Monday, March 30, 2015

Out With the Old, In With the New

Two Mondays ago, we were finishing up dinner.  Bob asked me if I could go on a walk, and I told him it had to be a quick one, since I still had things to do to prepare for Rivendell the next day.  I ran upstairs to grab a sweatshirt and brush my teeth.  As I was brushing my teeth, I thought I heard a strange voice downstairs, and sure enough, when I got downstairs, Bob was leading through our kitchen a lady, who I recognized as someone who lived in the neighborhood, although not on our street.  "And THIS is how much food we have to make EVERY night!" as he gestured towards the huge (13x20 in.) casserole dish that was actually still on the table.  Ummm . . . what is going on? was what I was thinking.  I assumed we were in some sort of trouble, although I couldn't figure out what for, since it's been a cold winter, the kids haven't been outside too terribly much, we haven't done anything to the outside of the house . . .

The lady seemed really nice, asking how many kids we had again--was it 7?  We chatted for a few minutes about her husband's recent bout with blood clots, as well as her son's badly broken arm that kept him out of lacrosse last season.  Her son did just recently have appendicitis, though (insert appropriately somber hmmming).  Bob and I waved her out the door, with Bob calling after her that we would see her at her house in a few minutes.

As soon as she left, Bob told me that we weren't in any kind of trouble--she had actually come over to offer us their old refrigerator, since they were remodeling their kitchen.  Ahhhh . . . that would actually be a good thing!
We have an extra refrigerator out in our garage, along with our freezer.  Both these appliances came from my grandparents, when they moved into a retirement home back when we lived in Colorado Springs.  Although this fridge has served quite faithfully, there is no getting around the fact that it is at least 25 years old.  My grandparents bought it from Montgomery Ward, but when they brought it home, my grandma didn't like it at all, which makes sense because the freezer is tiny, and the fridge part isn't much bigger.  So not too much later they bought another fridge (one with the freezer on the bottom, which we also got when they moved into the retirement home--we traded them our kitchen one for their house they were selling), and this one went into their garage.

Now the freezer part does not keep things reliably frozen, so I pretty much only keep things like chocolate chips and nuts in there--nothing I would really care about thawing, like meat or ice cream.  When we were stationed at the Air Force Academy, we used the fridge that came with the base house and kept our other "better" fridge in the garage, so Bob took this fridge to the squadron for 2 years.  The cadets were not super gentle with it, so it developed a bit of a mold problem around the seals that I never could get to go completely away.  And by now it is a complete mess inside, but it still technically worked, so we had no thoughts of replacing it.  We definitely need a second fridge, with all the food we go through in a week!  I try to keep at least 6 gallons of milk and 9 dozen eggs in there, as well as a 5 pound bag of cheese and plenty of fruits and vegetables, among other things.

So Bob and I headed over to this lady's house.  Geographically speaking, it was the farthest house in our little neighborhood from ours.  I was quite curious to see inside it because last summer, while I had gestational diabetes with Verity and was marching around the neighborhood daily, this family had started a renovation that included adding onto their basement so they could add onto their kitchen.  This is my dream, since the kitchen/laundry room is the only part of our house that I really don't like.  I had even dreamed of making a permanent shed (attached to the house) under our deck, and putting a room on top of it that would be where we could put our table, so our kitchen would be bigger!  Indeed, we went inside, and WOW!  The kitchen was AMAZING!!  They had an island as big as our table (which is 9 feet right now, and 4 feet wide!).  I was quite envious!  But then as we talked, she said she would have loved to have a big family, but they got married late, had several miscarriages, and then were so happy to have their one son.  I'm so thankful for our kids.  I definitely wouldn't trade them for a beautiful kitchen, and here is this lady, envying me.  Perspective . . .  Oh, this is funny though--the lady said she had asked all her neighbors if they needed a second fridge, but they all had one.  So then she was thinking who could possibly use this, since it was in such good condition . . . and they thought of that family with all the kids!  Ha!

So they had put the fridge on a dolly.  We called Nathan and Luke to come over, and then the 4 of us wheeled this huge fridge through our neighborhood to our house.  It was quite the parade!  The boys wondered what was more suspicious--2 teenage boys in hoodies walking through a neighborhood at night, or 2 teens with their parents wheeling a fridge down the street, LOL.

I am a little embarrassed to say that it took us until today to be able to actually replace the old fridge with the new fridge.  Let's just say our garage has suffered great disorganization and tendency toward chaos during this cold winter.  We had to work 2 full afternoons to get things organized enough to have room to switch them around!

So here's the new fridge:
You are probably thinking, "Ummm . . . is that really PURPLE?!?"  Yes.  Yes, it is.  A bold choice, to be sure!  In the dark, it just looked black, so we too were a little startled the next day when we opened up the garage and saw it in natural light for the first time.  Bob says the doors actually have covers on them that we could take off, and it would be black underneath.  Maybe sometime we will, should we ever want to, say, move it into our kitchen.  It's nicer than our kitchen one!  Bigger, too!  It's only 6 years old, which I believe is newer than our main one as well.  (ETA:  I just checked my blog, and it appears that we bought our current kitchen fridge on March 1, 2006--right before Anna was born!)  Anyway, it is absolutely wonderful inside--so clean and SO big!  And such an unexpected blessing all around!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Happy Birthday, Anna!

Anna turned 9 yesterday.  She celebrated Friday and today, but not yesterday, though.  Friday Elizabeth L. and Anna's birthday buddy Amanda took her to see Cinderella and eat lunch at Chick-Fil-A.  They did this last year too, and I do not exaggerate when I say this is a highlight of Anna's year!  She considers herself *extremely* fortunate to have been born on March 28 eight years after Amanda!

Yesterday, Anna's actual birthday, was a crazy day.  Nathan and Luke had rugby practice, Caleb and Jonathan had 2 rugby games down south, and Anna was invited to the birthday party of another girl in her co-op class at the same time as Caleb and Jonathan's games!  Bob was in PA with his sister Ann celebrating their dad's 90th birthday, so Anna had to ride with a friend to and from the party.  She had a wonderful time, and hey--a party I didn't have to plan!
So this afternoon we celebrated Anna!  We had her birthday dinner after church.  Once again, she asked for steak.  I went to Sam's Wednesday morning to buy everything.  I never go in the mornings, since we're always doing school then, but this week we're on spring break.  Being early meant I was able to snag steak that was marked down because it needed to be sold that day and used by Sunday.  Perfect!!  Anna also requested thin-sliced cheesy potatoes, cabbage salad, and fruit salad with lots of berries.  I forgot raspberries, but she had strawberries, blueberries, and her favorite blackberries, along with kiwi, her non-berry favorite.  We had brussell sprouts too, since I had a package we needed to use up.  Yummy!

Funny note:  in the picture above, facebook wanted to tag her as me!  Ha!
Anna wanted a strawberry cake, and she wanted to decorate it.  The girls got in some more cake decorating practice with Aunt Ann, who came down Thursday night and decorated a cake for her and Bob's dad that night. Anna had lots of plans, so we just made a 9x13 cake so she would have plenty of room to work.  She had a ball, and it turned out really well!  Caleb helped with the squiggly lines and the sea shells on the side of the cake.  The fresh strawberries on top were also her idea, and they were really yummy!  I'm telling you--it is a wonderful thing that I don't have to make elaborate cakes anymore for kids' birthdays!  I am all over this new trend of decorating your own!
Before we actually ate the cake, we did presents.  Anna has gotten really good at doing hair, so we got her some more hair things--lots of various headbands because they keep getting broken around here, and also this cool little thing that helps make buns.  I'll have to take a picture because it's neat.  We also got her a new jump rope, which everyone has been using, as well as a neat book of Frozen crafts and hair-related ideas that I had just happened to see at Michael's several weeks ago. Oh, that small package on top is candy--a bag of gummi bears and a box of Lifesaver chewy candies.  For Luke's birthday I got him a random bunch of chocolate and chewy candies, which was well-received, and everyone was very envious.  So I thought that might be a nice tradition, since it's really hard to know what to get for birthdays when you have so many kids, and you really do NOT want a ton of new junk coming into the house all the time.  Plus, we don't do anything candy-related for Halloween or Easter, so they don't get a ton of candy during the year.  So, edible gifts--a win/win all around!

The cake tasted as good as it looked!  Someone gave Verity a bit of frosting, and although she didn't know quite what to think of it at first, she soon decided it was a lot tastier than that rice cereal stuff!  In fact, some got smeared on the arm of her bumbo, and she spent the rest of the time trying to slurp her bumbo as best she could.

And this is what is left of the 9x13 cake.  I guess everyone can have a really small piece tomorrow?
ETA:  There's actually even less left now that I left it out on the table for a little while unattended . . . it might not see tomorrow at all!

So wow, 9 years old!  Anna is becoming a beautiful young woman with a lovely smile!  Like I said before, she loves doing hair, and fortunately there are several willing helpers to be practiced upon right here.  She also loves gymnastics and swimming.  She's a good reader, but she would rather be flipping or being a contortionist than actually sitting down and reading a lot.  She's good at math too, but again, that definitely doesn't light her fire.  She has really developed into a good helper, taking pride in keeping whichever room is her assigned room for the day clean and picked up.  And it goes without saying that she loves babies and is a wonderful big sister especially for Drew and Verity!  I think she will be in great demand as a babysitter in a few more years--she certainly has oodles of experience!  We look forward to seeing what this year holds for Anna!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Rugby Success

Today Caleb and Jonathan got to rugby practice, AND they were on time!  This is actually a huge deal, because we have failed pretty miserably so far this season at this very low bar.

In January we thought maybe Nathan's rugby team from last year wasn't going to happen this year, since we had gotten no emails and the website hadn't been updated.  So we started looking around, and we found another rugby team not too far from us.  The problem was that they had practices on Tuesday nights, which meant Nathan and Luke would miss CAP, so that wasn't ideal.  But then it turned out Nathan's old rugby team WAS going to have a season, so it all became a moot point.  The coach from the other team kept in contact with Nathan, however, and he asked if Caleb and Jonathan would want to play, since this club has teams for younger kids.  Well, sure!  Why not?!  It wouldn't be as bad as basketball season, where we had 6 kids on 6 different teams!  This would only be 4 kids on 2 teams!  Piece of cake!  And Nathan can drive him and Luke to their practice!

Except for some reason, we have not been able to get this second rugby team on my mental calendar.  It didn't help that there were a ton of practices cancelled in January and February because of bad weather.  Even at the first practice Caleb and Jonathan went to, I sent them off to the wrong place because somehow I misread the email--a bad omen, for sure.  Since then, it's been one thing after another, but mainly, I just forget all about their practice until I happen to look down at my watch and realize--hey, Caleb and Jonathan have practice tonight, and it is starting *right now*.  One time I misread another email and totally had the wrong starting time in my head.  I did check the email as I was stopped at a red light on the way home from dropping the girls off at gymnastics, and whoops!  That's when I realized practice actually started half an hour earlier (*right then*), and I wasn't even back home, much less on the way to rugby!  So we skipped that one, since we had been 25 minutes late the practice before because I failed to allot anywhere near enough time to get to this different practice location in D.C. rush hour traffic.  Gah . . . so embarrassing!  I was really developing a complex!

But tonight we had success.  Jonathan made a big sign to hang on the wall under the calendar to remind us of rugby.  All throughout the day he and Caleb reminded me that practice was tonight *at 5:30*, not 6:00.  And so we left at an appropriate time and made it there early!  Wow!  It's only taken us 2 months!  Clearly I am at maximum mental capacity right now, with no extra margin.  Good thing spring break is this next week!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015


Hey, it's Tuesday night, but guess what I'm NOT doing?  Latin, that's what!  Caleb and Jonathan took the National Latin Exam last Friday, so we are DONE for the year for Latin!  Yay!!  No more Wednesday classes, which means I can actually relax on Tuesday nights, which means maybe I can get a little bit caught up on this blog.  I've just been so tired and overwhelmed since the new year started, but the Lord has provided refreshment for me exactly when it was really needed.
One refreshing thing was a lovely snowstorm that we had Thursday March, March 5.  It snowed so beautifully all day, and no one had to go anywhere.  It was really nice because we had just gotten some bad news about Bob's job, and it was nice distraction.  Everything looked so peaceful, like Narnia or something.  The snow was so perfect, we actually got out our cross-country skis!
Even more impressively, we got out skis for the kids too!  Several years ago our friends Mark and Lori had passed down 2 sets of kids cross-country skis, but the snow just hadn't worked to try them out.  But this year it all worked, and they were so fun!  All 3 girls were able to fit into the bigger size of boots, and Micah could wear the smaller pair.  The girls took turns, and they all had a lovely time.  Faith as it turns out is a really powerful skier!  She caught on right away and just powered through the snow!  Micah wasn't exactly sure how to use his poles and fell down a couple of times, but overall he did pretty well too.  Anna and Grace did well, although I wasn't out at the same time as they were.  Oh, Jonathan and Caleb can both wear my boots, so they got to take a spin on my skis.  I love cross-country skiing!  Th girls think we need to move to a place where we can do it more than once every 3 or 4 years, LOL.
The next refreshing thing the Lord provided was a visit by my sister-in-law Melinda and her 2 girls.  We picked them up on Monday, March 9, and the weather was so lovely that day.  Bob was able to drive us around downtown, so the girls got a tour of DC and the monuments without having to walk all over creation.  Bob did masterfully find a parking place for the big van over by the Jefferson Memorial, so we did walk around there some.
Melinda and the girls visited the elementary co-op on Tuesday with my girls, since the co-op was having one of their special 5th week activities.  This time the "Reptile Man" came, bringing tons of scaly creatures with him.  I remember when he came 7 years ago.  I was just as glad to stay home and teach life science and anatomy.  I'm still not a fan of reptiles, LOL.  Wednesday we visited Udvar-Hazy.  We watched the airplanes land at Dulles for awhile, and then walked around the museum.  Thursday Melinda braved the Metro and took Emily, Anna, and Grace downtown to visit the Museum of Natural History and the Museum of American History.  Grace has been *dying* to go on the Metro, so that was a dream come true for her (and then she realized how boring it actually is, LOL).  The girls were particularly impressed by the jewel display at the Natural History Museum!  Elia stayed here and went to Faith's art and science co-op with her.  Friday we all went swimming at the local rec center, where Faith had her swimming lesson.
This is so obvious, I don't even need to say it, but the girls had a FABULOUS time together!  I think it is just so special that all 5 girls are so close in age to each other, and that they get along so well!  I had a wonderful time with Melinda as well, just talking about all sorts of things and hanging out.  It was lovely!  Plus, she was amazingly helpful, always unloading or reloading the dishwasher, starting a load of laundry, sweeping under the table--whatever needed to be done.  It was wonderful!  Bob thought we should convince her to stay longer, but I didn't think my brother would go for that, LOL.  Having her here, and Amy a few weeks earlier, definitely lifted my spirits during this long winter.
(Is this not the CUTEST picture of Elia and Verity?!)  Both Emily and Elia really enjoyed playing with Verity and holding her (and she of course enjoyed even MORE attention than she normally gets!).  They were both so good with her!  Emily is going to be a fantastic babysitter.  She was always looking out for the little ones, like holding Drew's hand when we were walking, and making sure Verity had a burp cloth or a toy.  By the end of the week, both girls were carrying her around like old pros!
Our last meal together was Saturday night.  It was "Pi Day", so we celebrated with 2 meat pies for dinner, as well as a delicious chocolate pie (made from Pioneer Woman's recipe, except I used semisweet chocolate chips for the chocolate, and an oreo crust) and a brownie dessert pizza with fruit on it.  Yum!
But all good things must end.  We left at 4:00 AM to drive them back to the airport Sunday morning.  The house was very sad when I got back!  Anna kept sighing and saying she wished it was still "yesterday".  There was much talk about moving to Texas.  Everyone is looking forward to this summer and another Grandma/Grandpa camp!

And now the warmer weather and the knowledge that our spring break is just 2 weeks away is giving me something else to look forward to!  We can make it through this year . . .

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

A Week Later . . .

This morning I was once again over at our morning elementary co-op, in charge of character/game/lunch time.  In a random bit of deja vu, the big van did not start again, but at least this time it had the courtesy to fail right in front of our house, as opposed to at the church, so we were able to switch everything including Verity's car seat base and stroller over to the minivan and only be 15 minutes late.

I was aiding the 3rd and 4th graders this time, instead of the 5th and 6th graders.  There was a child in each class celebrating a birthday, so we got cupcakes first for the 4th graders, then a big frosted cookie with the 3rd graders.  Lots of sugar!  In the 3rd grade class, I told a few girls we did NOT have to play dodge ball for game time, since apparently they play that game *every* time (said with appropriate 3rd grade drama and sighing).  I held firm to that, even though the boys insisted that EVERYone loved dodge ball, and that it is the best game *ever*.  We instead played a few variations of tag.

As co-op was finishing up, one of the 3rd grade girls presented me with the picture above:  "Best Teacher Ever".  I am assuming that this designation was awarded because of my resolve concerning dodge ball.  The ironic thing though?  The artist is the younger sister of the girl who drew me the sad cow picture last week! When I got home, we were laughing at their imagined conversation tonight:

3rd grader:  I had the best teacher ever!  We didn't have to play dodge ball!  She was so great!

5th grader:  Her?!?  She plucks eyes out of innocent cows, leaving them to wander blindly around fields!  She's the WORST teacher ever!

What a difference a week makes!