Sunday, June 28, 2015

Happy Birthday, Nathan!

 Nathan turned 18 on Wednesday!  Like they say, the days are long, but the years are short.  I can't think of anything more rewarding I could have been doing for these past 18 years than raising him and his brothers and sisters.  Nathan is a huge blessing to our family, and we are certainly going to miss him when he goes off to college in August.  In fact, anytime he gets ready to go anywhere for at least a night, Faith asks, "So wait . . . this isn't when Nathan goes to college, right?  He's coming back this time?"
 We did not do too much celebrating on his actual birthday.  We did treat him to a shopping spree at Walmart, though--everything he could find on the new cadet packing list!  So now he has a big tub of random items up in his room, which really makes it seem real that he is in fact heading off in the not-too-distant future.  Bob and the other kids were at a swim meet Wednesday evening, so Nathan picked out a box of frozen barbeque pulled pork from Sams, and we had pulled pork sandwiches for dinner that night.  Thursday night we grilled chicken for his actual birthday dinner, as you can see on the special "Celebrate" plate above.  It was yummy!

Nathan didn't get too relax too long--Friday he left to be on staff at White Sulphur Springs for a few weeks.  I'm sure he's having a fantastic time there, as always, and we are missing him more than he is missing us!
 We've come a long way in 18 years!  This is a picture from December, 1997, when Nathan was dedicated at our church in Colorado Springs.  Bob and I were so young!  I had no idea at that time that 18 years later, I would still be changing diapers and nursing.  Probably better I didn't know, LOL.
Nathan is almost 2 here, still in Colorado Springs.  As you can see, he looks a lot like the rest of our kids.  We have a strong stamp, LOL.

One thing I have been remembering these past few weeks is my wonderful moms' walking group at Peterson AFB.  At some point a few months before I was due with Nathan, I noticed a flyer for this walking group up at the USAFA maternity clinic, where I went for appointments.  I started walking with them three times a week, and that group of ladies was such a wonderful support the rest of the time we were in Colorado. I really valued their friendships!  Three of us ended up having our babies in 3 days in 1997--my friend Gemiel had TJ on June 22, I had Nathan on June 24, and another girl, Mary, had her baby 6 weeks early up in Denver also on June 24 (she had been hiking in the mountains, and her water broke early).  We had a super-fun combined 1 year birthday party for the 3 babies the next year!

It is funny to look back and remember what a huge difference a few months of baby age seemed.  Jennifer had her first back in December, I think it was, and she became pregnant with her second not long after I joined.  She was so much wiser and more experienced, it seemed to me.  Felicia had her daughter a few weeks earlier in May, so Samantha seemed huge compared to newborn Nathan.  Dawn had Fredrick a few weeks later than Nathan, in July, and then it was Nathan's turn to seem huge and so old in comparison.  I am friends on facebook with Jennifer, Felicia, Gemiel, and Dawn, and it has been so fun to keep up with their kids, all of whom are graduating this year--a few months or weeks really makes no difference at all, LOL.  They're a great bunch of kids, though!  

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Cousin Fun

The kids have been having such a fun time here in Texas with their cousins!
Friday afternoon Melinda took us to "Safety Town" in a neighboring town's fire station.  I was expecting something where the kids climbed on fire engines and stuff (and there was a fire engine they could sit in), but it was so much more!  They have built a literal little town, with 4 blocks of little buildings, crosswalks, stop signs, cross walks, roads, etc, and they have 15 of those battery-powered jeeps for the kids to drive.  So the kids sit through a little presentation where they are reminded to stop at the red lights, stay in their lane, drive courteously, and so on.  Then they get to drive around this little town for 15 minutes.  Micah and Drew were too short to actually be the drivers, so Micah rode with Grace and Drew rode with Anna.  Faith was by herself, as were Emily and Elia.  The girls had so much fun driving!  There were definitely some boys who treated the whole thing like bumper cars, LOL, but it was a great program.  The girls would have loved to drive longer!
And of course there's the pool in the back yard.  The kids have been in there several times a day each day except yesterday, when we had stormy weather from tropical storm Bill.
The pool is big enough for all the kids, and it's set up just perfectly for a wide range of ages.  On the far end is a large flat "sunning" area, which is perfect for Drew especially to splash around in.  He and Micah also like to play in the "hot tub", which is not actually any hotter, but has a bench all around it so it is not too deep.
They also have a bunch of fun floatie things, like this airplane.  Micah has really loved this little ring.  In that, he kicks around the pool wherever he wants to go.  I will be glad when he learns to actually swim, though--hopefully by the end of this summer.  He's on the "junior swim team", so essentially he's having swim  lessons for June and July.  Of course, he can be not so cooperative, and the water was pretty cold in VA before we left, so he hadn't made any great strides, LOL.  But hopefully when we get back . . . he and Drew are both really enjoying the water here in Texas!
Faith and Elia are 2 peas in a pod!  They have such similar personalities.  They are so funny!
Poor Verity was not an initial fan of the pool, even though she was surrounded by her doting helpers, Anna, Caleb, Faith, and Elia.  When Caleb and then Luke held her, she was happier.  The next day I went in the pool too.  I held her at first and then put her back in her little boat, and she was okay with it then.  She was so cute in her little Winnie the Pooh suit and sun hat!
Drew has been really enamored with an alphabet puzzle they have here.  These are his favorite letters, along with an actual carrot because who knows why.  You will notice they are all food pictures--nuts, jelly beans, waffle, ice cream, carrot--and then "footprints".  The first time he did the puzzle, he called that piece "chocolate milk", so I guess in his mind, it does go along with the whole food theme.  Now the footprints piece is missing, so hopefully it will show back up again.
Tuesday night after dinner the younger kids and I headed over to a local park with Melinda and the girls.  It had a really nice playground, with lots of things to do, so it was a good way for the kids to burn off extra energy, since they hadn't been able to swim a lot that day either.  Yesterday they couldn't swim at all, and we really noticed a difference in how wound up and bouncing off the walls all the kids were last night!
Grace called this an "action shot".  At the base of this pole a little frog lived, the discovery of which caused great excitement.
Here is a picture of all the cousins except Nathan, taken right after church on Sunday.  We parked and as I came in the door, I told everyone I wanted to get a picture--but the girls had already started changing in to their swim suits!  I told them to change back into their church clothes for just a few more minutes, LOL.  The 5 girls really look like they are all related.  They all went to a local vacation Bible school this week in the mornings, and when Melinda would walk them all in, everyone thought she had 5 girls close in age, and commented on how busy she must be!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Texas Road Trip!

Last Tuesday we said goodbye to my parents, and then we packed like crazy people.  On Wednesday, June 10, I drove to the airport early to pick up Bob's sister Ann and her husband Wally who were flying back from a fantastic vacation in Hawaii.  When I got back, the kids were loading up the van, and as soon as we said goodbye to Ann and Wally, the kids and I drove off too--on our way to Texas!  Bob had to stay behind to work . . . and to take care of Bruno, of course.
The main reason we were going at this time is because Nathan was selected for a Civil Air Patrol special activity at a base in Texas.  We had wanted to visit my brother and his family last summer, but the timing didn't work out, so we realized this year we could combine the 2 things.  So we drove to Dallas, Nathan flew off to San Antonio on Saturday, and we stayed on with Dan, Melinda, and their 2 girls.
Luke got a lot of practice driving the old big van on the highway.  It is most certainly NOT a dream to drive, especially surrounded by semis!  It was really nice to have 3 drivers--Nathan, Luke, and me.  Also, I wasn't pregnant.  That made a *huge* difference in my comfort level, although the big van will never truthfully be called "comfortable".
The day before we left, Nathan, Luke, and I spruced up the back of the big van with these ThinkGeek Star Wars stickers.  There was much discussion about how to assign the stickers, and where to place them.  This configuration was Luke's idea.  We were stuck in a lot of construction and accident traffic during the drive, and I'm sure we provided something interesting for the people behind us to talk about . . .
The drive was not without its share of noise and tantrums.  Drew in particular had some difficult times, such as this one!  He appears to have picked this trip to start a new phase of tantrums.  Joy!  But we just turned up the music or the books on CD, and eventually he would settle down.  In the best cases, he would go off to sleep.  We listened to Caddie Woodlawn, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, as well as The Horse and His Boy over the course of the drive out.  Although Luke pointed out that he and the older boys had listened to the Narnia books many, many times, the younger kids have really not heard them that they remember.  We just haven't been taking as many long driving trips lately, and when we have, like up to Boston last summer, for some reason I didn't bring any books on CD.  I think I was worried it would be too loud to hear them in the van!  But I can't imagine doing a drive of this length without them--even just to keep me awake!
Verity was not a huge fan of the long drive either, but usually she gave up and went to sleep without too much problem.  She did develop a huge, angry diaper rash as a combined result of being in her carseat for 2 days straight and having a hard time teething her upper front 2 teeth.  Poor girl is still having a hard time of it, and now I think it has turned into a yeast infection.  I am hoping I can get it under control before we start back on Sunday!
We stayed Wednesday night on the east side of Nashville. Drew was so tired, he stayed asleep Thursday morning on the floor, even after the girls were all up and talking!  He does not quite get the concept of sleeping bags, LOL.

I had a terrible time getting reservations, although part of that was because I couldn't really focus on this trip until after Nathan's graduation party, so I didn't even try until Sunday afternoon.  Still though--I could hardly find any hotel with one room, much less 2, for Wednesday night.  As we were driving Wednesday, we kept seeing cars with paint all over the windows with some variation of  "Bonneroo or Bust".  At first we thought "Bonneroo" was a college, or some team or something . . . but eventually we googled and discovered it was in fact a big music festival south of Nashville that started on Thursday--which explained all the trouble I had getting reservations for a hotel.  At least we'll be avoiding all the young somewhat-ruggedly-trendy people with their headbands and sports sandals on the way back.  And it was easy to get 2 hotel rooms too!

Saturday, June 06, 2015

Happy Graduation, Nathan!

 Today we celebrated Nathan's graduation from high school.  Our first graduate!  Nathan wasn't at all interested in the whole gap/gown ceremony deal.  All he really wanted to do was eat ice cream and play games with his friends, like we did at a graduation party we went to last weekend.  We compromised by having a VERY short ceremony where Bob opened in prayer, I said a few brief things about how rewarding it has been to homeschool Nathan all the way through high school, not just because of his academic and athletic accomplishments, but because of his character and relationship with the Lord, and my dad closed in prayer.  Then we took a few pictures with Nathan's diploma, which was freshly minted off the internet.
 Then we opened up the ice cream bar!  Christine had ordered for me 2 3-gallon tubs of ice cream from her frozen food co-op.  It was an amazing bargain--$18 for 6 gallons of ice cream!  So we got a chocolate tub and a vanilla tub, those huge round cardboard ones like you see in an ice cream parlor.  We also had a gallon of mint chocolate chip because . . . well, you really can never have enough ice cream.  We ended up with about half a gallon of vanilla, a gallon of chocolate, and half a gallon of mint chocolate chip left, so we did pretty well, I think!  We ended up with about 75 people, not including out large, ice-cream-loving family.

You can see some of the graduation decorations hanging there and also on the table.  I bought a pack of them from the party store.  I'm putting them away so we can drag them out again in 2 years for Luke.  We should get our money's worth out of that pack of decorations!
 We had tons of toppings too.  To start with, you could choose a brownie square or a banana half to pt in your bowl before the ice cream.  Then we had 6 different flavors of toppings, oreo crumbs, M&Ms, gummi bears, sprinkles, crushed pretzels, sliced strawberries (the kind that are frozen in syrup--yumm!), chopped peanuts, walnuts, and pecans, and whipped cream.  Nathan had said when we were planning this thing that he wanted to be sure to have pretzels, so I bought some from the commissary and put them in a  bowl.  But no--Nathan wanted them crushed into pieces so he could put them on his ice cream.  I had never heard of that, so I tried it, and wow, was that good!  Salty and crunchy in there with the ice cream!  I'm a fan!  Who knew?!
 One thing I did was make this tri-fold board with pictures of Nathan from birth to now.  It was so fun to make!  The older boys were all up Thursday night while I was assembling it, and it was so fun to reminisce about things we did.  I printed off some VT images, and I wrote up some Bible verses on power point.  I figured Jer. 29:11 is always an appropriate graduation verse, and  Nathan has always really liked Josh. 1:9.  I Cor. 16:13-14 are verses I had never really noticed before we studied I Corinthians last year at Bible study.  It was what I ended my little speech with, as our graduation charge to Nathan:  "Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be [a man] of courage; be strong.  Do everything in love."

I also made a little scrapbook on snapfish with a lot of the same pictures.  At the end, I left some blank pages for people to write words of wisdom or whatever.  In fact, I hounded people to make sure they didn't leave without signing!  I figured that would be a nice keepsake for later for Nathan.
 We had a really good turnout, and after a week of cold, wet, miserable weather, the Lord was gracious to give us a beautiful day!  The kids spent a lot of time outside.
 The adults spent a lot of time inside! We were visiting, and the chairs were more comfortable, LOL.  Plus, food was easily accessible . . .
 Eventually the older kids came in to play games.  They had a rousing game of Apples to Apples before going outside to play Knock-out.  Then they went off to the field down the walking path to play Speedball, a game I have no clue how to play.  Much fun was had by all, I'm told.
 The younger crowd took advantage of the trampoline, as well as used just about every bike in our well-supplied garage (I think we have at least 10 in there), and also various scooters, skates, tricycles, etc.  We have plenty to go around!
My parents got in Thursday night, to be here for the celebration.  Friday was a really busy day too, so we are looking forward to hopefully some downtime these next few days.  My mom's 70th birthday is Monday, but thanks to Ed and Elizabeth, we managed to surprise her and have a little dinner party before Bible study Friday night at the L's house.  Ed grilled up delicious pork chops, and Elizabeth made pasta, mashed potatoes, steamed green beans, and cinnamon apples.  Since Jonathan's birthday was Tuesday, when she walked in, and we all said "Happy Birthday!", she thought we were talking to him, so she was a bit confused at first!  So funny--she was definitely surprised!  We're so glad they could come for this weekend, and we wish all the rest of our family on both sides could have been here too!

So one graduated . . . 9 more to go.  Only eighteen more years of homeschooling!

Friday, June 05, 2015

End of an Era

Today's trash day was certainly bittersweet, as we threw away our exersaucer, bumbo, and baby bathtub.  You may think we should have donated all of them, but you would be wrong.  They have all served very faithfully, and they are past the point anyone else would ever want them!

The exersaucer was given to us by our friends Ruth and Chip after they adopted their daughter (who is Anna's age) from China.  So Grace was the first of our babies to enjoy this exersaucer, which was MUCH jazzier than our old one, which we kept down in the basement.  The little toys were much more interesting, and they played music!  But now, having had 6 babies bounce around in it (5 of ours, plus Lily), it has seen better days.  The toys don't stay in (and some don't work anymore), the seat part is falling apart . . . it is ready for a nice retirement.

The bumbo was given to us by my brother and sister-in-law, Dan and Melinda, also when Grace was born.  Somehow her birth brought about a significant upgrading of our old baby equipment!  That has been one of the most useful things we had for babies, and I was so thankful they gave it to us, because I'm sure I wouldn't have bothered to buy one myself!  (The thing about having more and more kids is that with each one, you know the probability of them being the last one is getting higher and higher, and who wants to buy new stuff after 5 . . .6 . . . 7 . . .8 . . .9 . . .kids . . . so the later kids are stuck with older and rattier stuff--except when you have kind and generous friends and family, LOL.)

The bathtub should receive some sort of meritorious service award indeed.  We bought this tub back when we had Nathan, so it has held all 10 kids.  Several kids back the drain plug started leaking.  I attempted to fix that with duct tape, which didn't work, so Bob ended up glopping a ton of Shoo Goo around the plug.  That stopped the leak, although we could no longer drain it out the bottom.  But it went on to bathe the rest of the kids, so that was a small price to pay.  The yellow padding started to come off, so I super-glued that and never had any more problems with it.  I have always loved that you could fold this tub up for storage.  That is probably why we were able to keep it so long!  I would have been hard-pressed to move and store one that didn't fold up all these years!

So it was a bit hard to see these things go, after all these years, but I can certainly say we got as much use as possible out of them all!  And I am very happy to not have to store that exersaucer in the basement storage room anymore!

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Exciting Times!

The past few days have had a lot going on, some good and some bad.
Verity ran a fever over the weekend.  I wasn't worried, but when she woke up again with a fever over 100 Monday, I decided to take her in, just to make sure it wasn't anything, because Monday was the only day I really could do that this week.  As so often happens, as soon as I made the appointment, her fever went away and never came back, and she perked right up, LOL.  So the trip to the doctor was pretty much a waste of time, as she was obviously healthy as can be once we got there!  She is up to 15 pounds, 1 ounce, which is smack-dab at the 5th percentile, as I just plotted out.  But she's eating so well!  She loves table food, and she's still taking a bottle, although she stops when she's done--I can't force her to eat more.  Actually, today she decided she didn't really want to nurse, but before that she's also been nursing fine.  I really hope she's not self-weaning right now, but that's what it has seemed like today.  Gah . . . weight issues.  SO frustrating!  Anyhow, Verity's new skill is climbing up an entire set of stairs, so now we really have to watch her!  It's just like those malnourished babies to be climbing staircases at 8 months . . .

As we were driving back from Bethesda, Bob called with the unsettling news that our main refrigerator in the kitchen smelled like burning wires, so he had unplugged it while he cleaned behind it, just in case dirty coils were causing it to overheat.  Before I actually got home, however, a man from VT arrived at our house to personally present a scholarship to Nathan--he was in the area, presenting scholarships to students in area high schools, so he wanted to come to our house to present Nathan's to him.  Wasn't that nice?!  So after he left, and after Bob got home from attempting to drop everyone off for swim practice (it thundered right as they got there so they turned right back around), we plugged it back in again.  And again the smell of burning wires floated throughout the kitchen, so we unplugged it pretty quickly (picture my sinking heart as I contemplated moving all the stuff in there to various other fridges and freezers . . .)  Of course we are so thankful we HAVE other fridges and another freezer--but the timing is terrible!  We're having an ice cream social graduation party for Nathan on Saturday, so our freezer has over 7 gallons of ice cream in it, and our fridge has a bunch of stuff like 6 cans of whipped cream!  But the good news is that Luke googled the problem and found the answer, which enabled Bob to find the fried part.  What happened is that the filter to our ice maker (which is inside the fridge for some reason) got a little bit lose, so water leaked down the tube and down a hole in the bottom of the fridge . . . right into the compressor.  So a part fried.  I'm thankful it didn't cause an electrical fire while we were sleeping!  Bob ordered the new part, so hopefully it will get here soon . . . and work once installed.  (Praying, praying . . .)
Today Nathan and I drove to Bethesda bright and early so he could get his wisdom teeth out!  The procedure went well and didn't take too long.  I didn't get to see him until after he had already come out of the anesthesia, so no funny stories or video, unfortunately!  He was quite aware and lucid, although a bit mumbly with all the gauze.  He sounded a bit like Micah and Drew!  We are hoping he recovers quickly because, like I said before, we're having his graduation party on Saturday!  And even sooner, he has to go to an awards banquet on Thursday!  He just got notified tonight that he received a $2000 scholarship from a local service organization, so that was very exciting!
Today was also a special day because it was Jonathan's 12th birthday!  We anticipated it might not be the best day for celebrating, not only because of Nathan's teeth, but also because of Civil Air Patrol, so we started the celebration on Saturday.  Above you can see a strawberry tart that Jonathan made with strawberries from our own little strawberry patch on the side of the house!  We really do not have green thumbs, so to be able to make something yummy from stuff we actually grew ourselves is always an amazingly special occasion.  It was yummy too!  Jonathan, Caleb, and Anna all really enjoy cooking, and it's fun to get to sample their creations.
Saturday night we had Jonathan's birthday dinner, so Nathan could celebrate too.  Jonathan had ribs, pierogies, glazed carrots, and fruit salad.  Delicious!
Jonathan did open his presents tonight.  He got a model rocket from Aunt Ann and Uncle Wally, a snap circuits kit, a book of optical illusions that is really interesting, and a kit of science experiments I picked up at Sams a while back that looked right up his alley.  Oh, and a new watch to replace the one that broke a few months back.  Also the assortment of candy I've been giving each child since Luke's birthday.  Jonathan' selection included Whoppers, Swedish Fish, M&Ms, and peanut butter cups.  Yum!

Now we're looking forward to my parents coming out here on Thursday so they can be here to celebrate Nathan's graduation.  This will be the first long car trip for my mom since she got her knee replaced in April, so we're praying she tolerates the trip well, and can handle all the stairs in our house! The excitement never stops around here!