Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year!!

 We had our annual Bible study New Year's Eve party at the L's house, and it was a lot of fun, as usual!  We ate a ton of yummy food, and then the teen and preteens played games like Settlers of Catan and Ticket to Ride, and the adults did a lot of talking.  The younger kids were down in the basement playing.  We even celebrated Isaac McC's birthday!
 When the grand hour of 9:00 came around, we blew our noisemakers and popped our party poppers, and then sipped sparkling apple cider!
And then we went home at 10:15, as Micah pitched a huge screaming tired tantrum, and Drew squealed and squawked like a stuck pig.  No staying up til midnight for them!  Happy New Year!!  We pray the Lord's blessing on each and every one of you this year--may He draw you closer to himself through whatever happens!

Family Time

One last catch-up post from Christmas, with some more random pictures and memories from our time in Ohio!
 Grandma and Grandpa had to buy a second little table so the younger set would all fit!  Micah was definitely not missing out on sitting in the little chairs.
 We played a lot of games--Skip-bo and Scrabble before Christmas, and Ticket to Ride afterwards!

 We made cut-out cookies Thursday.  I tried a new recipe, and I was really pleased with it because it held together quite well, so that it wasn't too hard for the kids to get the cookies onto the cookie sheets themselves.  Luke was a tremendous help with everyone.
 I love this picture of Elia!  Such a sweetie!
 We decorated the cookies Friday afternoon.  Lots and lots and lots of sprinkles!!
 Many books were read, in this case here by Uncle Dan.
 We made the customary trek to Youngs Dairy Thursday night.  We even got to watch the cows being milked!  We definitely take up a lot of real estate at this point!  Good thing the restaurant wasn't very crowded.
 Friday, Dan, Melinda, and Bob took the girls and Jonathan to the Boonshoft Museum, a very favorite destination.  They got there right as it opened, so it wasn't very crowded at first.  They were able to move through it ahead of everyone else, so the kids had a wonderful time playing everywhere.

Saturday, everyone except Drew, Micah, and I went bowling on base, but I forgot to give my phone to Bob, so no pictures!  Bowling on base is great--really cheap, smoke-free, and they have gutter bumper things and an adorable little dragon slide thing for little kids to use, so the ball gets a bit of momentum and doesn't take a year to roll slowly down the endless lane toward the pins.

The girls are all wearing their matching "I love my cousins" t-shirts I found on cafepress.com and got for Christmas presents.  They looked so cute!  Their cousins are certainly missing Emily and Elia right now!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Merry Christmas!

We drove to Ohio on Saturday, and Dan and Melinda drove all day Sunday (literally--16 hours!).  Dan and Melinda had both gotten the flu the week before, so we were so thankful they were well enough to make that long drive.  Poor Melinda was still recovering! 

Monday was a happy day as the 5 girl cousins were reunited!  Much giggling and playing abounded!  Monday night, however, Elia started running a fever.  Dan and Melinda got up and took her to urgent care Tuesday morning, where she was diagnosed with the flu (even though she had gotten a flu shot, as did Melinda!).  She received the Tamiflu shot, and it worked wonders!  We thought she would be too sick to go to the Christmas Eve service, but she appeared upstairs, ready to go, when it was time to leave, and she was totally recovered!
 We went to the Christmas Eve service at the base chapel, which was just lovely.  We were even early!
 After the service, Don, one of our friends from way back, took a picture of all of us.  Some people (*cough* Faith *cough*) were very grumpy, but it was a great picture of all those who were more cooperative!
 Christmas morning the kids opened stockings (including Elia--not sure why she didn't make the picture), and then presents.  Even though we as well as Dan's family, had exchanged our own family gifts before coming, there were still plenty of presents to be opened!
 Nathan and Luke's present to me wasn't going to get to our house in time, so they sent it on to my parents' house.  I was told it was "epic", so I could hardly wait to open it!  It was Star Wars family figure decals for the back of our vans (plural--enough for both the big van and the minivan!)--I will definitely have to take a picture when we get them all up there!
The kids got lots of fun, fun presents, and the good thing is that all the kids can enjoy everyone else's presents too!  Here Nathan is modeling the Superman cape and breastpiece given to Micah by Aunt Claire and Uncle Jim--a gift that was quite popular among all the male members of the household!
Then we had a delicious Christmas dinner featuring ham, sweet potatoes, regular potatoes, green beans with almonds, and cranberry sauce!  Drew loved it, as you can see by how he is wearing it, if not by his actual expression.  And we finished off our celebration with a birthday party for Jesus, complete with chocolate cake.  Truth be told--Bob, Drew, and I missed the party!  Drew and Micah were both up a lot the night before with a cough, and we were so tired!  We put Drew down for a nap and laid down ourselves . . . "just for a minute".  Well, we didn't wake back up for quite some time, so the party went on without us!  The nap was really nice though--a wonderful Christmas present!  And then we thought to get out the vaporizer to put in our room, which really helped the boys and their coughs, so we slept better the rest of the time!

Annual Christmas Play

Every year the kids in our Friday night Bible study act out the Christmas story.  There are parts for all!  We call the evening "bar night", because we start out with a potato bar and end up with an ice cream sundae bar.  Yummy!!  This year Elizabeth baked 40 pounds of potatoes, so that tells you something about the appetites of this crowd!  I made a crockpot full of chili (7 quarts practically licked clean, LOL), and others brought ham, taco meat, cheese, broccoli, bacon, sour cream--anything delicious you could want to put on a baked potato!

Then the kids disappeared downstairs, along with random stuff the different families had brought along for costuming purposes, to determine who would fill the various roles.

 Anna was a shepherd (she has her back to the camera), and Drew was a cute little sheep, pulled along in his sheep wagon by Joel McC.  I think he was originally supposed to be an angel, but hey, this worked! 
 Grace was an angel, although a non-speaking one.  Also, she didn't have any cool wings or a cool halo.  Next year . . .
 Jonathan was a wise man, as usual.  A few years ago, he found a really cool bottle/jar thing by a creek near the McC's house when he was on some sort of little expedition with their boys.  He proudly brought it home, where we discovered it was actually some sort of liquor bottle (vodka, maybe?  I can't remember).  It really was cool, and he rightly recognized that it would be a perfect bottle for myrrh!  So now he is officially the wise man who carries the "myrrh".  Here in the picture, he and the other 2 wise men have asked King Herod, there on his exercise throne, where the king of the Jews is to be born.  Herod has consulted his scribe (Nathan), who is busily searching through ancient texts to discover the answer ("Bethlehem").  Luke, the Roman soldier, is in the background.
 Caleb got the plum role of Joseph, alongside Stephanie (holding her baby brother, who played Jesus).  Jonathan was angling for the Joseph role when he realized Stephanie was going to be Mary, but Caleb convinced him he needed to stick with being a wise man.  Tricky!  And hey, you can even sort of see Jonathan's cool myrrh bottle in the picture, next to the gold chest and the "franken-cinnamon" bottle!

It is always such a fun rendition of the Christmas story, and it definitely gets me in the Christmas spirit every year!  Then we go back upstairs and have ice cream with every topping you can think of--M&Ms, oreo crumbs, gummy bears, chocolate chips, tons of different sauce flavors, etc.  There was a dark chocolate sauce this year that I loved!  I need to find out where that came from . . .

Catching Up

We got back last night from a wonderful week in Ohio with my parents and my brother and his family!  I want to remember the week, so I'm going to catch up on posts over the next few days, hopefully, since I did a deplorable job of blogging while we were gone.  We were too busy having too much fun! 

But first, I'll fill you in on one last Christmas surprise--a balance beam!  Anna and Grace have talked about how much they wanted "gymnastics equipment" for Christmas.  I looked at stuff on Amazon, but it was expensive and just seemed like an idea that wouldn't work.  Which was fine, because Anna was thrilled with her boots, and Grace with her Webkinz.  But Friday, the day before we left for Ohio, a friend from our elementary co-op sent an email to our local homeschool group saying she was selling her daughter's balance beam because her daughter wasn't doing gymnastics anymore!  I could hardly believe it!  I emailed Cathy back right away saying we were interested, but could we wait to pick it up until we were back in town.  She said yes, so Bob and I drove over and picked it up this afternoon.

The girls were SO excited when we appeared at the front door with it!  Anna and Grace have been busy showing us all their tricks.  Anna can do a cartwheel and a back walkover on it!  Micah is hilarious when he tries to do what the girls do, LOL.  He puts one foot and one hand on the beam, and the other on the floor and then proceeds to somersault or whatever, mainly on the floor.  Faith hasn't actually started any gymnastics class yet, but she will be well-prepared when she does start!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Early Christmas

We tried something different last night--we opened presents from within our family early!  As you can imagine, with 11 people exchanging presents, this portion of the gift-giving can be overwhelming in and of itself.  I really, really liked doing it early, so that these gifts didn't get lost in the shuffle.  Nathan and Luke are actually earning real money these days, with lawn-mowing and reffing.  But the other kids are still in the "hand-made or dollar store" gift-giving phases, and those gifts are often the ones that can get overlooked in a big pile of presents.  I for one LOVED my homemade necklace (by Caleb) and bracelet (by Grace from a kit from Aunt Rose).  I meant to take a picture of them, but I had to take the necklace off because Drew also loved it, and then I forgot. 
Nathan and Luke went in together to buy Anna a pair of boots, and you can see here they were not disappointed by her reaction!  If you are nearby, I'm sure you will get a chance to see these boots in person, since I think she will be wearing them every single day.  She put them on this morning with her pajamas as soon as she woke up!  Luke and I went to the mall a week or so ago to pick them out (yes, I went to the mall twice in 2 months--a new record!).  I knew she would love them, and I was right!
This picture pretty much describes Drew's reaction to gifts--"Tape!  And Paper!"  Which goes along with that funny article I posted on Facebook:  A 10-Month Old's Letter to Santa.  Drew would definitely agree with all those gift options, especially the cords (he is big into attempting to plug laptop chargers into their charging holes) and the toilet paper holder.  For Jonathan's gift to Drew, I had a brilliant idea, since we had already plumbed the depths of the dollar store gift ideas for 1 year olds with other kids--we went to the thrift store.  There we found a great spinning toy for $1.50!  Drew was happy, and so was I!
We got this adorable shopping cart for Micah from a lady on our homeschool email loop.  We do have 1 shopping cart, which they love, but it is pink, and it is only 1, while we have 5 kids who are interested in "shopping".  So when I saw this come over the loop, I thought the younger male contingent would enjoy it.  It's so cute!

There were other various gifts, leading to all the wrapping paper and cardboard scattered around in the picture above.  Now today everyone is happily playing with legos and play-doh, reading new books, and wearing new shirts and ear buds.  And Christmas Day itself hopefully won't be overwhelming!  I told the boys that when everyone is older, we will definitely institute a "draw one person's name" gift exchange, like Amy does with her husband's family.  Otherwise it will just be way too crazy!  Merry (early) Christmas!!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Keeping It Real

Well, this afternoon was full of surprises to keep me humble!  The day started off well--I ran out this morning and finished my Christmas shopping, as well as stopped by a local consignment shop and picked up some new pants for Anna and Grace.  They are basically wearing the same size (except Grace is even skinnier), and I just don't have enough pants for the 2 of them!  Not so any longer, though.  I bought 6 pairs!  After lunch, I started Elizabeth L's beef barley soup for us to eat tonight, as well as for me to bring to another family who had a new baby.  I love bringing meals to new moms because I know what a blessing each and every meal brought to us has been!  Then Caleb and I went out so he could finish his shopping. 

As I was backing out of the driveway, I noticed something under the wiper of our big van, which is parked on the street in front of our house.  I last drove it home from church yesterday, so I briefly puzzled about what it could be, but then didn't think anything more of it.  When we got back, I discovered it was a "decal citation".  Our county has these special decals that you put on each vehicle after you pay the county tax each year, and sure enough, ours expired in November.  Also, the one on the Sienna was expired.  Oops!  I called Bob, who called the county treasurer's office, where he found out I could get the new stickers reissued at their office which closed at 5:00.  Well, that became the new priority, so I finished rolling out biscuits to go along with the soup, but left them on the counter to cook after I got back.  I was able to get the new stickers, and really, it was such a blessing to get this citation!  It was just a warning one, so no fine, but I would never ever have thought to check the status of these stickers on my own .  I had poked around in our "big basket of random paper things" on our counter, but I never could see an envelope from the county.  The lady I talked to said these things had been mailed out in September.  Ha--the chances of our finding a piece of mail from September are pretty much nil!  Much bigger things than an envelope have been lost and never showed up again!  She did say something weird--she sad we renewed our big van online, but the other 2 vans we walked in and did in person in the office in the county seat.  Ummm . . . no.  Bob wrote one check and mailed it in--he never even did it online for any of them, and he certainly didn't drive to a neighboring city to do it!  So maybe things were just weird all around, and we really never did get these things?  Odd.

Well, as I was driving home, I called Luke and told him to put the biscuits in the oven.  They were ready when I walked in . . . and they looked really different.  They rose oddly and were not at all what these biscuits, which I have made zillions of times before, should have looked like.  Huh.  So I decided to whip up another batch, and as I was making that up, it dawned on me what I had done--used baking soda instead of baking powder.  REALLY?!?  What in the world?  I finished up this new batch of biscuits, rolling them out and cutting them, and popped them in the oven for 10 minutes.  I was already over an hour later than when I had originally told Ashleigh I'd be there.  After 7 minutes had passed, I happened to look over . . . and notice that the oven was not on.  Yes, it had gotten turned off after the first batch, and I hadn't even thought about turning it on!  So biscuits that are supposed to cook for 10 minutes at 450 really don't do so well for 10 minutes in a rapidly cooling oven.  At this point, I decided today was clearly not a day for biscuits, so I took the soup and cookies, ran over to the grocery store, and brought them a loaf of Italian bread.  Good grief!  I'm losing my mind! 

Another area I've been struggling with lately is keeping gas in the Sienna!  I try to never let my gas gauge go under 1/4 tank because I have this strong irrational fear of running out of gas (which actually has never happened to me).  A few weeks ago, I picked up Luke and our friend Helena from Civil Air Patrol.  I knew I was running low, but my countdown odometer told me I had 17 miles left, so I knew that would be enough to get back and drop Helena off and then get gas.  But it was closer than I thought, and as Luke and I were pulling in to the gas station nearest our house, the display read that we only had 1 mile left on the tank!  Whew, we barely made it!  I reached for my wallet in my purse . . . and realized that I didn't actually *have* my wallet.  It was still in the diaper bag from our day at co-op.  Well, that was a situation!  Luke and I had to scramble around the van, trying to scrounge up money to pay for enough gas to get us home, and then out to a gas station again the next day.  Bob was already fast asleep, since it was after 10:00.  We finally rounded up $2.50 in quarters, dimes, nickels, and pennies, and I poured that out on the counter for the gas station attendant.  It bought me 0.7 gallons, which was indeed enough to get home and to the gas station again!  As soon as we got home, though, Luke ran inside and came back with our tub of spare change, so now we have $4.00 in quarters in the change compartment. 

So fast forward to this past Friday.  Nathan and I were at Sams, but I chose not to get gas because the lines were really long, and I knew we'd be out Saturday as well.  We were indeed, but I never thought about gas again during the day.  The one time I drove the van, I was thinking about Bob's wallet, which we couldn't find, so I didn't even glance down at the dashboard!  (Luke found it IN THE DOOR OF THE VAN, which was a humongous relief to us all!).  Bob and I then left to go to an Irish pub with 2 other couples, one from church.  We had such a fun time, and I had the most delicious Irish Guinness beef stew while we listened to an Irish band play!  Then we all drove to a different place and had cupcakes and coffee/hot chocolate (you can guess which one I picked, LOL).  We had such a great time!  We didn't even think about gas, until I happened to look over and notice that the gas light was on.  And then we looked up and noticed that the "miles to empty" gauge said "2", which was a very bad number because we were in an area with pretty much only neighborhoods--no gas stations that I knew of.  Again, it was after 10:00, so who would be able to come rescue us?!  If only Nathan could drive!  We watched the gauge tick down to zero, and we kept driving.  Miraculously, we did make it to an intersection where there actually was a shopping center with a gas station.  Praise the Lord!!  I was so incredibly relieved!  But seriously--twice in the past 3 weeks, my gas tank has been so low that I've been in danger of running out?!  I'm 40 years old, and I can really only think of one other time that happened (driving our old Pathfinder back to CO from OH, across a bridge in St. Louis when Nathan was a baby . . .)  I definitely think I'm losing it here! 

Oh, I should close with one more funny story that I must be sure to document for posterity.  Sunday morning, we were doing so well, and I was sure we were finally going to be on time.  I knew Faith had both her church shoes on, so I was surprised when we were ready to leave, but she only had 1 shoe on.  She gave a very garbled explanation . . . something about kicking a whistle.  I saw a whistle on the floor over by our door out to the deck, so I started looking around over there, peering under the table and chairs, etc.  No shoe, so I started looking more vigorously.  I called in the other kids who were home (which did not include Luke, unfortunately, who had already left to go to an early service at a different church with Bob, since he had a basketball game).  We all looked all over the kitchen.  How could a shoe just disappear into thin air?!  On the counters, on the microwave, in the box with backpacks, in the light fixture . . . at this point, Faith had mentioned something about standing by the island and kicking the shoe.  We hunted and hunted until finally I gave up and started hunting for another pair of shoes.  Amazingly I did find a pair that was just a little too big, so she wore those, but still . . . we would have been on time!!!  After we got home, I was relaying the story to Luke, and at the same time I was preparing to put a jelly bean dispenser back up on top of the fridge where it usually goes, but for some reason it was sitting on the island.  I looked up at the top of the fridge, and there was the shoe--right behind the gorilla glue bottle, the vitamin bottle, and the bottle of lotion.  Of course!  Even if I am losing my mind, I have definitely had help in doing so!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Skating Party

One reason we only ended up staying one night at Great Wolf Lodge was because the boys really wanted to get home to go to the midnight showing of the new Hobbit movie.  The other reason is that no one wanted to miss our co-op Christmas skating party, which was Friday at 11:00!  All the older kids love to skate, and this was Faith's first year where she was old enough to skate!  (My own personal rule is that the child has to actually BE in TNT before they are allowed to attempt skating, LOL.) 
Anna was confident enough to skate by herself without holding onto the sides or anyone else!
All the boys took turns helping Grace and Faith.  Grace is exceptionally cautious and moves around the edge of the rink at a snail's pace.  But she rarely falls!  Faith did pretty well for it being her first time.  She is nowhere near as cautious as Grace!
Luke and Nathan not only helped our girls--they also helped Megan's daughter Grace skate around, since Megan (our Rivendell lit teacher) was working in the craft room the whole time.  They still had plenty of free skating with the McC boys!
Drew was extremely crabby.  He was definitely wishing he was at home, taking a nap in his warm snuggly bed, as opposed to in a cold skating rink!  Whenever I put him down on the floor, he immediately made a beeline for the rink.  Once he made it out onto the ice, where he fell flat on his face and (incredibly--who would have guessed) started crying.  But near the end, Nathan, Luke and Caleb took him out for several turns around the rink.  He loved it!  That was pretty much the only time he wasn't whining all morning!  He napped the entire afternoon after we got home.
A few years ago, the ladies in charge of the skating party started having some craft tables for the younger kids to do when they weren't skating.  It was such a great idea, especially for those of us with lots of littles who weren't skating!  This year there were several craft options, like a popsicle manger or Christmas tree, a beaded pipe cleaner star, and this all-time favorite that Micah is holding--a snowman made from 2 big marshmallows with a gumdrop hat, mini chocolate chip eyes and buttons, and a fruit rollup strip scarf.  Megan was in charge of that table, and it was quite popular!  Grace made one of these snowmen for Micah, which he promptly ate, and then later Nathan helped him make one of his own--which he promptly ate as soon as I took this picture.  Drew had a marshmallow too, and he was also happy during that brief moment of time. 

The skating is a great deal for us--an hour and a half of skating for $6 each, which includes skate rental.  And the time to visit with friends makes it even better!  It was definitely worth coming back home Thursday night!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Great Wolf Lodge

Nathan and Luke had their last history class of the semester Wednesday morning, and as soon as they were done (well, okay, about 2 hours after they were done, even though I was trying to be really organized . . .) we left to drive down to Great Wolf Lodge for a much-needed mini-vacation!  We got there around 4:00, but things started off stressfully (or maybe it is more accurate to say "Bob and I started out stressed, so little things were very stressful", LOL).  When we had originally made reservations, we asked about getting an extra wristband, since we wouldn't have enough for Faith with just the 8 for one room.  But the person there said we couldn't buy an extra one for her (since we already had so many people in the room), so we ended up booking 2 rooms--actually 2 "Grizzly Suites", since they were all the same price with our homeschool discount.  This gave us 4 bedrooms (6 queen size beds!) and 2 bathrooms!  It was actually really nice to be able to spread out.  But the stressful part for me was that they couldn't (wouldn't?) let both rooms be unlocked by the same code.  So Bob and the older 4 boys were all going to sleep in one room, and so their wristbands would only open that door.  The younger 5 and I were in the other room, and our wristbands only opened our door.  Well, that's annoying.  We solved it by not putting wristbands on Micah and Drew, who technically didn't need them, and by putting their "non-unlocking" wristbands on Grace and Faith, leaving an extra wristband for each room that no one wore.  (Jonathan's band unlocked my room.)  I kept the extra 2 bands in the diaper bag during the day, and then each room kept the extra band for the opposite room during the night.  That came in handy, as it turned out!

Bob was stressed because our second room wasn't ready at 4:00, or even 10 minutes later, but rather 30 minutes later.  We were trying to get organized before going down to swim, and it was hard knowing we would eventually be moving half the stuff to a different room.  But the hotel ended up giving us late checkout for both rooms, so that ended up being really, really nice.
The whole water area seemed really a lot chillier compared to other years we've been there.  Bob finally asked someone about it, and it turned out the temperature was several degrees cooler than it should have been.  They did something and said they fixed it, but the upshot of it all was that the skinny younger kids all were little shivering icicles, so they spent a lot of time in the hot tub!  Nathan is in this picture with us, but he and the other boys were not at all bothered by the temperatures, and they all had a wonderful time with the McC boys, going down every sort of water slide as many times as they wanted to, since the park was not a bit crowded.  Anna and Faith had a fantastic time on the water slides as well.  Faith is finally tall enough to be able to go down everything except the Howling Tornado, and she had an absolute blast.  Grace went down a bunch of water slides as well, and had a really good time.  The last time we were there, 2 years ago, she was much more cautious!  Faith was never cautious, LOL.

Bob's sister Ann and brother in law Wally were also there with us, along with their daughter Christi, her husband Andres, and their kids Jasmine and baby Joshua.  We went out to CiCi's  for dinner and to celebrate Jasmine's 3 year old birthday!  We love CiCi's here in NoVA--it fills boy stomachs cheaply!--but the one down in Williamsburg we don't really recommend.  The restaurant was practically empty, but the service was terrible!  They paid no attention to what was empty on their serving line, like noodles and cinnamon rolls, for example, and then Ann asked for a pepperoni pizza, and they never got around to making one!  Eventually, like 25 minutes later, we were ready to leave, and one finally came out of the oven.  They did give it to her to go, so that was a nice touch.  But still not a recommended place to go, LOL. 
When we got back, the younger kids all went to the cheesy storytime/singing Great Wolf Lodge has. Ann had booked their room using a groupon deal she had snagged, and included was 2 of the "MagiQuest" wands plus some accessories.  Caleb and Jonathan have been dying to try that game, so after the storytime, they along with the girls started helping Jasmine figure out where to go and what to do.  Mainly they liked pointing the wands at different things and watching them light up.

The older boys stayed up late and played games in our second room.  Again, it was really nice to have the extra space, and to know they weren't keeping the littler ones awake! 

We had a bit of a restless night, though.  I remember from other stays that it seems like we never sleep all that well the first night, so in that respect it is good to stay a second night.  Well, Drew was up talking to himself at midnight (also someone a floor above us fell out of bed with a thump and started crying, which made me think it was Micah, so I ran in and started trying to find him--sound asleep in the middle of his bed until I started moving things around!).  Then at 3:30 Ana came in to tell me that Micah was crying because "it's too dark".  So I went back in to settle him down, and I dozed off in his bed.  Then I heard the main door open, and in walked Bob.  I leaped out of Micah's bed to stop him so he wouldn't wake up Drew and to find out what he was doing.  It turns out Jonathan had eaten too much at CiCis and then at the game party, and he had lost it all over the bed.  Bob cleaned all the mess up (yay, Bob!!), but Caleb and Jonathan were now sleeping in what had been his bed, and so he was over in my room, looking for a place to stay.  So yeah, overall, not a very restful night!

We all slept in a little bit, had breakfast over in my room, and then everyone except Micah, Drew and I went down to the waterpark.  I washed the clothes that had been vomited on (I can't even get away from laundry for one night, LOL!), moved everything from the boys' room over to mine, and then put Drew down for a little nap.  After Drew woke up, the 3 of us went down to swim a bit.  It was MUCH warmer that day, and I think that really helped the younger kids have a much funner time, since they weren't freezing, and didn't have to spend as much time in the hot tub, warming up!

We came back to the room for lunch, and then Bob loaded up the van.  Really, the late checkout is the way to go if you are only staying one night.  It made lunch and packing up so much less stressful.  It is a pain getting 11 people's clothes ready to change into, and divided up into boys' clothes and girls' clothes for the different changing rooms!  But we swam and had a great time the whole afternoon.  We spent a lot of time with Ann and Jasmine and Joshua, much to Grace and Faith's delight.  By the end of the time, Micah and Jasmine were getting along like a house afire as well, splashing around with each other.  They are just a few months apart in age.  It was so cute!
Drew was really, really tired in the afternoon, and eventually nothing really made him happy, not even adoring big brothers!  I wished he would have just fallen asleep on a lounge chair, like little Joshua did, but alas, he just fussed around.  Eventually I changed him and Micah (and got myself changed), and went up to the lobby, where we could still see through windows into the water park.  Christine McC was there, so we were able to have our time of prayer together and just chat for a bit, all the while trying to keep an eye on Drew who was trying his hardest to dash away.  It was so nice to get away from the constant noise of the waterpark, plus the humid warmth.  I had quite a headache by that point, I'm sure due in part to interrupted sleep!  I will say that the thought did cross my mind that if we hadn't had Micah and Drew, I could have just sat there for most of the time, since the other kids were all pretty self-sufficient, even Faith, LOL. No, Micah and Drew are totally worth it!  Just 4 more years, and THEN I'll be able to just sit and read!  :)
The other kids and Bob continued having a grand time going down all the slides and playing around.  Here are Nathan, Andres, Christi, and Ann after a successful run down the Howling Tornado!  But it was getting to be time to hit the road, so eventually people straggled up to the lobby where Christine and I were, as well as Wally.  We did our "Secret Santa" gift exchange with the McC's, which was fun as always, and then we even had this family picture taken!  How festive!
We left around 6:30, and got home about 9:00.  We unloaded everything, and then the boys all went to see the new Hobbit movie at the midnight showing.  Crazy!  Where do they get all their energy?!  Oh, to be young again.  Hats off to Craig McC who took them all and then dropped them off--and still was able to go to work today!  We so appreciate his sacrifice, because I know it was one!  I was glad to be sleeping in my own bed again.  No one woke up (and we slept right through the boys' coming home at 3:30).  It was wonderful! 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Christmas Break!

We had our last Rivendell of 2013 on Tuesday!  It was kind of crazy, as we had snow/ice, as well as sickness (Megan's kids as well as some of Christine's family) to deal with.  So we ended up just meeting in the morning for economics and chemistry.

For chemistry, we are finishing up the part on the gas laws, so we collected the carbon dioxide produced by reacting vinegar and baking soda in our handy dandy "gas collection apparatus" we worked up with an Erlenmeyer flask, glass tube, rubber tubing, and a 2-liter bottle filled completely with water (measured of course, so we had an accurate volume), which was immersed in water in that plastic tub.  The tub had some "hairline fractures", hence the purple duct tape in the corners.  We couldn't get the 2 liter to stay up, so we employed more purple duct tape.  Very festive!  If only I had red and green!  All that was to be able to measure the gas that displaced water in the 2 liter bottle, and then use the ideal gas law to determine the percentage of acetic acid in vinegar.  Fun!  You can see Eric, as represented by the computer, being held up to make sure he can see the gas bubbling into the bottle, LOL.

It is so nice to be on break now, though.  I have felt like I was dropping the ball on lots of little things lately, so hopefully this break can help us all decompress and relax.  And maybe now I can start getting excited about Christmas!  We put the tree up on Saturday, but I was feeling very grinch-like.  If it were only up to me, we wouldn't have done anything to decorate!  I guess that's another reason why it's good I have all these little people around, who were so very excited to see all the ornaments and put theirs on the tree!  

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Snow Day!

Today we FINALLY got some snow, and it was so wonderful!  There wasn't too much when we woke up, and the roads were just fine, but I just could not get enthused about getting all the kids ready for all the cold and dampness to go to church.  Luke was scheduled for a basketball game that he needed to be at at 12:00.  Bob and Nathan were working in children's church, so I would be leaving church early already at 11:45 with Luke, Caleb, and Jonathan to get Luke to his game.  (And it was an important detail that I take more than just Luke, since we would be driving 2 minivans, and that means only 7 children can fit with Bob in the Sienna . . . it's always complicated!)  Plus, Micah's nose was running a bit, so I didn't really want to put him in the nursery.

So, with all that in mind, we decided that only Bob and Nathan would go to church.  I was sad not to hear Mike preach on Micah because he always has amazing sermons, but I also felt a huge load off my back!  We all had a leisurely morning, Drew got to take a nap, and it was just so nice.

Around 11:30, just as Luke and I were getting ready to leave, the email came in that his game was cancelled.  He and Nathan had been supposed to participate in a food drive with their CAP squadron in the afternoon, but that got cancelled yesterday.  And their teen CBS (Community Bible Study) for the evening got cancelled as well, so we had a day free of any outside activities! It was HEAVENLY!!

I decided it is actually nicer for a homeschooling mom of high schoolers to have a weekend snow day.  When we get snow during the week, nothing much changes about my daily schedule--we still do school, just now I am dealing with impatient kids who want to go outside to play!  But on Sunday I didn't have to get anything else accomplished, and it was so nice not to have to drive around to activities.  The kids did go outside to play for awhile (you can see Luke bouncing barefoot in the picture, although that didn't last too long!).  I got caught up on my chemistry grading.  It was so peaceful.  I had such a refreshing day!

Micah got tired out by his excursions in the snow, and he fell asleep on the couch, all snuggled up with his beloved blue blanket.  When he got up, he was again running a little low-grade fever, so I was doubly glad I hadn't tried to take him to church.  Hopefully he'll be able to kick this bug tomorrow for good!  Drew, who had all the shots, has not had any signs of fever or anything at all!  He missed all the snow play though. Hopefully next time! 

Friday, December 06, 2013

Happy Birthday, Drew!

So Drew turned one early Saturday morning, amid all the hub-bub of the Thanksgiving weekend.  Hard to believe it's been a year since I was thinking I would never progress in labor, and then, in one contraction I progressed the last 4 cms and pushed him out 5 minutes later!  And now we're just a few days away from it being a year since I had that lovely uterine infection after the birth.  So much to celebrate, LOL!
Well, please don't mention this to Drew when he's older but (*whispering*) we never really actually celebrated at all this weekend.  It was busy with the trip to PA and Bob's mom being sick, and once we got home, we were getting ready for Rivendell, doing the passports, going to Anna and Grace's last gymnastics class ("show day" on Monday afternoon).  No time for cake!  No gifts, either, because seriously, what on earth could a one year want that we would not already have?!
I did make another big batch on chocolate banana muffins (30 of them--used up 6 ripe bananas!), which we brought to Rivendell on Tuesday.  After lunch, we sang "Happy Birthday" to Drew.  He did not appear all that impressed with the singing, but he was very much into the muffin!
Although we did not do much to celebrate Drew, we definitely celebrate him every day, because he is such a special part of our family!  He's a ton of fun, especially now that he is in that "still pretty new walker" phase, where he walks with the real wide, unsteady gait of a drunken sailor.  So cute!  People still race to be the one to get him up from naps and hold him.  He definitely has it good!
Today Drew had his one year well-baby appointment.  I am pleased to report that he is now all of 20.11 pounds, which puts him at the 15th percentile, up from the 5th percentile!  The doctor was quite pleased!  He is still hanging out at the 53rd percentile for length, which is what he was 3 months ago as well.  Drew's pediatrician is getting ready to move to Chicago, to the Great Lakes Naval Hospital.  I am so sorry to see him go, because he is really nice and friendly!  That is the way of military medicine though--don't get too attached!
Drew got shots today--I know, that is a pretty disappointing gift!  Hopefully Drew will sleep well and get over them quickly.  Micah had a little bug Wednesday and Thursday where he just ran a fever and had a runny nose (and was grouchy, LOL).  If Drew starts running a fever, I won't be sure if it is the shots or a virus given as a gift by his big brother!
Happy birthday, Drew!  Next year we'll do more to celebrate--I promise!!

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Catching Up

I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving weekend!  I know we did!  We had our own big meal on Friday, so we could have plenty of left-overs, and it was delicious.  We were going to have ice cream afterward to celebrate Drew's birthday, but well, we were all full, and we had to pack, so it didn't happen.

The reason we had to pack is that we left Saturday morning to drive up to PA to visit Bob's family!  On our way up, we talked to Bob's sister Jane, who was telling us she probably wasn't going to be able to see us, since she was having car problems.  : (  She also told us that Bob's mom was sick.  I was glad she told us, but we were still a little surprised at how sick she actually was!  She was actually in bed when we got there, running a big fever, and just looking unwell.  If you know Bob's mom at all, you would know that she hardly even sits, much less lies down, when she has company, so this was definitely a sign that she was not feeling well.  We encouraged her to take more medicine and to get more rest, and she laid back under the covers without protesting! 

Fortunately, the nap and medicine did her well, and she made an appearance downstairs when she woke up, looking much better.  She didn't want to miss all the visiting!  We were thrilled that Bob's niece Sara and nephew Brandon stopped by, along with Sara's boyfriend Matt.  Sara was preparing to leave the next day for 3 weeks in China for her job, so it was good to catch up with her before that!  We're praying for a safe trip and can't wait to see pictures! 
Sunday morning we headed back over to Bob's parents' house after breakfast, swimming, a nap for Drew, and packing up at the hotel.  Bob's mom was definitely feeling and looking better then too, thankfully.  Bob's brother Paul stopped by with Brandon again, and it was fun to visit with them!  We left around 3:00 to join all the after-Thanksgiving traffic heading back to D.C.  Nathan drove all the way up to PA, as well as half the way back.  He's becoming quite the captain of our passenger van service!  It's really nice to have a 3rd driver.
We continued the holiday weekend on Monday, since Bob took the day off.  We had our appointment to apply for our passports at 10:00 at the post office!  I was up late the night before making sure all our paperwork was in order.  When we got to the window, the lady told me that they didn't have anything scheduled for passport appointments.  I told her Bob had called, and she asked me our names.  There they all were in the book, and she said, "Oh, I just thought someone wrote in all those names as a joke."  ??  Anyway, she turned out to be nice and helpful.  I thought the appointment would take hours, but in fact, it only took 1 hour for 10 of us!  Bob's replacement birth certificate still hasn't come in the mail.  When we got home, he was looking for something in the study, and he looked in an old briefcase--and found his missing expired passport!  I had intended to clean the study on Friday, but I didn't get that far.  If only I had--then he could have gotten his application in then too!  His appointment is for next Saturday, so that should be fine. 
I hope you all had a restful, thanksgiving-filled weekend!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

One thing I am always very thankful for is very good friends who are like family!  Once again we headed over to the Ls house for our Thanksgiving dinner, along with 5 other families including the L's son Zachary and his wife Karynn, and also 2 college students.  Quite a crowd!  There were a zillion children!  We had tons and tons of delicious food, and I ate way too much (I can't stop nibbling on my butter toffee crunch--it's my big weakness, LOL).  As you can see from the picture, Drew got to be a really big boy and sit at an actual table to eat!  I was a bit concerned that he wouldn't stay in the chair, or that he would fall off or something, but he did great, until he decided he didn't want anymore to eat, and he started trying to take stuff from Theodore.  Then Caleb brought him to me!
This day was quite a change from last year, when I was heavily pregnant and had gestational diabetes!  Then I ate very small servings, with very few carbs (no butter toffee crunch!), and Bob and I went on a walk after the meal with Zachary and Karynn--in our short sleeves, because it was so warm!  This year, Bob and I did not walk (Zachary and Karynn did, though, setting a good example that we ignored, LOL), and if we had, it certainly would not have been in short sleeves, because it is freezing today!  So I enjoyed the day much more, being able to eat whatever I wanted to, but now I am tired and full-feeling.  Blah.  I always regret eating too many carbs!  But hey--it's always a good Thanksgiving when I'm not pregnant, because, let's face it, those are fairly rare, LOL. 
We had such a  fun time though.  There was much discussion of music, especially bluegrass, of all genres, and Ed even pulled up some samples for us, along with a brief "history of bluegrass" to help us be more well-rounded.  The teens played an enthusiastic game of Pit, as well as Skip-Bo, before they went outside to play volleyball.  The younger kids played downstairs and watched the movie "Planes". 
Eventually Drew got really crabby, so Bob drove him and me home.  He napped for a little while I cleaned up the kitchen and prepared our turkey.  The only problem with going to the L's house is that we don't have too many left-overs, so basically I am making Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow too!  I have a little bit of sweet potato casserole left over from today, and yesterday I made lots of extra cran-apple-pear sauce so that I would have enough of that tomorrow too.  I will have to make some more sweet potato casserole, but I already have the sweet potatoes cooked and mashed.  I also will make mashed potatoes, dressing, and gravy.  For the turkey, I am dry-rubbing it with a rub I got several years ago in a cookbook called Dining on a Dime.  It's really good--putting it on a chicken make it taste like a rotisserie chicken.  I used to wet-brine, but this is kind of like dry-brining, which I had never even really heard of until I was reading a thread on the Well Trained Mind board a few days ago.  There I discovered a link to this article about wet-vs.-dry-brining, which was really interesting!  It's a lot easier to do a rub than the wet-brining, especially for the really big birds, like we need.  It's hard to fit them and all the liquid you need somewhere and keep it all cold!  Now I rub this salt/spice mixture all over the turkey, put it in my giant roasting pan, cover it in foil, and stick it in the outside fridge.  Easy peasy!
So I hope all of you had as wonderful a day as we did!  Right now I am thoroughly enjoying the quiet of just Drew and me in the house, before the hordes descend again, and it's time to give baths and get people to bed.  What a wonderful life we have.  I have been so truly blessed!  Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Commissary Shopping

Nathan, Anna, and I went to the commissary Thursday.  We haven't been since August, which is probably the longest time between trips ever for me!  I was going to go in October, but the shutdown happened, and well, there were just no afternoons where I had 4 hours free after that whole thing finished up.  I usually keep a really well-stocked pantry, but it got to the point where I realized I could no longer count on there being a can or 2 of chopped green chilies, or another bag of brown sugar or whatever in the pantry, and our 20 pound bag of jasmine rice was almost empty.  I knew I absolutely needed to go.  Usually I just take 1 helper, but this time I took Anna as a "bonus" helper in training, LOL.  She still can't come by herself though, because these carts are incredibly heavy, and there is no way she could actually push one by herself.  Jonathan still struggles around corners with these monsters!
Shopping in the commissary is different, for me at least, than shopping in other stores.  I start in the produce area, and then I proceed slowly up and down every single aisle.  Most people do this, so you sort of move with the same group of shoppers all throughout the store.  Awhile back I typed up a master shopping list for me, in the order of the aisles.  It's a 3 column list, and the night before I go, I circle everything I need, writing stuff in the margins that I need that isn't typed on the list.  Even with all this organization, it still takes about an hour and a half to actually get everything!  Now I photocopy my circled list and give the copy to my designated helper.  Then he starts in the cereal aisle, which is about halfway through the store, getting that stuff on the list, and he goes through the second half of the store up to the freezer area for me.  That helps tremendously!  What a change from when I had to bring 7 kids, with 2 riding the cart seats of the 2 carts, another one in either a frontpack or a stroller, 2 pushing the second cart and the stroller, and 2 more sort of orbiting the caravan, trying not to get run over by other people's carts.  Then the actual shopping would take more than 2 hours!  Nathan was remarking about how it was sad that the girls, Micah, and Drew would never remember or even know of those days.  Hmmm . . . well, I'm not sad about it, that's for sure!
There are some benefits to being the designated helper.  One (and maybe this is just a benefit for me!), I get to spend quality driving time with whoever it is.  I love the discussions in the car!  Also, after everything is unloaded onto the conveyer belt (which takes a good 15-20 minutes in and of itself), the helper gets to pick out a candy bar from the checkout display.  This is a *very* special treat, and it's always fun to see what the different kids choose.  Luke has to be really careful with his braces, since he seems to chew in ways that even soft things knock off brackets.  Caleb has to watch out for nuts, and he doesn't really like chocolate, so he always picks skittles or something.  I was so surprised when Anna picked gummy bears on Thursday!  Me, I always pick a snickers.  Hey, I need a reward too, LOL.
I've been shopping in commissaries my entire life!  I have actual memories of being in the cart at the Long Beach Naval Base commissary, back when I was 2 or 3ish.  I remember the freezer section, and how much I hated going through there.  My mom says that I used to sing "Jesus Loves Me" at the top of my lungs during commissary trips, but I have no memory of that, LOL.  Clearly I repressed such events!  There were lots of other commissaries along the way as well.  All commissaries sort of have the same look and feel to them, LOL.  If you've been in one, you've been in them all!
I was very disturbed to read this article yesterday about talk of a plan to shut down commissaries.  Sigh.  Pretty soon there will be absolutely no benefits to being in the military, while active duty folks are deploying more and more, there is more and more "political correctness" to tiptoe around, and the general morale is sinking.  What happens when no one wants to be in the military anymore?  For us, we'll be okay if we have to do all our shopping offbase, even though it will be quite a bit more expensive, especially for meat.  Bob has his retirement pay, and he has a good job that the Lord has graciously allowed him to keep for these past 3 years.  But for the low-ranking enlisted guys and the elderly retirees, especially those who had the misfortune of retiring in places like D.C. and shop in the Ft. Myer commissary?  They will really suffer.  And at some bases, people don't just live 3 minutes away from a convenient grocery store.  Even at places like the Air Force Academy, it takes a little while to actually get offbase and over to shopping.  The commissary there is really important, especially in bad weather, since it is right by the housing areas.  I feel like the powers-that-be like to make a big show of "supporting the troops!" but in reality--there's not so much support there.  Otherwise I think they'd be looking at other less hurtful ways to trim costs, because there certainly are plenty of areas where the military wastes money, not to mention Congress.  Seems like this administration is constantly looking for ways to make it hurt, like shutting down the free open-air monuments like the World War II one during the government shutdown, instead of ways to cut back that are just wasteful.  Sigh.  So sad, really.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Eyes, Fish, and Muffins

It always takes us a day to recover from Tuesdays, and today was no exception.  In the mornings, we do about an hour of "couch stuff"--we read Leading Little Ones to God, as well as some character book.  We've finished the Bob Shultz ones I so highly recommend, and we're back to Wisdom and the Millers, which is especially great for the younger ones.  We pray for a country in Operation World, we read a chapter in Story of the World (which is history--we're in book 4 right now), and we practice all our memory work.  Today I had to get up in the middle of it all to do something (change a diaper maybe?), and Jonathan and Faith were wrestling around on the couch for absolutely no good reason.  Faith managed to poke Jonathan in the eye, and he has been a weepy, miserable mess ever since. 

I really feel for him--when Caleb was about Drew's age, and we were still stationed back in Ohio, he was sitting in my lap on the floor when all of a sudden he jammed the end of a wooden tomahawk up into my eye!  I was totally not expecting it, and oh, man, did that hurt!  I had a book club meeting at our house that night, and I remember sitting there, with tears streaming down my face, trying to explain to everyone that actually it wasn't that the book was that moving, it was that I had gotten stabbed in the eye by a tomahawk!  It was literally at least a year later before I could reliably drive at night, with headlights coming at me, without my eyes watering away.  So I sympathize!!

But there's really not too much one can really do for a corneal abrasion, so I don't know that it will accomplish anything to take him in tomorrow.  They could give him some numbing drops, I guess.  We'll see how he is doing in the morning.  He went to bed early, although I did go in and get him up early to give him some bad news, which is that another one of his fish that he got back in June is not long for this life.  Poor "Skinny Pete" is swimming erratically, up and down all over the place, and occasionally floating belly-up until he can struggle to right himself.  It's not looking well.  I didn't want him to be shocked tomorrow morning to find him gone.  This is really tough because one of his bottom-dwellers died last Friday.  Then all of a sudden, the other bottom-dweller died on Saturday.  We read up on this particular breed of fish ("loaches"), and we were surprised to find out that they are very social fish, and if one dies, it really affects the others, such that the experts recommend getting 5 or more of these fish.  Well!  Learn something new everyday!  The 2 fish did seem to be big buddies, and they were cute together, but I had no idea they got so attached!  So we chalked that death up to a broken heart, but now that Skinny Pete is also doing poorly, and only a few days since the passing of the other 2--well, that doesn't look so good.  Jonathan's pretty upset about the whole thing, and actually, so am I now!  We've all gotten pretty attached to these little guys, and it is really hard to see Skinny Pete struggling in the tank, knowing there's nothing we can do to help.  His passing will leave 3 little fish, and one big one, "David".  If David dies, Jonathan will be really upset.  He is named after their swim coach, and he's just been such a nice, solid presence in the tank, swimming calmly around.  If only we knew what was wrong!

Well, before the day went so wrong, I did do something right--I made chocolate banana muffins!  If you remember, the flavor of the day last Thursday at Georgetown Cupcake was chocolate banana hazelnut.  The cupcakes were good, but still--they're cupcakes!  I had 3 bananas sitting on the counter, and I knew I could produce something good for a lot less than $2.95 a piece!  So I searched around and found a good muffin recipe here.  I'll just warn you though--the list of ingredients is not in the order of use in the actual recipe, which bugs me, so I'm going to copy the recipe here, in the right order.  But I don't have one of those nice "print" buttons, where you can just get the recipe and not all the writing!  Also, the recipe says it makes 12-16 muffins.  I made 18, but I think I could have easily stretched it out to 24.   These are not quite as sweet as an actual cupcake (and there's no frosting), but still, I don't think I'd just start the day off with just these!  Definitely more a dessert, LOL.  We had them as a mid-morning snack, although before the eye incident.  Yummy!!  Definitely a great way to use up brown bananas!

Double Chocolate Banana Muffins

  • 1 ½ cups All Purpose Flour
  • ½ cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder (I use Droste – It’s divine.)[Okay, that wasn't my note.  I use Hershey's--it's perfectly adequate]
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 c packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 c white sugar
  • 1/2 c canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 c milk
  • 1 egg, well-beaten
  • 1 ¼ cups mashed, ripened bananas (~3 large bananas)
  • ½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips [I used more than that, and Luke still said there should have been more, LOL]

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350° F.
  2. Butter and dust 12-16 muffin tins with cocoa powder or use liners. I made 12 muffins and one tiny loaf for the freezer.
  3. Sift the first five ingredients together in a medium bowl and set aside. I measure my flour by spooning flour into my baking cup directly from the bag until it is slightly mounded. Level with a sharp knife. Do not tap cup or in any way compact your flour.
  4. Mix sugars, egg and oil well with a wooden spoon.
  5. Add milk and vanilla and mix until completely incorporated.
  6. Add dry ingredients and gently mix with wooden spoon until mostly incorporated but some lumps remain.
  7. Add bananas and chips and lightly mix only until banana is distributed throughout batter. You should still have lumps.
  8. Scoop batter into tins until ¾ full.
  9. Bake at 350° F for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with only some crumbs attached. Make sure that you didn’t just hit a chocolate chip because melted chocolate can make your muffins appear underdone. We don’t want that!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Day of . . . Excuses?

If you had asked me yesterday about my plans for today, it would have sounded like I was trying to get out of a bad date.  I:

  • Did 3 loads of laundry.  Well, that actually isn't anything surprising.  The amount of laundry that 11 people produce on a daily basis in mind-boggling, so pretty much anytime you would ask me what my plans are, I could answer "laundry".  It is the great constant in my life!  Today I had the dubious honor of washing all of Luke's football stuff, so he can return it on Wednesday.  Potent stuff there!
  • Matched up the socks in the "lone sock basket".  I used to put single socks in different rooms, but then they never got matched up, so finally I got a wicker basket in the hallway, and all lone socks get tossed in there after washing.  Eventually it piles up (and boys start saying things like, "I did laundry, but I can't find ANY pairs of socks"), and so I must schedule time to match up all the lonely socks into relationships.  It's . . . beautiful.  Also time-consuming.  I look forward to the day when all the boys are wearing the same size socks. 
  • Defrosted the garage freezer.  I am hoping to go to the commissary sometime this week, and I knew I needed to have this unpleasant chore done before then, so there is actually room in the freezer to store all the meat I will buy.  The girls left the door cracked open for a few hours one night not too long ago, and we had a tremendous frost build-up from that, as well as undoubtedly shortening the life of our poor freezer even more, LOL.  It has been a workhorse for us!  My grandparents gave it to us when they moved out of their house and into a retirement village the summer Nathan was born, so it is over 16 years old.  May it last many more years!!
  • Cleaned and vacuumed the upstairs hallway.  Mysteriously, a pile of clothes and other detritus has built up down at the end of the hallway opposite my and Bob's bedroom.  The end, coincidentally, of both the boys rooms.  It has not made my list of priorities until today, and I happily threw away stuff with abandon!  Now--to get the boys to clean their actual rooms . . .
This doesn't actually seem like all that much, yet somehow it took the entire day, what with the nursing breaks, the diaper changes, and all the people constantly clamoring for food around here.  But I think the reason I was able to get so much accomplished was because Nathan and Luke weren't around!  The past few months have involved a ton of driving around for them on Saturdays, so pretty much nothing extra got done.  But this weekend they are at a bivouac with Civil Air Patrol.  I dropped them off yesterday, and I'll pick them up tomorrow!  It was so weird to realize we didn't have to pick them up or take them anywhere today! We missed having them around though.  There were a couple of times where I thought, "Ha, I have to tell the boys that" only to remember they weren't around!  And then it was sad to realize that is how it will be in just a few years . . . good thing we will have all these younger kids around to keep us laughing and to share things with! 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Special Visitors!

Well, we have still not made it to the post office to apply for our passports.  Bob had been planning on taking today off, but he ended up needing to go to work today.  It's just as well it will have to wait a few more days, since we still need Drew and Bob's birth certificates, and since it would undoubtedly have taken much longer than I was expecting (that relentless optimism again, LOL).  And we had other plans today! Bob's sister Ann drove up this morning from Richmond, bringing with her Jasmine, her almost 3 year old granddaughter!

 Ann, I, and the 4 girls headed into D.C. to visit Georgetown Cupcakes, armed with the secret to get a free cupcake today:  "chocolate banana hazelnut".  That was the secret flavor of the day for today, and if you were one of the first 100 people to say those words, then you got one of those cupcakes free!  We got there later than I had expected, due to traffic and difficulties finding parking (thank GOD I was only driving the Sienna--we would have given up, had I been in the big van!).  But they still had chocolate banana hazelnut cupcakes left, so we each got a free one!  I also bought a caramel apple one and a chocolate one to take back for the boys at home to share.  Grace and I loved the cupcakes, but Anna and Faith were not as impressed, so we brought most of their cupcakes home as well for the boys to taste. 

I for one also really enjoyed walking up and down the little Georgetown sidestreets, looking at the neat old houses.  So much character!  I would love to see inside some of them!

After getting the van safely extricated from the tight parking spot, we headed over to Ft. Myer for an unplanned stop at the bustling tourist attraction that is their gas station.  We also looked at Arlington Cemetery, which you can see from the post, so it was a good opportunity.  For me it felt really weird to be at Ft. Myer but not going to the commissary!
 We drove home (lots more traffic), ate a late lunch, and then the girls and Micah did some crafts that Aunt Ann had brought.  I had thought Micah would really want to go with us this morning, and I didn't really want him to, since without him, Jasmine could just use his carseat.  But right before we were ready to leave, he and Jasmine got into a squabble about a Duplo figure.  I asked him if he wanted to go bye-bye with us, or stay and play with the Duplos, and he clutched the Duplo to himself, frowning ferociously, LOL.  But once we returned, he was happy to see us.  He and Jasmine continued to have a few issues, since as soon as either one started playing with any one thing, that immediately became the one thing the other person *had* to have, but they sorted things out!
 After 4:00 we headed over to Udvar-Hazy, since parking is free after 4:00.  We really wanted to go up to the observation tower to see the planes take off and land, but I didn't realize the tower closed at 4:30 (since the museum itself doesn't close until 5:30), and by the time we got ourselves inside and figured out where we needed to go, the tower had just closed.  Oh well--next time.  We had a fun time looking at the space shuttle and the airplanes.  Micah had so much fun he did not want to leave, and he threw a raging temper tantrum when he was forced to leave, which continued unabated when he was strapped into his carseat.  At that point, Faith joined the cacophony of crying, since she was not able to sit in the same row as Jasmine.  Oh, the humanity!!  So we had a very loud car ride home, until Micah eventually settled down and Faith fell asleep. 
After dinner, the kids zoned out in front of a movie with popcorn in these adorable little plastic popcorn holders that Ann and Wally got us for Christmas.  There are 12--enough for all of us!  Everyone was very tired, so I am sure we will all sleep well tonight!  Ann and Jasmine are headed back home tomorrow.  We had such a great time with them here!