Monday, May 31, 2010

A Family Prophet??

So this evening the girls and I were sitting on the front swing watching the boys play tennis in the street before we all went on a walk. A propos of absolutely nothing, Anna says, "I'm going to take care of the baby boy we're going to have!"

Me: "What?"

Anna (happily): "We're going to have TWO new babies!"

Me: "Ummmm . . . did God reveal this to you . . . ?!?!"

I don't know where she got that from! So funny!

Happy Memorial Day!!

Since this is Bob's last Memorial Day on active duty, you might think we would do something really patriotic to celebrate. You would be wrong, however. We have wanted for a few years now to go to the free Marine Corps concert at Wolftrap which is always the Sunday before Memorial Day. Instead, last night Nathan went to a conditioning workout thing (more on that in another post). It was soooo hot and humid yesterday that I was really not that enthusiastic about an outdoor concert. Maybe next year . . . which is what we've said the past few years, LOL.

Yesterday was already busy because after church I had another co-op meeting for this new little junior high co-op we're planning for next year. It looks like it is going to be so good!! One family dropped out, the other family from our church with 5 boys. They live the farthest out, and they also have never done a co-op before, so it was just a bridge too far for them. The mom was just getting too stressed about it all. But that's okay, and we still have enough people! Yesterday we hammered out which literature books we would be covering from Tapestry of Grace, and we talked about the history books too. Siri is going to teach 2 years of Spanish, so she showed us the resources we'll be using for that. I had already sent out an email with all the science books/specimens needed. It was so exciting! I just really like these other 3 ladies and their boys, so I think it is going to be so fun!

Today we woke up without any real plans (other than for sleeping in, LOL), but when we found the driver-side front tire of the Sienna completely flat, something was put on our agenda. We knew it had a leak, but it all of a sudden became more of a priority! So Bob and I dropped it off at Walmart this afternoon, then we contiuned on in the big van for a hot date at Wegmans. I know our amazingly romantic life makes all of you jealous out there! We brought home 2 enormous pizzas from Wegmans for dinner, so we didn't even do a traditional barbeque! Bob did get some corn on the cob, so we will have that later this week.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Box Turtle Mama

Virginia is home to Eastern Box Turtles. We have seen ones before, traversing our yard, so we knew they were in our area. Last evening we were on an after-dinner walk, and we noticed a box turtle beside the road. We investigated closer and discovered she had just laid eggs in a hole she had dug! There were about 4-5 of them. She was at that time slowly putting the dirt back in the hole to cover them.

After we got home, we did a little research on box turtles. We discovered that "box turtles generally grow slowly, reaching sexual maturity at between 7 and 10 years old and 5 or 6 inches in length. Once mature, a female box turtle will lay between 3 and 6 eggs each spring in a shallow nest. The eggs are left unguarded and hatch in the late summer or early fall when hatching occurs."
The mama did a pretty good job of covering back over the next, don't you think? You can hardly see where she dug! We went back at the end of our walk to check on her progress! Unfortunately, she didn't do such a red hot job in choosing the place in which to dig the actual nest--the median between the road into our subdivision and the sidewalk!

We will keep an eye on the nest as it gets closer to fall, but I doubt we can do too much. The nest is at the opposite end of our little neighborhood, close to where the main road is. If only she had dug closer to our house! At the end of our cul-de-sac, there is a wooded area and a creek! If any of the eggs (1.)do not get dug up and eaten by skunks or racoons, (2.)manage to actually hatch and get out from underground, and (3.) aren't immediately eaten by a bird or dog, or run over by a car, then we might try to move them (if we can ever even see any) down by the creek. Again, quoting from the website, "When a box turtle first hatches from its egg it is a mere 1.25 inches long. Little is known about the lives of young box turtles because they are so secretive and hard to find. In fact, it is very rare to find a box turtle much smaller than about 3.5 or 4 inches long. It is thought that these young turtles spend most of their time concealed in brush and leaf litter and feed primarily on insects." So it sounds like it would be a rare feat indeed to actually see a tiny baby box turtle! It would be really, really cool though. There is no "brush and leaf litter" where the mama decided to make the nest, however! Just the shadow of a stop sign and plenty of grass!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Something Rare . . .

. . . A family picture with all 9 of us in it! We went to a wedding Monday afternoon of 2 people in our church. We were all cleaned up, so we figured this was as good a chance of any. If only Faith was looking, LOL.

You can see our boys wearing blue polo shirts and khaki pants. The McC boys were all wearing blue sports coats and khaki pants. Together, they all looked like some kind of boys school, with the casual everyday uniform, and the dress one!

Friday, May 21, 2010

New Semester

Once again I see it has been a week since I posted. This past week has been very productive, I am happy to say! In fact, I feel like we are finally in a good rhythym, something we were really lacking this entire past year. Of course it helped that we had NOWHERE to go in 5 mornings. Well, actually I did have to run Luke to the orthodontist's for a quick check Thursday, but even that was at 11:30, and I only took him. But that was it!

As we start this new "summer term", I have begun doing some school with Anna and Grace. All it is is a preschool workbook from Sam's. They already know their colors and most of their shapes, but it's good practice in tracing and coloring in the lines. I notice they have much better fine motor skills than the boys did at their ages. The girls don't really know all their letters yet, or the sounds that go with them, so this should help with that. Really they just like the attention, LOL. We usually read some books together too. I picked up a copy of Madeline in a free box at the end of our co-op, and that is Anna's new absolute favorite. We read that at least once every day. Nathan and I went to the library last night, and I got out some different ones so that I wouldn't go crazy, LOL.

In the fall, I am planning on doing Phonics Pathways with Anna (and I am sure Grace will be right there), and starting Saxon 1. I'm not sure what to do with Grace for that. Maybe I can find some other something to do with her to she doesn't feel left out because I just don't think she needs to start Saxon at 3. For one thing, once the girls get to the hardcover Saxon books, I only have 1 copy! So they can't be doing the same book at the same time!

After Anna and Grace's "schoolwork", I read Leading Little Ones to God. We started this in September and I read it sporadically this past year. Then we are once again praying through Operation World, which is another thing that went by the wayside with our lack of a set daily routine. I do miss having the maps on the wall when we search out the days country and try to find the capital. I'm keeping my eye out for another set of maps at Sam's so I can have them up on the wall again, but still have the ones on the table. We are still reviewing the CC memory work, especially the timeline (and the presidents for the younger boys, since Nathan and Luke already knew those well). We're also working on Philippians 2, which we started I think maybe a year ago, but never got very far. We just started over!

I've also started going through Famous Men of Rome with everyone. I've had this forever, along with the Memoria Press teacher's guide, but we've never gotten around to it. I figured it would be a good thing to go through over the summer, and so far the boys are loving it! I want Nathan and Luke to take the National Latin Exam in another year or 2, so we need to focus some on Roman history and mythology. This is a good intro. The teacher's guide has comprehension questions, vocabulary, maps, and other activities.

For everything else, we will just keep plugging away. Caleb and Jonathan still have a little ways to go to finish their math books for the year (Saxon 2 and 1 respectively). They'll probably finish in August, then move right into their next books. We've got a few more lessons in First Language Lessons and Prima Latina as well.

Nathan is finishing Algebra 1/2 this week, and he'll go right into Algebra 1. No sense in letting all that learning fall out his ears! I just want to say that Nathan actually did every single lesson in his book, including all the extra topic at the end of the book, which introduced among other things, transformational geometry, polynomials, advanced graphing, and some trig concepts. I know I never actually completed 100% of any math book when I was in school!

Luke is close to finishing his Saxon 7/6 book, and he will go right into Nathan's Algebra 1/2 book. Good thing Nathan is finishing it up!

They are both still working through First Form Latin. They didn't get as far as I had hoped this year, but we'll just keep at it. I want to go into Henle when they finish, and I think we'll be able to move quickly through that, since they will have had this good strong introduction to it with FFL. I haven't done FFL with them, but I want to keep learning more, so I am planning on doing Henle with them. They will be ahead of me, though, so it will be a challenge! I wish I had kept up with Latin this past year. Oh well, something had to go. It might as well have been Latin!

Both boys are only about halfway through their Rod and Staff grammar books for this year, I would say. They'll keep on going, but I am not sure what to do for Nathan next year, after he finishes R&S 7. This is one thing I want to look at during the NOVA conference in July. I may get R&S 8, or I might try something new. Nathan has been doing R&S since 3rd grade, and he has an EXTREMELY solid grammar background. I love R&S! But maybe he doesn't need it again for 8th grade. It does take a lot of time. Really, a lot of his diagramming is stuff I remember learning in high school with Mr. Sundburg! I think if he can just keep fresh with his knowledge, maybe he doesn't need another whole year of it. But then the anal part of me thinks, "It would be so much cleaner to stop after 8th grade . . . I am sure Nathan will read this in the morning, and I know what he will say: "Anything else!" LOL!

So that's where we are. I am feeling so much more organized and productive. Having a routine does that for you! I hope next year will not be so crazy and draining like this past one!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Good Neighbors

We have a book called The Berenstain Bears and the Eager Beavers. In this classic tale, the Berenstains get some new neighbors--a family of beavers. The Bear family is a real casual, fun-loving family who would rather play games than take care of things around the house. The Beavers, however, are hardworking and industrious,and they never "waste" time playing games. So they immediately embark on all these ambitious projects around their house to make it look nicer. I won't spoil the ending, but let's just say that eventually Junior Beaver turns out to be a natural at paddle ball.

Well, I am sure you can imagine what kind of family we are more like. We have a lot of kids, all of whom love being outside. And of course we have lots of outside toys for all those kids, the newest one being the very large trampoline. And we don't have any sort of "professional" landscaping.

Our next door neighbors are a very nice family of fellow believers. They have 2 daughters who are spaced a respectable 4 years apart so one of them is finishing her second year of college, and one is finishing her second year of high school. They are all quiet and very, very hardworking. The mom, "Rose", is very talented with flowers and landscaping, and their yard is a place of beauty and curb appeal.

Their yard got hit pretty hard with all the snow we had this part winter, so they lost some trees in the back. One tree in particular fell onto the deck of the house behind them. It was a large evergreen tree, so when they took it down, it really left a big hole in the yard, and now the house behind them is quite visible from their kitchen and family room. Also, their yard has had some issues with drainage over the years, with water rushing down through the back from up the street. So several weeks ago they started working on their back yard. And they worked like real troopers--out there all day, digging ditches for a drainage pipe with pickaxes, renting equipment, etc. They put in a sprinkler system and and a big pipe for drainage, and they tore up all their grass. They ended up resodding, and on the Saturday before we left for VA Beach, Rose planted a bunch of shrubs and flowers in the back corner of the yard, where it adjoins with ours.

That same Saturday Bob had been working out in our yard. Our yard always looks like it has 7 kids running through it, and this year we have tried hard to reseed parts of it to make it thicker. Bob also bought a few very small trees and planted them. He bought a pine tree for the front yard, over on the side where our yards adjoin, and was planning on planting it, but "David" told him he didn't want him to plant it. So Bob took it back and told the lady at Lowes, "My neighbor didn't approve." LOL!

Anyhow, David mentioned to Bob that we aren't supposed to keep our trash cans on the side of the house. This is true--it actually says that in our HOA covenants, stupid things. We're supposed to keep them "out of public view", but a lot of people in our neighborhood just keep them wherever is convenient--on the side, in the front in between the 2 garage doors, etc.--so we didn't really think much about it. I mean they are those rolling trash containers that everyone has. Who cares?! Well, evidently our neighbors do, and we hadn't realized exactly how deeply they care. So Bob decided to move our trash cans into the back yard, and not just in the back yard. He would move them all the way into the back yard, into the far corner, so that they were as far away from the front yard as possible, which is what he figured they wanted. So he did.

I was innocently cleaning out the big van in preparation for our trip when Rose came storming out of her house to me. She told me she had NEVER been as furious as she was now, and she didn't know WHAT Bob thought he was doing, but she had spent ALL DAY working to make a FOCAL POINT in her back yard, and now he MOVED. THOSE. TRASH. CANS. RIGHT where she could see them out her back windows!!!!! She went on for awhile more, but the gist of it all was that she tried really hard to make her house and yard a place of peace and serenity, and she couldn't do that with us around. Ack! I sat there and was very humble and contrite and calm, and assured her I would move the cans immediately. She was mollified and went back inside. I was shaking and felt so bad because it was very obvious that these things had been building up for quite awhile, and we had no idea.

We got back from the beach Thursday afternoon, and a few hours after we were home, Rose came over with a letter. In it she explained how they feel we fall short in the yard-upkeep area, and how they dislike our trampoline, which we never even got approval for from our architectural review board before we bought. Also, our kids are distracting for her while they are on it, and they want us to move it farther from their house. Also, she feels that although we say we want a good relationship with them, our actions fall short because we deliberately do things to antagonize them, like move the trash cans right to where they can see them even better.

So even though Bob and I were very tired and I had a huge headache, we stayed up composing a letter back to them. Obviously the first and most important thing is that Rose feels that we were doing things on purpose, when in fact we were cluelessly just bumbling along, thinking we were doing what they wanted, not realizing what their actual real beef was. She was putting motives on our actions that simply were not there at all! We addressed their other issues as well. We said that moving the trampoline would be difficult because we have such a small backyard, and it would involve cutting off several larger branches. We said we were willing to move it, but we wanted them to come over and help us figure out where, because we didn't want to move it and have them not be satisfied with it, since it appears the issue really is the existence of the trampoline. Also, it never even occurred to us to seek approval from the ARB, since it's not some big building thing, and other houses in the neighborhood have trampolines right out in the open.

I went over Friday afternoon with the letter, and Rose and I had a great conversation. I reiterated how we were absolutely not doing anything too deliberately provoke them, and we were so sorry that was how it had appeared. We talked about the trampoline, and she said they were getting used to it. I told her that the kids wouldn't be on it as often as they had been. For one thing, it was still new. For another thing, we had been doing the test review, and I was sending all the other kids outside while I was working with each individual child. The weather was so beautiful, and it worked out really well. I told her we homeschool year-around, and the kids really aren't outside before the afternoon. She said she couldn't ask us to not be on it in the morning, so she was a lot more reasonable about everything. I think having communication was really helpful, and we both felt better about the whole situation.

But I still have struggles. For one thing, I know we will disappoint them again. We simply can't keep our yard to their standards, and our kids love to play outside! The boys picked up a second hockey goal from the trash pile of a house up the street, so now we have 2 "rescued" goals on the side of the house where the trash cans used to sit. Is that any better to look at?! I'm sure not, although there are no covenants about that I don't think. But that doesn't mean Rose won't simmer with resentment over them for a few years.

The strange dichotomy for our area is that everyone has really large houses. Everyone. Our house is over 4000 sq. feet, with 6 bedrooms. It's wonderful for our big family! I don't know what everyone else does with all the space, LOL. But our yard is small--only 1/4 acre, and our house footprint is fairly large--and so it our garage. It's a 2 car garage, with a big post in the middle of it, and no extra room on any of the 3 sides. In Ohio we had a one story, 4 bedroom house with an ENORMOUS garage--3 cars, with all sorts of extra room! It was bigger than many apartments! So now we have 8 bikes, a wagon, several different strollers, hockey quipment, roller blades, soccer stuff, baseball stuff, Bob's tools, extra toilet paper and paper towels, a freezer, a refrigerater . . . in a small garage. We don't have room for our trash cans! (The garage is where Rose thinks we should keep our trash cans, since that is where they keep theirs.)

So now I just worry that our kids are being too loud, that we have too much stuff, even though it's all played with, that we are just a source of stress for other people. It's hard to just relax outside anymore. And it's hard to understand the different priorities. Obviously they value their yard and peace more than children. But they are Christians! Even if they decided not to have as many as we do, it would seem like they would still see the value of children! And our kids really aren't wild and loud, tearing up stuff and causing huge scenes. They just play outside like kids USED to play, before everything was scheduled and there was no informal play and childhood obesity was a huge problem. Except we don't have that problem here. Hmmmm.

I'm also struggling with exactly what is expected of us, as far as being good neighbors. How much of it is our responsibility to ensure people around us don't take offence at us and our big family, and how much of it is just us living normally and their needing to relax. It's a hard balance, especially with us being Christians and wanting to be a good testimony to Christ. We really don't want to cause confrontations and problems, but we also just want to live in the house the WE purchased, and enjoy our own yard! Three acres in the country has never before looked so tempting . . .

Friday, May 14, 2010

Light Week

This week the boys did their Stanford Achievement Tests. I am always nervous about these, but the boys all assured me that they were "so easy". We'll see in a few weeks . . . I had lots of great plans for how much I was going to get done while they were gone Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday morning. I did get some things done, but never as much as I hope, sigh. How does the time pass so quickly?! It might have something to do with the fact that with all the older boys gone, I am left with 3 needy little girls. Just think--that could be my life everyday if I did what everyone random stranger thinks will make my life so much easier and just send the boys off to school! No thanks.

We aren't doing any school this week. Nathan went to Medieval Times on Thursday with the L's and the high school co-op group associated with our elementary group. He had a great time! They had front row seats. I spent a lot of time going through old papers inside and stuff in the garage. We've been composting, so Nathan is always looking for paper to shred to add to the compost container. Well, he has enough to keep him busy for quite awhile now! The garage is not "clean" per se--that will take another day or so, plus another set of shelves--but it is easier to navigate through, so that is a start. We had some of those wires shelves that make cubes. I despise those things. They fall down at the drop of a hat, and they are SUCH a hassle to rebuild! So we put those out on the curb, in hopes someone who doesn't know how bad they are will want to take them, LOL, and we are waiting for some regular metal shelves to go on sale somewhere.

I also was finally able to put away the clothes at the bottom of Jonathan's closet that no longer fit him. I had to get another plastic storage tub for that. This is an instance where, if we had moved, I would not have kept this stuff, but since we are still here, and since we could potentially have another boy, and since we do have storage space in the basement, I keep the stuff. We'll see if it ends up bveing worth the space it takes up! At least all my out-grown clothes are in the basement in stackable clear tubs, so they really don't take up all that much space, and they are organized by size.

Today we are cleaning the house this morning, and we'll make a commissary trip this afternoon. I am dreading that because everyone is really crabby today. I gave them all haircuts last night, and somehow everyone ended up going to bed late. Anna and Grace have been waking up MUCH earlier than usual for the past few nights. We had told Grace that when she was ready to give up her pacifier at night (the only time she was using it), then she would REALLY be a big girl, and she could move out of her crib, and into the double futon bed that Anna sleeps in. So she decided she was ready to do that a few nights ago. She's been doing fine, getting herself off to sleep just fine and sleeping through the night without waking up. BUT she wakes up early, and I know if she had her binky, she would go back off to sleep. And she wakes up Anna with her singing, LOL. Oh well. Next week, it's back to regular schoolwork. I can hear the cries of joy already! LOL

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Superhornets and Other Naval Adventures

One thing we really enjoyed about Virginia Beach was seeing all the F/A-18s flying around. The sound of freedom! I miss living near an operational base. One day I struck up a conversation with a mom at the little beach playground. Her son, who was about 4, was identifying all the airplanes as Superhornets. I asked if her husband was in the Navy, and she said yes, that he was a pilot in fact. I asked if he flew hornets. She very firmly corrected me by saying, "Yes, he flies SUPERhornets." So I just want to warn all of you--if you ask Bob what he does, he will find a way to work in that he flies SUPERsatellites. And I am a mom of SUPERkids, LOL. I guess that's a big deal in Navy circles? She also added that her husband loves what he does. When I came back over to our little area and reported this all to the boys, their general reaction was, "Yeah . . duh! That would be SO cool!"

Just to increase the general knowledge of my reading base, the ordinary, plain-jane Hornet is the F/A-18 A-D models. The Blue Angels still fly this regular boring old model. The SUPERhornet is the F/A-18 E-F models. The are larger, have more armaments, and a greater fuel capacity. In fact, it can be configued for use as an aerial tanker by adding an external air refueling system. So now you know.

Wednesday afternoon after lunch, everyone was pretty much done with the beach. Faith was in desperate need of a nap, but our room was in desperate need of vacuuming, since it hadn't been cleaned yet, and it was FULL of sand. I proposed we drive over to Norfolk Naval Station to gawk at all the big ships. Hopefully Faith would nap in the car. She did indeed fall asleep as soon as we drove away from the hotel. We found our way over there using an old-fashioned technology called a "road atlas". This is because we somehow have lost our GPS system--well, we have the cord that plugs into the cig. lighter, but not the actual screen part. It used to be in Bob's van, the one that doesn't any longer have a working transmission. I'm sure we brought it inside and put it in a very safe place, where it is still residing to this day. Unfortunately, we have no idea where that safe place may be. Anyhow, we had to use maps for this trip. When we got to the base, we found the piers and started driving around. I mentioned all the money we were saving, because you (if you are not military) can take a tour of the base on a comfy bus for $10 a person. Bob pointed out that we were pretty much getting what we paid for, since the only ships we recognized were the aircraft carriers, LOL. We saw the USS Enterprise, the USS Harry S Truman, and the newest one, the USS George H.W. Bush. Cool! We also saw a lot of other cool gray ships that made us wish we had gotten a bunch of books out of the library so we could identify them. Or that we had paid $10 for one of us to go on the tour so he or she could come back with great knowledge and report to the rest of us. We also recognised some tugboats. They are so cute!

We also played several rounds of our banana car game during the course of our trip. We were amazed to find over 40 bananas on Norfolk Naval Station! Do sailors have some sort of thing for bright yellow cars?! What does it mean?! It is indeed a mystery.

As we were getting ready to drive back to the hotel, we went through the base McDonalds drive-through. We ordered 3 large fries for a snack for us all to share, and 8 cups of ice water. The lady was confused about whether we wanted BOTTLES of water, which of course we did not. Finally she understood that we wanted 8 courtersy cups of ice water. When we pulled around to pay, the total was over $15! She told us she had to charge us $1 per cup--because there were so many of them! What in the world?! So we told her to cancel the whole order and we drove away. Good grief! Because water and those cheap cups are sooo expensive. So if you are a large family, we don't recommend the Norfolk McDonalds--they ration their water!

More Beach Pictures

Here is a nice picture of Bob, Grace, and Faith from our first day there, when it was cloudy. Faith is looking pleasant, but don't be fooled. Here is how she normally looked these past few days:
You may think she was crying because she was trapped in the basket, but she actually wanted to be in there, as opposed to touching the brown gritty torture stuff that kept getting in her toes and hands. The horror!
Grace actually had her own special version of torture the first day we were there. She is very petrified of bugs, and for some reason, there was a veritable infestation of ladybugs on the beach that morning. Thousands of them. Everywhere. Flying around, landing on everyone and everything. She was horrified and kept running around flapping her hands and crying. We kept telling her how sweet and gently ladybugs were, how pretty, how good for plants, but she was not buying it. Fortunately they went away by lunchtime, and the next day there were hardly any around. It was very sunny the second day. Maybe they don't like sun? It was like some weird Alfred Hitchcock movie.

Everyone loved playing in the waves, even Anna. She really didn't get all that close to them though, LOL. She did get more wet than Grace who got her toes wet a few times and that was about it. That water was cold!
Bob's sister Jane gave us their old boogie-board, and we borrowed a second one from the L's. Nathan really loved boogie-boarding. Luke did some too. Jonathan developed his own little game. He would lie on the boogie board out where the waves would barely reach. Eventually a big wave would cause his board to move around a little bit. If no waves ever got close enough to move him, he would eventually move closer. It was cute.
The boys did build a lot of castles in the sand, especially the first day when it wasn't so sunny. The second day Nathan and Luke built a castle, and Caleb and Jonathan dug a "house", complete with several rooms and booby-traps underneath the shade cabana thing we set up. It was perfect for providing a shady spot to dig!

Every evening after dinner we took a walk down the boardwalk. Faith enjoyed this a lot! No sand or water close by! This octopus is on the bottom of the huge Neptune statue right outside our hotel. There were a lot of neat sculptures every so often along the way. One was a neat "sand castle". ANother was of a Norwegian woman, given by a sister city in memory of a Norwegian ship that crashed here over a hundred year ago. The weather was so pleasant the whole time we were down there, and the breeze was lovely. Such a nice vacation!

Friday, May 07, 2010

Virginia Beach Vacation

A few weeks ago, Bob spotted a deal for a Virginia Beach package at the Hilton. As a sort of birthday present, he got us reservations for 3 nights starting Monday night. We had a really fun time, all except for Faith who pretty much didn't like any of it--the sand, the ocean, the pool, etc.

Here is a picture of our hotel from the beach. We were up on the 15th floor, facing the ocean. The Hilton was really quite a nice hotel--much nicer than ones we usually patronize, LOL. And it was obvious we were not the sort of family that usually stays at the Hilton! It was also the kind of hotel that would nickel and dime you to death. I guess that's how the other half lives, LOL. For example, it doesn't have a free breakfast. Bob was astounded when he realized this--"What? All hotels have free breakfast!". Well, actually they DID have a breafast buffet. It cost a mere $9.95 per adult, and $6. 95 for kids. We laughed pretty hard at the idea of spending $60 a day on BREAKFAST! Ha! Also it charged you each day for internet access. Well, not us--that was part of our package deal. So was valet parking! We could get used to that: "Please bring the van around . . . we are going out." I didn't envy the valet people, parking our van in the parking garage! Another part of our package was a $100 gift card good for some local Hilton-owned restaurants. Some of them were way too pricey and fancy, but we found a nice pizza place and went there for dinner the first night, and lunch before we drove home.

When Bob called to make reservations, no one asked him how many people. So he reserved one room . . . with 2 double beds. My big fear was that we would get unceremoniously booted from there, but as it turned out, no one cared at all that we had people stacked like cordwood in our room. So Bob and I, and Nathan and Luke, were on the 2 beds. Caleb, Jonathan, Anna, and Grace were all in sleeping bags, and Faith was in her pack-n-play. It was a lot of togetherness, but we managed. My secret weapon for these sorts of stays is a small "air purifier" from Walmart. You crank it on the highest setting, and it is a constant white noise, so everyone can not be disturbed by everyone else's little snuffles, turns, midnight potty trips, etc. It's a real lifesaver. I NEVER travel without it.

We also brought a ton of food, thanks to the plug-in cooler we borrowed from the L's. For our breakfast buffet, we brought 3 kinds of cereal (crunchy raisin bran, bran flakes, and apple cinnamon cheerios), milk, soy milk, oatmeal packets (we made hot water in the room's coffee maker), hard-boiled eggs, and banana bread. For lunch, we brought peanut butter and soy butter, jelly, ham, turkey, American cheese, colby jack cheese, spinach from our garden, mayo, grapes, apples, carrot sticks, and pretzels. We could have made a mint by selling our food, LOL. Combined with our gift card, we really didn't spend much money down there on food, so that was really nice. We ate at Golden Corral the second night, and Chick-Fil-A the third night.

Here is the view from our balcony. You can see a big statue of Neptune there on the left, and behind that is a nice playground. The Hilton area, where you can rent cabanas for $20/day and pooshy lounge chairs for $18/day is to the right. We made our little camp to the left of all the Hilton stuff, closer to the playground. The girls really liked playing there. You can see from this picture that the beach was pretty much empty. And that right there is what made it a nice vacation for me. I do NOT like crowds, and I can't fathom going to VA Beach in the middle of summer, when everything is jam-packed. The water was cold, but everything else was so nice!

The first day we were on the beach, it was really cloudy, so we didn't need the umbrella until the afternoon, when the sun started breaking through. The second day it was very sunny and hot, and so we needed the umbrella, plus our shade thing that Bob brought and set up. That made it nice and comfortable. It folds down into this tiny little carrying bag, so it was not a hassle toting it down to the beach. I'll post more pictures of everyone actually on the beach in a later post, since we have Bible study tonight, and I am running out of time!

The Hilton had 2 very nice pools on the rooftop level. This is the outside one, which was freezing cold, so we didn't bother putting trying it. There was also a hot tub. Luke was totally freaked out by the pool, with the drop-off edge and the glass walls, so he was not sorry we didn't go in there.

We did spend time in the indoor pool. It was also very nice, and it was surrounded by these really comfortable lounge chairs. Some of them were like loveseats with big ottomen. I enjoyed sitting there with Faith (who HATED the pool) and looking at the view of the city out the big windows. It was our own private pool--no one else was there while we were swimming! And the towels were very big. Definitely a finer touch!

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Happy Birthday, Grace!

Wow, Grace is 3 today! It doesn't seem like that long ago that I was talked into an induction by a paranoid civilian doctor who thought anyone who had more than 3 children was necessarily heading straight to a ruptured uterus. That labor was definitely my hardest, as she was simply not ready to come out. But eventually she decided to come out into this wide world, and we are so glad she did! Grace is like a little butterfly, so light, quiet, and cheerful! She likes to sing songs to herself, and she will play forever by herself with the Little People or Duplos. She also loves playing with Anna, and she is a great big sister for Faith--very conscientious, which Faith doesn't always appreciate, LOL. She seems to be another detail person, a lot like Luke, which will be helpful. Her funny quirk is that she uses only objective pronouns--"Me finished that", "Her is over there"--and funny possessive ones--"My's favorite color is purple". I know she'll grow out of it, and she sounds cute, so I haven't bothered correcting her. If she is in high school and still doing it, then . . . LOL.
For her birthday, I made a purple castle cake, since purple indeed is her favorite color. We had the cake on Friday night after Bible study.
For weeks now, ever since Anna's birthday in March, Grace has been so eager for it to be her birthday. She asked all the time about it, and I would say, "Not yet . . . It's getting closer . . ." etc. When I put the girls to bed Thursday night, I told them to hurry up, since I had to go bake Grace's birthday cake. Grace shook her head and said seriously, "Not yet . . . my's birthday not yet." I don't know that she totally believed me when I assured her I really was baking her cake, for her birthday!
Friday night, when we started singing "Happy Birthday" to her, her face just lit up with this huge smile, like "It's finally here! I can't believe it!" It was so cute!

Today we had a graduation picnic for our co-op, and I was on the committee. We were there for a good chunk of the day, so Grace didn't get to pick out a meal or anything. We were all wiped out from the heat, but we hung in long enough to open her presents tonight! She was most excited about this Little People book from Grandma and Grandpa G. (You can see her saying "Oooh . . . Little People" here. Little People are definitely her favorites!)