Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Christmas Week Wrap-Up

The kids have thoroughly been enjoying all the new toys, games, and books they received for Christmas. My parents gave us a big red wagon (can you believe we have made it to 7 kids without ever getting a wagon?!), and the girls have been thrilled to be pulled around by their big brothers. They would ride all day, if you can imagine!

I am actually more in the Christmas spirit now, than I was before Christmas, and so yesterday the kids and I made peanut butter cups. I wanted to make caramels too, but I didn't have enough chocolate. I finally got around to ordering pictures to send out, so now all I have to do is write a Christmas letter to go with them! This WILL happen, if only because every year I put our Christmas letter and picture in my Christmas scrapbook, along with a few pictures of what we did Christmas Day, and I am just anal enough to want to ensure that there will not be a blank page for this year's letter! I love reading back over all the past years. It's such a good summary of our family each year.

We've all been enjoying the leftovers from our Christmas turkey. I made turkey pot pie on Monday, something I haven't made in years because of Caleb's milk allergy. When we were back in Ohio, Amy made a roast using Campbells golden mushroom soup. She said she had discovered this soup, which is dairy-free, acts like a cream soup in her recipes, and it goes well with beef or chicken. Mom made a roast for us using it and french onion soup mix for the gravy, and it was delicious. I decided to try out my old turkey pot pie recipe, which uses puff pastry sheets on top for the crust and could not be any easier, and use the mushroom soup in place of the cream of chicken/cream of potato soups. It was DELICIOUS! I was so excited! I love adding foods back into my repetoire! I also made a good turkey soup for dinner tonight. I roasted the carcass for about 45 minutes at 400 before boiling in water with herbs. I think it did add a good flavor to the broth. The recipe I used, which I found on the internet, also called for leftover dressing and gravy. Rice was called for instead of noodles, which I don't love in soups. So it was a lovely, thick soup, with a nice flavor. This was a good year for leftovers!

We started school back up again this week. We have been off since the week of Thanksgiving, so it was definiltey time. I really needed this break, though. It's been so refreshing. The kids have settled back into everything, and I was gratified, as always, to see that all their previously learned knowledge did not just fall out of their heads, LOL. In fact, Jonathan has really made big strides in his reading over these past few weeks, and now he can do all of his math worksheets without me reading the directions or the problems for him! Nice! Luke was quite concerned that he might have forgotten all his math, so we just did the past 3 tests, instead of moving ahead on new lessons. He hasn't forgotten, so that fear was put to rest, LOL. After the new year, Nathan is going to start doing a traditional logic program with Isaac McC. I bought DVDs, so neither Christine nor I will actually have to teach it. I am looking forward to seeing how that goes. Our country is in dire need of kids who can think logically!

With the laundry room finished up, Bob has turned his attention to the main floor bathroom. He just finished grouting in there tonight, so we will seal it tomorrow night. In an exciting and romantic date, Bob and I went to both Home Depot AND Lowes one evening and compared toilets. We were able to pick one that wasn't too expensive, even after all the very persuasive advertising ("Exceptional Bulk Flushing Power!") We did not consider anything under 5 stars (Lowes) or a rating of 10 ( Home Depot), so hopefully you will be assured that if you visit us, our main floor toilet will be able to take care of whatever you should need to flush.

Not having a toilet on the main floor (or a hooked-up washer) has given me the excuse to not work any more on Grace's potty training. She has not shown any signs of wanting to do it herself, and I showed no signs of wanting to run up and down stairs to empty a little potty (or wash out underwear, as would have most likely been the case). So now we will start back up with our 2 co-op a week schedule, and it will probably be spring break before we have any news on the front. Oh well. When you have been changing diapers for 12 1/2 years straight, what is a few more months of changing 2 people's diapers?!

As we look towards 2010, it is looking more and more likely that we will just be staying here in D.C. AFPC has given Bob a new assignment down at USJFCOM in Suffolk, VA, by Norfolk, and orders are in the works. Funnily enough, when this whole thing started back in July, that is really where we wanted to go--it wouldn't be that inconvenient of a move! But now, after thinking we were going to Guam and getting all excited about that, moving 3 hours away just doesn't seem that worth it. The housing program has been extended, so we would still qualify, but I guess I just don't feel any real call to move down there. I really felt like God was telling us he wanted us in Guam, and then He slammed that door shut suddenly, so who knows exactly what to think now, you know? It's hard to know what the right decision is. But Bob can retire, so he's thinking that sounds attractive now. I'm still not excited about staying here in all the traffic and expense, but I am trying to have a good attitude. I do really love our friends and church here, so it's not all bad.

Tomorrow night we will be celebrating at the traditional party over at the L's house. This is quite the highlight for the boys, and it's a good thing they are so generous about hosting it each year! We always have a great time, and we are looking forward to it! Happy New Year!!

A New Laundry Room!

The laundry room is finished!! It looks so nice! Here is a picture of the tile, so you can admire the lovely job Bob did in laying them and grouting them. Before you ask, no, he is not planning on going into the tile business after retirement. It's hard on the back and knees!
We used to have a utility sink next to our washer and dryer. It was next to useless because it didn't have legs, so it just hung from the wall. This meant that over time, it sank lower and lower in the front. When I would try to use it, if I didn't wipe the water completely out of the front of the sink, it would just stay there and get mildewy. Nice! So eventually I just started tossing things in there, things that were fairly light, but nonetheless, it was obvious I wasn't planning on using it anymore. We needed more storage in the laundry room, though. Along the wall opposite the washer and dryer we had 1 large shelving unit and 1 smaller one. I used these as an auxiliary pantry, because the one we have in our kitchen is not nearly big enough for the amount of food I get at our every-6-week trips to the commissary for a family of 9. Bob had the bright idea of not putting the utility sink back, after they took it out to paint, and instead getting some sort of cabinet. We went to Lowes last night, and lo and behold, they had one that was premade and already stained! Bob had thought he would be making one, and if so, we would have made it higher to match the height of the cabinets already there about the washer and dryer, but oh well. This saved a ton of time and work for Bob, and we can start using it immediately! We're hoping it will replace at least the bigger shelves, which will make it less crowded in there.
Here is a picture of the laundry room where you can see the wall that the shelves were against. The shelves completely blocked the door, which was fine because we never use that door. But it did make there be very little room for the multitudinous luandry baskets coming in and out of the room! The very best part of the picture, however, is that it shows the washer and dryer in good, working order! In my very own house! After 2 weeks of having to truck all of our vast quantities of laundry over to the L's house, it was like heaven to do it without setting foot outside! A modern Christmas miracle!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Random Thoughts. . . With Jonathan

When we traveled to and from PA last weekend, Jonathan elected to sit directly behind the driver's seat, right next to Faith. Caleb sat next to the other girls in the next row, and Nathan and Luke hung out in the back row. One nice thing about the big van is having some flexibility in seating arrangements!

This gave Bob and me some time to listen to Jonathan. And he certainly has a lot to say! For example, he has an unending collection of original jokes (maybe "riddles" is technically more accurate). Some are very, uh, cerebral, and all of them definitely bear the inventive mark of a 6 year old boy! Here are some examples:

Q: How does a snail ice-skate?

A: He turns over and puts a skate on his shell.

Q: How does a house drive?

A: On its chimney.

Q: How does a red light cross the road?

A: It just goes across.

(Me: But won't the other cars run over it?
Jonathan: It's a RED light. They have to stop.)

So you can see how the miles just fly by when you are cogitating on a constant stream of these!

Jonathan also just chatters away, on whatever random thoughts cross through his brain. Here is a small sample of this, where Jonathan is talking about future plans to build a car wash:

"I think I'll build it out of sticks . . . and I'll attach it together with glue . . . but the glue might melt . . . so maybe I'll attach it with sticks . . . or eggs! I could use eggs . . . Look, there's a castle! . . . Or maybe I'll build it out of rocks . . ."

Bob and I were about hanging our heads out the window, but we never could see what castle Jonathan was talking about! Maybe it was only in the land of Jonathan's mind . . . driving on its chimney . . .

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!!

I hope everyone had a wonderful celebration of Christ's birth today! We did, starting with a beautiful candelight service at church last night. We are now meeting for morning services at a neaby middle school, and we just haven't been with it enough to go to the evening service lately, so it had been a while since we were in our lovely old little church. It is the perfect place for a candlelight service!

Actually, yesterday was a good day all in all, in that I finally really made noticeable progress in getting the house back together again. All the books are back in our 3 double bookcases in the the study, and the dining room, while still filled with laundry room stuff, is a little mroe organized. I got a box for shoes and a big box for coats, since we have no place to put them, and that has helped keep the entry way passable. I find I am better able to get in the Christmas spirit when the house is not a total wreck! I made some stuff for today's dinner yesterday, and I also baked some cookies. Of course, Bob and I stayed up way too late wrapping presents. I greatly dislike wrapping presents, and I had not wrapped a single one, even though I had finished my shopping for the kids back in Ohio. Next year I am resolved to wrap presents as they come in! And maybe I'll lose those 10 pounds too . . .

This morning, Bob's sister Ann, her husband Wally, and their adult son Matthew drove up from Richmond to spend the day. We had a great time! Our family opened stockings first thing and then ate breakfast. The kids played while I showered, and Ann and Wally got here around 10:30. Then we all opened gifts. We really don't get the kids much--2 gifts each, one of them being a book--but it sure looked like a Walmart had exploded in our living room! They got a lot of very nice gifts from relatives, and they all spent the rest of the day happily building Lego sets, reading books, wearing Star Wars Clone trooper helmets (Caleb and Jonathan), wearing princess jewelry (Anna and Grace), and getting into things (Faith). Ann teaches cake decorating at Michael's, and she had brought some of her cake decorating stuff, plus a bunch of cupcakes. She taught the kids some decorating techniques and let them practice on cupcakes, which they really enjoyed. Actually, their absolute favorite part was eating the icing, if you can imagine that.

We ate our big meal at 3:00, and we had our birthday party for Jesus later in the afternoon. Then we played a game of Apples to Apples, which was a lot of fun. You need a game that is not too mentally strenuous after all that food! By then it was raining/sleeting, so Ann and Wally needed to get back on the road before things got too messy. We were so glad they came up though!

This year, I tried a new turkey recipe. Several weeks ago, I roasted a chicken using a recipe from my Dining on A Dime cookbook. It was sooo good--like Boston Market! The recipe said you could use it for a turkey, so that is what I tried. Let me tell you, it really turned out well. Probably the best turkey I've had! It was very moist and flavorful. So as a Christmas present to you, I'm going to give you the recipe:

Roast Sticky Chicken or Turkey

4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. thyme
1 tsp. white pepper [I don't have this, so I don't use it!]
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 large (10#) whole chicken, chicken parts, or 20 # turkey (double spices if using on a big turkey)
1 cup chopped onion

Combine all the spices. Remove innards from chicken (or turkey). Rinse chicken. Rub the spice mixture into the chicken both inside and out, making sure it is evenly distributed and down deep into the skin. Place in a 9x13 pan (or a turkey roasting pan), seal with foil and refrigerate overnight. If using chicken parts, just rub over both sides of parts. When ready to roast chicken, stuff cavity with onions. If using chicken parts, place on top of onions. Roast, uncovered, at 250 degrees for 5 hours. Roast chicken parts 3-5 hours. Roast a turkey 8-10 hours. After the first hour, baste chicken with pan juices every half hour to 45 minutes. If you don't have enough juices to baste, you can add 1 cup water to the pan. The chicken will be golden to dark brown with carmelized juices on the bottom. Let the chicken rest about 10 minutes before carving.

Notes from me: My oven doesn't go down as low as 250, so I roasted at 275. The chicken I roasted was done in about 3 hours. I roasted a 19 pound turkey, and it took 7 hours. I tented the top with foil after the first 3-4 hours, because it was getting dark brown. I worried that the turkey would be dry after being in the oven for so long, but it was so very moist! Delicious! Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Snow in VA

Here are a few pictures from the big snowfall of the past weekend. THe first picture is looking out our front door at Bob's van, which was parked on the street. It is so buried! It's going to take forever to dig it out! The snow is even higher than the doors on the other side, where the snowplow pushed snow! The government was basically shut down to day, so Bob didn't have to go in this morning. Yay!

Here is the driveway, with my minivan, and the big van beside it. The boys and I did manage to dig out my van, so I'm thinking that's what Bob will take in tomorrow. We also shoveled the walkway.

The boys spent the rest of the time making elaborate snow forts and paths throughout the front yard. Here is Caleb in one of the forts.

Faith watched forlornly all day from inside the glass storm door. This afternoon I got her all dressed up and took her outside. She was not a fan, LOL--not of the snowsuit, the mittens, the snow, the cold--none of it! But she looked cute!

Here are all the kids, all dressed up! They can't wait to get back out there tomorrow!

I spent my time putting books back on the bookshelves in the family room and study. You'd think I'd be done, but I'm not. I should have taken a picture before I left, so that I would remember how everything went! It's taking me forever to get it all right again.

Bob has spent his day finishing tiling the laundry room. All he has left are the ones that go around the edge, and he is cutting them now. Then they have to cure for 24 hours, after which he can grout. That has to dry 36 hours. I am looking forward to getting my washer and dryer back, but it is all looking so nice in there!

Early Christmas in PA

Friday afternoon we left to drive up to PA to visit Bob's family. We didn't leave until 3:30 because I just couldn't get it together any sooner. When it took us an hour to get to the outskirts of town, we remembered why we prefer to drive up Saturday mornings, LOL. A big blizzard was forecast (how often are they right about those things?!), so I guess there were a lot of other people trying to get out of D.C. before it. We made it to Bob's parents' house jsut a little while before his sister Rose and her 2 girls, who were coming from NE PA, and his brother Paul and his son Brandon who live nearby. The cousins had a wonderful time together--and only part of it was that Brandon shared his PSP and Maddie and Amanda shared their (pink) DSs with the boys!

We all got to bed at the hotel late Friday night, so we just relaxed Saturday morning. We all went swimming in the hotel pool, which was nice. This was Faith's first time in a pool, and she loved it! She also looked adorably cute in her little pink swimsuit with a ruffle. I think she is one of the few of our kids who have loved the pool the first time. Most take until they are about 3 to enjoy it, LOL.

Then we headed back over to Bob's parents' house. It snowed in PA too, so Bob had to get the big van brushed off. We have snow scrapers in both minivans, but nothing in the big van. I guess we really weren't expecting any snow! The other cousins had gone sledding at Paul's house, and the boys were so disappointed that I had not thought to pile all of their snow stuff in the van! Oh well. Meanwhile we watched the Weather Channel and saw how VA was getting walloped with snow. Luke especially felt we should be at home, watching it all come down! He could not believe that so far VA has had 2 snow storms, and we have been out of town for both of them! They had to console themselves with more video games on their cousins' machines.

Faith enjoyed the attention of everyone. Here she is with Bob's mom and sister. Bob's brother-in-law Terry and sister Jane came over Saturday afternoon, along with their son Franklin. We had hoped that Jane and Terry would be able to convince Faith to walk, since they have worked their magic on some of our other kids, like Jonathan, but no such luck. She is really standing steadily on her own, but she will absolutely NOT move her feet one tiny bit.

Maddie and Amanda were so sweet in playing with Anna and Grace. The girls had a great time! Nathan played a rousing game of pinochle with Bob's other relatives, which he won. This was the point where Bob's parents got a little fiesty and tired of all the commotion, so we all beat a hasty retreat back to the hotel.
Grace was sleeping in a sleeping bag, but she is still too wiggly, I think. The first night she wiggled under a chair a few times, and I had to keep rescuing her. She didn't wiggle as much the second night, so maybe she was getting used to it, but she was very stuffed up, so she still didn't sleep very well.
Sunday morning the kids swam again with Bob, while Faith took a nap and I showered. Then we loaded up and headed back over to the house. There we loaded up the amazing haul of presents we received from all of Bob's family. We really had to shoehorn it all in there, but we managed to make it fit! We left around 1:15 because we were concerned about the roads. They were really pretty good, especially the big ones like the turnpike. But I-70 was already backing up, so we got off and went some back way. It was really pretty, with a lot of neat old houses. We got back around 5:30. Once we had learned how much snow VA got, my big question the whole weekend was how we were going to get into our driveway and house. It turned out I was right to be concerned, but I hadn't taken into account our wonderful neighbors! One of them had obviously snowblowed our driveway for us! What an incredible blessing, because I can't imagine shoveling out a driveway full of 2 feet of snow with tired kids waiting in the van! All we had to do was shovel a path through the great mound of snow plow snow in front of the driveway, and that took long enough! SO we had a good weekend, but we were really thankful to get home safely.
A bonus picture: Faith was enamoured with the cute baby on the other side if this glass all weekend long.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Home Again

We made it home safely on Tuesday, in time to drop Luke off at his Upward basketball practice and catch the last quarter of Nathan's game. So far, Nathan's team won the games we missed while we were in Ohio, and lost the 2 games since we've been home. Hmmmm . . .

We came to home to an echoing house because the carpet for the family room, study, basement stairs, first room in the basement, and the back stairs was coming on Wednesday. All the furniture from the main floor rooms was in the play room and dining room, along with all the food that was in the laundry room, which had also been emptied out. The family room and several other rooms had been painted, and Bob is in the process of laying tile in the laundry room and the main floor half bath (another empty room).

So Wednesday the kids and I hung out at the L's house, while they were at Great Wolf Lodge. I did 4 loads of laundry, since we are without a washer and dryer for the next little while, until the tiling gets finished. I also baked some ginger snaps and made some peppermint bark, since the thought of baking in my kitchen, where tools were covering pretty much every flat surface, was too much to think about! The carpet guys came, and the new carpet looks great! It's a berber, and we hope it will stand up to the wear and tear of 7 kids for a long time.

Today the kids and I ran to the commissary to get our Christmas turkey. Tomorrow we are leaving to go to PA to visit Bob's family for the weekend, including his sister Rose and her 2 girls, who are also driving in for the weekend. It will be great to see everyone, but it is a little hard for me to leave when there is so much to do to get the house in any semblance of order before Christmas, not to mention extras like putting up the Christmas tree. It's a good thing our Christian radio station plays Christmas music all the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas--otherwise I would not have any Christmas spirit at all!

When we come back, I think the focus for me will be on getting the family room back in order. Then maybe I'll feel better about putting up the tree, which the kids are really wanting to do. I guess it's good we have kids, because otherwise I would cheerfully just not worry about it at all! I had planned on starting school again when we came back from Ohio, but that has not happened. I'm not even sure where all the school books even are! Hopefully I'll be able to get the study back in order by the time January rolls around.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Church Thoughts

We're still here in Ohio, although we are heading home Tuesday. We had a fun time Thursday over at Amy's house (and no one got sick!), and then Friday we spent the day with Beverly and her family. She has 5 kids, and all 12 kids got along very well and played very nicely together so that Beverly and I could spend a long time talking and catching up! It has been 5 years since we've actually seen each other, but it didn't seem anywhere near that long with blogging and Facebook. We have a lot in common, so it was fun to talk about homeschooling, having more kids (or not), and other things.

Today the kids and I visited a different church. Often we go to the base chapel, which is where my parents go and where Bob and I got married 16 1/2 years ago. A lot of retirees are still there that we knew back then, so it is always fun to go back there and see everyone. When we were stationed here last time, however, we actually attended an off-base church. That church now has a new pastor, who is a bit of a cheerleader, rather than someone who really digs into the Word each week, which is one reason we wouldn't attend there again if we ever moved back.

But another reason is that they have sort of gone a different direction than we are, in terms of youth stuff. This is an area that we hadn't considered until the past few years when the boys started getting older. We started getting a lot less comfortable with the way that a lot of churches send the youth off doing tons of super fun and exciting things during services . . . until all of a sudden, the kids get too old and have to start sitting through church. Then they find it dull, and the church often responds by jazzing up the background behind the pastor, adding tons of video clips and drama segments, taking away any significant time really spent in corporate prayer (because that is really boring, and surely you can just sing more worship songs for the same effect . . .) And still, studies show that a lot of kids who grow up going faithfully to church very frequently turn away from church altogether when they reach college.

As it turns out, the Christian walk is not all excitement and goofy songs and games. It actually involves discipline, and I don't think the churches are often doing a good enough job of balancing that. I especially think that kids need to see their parents worshipping, and be a part of that as well. The church we go to in VA does have children's church until 3rd grade, so I'm not saying I'm totally against ever having your children be separate. But I do think it is very important for kids to start worshipping and learning how to sit still and reverently listen before they get into high school! And if the pastor is really good, then they might even choose to sit in the service before 3rd grade! Caleb and Jonathan both choose to sit with us in service, and Jonathan has even told us recently that he feels like God wants him to be a pastor, like Pastor Mike. We discuss the sermon together, and the kids often sing the songs we sing at church around the house.

Well, all that to say that it bothers me that, should we move back here, I don't know what church we would attend, so when we are back visiting, I like to try different churches. This time I googled "reformed baptist" in this area, and I found 3 churches, one of which we tried today. I must say we really enjoyed it! As we were driving there, Luke talked about how nervous he was, and how he didn't like visiting new churches. Me either! But as we drove away from there, he said, "Those people were all so nice!" And they really were. Everyone we saw engaged us in conversation, even more than just the surface chit-chat of "Are you a visitor? New to the area?" The families who sat in front of us and behind us both talked to us for quite a while. The family in front of us had 10 kids, so we didn't feel out of place, LOL.

This church only has nursery up to 2 years of age, and after that, everyone is in the service. There were quite a lot of kids, and when someone was loud, the parents just took them out, dealt with them, and came back in. So nice to see! There was also a nice mix of ages represented in the congregation. It definitely didn't have a showy worship leader or anything, and I am just fine with that. We even sang songs out of the hymnal! That is what I really miss, now that our church back home meets for morning service at a middle school. All the songs are on a screen. I used to love flipping through hymnals when I was little, and I think it helps keep kids engaged in the song when they can follow right along with the words right directly in front of them. So I liked that a lot. I liked the pastor as well. His sermon was on part of Luke 5, but I couldn't tell if he was preaching expositorily through Luke or not. I definitely prefer that style of preaching, verse-by-verse exposition.

So to sum it all up, I would definitely go back there! The people were just so nice, and the preaching was good as well. And they seemed to line up with what I am looking for as far as kids. No youth group mentioned!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Still On Vacation

The kids and I are still here in Ohio. I didn't bring any schoolwork, so it has been so very nice to be completely on break. So nice, in fact, that I am hoping I can scrape together motivation to ever start again, LOL. Unfortunately, we must return home next week, so all good things must come to an end.

We have not been too terribly active. It's been cold and gloomy, and we've mainly stayed inside the past few days. Yesterday Mom's group of international wives came over. I had made cut-out sugar cookies yesterday morning, and the ladies decorated them in the afternoon. they made these intricate and delicate works of art. After dinner, the kids decorated the rest of the cookies. They made frosting-heavy works of sprinkles. And a mess--they also made a huge mess.

My parents have a Korean lady and her daughter living with them right now. They used to be stationed here, when the husband was getting his master's degree at AFIT. Now he is back in Korea, getting his PhD, and his family is here so he can have peace and quiet to work on his dissertation! Amy, the daughter, is 4 years old, so she, Anna, and Grace have been having so much fun playing together. She has several "princess" dresses, which her mom picked up very cheaply at a garage sale, so each evening all the girls get dressed up in their princess finery.

Work is progressing on our house back in VA. Painting has begun, and Bob has finished getting the trim around the hardwood floor in the kitchen. Much drywall was patched. They are also going to start tiling the laundry room floor.

I am still dealing with the news that we won't be moving. I'm having a lot of trouble processing it, to be honest. It seems so capricious that God would work things so that it looked like we were supposed to go, and then at the last minute take that all away. He could have stopped things back in September, and no one would have been as disappointed. Now I have to accept staying in Northern VA for good, and I'm having a hard time with that. When we moved there 5 1/2 years ago, I can clearly remember thinking, "Well, it will only be 4 years." But now it's forever?! Bleh. I hate the idea that the girls will grow up never having lived anywhere else but there. It will be nice to have the house finally be a little nicer, but since that comes with the knowledge that we are stuck with it, I'm not as excited as I thought I would be. I guess I'm just a little depressed. It's nice to be here in Ohio, where at least there is some distance from it all.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Here in Ohio

We've had an unusual past few days! The kids and I left Monday to drive to Ohio. We had a good trip, although we did have some rain and even snow. Faith was fussy in the morning, but eventually she resigned herself to her fate and wasn't quite as loud anymore. We shoveled a bunch of snacks her way as well, which didn't hurt, LOL.

Yesterday Nathan and my dad drove back to VA. They are going to work on our house, and there are certainly plenty of things to do! Right now they are working in the family room. The guy we bought the house from was an electrical engineer who loved wiring things, and there was a huge rat's nest of wires behind our couch, where they had their entertainment center. You really can't imagine how many wires were back there! He also had plastic plates on the walls ALL. OVER. where he had wired for speakers. My dad cut off all the wires, took off all the plates, and is patching over all the places! It's going to look so nice!

While they were driving, the other kids and I went over to Amy's house. We were supposed to spend the night because Amy's husband was out of town. We had planned a nice night of scrapbooking and talking! Alas, it was not to be. Caleb had woken up that morning not feeling good, and he basically didn't eat any breakfast or lunch. He felt better then, so we went ahead over. Around dinner time, Luke and I both started feeling really, really nauseous. It hit so fast! Neither of us ate dinner, and we just sort of laid on the couch, hoping it would all pass. Eventually I threw up, and we decided it was the better course to head back to my mom's house. This turned out to be a wise decision, as Luke threw up 4 times once we got home, and Anna and Grace both starting throwing up around midnight. Anna threw up 3 times, and Grace 4. I had to change the sheets and their pajamas many times. It definitely made for a sleepless night for me, but thankfully I never threw up again. Everyone is feeling better today, but I have a huge headache, probably from my choppy night.

The other odd thing thaat happened is that we heard again from AFPC. Bob talked to them on Wednesday, and they surprised him with the news that the people in Guam were thinking about filling that IG job internally, as they had 3 top people leaving, a big inspection next summer, and they wanted some continuity. So they were going to move one of the people supposed to PCS over to the IG job. We found out today that they definitely are going to do this, so we will not be going to Guam. I'm disappointed! I was really looking forward to the slow-paced island life and meeting the people I've been corresponding with by email. This does explain why we hadn't received orders. We were wondering what was taking so long. Soooo, now we don't really know what is happening. One thing we were hoping to do by taking another assignment is sell our house and take advantage of the military homeowners assistance program. Well, right now that requires a report date of 29 Feb., and the jobs they are talking t Bob about don't have report dates until May or June. Congress is talking about extending the program, but again . . . you never know with them. Certainly not something you can count on! So once again, we are back at square one, as far as assignments go. It's been the weirdest thing.

Well, that's where we're at now.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!!

We have had a lovely Thanksgiving this year, and it all began on Wednesday! Bob got off work early, so we met him at Olive Garden for a late lunch. We were seated at a long table, and there were some booths across from us. About halfway through our meal, a family with 3 teenage boys got up to leave. The dad approached our table, and I figured he would say something about the kids, because that actually does happen fairly frequently. The kids really are usually pretty well-behaved in restaurants, and people come over and comment on that. He did compliment us on having a lovely family, and he also thanked Bob for his service (Bob was still in his uniform). Then as he was turning to walk away, he put a pile of bills on the table, telling us it was to pay for our meal! We were so astounded--it was $60! Amazingly, that was almost the exact total of our meal. Since we are now a "large party" all by ourselves, most places automatically include the tip, and the grand total was $59.17. Isn't that cool?!

Yesterday we had our big meal over the L's house with 3 other families. I think this is the absolute best way to do it--all the great food, but no one person has to do that much! ed smoked 3 turkeys, Elizabeth made the mashed potatoes, stuffing, and gravy, and the rest of us filled in with side dishes and dessert. I brought cran-apple-pear sauce, sweet potato casserole, sweet potato biscuits, a chocolate Snickers cheesecake, and banana cookies. We all ate a ton and had a great time visiting!

Faith got to eat her first Thanksgiving meal up in Theodore's high chair. She was a big fan! She is at the point now where I can just put a bunch of food on her tray, and she will feed herself everything. I gave her sweet potatoes, a little bit of turkey, a sweet potato biscuit, some green beans, and the cranberry sauce, which she loved. She chowed down while I helped everyone else get their food, and then she got down and played while I ate! She did one funny thing while we were all sitting around talking. She was playing with this set of juggling stick-things that Ed has, waving them around. They are long, sort of like batons. Somehow she got her arm over one end, and the other end was on her neck. The harder she pulled down her arm, the harder the other end was on her neck! She pinned herself down with a stick! It takes some skill to be outwrestled by yourself, LOL.

After we got home last night, we all wanted nothing more than to go to sleep. But we knew the cleaning lady was coming today, so we had to finish getting ready for her! We have been furiously decluttering all week long, and the rest of the house was really looking fairly good, but the kitchen was still a problem. After washing all the dished, I finally just got a box and put everything on the counters in it. Problem solved! If looks great! If only we didn't have to actually live here! So the lady and another lady are here right now, cleaning away. I feel odd, like I should be doing something helpful instead of sitting in the computer . . . Bob took the other kids out to Chuck E. Cheese for lunch and playing, to get them out of the ladies' hair. Having a clean house is going to be so wonderful! I am so thankful for these ladies!!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Down Time

We are officially on our long Thanksgiving break now, and it couldn't have come at a better time! I really felt like I had no margin of patience whatsoever, and by the end of each day, as kids were crabby and loud, I was having a very hard time dealing. But we've all been sleeping in yesterday and today, and yesterday I had a massage! It was at a new place, Massage Envy, which is a franchise place for massages. Who knew?! They were running a special for first time customers--$49 for 1 hr--so that's why I went. I booked the appointment for 2:00. This is really the first time that I have actually booked something, knowing that I would just be going off and leaving the kids by themselves, and I must say that I did struggle with a lot of guilt as I drove off. It all seemed so frivolous and spendy and just selfish! But I tamped down the guilt and went on, LOL.

The place was really nice and relaxing. When I made the appointment, the girl asked me what kind of massage I wanted, and I said "deep tissue", since I have some specific problems in my shoulder and hip that I am always looking to address. I didn't really feel like the therapist did much deep tissue work--it still was mostly Swedish, with the long strokes. That feels great and is very relaxing, but I had high hopes for more kinks to be worked out of my hip and shoulder. Oh well. I told Bob that I really think you get the best massages from students doing their practical work at student clinics. There they want to practice what they've been learning and actually try to fix your problem! At a place like this, they just want you to come back (because the regular price of an hour massage is $98, unless you become a "member" and pay $59 a month, which entitles you to one massage a month!).

I did notice later that night, however, that the massage really was better than I gave it credit for at first! Everyone was fussing at each other again . . . but I was floating above it all! Really, I felt so calm and unbothered. The difference was truly amazing.

I also had some time to finally look at another nagging problem of mine Sunday night. I have had this very sore spot on the side of my right middle finger, not too far from the bottom of the nail bed. Some of you may remember my nightmare finger problem back in March 08, where after we all had strep and pinkeye, I got a staph infection in a hangnail, which had to be lanced, etc. Well, that was also in this same finger, in almost the same spot. What is up with that?! It has been very painful to the touch for a little while now--I can't remember when it started--and lately it had gotten a little raised bump there, like a callus or wart or something. I wondered if maybe it was a plantar wart, which I have never seen before, but Ed L. looked at it after Bible study and said it didn't look like that. The bump had what looked like a tiny black spot in the middle of it, so finally had the brainstorm that maybe, possibly it might be a splinter. I soaked it for a long time Friday night, and by Sunday I got out the tweezers. After some digging, I finally successfully removed a very thin thorn-like thing that apparently went straight down into my finger some time when I didn't even notice it! I am still running my finger over the area in amazement, as it no longer hurts! It's interesting to consider what you will eventually accept as normal when you really don't have time to investigate something that is wrong, LOL.

So I am feeling much better and healthier after just 2 days of my break! Imagine how great I'll feel in 2 more weeks! : )

Friday, November 20, 2009

Faith is 9 months!

Faith had her 9-month well-baby appointment today. She was 15 pounds, 1 ounce, and 28 inches long. This keeps her solidly in the 2nd percentile, so she is still a peanut. The doctor was okay with that, as long as she doesn't drop anymore. She said that Faith was advanced in many ways for 9 months, and she has some rolls of subcutaneous fat on her legs and arms, so she is obviously healthy!

Faith is turning out to be a great eater! She is really coming along with table foods. I usually give her some baby food at the beginning, just to make sure she gets enough, but she finger-feeds herself the rest of the meal, whatever we are having. She has 6 teeth, though, so chewing is not too hard! I haven't given her just plain meat, but anything in a soup or casserole I give her, as well as plain vegetables.

She pulls herself to standing all the time, and she will even stand by herself for a few seconds if we let go. She creeps along the edge of chairs or tables, so maybe walking is not too far off? She is a very speedy crawler! If I put her down in the family room and walk back to the kitchen, it's just a few seconds before she is right back under my feet and pulling up on my legs, like in the picture! That view is one I get quite a bit! Her new skill is climbing stairs. I'm working with her on turning herself around to go down them backwards, but she definitely hasn't mastered that yet! We are having to be very diligent about guarding the stairs!

I have started bringing a bottle for her the past few weeks of CC, so I didn't have to take time out to nurse her. She doesn't love the bottle, but she will drink enough of it to hold her off until lunchtime, even without a nap. That has been nice. She will drink water from a sippy cup, but I haven't tried anything else. I just gave her regular formula in the bottle, and she has tolerated that. I was a bit concerned, since she is an odd-numbered baby, and our odd ones (LOL) tend to be more allergy-prone. So far so good, however.

So at 9 months, Faith is a happy, active little baby who loves all her siblings, and is adored by them in turn! What a life!


Finally I can take a little bit of a breath! I am done with co-ops until after New Year's! I have really enjoyed CC, and I know the kids are learning a lot (even Anna walks around the house singing the history songs), but it has sure taken a lot out of me! Technically we still have 2 more weeks of our other co-op after Thanksgiving, a fine arts unit, but we are just skipping it. In fact, most of the kids and I are going to Ohio to visit! A vacation!! I say "most" because it looks like Nathan is going to stay here, and my dad is going to come here, and they are going to work on some painting/projects around the house while all the rugrats and anklebiters are out of the way. Oh, I hope they can get a lot done! There sure is a lot to do.

Originally the plan was that we would drive 2 vans out to Ohio, with Bob towing a trailer of stuff that we didn't want to store. But now he has dithered around to not being as excited about PCSing, so it looks like that plan is not going to happen. We have not gotten official orders yet, and so Bob hasn't had to make a formal decision, but if he were to have to decide today, we wouldn't go. Sigh. It's all been stressful. I guess I'll say more when we know for sure.

In the meantime, I am REALLY, REALLY looking forward to seeing my mom and Amy, and just relaxing, without having to be somewhere and preparing stuff all the time.

In other news, our digital camera has died. I'm so thankful that it waited to kick the bucket until after the Egypt 5th week! I had a lot of trouble uploading those pictures onto our computer, so I'm wondering if it wasn't in the death spiral then, so to speak. We got it the Christmas before Anna was born, back in 2005. I was not excited about it at.all. because I knew we'd never get pictures developed from all the images we would take, just like everyone always complained about. But then Dan and Melinda introduced me to Snapfish, and that hasn't been a problem for me! Last week I was going through stuff in my desk, and I found our old camera. It was on pictures number 22, so I took a few more pictures of the kids to finish out the roll of film. The little ones (Caleb and younger) were confused that you couldn't just see the picture immediately ("Where's the screen?"), and when the film was rewinding, they were quite amazed at all the noise! Now I need to get that film developed. Anyway, I finally did consent to start taking pictures with the digital camera. Now I guess we need to look for another one. I abhor shopping for technical things, because there are so many different options out there, all of them expensive, and it is so hard to tell which features really add value (especially to a non-technophile like me), and which ones just sound impressive (but we would never use). Maybe a camera will be this year's after-Thanksgiving sale purchase? Bob had cracked the code on that--shop the internet! Same great deals, no standing in line with crazy people! He's been able to get great deals on internet things the past few years, so we'll see what this year brings.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Ancient Egypt 5th Week Activity

The grand finale for our Egypt unit at co-op was this morning. It was a lot of fun, but I think I can speak for all the teachers when I say I'm glad it's over, LOL. Above you can see 4 ancient Egyptians, come back in the flesh! Luke's tier painted these cool collars. The rest of the tiers colored ones made out of paper from Oriental Trading Co., but they were stiff and uncomfortable, so I came home with a bunch of them.
Here I am in the mummy room. I spoke for about 10 minutes, talking about the process of mummification. I welcomed the kids to our embalming shop and said I had heard they wanted to be my apprentices. I talked about the natron we used ("finest in all Egypt"!), and what the salt did to the body. I showed the mummified, but unwrapped, chicken that you can see me holding in the picture above. The kids were fairly impressed by the chicken, LOL. I let them all smell him, and many, especially the boys, also wanted to touch him. On the table behind me you can see some "canopic jars" that another lady made several years ago. Her kids are all grown out of TNT, so she let us borrow them. King Cluck's golden coffin is on the other side of me on the table.

After I talked, we let them practice their emblaming skills on bananas. They split the left side with a plastic knife, and then scooped out the innards with a plastic spoon. They placed the goop into their dixie cup "canopic jars". Then they taped the slit with white waterproof tape, and wrapped the banana with toilet paper strips. Above you can see Luke and Caleb McC with their finished products.

Nathan was my able assistant, and here you can see him standing with King Cluck in his golden coffin, ready for his journey to the next life. They are next to a mummy that we also borrowed from Joy, the one with the canopic jars. It was technically a Halloween decoration, with spooky green eyes, that you were supposed to put batteries in so that it would light up and make spooky sounds. We did not do this, LOL, and in fact, we re-wrapped him so that the eyes were covered up, and so that he looked more like a recently mummified body, as opposed to one stumbling out of a tomb 1500 years later. By the end of the time, his strips were sagging, however. He was an impressive ornament for our mummy shop!

Another mom was in the room with me, and she did yeoman's work, keeping up with the demand for toilet paper strips and pieces of tape! We had a lot of fun together! Neissy also did a wonderful job decorating the room with pictures, and even a huge poster of Isis that she drew and our kids colored! Her daughter, who is about the same age as Anna, was also a great helper, passing out cotton balls and toilet paper strips.

There were also 3 other rooms that the tiers rotated through. One of them was an excavation lab, so the kids could see what archeologists do. They had a great time brushing of artifacts they found in their gridded areas. Jonathan was excited to find hieroglyphics on a piece of pottery! Here he is with Pharaoh Daniel McC, who is sporting the double crown of unified Egypt, of course.
Another room was the food/music room. There the kids got to sample pomegranete seeds, dates, grapes, and flatbread. Then they learned the motions to "Pharaoh, Pharoah", that old camp classic, which they then sang.
The other room was a tomb room. One part of the room was darkened, lit with little lamps,a nd they talked about tombs and treasures. Then they heard the story of the discovery of King Tut's tomb, and they went through a little maze. There they saw the "treasure" that was left in the tomb, drew some hieroglyphics of their own on the "walls" of the tomb, saw Tut's sarcophagus, and played the Senet game which was left in the tomb. Pretty cool!
So all in all, it was a great day, and the kids had fun! I think they all learned alot about Ancient Egypt over the past 5 weeks, and I am sure they will remember a lot! I'm tired though, and so we're going out to Chik-Fil-A for dinner tonight! Yay for modern conveniences!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Still Alive . . .

I just wanted to let everyone know that I have made it through my 2 weeks of teaching at co-op! I think the lessons went well. The first week was about hieroglyphics, and for the second week, we talked about the Egyptian religion, specifically the 10 plagues of Egpyt and how they were attacks on 10 of their gods. It was really interesting for to learn about too! Now we just have the 5th week activity, but I, in a fit of rare inspiration, have already typed up everything I'm going to say for that! I still have to finish painting the cardboard mummies, and make the coffin for King Cluck, though.

Next week is the last week to teach tin whistle at CC also. Amazingly, I already have my lesson done and hand-outs ready for that too! That is not due to any foresight, however. Today at CC we had a special guest speaker (a man from South Africa who is also a missionary there--fascinating man! I wish he could have spoken longer!), and so we were running short on time. Also, the tutor who has been teaching tin whistle to the little guys was sick, so I would have had to teach all the classes together. I can't even fathom how that would have worked, so I told the director I wasn't interested, and could we just skip it for today?! Thankfully she said yes, so now I'm all prepared for next week! Whew!

I'm so tired now, though. We've been busy cleaning and organizing as well. Bob had off Wednesday for Veterans' Day, and we really got a lot done (not that there isn't tons more to do, LOL). Hopefully this weekend will also be productive. We need a few nice days' of weather so we can finish up some outside stuff. Wednesday it poured down rain steadily, so that was not that day. We did throw away a ton more things.

We've also been giving back things to people as we find them. In our shed we have the smallest size of boys' bike, the one that all our boys learned how to ride on. It was actually handed down to us from the L's, after Anthony and Zachary had used it. I must say it has served faithfully! Anyhow, now the L's have Theodore, and while he won't be riding a bike for a few more years, it would certainly be fitting for him to learn to ride the same bike that his brothers both learned on! So we have given that back to the L's.

We're still dealing with this little 2-day fever sickness thing that we've been struggling with this season. We all went to church 2 Sundays ago, and then Grace got sick again Saturday. And then Faith, and then Nathan on Wednesday and Caleb today. Nathan and Caleb had to stay home by themselves during CC today. Grace and Faith are still really snotty and snuffly. I'm ready for us all to be healthy!

Right now Bob and the kids are making pizzelles, a crunchy cookie from Eastern Europe that you cook on a pizzelle maker, which is like a little waffle maker. They tried a chocolate variation, with chocolate syrup so Caleb could have some, which were quite tasty. They like to bend the hot pizzelles under a little bowl to make it into a bowl shape. These are delicious as ice cream bowls, and that is what is being planned for later this evening!

Friday, November 06, 2009

Happy Birthday, Caleb!

Caleb turned 8 on Thursday! He got to bring Laffy Taffy candy for the kids in his Classical Conversation class, which he really enjoyed. He also got to pick his dinner, and again he picked "tuna pockets", which makes me laugh, since that is something I make when I am stretched for time and need something easy! Hey, it's a favorite. We had garlic stir-fried green beans too.

We gave him a Redskins jersey, which he was really thrilled with. We all know the Redskins aren't very good this year, but he really wanted a jersey of some kind, and well, Redskins ones are what they sell around here, so he was quite happy.

He requested an F-22 cake, which I made today and we took to Bible study tonight. It went together fairly easily, although I was worried about the tail fins, since they are at an angle. As it turned out, I should have secured them with skewers because the left one did topple once we got to the L's house. Oh well. We put a toothpick in so we could take pictures there! Can anyone guess what I used for the nose antenna? It's not a pretzel, since I didn't have any little sticks, only huge pretzel rods. It's a . . . .

. . . piece of dry spaghetti! It worked out just fine!

The reason the frosting is all mottled is that the real planes are painted in 2-tone gray like that. Radar-deflecting and all, you know. We got out several books from the library, even some specifically about the F-22, so I know of what I speak, LOL.

At home, Caleb laid out how he wanted his candles to be positioned. He had the clever idea to put 2 sticking out from the engines, like afterburners. It did make for a cool effect!

Happy birthday, Caleb! I hope this next year is a wonderful one for you!!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Radio Silence

Luke was scrolling down my blog today, and he noted that I had not been posting very much lately. He's correct, and it's going to get worse before it gets any better at all! The next 3 weeks are going to be crazy for me. They are my 3 weeks to teach at our big co-op, so I am furiously trying to get my lessons in order for that. For the first week, we're going to talk about hieroglyphics, numbers, papyrus, scribes, and anything else about writing that I can think of. Right now I'm working on making cartouches of everyone's names. I'm making all the letters, then cutting them apart and putting them in baggies so they can glue the pictures that make up their names onto a brown construction paper cartouche. Even though I borrowed a stencil for the hieroglyphs themselves, this is still time-consuming, and I have other activities to prepare. And that's only for the first week!

For the second week, I'm going to talk about some of their false gods, particularly the ones relating to the 10 plagues of Moses. I'm also going to talk about a few of the famous pharoahs, and we have to make some necklaces and arm bands for them to wear at the 5th week activity. The 5th week is what I am doing all the chicken mummifying and cardboard painting, so thatis also taking up some time!

In the middle of all this, I still have to tutor at Classical Conversations, and since I volunteered to teach tin whistle to the 3/4 and 5/6 graders, I have that as well to prepare for! I think I must have been impaired when I signed up for that, LOL. It has been fun, even though I don't think we're going to get anything really approaching harmony. Some kids really do work at home (this would not be mine, however, LOL), and they sound really good, and then there are those who could be really good, but don't put in the effort required, and then there are those with learning disabilities. Definitely a challenge, and the prepared lessons move at a snail's pace, so that's why I am doing so much of my own stuff.

We have 2 more weeks of Upward soccer. Nathan has already started practices for his junior high homeschool basketball team, and Luke will start his Upward basketball practices soon as well. We are going out to Chuck E. Cheese tomorrow night for our annual non-Halloween celebration with our Bible study. Sunday night we have our monthly church growth group at our house, so things have to be picked up and decent around here! Caleb's birthday is next Thursday, so I have a cake to make for that (he has requested an F-22).

In the middle of all this is the on-going uncertainty of a potential overseas move. Talk about radio silence! It seems that AFPC just becomes a ghost town in September, after the summer cycle is over and done. No one is there! Bob's assignment guy is supposed to be back Nov. 16, so I guess we will know more about a report date, etc. then. In the meantime, the people in Guam are thinking we're coming. Carolyn, my friend over there, talked to the vice wing commander's wife at a function, who told her they were expecting us! Bob continues to sort of be hot and cold about the whole thing. Just the other day he told me he was sending in a resume to a guy from church! But I think we are leaning towards going, unless something really miraculous and clearly from God drops in our lap soon. Of course, that leads to its own set of busyness! I have been deluttering right and left, and trying to get things organized. If this all happens, then it looks like we will try to drive back to Ohio right after Thanksgiving in 2 vans, with Bob pulling a trailer behind the Honda filled with stuff to leave at my parents' house. Then he would drive back here with my dad, and they would work on painting, repairing some drywall, putting the trim around the hardwood, etc., without the distraction of lots of other people around. I think we could stay away for maybe 10 days or so, since the boys will have basketball. We're thinking, based on what the AFPC guy said way back in August, that Bob will probably have a report date in January. Since we have so many commitments here, the kids and I would most likely follow the end of March, when those are all winding down. I am just not thinking about a 25 hour plane trip with 7 kids by myself, so kindly do not remind me of this, LOL.

So that's where we are now, and if you are wondering why I'm not posting much in the next few weeks, just think "Ancient Egypt"!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Wonder Fix?

Grace has started what has become a big annoyance. We have a small CD player in the kitchen, and a few weeks ago she figured out what button was the "play" button, and she started pushing it when she wanted to hear music. That didn't really bother me, so I didn't say anything. Next she moved on to changing out the CD in the player. Soon enough I noticed that, strangely enough, all the CDs in the kitchen were developing terrible skipping problems! They were getting filthy dirty, and several of them developed permanent scratches. Now the CDs we are talking about are mainly kids' ones, and at first they were ones I didn't really care about--a Little People animal one that is a favorite of hers, but which drives the boys bananas, a free Disney one with 7 songs (sung by "Goofy" and "Mickey") that came in a diapers box . . . etc. But then, as I would move over other CDs, like some kids hymns ones, she would work her magic on those as well. I told her not to move the CDs around anymore, but she would be "helpful" in other ways, like by making sure to put away any CDs that anyone had left out for just a minute! It was getting to the point that any time we turned on a CD, we were all ready to leap out of our chairs around the kitchen and family room to run in and skip to the next song when it would get stuck, which would happen about 5-6 times a CD! I was getting very frustrated, plus I was worried about something happening to an actual disk I cared about, like a Latin one or something.

A few weekends ago, Bob and the kids were working outside on the deck, and they brought the CD player outside. I noticed that Grace had switched a CD while out there, and the next day I discovered that one of the kids hymns ones was actually missing. It didn't take a genius to figure out that she must have dropped in outside somewhere, probably through the slats of the deck. Grrrrr. I was very annoyed at that.

Today it all came to a head. CDs were skipping everywhere. The boys were working outside. Lo and behold, they came in to tell me that they had found the missing CD! It had fallen through the deck (I should be a detective), landing in the roof of the shed under there. I didn't think it was rescuable, but Bob managed to reach it. It was, if you can imgine, pretty scratched up though. I wasn't willing to just give up without a fair try, so I googled "repair CD scratches". A number of sites recommended rubbing with Brasso, which we don't have, but several sites also suggested trying toothpaste. Well, that is something we have a good deal of, so I got a tube of toothpaste and several Q-tips, and I started rubbing (out from the center only, of course; never around!). I rubbed all the problem CDs, and I have been trying them out the whole evening. To my amazement, the toothpaste really helped tremendously! The animal CD was the worst, and it still skipped 3 times, but that is a HUGE improvement over its previous performance! A few of the other CDs still had a few trouble spots, but most of the time they were able to correct themselves! No more leaping up to skip the player to the next song! Now Grace is under strict orders to never touch CDs under any circumstance (at least until she gets better about keeping her hands clean, LOL). I'm sure tons of people already knew about this little hint, but I wanted to pass it on for those who were in the dark, like me. Don't just toss your skipping CDs! Try toothpaste first! It can't hurt!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Sickness Again

I think this sickness is never completely going to leave! Luke and Faith both ran fevers today. Nathan is still coughing, and it's been at least 2 weeks since he started. He is not running a fever or seeming sick in any other way than the hacking sound he makes every so often, but still, I think we're all ready for that to go away!

No one has really been all that sick, but it just keeps coming back. Bob is teaching children's church tomorrow, so that means I'll be home during church with Luke and Faith. I'll probably keep Grace home too. She is better, although she is still a bit snuffly, and I know she has sinus congestion. She keeps pointing to her cheek and telling me it hurts, but she's not running a fever anymore, or having gunky green snot, so she doesn't have a sinus infection (yet). Nathan is also having sinus congestion. He asked me the other day how one knew if one had a cavity, because his tooth really hurt on the right side of his mouth up on top. I told him I thought it was sinus pressure, and it would go away soon. I asked him yesterday how it was feeling. He said better except when he did this: and he threw his head violently forward: or when he hit his pillow like this: and he threw his head violently backwards. LOL! So my prescription was "don't do that".

Anyhow, Bob stayed home last week, and I stayed home the week before, so it's been awhile since we were in church together as a family! I'm ready for us all to be better. Amazingly, I haven't gotten this bug. I pray that continues because not only do I have my Classical Conversations duties, which now include teaching tin whistle to the 3rd-6th grades, but also it's coming up on my turn to teach at our other co-op in another week. I'll teach on Ancient Egypt for 2 weeks, and then we'll have the 5th week activity, where I am in the "mummy room". So this would not be a good time for me to be sick!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Mummifying--The Final Steps

Way, way back on Aug. 25, I posted about starting to mummify King Cluck. Well, I continued to faithfully change his salt/baking powder/baking soda/spice mixture until, after 4 weeks or so, the salt no longer got wet. By that time he was residing comfortably in his gallon ziploc freezer bag on top of the dryer, and I had started a second chicken mummy. That one is going to the demo one, the one which isn't wrapped, so everyone can see what a mummy looks like under the wrapping. Well, that mummy ("Am-Hen-Otep") is also finished, and I figured I had better get busy wrapping King Cluck, or he wouldn't actually be dry for the big 5th week presentation on Nov. 17!

Step 1: Dust off all the salt possible with a damp paper towel. Dry thoroughly with another paper towel. Here you can see what mummified flesh looks like, since I'm sure this has been a burning question in your mind.

Sterp 2: Rub with teriyaki marinade . . . just kidding! This is actually scented oil I made by filling a jar up with spices, adding oil, and letting it sit for over a week. I told the kids this was the sort of thing the ladies who went to Jesus' tomb on Easter morning would have been carrying, and they were wanting to prepare his body by rubbing oil on it. Of course, he would not have been a mummy, LOL.

Step 3: Fill cavity with cloth strips, and then dip other cloth strips in glue/water mixture. Wrap those around the chicken. You wrap the legs and wings first, separately, and then you wrap the whole thing up.

And finally, you display the finished product: a throw pillow! No, kidding again. This is actually King Cluck himself, all ready for his journey to the next world. In person, you would not really be tempted at all to lay your weary head down on him. He is quite smelly, not in an absolutely terrible way, but not in a good way either. In fact, Bob just walked in and suggested we move him out to the garage while his wrappings dry. And I will never be able to enjoy the smell of cinnamon and cloves in quite the same way that I did before.

So just another few weeks, and then I will be able to dislodge permanently both chicken mummies from the house. I am looking forward to that day, believe it or not. We need to make a little coffin and sarcophagus for King Cluck first though. We already have one shoe box picked out.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Date Night!

Bob and I went out to Chili's last night on a real bonafide date! We had their "3 for $20" deal, where we got an appetizer, 2 entrees, and dessert for $20. Can't beat that! We had a lot of fun. The best part was that we just left. Nathan and Luke watched the kids--no babysitter! It was wonderful! I started heating up leftover spaghetti sauce before we left, and they reheated some noodles to go with it. They served everyone dinner (Faith had already eaten), and then they all went downstairs and watched a video. Faith was poopy once, but Luke was a super stud and changed that. We were gone a little over 2 hours because we also had to pick up Bob's van from a shop. We had taken the big van in for an estimate on the damage from when Bob was rear-ended a few weeks ago. Bob had stopped by the shop after work, paid and picked up the key, and he drove it home, leaving his van there. So after we ate, we drove over there to pick up his van. But when we got home, everything was quiet and normal--just what we wanted to see! I foresee more date nights on a more regular basis in our future. THIS is the nice part of parenting--having kids who are older and responsible!!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

20 and Counting

One of the books I've recently read during my nursing times was The Duggars: 20 and Counting. My friend Carri recommended it as a light read when we were visiting their farm back in June. I finally got around to requesting it from the library, and I must say I thoroughly enjoyed it! They seem like such a genuinely nice family! Disclaimer: I have never actually watched any of their shows on Discovery, but I do read articles about them in magazines and newspapers, so I felt like I was already familiar with them and their beliefs. I am not a huge Bill Gotherd fan, that's for sure, and I know they follow his teachings pretty faithfully, but there was no attempt to convince anyone they are right or even any putting down of those who might have looser standards for modesty or whatever. Really, there was no preaching in the book at all, but they were so open and sincere about their faith. I loved it!

I always enjoy hearing how couples met, so I was glad they started with that part of their story. I knew they had lived in small houses before they built their big new house because they were commited to never going into debt, but I didn't really know exactly HOW small the houses were, or how very long they lived in them before finally moving. Their first house they had children in was a 900 square foot one with 2 bedrooms and 1 bathroom next to a busy road with their used car lot in the front yard! They lived there until after their 5th child was born. Wow. I think I would have gone crazy. And then they moved up to . . . a 3 bedroom, 2 bath house. Woo! That's really spreading out! But they were committed to not going into debt, so they saved up until they could pay cash, and then they had to save up to be able to fix it up. They lived there until their 15th child was born, at which point they could finally move into the big house they live in now, most of which they built themselves. Amazing!

Michelle is really honest in the book. She talks about the exhaustion and the tears, with so many little ones in such a small house. She shares openly about her inverted and sensitive nipples that crack and bleed, which has made nursing very difficult and painful for her. She has talked to many La Leche League volunteers for help, and she has nursed each of her children several months even with the pain. She also shares that her cycles return, even with full-time breastfeeding, at 6-8 weeks, and she's usually pregnant again by the time the baby is 8-9 months. The Well-Trained Mind board has had several vitrolic-filled threads about the Duggars, with people always pompously suggesting that she weans as soon as possible to try to get pregnant, and how that isn't letting God decide the size of the family, but that does not seem to be at all what happens here. Michelle in particular shares a bunch of pretty personal details to try to clear up the nosy misconceptions of people who still won't like them just because of who they are and what they believe.

The book talks about all the businesses they have had, and they were very honest about failures there too. I was very impressed by how the Lord led them into making deals and buying properties, and then how the Lord used those properties later on. Another way the Lord led Jim Bob was to run for state legislature, where he was elected and served for 2 terms. Then Jim Bob felt the Lord telling him to run for the U.S. Senate. There was already an imcumbent Republican, so he didn't even have the support of his party. He lost with only 22% of the vote, and he wondered what had really been accomplished with the run. Some photographer took a picture of Jim Bob and Michelle, along with their 13 kids, as they went to vote. The photo was picked up by the NY Times, which was interesting but nothing to take note of. A little later a freelance writer who had seen the picture called, wanting to write a story about their family. The magazine who had originally been interested decided not to take the story, but eventually Parents magazine ran it. An executive at Discovery Channel saw the Parents article and wanted to do a documentary on the family. So now with all the shows made about them, they have reached maybe even more people than if they had just been sent to D.C. as a congressional family!

I alos got some good hints about how to make things work with a big family. One thing that won't work now, but I am definitley filing away in my "dream house" file is that they have one big room for all their family's clothes, right by their big laundry room (4 washers and 4 dryers). Everything is hung by size, and every night everybody picks out what they will wear the next day and takes it up by their beds. As our boys get older, I can foresee when they are wearing mainly similar sizes. It is already a hassle, and I am somewhat arbitrary about what shirts go on say Caleb's side of the closet versus Jonathan's side. So haivng one big clothes room seems like a great idea! Also, and I don't really think we'll ever be doing this but it is nice, they have a huge (350 sq. ft.) pantry with a roll-up garage door, so they can back their van right up to it and unlaod! THAT sounds convenient!

At the very end of the book, they talk about the upcoming birth of their 18th child, who was born in January 09. They write, "We know it may be difficult to understand how excited we are about another baby's birth, but it's absolutely true. . . When we hold that baby in our arms for tthe first time and admire its unique face and tiny features, we know we'll be filled with the same sense of awe and thankfulness for God's amazing power and grace that has filled our hearts as we've welcomed each one of our children. Each and every child truly is a blessing from God." I know that back when we had maybe 3 or 4 kids, I remember thinking about a family who found out they were expecting #8 and thinking, "Why?" I guess I figured out they already knew basically what their kids would look like, both boy and girl models, so who keep going? But what I have come to realize, and what is hard to explain unless you have lived it, is that you eventually reach a point, believe it or not, when it is not the huge jump to add another child like it is when you are having your second or maybe third. And then you start just looking forward to seeing who it is that God is adding to your family. You get excited to see how the older kids will interact with the new one. You are even more keenly aware of exactly how individual each and every child is because you already have so many very different personalities, with such decided likes and dislikes, and you wonder how each new person will fit, and what their unique gifts and talents will be. I think I am enjoying each baby more and more, as I become more comfortable as a mother, and as I have more and more help from the bigger kids!

So I recommend the book, even if you don't have a big family. I appreciated some of their child-rearing and other tips as well. It's always fun to read about a family that makes ours sound like a small one!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Potty-Training Update

I thought I should also give an update on Grace's potty-training adventures, for those who may possibly be interested. I would say she has regressed, rather than gone forward. She will still pee (mostly) on the potty, but she will not poop on it. She also will not pee on a big potty, like when we go out, after one flushed automatically while she was still on it. She was terrified! Amy P. did give the helpful hint at Bible study that if you cover the red "eye" with a post-it note, then it won't flush until you take that note off, and now I have some post-it notes in the diaper bag, but I'm afraid the whole thing has set her back quite a ways! So this makes it challenging. For example, she peed before we left for Classical Conversations Thursday morning at 8:45. She was still dry when we done there, at noon, but she wouldn't go on the big potty. We eat lunch there, and I knew she couldn't hold it indefinitely , so of course I was not surprised when we finally did get home, after 1:00, that her pull-up was wet. (I put her in one deliberately, realizing something like this would probably happen.) I know people will say to just carry a little potty in the car, but that's not really feasible, especially on CC mornings, when I already have a ton of stuff to carry out, and we're really rushed. Also, it would be a hassle to deal with everyone else while I take Grace out to the car to go potty. So I'm just not going to go there. Eventually she'll get over it and go on the big potty.

Basically, since she is still having so much trouble with pooping on the little potty, I'm just not going to worry about the whole thing right now. I'll put her in pull-ups if she wants that (which she usually does), and then she will most often go potty on her own, but I'm just not going to worry about the pooping thing. Cleaning up a poopy pull-up is not much worse than changing a poopy diaper, and it's a whole lot better than cleaning up poopy underwear (which I have done my fair share of over the past weeks!). I figure we'll revisit the whole underwear thing in a few weeks. In the meantime, whenever ANYONE in the house goes poopy on the potty, they must come out and announce it in a magnificent manner, while everyone else goes wild with cheering. Then the lucky big girl or boy receives several M&Ms (or Skittles in Caleb's case) for their efforts. This new initiative has made Grace think about the benefits of pooping on the potty, but so far she hasn't cracked, LOL. So we'll see how much longer it takes for her to go potty on a big potty, and to poop in her little potty. I will keep you updated!

Another week, another update . . .

Wow, it's been over a week since I last posted! I guess I'm on the 'once a week" plan now. Where does the time go?! Last week was a usual week, with the only bit of drama being a somewhat mild bug going around the house. People are snuffly and coughing (Nathan, Luke, Jonathan, Anna, and Faith), but nothing too bad. Anna also has been running a fever the last 2 days, but only at night after she goes to bed. She's fine during the day, but when I go in to take her potty before I go to bed, around 11:15, I discover that not only is she hot and feverish, she has also wet the bed! This has happened the last 2 nights, so tonight I finally was wise and put her in a pull-up. It's so out-of-character for her that I am sure the sickness is to blame.

The girls and I stayed home from church today, which I think was a wise move. Our church had its annual church picnic at a local park this afternoon, and we decided we would all still go to that, since we figured there would be less chance of passing anything along outside, as opposed to in a nursery setting. The weather was so gorgeous--low 70's and sunny--so it was a perfect day for a picnic! It was a lot of fun, and I'm glad we all went. I got to visit with a lot of people, the boys played all manner of games (football, baseball, volleyball, etc.), and the girls mainly hung out around me and ate a lot of desserts, LOL. We took 2 vans, so I brought them back around 5:00. On the way home, Anna was very whiny, and almost as soon as we walked in the door, she fell asleep on the couch. When she woke up a little while later, it was obvious her fever had come back up, and she was very, very snuffly, so in hindsight it probably was not good to spend the whole afternoon outside at the picnic. Oh well. Motrin and a bath restored her good temper, and all 3 girls were in bed by 7:45. Hopefully a good night's sleep will help her kick this bug.

Bob has tomorrow off. We're hoping the good weather holds, because he has several outside things he would like to accomplish. I'm thinking we may just take the whole week off of school, except for the 2 co-ops, because on Thursday we have a donation pick-up scheduled, and I really want to finish up some decluttering I've been working on. Some cleaning would be nice too. So now you know what we'll be doing when you don't hear from me for another week!

Friday, October 02, 2009

Week in Review

1. Tomorrow Caleb and Jonathan have another soccer game at 9:00. Bob is the coach of their team, so at least they will go. Last week they were supposed to have their team pictures taken before the game--at 6:45 A.M.! Well, that's when they were supposed to be there; the pictures were to be taken at 7:00. I wondered how this would work, since it's still dark here at 7:00. Bob pitched the idea to the team that, seeing as how we are living in this digital age, he just take pictures of everyone on our camera, make discs, and then people can get their own prints, buttons, magnets, whatever, at reasonable prices from Sams or Snapfish or wherever, as opposed to the outrageous ones charged by those sports photo businesses. That was a winner of an idea, so they did that at the civilized hour of 8:45, and he handed out the discs at practice on Thursday. We had gotten an email from the league saying they were having a make-up picture day during practice next Thursday night for those teams that couldn't get their pictures done. One of the other team moms heard someone on another team say their pictures hadn't turned out at all because--get this--it was too dark, so they needed to retake them. Yeah, I know--it's hard to see that coming, what with all the uncertainty of when the sun rises each day and whatnot. Anyhow, we were feeling good about that.

2. It was our turn to do the family presentation at the beginning of Classical Conversations on Thursday. We're supposed to do something relating to one of the 8 history timeline cards we memorize each week, so we chose to do a Greek myth, which related to the card "Homer and Greek Mythology". We did "Theseus and the Minotaur", which was very well-received. Nathan was our brave hero Theseus, Caleb was King Aegeus, the king of Athens, Jonathan was an unnamed Athenian sailing to Minos to be a victim of the Minotaur along with Theseus, Anna was Ariadne, King Minos' beautiful daughter who gave Theseus the golden spool of magical thread, and Luke was the Minotaur. We had to get a monster mask from the dollar store from him. Since it had crossed eyes, it was more goofy than scary, so it was perfect.

3. Bob was driving the big van to work on Thursday so that he could pick up the running boards he ordered over lunch. At a stop light, he got rear-ended! I know--it's so hard to see the tiny Ford 350 van. Turn it sideways, and you can hardly tell it's there! LOL! The lady actually told Bob she was late to work, in a hurry, and she looked down for "just a second"! All the things your insurance tells you not to say. Her license plate (in vanity plate-happy VA) was "XLER3". I guess someone took the 8 before she could get there, LOL. There's not too much damage to the big van, although now our backups sensor lights don't work, so there's no beeping when you get close to things. I liked that. This is actually the second time this year Bob has gotten rear-ended. Lucky him!

4. I've been gradually working on potty-training Grace, and she's been doing well. The only fly in the ointment has been that we are gone Tuesdays and Thursdays for co-ops, so there isn't a long chunk of days where we don't go anywhere to really cement everything. Instead, shell do well in underwear for one day, then I'll put her back in a diaper for CC or whatever, and she'll happily go in there. and she's definitely not at the point where she would tell someone else she needs to go. I still have to remind her often to go, or she will have an accident. Today was not a good day, however. She pooped in her panties not long after she got up, she had a pee accident before lunch, and after lunch she pooped in her panties again! What in the world was that all about?! We don't have our Tuesday co-op the day after Columbus Day, so I'm hoping that week will be the week where it all comes together for her. And I'm hoping the pooping thing does not become an issue! (Maybe she and Emily talked about it, Melinda?!)

5. I had mentioned back in July that one thing that made selling our house and PCSing attractive was this military homeowners' assistance program that was in the stimulus package. it was supposed to pay the military person back 90% of the difference between what they bought the house at and what they could sell it for. In an area like ours, that is a significant amount. But then we never heard anything official, and in fact, stuff had even been taken off the official website talking about the program at all! We thought, that's not a good sign . . . . Moving was a lot less attractive. But then yesterday we got a phone call from a friend in CO and an email from E out here saying that things are a go, and it's about to get officially entered in the congressional register. Right now, the deal is for people who have orders by Dec. 09, with a report date no later than 28 Feb. 10, but they could extend that up to 2012 if there are sufficient funds. Hmmm. So we're back to leaning towards going. We haven't actually heard anything from the guy at Andersen (Guam) or the AFPC guy, so we were wondering what was going on, but Bob has been busy, so he hasn't called them either. I told that to Carolyn, the one with 7 kids that is over there already, and she said her husband had been given a request for him to be our sponsor, so she had assumed Bob had gotten the job! How funny that she knows more than we do! Please keep praying that we make the right decisions here, and that the Lord will make His will very clear for us.

Well, that's where we're at! I hope you all had a good week too!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Another Haircut For Anna

Back in June, when we were in Ohio, my mom and I took Anna to get her first real haircut. The lady was nice, and Anna did great, but she really just trimmed the hair. I had kind of hoped for something shorter, but I am not good at articulating what I think to hair people, so whatever . . . it was fine.

As time has passed, her hair has gotten scraggly again. It would lay okay if we used a lot of conditioner, but when she takes showers, she doesn't use any, so it just always looks scruffy. Here is a picture from when we were hiking while camping at Greentop. It doesn't actually llook too bad here, so you'll just have to trust me that it would be messy! Nevertheless, it needed to be cut again.

At church last Sunday, Anna's little friend Elya had the cutest haircut! She looked so adorable, and I asked her mom, May, where she had gotten it done. May told me that she had done it herself using a bowl! We had our small group meeting Sunday at our house, so I asked May to bring the bowl so she could give me some pointers! It turns out that Elya's head is a lot smaller than Anna's, so we hunted around and found another bowl. Before I lost my nerve, we went out on the deck, and I proceeded to give Anna her haircut with May holding the bowl!
Anna held so still! Everyone was impressed! It was a bit tricky, moving the bowl around, but it turned out just fine.

Here May is doing the final trim. Well, actually May told me that she followed Elya around for 3 days with scissors, doing little trims here and there, and I actually did that as well! Not 3 days, but definitely yesterday I was trimming away at odd moments!

Here is the finished product, although her hair is still a little bit wet, so I don't think you get a true representation of her new, shorter look.

Here is a more natural picture from yesterday. Doesn't Anna look cute?! Grace actually got a tiny trim as well, but you can't really even tell a difference, LOL.
I've always been very intimidated to cut girls' hair, but maybe now with my new bowl trick up my sleeve, I can at least cut their hair for the first few years. And with the slow rate my girls' hair grows, I shouldn't even need to do it very often!