Wednesday, December 30, 2009
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!!
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.
Saturday, December 26, 2009
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
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
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!
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!
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.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
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
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
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
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.