Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Super Birthday Celebration!

Tonight we celebrated the birthdays of 3 very special people!  My dad's birthday was yesterday, Grace's is tomorrow, and Bob's is Friday.  Busy week!  We had a special dinner of grilled steak, cheesy potato bake, roasted brussel sprouts, stir-fried green beans, and a fruit salad--almost identical to Anna's birthday menu!  Bob gets the "hardy griller" award.  The rain was at times torrential, but he persevered, and the steaks were delicious!

After dinner, we ate my dad's favorite coffee cake along with ice cream, and then we opened presents.  Grace got a mini American Girl doll and book set, just like Anna (different doll though), another book, a scarf, and a chocolate dipping pot from Grandma and Grandpa that we are looking forward to using on Friday when we make chocolate-covered strawberries to bring to Bible study for dessert!
My parents came into town Sunday around dinner time.  They had been at White Sulphur Springs last weekend, celebrating the retirement of Clay and Marty Thomas, who were the center directors for 25 years.  WSS definitely won't be the same without them!  They came on staff I think the 3rd year I was working there on support staff, back when I was 16.  They were wonderful mentors, and I am so thrilled that Nathan was also able to be on staff under them!  Luke and the rest of our kids will get to know the new couple, and I am positive they will be just as wonderful!

My parents are only here for a few days, but we have really enjoyed visiting with them (and celebrating birthdays!).  They are on their way tomorrow to visit a bunch of different friends all over the southeast.  Hopefully it will stop raining, and they won't encounter any of the flooding that I've been seeing all over the news!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Meet Bruno!

Bruno is the sweet little rabbit we got from Karynn and Zachary L. on Sunday.  He's a dwarf Rex, which means his fur is about the softest thing you can imagine.  His fur is so soft because of the "rex mutation", which is recessive and causes the hair to stick straight out from the body.  Also, hairs that normally are stiffer, the guard hairs, grow to be the same length as the softer down hairs (usually they are longer), so you don't feel them.  He's a beautiful chocolate brown color, with lighter brown patches on the back of his head, and his tummy is whiter.  He has the cutest little fuzzy tail!
We set him up in the study, and we have gradually given him more and more space in there.  Yesterday we hooked up the dog pen exercise area to the cage, so now we can just open up the cage and let him come out and run around.  This is especially nice when I am typing up chemistry problems at night in the study.  Bruno romps around his little area, and I don't feel so alone!  Of course, I also get distracted and go in the pen to visit, LOL.  I love having a pet that doesn't make any noise, other than rustling around.  This house does not need any more noise!
In his actual cage, we bought a little wicker tunnel thing for him to be able to hide in when he feels like there are just too many people (kids, LOL) around.  He made use of that on Tuesday especially, with all the extra Rivendell kids wanting to see him!  He likes to take naps in there as well.  We are tiring him out with all this exercise!
He's so curious!  I love to see him sniffing his little nose at everything.  When he runs around his pen, he leaps around, flicking his heels together.  It's so cute!
So yes, he is a little bit of a distraction for me, especially at night!  The books all said bunnies are most active early morning and in the evening, and that has definitely been true for Bruno.  Plus, I think he likes it when Micah and Drew are in bed.  Drew is scared of him (and who wouldn't be--such a ferocious creature!  Ha!), and Micah is excited and squealy whenever he moves around at all.  So Bruno likes coming out when they aren't around.  And I am happy to oblige!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter Excitement

Happy Easter!  I hope everyone celebrated the joy and hope of knowing Christ has risen, conquering death!

We had a lot of excitement in our day, some good, and some not so good.  Bob and the kids went to church earlier than me, because I was trying to finish getting food prepped for our potluck over at the L's house after church, and I knew we would need to be early to get seats for all of us.  So I came later in the Sienna, and of course there were no spaces left in the parking lot.  I was bringing an extra carseat of ours to loan to some friends, so I didn't want to park too far away, and there was a space along the curb right across the street from the church.  I backed in, and pulled up to straighten out the car--when all of a sudden, I hit part of a drain that was sticking out, and my front tire exploded!  It was such a complete shock!  I didn't think I was that close, and I was really just thinking about being late.  So then I was late AND upset.  What on earth were we going to do?!?  I found Bob inside and spilled my tale of woe.  He was glad I had just hit the curb and not someone or something, LOL.  I was very upset though.  We've been having some disagreements with some procedural issues in our church lately, but honestly, the parking issue may be the straw that breaks the camel's back here.  Bob doesn't like parking in front of the houses in the neighborhood anyway, because he feels like the neighbors wouldn't like it and it's a bad testimony.  So he prefers to park down the street, and across another bigger and busier street, in the parking lot for an elementary school.  That works okay when it's just him in his minivan, but sometimes I have to take Micah out to the (big) van (he goes through phases of pitching screaming tantrums in the nursery and I take him there to settle him down), and when I have to walk all the way over to the school, crossing a busy street with a tantruming toddler--well, that just doesn't work well either.  So when we are late, there just really aren't any good options, and it is incredibly stressful.

At least everyone else had come in the big van, so we were all able to go home in that, pick up the food, and head over to the L's.  Bob drove his van, and he went back to the church to drive my poor listing minivan across the street into the now deserted church parking lot, so at least the church neighbor didn't have an eyesore sitting in front of his house!

We had an absolutely lovely time as usual with our friends-who-are-like-family.  There were the L's, the P's, the McC's, The L's grown son and his wife, another family who moved here over a year ago from Ohio where they were in my parents' OCF Bible study, and one more newer family.  It was so nice to relax by eating delicious food and just fellowshipping!

Kendra, one of the newer moms, had suggested having an Easter egg hunt for the kids.  Bob had actually gotten up early and ran over to Walmart to get plastic eggs this morning!  We enlisted the help of all the teens to hide the eggs, and they enthusiastically met the challenge.  We told them to hide the eggs "obviously" in the front yard, for the little kids to find, and then in more challenging places in the back yard.
I think this is the first time pretty much all the younger kids (Anna on down) had even hunted for Easter eggs.  I never did it growing up, so it wasn't a meaningful tradition that I have wanted to for sure pass down or anything.  But the kids all had such a ball searching around for the eggs!  Well, Drew wasn't really all that interested in looking.  He did enjoy eating anything he found in an egg, however.
Back in the back yard, the middle aged group of kids had a tougher time!  Here Jonathan is demonstrating this higher level of hunting, as he vainly reaches for the egg in the crook of the tree above him.  He had to use the stick Isaac is handing him to jab it down.  Many eggs were hidden way up in trees; hopefully they were all found, especially the hard-boiled ones, LOL.  The weather was so absolutely beautiful.  The kids mainly just stayed outside and played once the hunting was over.  The older kids played a game of volleyball.  It was just such a pleasant day!   Kendra was surprised that this was the first time we'd ever done an Easter egg hunt over at the L's house, but as we were thinking on the past few Easters, it seems like they have been mainly cold and rainy--not much good for egg hunts!

After visiting for awhile, the next exciting thing happened--we got our very own Easter bunny!  Don't worry.  This is not one of those spur-of-the-moment pet store sales or anything!  Karynn and Zachary, the L's grown son and daughter-in-law, are moving into a smaller apartment, and they were trying to give away 2 of their bunnies.  Back in March she asked me if we wanted one, since I always have loved seeing their bunnies.  Well, truth be told, I have always wanted a bunny.  I just think they are so adorable!  Lynnea had offered us their bunny maybe a year ago, but I just couldn't see how it would work, so I passed.  Of course, the only different thing now is that I'm pregnant, so it must have been those crazy hormones!  Anyway, I said we'd take Bruno, but that we needed to wait until after all our spring break college trips were over.  That made today be a perfect day to make the big exchange!  Zachary and Karynn loaded us down with a cage, food bowl, water thing, litter box, dog pen thing for exercise, plus an old rug to put that on--everything we could need!  We cleaned out a space in the study for Bruno's cage, so he could out of the main traffic flow a bit.  He seems to be settling in quite nicely.  Eventually he was coaxed out of his cage, and he got to run around the pen with Caleb, and then with Jonathan.  He was so cute, sniffing everything and reaching up on his hind legs!  I'm sure I will be posting a ton of bunny pictures.  He's so adorable!
Caleb in particular has been wanting a more interactive pet than the fish we currently have for quite some time.  He was absolutely THRILLED to hear we were getting a bunny, and he has read most of the multitude of bunny books we have gotten out of the library, becoming quite the little bunny expert.  Hopefully he will retain that level of diligence when it is time to clean Bruno's litter box and cage!

Friday, April 18, 2014

VMI Visit

Tuesday we continued our tour of colleges, visiting Virginia Military Institute (VMI).  We had originally planned that we all would go, just like the Va Tech visit, but then the weather forecast was terrible, predicting rain and a cold front coming in all day.  So we decided the better part of valor was to have Bob stay home with all the younger kids, and just Nathan, Luke, and I make the trip!  Good thing too, because the day turned out to be just as miserable as predicted, weather-wise, LOL.  No kite flying on the drill field would have happened Tuesday!

We left at 7:00 and got to Lexington a little after 10:00.  We met our friends, Tim and Amy P. and their daughters, at the house of Tim's sponsor mom from when he was a cadet at VMI.  Tim and Amy volunteered to take us on a driving tour of Lexington and the campus, and, since there were only 3 of us, we all fit in their van!  It was wonderful!  I really liked the town of Lexington.  It had a really nice feel to it, and of course I loved driving around and seeing all the old houses and buildings!  VMI is on a hill right next to another school, Washington and Lee, which also used to be an all-male school.  I'm not sure who ever thought it was a good idea to put 2 all-male institutions right next to each other, especially with one being military.  There were apparently the occasional brawl.  Who would have thought?  But now they are both co-ed, and I think they co-exist up on the hill nicely, LOL.

Being up on a hill was really nice, I thought, because it gave some definition away from the town, unlike UVa, where the students were just swarming all over the streets, and it seemed like the city was encroaching on the campus (or more likely, the campus was encroaching on the city!).  I really liked the architectural look of VMI too--like a castle!  It was good that Tim could drive us around so we could really get a feel for the whole campus, even the sports fields and obstacle courses behind the main campus part.
After our driving tour, we picked up pizza and went back to the sponsor mom's house to eat that really quickly.  Then it was back to the campus for a walking tour.  Thankfully the rain held off pretty much during the tour, so we didn't get soaked.  A junior history/English major gave the tour, and he was really good--funny too!  He told us he wasn't really a tour guide, but he definitely gave us a good feel for life at VMI.  We were all so impressed by all the traditions there.  I'm pretty familiar with USAFA traditions, who the buildings are named for, etc., but this was all totally new!  And everything goes back so far!  Christine asked about "Confederacy stuff", but we definitely did not get that vibe at all.  When the guide was talking about a huge painting in their chapel building of the New Market Battle of the Civil War, where cadets (some as young as 13) actually saw combat and performed very heroically, he said that regardless of politics, what they did there was be courageous, take initiative, sacrifice, etc.--in other words, demonstrate the qualities that VMI is trying to instill in people.  So it was a really interesting tour.

After the tour, we went up to the math department to visit a professor who was a classmate of Tim's.  He was really nice, and it seemed to me that he would be a really good professor.  In fact, he said the math department was filled with really great professors (he excluded himself, LOL), and this year they were graduating something like 44 math majors, which really is pretty good for a school of just around 2000!  Math is not usually the most popular of majors!  We discussed how Va Tech is having most engineering majors in ROTC take 5 years, while VMI definitely does not give that option.  He admitted that engineering was definitely harder at a place like VMI, since you had to take more classes at a time, as well as deal with all the yelling and stuff from upperclassmen during the first year, especially.  He said that was why some people changed majors to math, LOL.  We didn't get to talk to an AF ROTC guy this trip, but I was wondering if that didn't explain why the Va Tech Corps lady (a lt. commander, I found out, thanks to Tim and his knowledge of Navy ranks!) was saying that Tech had such a higher rate of getting cadets into field training slots--the cadets there would have better grades than VMI cadets, since they have less pressures on them.  Interesting thing to consider, if in fact that is true.  We'll definitely ask that question when we do talk to an AF ROTC person up there!  Nathan is planning on going back in the fall to spend the night, and he will need to set up an interview as well, so we will be back down there, for sure.  Nathan is definitely still very interested in VMI!
After the tour, we visited the VMI Museum especially so we could see a model of a cadet room.  It was good to be able to see what people when when they talk about "rolling up the hay"!  Cadets sleep on these mattress things (used to be filled with hay), that they roll up during the day (done each morning before inspection) and that are put out on folding cots during the night.  Since 3 people are assigned to a room, it's a good things the beds are up out of the way during the day so they have enough room to move around!   The other exhibits were interesting too--so much history!  We bought a few things at the gift shop and then headed outside to take pictures.  We discovered that the rain had really started coming down while we were in the museum, and I definitely should have taken pictures during the tour!  Oh well.  So I only got these 2 pictures.  In the picture right above, Nathan and Luke are in front of a statue called "Virginia Mourning Her Dead", which is right in front of their engineering building.

After saying goodbye to the P's, Nathan drove us all the way back home, which was nice because I find that I am just really tired in the afternoons, and I knew I wouldn't be that safe of a driver, especially in the rain.  Then we were back to our usual schedule, rushing off to CAP, giving baths to the little kids, etc.  But it was a really great day, and I really enjoyed the time just with Nathan and Luke!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A False Impression

This morning I took Caleb, Jonathan, Anna, and Grace to their weekly homeschool swim class.  We got there about 10 minutes early, and they went off to the changing room to get ready.  Another mom came over to speak to me whose little son was in the class that was finishing up.  She mentioned how she had noticed how I had "several" kids, but that we were always on time--even early!--and I didn't seem rushed or anything.  She just has the one son, who is 3 1/2 right now (and she is 36 weeks pregnant), but she is always late and/or fogetting stuff, and it is just so stressful, so could I share some tips with her?

Hahahahaha!  I felt like laughing so hard!  How hilarious--she has the impression that we are always on time, and that I am so organized just based on watching us at swim class for a few weeks!  It just goes to show you really can NOT judge just based on limited interactions!!

Well, I quickly disabused her of the notion that we were EVER really on time, except in this one instance where I am bringing less than half of my children (the half that doesn't need much help at all getting out the door), and we only live 5 minutes away.  I described my extreme frustration on Sundays, where we are *always* late, and I usually feel like I shouldn't have even bothered going.   I told her that I was quite impressed that she was even attempting something like swim classes, being 36 weeks pregnant!  Hey, if it was just me trying to get Micah out the door all the time, we would almost certainly be late every single time.  Three year olds just aren't always that cooperative.

Then we started talking about homeschooling, and she said she was getting ready to start homeschooling her son.  She has already ordered the full Abeka pre-school curriculum!  I gave her the advice that my friend Suzanne gave me back when I was wanting to start homeschooling Nathan--work on character issues, obedience with a happy attitude, and lengthening his attention span first.  Then other learning will be much easier!  It's really not worth it to wrestle around with your 3 year old boy, trying to get him to do a bunch of worksheet pages.  Let him be a child and just play!  I said that was a huge benefit of homeschooling--not fitting your child into the holes a school environment wants to push him into, even if he doesn't fit them right then.  Also, I warned her about comparing her son with other kids his age, especially girls (this lady's personality made me worry that she would be the type to compare and worry, worry, worry), since boys often have a harder time sitting still, getting fine motor skills, etc.  She probably won't take a bit of my advice (I know I didn't when Nathan was little, LOL--look how far I've come!), but oh well.  And really, would you take a ton of advice from someone who just told you that your impression of them as organized and on-time was completely 100% wrong?!  Hahaha!

Monticello Visit

 So last Thursday night we slept in a nice Sleep Inn there in Charlottesville, where we met up with the McC's, who had spent the day at UVa.  Christine had all sorts of helpful information to pass on!  After a nice breakfast, it was on to Monticello, where we met up with the Cr family.  Michele, who teaches our 5th/6th grade lit class, had put together this field trip for us, and she did an outstanding job!
We filled a shuttle bus with Rivendell family and friends, and we made it over to the actual house right before our tour started at 10:10.  We had such a great tour guide--knowledgeable and enthusiastic.  We wished we could have had someone like her for our tour of the ship in San Francisco harbor 2 months ago!

I really enjoyed seeing the house, especially Thomas Jefferson's chamber.  I just loved all the windows and the lack of corners, with all the interestingly shaped rooms!  And his desk was so fascinating, with the "polygraph" machine he designed to make a second copy of what he was writing, and the turning fold-up book rack.  I want one of those!  I was really impressed by Jefferson's willingness to learn whatever he needed to do whatever he had set his mind to.  Very inspirational!
We were there right before Jefferson's birthday (which was April 13), and there was quite a little celebration going on!  Bob had to take Drew out of the tour because he was so fussy, so Bob was listening to a speech being given.  He said it was absolutely awful--very anti-capitalistic--and he had to come back inside, rather than stay out and torture himself by listening anymore!  But by the time we got out there, a fife and drum corps was giving a little concert AND there was birthday cake!
The kids happily ate birthday cake and listened to the music.
Then it was on to a tour of his gardens with another knowledgeable and enthusiastic tour guide!  This lady carried around with her a copy of a book about the gardens, which used extensive research into the very detailed diaries that Jefferson kept to be able to recreate the gardens today as they were when he was alive.
After that tour was over, we managed to get a group shot looking out towards the beautiful mountains.  You can't see Drew's head because he is pitching a terrible temper tantrum and being terribly uncooperative!  And it was time for lunch, so we walked back down to the visitors' center, where we ate.  We had brought a picnic lunch, but the other families bought from the little cafe they have there.

After lunch, we watched a 15 minute film called "Thomas Jefferson's World", and then we toured an exhibit there in the visitor's center.  It had a lot of details about the building of the house, which I found very interesting.  Really, there are so many interesting details about Jefferson's life because he kept such meticulous diaries!  It is such a gift that a man who ended up being so famous and leaving such a lasting legacy kept such detailed notes.  You would think that someone keeping those diaries would have to be really boring, not someone famous, lol.
Then we headed downstairs to the "Discovery" area, where they had all sorts of hands-on things for the kids to do--even try out a reproduction of the polygraph machine!  The kids were all kept busy in here for awhile.
This is Anna's lovely house.  Just a few minutes after this picture was taken, Micah melted down, and we had to make a speedy exit!  It had been 2 long days for him and Drew, poor babies.  They fell right asleep in the van!

We took the opportunity to drive through the campus of UVa, just so the boys could see it.  They really weren't that impressed.  There were so many students swarming all over, and there were busy roads with lots of traffic all around.  Plus, Charlottesville is just a bigger city than Blacksburg, and that's not actually an advantage in their minds.  On our way out, we took a wrong turn, so we had to drive down a road with a bunch of fraternity houses.  People were just milling around, climbing on roofs, etc., and the houses just looked pretty ratty.  That was the final nail in the coffin, lol, and neither boy now has any desire to go there.  Although when Luke is really looking at schools, we will probably go back down and actually take a tour and meet with people.  That will be better than just a drive-through!  Nathan for sure doesn't want to go someplace with just a small ROTC detachment, so it's a non-issue for him.

We had such a fun day, and we were so thankful the weather was so beautiful for this whole little trip!  We made it home that night and were so glad to be there.  I was so tired.  The next day Nathan and Luke had to get up early to take the ACT.  Nathan was able to drive himself and Luke over there, which was absolutely lovely!  That gave me some time to recover!  

Monday, April 14, 2014

Virginia Tech Visit

On Thursday, we got up really early (4:30 for me) and left at 6:00 to drive down to Blacksburg for a college visit.  Good thing we had all that practice of getting up and out early when we were trying for space-a flights back in February!  I will say I am SO glad we made that trip back in February when I was not very far along.  This time getting up so early and driving a lot about did me in!

Anyhow, the night before Bob had gotten home really, really late with Anna and Micah after this big baseball game adventure.  We had been planning on making it down to Tech by 10:00 to go to an information session about the Corps of Cadets, but Bob and I decided we would just skip it and sleep in a little bit longer.  We neglected to tell Luke, however, so at 4:20 or so he came in and asked if we were leaving anytime soon.  I mumbled something about leaving later, but I did wake up enough to realize I had to pee, and if I got up to do that, I might as well shower and just get up.

So we were able to make it (barely) in time for the Corps session, and we were so glad we didn't miss it, because it was very informative!  Luke, Nathan, and I went.  One of the things I stayed up late doing the night before was printing off maps and whatnot, so we were able to drive directly over to the building we needed to be at.  An active duty Naval officer (sorry--I simply can not keep Navy ranks straight!) in the chain of command there gave the briefing, and she talked a mile a minute, packing in all sorts of information.

There are about 1,076 cadets in the corps, which means there are hundreds of leadership positions in charge of 30 or more people.  You can be in the Corps without being in ROTC, and 30% take this civilian leadership track.  She said Air Force had the best 3 year ROTC scholarships, and they have the 6th largest AF ROTC detachment in the US.

When you get there, you are put into a freshman company of 30 people (your "buds"), and you become really, really close with them.  In fact, after the first 6 weeks you get some passes to go no more than 50 miles from campus, but the catch is all 30 of you have to be together.  The first year sounded a ton easier than an academy--really only the first 6 weeks are very restricted (no TV/music in rooms, no going off campus, etc.).

She talked a lot about how the Corps tries to help make the academic transition from high school to college easier.  They give you a planner and help you plan out each day from all of your syllabi.  They put you into a study group with 5 other freshmen in your major, along with a sophomore who is also in the same major, to help you with assignments and whatever you don't understand.  You have to study 2 hours for each hour of class, and there are designated study hours in the Corps dorms.  She went on for awhile, and it really did sound like good support.

She talked really fast, but even so, she ran later than we expected, and as soon as she wrapped it up, we had to bolt over to an engineering information session that started at 11:15, so we didn't get to talk anymore with her or ask any questions, which was too bad.  She was really nice!

The engineering session mainly just talked about the different engineering majors offered at Tech.  We did find out that most ROTC students who are also engineering majors take 5 years to finish.  This was surprising, since the Corps lady didn't say a word about it, but it was confirmed by several people.  We were impressed by the rigor of the engineering program, as well as by all the project opportunities for the students.  The only problem with the session was that the room was about 100 degrees, I had left my water bottle in the car when we bolted out to the first session, and I thought I was going to pass out!  I ate a protein bar, but still--I was very glad when it was over!  Nathan did say after the session that he thought he would stop saying he was planning on majoring in electrical engineering, but rather just "engineering", since there were other choices that really interested him as well.

We caught up with Bob and the rest of the kids, who had eaten while we were in the 2 sessions, and they took us over to Taco Bell so we could grab a quick bite.  Then it was off to a meeting with one of the Air Force ROTC officers, a captain.  He was very nice, but he was not really talkative or much into volunteering any extra information.  He showed us a powerpoint presentation on the detachment there (which confirmed the 5 year engineering thing and explained how it worked), and answered a few questions we came up with, but that was it.  He definitely didn't initiate any conversation!  The meeting only took about 30 minutes.

Next, we met up with a cadet named Joe who is a junior there currently on an Army ROTC scholarship.  Lynnea hooked us up with him, and what a blessing that was!   Originally, we had planned to visit UVa this day, but Nathan is not remotely interested in going there, so we ended up deciding to do this visit instead.  But by the time we decided, there were no more slots available for the campus walking orientation tour, and I was so disappointed.  It turned out to be a blessing in disguise, however.  Joe took us on a personal tour of the whole campus from a Corps/ROTC perspective, which was much more helpful than some generic tour!  He was just so very nice!  We really enjoyed our time with him.  He was in the middle of inspecting some rooms when we finished up with the ROTC guy, so we got to tag along with him while he finished, seeing the rooms and talking to other cadets.  It was so nice!  We were really impressed by the atmosphere in the Corps.  Everyone was so friendly, and they seemed genuinely happy to be there.  It was really nice seeing all the uniforms around campus too, especially around the "upper quad" where the Corps dorms are, which is really close to the engineering/math buildings.  You definitely won't stick out like a sore thumb just because you are in ROTC, like in schools with a really small detachment.  One small cool detail--the dorm we were in is called "Monteith Hall"--my grandparents' last name!

The campus is really pretty, and we were there on an absolutely beautiful spring day.  But you will have to google if you are curious because I did not take one single picture the entire day.  I guess I was just really, really tired!  Tons of students were hanging out on the drill field in the center of campus.  I really love the style of architecture they have gone with--sort of old English look, I guess you would call it.  They are in the process of tearing down and rebuilding the Corps dorms and classroom buildings.  They have torn down one main dorm, and it is supposed to be rebuilt and finished fall 2016.  The whole project is supposed to be finished fall of 2019.

Joe had to go to another class at 3:15, so after thanking him profusely for sharing his time and experience, we met back up with Bob and everyone else.  They had been enjoying the drill field as well, flying a kite and eating apples!  Then we headed over to the house of Rob and Chandra Enos, who are part of the Valor ministry to the Corps.  Valor is the military ministry arm of "Cru", which used to be Campus Crusade.  They used to work at White Sulphur Springs, so it was so fun to catch up with them, as well as get their take on the Corps.  It is so nice to know that if Nathan went there, he would already know people in ministry and be able to plug right in there.

We left Blacksburg around 5:30 to drive to Charlottesville, where we spent the night before touring Monticello on Friday with Rivendell.  It was an absolutely exhausting day (for me, anyway), but it was very much worth it.  Nathan and Luke both were very excited about Virginia Tech, saying they could definitely see themselves there.  Our next college stop is VMI, so it will be very interesting to see how that compares!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Happy Birthday, Micah!

We are well in the throes of our "birthday season", where the birthdays come one right after the other.  This time, it was Micah, who turned 3 on April 9!  We started the celebration a little bit early, on last Saturday, when we gave him his "big" gift--a balance bike!  If you don't know what those are, they are little bikes with no pedals, so the child can work on balancing before worrying about pedaling.  We've seen them before (and even had friends who sold them!), but for some reason, we've just never gotten around to buying one for ourselves.  You can imagine Micah is absolutely LOVING his "big boy" bike!
After the bike giving, we all ate ice cream, of which we had a whopping 5 varieties to choose from!
I knew Micah's actual birthday was going to be a crazy day, so I decided we would do a little something on Tuesday for Rivendell.  So I baked cookie dough brownies in the morning, and after the younger kids cam back from TNT, we sang "Happy Birthday" to Micah.
For some reason, he was very unsure about the whole"sing to me" thing, even though he loves to sing to others!  He turned his head away and even started crying, which reminded me so much of Luke in his younger days, who also hated having the attention of everyone on him, especially on his birthday!
But all was well when Luke pointed out to Micah that now he could blow out the candles.  Whew!
On Wednesday, Micah's actual birthday, Bob took him, Anna, and Ian, our friend from church, out to a Nationals game.  They had a fantastic time!  The weather was nice, the people around then were a really fun group, and the Nationals won in a shoot-out, 10-7!  On the metro on the way home, Bob and some other random guy got the whole car to sing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game", and after that, "Happy Birthday" to Micah!  Then this other person gave Micah a foul ball that he had snagged during the game.  Fun time!  They didn't get home until after midnight, though, so it was a long day for a little pumpkin, even though he had just turned 3!

Friday, April 04, 2014

The Dawn of a New Age

I remember when Nathan turned 13, and we started leaving him along with the kids.  It was so freeing to be able to go out for a quick dinner, or run to Lowes or somewhere, without having to take everyone!  And as he and Luke got older, and I got more and more confidant leaving everyone with them (and now Caleb), it has gotten better and better.

A few weeks ago, Nathan got his driver's license, but I've just been so nervous about letting him actually drive by himself.  It hasn't helped that he had all those extra CAP practices for the competition, and the timing was always so rushed, plus we were carpooling.  But now the competition is over, and I finally bit the bullet.  On Wednesday evening, he drove himself and Luke over to the McC's to watch a movie.  It was SO nice not having to drop them off or pick them up!  And then yesterday he drove himself to his orthodontist appointment in the morning AND to rugby practice in the afternoon.

Oh my goodness.  It was so wonderful to not have to be gone in the morning and the afternoon!  I was able to go through a huge pile of mail and papers in our kitchen, throwing stuff out and shredding others, and STILL have time to make dinner because I didn't have to be gone from 2:30-3:30, and then again from 4:45-5:45. What a concept!  It was so nice.  I won't pretend I wasn't really nervous, because I was, especially when Nathan didn't actually get home from rugby until 6:00 (traffic was bad on one of the main roads, which frequently happens, but still . . . I was nervous, LOL).  I think this is going to be a wonderful thing.

The good thing is that Luke should be getting his license a little before Nathan leaves for college, so we'll have continous extra driving coverage even after Nathan goes.  Then we'll have a year between Luke's leaving and Caleb getting his license, which will be very difficult for me, I know, LOL.  I will have been so spoiled!  We'll have another gap year between Jonathan and Anna, but once she gets hers, I think we won't have another gap until everyone has graduated!  And people think we didn't plan our kids (haha, that was a joke . . .)!  Just pray for me--lots of potential for gray hairs between now and then, LOL.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Continuing the Celebration

We may not be great at doing spectacular things on the exact day of each person's birth, but we are great at prolonging the celebrations!  We continued celebrating Anna's 8th birthday all weekend long!  She opened her presents Saturday night, instead of Monday, since Monday night is so busy, with Rivendell the next day.  We figured Nathan would rather be there for the birthday dinner (Monday) than for the present opening!
Anna is modeling a scarf in her favorite color ("teal") from her Grandma and Grandpa G.  They also got her the pink cupcake maker.  It turns out that Anna may not like "regular" cake and frosting, but that is only when she isn't making it!  She and the other girls spent Sunday afternoon making cupcakes, and she was so happy that she could do it all pretty much herself.  They were yummy!

Anna also got an American Girl book about McKenna (sp?), who is a gymnast, so Anna started in right away on that book.  When I was in Sams a few weeks ago, I saw these cute boxed sets of American Girls books which included a mini-doll.  I was so excited, even though there wasn't very much selection for characters.  Anna loves dark hair, so I picked Samantha for her.  Now the other 2 girls want one too (don't tell, but I bought 3 different sets--yay!).  And we got Anna a kite, which hopefully we can use even this weekend, if the weather will just stay spring-like!

Of course, we had freshly-made chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting, as well as ice cream on Sunday!  Monday we had Anna's birthday dinner.  You can tell she is growing up, because she picked a really great meal!  We had grilled steaks, a thin-sliced cheesy potato bake, roasted brussel sprouts, and fruit salad with grapes, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and her new favorite kiwi fruit.  We had practically no left-overs, so everyone else approved of her choices as well, LOL.  I think Anna had a very nice birthday celebration, one worthy of such a sweet girl!