist trap! Anyhow, the even better news was that this man could fix the Pathfinder today, so Bob was able to drive back home this evening. We really expected that the kids and I would have to go down and bring him back, and then we would have to go pick up the Pathfinder when we got back. So that saved us 6 hours of driving! I was anticipating a very late evening of packing, but since I was home all afternoon, I'm pretty much done. I jsut have to pack some snacks for the trip, and then I'll make lunches in the morning.

I also went to my doctor this morning and got a letter stating that I was safe to fly. I didn't want to take a chance that some perky flight attendant who has never had a baby in her life would take a look at my tummy and decide I must be ready to deliver and refuse to let me on the plane! THAT would be stressful! Situation avoided, however.

So please pray for us tomorrow as we fly, and especially for Anna. She can be a bit squawky, and I don't want her to bother the other passengers. I'll check back in once we're home again!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Nana is Home!

My Grandma passed away Monday afternoon at 3:45 MST. My aunt and my mom were both with her. She was 90 years old, and she had really struggled, healthwise, since falling in August on her 90th birthday. Now we are so happy that she is in the presence of the Lord in her new, imperishable body!

This picture is from the trip that Anna and I took to see her back in June, and this is how I will remember her--tiny and sprightly, like an alert little bird! I am so glad that we were able to make that trip. The pictures are priceless.

We are all going to fly to Colorado for the funeral. My parents and aunt and uncle are also going to fly there, as will my cousin. We're all going to stay in the same hotel, so it will be like a family reunion! This is what we did back in April 2001 when my Grandpa passed away, and that was a very special time. Knowing that Grandma is in heaven allows us to be free to celebrate her life, since we know that we will see her again for eternity!

Friday, January 26, 2007

I'm In!

Just an update on the driver's license fiasco--I now have a Virginia driver's license, so I can rest assured that I do exist and I am married. I went to the Leesburg DMV, which on the whole was a better experience than the Fairfax one, although it still had it's touchy moments. I brought my raft of documents (PA license, ID card, passport, marriage certificate, and mortgage statement) up to the first window, and the man looked everything over. "Where is your social security card?" he asked suspiciously. "Umm, my SSN is right there on my military ID card, "I said, thankful that I had indeed stuck the whole stupid folder of papers in the car and I could jsut run out and get the card if need be. After scrutinizing that, he agreed it was okay. Wow, what grace! When I got to the second window, the one where they actually take your application and give you the vision test, the lady was quite suspicious of my Ohio marriage certificate. She wanted me to have a "license", while all I have is this "certificate", which is signed in blue pen so you can tell it's not a copy. And it says on the DMV form that a "certificate' is okay, but the lady wasn't liking it. Hey, it's all I've got! Take it up with Ohio. Eventually she did decide it would pass her inspection. Good grief. As Christa so accurately described them, they are Nazis here in VA!

As it turns out, Laura was absolutely right in her comments--this is all part of the Patriot Act, and eventually all states are supposed to have these draconian standards (funny aside--on Wednesday, at the first DMV, when I told the lady that I had NEVER had such a hassle getting a license in other states, etc. and asked why it was so difficult, she said that it was just to hassle people--really, that's what she said-- and then she said that eventually all states would have this--"even Wisconsin". What? Who brought up Wisconsin? Are they known as the backwoods DMV state, where they give out licenses to any and everyone? I just thought that was funny, that she pulled that state out of the clear blue sky.) Today there was an article in the Washington Times about how Maine lawmakers have rejected these standards and are calling on Congress to repeal the Real ID Act, which is where they came from.

"Opponents have said that requirements for license holders to prove their identity using a short list of acceptable documents will be burdensome on the elderly and economically marginal, and that depriving illegal aliens of the right to hold a license might be a disaster for road safety."

Well, I don't agree with the illegal aliens part, but these rules certainly are burdensome on the law-abiding citizens among us! It's like gun control--criminals still get guns (illegally, of course), but the law-abiding citizens are inconvenienced and have to jump through a bunch of hoops. Don't I feel safe.

The article says that Maine is basically playing a big game of chicken with the government because "driver's licenses issued by states that do not meet Real ID requirements in 2008 will no longer be valid for "federal purposes"--such as boarding planes or entering federal buildings." It will be interesting to see how it all plays out, but I'm sure there will never be less requirements, even if the law is repealed. Lawmakers seem to think that inconvenience is what makes America safe, so they will just come up with something even more ludicrous.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Who am I? And how can I prove it?

Today was an exercise in frustration. I have a Pennsylvania driver's license, since I am a resident there while Bob is active duty, and it expires on Feb. 8. It is a hassle to get a renewal without actually living in PA, so I decided now would be a good time to get a Virginia license, especially since Bob will most likely retire here in the next year or so, and then I would have to get a VA one anyways.

There is a DMV really close to Bob's office, so we all trooped down there this morning. The plan was Bob would meet us there and take the kidss out for pizza while I waited. Now I have gotten driver's licenses in 3 other states, and I have always only needed the license from the previous state, as well as my military ID card. Not so here. In fact, Virginia requires a bizarre raft of documents. I had to have 2 proofs of identity (my PA license and my military ID), a "proof of legal presence" (birth certificate or passport), and proof of residency which was not just any old piece of mail with your name on it. No, it was a pay stub, W-2 form, tax return, mortgage statement, utility bill, or receipt for property tax paid (but NOT the actual bill for property tax, which was all I could find, LOL). Well, I simply don't happen to carry all my legal documents around with me, as well as old tax returns, so Bob took the kids to CiCi's, and I drove all the way back home to search for documents.

I searched our "important papers" folder and managed to find a "certificate of live birth" (which was NOT acceptable as per the DMV form), but not my actual birth certificate. I did manage to find my old passport, which I got in may 1993, right before we got married in July so I could use it to go to Europe on our honeymoon. After much fruitless searching for last year's tax return (which we did right after having Anna so who knows what we did with it), I finally rounded up a mortgage statement. It's amazing how much stuff only has Bob's name on it. Do I really exist?

I drove back down to the DMV, waited in line again, and this time was told that because my passport was issued in my maiden name, I needed my marriage license as well. "But, " I said, "my PA driver's license clearly has my name as 'Claire (maiden name) (last name)', and my military ID and and mortgage documents have my maiden name initial on them. Why doesn't that prove that I am married, and that the passport was issued to me?!" No dice. Absolutely not valid. Doesn't prove anything. Must have the marriage license. Oh, I was so frustrated. I was literally in tears with frustration, prompting a funny conversation between Jonathan and Caleb about whether or not mommies actually cry--Jonathan firmly denied that they do. (Do I really never cry in front of them? I must be some kind of stoic, LOL.)

The thing that really got me was that the active duty person ONLY has to show their active duty ID card. That proves everything. Evidently the VA DMV thinks that the military does scrupulous checks on the identities of their members, but that they issue dependent ID cards to anyone off the street. Good grief. Also, a few weeks ago there was an article in the Times (sorry, I'm lazy and am not going to bother searching for it) that talked about some DMV employee who was finally arrested for running a driver's license ring. She made something like several thousand licenses for illegal aliens over several years before finally being caught. So I'm sure we can all rest more safely knowing that illegal aliens can still find ways to get licenses, while law-abiding natural born citizens who happen to be military spouses, dragged to these beauracratic morasses, get hassled and have to jump through an inordinate amount of ridiculous hoops.

Tomorrow, clutching my entire folder of important papers (because they may decide they need to see proof of my college GPA and childhood vaccinations), I will attempt once again to get a VA driver's license. I am going to a different office this time. Maybe the third time in line will be a charm.

Monday, January 22, 2007


It snowed last night! This might not seem like such a big deal, since some of you all have been up to your eyeballs in snow this winter! But here in Northern Virginia, we have had a very warm winter with not so much as a flake of snow. And if you are a boy under 10, this is very disappointing (not so much if you are a mom to all those boys, and you are glad you haven't had to deal with heavy coats and gloves, LOL). Anyhow, Jonathan has been asking since, oh, I'd say November when it was going to snow. And yesterday afternoon it FINALLY snowed. It even stuck!

I didn't think it would still be there this morning, but it was, miracles of miracles, so the boys rushed through their independent work so they could play outside. I didn't think we could risk waiting until after lunch since the high was supposed to be around 40!

Wet, slushy snow packs really well, so a snow fort was started, and many snowballs were made and thrown. The little boys came in after an hour, but Nathan and Luke stayed out there for several hours.

After a late lunch we did the rest of school, and then they went back out again. Hopefully this will fulfill all their snow expectations for the year, since who knows how much more we'll get?! Now I have to find a place to hang 4 sopping wet snowsuits and 8 dripping gloves, as well as a place to put 8 messy boots. (Note to self: dream house must include bigger mud room.) But hey, the mess is all worth it--they had a great time and ran themselves ragged. I predict an early bedtime. Yay!

Friday, January 19, 2007

School Update For Caleb

One thing I really wanted to make a priority this new year was doing school with Caleb, who turned 5 in November. My previous routine was to do school with the big boys in the morning, and then give Caleb the time after lunch. This sounds fine, except that I was pregnant, and so after lunch each day I really wanted to take a nap, not do more school. He wasn't terribly motivated, so . . . learning to read could always be pushed back one more day!

But this new year I switched things up a bit, and now Caleb and Jonathan get their time first thing in the morning, right after breakfast. While Nathan and Luke finish the independent work that I have set out for them the night before, as well as their vacuuming and picking up chores, I do school with the little guys. It's working so much better! They have done school every day for the past 2 weeks! After they are done, then we all are there for our Bible reading and character time. Then the little boys are done, and they can go play or whatever.

Tonight at Bible study we were studying Mark 10:13-16, where Jesus tells the little children to come to him and rebukes the disciples for trying to send them away. Christine told about how last year she really wanted to put Joel, her youngest, in preschool because he was a real handful, and she didn't feel like they would get any school done with him there. Craig told her that Joel was a part of their family, and he didn't want the other boys to get the impression that what they were doing was so important that it justified sending away another member of their family so they could do it. Christine then read these verses and was convicted that Jesus was saying to her that she was a mother first, and a teacher of academic things second. Her calling was to mother her little children, leading them to Christ, not sending them away so she could focus on other "more important" things. The children WERE the more important things, and especially their spiritual upbringing. So she started teaching her little ones first thing in the morning last year, and them having their special time with mom first really helped them settle down for the rest of the day. I thought it was interesting that we both hit upon the same solution!

Caleb is slowly coming along with his reading. He is so much like Nathan that it isn't funny. He reads the first 2 letters of a word, for example, and then he just guesses at the last letter. So for the word "Map", he'll read "mm-aaa . . . . mat!" I'll say to look at the last letter. Then he'll look at it and realize it's a "p". But he really doesn't notice it at first--he just makes a random guess! Nathan was just like this. I think I'm more patient this time around, and to be honest, I think starting him a little later has been fine. With Nathan I really felt like I was beating my head against a wall for a long time while he struggled with issues like that one, and then finally it just clicked. I'm hoping it will just click at about the same age with Caleb, but with less time and frustration on my part!

Jonathan wants to do school too, so I've been giving him preschool worksheets--letters, numbers, tracing, etc. All the fun stuff, LOL. It's so fun teaching a fellow lefty! No more struggling with how to show a right-hander how to hold the pencil! Now we'll just have to see how Anna turns out . . .

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Left-Hander of the Day . . .

James Garfield.

Here is what Yo, Millard Fillmore has to say about him:

Garfield was the third president in a row to have been a general during the Civil War. Part of a President's job in those days was to personally appoint people to government positions. Garfield was assasinated in Washington's Union Station by a man he'd refused to hire. Andrew Jackson was the first President to have been born in a log cabin. Garfield was the last. He was also the first sitting member of the House of Representatives to be elected President. Our first left-handed Chief Executive, Garfield could write simultaneously in Latin in one hand and Greek in the other.

Wow. Just wow. Jonathan is my only left-hander so far, so I guess he's the only one with a chance at accomplishing this feat. LOL!!! Just kidding. I don't think we'll be spending too much time on "simultaneous writing".

We are coming right along in memorizing the Presidents. We are going through the Millard Fillmore book, but more just for fun. I memorized the Presidents in 4th grade, and my teacher just broke them down into groups of 3 (Washington, Adams, Jefferson . . . Madison, Monroe, Adams . . .). We added a new group every few days, and it worked great. So that's what we're doing here. Today was "Hayes, Garfield, Arthur", hence the fascinating trivia about a little-known President. You're all very welcome.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Our big accomplishment yesterday . . .

. . . getting both vans in the garage! This may not seem like a big deal to all of you who live in the midwest, land of the spacious garage. But we live in the land of really big houses but minimalist garages, so for us, it is quite a big deal. In fact, I never thought we would be able to do it. It required a lot of cleaning and the shifting around of boxes and other garage junk.

Our house in Ohio had a huge 3 car garage. Seriously, this thing had at least 800 square feet. People live in much smaller spaces than this was. Then we moved here, into a house that was several times larger, and we got a garage that barely fit our freezer, fridge, bikes, and one van. The fridge and freezer are still in there, but the bikes didn't make the cut. They had to move to the shed.

Another tricky thing about our garage is that we have a big metal pole in the middle of it supporting a bedroom above. This isn't a huge deal for the Toyota, which is on the left side of the pole--the passenger just has to wait a minute while the driver backs up a bit so the door can open fully to let the person in (this is the drill especially when the said passenger is pregnant, LOL). But now the Odyssey is on the right side of the pole--right by the driver's side. So Bob has taken to opening the sliding door, and has put the center-console-tray down so he can walk through to the front. He says he feels like a pilot going into the cabin! Bring on the snow!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Well, what do you know?!

You may or may not have noticed, but I would like to announce that I have FINALLY updated my side bar with some more blogs I read. This is not an exhaustive list, and it is in no particular order, but hey--more blogs are listed.

Wow! I finally got around to doing something I've been putting off for quite awhile for no real good reason! I'm on a roll--what else can I accomplish tonight?!

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Trash Cans

We're in the market for a new trash can. We currently have a green plastic one that I believe we bought when we moved to Colorado, so it has served faithfully for around 12 years. There's nothing actually wrong with it, but it does have two drawbacks. First, the lid is not actually attached to it, so it always falls off (I think it is supposed to swing freely, but our trash is always too high, LOL). Second, Anna likes to pull up on it, and it is just not that heavy, so she will pull it over on herself, spilling trash everywhere.

Looking around, I can see that all the cool, fashion-minded folks around us have nice, shiny, sturdy aluminum trash cans with pedals to step on that open the lid, or some other gadget. "Great!" I think. "I'll buy one!" So a few weeks ago, I popped into Bed, Bath and Beyond, where I discovered that those nice, shiny, and sturdy trash cans ranged from $70-$200. Yikes! Okay. So I also looked at Target, where they were $70. That's still a lot of money for a trash can, in my book. I mean, it's for "storing my trash". I think we paid a couple of dollars at Walmart for our green plastic one!

Speaking of Walmart, we were there last Tuesday, so I thought I would check out their selection. I seriously do not know why I ever go shopping with everyone, because I never make good decisions. I can't concentrate or something. Anyhow, they have a nice, shiny, sturdy trash can for only $36. I'm sold! I buy it, along with a bunch of other stuff, and go home. (But not before getting out to the car, buckling everyone, and then realizing that I didn't pay for the $5 plastic dish drainer that was under the cart. So we all went back in and tried to explain that to the nice greeter, who of course was not a native English speaker and couldn't figure out what I was doing--"Something wrong? You return?" "No, I just forgot to pay!" "What? You exchange?" I finally did go back through the line to pay. After hearing a series of sermons on the Ten Commandments, I knew I could not walk off with it!)

We got home and put the box in the garage, where we left it for several days. Finally we brought it in, and I realized immediately that the words on the box said "oval" instead of round. I never even noticed that! When we took it out and realized how small it was, I also noted that the box clearly said "30 liters", which is something like 7 gallons. Yeah, that's not going to cut it for a family of soon-to-be 8, LOL. But I never even noticed all of this in the store! It was shiny! It looked sturdy! The lid appeared to be attached! So we bundled it all up again, and now I have to make a return trip to Walmart. Grrr. And we are still looking for a new trash can (one closer to 60 liters, however, LOL). And one cheaper than $70! I am a hard woman to please.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A Family Picture at the WW II memorial

While we were at the World War II Memorial, we saw 2 guys who, we brilliantly deduced based on their haircuts, were military. One was an Army ROTC cadet, and the other had just finished Marine OTS. They were from the South, and were on a big cheap road trip. Fun! Anyhow, one of them consented to take our picture so that we would have one of those rare pictures with all of us in it. He almost cut Jonathan's head off, but hey--we're all there.

I loved the quote running around the back of the thing we are all sitting on: "Americans came to liberate, not to conquer, to promote freedom, and put an end to tyranny."

A Sunny Saturday in D.C.

Well, I'm catching up a bit here . . . Saturday was a beautiful day with a high of around 70 degrees. We didn't have any big plans for the day (well, other than me taking Nathan and Luke to the library, LOL), and we were just lazing around in the morning when Elizabeth called. They were at the Washington Monument and wanted to know if we wanted them to get tickets for us. For those of you who haven't visited D.C. for awhile, you have to have a free ticket to go up to the top of the Monument. You have to get there early in the day, and then you get tickets for a certain half hour block of time, which is when you can show up. We, being the "lazy and basically not motivated to go anywhere but especially not downtown early" type of people that we are had never even considered going up in the Monument.

But here was our golden opportunity, and on a beautiful day to boot! So we told Elizabeth yes, and she got us tickets for 1:00. The big boys and I rushed off to the library, we all grabbed a quick bite to eat, and we drove downtown. By this time it was pretty crowded with walkers, joggers, people with strollers, people with dogs--tons of people! But we found a parking place and got to the Monument at about 1:15. The ranger asked who was pregnant, so another woman and I got special treatment, LOL. We got to go in the side door and not go through the security screening. Ahh, the perks and privileges of pregnancy. Then we zoomed up to the top in the elevator. No more climbing of all those stairs! They closed those awhile back.

It was really neat to look out all the windows and see the birds-eye view of the city. The boys all really enjoyed it. Anna was riding in her backpack, and she enjoyed it as long as Bob was moving, LOL.

When we were done and back on the ground, it was too nice of a day just to walk straight back to the car, so we meandered over to the World War II Memorial. We hadn't been to see it yet either, and I really liked it. I know there was criticism when it opened, but I liked all the wreaths and the quotes. Very moving. It was a good trip downtown, and it reminded me that I really want us to go to the National gallery of Art sometime before the baby is born! Maybe one day when Bob takes leave . . .

Friday, January 05, 2007

Welcome, Emily!!!!

My brother's wife Melinda delivered their first baby last night. Way to go, Melinda! You are awesome!! Emily Claire was born at 9:52 PM CST, and she was 8 pounds, 4 1/2 ounces, and 20 3/4 inches long. Dan says she has "long fingers and toes, and long, narrow feet". We all know where she gets those genes--Papa M! Luke has them too. Dan sent a few cute pictures. She likes to have her hand up by her face.

Melinda's water broke at 9:25 yesterday morning, and they started pitocin around that time. We kept getting updates throughout the day--she was 3 cm at 1:00, she was 5 cm by 5:00, and at 7:15 she was 9 cm. She started pushing at 7:45, took a half hour break at one point, and then Emily was born at 9:52, after 1 1/2 hours total of pushing. That's pretty good for a first baby!

It was hard being this far away! I wanted to know what was happening at all times, and I sort of puttered around nervously all day. We did school, but I spent half the time on the computer checking for updates, LOL. I've had some experience with the whole birthing proces, as you may know, LOL, and I feel that giving birth to your first child is about the most physically demanding thing a woman can do. Once you do that, you can do anything! So I am so proud of Melinda--great job!!! And know that it will never be that hard again, although I am sure you are thinking right now that you will NEVER do that again, not even that which got you in this predicament in the first place! : )

So we're all pretty excited here about another little girl in the family. You know, at the start of last year, my parents had 4 male grandchildren. By the middle of this year, they will have those same 4 male grandchildren AND 3 female grandchildren! We're catching up!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Off to a sputtering start . . .

Today we were supposed to start school back up again, but then former President Ford had to die, and it turned out that Bob got an extra day off to remember him. So, we put school off for another day while Bob played hours of football out in the front yard with the boys (and you know, Pres. Ford was a big football player back in his youth, so I feel that was a very appropriate way to honor him, LOL). I took down all the Christmas decorations except the actual tree, because I didn't feel like hauling in the ladder. The boys turned the lights on, though, so it is twinkling merrily, if a bit nakedly.

Tomorrow we are heading over the Christine's house at 10:00, so not much will get done before that. The McC's got a new microscope, but they can't see anything through it, so they are hoping my years-old microscope expertise will save the day. We'll see. Anyhow, that will count as science, right? And the ever-important "socialization", of course.

Thursday should be our first normal day of the year, but then Friday I have an OB appointment at 10:45, smack-dab in the middle of the morning, guaranteeing that we won't get all that much done then either. So NEXT week will be our big official start. Now we're just "warming up".

I'm sure you have all been dying to know what I have decided to do about Latin this year. We finished up Latina Christiana 1 right after Thanksgiving, and we just reviewed vocab until Christmas. I have decided that we will go back through Minimus again really quickly as another kind of fun review before starting Latina Christiana 2. Frankly, LC2 is a little intimidating, even for me, and I don't want to scare Luke, especially! This will give him that many more weeks of Easy Grammar under his belt before we tackle some of the concepts in LC2.

For history, we only have 8 more chapters in Story of the World 3, so we'll try to finish those fairly quickly. Then I think we will go a little deeper into early American history. I really want to go to Philadelphia before the new baby is born, so hopefully this will inspire me to plan the trip! My parents gave us what looks like a neat little book for Christmas called The Wonder of America : Remarkable Stories Celebrating the Spirit of Our Nation. It's a book of 100 short stories about Americans, some famous and some not, and it looks so interesting. I'm planning on reading one or two a day, maybe over lunch, as just some extra fun history-type reading.

In everything else, we'll just keep plugging away. I really do want to focus a lot on Caleb and his reading before this baby comes. Jonathan has ben showing a lot of interest in reading as well--maybe even more than Caleb, LOL.