Sunday, April 30, 2017

Limping to the Finish

It's almost May.  Things are winding down, but they're not done yet.  But somehow everything in our house is done.
Our poor Sienna quit on me a week ago Thursday.  I had just picked up Joel Mc on our way to German class.  They live about 2 1/2 miles away from us, so not far at all.  The Lord or something made me notice my temperature gauge--wow, I didn't think it ever went over halfway!  And actually--whoa!  It's really rising!  quickly!  Even though the German teacher only lives another 3-4 miles away, it became obvious we were not going to get there, and I did not want to make the left turn onto the big main street, and then have the car completely overheat into the red zone (which it was *quite* close to doing.  So we pulled into the community college parking lot.  When I opened the hood, steam poured out.  It was pretty hot!  Christine was able to come rescue Anna and Joel and take them on to German, and another girl in Jonathan's math class lives right by the community college.  Her mom was able to swing by and pick up Jonathan to take him to his math carpool (where praise the Lord, I was NOT driving that day!).  And also fortunately, this is the car Luke drives to his classes, so it already had the parking pass in there.  Eventually I got tired of waiting for it to cool down, and I abandoned it there to walk home--except Christine saw me, turned around, and gave me a lift the rest of the way home!  Now the Sienna is the proud possessor of a new water pump, thermostat, and serpentine belt.  Quite a day!

Another thing that has given out is our ice maker.  Since I LOVE ice water, this is particularly grating.  I think it's given us warning--this whole winter it could never really keep up, but I kept blaming it on the kids filling up their water bottles before basketball practices.  But when basketball stopped, things never got better.  It made less and less and less ice . . . and now it's just not making any.  The freezer isn't really all that cold either.  Ice cream never stays frozen.  We are seeing the writing on the wall, and so we're starting to research new fridges.  In the meantime, I'm buying a 20 pound bag of ice a week, and we're going right through it, lol.
The most devastating thing is our poor bunny Pikachu.  He really hurt himself last night, and honestly, we're not sure if he will recover.  Bob heard something around 5:15 AM last night, so he got up to investigate.  Him coming downstairs sent Pikachu into tizzy, and when Bob turned on the light in his room, he freaked out, running around and getting his leg and head stuck in between the bars of the outer pen (not the little cage).  Bob couldn't get him out, so he woke me up to help.  We were able to get him out by Bob bending the bars a la Samson (how on earth did he get his head through there in the first place?!), but now Pikachu can't move his hind legs.  I know bunnies are so fragile, especially their backs.  We are hoping he didn't break it.
There were many tears this morning when the kids got up.  If he did break his back, he will have to be put down.  Best case scenario is he sprained it, which he could heal from, although it would take a long time.  I told the girls that if we had to put him down, our next pet would probably be a dog, because I didn't think we could emotionally handle another fragile creature.  This caused fresh paroxysms of grief from Grace, in particular:  "I didn't want to TRADE Pikachu for a dog!"  Well, no, none of us do, and this is not a scenario we never even imagined.  

We didn't take him to the vet today, and I'm not going to take him tomorrow either.  The only real thing a vet could do is x-ray the back and tell us definitely if something is broken (for several hundred dollars).  The internet pretty much said he'll either start showing improvement after 3 days or so, or he won't, in which case it probably is broken.  If it is broken, we'll have to put him down--and Grace really doesn't want him to die on her birthday, which is tomorrow.  So we are putting off potential bad news, and praying the Lord will allow him to heal.  

In the meantime, we are limping along, trying to finish the year out, as finals and APs start next week.  I wish I could say we will all be done with school in 2 weeks, but alas, Micah has really ramped up the tantrums this month, so he's still not off on his way with reading.  And the girls still have a fair amount left in math and grammar to finish that they will have to do over the summer.  Ah, the elusive summer break.  Not this year!  But I'll be happy if things will just stop breaking around here.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Happy Birthday, Micah!

Micah turned 6 on Sunday, and in a rare occurrence, we actually celebrated on his birthday!  Micah picked a gourmet birthday dinner of corn dogs, spiralized sweet potatoes (this recipe is *really* good), and cabbage.
His cake was an interesting story.  After church, a lady came up to the kids in the fellowship time and said that a cupcake cake that had been donated to the food pantry hadn't been taken, and so she gave it to my kids.  Well, it had all these festive balloons around it, so it seemed like a sign that it was a birthday cake!  We took 2 cars, and I was busy visiting with friends when all this happened, so I had no clue until I walked in our front door and saw Micah and the girls piping "Happy Birthday Micah" on the center part.  Such a God-thing!  I had been planning on baking a cake that afternoon, but hey, God provided one instead!
Then it was time to open presents.  Micah had been GREATLY looking forward to this moment for months.  Eleven months and 29 days, really, lol.  He was so excited to see presents appear!
The presents had kind of a "cars" theme.  Aside from the obligatory candy selection (which he had been eagerly awaiting, lol) we got him a little box with twin tracks that attach to the top, providing slides for 2 Matchbox cars, and also a "Cars" early book book of several stories.  Hopefully he'll be able to read them by this summer . . . The big present was a remote control car.  Aunt Rose had gotten the older boys one for Christmas, and Micah *really* loves it.  But they weren't always thrilled with having him drive it around, and he had said several times how much he wished he had one of his very own.  So he was quite excited to open this little one up, and he and Drew have played outside with that as often as they can so far.  Clearly, he had a great birthday haul!

Oh, I almost forgot--I also stuck in with the candy a really cheap Easter-themed pinball game, and a bag of 6 "bouncy balloons" (those sturdy balloons that have rubber bands attached to them and you whap them with your fist really fast).  These were both from the Michael's selection of Easter basket stuffers, lol, but they made great birthday presents--and best of all, none of them will stick around for all that long!  The kids have all had a great time bopping away at the balloons, and while it's been loud and annoying, I haven't popped any of them yet, lol.
But wait!  There was still one more present from Grandma and Grandpa that came today!  We have this board game called "Power" that is a strategy game that only takes about an hour.  My boys love it.  We got it from my aunt and uncle in Utah close to 20 years ago, and it's not sold today that we can find.  The game has 4 colors of little plastic pieces--soldiers, tanks, airplanes, ships, missiles, flags, etc.--and Micah loves to take them all out and set them up and play with them.  This makes the bigger boys crazy, since he is not quick about picking them up when he's done, and Verity and Drew like to pick the pieces up and wander around with them.  So my mom and dad got him this bucket of military stuff, filled with soldiers, planes, ships, tanks, and flags.
He was so thrilled, and he immediately started setting everything up in the playroom!  You can see he had the help of both younger and older brothers!  The pieces are a really good size, bigger than I had imagined, so I think he and Drew (and the others) will have fun with this for a long time.  And it all goes into this nice bucket!
It's okay that we dragged out Micah's birthday celebration a few extra days.  This afternoon we *finally* finished celebrating Anna's birthday (which was technically back on March 28) by going to see "Beauty and the Beast" with 2 friends!  The girls, predictably, really loved it, and I was glad we could make it work to go.  She wins a record for longest celebrated birthday in our family!

Saturday, April 08, 2017

Field Trip to Gettysburg

Friday we took a Rivendell field trip to Gettysburg.  We have had this planned for months, and we thought we would be plenty safe as far as weather goes, but boy, were we wrong!  Friday was probably the coldest, rawest day we could have picked in weeks!  I had been praying fervently that the Lord would keep the rain away, and really He did, except for a random bit of sprinkles, so that was a real praise.  I should also have been praying about the wind, lol.  It was a frigid blast from the north, for sure!  We were woefully unprepared for the biting wind.  Thankfully at the last minute I had grabbed Verity's parka, but everyone else just had hoodies.  Anna took my USAFA hat that Luke gave me for Christmas, but that was mainly for decoration, I think.  She ended up very glad to have it!  I had gloves, but no one else did.  Next time, we'll be prepared . . .

Our tour guide was Kevin, a man who used to go to our church, before he and his family went with our church plant that started closer to their house last fall.  His wife, Megan, taught our older boys AP world history several years ago, and did a fantastic job.  He graduated from Gettysburg College and worked as a park ranger at Gettysburg for several years.  He met Megan there, while she was working at Dwight Eisenhower's farm, another historical site close to Gettysburg.  He really loves Gettysburg and has a ton of knowledge, so we really enjoyed having him as our guide!  I had never been to Gettysburg before, and I definitely didn't really have a clear picture in my mind of what had even happened there.  Thanks to Kevin, I can no longer say that anymore!  He walked us through the 3 days of the battle in an orderly, organized fashion, with lots of interesting anecdotes to make it memorable.

   We started out at Cemetery Hill, and he gave us some background information.  He really focused the whole tour on decisions, some split second, that influenced the battle.  One of those decisions was General Buford's decision that he wanted to end up holding Cemetery Hill, so he sent his troops out west of Gettysburg to meet/slow down the Confederate soldiers who were coming east from there, while he waited for reinforcements.  One interesting thing to me was that the town of Gettysburg only had about 2500 people at that time, so when Gen. Buford came with his 3,000 soldiers, they thought they were saved!  Not hardly, since there were 10,000 Confederates west of the town, plus more to the north!
 We all huddled together, trying to stay warm.  I found this Dora blanket in the van, so Verity had that too.  She was definitely the warmest!
 At our next stop was out west, by the McPherson Barn, where the Union soldiers were trying to slow down the advance of the Confederates.  Here the kids are all lined up, tallest to shortest, except for Mr. C, doing some marching and seeing how you form up into a battle line from a column.  Not as easy as you might think!
 Up by the Eternal Light Peace Memorial, where the flame flickered (and we all wished we could warm ourselves by . . .), Kevin brought out a map of the whole area so we could really orient ourselves.  This memorial is on Oak Ridge.  The girls hung in there for awhile, but eventually they one by one made their way over to the McC's van to wait.  Poor Elena had not been feeling 100%, and the brutal wind was not helping her ear feel better!
 We drove past the Lutheran Seminary on Seminary Ridge, which is where Kevin and Megan got married, and on to the Virginia memorial.
 Then it was time for lunch at Tommy's Pizza!  Originally we had all just assumed we would bring picnic lunches, but Friday was definitely NOT a day for picnics, lol.  The hot pizza was a welcome relief!
 After lunch we went to the Peach Orchard, and then to Little Round Top.  I thought that was the most interesting part of all, because so many things were going on there.  Also, one of the commanding men who died there, Lt. Hazlett, was an ancestor of someone who used to go to our church!  Wow!  It was SO cold there though.  I thought we were going to be blown right off the side of the mountain!  There was a really neat monument there that looked like a little castle.  It had a small spiral staircase you could climb up to the battlements, and the boys (all ages) thought that was the best!
 While we talked about the brave 20th Maine Regiment holding the end of the Union line there, and their leader Col. Chamberlain, Micah and Drew ran around shooting everything in sight with sticks.  Boys and sticks . . .  
 Then it was on to the Pennsylvania Memorial, which is a grand structure.  It also had a (long) spiral staircase up to the roof, to the delight of all the kids.
 It was REALLY windy up there!  Here is a group picture of the 4 moms, trying not to get blown away!
 Our second to the last stop was the stone wall where Pickett's charge was repulsed.  There were lots of cannons there, and Kevin gave us a quick lesson on how to fire a cannon.  I was surprised to find out that most of the cannons are original ones!  This one was made in 1861.  Although it got a little bit brighter and sunnier at this stop, the wind was still just as biting!  The girls, except for Anna, had stayed in the van for most of the last few stops, except for the PA memorial (because who can resist going all the way up to the top?!).  Micah and Drew loved all the cannons, and they ran around quite happily!
 Our last stop was the cemetery in town.  This year for memory work, we are memorizing the Gettysburg Address.  It was neat to be standing where Abraham Lincoln was talking about when he said, "We have come to dedicate a portion of this field as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live."  Also, since it was in town, it was a little more sheltered and protected, so the wind wasn't quite as brutal.
 After a final bathroom stop, we all headed home!  It felt good to be in our nice, warm van.  Everyone had snacked heavily on goldfish, hi-chews, and gummi dinosaurs the whole day, so that kept people quiet (but trashed the van, lol).  As you can see, Verity was *much* happier in her carseat, surrounded by her adoring fans, than out in the cold fields!
Micah and Drew crashed.  All that running around!  Verity eventually fell asleep too, so that made the return trip pretty quiet.

We got back about 5:00--just in time to eat dinner and head off to Bible study, where we had signed up to bring dessert and for Bob to lead!  I was worried about falling asleep on the couch, now that I was warm and cozy, out of the wind, but I managed to stay awake.  Anna picked a carrot cake with cream cheese frosting that she made, which was very well-received by the adults, and Micah picked brownies with mint frosting (also made by Anna), which were very well-received by the younger set.  This was to celebrate their birthdays!  It was a very good, although tiring, day.  We all slept well last night!

Friday, April 07, 2017

A Faith-Building Experience to Remember

It's good to make a permanent record of things where you really see the Lord working, so that you can remember them during times when it seems like He is far away.  We had one of those situations this week, a I wanted to write it up here so that we can look back and remember it!

After Rivendell on Tuesday, we all went out to eat at Moe's, since Tuesday is "kids night" there.  Kids eat free with each paying adult.  Caleb doesn't like Moe's, so he stayed home and ate leftovers, which left 5 of us to get adult entrees, and 5 free kids.  It's a good deal for us, lol.

When we left, we were a bit harried because I realized Bob and I were going to be late to our church small group.  Also, we were each carrying several small plastic cups full of ice because our ice maker at home is just not working well anymore.  It's only making about 3 trays of ice a day, but I *LOVE* ice in well, everything, but especially my water, so that is just not cutting it.  I had forgotten to buy a supplementary bag of ice at the local grocery store the day before, so I figured if we filled up all our water cups with ice, we would be good for another day or so, until I could buy another bag of ice.  I was already looking forward to filling up my water bottle at home and having ice water the whole evening!  Woo-hoo!

Anyway, we made it home where we dropped off the kids and switched to a minivan, and I ran inside to fill up the water bottle and grab my Bible.  I was just getting the water bottle when Bob came in asking me if I had his wallet.  Ummmm . . . . nooooooo . . . . Well, he didn't either, and our hearts just sank.  Somehow he must have left it at Moe's.  My wallet had been stolen at the zoo 8 years ago, and I still vividly remember the hassle of getting my driver's license, military ID, credit cards, etc. replaced, and my identity was stolen, so that was a whole different hassle.  We did not want to deal with that!

As we drove off, Bob called Moe's, and a guy started looking for the wallet.  Unfortunately, it wasn't at the counter, or by the salsa or drink machine, or under our table, or anywhere else.  How discouraging!  While Bob was on the phone with Moe's, another call came in on his phone, so when Bob hung up with Moe's, he called the unfamiliar number back.  It was a guy asking if this was "Bob ______".  He had found Bob's wallet!  Huge praise right there!

It turned out that this man was a night security guard for one of the contractors in an office building near Moe's.  He had parked his car and opened his door--and there was Bob's wallet, right there on the ground.  So it fell out of his pocket when he was trying to climb into the big van.

But how did he get Bob's cell number??  Well, he had looked through Bob's wallet (everything was still there, untouched, another huge praise), and he found a small laminated card with a roster of all the employees in Bob's small company.  Bob was the only Bob with our last initial, which he saw on Bob's ID card, so he called the cell number listed there.  Again, another miracle!

So we drove right down to the guy's building, and he came out to meet Bob and return the wallet.  It was just such an amazing series of events.  He found the wallet right as we even realized it was missing!  And to have the first person to pull into that space after us be an honest security guard was just amazing.  We were so thankful for the Lord's care in such details!

It was really a faith-strengthening experience for us.  Our pastor has been preaching through Isaiah, and the past 2 sermons have been especially powerful, with a big picture "Who do you trust" theme.  This little situation was just a reminder to Bob and me that the Lord is powerful and sovereignly in control of all things.

So we were REALLY late to small group, and I was still a little bit shaky, but we definitely didn't want to miss out on sharing all this with our friends!