December 28, 2007

Merry Christmas Montage

I could write lots and lots about what we've been doing, but I'll try to let the pictures share most of the story. The captions/explanations are on top of each picture for easier reading. You can click on any picture to see it enlarged.

My mom and dad arrived in town on Saturday the 22nd, and we've been having a fun-filled celebration. It's our first Christmas together since they came to visit us in Ohio in 2001, when Charis was 14 months old and I was pregnant with Tobin. We enjoyed the Sunday church service very much, and it's been fun to see my dad get acquainted with Kenna, whom he had not seen in person before! Since Kenna is well on her way to being a complete menace, it's nice to have extra hands and eyes around to keep her (and our stuff) safe!

On Christmas Eve we drove to the Ethel M. Chocolate Factory to see the festively decorated cactus garden. (We can pause here for all you other moms to sing "Because we work real hard at the chocolate factory...we start at 8 and we don't get lunch 'til 3...") And if you've never seen a festively decorated cactus garden, you're really missing out! It was fun to take Mom and Dad to a unique place like that. Unfortunately, we weren't able to get in and get our free sample of chocolate, as they were closing up early, but we did enjoy the lights. (Well, most of us enjoyed the lights...Arden spent most of the time whining about being really hungry for chocolate!)

Ted had to work mids (midnight to 8 a.m.) for 4 nights, ending Christmas night. Thankfully he ended up having to only work 4 hours on the nights of the 24th and 25th. Our schedule ended up being a little crazy, but we were pretty much ready for Christmas Day when it arrived. By the time I was showered and dressed for the day, I came downstairs to find Tobin piling up his stash of presents and looking mighty proud for having found all of his own gifts. I reminded him that the kids were instructed NOT to touch the gifts until we were all ready, and he reluctantly shoved them back under the tree. We managed to get this fairly good shot of all four of them before Kenna started having a meltdown. Arden was awakened long before he was really ready to wake up and didn't get into his normal happy mood until well after breakfast! Thankfully by then Ted was home from work, Kenna was napping, and all was relatively peaceful!

This is as close to a family picture on Christmas morning as we got. Ted still wasn't back from working his night shift, but it was like holding back the tide where the kids were concerned! We had agreed that they could open their stockings before breakfast, and as Kenna had been up for about 2 1/2 hours by this point, she soon disappeared for her morning nap.

Our advent calendar is complete--Baby Jesus is in the manger! It was touching to see the kids so excited to do this Christmas activity, even before opening their own presents. *Sniff* I'm getting so sentimental in my old age...

Grandma J sent us money to help outfit our whole family with bicycles, and Ted and I had fun shopping on her behalf the Friday before Christmas. The kids were so excited to see all the bikes lined up in the garage! We just have to find something for Kenna...the seats sold at the BX would not work with bikes with rear suspension. I'm personally hoping we can find a reasonable deal on a jogging/biking stoller so I can go running with Kenna sometimes, too. Since Charis and Tobin both had bikes already (Charis just needed new innertubes for the tires), we used some money to get Charis some roller skates and Tobin a new scooter. As a P.S. to this tale, Charis learned to ride without training wheels the day after Christmas! Woohoo!

When I saw this bonnet, I knew Charis had to have it! She adores anything "Little House-ish" and was delighted to have a bonnet for playing dress up. By the end of her unwrapping, she was wearing her Christmas nightgown with a handmade apron from Grandma K, her new robe from Mommy and Daddy, her bonnet, and her roller skates from Grandma J. I should have gotten a picture of THAT get-up, but the bonnet pose will have to do.

Arden likes his Batman hat from Grandma and Grandpa. The jersey, which was from Ted and me (and only cost $1 on the Walmart clearance rack!), was also a favorite, and we had to tell him to stop wearing it three days after Christmas!!

One of the boys' favorite gifts was their own pop gun from Ted and me. Due to a remarkable (!) lack of self-control on their part, the pop guns spend the majority time on top of the refrigerator, waiting to come down when no one in the house is trying to nap! Tobin is also sporting a new hat and gloves from Grandma and Grandpa K.

Kenna is wearing a new outfit from Debi, chewing on a spoon from my mom and dad, and looking at her new book from Grandma J. Isn't she charming?! This picture was actually taken the day after Christmas, since we had a mess in the family room by the time she awoke from her nap and I didn't want her on the floor with all the little pieces of STUFF. We opened her gifts the next morning when things were a bit cleaner!

Charis watches while Grandpa carves the turkey. My dad was in charge of cooking the turkey, and my mom did her famous mashed potatoes and gravy (plus the apple pie for dessert--yum!). I got off easy with making stuffing from a boxed mix and green bean casserole. Oh yes, and I also opened the can of cranberry sauce. So much work! (We won't think about all the dishes I did later, nor the mounds of baking leading up to Christmas Day either!)

Singing "Happy Birthday" to Jesus with our "birthday pie." We chose not to do a cake this year since we had so many other goodies--this is Chocolate Pecan pie, a to-die-for recipe from our dear friend Rose!

Merry Christmas to all!

December 20, 2007

The House Is Quiet...

I just got out of a nice, relaxing, hot shower, Kenna is napping, Charis is crafting, and (amazingly) the boys are wordlessly playing in the family room. Ahhh! I wanted to take a few moments and consider where we are in our preparations for Christmas.

First, the externals...

1. House decorated? Check. Our tree looks lovely, and no more ornaments have fallen onto the tile floor (or the tree skirt for that matter). Christmas candles make the house smell and look beautiful in the evenings, and the holly garland on our bannister is festive.

2. Shopping completed? Almost. We have some things to purchase on behalf of Grandma J, but our excursion is planned for tomorrow evening when we can take advantage of a youth babysitting service at the church of of our home school families.

3. Gifts wrapped? The ones to be mailed, yes. The ones to open in our house Christmas Day--haven't even started!

4. Handmade gifts done? Yes! This year I opted to make quite a few things for our family members. I hope they enjoy them as much as I enjoyed making them. I won't mention what they are here since several recipients visit our blog now and then. :-) I do have one more batch of "something" to make but hope to do that today or tomorrow.

5. Christmas cards stamped, letter written, copies made, envelopes stuffed, address labels printed, postage stamps attached? ABSOLUTELY NOT! ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND?!?! OK. For the past 8 years I have stamped all of our Christmas cards, written the annual family update, made copies, sometimes even stamped the letters themselves, printed address get the picture. And we've actually mailed this nice bit of effort. But this year? My decision was I could either A) do all of the above work or B) enjoy the season with my family. Since I have considerably less stress than I typically do this time of year, you can probably imagine which option I chose.

Don't get me wrong...I don't plan for this to happen every year. (Can I blame our move?? I was planning to start stamping cards in October but instead ended up packing and unpacking boxes!) I love creating handmade cards and writing our family update letters. Just don't look for it to happen at Christmastime every year. We may make a huge change in the WHEN of this project! During a season when there are so many good activities to choose from, many of which truly do help us focus on the Reason for the season, I am just having a hard time forcing myself to do a major chore that I could enjoy during a different time of year when there aren't so many other options for using my time.

So, I hope you will forgive us for not appearing in your mailbox this year, but frankly, if you are reading this blog, you probably know way more about our life than most other people anyway!

OK, back to my list...

6. Christmas goodies baked? Mostly! We love dipped gingersnaps (made, ate, and gave away one batch of 12 dozen already), fudge (still have some in the fridge), peanut butter balls (just made those, so we have a lot left), brown sugar pecans (currently going through the second batch), and roll-out sugar cookies (still haven't made). My plan is to let the kids do roll-out cookies with Grandma K on Sunday or Monday. I may make one more batch of fudge with nuts--the first batch was nutless because it was for the kids, and they aren't fond of any type of nut (with the possible exception of their mother, ha!).

7. Advent activities? Yes! We continue to enjoy our calendar by Noel Piper and our advent book. The children talk much about the first Christmas, and we never seem to get tired of it (praise the Lord!). They are eagerly waiting for Christmas morning when we can put Baby Jesus in the manger. Their sweet prayers and eager anticipation make this a special season indeed.

8. Guest room prepared? Hmmm...this one needs work. My parents get into town on Saturday, and my stamping area is a disaster! I suppose if they can at least get to their futon bed it will be OK, right?! Thankfully Ted is off work tomorrow and can help me prepare the room! Charis did her part in cleaning her craft area (though she may very well be messing it up again...)

So, on the outside it would seem that we are indeed very nearly ready for Christmas. How are we doing on the inside?

1. House decorated? Are my body, soul, and spirit ready for the celebration of my Lord's arrival on earth? I'm working on giving my body the rest it needs; my back is still giving me problems, and I'm fighting a cold. I'm forcing myself to slow down, which isn't a bad thing by any means. I am meeting with the Lord each morning for a quiet time of prayer and Bible study...but sometimes I leave God in the rocking chair and rush off to see what I can cross off my to-do list. My challenge during December (as always) is to stay quiet and listen, enjoying a heart-to-heart visit with Jesus.

2. Shopping completed? What does one give Someone Who has everything?! This year I want to give Christ the things that are most important to me. I want to give Him a husband who is loved, cherished, honored, and cared for in all ways. I want to give Him children who have eager hearts to know more about Him. I want to give Him a clean, calm household--not because it's all-important that my home is clean and welcoming, but because He made me the "heart" of our home, and I want to extend His love to others.

3. Gifts wrapped? No, because I'm working on them on an ongoing basis!

4. Handmade gifts done? Whatever my hands find to do, I desire to do with all my might. So no, they aren't done, but Lord willing, they are working their way to completion!

5. Christmas cards stamped, etc.? I long for my life to be a love letter to my Lord. My prayer is that when I arrive in heaven's "mailbox," Jesus will read me and answer with, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant!" This is one letter that will take a lifetime to write, and trust me, there are many spots where we've had to go back with the eraser of God's forgiveness!

6. Christmas goodies baked? I pray my life gives off the sweet aroma of God's love: "But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him" (2 Corinthians 2:14).

7. Advent activities? Every day we are looking forward to the return of Jesus! "For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever" (1 Thess. 4:16-16). Amen!

8. Guest room prepared? Today at breakfast I had the privilege of being in a discussion with Charis and Tobin that involved how to get to heaven. Even though they grasp the idea that Jesus paid the price for our sins, for some reason Tobin still mentioned being "good enough" to get to heaven. This sparked a wonderful talk about how we can never even come close to God's holiness. Tobin did give his testimony again--he keeps referring to a time in our first LV house when he prayed and asked God to forgive his sins and come into his heart. Though Ted and I weren't present when this happened, the fact that he keeps referring to it tells me that there must be something to it. The truth is, when Jesus comes in, He gets more than the guest room! The whole house is His! May we make choices each day that allow Him to be the Master of the house.

For more thoughts on the true meaning of Christmas, I'd love to invite you to visit my sister-in-law's blog...she has done a fabulous job of writing devotionals for each day in December. Grab a cup of coffee or hot chocolate and let your heart be encouraged and challenged by God's wisdom poured out through Sarah!

December 17, 2007


Last week we "cancelled" school because of my back, so today we did sit down and read some Sonlight assignments. In lieu of starting a new math lesson I opted to have the kids watch a favorite DVD that teaches math--it has about 4 hours' worth of lessons, and I pop it in and let them watch different segments from time to time. I'm not sure we've quite made it all the way through, but they enjoy it and are learning at the same time--and it gave me a chance to shower this morning!

I think we'll continue with our reading assignments and do Language Arts "lite," as in the workbook assignments only instead of trying to squeeze in writing and the optional activities. The kids are definitely getting learning opportunities...lots of home ec around here as we bake for the holidays and clean house!

Charis's Christmas pageant was this past weekend. I'll have to upload a video clip camera is downstairs right now and I'm not up for stair climbing for any unimportant reasons. Anyway, she did GREAT! She wasn't nervous at all. I think we may have a drama diva on our hands. Her only regret was that she didn't have more lines. Well, that and the fact that she had to wear a mic. "The REAL angel didn't have a microphone," she pouted. But it wasn't her choice to make, as all the kids with speaking parts got hooked up with a "Madonna mic," and she looked quite lovely regardless. Apparently she was ready for more drama, as she lost her top front tooth moments before the very last performance! She was thrilled, and amazingly no blood ended up on the borrowed white angel costume, for which I am grateful. This picture was taken with "Mr. Rory," the playwright and director. He heads the drama troupe at our church as well and is an amazingly talented man. He has two nearly-grown sons and told Ted and me that Charis makes him wish he and his wife had tried for a little girl!

It was a busy weekend, with dress rehearsal for 2 1/2 hours Friday night, then 5 hours at church Saturday for the 2 performances and back to church at 7:30 a.m. Sunday. Ted took Charis Sunday morning while I brought the boys and Kenna later for attending our regular service, and then I drove Arden and Charis home after the last performance. (Arden wanted to see the show again!) Then we had a late dinner and I left again for a ladies' Christmas tea at Debi's house. It was fun to fellowship with the women, and we had a nice time of desserts and a gift exchange.

Now we're down to less than a week before my parents come to town, and we are looking forward to seeing them at last. It will be the first time my dad has met Kenna, can you believe it?! She's almost 10 months old. That's what happens when you refuse to fly, I guess...yup, they're driving from Wisconsin. We're excited to have our first Christmas together since 2001.

In other news, my back is much better, though I'm not at 100%. I have not gone to a chiropractor, not because I'm opposed to it, but because I'm not sure TriCare covers it. (Any thoughts on this, Claire?) There's not one on base, and that's where all of our health care is provided from. Ted has done a great job massaging the muscles in the affected area, and I've used heat packs often as well as some medicine for pain management. I'm fairly confident that I will be back to normal within a day or two and look forward to at least going for a long walk. I've missed running.

Well, it seems that it's about that time...time to intervene between brothers squabbling and time to finish up dinner. Our sausage and bean soup is smelling yummy, and I want to throw some corn bread in the oven to go with it. Mmmm!

December 15, 2007


We struggled this week with a fair share of trials. Tuesday morning I bent over to pick up the empty water pitcher after watering the tree, and something spazzed out in my back. It was incredibly frustrating--I wasn't doing anything heroic, simply cleaning up the living room. Yet that one movement completely threw off all my plans. Caring for the children immediately became a chore for which much creativity was required. For example, when putting Kenna down for her nap in the pack-n-play, Charis climbed inside, then I handed the baby to her and she carefully laid Kenna down, then crawled out. The kids were great to help me when I would call for someone to pick something up or do a chore, but a complete lack of structure made for some more difficulties as squabbles occurred far more frequently than they would have had I been able to keep to our school schedule.

It's Saturday morning, and I'm just now starting to feel a little more normal. For example, it doesn't hurt to breathe! Unfortunately, we are now also battling sickness. Kenna has had a runny nose and slight fever for the past couple of days, and last night Arden had a temperature of almost 103. Ted has a sore throat and congestion as well. Sickness and holiday plans aren't a good mix.

But, lest this sound like a whine fest, I must say that in all honestly, the frustrations of the pain and sickness from this week pale when I think about more important things. Life, for example.

And death.

After years of doctor's appointments to monitor an enlarged aorta, followed by what seemed to be a successful surgery, the B family was beginning to hope that 7-year-old Elisha's health problems would soon be a thing of the past. The B's are one of the missionary families that we love and support, so the children and Ted and I had been following the reports of Elisha's surgery and aftermath diligently, praying every morning for him and for his family as they were separated. Elisha and his mom had flown back to Seattle when complications set in, while his dad and brothers and sisters remained in Alaska.

Yesterday morning I read with great sorrow that Elisha went home to be with Jesus Thursday afternoon. Knowing that he is in heaven is indeed comforting, but I couldn't help but weep with a mother's heart. Brian and Laurie are no strangers to sorrow, as their firstborn 5-year-old boy died suddenly nearly 13 years ago. Now they bid a second son goodbye, having only had 7 short years with him here on earth...the same amount of time we have had with our own sweet Charis.

I cried and held my children extra long as I hugged them that morning. I worried about how to tell them the news. Just two days before Tobin asked innocently, "Mommy, why is your back still hurting even though we've been praying for God to help it feel better?" We had a good discussion about how God's answers to our prayers are not always what we think they will be. I expected the children to ask why Elisha died even though we prayed for God to make him better.

You know what? They didn't ask. Instead, as we prayed around the breakfast table yesterday morning, Arden said, "Thank you, God, that Elisha is in heaven with Jesus." The news of Elisha's death didn't shatter my children's faith. Instead, they rejoiced that he is with Jesus with a perfect body.

My children's acceptance of what the world would deem bad news encourages my own faith this season. I've been wondering if, as parents, we're passing along the most important aspects of the Christmas season, wondering if my children will ever learn to get along instead of selfishly putting their own interests ahead of others'. Hearing their prayers for the B family's peace and comfort brings comfort to my own heart. They know Who brings true life and peace, and it's not a fat man in a red suit.

Lord Jesus, may the faith of a child grow in us this day and every day, until we see your face in heaven.

December 11, 2007

O Christmas Tree

Last night we enjoyed a scrumptious dinner and then loaded everyone into the van in search of the perfect Christmas tree. Though real trees are costly, and undoubtedly we'd be saving money if we had just purchased a pre-lit artificial tree years ago, both Ted and I much prefer the sight and smell of an honest-to-goodness evergreen in our house. We headed to Star Nursery, where we had seen a sign advertising 5' and 6' Douglas firs starting at $19.95.

The dark parking lot did not bode well. Who would have thought the nursery would close up shop before 7 p.m. during December?! Undaunted, we headed for one of the many white tents that had set up shop near the freeway. Along the way we sang Christmas carols, and then at the lot we walked around, finally settling on a beautiful 7 1/2' or 8' tree that the owner said he'd give us a deal on. (Ha! I'm sure he says that to everyone.)

Back at home we listened to a Relient K Christmas CD, drank hot cocoa (the kids) and chai tea (Ted and I), and ate some of our favorite holiday goodies, Dipped Gingersnaps, fudge, and white-chocolate-covered pretzels.

When our glorious tree was decorated, we tucked the kids in bed and followed soon after.

And if that sounds ridiculously Norman Rockwell, let me go back and insert the following details to make you feel better.

* Our Christmas carol sing-along included the following lyrics by Tobin:
"Hark the herald angels burp,
Glory to the newborn burp,
Peace on earth and mercy burp,
God and sinners want to burp..."

* Our Christmas carol sing-along also included the melodious sounds of children bickering over which carol was to be sung. Charis sang all three verses of "Hark, the Herald Angels Sang" about 900 times, amidst the growls of her brothers who were irritated that she was singing words that they didn't know.

* Ted and I were the only ones interested in the actual choosing of a Christmas tree. Our other dear, sweet, well-behaved children were playing hide-and-seek amidst the trees, completely ignoring our requests to come hither.

* Two nice ornaments were broken--I can't even blame my children, as I was diligently guarding the box to keep little paws off the breakable ornaments. One was apparently already cracked, as it literally fell apart in my hand. The other slipped out of my fingers and landed on the ceramic tile floor. Sigh. It was my hand-painted egg ornament from Hungary.

* Many ornaments fell off the tree--apparently Arden hasn't gotten the knack of proper ornament placement. Good thing none of the ones he put on the tree were terribly fragile, though we did lose a couple of animals off Noah's ark.

* Much whining and impatience filled the air as small beings awaited their Christmas-tree-decorating sugar fest.

* Herding the boys to bed took about as long as decorating the tree did.

So there you have it! The real story behind our tree, LOL!

All I Want for Christmas...

We have having tooth issues in our house--good ones, that is! Kenna's bottom two teeth have FINALLY broken through. We could see them working their way up, but just this morning I could actually feel them. Strange how quickly it changes; I had been rubbing her gums throughout the day yesterday because she was pretty crabby, but it was still smooth. She is our oldest baby to get in her first teeth...Charis was right at 9 months, and Kenna will be 10 months old on Dec. 27.

And Tobin finally has his first loose tooth! While we were decorating the tree last night, he was munching on some Christmas goodies and all of a sudden started crying because he said his tooth hurt. I poked my finger in his mouth and tried wiggling said tooth, and sure enough, it moved slightly. At the news that his tooth was loose, Tobin immediately stopped crying and got such a delighted look on his face that I couldn't help but laugh! He went to bed with visions of tooth fairies dancing in his head. :-)

Everybody Bounce Now!

Kenna is still loving her jumper. She has nearly outgrown the exersaucer, though it's nice to be able to stick her in there for a few minutes if I need to do something and not worry about what she's getting into. I took a video of the kids all bouncing along with Kenna, and then I zoomed in for another clip of Kenna by herself. You can just make out her happy, tongue-sticking-out grin amidst the blur of action! You can also hear Charis saying, "You bounce, girl!" LOL



The Books of the Old Testament

Recently Charis said a whole jewel's worth of sections in her AWANA Climber book. She learned them on her own, and they included a number of verses, all the books of the Old Testament, and all the books of the New Testament. Here's a video clip of her reciting the OT books--I did not prompt her, nor did I correct her pronunciation, though we did work on that at other times. :-)

December 08, 2007

The Race--After

After crossing the finish line we herded through and were given "space blankets" (which were surprisingly warm), finishers' medals, and an assortment of samples ranging from foot cream to pain relief patches. Somehow I missed the food tables, having gotten in line for water and Gatorade, and had to turn around and go "upstream" to load my arms up with bananas, cookies, and power bars. Ted and I did find my sweat bag, which I had hidden in some bushes before the race since I hadn't been able to locate the storage that was supposedly in the parking lot. We walked back through Mandalay Bay and headed right to the parking garage after a stop at the bathroom. (I hadn't wanted to stop during the race, as EVERY port-a-potty I saw had a line in front of it!)

It was much easier driving away from the city than it had been coming in that morning. I was feeling great, having stretched before we left, but I could tell my legs were going to be hurting later on. We arrived home just before 10 a.m., and Debbie said things had gone well with the kids. Since we were home earlier than we thought we might be, we decided to attend the late service at church. (I took a hot bath first, and Ted showered. Later on I realized I really should have had an ice bath.) I'm glad we were able to make it to church, since we hadn't made it to a Saturday evening service. At home we enjoyed some yummy chicken pot pie, and then I crashed for a nap.

That evening we went back to church for a pre-school leaders' Christmas party. Charis had play rehearsal, and the other kids went to child care while Ted and I joined the adults for an evening of Bunko. We didn't win any Bunko prizes, but I did get a nice Christmas dish as a door prize, and it was fun to visit with the folks at the tables we were at. Getting up and down, however, was NOT fun, as my knees by this time were protesting at every little move. We were more than ready to call it a night and head home for bed. Ted massaged my legs with massage oil, and that helped tremendously.

I took some Motrin before bed, knowing that my body was no longer feeling the rush of accomplishment. Instead, I was feeling the effects of running farther than I've ever gone in my life. I woke at 4 a.m. feeling like someone had whacked my kneecaps with a baseball bat. For whatever reason, I thought it would be good to get out of bed, even though I couldn't straighten my legs without nearly screaming in pain. Somehow I managed to get up and started walking to the bathroom, but I was overcome by a wave of nausea. Ted realized something was wrong and asked if he could help. I asked for water, a large bowl in case I threw up, and some crackers. I ended up only drinking the water and made it back to bed for a couple more hours of sleep.

Monday was a painful day. Believe it or not, we actually did do home school! I found the pain relief patches I had received as samples after the race and plastered them on my knees. Wow, they really did help a lot--I don't think I would have been able to make it through that day at all if it weren't for them. The stairs were killers! Going up and down with the baby was interesting, but praise the Lord we made it through the day! Thank God for Motrin and pain relief patches. I did also get a nap, so I should also say, "Thank God for DVD players," ha!

Tuesday was much better. My knees were almost completely back to normal, but this time my hamstrings were feeling sore. It felt as if there were a spring tied from the back of my leg to my heel, as it was difficult to completely straighten my leg without feeling an uncomfortable pulling. I kept trying to stretch and massage the muscles, and of course Motrin was again my friend.

Wednesday I hardly felt any pain, and Thursday I went for a 3-mile run! I'm actually surprised that I even felt like doing that, as I hadn't expected to do ANY running for at least a week. My lower back has been hurting the last couple of days, but I'm not sure that's from running. At any rate, I think I'm back to "normal" and am thankful for the experience of running a half-marathon. I would definitely do another one, and hopefully next time I will be more prepared beforehand!

Someday I would like to do a full marathon...I think the Disney World marathon would be very fun! Anyone want to join me in planning?!

The Race--During

Ted stood right near the starting line and heard the announcer say that last year it had taken 12 minutes for everyone to cross the line. I was toward the back of the pack, and Ted actually found me and watched me cross the line after 17 minutes! The timing chips we wore on our shoelaces started the clock from the time we crossed start and stopped when we made it to the finish line, so I wasn't too concerned about how the delay would affect my overall time. However, I didn't anticipate how many people would be walking or jogging very slowly from the beginning! I was never so glad to just RUN as I was when I actually got across that line and was able to separate myself a bit from the throng. I don't do well in large crowds, as anyone who has been with me at a Stampin' Up! Convention knows. :-) I tend to find the path of least resistance and zip right through it!

So there I was, running down the Strip with multitudes of people. People in Santa hats. People in elf hats. Running Elvises (208 of them), trying as a group to gain the World Record for the highest number of running Elvi. (They did it!) Brides and grooms, preparing for their ceremony at the Run-Through Wedding Chapel at mile 5. People running for causes--leukemia, stroke, heart disease, cancer, children's tumors, AIDS. People running in memory of loved ones. People walking, people laughing, people sight-seeing. Old people, young people, skinny people, not-so-skinny people, handicapped people. I loved being there and just taking in the sights, sounds, and even smells. Around mile 2 a man passed me saying, "It smells like Disney World here," and indeed the air did carry the scent of a theme park, with deep-fried goodness wafting about.

I heard the Blue Man Group playing music as I approached mile 3. I skipped this water station, as I was hoping to get past more of the crowd, but the crowd really didn't thin out until well after the full marathon split off from the half. Thereafter I stopped to walk while I drank either water or Gatorade, forcing myself to breathe and take it easy for a half-minute or so. It was hard--I had more energy than I would have thought possible! Running on the flat streets downtown seemed so easy after running around the hills close to home. I wondered when it would start to get hard but decided to just keep pressing on until that point came.

The scenic part was all at the beginning. After we split off from the full marathon folks, we wound around some not-so-great looking streets, places I certainly wouldn't be walking around any other time. (Don't worry, Mom, I was perfectly safe! Tons of people around, and police at every intersection!) It was so neat to see people cheering us on at every mile marker. Obviously some were there looking for specific people, but they cheered everyone on regardless. Race volunteers were overworked and definitely underpaid, ha! We had to fill our own water cups at several stops because they just didn't have enough volunteers. The ones that were there were frantically setting out cups and opening jugs of water and Gatorade. No matter, most of us weren't out to set any world records anyway.

Mile 8 caught me by surprise--had it really been 8 miles already?! That was a good sign. Mile 10 was even better--the full marathon loop met up with us here, and we saw the first runners coming through the tunnel and heading down the last stretch. We joked that we were "running with the elite!" Wow. We got lapped at mile 23!! Those guys are amazing. Every time a full marathon runner came around the corner you could hear the half-marathon folks cheering him on. (And I say "him" literally here, as I didn't see any women runners...they had been given a head start in order to account for the time differential for the first place finisher overall.) I saw a wheelchair racer come around as well, having nearly completed the full marathon in approximately 2 1/2 hours. So inspiring!

In fact, so many people inspired me that morning...older folks that whizzed by some of the young ones, as well as older folks who were wheezing and plodding along. The woman with two prosthetic legs, leaning on her husband at mile 8. The cancer survivor. The kid who didn't look a day older than 12. What an accomplishment, to be committed to health when so many in those situations would excuse themselves from pushing hard physically.

A couple more bands were playing as we headed down the home stretch. I didn't pay much attention, as I was antsy to get to the finish line by this time. I knew my time had to be better than I expected, having seen the clocks at various points and realizing I was close to 10-minute miles consistently. As we rounded the corner to head into the parking lot at Mandalay Bay, I started scanning the crowd to see if by chance I could find Ted. And I did! His Avalanche ballcap, plus the fact that he stood head and shoulders above the spectators nearest him, made it easy for me to pick out my best friend and lover! I felt like a teenager, as my heart leaped and I could hardly catch my breath for a moment! I could see on his face how proud he was of me, and I loved that he ran toward the finish line with me, trying his best to get some pictures of this momentous occasion.

Ted took the picture above, and here is the link to the professional ones taken. I had my sweatshirt on for all but the last mile and a half of the race, as it was COLD outside, so not too many pictures are posted. And they probably won't be there past this month, so hopefully you'll read this post and be able to see the pics before they disappear!

Crossing the finish line was exhilerating! To think that I, Beverly, who couldn't run more than a mile in high school without having to sit down, could actually run 13.1 miles in 2 hours and 12 minutes! It just goes to show that anything is possible. I've learned that I have, for much of my life, completely underestimated the abilities God has given every human being. Our bodies are simply amazing. I thank God for my health and energy and pray that I will stay committed to a healthy lifestyle so I can be ready for any opportunities that He brings my way.

December 04, 2007

The Race--Before

On Saturday I had to pick up my bib, timing chip, and other stuff at Mandalay Bay's Quality of Life Expo, so we drove downtown after Kenna's morning nap, hoping to be able to get the stuff, see the fountains at the Bellagio, and be home in time to do some Christmas decorating and maybe even attend one of the Saturday night church services.

Ha! I think we were downtown for at least 4 hours. First of all, the city was a mad house. I'm sure lots of extra people were there because of the marathon, in addition to it being a weekend. Simply GETTING to the Convention Center was stressful, and then we had to fight our way through the crowds all the way to the back corner (of course) to get the required items, then wind our way back through all the vendors to get out. Had I been alone, I may have enjoyed looking at the stuff and possibly purchasing some things...I loved the girl-y running shirts that said things like "Find your happy pace" and "I run like a girl!" I was also seriously considering purchasing some running tights. Our weather had been quite good, and I was doing fine with shorts and a sweatshirt in the mornings. But Saturday was a different story--after our first rain on Friday since July, some cold winds swept in, and I was worried about what it would be like on Race Day.

But the crowds got to me, and I just wanted to get OUT of there with our kids intact! So we drove to the Bellagio, having promised the kids that they could watch the fountains. Ted dropped the older kids and me off so we didn't have to walk as far, and we found a good viewing point and stood, shivering, waiting in eager expectation. By the time Ted came pushing Kenna in the stoller, an announcement was being made that, due to high winds, the show was cancelled. Grrr. We did get to see some smaller fountain displays as we walked through the Bellagio Conservatory to get to the parking garage, and it was neat to see the area all decked out for Christmas. By this time we were all starving, so we went through the drive-through at In 'n Out Burger for a healthy pre-race meal of cheeseburgers, fries, and chocolate shakes.

Since we were eating in our van, we began crawling down the Strip, as my "brilliant" plan had been to drive the route of the race so I would know what to expect. However, we realized before long that I would be able to run two miles more quickly than we were driving them, so we bailed out about half-way through the route and just headed home. By this time Kenna had been awake for about 5 hours and was more than ready for her nap. I actually took a nap myself in the afternoon, knowing that I would likely not be able to sleep all that well at night. We had a relaxing evening, though it did not include church or decorating as planned, but that didn't matter so much after all.

My friend Debbie arrived around 9 p.m., and after chatting with her about instructions for the kids the next morning, Ted and I headed to bed while she made herself at home in our "Stamp Suite." I tossed and turned for nearly an hour before settling into a fairly good sleep, then woke at 3:15 a.m. and dozed off and on until about 3:45, when I finally got up and turned off the alarm (set for 3:50 a.m.). I took a quick shower to wake myself up more, ate a banana, checked the weather conditions (no wind--praise the Lord!), and dressed and braided my hair for the race. My sleepy but supportive husband awoke about 15-20 minutes after I did, and we were on the road by 4:30.

Getting downtown was no problem, but we did encounter quite a bit of traffic at Tropicana, where it seemed that most other people were exiting in an attempt to get to the parking garages. We found parking plentiful at Mandalay Bay, where the race was to begin, so that was a blessing. We walked back inside through the Convention Center where we were the previous day. Participants were everywhere, causing the whole building to smell like a nursing home with all their patches and cream for pain relief. Had I known how I would feel after the race, I may have been slathering myself up as well, ha!

After eating another banana and hitting the bathroom a couple more times, we were ready to head outside. Ted and I separated, and I was left clutching my "sweats bag" that was handed out at the Expo. We had been told that we would receive labels and be able to put the bags in a holding place in the parking lot, but alas, the location was nowhere to be seen, and a sort of official-looking person told us the area was actually inside. I'm not sure he knew what he was talking about, as everything had indicated otherwise, but as I couldn't find the area anyway, I joined with a couple of other runners in hiding my bag in some bushes, hoping to find it after the race. One more quick trip to a port-a-potty, and I was ready!

"Elvis" was singing the national anthem as I joined the throng pushing its way to the starting line. Fireworks began going off, and I could hear an announcer, but only the fact that he was speaking--I couldn't really distinguish words, nor did I try, preferring to just take in the sight of 17,000 people gathered in one place for one race. The sun's rays were just beginning to shine light over the horizon, but I still needed sunglasses for the stadium lights that were shining over us.

I was positioned towards the back, but I didn't mind so much, as I didn't plan to worry about time. Besides, the new state-of-the-art timing chips would give us exact times from when we crossed the actual start to the finish line. It was an amazing thing to be standing there, waiting, with so many people with so many different aspirations, goals, and dreams. I could have people-watched all day, but before long my focus would be elsewhere...the race itself!

To Be Continued...

December 02, 2007

I Did It!

I finished the Las Vegas Half-Marathon, and I'm still alive to tell about it! I will write a separate blog entry telling about the fun sights, sounds, and (yes) smells of the race, but for now, since we're getting ready to attend the late church service, I shall just say that I DID IT!

And by the case you're time was 2:12:19!! WOW! I surprised myself AND my wonderful husband, who was cheering me on at the finish line. He was confident that I had reached my rather humble goal of finishing in less than 2 1/2 hours, but neither of us expected that good of a finish, particularly since I have never run farther than 10 miles before.


December 01, 2007

Call Me Crazy...

...And please pray for me today and tomorrow! I'm officially registered for the Las Vegas half-marathon! I am probably insane for even attempting this. With various illnesses in November, I lost at least 2 weeks' worth of training time. The farthest distance I've ever run has been 10 miles, and I've only done that twice, the most recent of which was about 4 or 5 weeks ago. I didn't run for 8 days straight leading up to Thanksgiving, so I've only been back into it for a week and a half. I did make it 8 miles last Saturday, and it wasn't so bad.

So, I have no idea what tomorrow will hold, but Lord willing, I'll be able to post that I made it the whole 13.1 miles! Right now my only goal is to finish and have fun. I don't want to worry about my time at all. I know I'll probably be finishing around the time some of the elite runners will be crossing the line having finished a FULL marathon!

My friend Debbie R is coming to spend the night so she can be with the kids when Ted and I leave EARLY in the morning to get downtown. The race begins at approximately 6:07 a.m. Please pray for good weather as well as for safety for all the participants. I'm excited to see what the morning will hold!

November 30, 2007

Blog Roll Update!

I enjoy keeping up with friends and family via their blogs, but my list of blogging friends is growing way out of control. Either you people need to stop having such interesting lives or else you need to stop writing about them, because it is way too easy to let my children have run of the house while I "catch up" with you all!

OK, it's high time I paid some attention to my template. As you probably have not noticed, I moved my "Other Links" up above the ever-lengthening archive list so you can actually see it. I also added some "other links." Now, those of you who are on this list, I noticed, have linked to my blog--which is perfectly fine!--and so I figured you wouldn't mind if I did the same. If you are a fellow blogger and would like to be included as a link on my page, please leave me a comment and I will remedy your absence on my list! I know some people prefer to keep their blogs private. And, likewise, if you're on my list already and prefer NOT to be on my list, please leave me a (nice) comment saying please and I will remove you from the list. But don't expect me to read your blog anymore. (Ha, that's a joke! Don't take it personally!)

And for those of you who have asked if you can link to my blog, this is a generic, blanket permission slip for you to do so. I am careful not to use last names or get too specific with locations, etc., and this is a public blog, so link away!

Cruisin' With Kenna

It's time for another baby update! Kenna is officially mobile now and often finds herself in quite a predicament, as you can see here--she managed to scoot backwards all the way under the train table but couldn't get back out! While she isn't exactly crawling in the true sense of the word, she does manage to maneuver her way to wherever she wants to go, whether it be by rolling, doing the army-man crawl, or the butt-to-knee-flip-flop action, which I have not witnessed any of our other kids attempt in their early active stages. The latter move goes like this:

1. Kenna is sitting.
2. She lunges forward onto her hands and knees, pushing herself up and trying to crawl.
3. She wiggles around a little bit, then flops her rear to a different spot from where she was originally sitting.
4. She is now sitting again, facing a different direction and positioned about a foot away from her original spot.
5. The process repeats itself.

So, it has begun. We now have to be EXTREMELY careful to pick up any number of choking hazards before we allow Kenna to get on the floor for exploring time. (Whose idea was it to bring marbles into this house, anyway?!) Before too long I'll have to do an overhaul of the toy storage area to be sure that she can't open a drawer and get into something dangerous for little people. Other than that, the family room is pretty safe. We will, however, have to train her to leave the CDs and movies alone, as they are completely within her reach. If she trains as well as Charis and Arden, that should not be a problem. I leave it to your imagination to decide how things will progress should she prove to have a learning curve more like Tobin's.

At 9 months old, Kenna is quite verbal, chattering to herself and anyone who will listen most of her waking hours (and possibly some of her sleeping ones, too). No intelligible words yet, but lots of mamamamas, dadadadas, and babababas, with a few lalalas thrown in when she's especially excited. She absolutely loves to eat (when she's not sick, that is), as evidenced by this shot of her sporting the ever-fashionable Banana Mouth. She will eat anything we give her from a jar--I gave up making our own baby food when we had to move. I still mash up bananas and give her the no-sugar-added applesauce that the rest of the family eats, but I haven't steamed and processed food for her since we were in the old house. I can get jars for a quarter at the Commissary, and it just seems easier to keep the pantry stocked with so many other demands on my time. She also enjoys finger foods such as Rice Chex, Kix, Cheerios (though she's become rather bored with those lately), crackers, and little bits of cheese and bread. She is now at the point where anything we're eating looks MUCH better than what she has on her tray, so it's always easiest to feed her when we're not at a meal ourselves.

Kenna is, thankfully, an amazingly good little sleeper. She is so consistent I could nearly set my alarm clock by her. She wakes for her first feeding anywhere between 6 and 6:20 a.m. without fail. Her morning naps are quite long, stretching anywhere from 2 1/2 to 3 hours, which is a huge blessing as we get a lot of schoolwork done during that time. Her lunch comes right before the kids and I eat, and then she naps while the older kids have "quiet room time," also known as "Mommy's office time." Most of the time she still has a short evening nap as well, since none of us particularly enjoys meltdowns during our family dinner. We wake her up for one last nursing before bedtime, and she goes right back down without a fuss...unless you count a few seconds of wailing from the time it takes us to walk from her crib outside her doorway. Then she's quiet! I guess she just has to have the last word.

I guess that's about it for this month's Kenna update. Next month I expect we'll be teaching her how to read. Ha! Just wanted to see if you read this far! ;-)

November 28, 2007

Bye-Bye, Grandma!

We had a great week with Ted's mom here. I didn't take many pictures, unfortunately, so I had all the kids sit on the steps with Rhonda for a photo shoot. We took at least 5-6 shots, and this was probably the best one. Those who have known Ted for years will laugh at knowing that Tobin is DEFINITELY his father's son! (Think: The Geek Picture! The story behind that is Ted and Joel took turns, unbeknownst to their parents, making faces during a family photo session, and Jim and Rhonda ended up just picking the shot that THEY looked the best in, so there is a hilarious family picture that includes a young Ted looking like someone just pinched his butt!)

Anyway. I know we all enjoyed having Mom/Rhonda/Grandma J here for a whole made Thanksgiving extra special, and having a whole week together instead of a rushed few days made it seem like it wasn't over in the blink of an eye!

November 23, 2007

Happy Birthday to Me

This year my birthday happened to be on Thanksgiving Day. I turned 33, in case you're wondering! It's always fun to have both special days coincide. I just finished writing about our holiday, so I'll quickly mention here the sweet things my family did to make me feel special.

Wednesday evening Ted, Rhonda, and the kids came home with a beautiful flower bouquet that included sunflowers, my favorite! Thursday morning at breakfast I got to open cards and presents. The kids got me a new tea kettle, which I had been wanting because our old one was looking so junky. Seeing as how Ted and I drink hot tea every morning, it was definitely a practical selection--and I am all for practical! Joel and Sarah sent me the first season of the Little House on the Prairie series on DVD, which was a fabulous surprise. Ted must have told them that we had talked about getting that for Charis for her birthday but were unable to find Season 1. Those books and shows were some of my absolute favorites growing up, so I look forward to sharing them with our children as well.

Rhonda and Ted's gift for me was actually at my request, tickets to see Lance Burton's show tonight! When Ted and I moved to Las Vegas, we decided that birthday and anniversary gifts should be experiences rather than things. (That's actually not a bad idea no matter where we live!) We've seen the Excalibur dinner show (kind of a Medieval Knights thing), watched the Blue Man group, and eaten dinner at the Melting Pot and the Stratosphere restaurant. Now we can add a magic show to the list!

Edited to add: The show was quite good, though from our balcony seats there were a couple of tricks that we couldn't actually see. Bummer. But it was spectacular overall, and we enjoyed Coldstone ice cream and browsing through Borders afterward. All in all, a memorable evening!

Thanksgiving Day

This year I began the holiday by "sleeping in," which means I didn't get up until Kenna was ready to nurse at about 6:24 a.m. She's pretty consistent, and I am THANKFUL that she is consistently nursing again! We still have to be careful with distractions, but we have not had to do any bottles this week, praise the Lord.

I am also THANKFUL that Rhonda could be here to spend the week with us. The kids have tremendously enjoyed having her here, as have Ted and I. We were THANKFUL to have special family time together. We all enjoyed a leisurely morning, reading Bible stories, watching a bit of the parades on TV, playing games, etc. Ted and I headed out mid-morning for a 3 1/2 mile run together--probably the first time we've run together since we were stationed in Texas 9 years ago!! We got into roller blading in Idaho, and then once the kids started coming, it was obviously impossible for us to go out at the same time. I am THANKFUL for my wonderful husband! I enjoyed our time to run and talk together. I was able to share some of the things God has laid on my heart during my recent reading of Elizabeth George's fabulous book, A Woman After God's Own Heart.

After showers and a light snack (oh, the ham in the crock pot was smelling wonderful by this time!), we decided the squirrely kids needed to get out, so we walked to a nearby park that is approximately 3/4 of a mile away from home. Arden rode his scooter the whole way, Charis rode a too-small motorcycle, and Tobin pretty much ran the whole way wearing flip-flops. Rhonda pushed Kenna in the stroller, and Ted came later with the van so we wouldn't have to walk UPHILL to get back home.

We had a blast at the park! We were THANKFUL for the beautiful weather--a tad on the cool side, but the wind from the previous day was gone, and the exercise warmed us up anyway. The picture at the beginning of this post is quite possibly the best shot we've gotten of our whole family--thanks, Rhonda! For awhile the kids played freeze tag with both Ted and Rhonda while Kenna and I watched. But before too long, even little Kenna got in on the action by smiling in glee when she got to go down a slide. I know this picture of her in Arden's lap looks a bit alarming, but really, he wasn't choking her! I am so THANKFUL for each of my precious children--they truly are a blessing.

Amazingly, Charis and Tobin still had energy to spare when it was time to head home, so they walked with Rhonda back to the house while the rest of us drove. Kenna was way ready for her nap, and I needed to finish dinner preparations. I had baked the sweet potatoes and made the cheesy hashbrown casserole the day before, so all I had to do was put together the sweet potato casserole and the green bean casserole (which Rhonda and Ted actually did). Charis had helped me make the "pink fluff" jello salad that morning, so all that was left was making the out-of-this-world pineapple ham sauce.

Rhonda and Charis went outside to cut some roses for the table settings. Charis had made cute little place settings from her most recent Spider magazine and wrote little thank you notes to each person on the back. I knew she would enjoy helping to set the table, and she just exclaimed with delight over every little thing--the fall napkins, the candles, and the Pilgrim figures that I moved from the china hutch to the table for the special meal. After we prayed, we filled up the kids' plates, and then Ted read Psalm 95. Then we adults filled our plates, and we were THANKFUL for such an abundance of yummy food!

When our bellies were full, we finished plastering leaves and apples on the Blessing Tree. I know we could have filled many more--God's blessings truly overflow when you stop to think about it. No matter how bad things are, there is always something to be grateful for if we choose to look up. As you can see from the picture, we ended up having some "falling leaves" because there were too many to fit on the tree! That in itself must surely be a blessing!

We finished the day by watching the first two episodes of Season 1 of Little House on the Prairie, which Joel and Sarah, my brother-in-law and his wife, gave me for my birthday. It was so fun to watch them with the kids, who have read (or listened to) at least half of the books. I have fond memories of watching them with my family (another thing I am THANKFUL for!). And of course we had scrumptious dessert as well, pumpkin pie crunch cake!

To all my family and friends who are reading, please know that I am also THANKFUL for YOU! And to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, I am forever THANKFUL for Your sacrifice to demonstrate Your love for me.

Thanksgiving Week

What a fun week this has been! So much fun that I have obviously not been taking time to blog about it! Ted's mom, "Grandma J," flew into town Saturday evening, and we've been having loads of family fun. Ted, Rhonda, and the older kids just left for some time at Pump It Up, and I stayed behind with Kenna, who just went down for her morning nap. I'm taking advantage of the quiet to catch up a bit on blogging, fold some laundry, make some bread, and...just on some Christmas cards. I don't know, though--Pump It Up is only available until 11:30 a.m.!!

Anyway, I can't seem to remember anything specific we did Sunday, other than go to church and play LOTS of games. The kids are game freaks these days, and we've (or rather, they've) begun pulling out "new" games like Chinese checkers, chess, and cribbage, begging to be taught. Rhonda has patiently played many a game with Charis, Tobin, and/or Arden. She's also read lots to them, built things with them, and listened to all their excited chatter!

Monday afternoon I taught a "Mind Your Manners" class for the homeschool co-op. There were about 50 kids there, and I had fabulous table guides that made things run very smoothly. Rhonda took care of Kenna, who did a GREAT job, having had a 3-hour nap that morning. My kids were less than thrilled about interrupting game time with Grandma to go to a manners class, but on the way home, Charis gave me a compliment when she said, "Mommy, that was so fun! When can we do that again?!" Rhonda treated us to yogurt parfaits at McDonald's, and the older kids got to play for awhile at the play place before we headed home.

On Tuesday we (minus Ted, who was at work) went to Bonnie Springs--it seems we always end up visiting there in the fall, and we always enjoy our time there. Unfortunately, I forgot the camera, so I don't have any pictures of our outing. We first went through the petting zoo, and Arden was nearly traumatized when a white burro snarfed his arm looking for some food. Arden was convinced the donkey was trying to eat him! Kenna, on the other hand, didn't even blink when the donkey nosed around the stroller. She sat up, wide-eyed, listening to all the animal noises and taking everything in.

Then we walked over to the replica of an old western town, where we watched a cheesy but fun melodrama in the "saloon," followed by a "hanging" in the town square. By the time that was finished, it was 2:30 and the sun was already dropping behind the mountains, making us feel more than ready for a late lunch in the warm Bonnie Springs restaurant. We headed home after eating, feeling we had gotten our $10 worth and then some.

Wednesday morning Charis and Tobin had PE, so I dropped them off and did some last-minute grocery shopping while Kenna napped and Arden played games with Grandma. We were planning a picnic lunch after PE, but a cold front had swept into town along with some strong winds, so we ended up coming home for the afternoon. I did, however, get out for my first run in 8 days--between a head cold and general busy-ness, I hadn't felt like running much at all. But with the half-marathon date fast approaching (it's Dec. 2), I decided I'd better get out and see if my body will be able to handle running 13.1 miles in a week and a half! I went 3 1/2 miles and decided to reserve judgement for after a few more runs.

Ted was able to come home a couple of hours early, so we enjoyed a yummy dinner of parmesan Ranch chicken (recipe to follow in case you're interested) and watched our traditional Thanksgiving kids' show, the Veggie Tales' Madame Blueberry. Oh, yes, and Charis, Rhonda and I worked to put together our construction paper "Blessing Tree." Last year on Thanksgiving Day we wrote things we were thankful for on apples and put them on a poster-board tree. The year before that we wrote on leaves and simply taped them to our pantry door. This year there was nearly a fight over whether we would write on apples or leaves, so we decided to do both. Hey, apple trees have leaves, don't they?! The kids really got into the activity; we broke out the markers after dinner, and they kept writing and writing and writing! (Arden dictated his to us!) You can see Tobin writing on his apple. (He and Charis are wearing their PE shirts, by the way.) We had to stop the kids after awhile so we could save some leaves and apples to write on for Thanksgiving Day!

I'll wrap this post up for now and do a separate one for Thanksgiving Day, but it wouldn't be complete without one more picture--since the other kids are featured above, here's one of Kenna and Ted taken Wednesday evening. And yes, I will put the chicken recipe below--it's simply too fantastic not to try!

1 stick butter or margarine
3/4 cup crushed cornflakes
3/4 cup parmesan cheese (the kind in a can)
1 packet Ranch salad dressing or dip mix
4-5 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips

Mix cornflakes, parmesan cheese, and salad dressing mix together in a bowl. Melt butter and dip chicken strips into butter, then coat with cornflake mixture. Place in a 9x13 pan and bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes. Oh, so yummy!!

Our New House

Finally, some pictures of our new house! (This is especially for you, Sarah and Megan!) You can play a game of "Where's Waldo," er, I mean "Where's Charis?" in these pictures, as she followed me around the day I took these photos. She is looking especially lovely in her pink Broncos jersey that Grandma J gave her for her birthday. :-) As always, you can click on the pictures to see larger images.

This is the view from the entryway/living room. You can see the school room in the middle--it would typically be the formal dining room, I guess. Our little dining nook and kitchen are behind where Charis is standing.

Standing in the corner of the living room--you can see the stair case here. The archway goes back to a full bathroom and the 5th bedroom, which we are using as my stamp room and the guest room. (We call it the "Stamp Suite!") The skinny door you see is a closet that goes back under the stairs, so there is quite a bit of storage area there. The laundry room is behind the wall all the way to the right, and that leads out to the garage.

In the kitchen looking toward the family room. Usually our table has the leaf in it, but it looks smaller because we had been playing games on it.

In the family room looking toward the "dining nook" and the kitchen.

Upstairs--the built-in computer desk is right by the stair case. The door behind Charis is the door to our bedroom, while Kenna and the boys' rooms would be behind where I was standing. Charis's room is behind the wall she is beside.

November 21, 2007

The Sideways Game

Kenna is at the stage where she loves to tilt her head sideways when she's in her booster chair. (Do other kids go through that, or just mine?!) She'll be munching on a snack and just flop her head over, waiting for us to smile and tilt our heads to match hers. It's very cute!

On a slightly related note, I am pleased to report that she is nursing much better now. I do have to be careful to make sure we're in an undisturbed environment (which means staying in my bedroom for daytime feedings!), and we have had to resort to bottles a few times due to her stuffy nose and complete dislike of lying down to feed when she couldn't breathe...but overall, I'm very encouraged!

November 18, 2007

Kenna Pictures

It's time for some more baby pictures! Just a couple of comments...Kenna LOVES to see herself in the mirror. The mirror picture was taken in our room, as both Ted and I have sliding mirrored doors on our closets. Charis took the picture of Kenna and me. I was humoring her desire to use the camera, and was pleasantly surprised that the shot turned out so well, as I have so few pictures of me with my baby!

November 17, 2007

No Race

Well, after getting a head cold or something of the sort a couple of days ago, I ended up not doing my 10K this morning. I woke at 5 a.m. to go to the bathroom and thought, "I could throw on my clothes and walk out the door right now and still make it!" Then I thought, "Who am I kidding?!" and went back to bed.

It's kind of a bummer, as I had already paid the $25 to be in the race. But between the congestion, sniffles, sneezes, and some knee pain that has been going on for about a week, it's probably best that I didn't run. I'm still trying to decide about the half-marathon; it's in two weeks, and between this cold and some stomach issues last week, my mileage has just not been where I thought it would be this close to the marathon date. THAT race is $85, and the deadline to register before the price goes up even more is in just a couple of days. So I'd better decide soon!

November 14, 2007

When I'm a Google

I'll preface this funny by noting that our kids pretty much think a google is the biggest number there is. I think it's rivaled only by a "tinka," which is a number they have apparently made up. I've heard them all refer to "a hundred plus a tinka," or whatever.

Anyway. Arden firmly believes there is a correlation between how old a person is and how big that person is. Apparently he thinks we never stop growing...nor do we stop aging. This is evidenced by his comment to me yesterday:

"Mom, when I'm a google, I'll be very, very fat."


November 12, 2007

What Is That?!

The other morning I was feeding Kenna an early breakfast. (She had awakened before the rest of the family.) I was puzzled to find that she was not very interested in her cereal. Instead, she kept looking down at her tray and moving her hands in a strange manner. Finally it dawned on me what she was doing...I had turned on the light above the dining room table, and as that was the only light in the otherwise dark room, it was casting a shadow from the spoon onto her tray. Kenna was trying to grab the shadow!

I couldn't help it--I kept moving the spoon and watching her utterly confused expression, and I just laughed out loud. Of course I grabbed the camera to take a video of the adventure. I had to then move the spoon with my left hand while holding the camera with my right, but you can still get a good chuckle out of watching this...

Ever see a cat trying to catch the red dot of a laser pointer?! That's what Kenna reminded me of!

...Or Not?

Ironically, after I posted about Kenna's refusal to nurse, she woke at 1 a.m. that night and nursed for a LONG time, longer than she has for quite awhile. She nursed again the next morning around 6:00, and though she didn't take any more breastmilk during the day, she did nurse again for a bit before going down for the night. During these couple of months that we've had difficulties, I have noticed that she does pretty well with nursing right after she wakes up (or if we wake her up). She's been having little cat naps in the evening, so that may be helping her nurse well before bedtime.

Her appetite for solids also drastically improved yesterday, and we saw a voracious eater today. I am pleased to report that she has already nursed three times today (although, truth be told, the afternoon feeding was not without some major struggles), and I'm expecting that we'll have a good feeding again before bedtime. She's asleep now, but I'll wake her to nurse and then change her into jammies.

I'm glad I've continued to offer breastmilk regardless of whether I think she'll take it or not, because as today has shown, she is predictably unpredictable! I have high hopes that perhaps we can at least maintain early morning and nighttime nursing periods...and who knows?! Maybe if she will decide to nurse during the day she can help build up my milk supply again.

November 10, 2007

Looks Like We May Have a Weaner!

Well, the nursing issues are just not getting any better. It's not a matter of Kenna being distracted--she just plain does not want me. She doesn't mind my milk; on the few occasions I've been able to pump enough to put in a sippy cup, she drank that just fine. But nearly every feeding has been a complete battle, with her little fists pushing against me, her head turned in the opposite direction, and her voice wailing at the top of her little (but powerful) lungs. I've continued trying, as I never know when she'll decide to just go ahead and nurse (like first thing this morning--she did great). But it looks like we are just going to have to go to Plan B.

I was a little nervous, because the only other time I've given Kenna formula she most definitely did NOT want it. I think I tried that about a week ago. Kenna has had an off week, with runny poops, a runny nose, and a greatly diminished appetite. I'm quite sure we're going to see her first tooth appear very soon. So I'm trying to take that into consideration, but the fact is, the girl needs more to drink. She hasn't even been interested much in juice. If I could pump enough milk for her to take, I'm sure we'd be fine, but frankly, my right side is all but dried up, and even the left side doesn't pump well these days.

Last night, after another battle of trying to get her to take some "Mama Juice," I made a 4-ounce bottle of formula in desperation. Amazingly, she quieted down and took it. She only drank about an ounce and a half, but it was enough to let me know that she would indeed drink formula. She's had about 4-5 ounces throughout the day today as well. She hasn't eaten very much at all the last few days, and I've been giving her infant Tylenol because she has been a major CRAB, and that seems to be the only thing that helps her settle down to rest.

Soooo, looks like we'll keep going with a mix of nursing attempts and supplementing with formula. I used to wonder why moms had a hard time nursing--I could never understand why, if your milk was in and nursing was established, you could give up on nursing. I guess I'm learning from experience that it's not always the mother's choice!! I have a lot more compassion now for moms who have to give up nursing, and maybe that's the point of me having to go through all this. One thing I've learned about myself is that I'm a black-and-white kind of girl, and unfortunately I can be on the judgmental and critical side far too often. Being a mother of four children has certainly taught me that there is very little in life that is a "one size fits all" approach, and I've been humbled more times than I care to admit!

I hate the thought of not nursing Kenna any more (or even much more), but to be honest, it was such a relief to just be able to hold her and cuddle her while she drank her bottle. Her screaming fits and pushing me away have been extremely stressful, and it's been hard to enjoy feeding times at all. Hopefully I can recapture some of those special, precious moments.

The Hills Are Alive...With the Sound of Panting

I'm back in the running routine. I do miss our flat roads around our old neighborhoods, but I'm getting used to running around here. Unfortunately, though, what goes down must come up, and I can't run much of anywhere without starting by going DOWN hill, which means I end by coming UP hill!! The good news is that I'm getting conditioned, slowly but surely. It was a great day when I realized I ran about a mile and a half uphill without stopping once--the first time I ran that route I stopped at least 3-4 times!

Last Saturday I did a 10-mile run, the second time I've gone that far. Ted and the kids picked me up at Smoothie King--I treated myself to a nice smoothie for breakfast. I finished in 1:45:10, which means my average time per mile was 10:31. Not bad, if I do say so myself! I was pleased to note that a hill I had run on occasion closer to our old house was a piece of cake after running the hills around this area! I'm hoping this conditioning will help me run the half-marathon in a few weeks.

Next Saturday I'll be running a 10K race, so I did a 10K run around here just to check out my time. I've only run one other race in my whole life, and that was a 10K about a year and a half ago with Sarah. It started out going uphill and was a pretty tough course, plus it was a very windy day. As I had only run 6 miles one other time previously, I wasn't expecting much. When the day of the race dawned and I was having stomach issues, I figured I'd be lucky to even finish. My time was a few seconds under an hour and fifteen minutes. My time today was 1:05:15. Woohoo! And that's even with running hills. I think the course may actually be flat, but I'm not too familiar with that area of town, so we'll see.

November 04, 2007

Drama Queen

Today were tryouts for the children's Christmas play at our church. Charis had her heart set on playing Mary, while Tobin's goal was to land the non-speaking role of Darth Vader. (The play was written by the drama coordinator at our church, and it's quite humorous!) So, at 1 p.m., after I had finished serving in the pre-school area, we joined the throngs of other parents and children wanting to participate in the first children's Christmas play.

Non-speaking roles were determined first. Tobin lined up with about 8 other guys (most of whom were much taller!) to demonstrate his Darth Vader acting skills. He was supposed to jump out on stage, brandishing his light saber, only to be told, "No, sorry, Darth Vader isn't in this show," then slump dejectedly and shuffle off the stage. I have to admit that Tobin won the Darth Vader jumping out part hands-down; however, he was told he didn't look "sad enough" as he left the stage. Though he probably could have been a sheep or goat, or even part of the angel chorus, Tobin decided that it was either Darth or nothing, and so he was done for the day. (Whew! Thank goodness! I'm off the hook for making an animal costume!!)

Finally it was time for speaking roles. Children went up in groups of five to read the same scene. I finally pulled Charis aside and told her she needed to just stand up and volunteer; the scene involved 3 shepherds, an angel, and a narrator. She was waiting for Rory to call for Mary, but really he just wanted to hear everyone read. So she went on stage and read Shepherd #3's part, which, unfortunately, was only 2 short lines. She was also partnered with kids WAY bigger than she was. When she sat down, she said in a sad voice, "I don't think he's going to pick me, because I didn't get to read very much."

I told her that maybe she could ask Mr. J if she could try reading the narrator part so that he could hear her more, as long as everyone else had had a chance to try. Sure enough, for the final grouping, there were only 3-4 kids who hadn't yet read. Charis bravely marched up to Rory and asked very politely if she could read the narrator part, because she didn't get to say very much. I think she impressed him by even asking; later on one of the preschool leaders called to tell me that Rory had said Charis had won a special spot in his heart when she asked if she could have another chance on the stage! Charis read the part beautifully, with great expression, and only needing help with the word "pre-historic."

After this initial reading, the kids got in groups based on what part(s) they wanted. Joseph and Mary were the roles to be determined first. Charis joined about 7-8 other Mary wanna-bes, and they all took turns speaking the lines. I have to say, she did a great job. Really, all of the Marys did a good job. Some of them had been terrible readers, but when they were speaking the lines instead of reading, they did much better. Finally it came down to one question: which girl matched Joseph in size?! As there were only 2 Joseph candidates, he was picked first. Since Joseph ended up being about twice as tall as Charis, Rory told her very gently that though she was a good little actress, she was just too little to be Mary. She kept her composure quite well.

I called her over to me, thinking to suggest that she join the angel group and try again. She did shed some tears when she came over to me, but she was game to keep trying. So next the angels were up, about 9 or 10 of them (a bit larger group, as all the Mary-rejects merged with the few original angels). Once again, Rory taught the girls the lines, and they all said them several times. The next thing I knew, Charis and four other girls were on the stage, as Rory narrowed down the choices. The girls said the lines again, and I could tell Rory was having a very hard time selecting only two of them! (I'm glad I didn't have his job!) Finally he walked up to Charis and said, "Charis, you are just so darn cute that you simply MUST have a role in this play! You've won the part of an angel nearly on cuteness alone!" The other gal who was chosen was a natural--I wasn't surprised at all that she was picked.

So, Charis is Angel #2 in our little holiday production! To say she is excited is a complete understatement! I'm excited for her. I know the fact that she is so tiny, petite, and "darn cute" did help her land this role, but she also did have great expression every time she got to say a line. We just need to really work on having her project--her voice is so tiny! But she is enthusiastic, and I know we can help her do it.

Her lines are actually fairly minimal, so I'm sure she'll have them memorized in no time. Then she'll be able to focus on projecting her voice, having just the right expression and emphasis, and so on. The performances will be December 15 and 16 for all the elementary classes--so this won't be on the main stage at church. Nevertheless, it's a pretty big deal for our family, and we're all very proud of Charis!

Finding a Wife

The other day Arden and I had a cute conversation. He was playing and talking with Kenna, as he does often. (He's such a great big brother! I'm glad he has the opportunity to be the "big" brother!) Here's a close to word-for-word recount of the conversation that ensued:

Me: Arden, you're going to be a great daddy someday.

Arden: Yeah.

Me: How many kids do you want?

Arden: Fourteen.

Me: Wow! That's great! We'd better pray that you find a good wife who also wants 14 kids!

Arden (getting a sad look on his face): But, Mom, no one I know wants to marry me!

Me (trying hard not to laugh): Well, I'm sure God will bring just the right girl along at just the right time!

Arden (cheering up): Yeah!

A Tender Heart

During her short life, Charis has demonstrated often that she has a very tender heart towards others and towards the things of God. I've prayed that she would always have a passion for God's Word, and it's been very exciting to see how that prayer is being answered even daily.

For her birthday Charis received a girls' devotional book. It has verses, a short devotional, application questions, a prayer, and an activity page. She LOVES this kind of thing, and I was not too surprised when she told me the other day that she wanted to get up early and have her quiet time like Mommy and Daddy do. Sure enough, the next morning, she was up at a quarter to seven! (This is the girl who would sleep until 9:00 if left undisturbed!) She has done the devotions on her own and is so excited to show us what she has done each day. I pray she always has this excitement.

During breakfasts we have been reading Psalms before we start our home school day, and lately we've been working our way through Psalm 119, one or two sections each day. One day I made the comment that some of the verses were good prayers, and Charis got the idea to write out a prayer to God using some of those verses. She begged me to be able to do that for her handwriting practice, so she got a practice page and very carefully wrote the following prayer, which she then posted next to her bed so she could "read it every morning to God!"

Dear God,
I want to obey your laws for ever and ever. Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain. Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to yor Word. I will never leave you. O, Lord. I love you God. Amen.

November 01, 2007

Maybe We SHOULD Have Gone Trick-or-Treating...

Ted and I have decided not to "do" Halloween with our family. We do church festivals instead, and I have no problem with our kids dressing up. But for various reasons we have chosen to skip the whole Halloween scene. So we went to Sweet Tomatoes for dinner last night instead:

A) It was something fun and special for us to share
B) We had free coupons for our 2 birthday kids that expired at the end of October
C) It got us out of the house during some of the Trick-or-Treating hours.

The restaurant was very quiet. We had a whole section to ourselves. However, we were still trying to impress upon our children that just because it's a buffet-style restaurant doesn't mean they are allowed to wander at will. After returning with my yummy potato rosemary soup and apple cinnamon muffin, I once again told the kids they needed to stay in their seats. Arden, who was finished with his meal and entertaining Kenna in the stroller, moved to obey, tripped over his bulky tennis shoes, and landed head first into my chair.

Loud wailing ensued. I was sure it was just a bump and tried to calm him down. When he looked up, however, we saw an ugly gash that screamed for attention. We tried icing it a bit, then Ted took Arden to the bathroom to try to clean the wound and get him quiet. A helpful bus boy got us a bandaid, which my kids believe heals just about anything, so that did calm Arden down a bit and bought us some time to finish dinner and decide what to do next.

Well, there really wasn't much of an option; we went home, and then Arden and I made the long drive to the base hospital. (I suppose if I had been going the speed limit, it would have taken about 45 minutes, ahem.) It was about 7:30 p.m. when we left the house. Arden was asleep by about 7:40 p.m. and slept the whole way. I had to carry (actually, lug) him into the ER. Thankfully it was a slow night, so we "enjoyed" our shortest ever visit to the ER, leaving less than an hour later.

Praise the Lord, no stitches were needed. The glue worked fine, though to listen to Arden you would have thought major surgery was involved. I think he was a worse patient for having had a nap on the way--if he had stayed awake, he wouldn't have been so weepy. At any rate, he was a little chatterbox all the way home, so I knew he was doing much better.