Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Allergy Appointment

Caleb had an allergy appointment this afternoon. Just to refresh everyone's memory, Caleb hit the allergy jackpot in our family. He started having terrible eczema when he was just 4 months old, he had his first allergic reaction to food when he was about 6 months old, when his face broke out in hives after chewing on my fork after I had eaten some coffee cake at my parents' house (coffee cake had both milk and walnuts). When he was 8 months old, he tested positive for allergies to milk, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, and eggs--everything they tested him for except soy! Fortunately he never reacted to wheat, so we started giving him that again at 18 months, and he outgrew his egg allergy by 3 (whew!). But everything else has stayed. The only tree nuts he is allergic to are pecans and walnuts. He can have pistachios, almonds, and cashews. He's never had hazelnuts or been tested for them. His last skin testing was done . . . several years ago. I actually just spent much fruitless time going back through old blog posts trying to figure out when it was, but I never could find anything about it. Hmmmm. Anyhow, he was still very allergic to all his food triggers, as well as about every tree but cedar, and also grasses, dust mites, and cats.

Caleb's eczema has thankfully pretty much gone away, but he does still have seasonal allergies. As I posted here, his asthma is doing much better as well. I feel like we are really regulating it well, but also that his body is sort of maturing out of it. So all in all, Caleb's allergies and issues are not taking up so much of our time and energy anymore!

But I have been wondering about his food allergies, and where exactly he stood on those. I had asked for an allergy referral last June, but the doctor (who we had never seen before and haven't seen since!) said Caleb didn't need to see one, so he wasn't going to give the referral. Grrr. I was going to make an appointment with a different doctor, but then we thought we were moving, and I ended up doing nothing. But thepulmonary lady gave us a referral, although I had to schedule the appointment at Walter Reed, which is quite a hike in for us.

Caleb has had 2 incidents lately. One was actually a non-incident. After Bible study one Friday several weeks (months?) ago, Caleb wanted to eat some caramel popcorn balls someone else had brought. My caramel popcorn recipe doesn't use milk, so I told him to go ahead, and I'd make sure it was okay. I never did ask (whoops!), but the lady later told me how easy it was to make these delicious caramel balls. You melt caramels--which I know have milk in them! But Caleb NEVER had any sort of reaction! Wow!

The other thing happened last weekend when we were in PA for the family reunion. Sunday afternoon when we were over at Bob's parents' house, Bob's mom offered me a "pecan cookie" They were in a tub from a grocery store, and they looked a lot like little star sugar cookies with icing. I ate one, and then she took them outside, where the menfolk were all playing cards. I hollered out the door, "Caleb can't have those!" but as it turns out no one heard me. A little while later Caleb appears inside, pale and looking sick. He had eaten a cookie (does no one but me READ the labels?!?!), and his tongue was all tingly. I quickly gave him a benedryl, but he had eaten a whole (bite-size) cookie, so I wasn't sure that would be enough. Obviously we have epi-pens, so I was ready, but thankfully he was just really nauseous. He never did throw up, however. I did have to give him one more benedryl though. So really it was a much more mild reaction to pecans then he has had in the past.

I related all this to the allergist, and we also discussed his seasonal allergies. Although he is suffering a lot less, he takes Zyrtec year-round. The doctor was encouraging us to try allergy shots for his allergies. That sounded worth pursuing at some point, but Caleb is in no way, shape, or form ready for 22 weeks of weekly shots, and then monthly shots for 3-5 years. And I am not ready to drive to Bethesda for them!

The doctor just did a small panel of skin tests on his arm--milk, pecan, walnut, and peanut. Caleb was not stoic, to make an understatement. He quivered and moaned and had big tears rolling down his cheeks--before the tech even touched his arm! Then while we were waiting the 15 minutes to interpret the results, he really carried on in the hallway, with more moaning, groaning, and tears. Good grief. I really don't have a lot of sympathy for him, esp. in a hospital where there are many, many wounded veterans facing much more serious pain and problems. So I told him to suck it up, and eventually he did calm down a bit--after drawing tons of attention from other random patients waiting!

So the results were: walnut had a huge wheal--several cms. Peanut was the next largest, but I think it was smaller than it was last time. Pecan had a medium-sized wheal--which made me glad it was a pecan cookie he ingested, as opposed to a walnut one! But the big surprise was that milk was a very, very small wheal! The doctor sent us off for a blood test (you can imagine how thrilled Caleb was at that, but he managed to get through that as well), so we should have those results in 2-3 weeks. If his blood levels are lower than they were in Jan. 08, which is when he last had those tested, then the doctor was going to recommend bringing him in for a milk challenge. I am just not sure he has outgrown this allergy, so I'm not getting my hopes up. But he is obviously a whole lot less senstivie, and that is wonderful news!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Memory Work

Anyone who knows me and my homeschool philosophy much at all knows how enthusiastic I am about memory work. I had a wonderful 4th grade teacher in Okinawa who I know I have mentioned here before, Mrs. Freeman, who had us learn a lot of memory work. I still can recall those things. I am a firm believer that things you memorize well as a child will be recalled much easier as an adult! Of course, I have also had a lot of experience putting things in short-term memory, even as a child, and I don't remember those things well at all. Unfortunately a lot of Bible verses are that way for me. I have memorized TONS of Bible verses over the course of my lifetime, since I always attended Christian schools, but I just memorized what was needed when it was needed, and promptly forgot it. (Well, not totally forgotten--I recognize verses of course, but I can't just immediately recall them and recite them, only give the general gist.)

Okay, that was actually a bit of a digression . . . I was going somehere else with that memory work lead-in. . . Ah yes. The new co-op next year (which we are calling Rivendell). I'm teaching life science to the jr. high boys during the morning, which is when our younger kids will be over at the other co-op, the one we've done since we came here, with all the big 5th week activities and all. In the afternoon while the older boys are doing history, I'll be in charge of the younger guys. One of the things I'll be focusing on with them is memory work.

Since the older boys are using Tapestry of Grace for history, I am trying to coordinate stuff with that. We'll do mapwork every week, and that will be related to wherever we are focusing on in history. We're doing Year 1 (the ancients), so I was trying to figure out what Scripture passage we would work on. Learning passages, as opposed to just individual verses, is one thing that I think helps with long-term retention. I had tossed around several ideas (and really, ALL passages are worthy of memorization, LOL), but nothing had just seemed like it was exactly the right one. Our paster was preaching Sunday on the end of Acts 5, where the apostles are being persecuted for preaching Jesus. He referenced Heb. 11 several times, and it was like "That's it!" Heb. 11 goes perfectly with our study of the ancients, and it is such an encouragement for living today! We're going to memorize all of Heb. 11 plus the first 2 verses of Heb. 12, which I think really tie it all up for us now. I'm so excited!

Another thing we will be working on is a 32 point timeline with dates. We memorized the Classical Conversations timeline last year, which has 160 points (it uses the history cards from Veritas Press), and while I think it is very worthwhile (and we still work on it), I did have a few beefs with it. One is that you don't memorize dates with it--and how could you, really?! It would take FOREVER to say!--and another is that once Jamestown is founded, there are no events from anywhere else in the world. So I made my own timeline with dates using what I consider really pivotal points from history. Since we'll memorize the dates along with them, then in the future when the kids hear about some other event, they can put it in the right general stage of history. And I included things like Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo, and the Bolshevik Revolution. It's still very western-centric, but that's what we're familiar with. As we learn other events from other parts of the world, hopefully we'll be able to relate to them better. We'll cover one event per week, and unlike CC, I'll talk a little bit about the event and why it is important!

We will also have one science fact a week, and I'm taking these from the BJU Life Science book that I will be using with the older boys. I figure tying things into what the older boys are studying will make it easier for all the kids to participate in discussions around the dinner table about what they're learning! We should also have time to do a little with whatever fact it is for the week--look at slides under the microscope, observe the older kids' dissections, etc. Hopefully they will be really excited about when it will be their turn to do life science labs!

The last thing we'll be doing is part of a poem each week. The ones I have picked out so far really don't have anything to do with anything else. They were just fun ones or ones that I thought worthwhile for some other character quality reason. I'm not totally set on them, though. We're going to have a mom's meeting on Aug. 10, and I'll see if the other moms have any other suggestions they would rather do. First we're doing a very easy, familiar one--The Owl and the Pussycat by Edmund Lear. I thought that it would be good, especially for the little ones, to get something easy under their belt, along with all this other harder memory work. We'll just take a few weeks on this one. The second one is True Nobility by Edgar Guest. This is one of those worthy character ones, LOL. Then we are going to do I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day. Although Longfellow originally wrote this poem, we are going to memorize the stanzas in the order of the traditional carol. I like it better, LOL, plus they'll probably actually have occasion to use their knowledge at some point! After Christmas Break, we'll start The Destruction of Sennacherib by George Byron. That poem at least ties in with our "Ancients" theme, and the boys should enjoy it! And then I think we will do a lovely little poem about humility called The Violet by Jane Taylor. More of a girly poem to balance out the war of the previous one, LOL. We will still have a few weeks left--maybe 3--so we might do a short Robert Louis Stevenson one or something easy to finish off the year. Or maybe we'll need an extra week or 2 on one of the other poems. We'll have to be flexible and play it by ear.

So that's the plan for memory work for next year! I'm excited about it! I think the kids will enjoy it and really learn a lot! And hopefully, in about 30 years, they will still be able to recall what we worked so hard on!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Bob's Big Home Improvement Project

This is another way that Bob has spent the last week--the one filled with over-90-degree temperatures. At the top of a very high ladder, working on the trim on our house! He had noticed that there was some definite rot going on way up there, so he took the old piece of wood off (cutting it into several sections to get it down), and then he put up new wood. That he carried up just in 2 sections--we were all a little worried about that, but the Lord was protecting him, thankfully!

Nathan, Luke and I were ladder-moving assistants. One person would stand on the bottom rung so we could swing the ladder away from the house without it slipping out on us. Then we would GINGERLY carry it a few feet (praying madly that it wouldn't go out of control and fall, hitting our neighbors' house--yes, the ones that don't like the trampoline!), set it down, hop back on the bottom rung, and carefully lean it back against the house. Whew! Definitely not a one-man job, moving that monster!

The ladder was actually a huge gift from God. We were out walking one evening several weeks ago when we noticed this ladder laying down along the curb outside a house on a different cul-de-sac. This family had just had a bunch of landscaping work done, so we were wondering if maybe the landscaping crew had just left the ladder or something. At the end of the walk, Bob rang the guy's doorbell and just flat-out asked if the ladder was out for the trash (which was going to be collected the next day). The guy said yes, so Bob and the boys took it on back to our house! It's a 40 foot ladder, which would be quite expensive, so we were so incredibly thankful! Most people in our area just hire people to take care of all their outside house stuff, and the man was definitely older, so he probably just decided he was never going up a ladder like that again, so why let it take up space?! Whatever, we are appreciative! Bob has also cleaned out gutters and installed gutter screens over them, which he couldn't do with our old ladder, since we have a two-story with a walk-out basement. Those back gutters are REALLY high! I think we will all breathe a big sigh of relief when we don't need to move the ladder around anymore, though. It's a scary job, an accident waiting to happen!

On our way to a new life . . .

Busy week! We are slowly transitioning off of active duty. We all went to Ft. Belvoir this morning to get new retired ID cards. That took awhile. Since Bob doesn't actually retire until Aug. 1 (a Sunday), the lady did not really want to give us retired ID cards, and put him in the system as retired. Well, due to Nathan and Luke heading off to Camp Caleb in the next few weeks (2 different weeks), this was the last day we could get these done! And Bob has already out-processed at work, so he doesn't need his CAC card anymore. Finally she did it, although it was after another more competant woman came in and gave her advice. Hopefully there won't be any problems next week--I have a doctor's appointment for me Monday, and an allergy appointment for Caleb Tuesday. I guess I'll take a copy of Bob's retirement orders just in case!

Bob also went to the DMV for a VA driver's license. Based on my unfortunate numerous dealings with the DMV, I knew this process would be much easier if he had his active duty ID, so I had mentioned that last weekend as we were driving to PA. Then we both forgot about it, until Bob remembered it this morning. I am so glad he was able to go before turning in his AD card! He has a PA license, but it has been expired for many years. PA makes it very difficult--practically impossible, in fact-- to renew for out-of-state residents (not a real military-friendly state), but Bob's expired license is good with his AD ID card. Without that, however, he would have had to take another test, at least the written portion, and possibly the driving part! Phew! And of course he had to take in a whole raft of documents including bank statement, leave and earning form, birth certificate, shot record (just kidding on that last one!). VA is one of those states with real new-fangled fancy-looking licenses that get mailed to you, so Bob is now the proud possessor of a piece of paper declaring him legal to drive, LOL. He is well on his way to becoming a real VA resident!

Bob went to a job fair last week, and 2 more this week. He has also been looking at jobs online. As it turns out, this is not the best time to be looking for a job, LOL. We didn't feel like the Lord was leading us down to VA Beach with that assignment, so if He wants us to stay here, or if He wants us to move somewhere else, He'll have to provide something! In the meantime, we're trusting Him to provide for us and lead us. We'd appreciate your prayers though!

As for the rest of us, the boys all had dental appointments on Monday, and I had one myself Wednesday. Caleb and Jonathan are taking swimming lessons in the mornings this week and next, which they are thoroughly enjoying. I had noticed at the hotel pool how well Caleb was doing--he just needs to learn how to breathe to the side. They seem to have a good teacher, so I am sure by the time next week is over, they will both have learned even more!

We were invited for dinner at the house of some friends from church Tuesday. The wife's mother, who is Polish, was visiting, and she made us some AMAZING Polish food for dinner! We all ate until we were stuffed! I want to try red cabbage like she made it--it was so good! She chopped the cabbage, boiled it for about 20 minutes, fried some chopped bacon in a pan, then sauted the cabbage in the bacon grease along with some sugar and vinegar. It was REALLY good, and I thought I didn't like cooked cabbage!

We take Nathan up to Camp Caleb at White Sulphur Springs on Sunday afternoon. Since this is the highlight of his year, this week has been taken up by packing, checking the list, and packing some more. He is really looking forward to the week! Luke will go the second week in August, which is originally when Nathan also was signed up to go. But Nathan will start football practice on Aug. 10, and they practice every night, so he couldn't very well miss the entire first week! Fortunately WSS could switch him around. There was no room for Luke that week however, so we have to make two trips up and back to PA. We pick Nathan up Friday, and then the kids and I are planning on continuing on to Ohio for a week. We will see my friend Amy, as well as my Aunt Claire, who is flying in to visit from Utah! Then we well drive back to WSS the following Sunday to drop Luke off. Then we'll head back here. One last week of vacation before we hit the ground running with our new co-op, as well as our old co-op and all our regular school work! How can the summer be almost over already?!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Family Reunion

We spent this weekend in PA visiting Bob's family. They had their annual family reunion on Saturday. We've been going for the past 5 years, I believe, and we have really enjoyed getting to know members of the other branches of Bob's dad's family. I still really would like to bring a piece of posterboard with the names of the 6 siblings (Bob's dad and his brothers and sisters) so everyone could fill in their names and how they fit! Our next one is going to be in 2 years at the house of Bob's brother Paul. Maybe I'll have my act together by then and remember the posterboard idea. I'm remembering a lot more names, but I still get confused as to which branch some people belong to!

This year we had a smaller turnout than previously, but it was still a very good time, with plenty of good food and conversation. Bob's sister Jane and her husband Terry were in charge this year, and they did a great job! They had it at a public park really close to the house of Bob's parents. Bob spent a lot of time growing up at this place--it has ball fields, a big grassy area, playgrounds, a swimming pool, a skating rink--it has it all! We had a nice pavilion for the picnic. The weather was noticeably cooler and less humid than in Northern VA, and there was a lovely breeze all day, so it was a nice day for a picnic! We were all feeling the heat by the end of the day, though, LOL.
We always play a game sort of like musical chairs or something, where you pass a wrapped present up and down the line, and when the music stops, that person unwraps one layer of paper. You keep on doing this until every layer is unwrapped, and the lucky person who unwraps the last layer gets whatever is in the box! Bob won last year, and he won a softside cooler that we really like. This year Jane had t-shirts embroidered with "B__ Family Reunion 2010". The main reason I'm posting this picture is because the girl opening the present looks so much like I used to! When I first was uploading the pictures on my computer, I saw the picture and though, "Who took a picture of me?" And then I remembered that I don't wear my hair back like that anymore, and I have gained weight, and I was wearing a dark pink shirt . . . It gave me a start though! A view of my younger self in profile! The girl, Holly, is the newest member of the family, having married into it in May.

Here we have Bob's brother-in-law Wally getting the annual auction off to a rousing start! Everyone brings unwanted stuff and people bid on things in an effort to raise money to cover the reunion. Don't scoff--this made close to $120 this year! Plus, it's a lot of fun. Jane's husband Terry gave Faith a dollar, and she "bid" on 2 purses, which she then won. I had seen them but assumed Anna and Grace wouldn't be interested because they weren't pink and frilly. Ha! Shows what I know! They spent the rest of the day with their purses (poor Faith didn't stand a chance, LOL). I think they like them even better--these clearly look like grown-up purses! We also won some boxes of pencils, which we were all inordinately thrilled about. Every year right before standardized testing time, we have to run out to Walmart because we don't have any #2 pencils. We usually use mechanical pencils on a day-to-day basis, and Faith loves chewing off erasers of the regular pencils she finds around. So hopefully we can keep these pencils away from Faith, and we'll be all set for a few future testing dates! We also picked up several candles, a nice bowl that will be great for potlucks and Bible study desserts, and a few other odds and ends. And all for bargain prices!

Bob finished out the auction, and he did a great job. The boys were surprised at how well he did, but I knew he'd be naturally good, LOL. He's funny and a good salesman!

I have other pictures from Aunt Peggy, and I'm hoping to get some more from at least Ann. Then I'm going to put them all on snapfish so everyone at the reunion can see them and make prints if they want to.

The kdis played a bunch of games--soccer, kickball, races, and other games. They were so hot and tired when it was all over! Bob gets the "Good Effort" award for rounding out the soccer teams and being goalie in his flip flops.

Afterwards, we went back to our hotel. Faith was asleep before we left the parking lot! She revived enough to swim in the hotel pool before we went to bed. Unfortunately she was still tired, and terefore clumsier than usual. She fell trying to climb up on the fold-out sofabed. She got quite a raspberry on her chin, and she cut her lip also. I had quite the time getting that to stop bleeding, and the room looked like a crime scene with bloody washclothes and pillowcases all around! The raspberry is still there, and her lip is still a bit swollen, but neither thing seems to have bothered her again!

Sunday morning everyone swam again while I showered. Then we headed over to Bob's parents' house to visit for awhile. Most of the rest of his family had gone to an amusement park in Pittsburgh for the day, but we knew that would be WAY too much for all the kiddos, especially the girls. It was nice just to relax and hang out. The boys played cards with Bob's dad, who taught them a new game. The girls played very nicely all together with toys inside, and I enjoyed reading their newspaper, since our subscription to the Washington Times has finally run out, and they raised the rates outrageously on us! I was admiring all their tomatoes when I remembered that I had wanted to take a picture of the shed all the kids bought for them back in March. It's really nice, although I do not have a photographer's eye--if I had, I would have taken the picture more from the side so you could also see the row of windows along the side. It's really a nice shed, and I think Bob's dad is really enjoying it.
After we visited and ate lunch, it was time to pack up and head home. For this short trip, we stopped 2 times! We were trying to use up some McDonald's coupons that we had bought for $1 back in March, so we stopped 2 different McDonalds. The coupons were all for free stuff for kids under 12, so we got several free hamburgers, apple juices, apple dippers, and ice cream cones. Eleven total free things, and we used up all the rest of the coupons! Woo hoo!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Dentist Appointment!

Anna and Grace have been looking forward to this afternoon for quite a while now. It was time for their dental cleaning appointment! Grace had never been before, and she has been so eagerly anticipating going. I was a little nervous that she would get there and balk, but she was a pro. I left Nathan at home with everyone else, and it was just Anna, Grace and me, so I was able to go back for a little while just to make sure everything was okay. The girls got to go at the same time and sit next to each other, so I'm sure that helped. Grace was most excited about getting to pick out a new toothbrush and small toy, as well as getting coin to put in the bouncy ball machine. She's been carefully examining all her new loot all afternoon.

Afterwards, the dentist came out to talk to me about Anna. Back before Anna was 2, she fell and had a gray tooth, indicating the tooth was damaged. It was also pushed forward some. They've been monitoring it, and this year they noted that her front two teeth are not the same size. The damaged one is shorter than the other one, which is not a good thing. The dentist said they most likely will have to pull the tooth maybe even next year. They will do an x-ray when she comes back in a year to evaluate. The dentist said that damaged teeth often don't fall out on their own, and since they are pushed into awkward positions, they can hamper the correct descent of the permanent tooth. Obviously we don't want that to happen, so I guess we will see what develops! I'm not sure Anna will be quite as excited about a tooth-extraction as she is about getting her teeth cleaned!

It's dental time for the boys Monday afternoon. We're taking care of all these things before Bob officially goes off active duty! He still doesn't have a job, although he has an interview next week. We definitely need something with good dental insurance!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Faith had a well-baby appointment this morning, and she is indeed still a well baby. She now weighs 21 pounds, 7 ounces, putting her over the 10th percentile, so she is a real chunk, as least as far as our babies go! Everything else seems all on track as well. Faith was full of righteous indignation at the 3 shots she received, and she started crying again every time she looked down and saw the bandaids, LOL. On the way to Bethesda, Nathan and I had been discussing the military medical school there, USUHS, so it was very timely that we had a resident do the exam, as well as the regular doctor. We asked some questions about the committment (7 years not counting any service academy committment). It seems like a great deal! Both doctors were very nice.

Faith also has quite curly hair, not that you can really see it in the picture. It's all around the bottom of her head, the only place where her hair is "long". She is also the first of my children where I really can't say whether she is right or left handed by this age. She is at the least, very ambidextrous. Jonathan and I are lobbying for the left hand and are secretly tying her right hand behind her back . . . just kidding! It does seem funny to me that I, a strongly left-handed and curly-haired person, would only have, out of 7 kids, one child who is left-handed, and who might have sort of curly hair if I ever let it get anything approaching long (never!). So maybe Faith will come over to the "sinister" side with us . . . or maybe not.

Monday, July 12, 2010

High Jump

We spent a hot Thursday afternoon at the free and air-conditioned National Museum of the Air Force. In the picture above, Nathan and Luke are in the cockpit of an F-4. My dad flew in the backseat of the RF-4 as a navigator, so everyone was very proud to sit there (except Anna and Grace, who didn't want to descend into the deep, dark cavity which was the seat, LOL).

Although I have been to the Air Force Museum a number of times, I haven't been very many times the past few years. I have never gotten around to visiting the Cold War Gallery or the Missle Silo, which were new additions since my last trip through. Nathan and Luke were brimming with enthusiasm, since they went to an aerospace camp at the AF Museum last summer and had gotten some detailed tours, and they really wanted us to visit these new areas.
When we went upstairs to the catwalk around the missle silo, I was curious about this display with a stuffed dummy and a tent-like thing, which you can see above. The tent thing has the words, "The highest step in the world" written on that yellow space under the doorway. It turned out that this display was commemorating Operation Excelsior , which, in the words of Wikipedia,
was a series of high-altitude parachute jumps made by Colonel (then Captain) Joseph Kittinger of the United States Air Force (USAF) in 1959 and 1960 to test the Beaupre multi-stage parachute system. In one of these jumps Kittinger set world records for the highest parachute jump, the longest parachute drogue fall and the fastest speed by a human through the atmosphere, all of which still stand.
Capt. Kittinger ascended 3 times in that flimsy little gondola thing--up to 76, 400 feet the first time, then to 74, 700 feet the second time, and all the way up to 102,800 feet the third and final time. And each time he JUMPED OUT. The last time he fell for 4 minutes and 36 seconds using only a small stablizer parachute so he wouldn't go into a fatal spin. His main chute opened at 17,500 feet, and he landed in New Mexico. The entire descent took 13 minutes and 45 seconds.
Well. This is certainly the stuff of nightmares for this heights-challenged person! I simply can't even fathom doing something like this, and frankly I was a little dizzy after reading the display, LOL. They had a camera in the gondola, so you can also see what Capt. Kittinger saw as he stepped off his high step. Acckkkkkk! I can't look anymore . . . .

I'mmmmm falllllllinnnnnnggggg . . . . That's it--I'm for sure having bad dreams tonight!

Three Cousins

. . . splashing in the wading pool in the backyard
. . . playing dress-up with the princess costumes in the basement
. . . eating an after-swimming snack at the little table, which is just perfect for the three of them

. . . pretending to be future pilots in the cockpit of an F-16 at the Air Force Museum (Grace wouldn't get into the cockpit AT ALL, LOL)

. . . playing at the park! Best buddies!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Ohio Trip

We just got home from a great trip to Ohio! What made it even more special than usual was that my brother Dan, his wife Melinda, and their 2 little girls Emily and Elia also were there from Texas. Emily is a few months younger than Anna and a few months older than Grace, so you can imagine that these 3 little girls got along like a house afire! The entire week there was hardly any bickering among them at all! They all played together and shared so beautifully! It was such a joy to see them get along so well and enjoy each other's company.

All the girls wanted to do was play together, so this led to a very inexpensive vacation, LOL. The first few days we were there it was ungodly hot, so the girls played dolls inside and swam in the little wading pool in Grandma and Grandpa's back yard. We also went to Youngs for ice cream and visited the Air Force Museum. Then when it got cooler, we went to the park. Very low-key and low-stress!

I enjoyed a week off from cooking, as my mom took superb care of feeding the "army", as Nathan put it. And I also thoroughly enjoyed the unlimited adult conversation! It was such a lovely vacation.

But now we are back to real life! We had good trips both to Ohio and back. We only had to make one stop each way, so you can tell the girls' bladders are getting stronger, LOL. We listened to The Railway Children on CD both ways, since it was a long book--7 hours! The younger kids liked it, but the older kids were not as impressed. "There's NO plot!" was a comment frequently heard, and it did indeed seem like a random bunch of stories strung together. I had a completely different idea of what the book would be, so I must never have read this as a girl. But it definitely passed the time! Going for full disclosure, I must admit that I ate way too many Oreos on the trip back. That also helped pass the time, LOL. So now I feel like exercising all week long.

The kids are all outside playing football (well, not the girls), but I think everyone will be going down soon. We're all looking forward to sleeping in our own beds tonight! I took a TON of pictures, so hopefully I'll be able to post some of those over the next few days.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Lovely Ladies

We've been going for a walk almost every night after dinner. Sometimes we all go, and sometimes just certain ones of us go. One night these 2 lovely ladies joined us with their babies! They carried their babies and bags the entire walk, and they were so cute tagging along after Bob and me, as we pushed Faith's stroller, chattering away.

Anna to Grace: "Is yours a purse . . . or a diaper bag?"

Grace's bag turned out to be a diaper bag indeed--look at all she was carrying! Talk about prepared for anything!

Food, bottles, camera . . . and pistol. Oh yeah, packing heat! I don't know if you can call it "concealed carry" when it's in a clear orange bag though, LOL. Clearly we are teaching our children about their second amendment rights at an early age!

Happy Birthday, America!!

We have often gone downtown to see the national fireworks from the Iwo Jima Memorial. Last year both we and the L's had little babies, so we all just watched them on TV. This year we decided to go to a local display. Several families in our Bible study met over at the L's house, where we all brought sandwiches and stuff to eat--a picnic inside. No bugs and clean potties!

Around 8:30 we gathered everyone up and headed over to the park, about 5 minutes away. There was plenty of parking, and we hardly had to walk at all! We spread out our blankets and relaxed! Well, technically we spread out the L's blankets. We drove our minivan and had Nathan ride with the L's, since we didn't know how parking would be with the big van (would have been fine, as it turned out). But the big van is where the stroller, neat sheet, etc. now live, and I was not on my best game, so it never even occurred to me to switch things to the minivan. Good thing we have organized friends who bring extra, and that we didn't have far to walk so we didn't even need the stroller!

We all really enjoyed the fireworks, even Faith. She was a little unsure at the beginning, but she was having a good time by the end. Then we were back in our cars and onto the main road around 10:00! It was so . . . hassle-free! Very nice. This might become a new tradition!

Major Tree Trimming

We have a huge tree in front of our house--a "willow oak" I now know, since I finally got around to identifying it. (When Amy was out visiting several years ago, she said she thought it was some kind of oak, but it wasn't in my handy-dandy Michigan Trees book from botany class in college, so I never confirmed that. Bob wonders when Amy's friends will stop doubting her, LOL!) Anyhow, this tree just keeps growing and growing, and we have not spent much time cutting it back or shaping it or anything really. We were taking a walk last week, and we noticed how most other people with this kind of tree have the lowest branches a lot higher than ours, and consequently, their trees don't look like they are taking over their front yards, as our did. So we got busy yesterday.
Many, many large branches were cut off. We were ruthless! And the difference is so amazing. The whole front yard just opened up! You can see our house from the street! I wish I had a "before" picture, but I really didn't think about it. Bob was up on the ladder using this new electric reciprocating saw he got not too long ago. It worked really well! Here is Nathan demostrating how to use this fine saw to cut branches into appropriately sized lengths for future fire pit use.
Luke also had several turns with the new saw. Plenty of cutting to go around!

Caleb was an awesome helper in toting all these new logs back to our wood pile in the back yard.

It truly was an all-day project. After dinner, we went back out there and bundled up all the branches that didn't get cut up for firewood so the trash guys will take them.

So here is a picture of the tree in its entirety. Note how you can see the front lights on the house--Bob just replaced them, so they are really nice, but you couldn't even see them before, unless you were walking on the front walk up to our door! I don't know how tall the tree is, but we have a 2 story colonial house with 9 foot ceilings on the main floor, so it's pretty tall! We've never actually had big trees in our yard before in any other house we've lived in. and now we don't feel like the branches are about to poke our eyes out if we walk across the yard!

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Letterboxing Hike

We've been having some really nice weather the past few days, which has been such a relief after the week of high 90's and high humidity that my parents brought in with them, LOL. Bob had a holiday on Friday, and since it was so beautiful, I thought it would be a good day to take a hike. I have wanted to go letterboxing for quite some time now. Letterboxing is a bit like geocaching, but you don't have to use a GPS to find the clues. You just go to the letterboxing site, click on your state, and then you can find different hikes. Each hike has all the clues listed for how to find the hidden boxes. Print them off, and you're good to go!

I picked a hike in a park not too far off with 3 hidden boxes along the same trail, which happened to be a loop. Yes, it was the perfect hike for little kids, LOL. I was the "reader of the clues", but the boys were very into looking out for whatever it was we were searching for. Nathan commented that it was fun to "have a mission" while hiking.

Here they have just found the first box. It was hidden behind a tree with 4 trunks! I never got a really good picture of the tree (and I never even looked at the leaves to identify it, I later realized--duh), but here is a picture of Caleb, Jonathan, and Anna in front of a similar 3-trunked tree.

The second box was further off the trail, and had more detailed instructions. Nathan was the first to spot the box in the hollow part of this tree. The boxes are just little Rubbermaid-type tubs with a stamp and a little journal in them. You are supposed to be carrying your own identifying stamp and little journal, so you would stamp your stamp on the journal in the box, and stamp their stamp on your book. We brought neither stamp nor journal. Oh well.

The thrid box was the trickiest. You had to find a certain bench off the trail, sit on it, and while looking across the trail, spot a tall stump with many holes. Going to that stump, you had to find a fallen log off to one side, and . . . some other clues I don't remember. Anyway, Luke was the one who correctly followed that sequence first, and he found the last box.

Everyone was even more excited to find a cute little toad right by the box! He hopped into the fallen log, where he obliged us by staying around to get his picture taken.

As we were walking back to the trail, we startled a few tiny little frogs (toads? I never got a good look at them, LOL) that hopped quickly away and hid under leaves.
So it was really fun, and I can definitely see us doing more of this. I think we will probably try geocaching as well. I know the boys would love that.