Monday, November 26, 2018

A Happy Thanksgiving

 We have always said that the way to have a child who travels well is to do a lot of traveling with them, especially when they are young.  Now, apparently, we are trying that same tactic with Luna.  Tuesday afternoon we loaded up the big van again and took off to VA for Thanksgiving. 

A few weeks ago, Bob had come home saying he had some training to do that he could take with him over Thanksgiving, so I made all these lovely plans for us to be there for a week.  We'll see friends!  We'll spend a day down in Richmond with Nathan's girlfriend's family! 

Unfortunately, I completely neglected to realize that Caleb's community college in fact had classes last week, so alas, my wonderful plans were for naught, and we left Tuesday afternoon, after his last class. 
 This picture is of Luna on the floor of the big van, sort of behind and in between the driver's seat and passenger seat, by the feet of the passengers in the first row.  It's her favorite place, and we moved our snacks to a smaller, thinner box, so she has a little more room.  She will scoot under the bench seats and go visit people in the back rows though.  It's like her own "Clue" secret passages!  She really has been a rock star traveler on these long trips. 
 Nathan got there Tuesday afternoon, about the time we were leaving Ohio, but Luke didn't fly in until Wednesday, a little before noon.  We cleaned up the yard at the old house, and I was able to get an updated "stair steps" picture, even including Luna!  I was so sad to realize that only the last 5 are stair steps anymore.  For the older ones, the second in each "pair" has passed up their older sibling in height, even down to Grace passing up Anna!  I guess our even-numbered, narrow-jawed kids also have the superior height genes, if you can call them that, since none of us are actually what you might call "tall", lol.
 We had to supplement our folding plastic table with the card table, and our folding chairs with some camping chairs we had left for use at cross-country meets, but we were able to have a family meal at the old house with all 12 of us Wednesday night!  I made spaghetti in our "extra" smaller crockpot by bringing frozen browned ground beef, and by already cooking up 3 pounds of noodles and bringing them from Ohio. 

Thursday we went over to the L's for Thanksgiving dinner, like we've been doing for the past 14 years.  It was wonderful as usual!  I think it was the easiest Thanksgiving day for me personally, because I did pretty much everything in Ohio.  I roasted and mashed the sweet potatoes (12 cups of them!), and then mixed them into the casserole, and I brought them in 2 gallon ziploc bags, with the topping (minus melted butter) in another ziploc bag.  I also made the cran-apple-pear sauce and brought it in a bulging ziploc bag.  I did make a pan of cookie dough brownies in VA, but that was easy.  Anna had to cream the butter and sugar for the cookie dough topping by hand, since we didn't have any kind of mixed, but that was fine. 

We really enjoyed catching up with our "friends who are like family" all day long.  We were able to bring Luna and her crate over, so we didn't have to keep going home to let her out, which was really nice.  We could just keep right on visiting!  It was so relaxing, we ended up staying until after 8:00.
It was especially nice to have all the older boys home and back together with their friends.  They were able to spend a lot of time together--well, not Nathan, because he drove back to VT the next day to go to the football game, but everyone else!  When we started Rivendell, Christine and I had taken Proverbs 27:17 as our verse:  "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another."  There are a few boys missing from this picture, but I know that these friendships have been the "iron sharpening iron" friendships we prayed for, and  I'm so grateful for the Lord's answer to our prayers!

Friday was another really relaxing day.  I even did a crossword puzzle!  Wednesday I had rushed out to Costco first thing (I got there at 10:20, and already all the spaces in the entire lot were filled except for a few on the side close to the road.  I do NOT miss that Costco!) and bought one of their big chicken pot pies for Friday.  Usually the Friday after Thanksgiving I cook my own turkey (since Ed L. always smokes turkeys for everyone on Thanksgiving day), and then we have that along with leftover of the stuff I usually bring to the L's--sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce most years.  But this year there was no way that was happening, so instead we had the chicken pot pie plus leftover cranberry sauce and sweet potatoes, and it was so good!  And easy!  I'm thinking that will be a new, good tradition, lol.

Saturday we went over to the Mc's for dinner and stayed to watch most of the Clemson game. They had a houseful too, and we got to facetime with Isaac, so that was wonderful.  But all too soon we had to head back to the house.  After church on Sunday we packed up (always takes longer than I expect), battled the crowds at Dulles to drop Luke off, and then started the long drive back to Ohio.  We were so glad to be heading west instead of east.  The traffic on eastbound I-70 was much thicker!  We didn't get home until about 11:45, so it was a late night, and everyone is still recovering this morning, lol.  I'm not planning on getting much done except laundry!  It was a wonderful Thanksgiving time though.  I definitely don't take the times we can all 12 of us be together for granted, and they definitely don't happen very often anymore! 

Friday, November 09, 2018

End of a Season

A season of driving maybe?  Actually the cross country season.
 I know people thought we were crazy, but we decided to have Anna and Grace run cross country with their team back in VA.  Since we really weren't in Ohio until August, there was no way to make anything happen with a team here.  We've been running with this VA team for the past 7 years (through several name changes), even since Nathan and Luke started running with them.  We have so enjoyed the team members, and the coach is one of the godliest people I know!  The older girls on the team have been such good examples and role models for Anna and Grace.  I am often saying things like, "How would Tess talk to that person?"  or "Do you think that is the attitude Annie would have?"  or "How do you think Carol would act in that situation?"  It is such a blessing to have older girls in our lives that demonstrate such wonderful character qualities!  I wanted to keep that connection as long as possible.
 But it wasn't all easy.  We drove back for meets and a few practices, but mostly the girls were running the workouts of their own back here in Ohio.  Anna and Grace are not really the same pace, so Anna was definitely by herself.  It is hard to really push yourself when you are running on your own!  That led to some frustrations in the beginning of the season for Anna, but she was able to push through, and by the end of the season her times were faster than the ones for last season.  And it definitely made her and Grace appreciate all the more the times when they were able to practice with the team!
Faith was the rock star for Grace.  She ran with Grace for pretty much all of the workouts, which was a huge help and motivation for Grace, who was much less enthused about this long-distance running plan than Anna was.  Faith is going to be an amazing runner, I think!  She's got a good start anyway.  Grace really is a social runner, it turns out.  In the meets, she always chose to run with a friend of hers because "we have really good conversations, Mom, and she's just so nice to talk to."  Hey, that sounds like fun to me! 
 The last meet was last Saturday, Nov. 3, and all the little kids plus Luna came with us!  Bob, Caleb, and Jonathan were at a VT football game with Nathan and his girlfriend, so we couldn't leave anyone at home!
 It was a really great experience for Luna.  She got to meets TONS of people, as well as some other dogs.  Pretty much everyone stops to pet a cute puppy, and Luna really does like people a lot. She's scared of other dogs, so all the more reason to have her meet a lot!  She was pretty tired after all  the walking around though.
 The meet was held in a park with a lake, so there was a sandy "beach" part.  The kids had so much fun digging and building sand castles, even though it was actually a fairly chilly and windy day!  When the sun was out, it wasn't too bad, but Verity (of course) got her shoes and her jacket sleeves all wet, and then she was less than happy.
 Luna enjoyed digging in the sand, and she kept gazing out over the water like she was thinking about diving in.  I had no desire for a wet, sandy dog in the van, so I kept a firm grip on her leash, lol.  Some other time she can explore her water dog ancestry!
You can see Faith here acting like it is a warm summer day.  Do not be fooled!

The season was a good transition help for the kids, I think.  It really was so nice to go back to VA so many times to see friends, and to work on the house.  It made the move seem like a much more gradual transition process.  I will say I am glad for a bit of a break in the driving now.  In less than 3 weeks, we drove 54 hours of long-trip driving, most of with lots of kids and a dog!  Good thing Luna turned out to be such a great traveler!

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Fall Break and a Special Weekend

We have been traveling quite a bit during this fall season, and it all came to a head over these past 2 weeks!  The 6 younger kids and I drove back to VA on Tuesday, Oct. 16, for 2 cross country meets.  Bob ended up coming for the weekend, so he bought the 3 littles back to Ohio with him so they wouldn't have to do so much driving at once.  The girls and I drove down to Williamsburg for a meet Tuesday, Oct. 23 (about 6 hours round trip), then we drove back to Ohio the next day (8 hours).  Thursday we attempted to get the house back in order, did a million loads of laundry (the only drawback to staying in our VA house is we don't have a washer and dryer there!), started packing again, baked cookies, etc.  All this activity meant we really got no school done last week at all.  I've never before taken a "fall break" but we did this year!

Friday afternoon we left to drive down to Huntsville, AL, to see Luke.  We left later (2:45) than I wanted to because I just couldn't get everything together.  As a result, we had soooo much traffic in Cincinnati and through Kentucky.  The drive ended up taking 9 hours in a drizzly, depressing rain. 
 It was Luna's first long car trip, so we were very curious to see how she would do.  She was pretty nervous at first, and she sat on the middle seat, in between Caleb and Jonathan.  We stopped for dinner at a McDonald's right off a busy road, and she was so scared of all the cars and trucks whizzing by.  Bob and the kids ordered while I walked her around in the rain, but we ate in the car, so it wasn't a very long stop.  The only other time we stopped was for gas and bathrooms, so the 9 hours was not because of stops!  Anyway, Luna was so thankful to be back in the van after all the noise of the McDonald's parking lot.  The rest of the way she slept on the floor, under the van seats.

When we got down to Huntsville, around 10:30 central time, we drove straight to the house of a family we had never met before!  They had been at WSS this summer and so met Luke there.  Their oldest daughter was at Camp Caleb with Anna, so we had that connection too.  They had just PCS'd down there in June, so when they realized Luke was close by, they had him over several times during the semester, and they told him our whole family was welcome to stay there!  They had a huge, lovely house, with plenty of room for all of us, including Luna, and we had so much fun with them!  Luna bravely met their ancient dog Kodi, and also had tons of fun running around their yard with the kids, and also taking walks around the big lake in the middle of their subdivision. 

We had planned on stopping by the college to see Luke first, but when it got so late, we sadly realized we just couldn't.  But we were so happily surprised when the doorbell rang not long after we got there, and it was Luke!  Everyone was so thrilled to see him!  He ended up staying the night too, which was fun.

 It was actually Family Weekend at Luke's college, so there were a lot of activities planned for Saturday.  After Bob took Luke's car into Costco to deal with a tire issue, we all headed over to campus.
 Verity was especially happy to see Luke.  She has really missed her big brother!
 We stopped by Luke's dorm room, and we met his good friend and workout partner that is his suitemate. 
 Then we headed back over to the student center, where they had bouncy houses, and all sorts of other activities for family members.  Here the kids are stuffing mascots to take home.  Caleb and Anna also made some sand art.
 We got cotton candy, and we also ate lunch at some food trucks.  We had some BBQ pork sandwiches, and we also got a plate of kabobs from a truck called "Highway Kabobbery", which made us laugh. 
 They had facepainting as well, and Drew and Verity picked up some NASA tattoos from the Space Hardware Club booth.

After watching Luke play an intramural game of ultimate frisbee, we headed back over to the B's house for a delicious dinner of chili and pork steaks. 

Then it was time for the hockey game!  We had a bit of a time getting our family weekend passes exchanged for the actual tickets (which we hadn't realized we needed to do, lol), but it all worked out just fine.  Hockey is really a fun game to watch, and I brought tootsie pops for when little people got too antsy, so we had a great time! 

Sunday we met up with Luke at his church.  It's a primitive Baptist church, which means they don't have instruments with their music.  I found it amazingly refreshing.  We sang a ton of beautiful hymns, and everyone just launched out into parts!  I had read an article on facebook talking about how people no longer learn to read music or develop any kind of an ear in churches anymore because the music is usually so loud, and no one looks at hymnals anymore.  You have to be able to hear the people around you if you want to learn how to sing in parts!  I was also amazed at how much more engaged Micah was in the singing because he was actually trying to follow along in the hymnal.  Now that he can read, he is reading a lot!
 After the sermon, it was time for Luke to get baptized.  This was actually the reason that we came down this particular weekend, and I'm so glad we were able to be there.  Luke gave his testimony in front of the church, and it was very special to hear.  I'm so thankful for all the events and people the Lord has used in Luke's life these part years, especially the people at WSS this summer.  Such a blessing!
 His church has an actual permanent baptismal pool!
 After the baptism, everyone filed up and shook his hand or hugged him to welcome him into church membership, which I thought was neat.

Then we went over to the pastor's house for an incredible Sunday dinner of pulled pork, mac and cheese, green beans, sweet potatoes, and salad, with brownies and ice cream for dessert!  It was really great to get to know them better, and we had such a fun time!  In fact, we didn't want to leave to the drive back, lol.  Eventually we knew we'd better get back to our friends' house to collect Luna and our stuff, or else we would never get home!  But first, they took a nice picture of 11/12 of us!
So by the time we got loaded up and actually left, it was almost 4:00 Eastern time.  We knew there would be less traffic on a Sunday, but still--we didn't end up getting back home until after midnight.  We did make a longer stop for dinner, though, stopping at Culvers.  Luna was much friskier on the ride home, trying out several spots, including Bob's lap before we could get her back into the back! 
But eventually she settled down back on the floor.  By the time we got close to home, she had decided the best place was on top of backpacks and our snack tub in the middle of the driver and passenger seats.  It looked a bit uncomfortable to me, but she was completely racked out!  She was sooo happy when we got home though.  Yesterday she had the most energy she's ever had, racing happily around the yard and frolicking around the kitchen!  She is definitely a homebody.

But unfortunately for her, we are not, lol.  She's going to be taking a trip to VA this coming weekend for the girls' last cross country meet!  At least she travels well and doesn't get carsick! 

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Introducing Luna!

We got a puppy on Saturday!  This seemingly sudden decision was actually a really long time in the making.  The kids have been asking for a dog for a long time now--years, for sure!  I have always said, "Not until I am all done potty training!", and that kept things at bay for quite some time, lol.  But Verity was potty-trained last summer, thus ending over 20 years of diapers, so that criteria was done.

At that point, however, we were contemplating taking a space-a trip over to Germany to visit our friends the C's in February, and I knew we did not want to have to deal with what to do with a dog, especially since we had no idea how much time it would take us to get out or get back.  We did end up making the trip, which was amazing, and I was indeed relieved that we weren't worrying about a dog.  It was bad enough worrying about our bunny Mocha!

By then, however, we knew we were moving to Ohio in the summer, since Bob had actually started working out here in January.  And who wants to deal with a new dog *and* a move??  Not me!  So again, we put it off.  But the thought of getting a dog was a big incentive for the kids to want to move, especially since we ended up giving away Mocha (to a wonderful fellow homeschooling family who are taking fabulous care of him!).  So we have been praying for God to bring the right dog into our life for a long time!

Bob had joined a local area "pet classifieds" facebook group this summer, and he had noticed that someone local was selling a litter of 10 Newfoundland puppies who had been born on July 15.  We talked about it, but we didn't move on it right away.  The girls and I had to go back to VA for a meet, and it just didn't seem like the right timing.  But then last week the guy posted that he still had 3 puppies left, and so Bob and I decided to go see them.  We've always liked big dogs--when we were stationed in Colorado, we had a lab/malamute cross as well as a Great Pyrenees--and we had actually tried to adopt a Newfie from the pound before we got them, but someone else was ahead of us.  I knew that Newfies tend to have a really steady temperament  and are really good with kids, which obviously was important to us. 

So Bob and I went over to this guy's house Friday night without any kids.  The puppies were so cute, and the parents were really nice.  The dad wasn't as big as the Newf that friends of ours in VA have, and neither parent was very barky or jumpy.  The mom didn't bark at all, even when we rang the doorbell and she saw us looking in a window!  We decided to take the plunge, so we came home to order a ton of dog-related stuff on Amazon.  We came back the next day, Saturday, Oct. 6, and we picked out a gray female we named Luna!
She looks black here, but she really is a little lighter than that.  The hair on her head is really neat--it's almost frosted a lighter shade at the tips.  I've never seen anything like it, and I don't know if it will stay that way, but it's really pretty!  She also has a white blaze on her front, and on the front of her 2 back paws.
This girl is about the most chill puppy you can imagine!  She is not the stereotypical "inquisitive puppy looking for mischief and getting into everything" at all.  We haven't let her into the carpeted areas of the house, which means she just stays in our kitchen/dining room area.  We have 2 sets of 70's-era doors that close off this area from the rest of the main level, but even if they aren't closed, she just sticks around in the dining room, mainly.  She's very happy napping under our big table, and so far she has only tried to chew on Micah's croc!

She doesn't jump all over you or nip or anything.  She's been great for Verity, who was definitely the most scared of dogs in general, especially dogs who jump up on her.  The family we got her from had several kids, so she is very used to kids, which is good, lol.  She occasionally will mouth your hand or arm as you pet her, but we're working on that, and she's really gentle.
The only problem so far (other than house training, which she is improving in, but we can't wait until she can go through the night, and she doesn't have any more day time accidents, lol) is that she really is not a fan of walks. She loves our yard and will romp around there quite happily with the kids--but she has no desire to leave it ever!  When we try to walk her around the park behind our house, she is so reluctant.  She pulls backward on her leash, and tries to just flop down and not move.  We've started giving her those little training treats to get her to walk at all!  I've never seen a less curious dog! 
When we actually get to the playground, which is at the opposite end of the park from our house, she enjoys seeing people there and being petted.  But after a little bit, she is pulling on the leash to go back to our house.  She has like a built-in compass, and she always knows which way to go to get to our house!  We've taken her out to the street in front of our house, and she dislikes that even more because of the occasional car.  So far we've made it all the way to the end of our next-door neighbor's house, lol.  I was really looking forward to walks with a dog, so hopefully she will get over this quickly!  Now it is just an exercise in frustration because it takes forever for us to make just one lap around the park (which is only 1/3 mile!)! 

I think part of the problem is that the breeder guy was a little overwhelmed with all the puppies.  He told Bob they weren't expecting to have puppies, although I mean, he had a male and a female, so you'd think he would not have been shocked, lol.  But anyway, they didn't *do* anything with them (other than handle them, which is definitely super important!), like take them anywhere or even take them on any walks or anything.  So I think that is contributing to her timidity in new places.   Also, she's now 12 weeks old, so we did miss a good part of the window where she is open to new experiences.  We are trying to remedy that by doing a lot, like not giving up on walks!  We've also visited Petsmart, and tonight we took her to Sonic with us while we ate.  If you are local and want to meet her, stop by!  Or we'll come visit you, lol.  New experiences!!

So Luna is settling into our family quite well, and the kids are thrilled with her!  She really is such a sweetheart, and I am so glad for a quiet, calm puppy.  Now if we can just get her to like walks . . .

Friday, September 14, 2018

Schooling in a New Place

We started school 4 weeks ago, in the middle of August.  This is the first year since we moved to VA back in the summer of 2004, that we have not been involved in nay co-ops. Now the co-ops we were involved in in VA were amazing, and they benefited my kids so very much.  But I was also so very tired and burned out, and this season of not being involved in any outside thing is actually very refreshing for me.  Our time is our own!  No one else is depending on us!  This is definitely not sustainable long term (Anna especially is missing getting out of the house and doing things with other people), so we will be looking for a co-op or something for next year, but for right now?  Just what I needed.

Not having to go out any morning (or having to teach classes for older kids) has meant that school is getting done more consistently every morning than it has for a long time with the younger kids. This is perfect timing for Micah, since as I mentioned in my last post, he has finally decided that reading is something he would actually like to do and would benefit from.  I am astounded at the progress he has made since early July.  Now he is reading books with no complaints!  He even read our Bible story out loud for Drew and Verity a few nights ago!  When I think about all the frustration and tears from working with him last year . . . ha, I could have just let him play all year long, and he would probably still be right where he is now!  Ironically, I realized his nature when I was potty-training him, and I waited until he was 3, and he decided he wanted to be a "big boy" on his own.  Then he was my easiest to train and had almost no accidents.  I should have used the same gameplan for reading, but I didn't want to reward his bad attitude and lack of cooperation.  It's a fine line, I guess.  I really didn't need any more stress last year though, and I could have saved myself a boatload!  Ah well, I'm just thankful for where he is now.

Verity has been wanting to do her own school for awhile now--all of last year, really--and she would sit with us and "write" in her coloring books.  She has pretty good fine motor skills, so she drew lots of little lines and circles.  It was so cute!  But anyway, I figured she was the opposite of Micah, and she actually was interested (and she is a girl and much more motivated by workbooks, etc., lol), so I got her Saxon 1 math workbooks, and the (Veritas Press Phonics Museum) phonics workbook we have always used (since I started it with Nathan and bought the big kit--we've definitely gotten our money worth out of that investment, lol).  She is happy as a clam!  She loves doing school, and she's actually pretty good at writing "M", B", and "A", which are the letters she's covered so far.  She's not as good at recognizing which of them starts a particular word. because she pretty much just happily answers, "Yes!" to any question you ask.  Such a happy girl!  If I didn't have all this morning time, I probably wouldn't have done anything official with her until next year.

I should mention that Drew is plugging along too with his reading.  He is much more like all the rest of my kids have been with reading--slogging along, until it eventually really clicks and gets faster.  But he's pretty cheerful and motivated, and like I said, that's how everyone else has been, and they are all quite good readers.

Anna would have been going to a junior high co-op if we had stayed in VA, but instead, she's doing everything here with me.  I am teaching her life science, along with Grace, and that's been going really well.  I don't have her in a writing class or a German class because I wasn't sure enough of what the year was going to look like to get her into those before they filled up.  So she's taking a break from German, unfortunately.  Hopefully next year . . .

I have started Latin with Grace on down (and Anna usually is around, listening in).  I haven't done Latin with the kids since I was so frustrated with Caleb and Jonathan the year I had them take the Latin 1 National Latin Exam (2014 maybe?), and neither did as well as I thought they should have, given the amount of Latin we had done, if they had just devoted a tiny bit of their brains to studying. But I really love Latin, and so it's fun to get back to it.  Plus, this is the easy stuff, lol.

I had mentioned that Caleb is taking his math and English classes over at the community college that is close by us, and those are going really well for him.  I am teaching him and Jonathan AP biology and AP psychology.  I've never taught AP psych before, but there is a lot of bio in there, and I have always really enjoyed reading books on neuroscience, so I'm finding it very interesting.  Since it is just us, we can be completely flexible for class times!  We're doing the classes in the afternoons, usually Wednesdays, but we can move it around as needed.  SO nice!  Jonathan is doing literature by himself after I worked up a nice reading list from the Tapestry of Grace Year 1 recommendations, plus some books Nathan and Luke had read that he hadn't.  I'm looking for prompts on these books online for him to write essays with, so that is working out nicely.  They are both doing American history on their own, since they already have had a lot of it through TOG, but not as a particular class.  I had the bright idea of having them take the Am. history CLEP test (either 1 or 2, I haven't decided yet) at the end of the year, so they can have some validation of all they have learned over the past few years.  I took a ton of CLEP tests to get out of pretty much all my gen ed. requirements many moons ago, but I haven't really looked into it recently because AP credits are so more readily accepted in places.  But I don't want to prep APUSH or deal with the reworking of that test, so I think CLEP will be a fine way to go.

As a real answer to prayer, Caleb and Jonathan are taking Spanish 3 with a friend who goes to church with my parents!  She and her husband are from Puerto Rico, so they are native Spanish speakers.  She had been wanting to teach her 2 kids more formally, so the 4 kids are all together, and it's been so very nice.  I think the boys will be a lot more comfortable actually speaking Spanish after this year.  Caleb had said that at WSS, they had a "Spanish table", where everyone only spoke in Spanish, for international night, and he sat there.  He could understand a lot of the conversation, but he never felt comfortable saying anything.  Hopefully that won't be true next summer!

I had been thinking we would put Jonathan in a classical Christian school maybe 2 days a week for a few classes, but after looking into it, I just couldn't see how doing that made my life easier, and it certainly would have complicated things by having one of us drop him off and pick him up even twice a week half an hour away.  He is taking an electronics class that I found out about from a facebook post someone here made.  An older man who worked as an electrician for 44 years and is now retired teaches the class to only 4 boys, and he is so enthusiastic about the subject!  Jonathan is REALLY enjoying this class, and he's learning a lot too.  He's soldering circuits and stuff already, and working with the equations.  It's a highlight of his week!

Hmmm, we're of course doing other subjects, but those are the main points I want to remember when I look back on this year.  We're getting into a good routine, I think, and we're enjoying this break where we are a little more family-focused, instead of doing so much outside with other people.  It's been a long time, and this break has been so needed by me! 

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Summer Summary: We Moved

Now, for a few more details, since I haven't seen fit to blog since April, and there were several unanswered questions in my last post that now have been answered . . .

  • I drove down to Alabama to pick up Luke by myself May 12.  I had a fabulous drive listening to a fascinating book on tape called Candy Bombers about the Berlin Airlift by Andrei Chersky, and the miles flew by!  On the way home the next day, it was wonderful to catch up with Luke, who had just gotten back from a Reformed University Fellowship conference down in Florida and was very tan and relaxed.  
  • Nathan came home from VT sick with what turned out to be mono.  He was so miserable!  A steroid injection helped the throat swelling go down, and he recovered quickly, thank God.  
  • Caleb took his first AP exam, microeconomics (got a 5, thanks to Mrs. Mc's pushing, lol)
  • I finished my seventh year of being in charge of testing for our large co-op.  It went off without a hitch, but it was Micah's first time to test, and I knew he was not ready or motivated.  I was right, in that he refused to even try to read anything more than a single word, and the occasional short sentence.  He was in the 26th percentile, and believe me, I was not shocked, but i have never actually seen those numbers in front of me before, lol.  But amazingly, that is in the 4th stanine, so I sent in the results to the county--and then later in the summer, Micah decided reading was something he actually did want to do, and now he's reading his readers like a champ.  Boys!

  •  Anna and Grace finished track season.  They mainly ran the 800 and the 4x400.  I think Anna would be a better mile runner, since she's such a great xc runner, but she was way more interested in the shorter distances, lol.  It was a super fun season--I love track meets!

  • I became a "hurdles coach", of all things at this stage of my life.  At one of the early meets, I mentioned to the coach that I thought Anna would be a good hurdler because she has a lot of core strength and because she is interested, and Coach answered, "Oh, would you be able to coach hurdles?  We have several kids interested, but no one with any experience!"  Never mind that my experience was a good 25 years ago in high school, ha! [ETA:  Okay, I actually thought about it, and it was 30 years ago, seeing as how I was married 25 years ago, and I wasn't married in high school!)  I watched youtube videos and read articles for hurdle coaches to bring it all back.  It was actually really fun, and the interested kids made great strides!  Anna ended up running the 100m hurdles several times, and the 300m hurdles just once, in the last meet, since the other meets didn't have 300m hurdles for middle schoolers.  This picture was from that 300m hurdle race, at one of the last hurdles (which is obvious because the hurdles are in a line at that point, of course . . .), so she was tired and her form has suffered.  But overall she did great, and I am excited for her to keep going in hurdles! Grace had zippo interest, lol.

    •  We went on our annual Memorial Day camping trip with all our homeschooling friends.  Nathan and Luke were both able to come, which we no longer take for granted!  It is always so nice to be all together.  We drove the 2 minivans, and other friends drove our big van with our 5 kayaks, so that was a new fun activity!  
    • The day after camping, Luke left to go up to WSS in PA to work as the co-boys' staff supervisor.  He also had to leave for a weekend in early June to compete with his Space Hardware Club CanSat competition team in Texas.  He had a lot of great stories from the competition, and their rocket did better than they expected when they first got down there, but he was glad to get back to WSS and the rest of the summer!  

    • Jonathan got his wisdom teeth out on May 31, just 2 days before his 15th birthday!  A few weeks later in June, his jaw was all swollen and tender again on the right side, so he had to go back again for them to cut it open again until they found a little sliver of bone that had been missed and was causing all the problems.  Then they cut it even more, to make sure they got it all.  This is not an experience Jonathan ever wants repeated, lol. 

    •  June 4 we drove to Ohio, both to pick up my nieces who had flown in from TX for a month, and to be there for the inspection on a house we had put an offer on without seeing!  An older couple had moved into a new house across from my parents several weeks prior, and it turned out they were moving from the tri-level in the same neighborhood, just a few streets away.  My parents told them we were interested in buying a house in that neighborhood, so a few days before they listed their house, they let my parents know.  Unfortunately, this was the Friday of Memorial Day weekend, and Bob was in VA as we prepared to go camping.  So my parents went through the house with our realtor facetiming me!  Ah, technology.  So we put an offer in, they accepted it, and we were in business!  

    •  The house was small--2300 sq. ft. compared to the almost 5000 sq. ft we had in VA, but it had a wonderful back yard with nice climbing trees, and this big, leafy tree that shades the really large deck.  It also backs up to a park, which is amazing.  As long as the weather is nice, and the kids can be outside, life is very good!

    •  Emily and Elia flew in, and we had time for a quick trip to Youngs before we headed back to VA with them.  

    •  Most of the time, I was busy packing and trying to declutter, but we did manage to fit in a time at IFly!  The kids all did great, even Verity--except Drew.  Even though he had gone 18 months before, he balked and wouldn't go.  Of course, as soon as we gave his time away and he couldn't go--he threw a big temper tantrum and was super upset.  Ah well, may he remember this lesson later in life, lol.

    •  The girls all went to Camp Caleb at WSS.  First Faith and Elia went.  It was really special because Faith's closest friends Elena and Amber went too.  I was worried about the dynamics, and that maybe they would leave out any other girl, but no, everyone got along wonderfully, and they all became fast friends with the one other girl who was there.
    • Grace and Emily went the next week, and they also had a lovely time with good weather.  Caleb was there working on staff both those weeks, so it was fun to see him during the drop-offs and pick-ups.  He smashed his middle finger with a sledgehammer while splitting wood, and the rest of the summer we all watched with interest as the finger turned different shades, and the nail eventually fell off.  

    •  We made another quick trip back to Ohio to close on our house and to say a sad goodbye to Emily and Elia, who had to fly home.  The van sure was quiet after they left!  They also moved this summer, to Seattle, so we're not sure how much we'll see of them anymore (but you can't say that to the girls because that will bring on immediate tears . . . thank the Lord for Facetime!)

    •  The kids and I drove back to VA so Anna could go to Camp Caleb July 8.  When we picked up on Friday, we went up to Bob's sister Rose's house on the lake in NE PA for the weekend.  We rode in the boat, went tubing, and went fishing!  It was a great weekend! 

    •  We also participated in the 5k to raise money for the volunteer firefighters.  Anna and Rose both won their age divisions!  In the afternoon, there was a parade with tons of fire engines and other emergency equipment for districts all around.  The kids had been looking forward to the parade so eagerly because they knew they would get tons of candy, and they did!

    •  Grace got her braces off July 16!  Our orthodontist had worked to speed up the process since we found out we were moving.  He did a great job, and now she just had to wear her retainer.  The orthodontist's office said how much they would miss all the kids--but maybe they will just miss the rest of our narrow-jawed clan!  Ha!

    •  The moving van finally came on July 17, our 25th wedding anniversary!  What a way to celebrate!  Bob was in Ohio, and I pulled an all-nighter the night before to finish boxing up as much as I could.  Nathan actually worked for this moving company, JK Moving, for the summer, and his experience proved incredibly valuable.  He helped me get the kitchen packed up that night, and I couldn't have done it without his help because I was so mentally done!  I highly recommend JK Moving, if anyone is looking to move from VA.  The estimator was right on, as far as weight, and they did such a good, careful job of wrapping everything and loading it all.  Nothing broke!  Plus the crew was super nice.  Nathan informed me that I should have gatorade and water ready, and not to buy pizza for lunch (because that's what everyone thinks of, but on hot, humid days, you don't want a heavy, greasy meal like pizza!).  It was approximately 1000 degrees, so I bought a sandwich platter from Costco that was well-received.  Christine watched the other kids, which was a relief to have them all out of the way.  Plus, with the doors open all day, I turned off the AC, and it was like 86 degrees in the house.  I was melting, and SOOO tired!  But I survived.  Whew!  Next year will hopefully involve a nicer anniversary celebration!

    •  We drove back to Ohio July 20, and the Mc's were there to wave goodbye.  That was such a sad day!  Words can't express my thankfulness for such faithful friends.  Well, family, really!  So good thing it wasn't goodbye forever!
    • The moving truck delivered our goods Sunday, July 22, and we started trying to figure out how to cram all our stuff in!  We made it mostly work, although it is tight, but our garage is definitely full too!

    • In fact, we were back in VA 2 weeks after we left!  We came to say goodbye to Nathan, pack up more stuff that I just couldn't get to, watch a production of "Beauty and the Beast" that friends were performing in, and greet Luke as he came back from WSS!  Oh, and we made a trip downtown to visit the Museum of the Bible with Bob's sister Ann and her granddaughter Jasmine!  The museum was fantastic--highly recommended!  Unfortunately, I dropped my trusty almost-6-year-old iphone 5 that I got September, 2012, after toddler Micah microwaved my old Motorola one in a hotel in St. Louis.  The glass shattered, but it was time for me to get a new phone anyhow.  The old one was VERY glitchy, wouldn't turn off and on anymore, only stayed charged for a few hours, etc.  Bob and I went to Costco that night and got me an iphone 8! 
    So now we are back in Ohio.  Luke drove back with us so he could pick up all his stuff, and then he drove himself down to Alabama.  We are attempting to settle in, and I at least got all the books unpacked and organized so we could start school last Monday.  We were also able to get Caleb registered for community college classes (just math and English this semester, since we weren't even sure the whole thing would work at all!), and we decided not to do anything else outside with anyone else.  It's actually been kind of a nice change of pace to not have to go anywhere in the mornings, but just focus on school here at our house.  I'm sure that will change as we get more involved over the upcoming years!

    There . . . all caught up!

    Wednesday, May 02, 2018

    Moving . . . Slowly . . .

    People have been asking me how moving is going.  The answer is most definitely, "Slowly".

    In the past month we've had at least 3 donation pick-ups at our house, and many, many bags and boxes of stuff have gone out in those.  Bob has been driving back here to VA most weekends (in fact, his company was so kind of to send him out here for a week's TDY in the middle of April!), and so I have boxed up tons of books (probably literal tons, lol), as well as other random things (like a space heater that has been stepped on in the middle as well as all our sleds, as you can see below), to fill up his car to take back to Ohio where he puts them into my parents' basement.  (Side note:  liquor boxes are so great for books!  I like them way better than "book boxes" from moving companies.  But it does make it look like I have a serious drinking problem!)
    Getting rid of the boxes, plus all the donations, seems like our house would be feeling empty, but that is not the case!  It turns out we have way too much stuff, and me packing away what we won't need for a few months is just a drop in an endless sea of stuff.  Alas!  We do have a few bookcases that seem less full, although I can never fit everything from a bookcase into boxes, so each shelf still has some random books that don't fit.  Now we just look like unorganized book clutterers, lol.  I think it will help once this school year is officially over, and we can pack away all the books we are currently using.  Although I have to somehow figure out what I'll need for next year, and pack that last, or at least in a way that it will be easily found . . .

    I still am not sure exactly how the end game is going to work.  At some point in mid-June, we will have a moving truck move most of our big furniture.  Then we can hopefully do what we need to do to this house to get it ready for the market--paint, refinish hardwood, and re-carpet--that we can't do while all of us are living here.  There's not really very much time between now and mid-June, however, and what time we do have is pretty full!  I have to finish up teaching chemistry and physical science, the girls have a few more track meets, Nathan and Luke are coming home (and I'm driving down to AL to pick up Luke), I'm in charge of standardized testing (but Micah is still not reading where I think he should be, so I can't really slack on his school), we're doing our annual camping trip, and Grace and Faith are going to Camp Caleb two different weeks in June with their cousins.  Whew! 

    Another question is what will we do for a house in Ohio?  That is an excellent question!  I still don't have an answer though, lol.  Our original tentative plan was to buy a cheap house we would squeeze into for a while so we could sell our house here and find a more long-term house there.  But it turns out the housing market for those kinds of houses is, surprisingly, really tight right now, and we don't feel like fighting millenial first-time home buyers with escalation-clause contracts for houses that aren't even our long-term plan.  So we might stay with my parents for a bit, and we are definitely praying our house here sells quickly.  But anyhow, short answer is, we have no idea where we will land as of yet!

     Another popular question is have we figured out what everyone will do for co-ops or whatever for next year in Ohio?  The answer to that is simply, no.  I have had many very helpful contacts give me a great deal of very helpful information.  But it's like I'm stuck in molasses, and I just don't have the mental margin to explore deeper and actually make progress in any one direction.  Ack!  Then I have moments of complete panic, until I make myself not think about it anymore.  And honestly, I'm pretty overwhelmed in a lot of different areas, so I am able to just worry about something more immediate!  So, lots of room to work in that area, ha!   I am praying the Lord will hold open space in whatever places we need, until I get my head back in the game, especially for Caleb and Jonathan.  I think it would help if I was actually there in Ohio, but it may be too late by the time June rolls around.  So, yeah . . . this area is definitely the biggest stress factor weighing on me right now--much greater than moving logistics or where we will live!
    In just a little extra note, we got a new (to us) car in April!  Like I said before, Bob was home for a week, and so we were able to drive to Dover, DE, to buy this used 2006 Honda Pilot on April 14!  The plan is for Nathan to drive this and pass the CR-V down to Luke, but right now, Bob has been really enjoying driving it back and forth to Ohio (well, enjoying how it drives, not necessarily all the driving, lol).  Hopefully it will be a good, faithful car, like the CR-V has been!  And it has been really, really nice for there to be the 2 minivans here at home.  That means that both Caleb and I can drive minivans, instead of me having to take the big van when he needs to go somewhere too.

    So there's an update of where we are.  It turns out it is really hard to uproot and move 12 people when we have lived in a house 14 years!  Who would have thought?!