October 31, 2007

A Couple of Videos

OK, I really need to be finishing school with the kids--we got a late start today and we haven't done language arts. But since these videos finished uploading, I figured I'd go ahead and post them!

The first one is of Arden doing his own little dance. I caught him dancing in front of the TV so he could watch his reflection. We were listening to a CD, and I just thought it was so cute! When he discovered I was watching him, he got embarrassed and quit.

And of course we have to post a Kenna video. This is her in the Johnny-Jump-Up. She loves anything she can bounce in! It's not the most exciting video--I couldn't seem to capture her when she was REALLY going at it. But it's cute anyway.

Kid Funnies

I really must put more of these on here. When the kids say something funny, I tell Ted when he gets home from work, we laugh about it together, and then promptly forget about it. However, we've worked really hard to remember these, so here is a funny from each of the big kids from the past couple of days...

After reading "The Miracle Picnic" in Arden's Bible story book (about the feeding of the 5,000), one of the questions asked what was in the little boy's lunch. Arden's response: "Five loaves of bread and two loaves of fish."

She referred to the TV antenna as "antlers." I guess it kind of does look like the TV has antlers!

A bit of back story here...we have been working on birthday thank you notes ever since the party. Our dear family members apparently feel that Tobin must be in mourning for not sharing a birthday with a sibling, so they usually send him a little gift as well. I've been having him write his own thank you notes. He had written a nice one to Grandma J but was a little disturbed that it took so much space on the paper. (I had cut quarter sheets for his and Arden's thank yous since they would fit into the envelopes Charis was using for her homemade cards.)

So when it was time to write to Grandma and Grandpa Keist, Tobin informed me that the paper wasn't big enough. I told him to just do it anyway. He came back and proudly announced that it had all fit onto the one page. Here's what he wrote:

Dear Grama,
Thanks for the stuff.
From Tobin.

Hey, at least he wrote it himself! ;-)

October 25, 2007

Happy Birthday, Charis and Arden!

Charis and Arden got a fun surprise for their birthday--Grandma K came to town! The kids didn't know she was coming, so it was fun for us to walk in the door the evening of the 16th and see their expressions. Charis's face was priceless! The boys didn't seem to think it was a big deal--"Hi, Grandma. Want to come see my room?!" I guess they don't realize that it's quite a big deal for us to have visitors, since we live so far from family! My mom got to stay for a week, and it was so great to have her here.

[Editor's note: If you would simply like to view the slide show of pictures rather than this rambling commentary, click here to go to the online album and then select slide show!]

Charis and Arden's actual birthday was the 18th, but we didn't have the party until the Sunday afterward. I had barely gotten things unpacked to the point of being able to function when I had to prepare for a stamp club meeting at my house on the 19th, so the party was really not more than a free-for-all. We did announce a cowboy/cowgirl theme, which is what we had been planning for Arden's party prior to the move. Charis had announced that she wanted an "Egyptian" party, having gotten an Egyptian princess costume for the dress-up box during a Party City super sale. Charis graciously agreed to combine parties again this year--I had fully intended to have separate parties for them this year and every year thereafter, but...well, when you have to move suddenly, plans change.

So, instead of stamping nice, pretty invitations and getting them out with 2 weeks' notice, I frantically sent an email to the moms of kids that Arden and Charis wanted to come to their combined party! I allowed them to invite a lot more kids than I normally would have, figuring that since the email was going out just a week before--and it was an email, not regular mail--we'd have about half the number attend. That's pretty typical of just about any event.

Well. EVERYONE who got the invitation said they planned to come!!! Thank the good Lord we had two families cancel at the last minute, or I'd probably be in the funny farm right now, ha! OK, it wasn't THAT bad, but there were 21 children and 12 adults including our own family. As this house has a much smaller living area and back yard than our other house, I was expecting mass chaos. I didn't plan any themed games or any activities for that matter. We just shuffled kids on and off the trampoline and let them play in the back yard and in the family room. It actually worked out pretty well considering how many people were here.

We had munchies and then opened presents, then had the only western-looking cake I could find to order from Sam's Club. We had let Charis and Arden open their family gifts the night before (Charis wore her Egyptian outfit for this event), and then after the party guests left we gave them their gifts from Mommy and Daddy (who had been shopping the night before during their first date night in about 3 months!!). You can see Arden here posing in his Brocos jersey from Grandma J and the Cars slippers from Ted and me. I love this picture of him...it's hard to get a shot of him actually smiling, as you can see if you look at the birthday album. He stands there with a silly, blank look on his face, and THEN he smiles after the picture is taken and he's asking to see it. (This must be how our parents felt when they took Polaroid pictures of us as kids..."Is it ready to see yet, Dad? Can I wave it around?") So after snapping several pictures in a row, we finally got this gem of a smile. Isn't he sweet?!

Charis, ever the princess, changed outfits at least 100 times during her birthday weekend. She did stay in keeping with the western theme for most of the party, but once she opened her new tiara from friends, her cowgirl hat was GONE! When she opened a nice bracelet from her daddy and me that evening, she was all aflutter! Between the tiara (CROWN, she insists), the bracelet, and the hand-me-down Cinderella dress that she just got, I think she's set for King's Faire Friday night (a dress-up event at our church). If you want to view the online album, you'll see more of her outfits--the pictures were taken Saturday evening and Sunday.

I can hardly believe I have a 7-year-old! I keep telling my kids they are growing up way too fast, and would they please stop? They just look at me and grin, clueless as to how sentimental that thought really is to their mom. I love them and I love celebrating each milestone with them, but I have a feeling it's going to get harder and harder as we approach that time when they are ready to fly the nest...

October 24, 2007

It's a Good Thing She's Cute...

Isn't Kenna a doll? She's almost 8 months old now, and it's hard to believe she's the same age that Charis was when we were getting ready to move from Idaho to Ohio. Aside from being super cute, Kenna is also the most high-maintenance baby we've had. I've posted numerous times about nursing problems with this child, and this morning I told Ted that if we make it to one year of nursing, it will be a miracle. The current problem, which has been going on for at least a couple of months (so I can't blame the stress of our move), is that she has decided she doesn't like nursing on my right side. In fact, sometimes she doesn't even want to nurse on the left. Apparently it's a hindrance to her being able to see EVERYTHING around her, and she would rather sit up and eat her solids while turning her head 360 degrees every half a minute.

We have literally held Kenna's hands during some morning and evening feedings and basically force-fed her. Once she gets a considerable amount of milk in her mouth (at least enough to make her have to swallow), she often resigns herself to nursing and continues quite well. But it's a fight and a struggle to get to that point, especially during the lunch and late afternoon feedings when there is more activity surrounding her. She will nurse on my right side if we can pretend it's the left side, i.e. if I hold her in the football position so she isn't lying on her left side. I would think there were something wrong to make her not want to lie like that except for the fact that she is often found sleeping on that side, plus the fact that every now and then, just to keep me on my toes, she will suddenly decide that she DOES want to nurse the "normal" way on the right side.

Every feeding is an adventure, and I never know if she's going to actually nurse, take a half feeding, or refuse me altogether and demand I shovel food in her mouth NOW. We have just four months to go to meet my goal of nursing for one year, which I've been able to do with the others, more or less. It will be interesting to see if we make it. Whether we do or don't, I can guarantee you that I will be lopsided for the rest of my life...

Renaissance Festival

A couple of weekends ago we took a break from unpacking and enjoyed the Las Vegas Renaissance Festival. The kids and I went on Friday, as we were able to get in free with the home school group. It was nice to go when it wasn't so crowded, though I was a bit apprehensive about taking all 4 little ones. I pushed Kenna in the stroller and pulled the wagon for swords, helmets, and (later on) tired knights. Would you believe we were there for nearly 5 1/2 hours?! Kenna did quite well and even napped off and on throughout the day. While we were there:

* Charis painted a shield
* We had a rather disappointing lunch of soggy corn dogs and cold fries
* We watched a blacksmith
* We learned lots about parrots during the Pirate's Parrot Show
* We watched cannons being shot off (much to Kenna's chagrin)
* The boys bought wooden swords with their spending money
* Charis bought a ribbon wreath with her spending money
* All 3 older kids fought some knights with duct-taped foam "weapons"
* We watched knights from various guilds duel
* We watched some belly dancers and Charis found a new goal in life (much to my chagrin)
* We munched Kettle Corn

In fact, we had so much fun that we decided to return on Saturday as a whole family! This time we were able to see the jousting tournament as well as watch a juggler/comedian.

If you'd like to see some pictures, you can click here to view our "Ren Fest" album! We look forward to going again next year!

Settling In

Well, one month after the foreclosure sale of our other house, we are just about settled into our new home. I have to admit that it actually looks like we live here now! The downstairs is pretty much finished, though I do want to put the airplane pictures up in the family room and organize my stamp room just a little bit more. (It actually looks much better than it usually does...probably because I've had so little time to stamp!)

The upstairs...well, here's a quick list of what I hope to accomplish in the next couple of weeks up here:

* Help Charis organize her room
* Organize the linen closet--the kids helped me put the towels and sheets away when we unpacked them!
* Put away the random things that have landed in our bedroom
* Hang up the family pictures that we've decided will go up here

That actually doesn't look like too daunting of a list, now that I write it out!

So, Ted's back at work, the kids and I have started school again (I'm sure I'll post more on that later), and things are starting to settle down. Whew.

October 12, 2007

House Update

Last Saturday was Moving Day. That morning there was still STUFF everywhere...mostly in the kitchen, but random stuff that still needed to be put somewhere so we could haul it to the new house. I was standing in the kitchen, feeling extremely depressed, when it seemed all at once that Ted was home with the moving truck and 7 or 8 guys were with him, taking boxes away. I couldn't help but think, "Here comes the Cavalry! Hooray!" Just knowing those guys gave up a whole Saturday to help us in a time of crisis was such a blessing.

It was also wonderful to be able to drop our kids off--the older ones with Lyn and Kenna with Debi. I mostly stayed at the new house trying to sort out the kitchen, breaking to go pick up pizza for some very hungry men. It was a long day, but the guys managed to do it all in 2 trips. We were thankful we didn't have to pay for the truck for more than a day.

Sunday morning we had breakfast at McDonald's and leftover pizza for lunch. Kenna got a great nap while I did some grocery shopping, and then we dropped the kids off again so Ted and I could go back to the old house and pack the rest of the stuff that was left into the van and do some cleaning. This time the older 3 kids stayed with Adam and Laura and Kenna was again with Debi. It was nearing 7 p.m. when we finished at the old house, so we picked up KFC and ate dinner with the T family. Laura drove the kids and me back home while Ted drove a very packed minivan to the new house. Kenna did quite well, considering, and slept great both nights after I picked her up.

Monday morning Ted went back to the old house one last time--all he had to do was get the trash out for pickup and mop the tile floors. He met Dillon for the last time (whew) and did indeed get a check for $1000 as promised in our "cash for keys" agreement. Thank the Lord!

After a trip to Goodwill to make a rather large donation, Ted dropped by the T's house to get the minivan seats he had taken out the day before. The rest of the day was spent sorting and unpacking, kind of like most of this week has been spent. Ted returned to work on Tuesday, and I sorted all the books for our nice living room book shelves. Wednesday I did the school room shelves and lo and behold, there was peace and quiet in this house as every kid grabbed books and headed for a different part of the house.

So, we're getting there. I guess you could say the "big stuff" is done, meaning the kitchen and all the book shelves. Most of the furniture is also in the right place. However, there is much work left to do. My whole office, the bedrooms, the closets...sigh. Not to mention the decorating. The incredibly frustrating thing to me has been that regular chores don't stop!! We still need to eat and wear clean clothes!!

Ah, well. Eventually we'll truly be settled in. Then it'll be time to move again, I'm sure...

October 05, 2007

Getting Ready

Well, it's our last full day here in the "big house." We're renting a truck tomorrow and so far have 5 or 6 guys who are planning to be here to help haul stuff. The last time we had to do this, we moved to a house 3 miles away from the first LV house, and we made lots of little trips with the seats taken out of the minivan. The B family helped us a lot with their SUV also. The really big stuff was moved by Ted and two other guys with an open trailer. So in some ways, we're hoping this time will be much easier, being able to do it in one fell swoop. Actually two swoops is more like it--Ted is planning on two trips between houses.

Last time I remember packing and unpacking so we could reuse boxes. This time we may just need to do that with a few boxes--we have a lot more moving supplies that we've picked up from various families, and again, this new house is much farther away from our current location, so driving back and forth isn't nearly as practical. I'm just thankful that--Lord willing--it looks like we won't have to do this again ourselves! The USA will be packing us up next time we have to relocate! It's a bit hard to believe that we're moving into our 7th house in 10 years of married life...

Yesterday was a long but productive day. Ted had to attend a meeting on base but was home by lunch. I took a load of stuff to the new house on my way to drop Charis and Tobin off at their PE class, since it's fairly close to the park where they meet. Then we came home and put Kenna to bed, and I spent some time playing games with Arden. It was nice to have that one-on-one time with my little Cuddle Muffin. Then I packed up the van again, trying to grab things that are unwieldy or fragile, and we made another house run. After picking up Charis and Tobin, we drove to Cindey's house, where the older 3 spent almost 5 hours playing. Ted was home when I returned. I put Kenna to bed again, and we started working.

Ted took down the trampoline, a huge task by itself. I went through the laundry room cupboards, the pantry, the kids' bathrooms, Kenna's closet (where I found 3 bags full of boys' clothes that were given to us--they'll fit the boys this year, wahoo!), and, after Kenna was awake, my closet.

Ted's off work today. The kids are going to help pack their rooms this morning while Ted goes to the new house to set up the TV and sound system. Then I'll take the older ones to Laura's house and we'll pack the kitchen and finish getting all the loose things floating around. This is the part I hate--not only packing up random items, but figuring out what to do with them when it's time to unpack them again. You know, you look at something for so long in one place, even though it doesn't really belong there, and it begins to seem normal. "Oh, that missing piece to the puzzle we put together 3 months ago? It's in the fruit basket."

Well, I guess I'd better get on with the day. I'm finally feeling more awake, and I may go for a run. No, I WILL go for a run, I'm telling myself...

October 03, 2007

An Interesting (and Humorous) Bible Lesson

A few days ago my friend Tina sent me a link that was incredibly encouraging in the midst of our house trials. This blog entry by Beth Moore spoke to me exactly where I am and lifted me up despite our circumstances. It amazes me how God's Word always has something new and fresh--I can know a verse or passage backwards and forwards, and yet seeing it in light of different circumstances can allow me to pull even more from it.

I've been digging deep into Beth's wonderful study about the Tabernacle, and we've gone back and forth from Old Testament to New. Last week's video session focused on nuggets from Hebrews 10, the week before from Hebrews 6. So reading Beth's blog, which took 10:35 and expanded on it, was almost like sitting down with her for a follow-up session. The verse reads: "So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised."

Between the verses, the blog entry, and our Bible study, it seemed God was encouraging and speaking to my heart directly. Since we are taking a couple of weeks off from the study (our leader is out of town), I decided to spend my quiet times really focusing on these passages. Lo and behold, I found something that made me laugh out loud, and I wanted to share it with you, because I truly believe God has a sense of humor!

The context for this passage is that the author of Hebrews is speaking to Christians who are in need of spiritual encouragement. They have suffered much for their faith, and he wants to remind them to hold fast to what they have, focusing on the eternal rather than the temporary. Here are the verses from Hebrews 10:32-34, with the emphasis being mine:

"Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions."

Ahem! I think I need to be a little more joyful about our house being confiscated! God has indeed been reminding me through various Scriptures that this world is NOT our home, and I just had to chuckle when I read this passage. We are not the only ones in all of history who have had to give up their houses, and at least we are not having to move to jail!

October 02, 2007

Hallelujah--Some Answers!

Well, it sounds like the appearing-in-military-uniform thing worked! Ted just called and said that everyone in the lawyer's office was very friendly and helpful. The 3-day notice we received was a preliminary to a five-day eviction process (or something like that--I don't understand all this), but the bottom line is, if we can be out by Monday, which was our plan anyway, then absolutely nothing happens to us. So, that leaves us 3 more days to finish packing and the weekend to actually move the stuff.

I asked how things went at Dillon's office (the agent who will be selling the house who has been so rude to us), and Ted said his eyes kind of widened when he saw Ted, and "all the bluster and rudeness" was gone!

Seems like we've fallen on hard times to call it "good news" that we "get" to move out by October 8th, but compared to having to be out of here tomorrow, it is indeed a relief. Maybe I'll actually sleep tonight...

Love Never Fails

I want to take a few moments to say a sincere thanks to those of you who love us and pray for us from afar! Your encouragement in the comments and via email during these difficult days has been a tremendous boost. Our emotions have run the gamut, and Ted and I have had to take turns being the strong and optimistic one, encouraging one another when the blues have hit. Thankfully they only hit both of us at the same time for a brief while--it seems we've taken turns since then!

I appreciate your offers to help, if only you could! Just knowing we have loved ones who are willing to come to our aid if distance didn't prevent them from doing so is a blessing. Lord willing, we'll be able to do the bulk of our move on Saturday, when more people in the local area are available to load and unload the truck.

In the meantime, I thank God for my friend Lyn, who called immediately after getting the news to ask how she could help and make sure we knew she and her husband would do what they could. They watched the older three kids for us yesterday for about five hours, which was a tremendous blessing, as we ended our house hunt and sat for awhile at our agent's house filling out paperwork. We also got some packing done while they were gone. Lyn has also offered to take the kids to AWANA tomorrow evening so we can have more time to pack. If we need to take her up on the offer, we will, though I do hope we can take a break and go to our couples' class during AWANA.

I was also blessed to get my friend Cindey's email today. She offered to take the kids whenever as well, and in her words, "Name a time and I will make helping you a priority!" Our kids love "Miss Cindey," and she loves them, too. I appreciate her willingness to jump in and help us during this crisis.

Others have offered to help when it's time to load the truck--in fact, many guys Ted works with will without a doubt be here for the grunt work. Military members know better than anyone else what it's like to have to move!

Ted has also been encouraged just knowing that our (church) friend Adam told us he is willing to take a few days off work to help us as well. His wife Laura has offered to help by watching kids, and overall, watching our children is quite possibly one of the BIGGEST ways we need help! We love them, but it takes so much time and energy to answer their requests, deal with squabbles, etc.

And speaking of time, I need to get going...Kenna will probably wake soon, and I need to look around and figure out what needs to be done next.

Do They Pay Extra for Being a Jerk?

Sure seems like that's the case. We were headed out the door to meet our new landlord to finalize our contract, do the walk-through, get the keys, etc., when the agent who is selling this house, Dillon, called. He wanted to come by right then to have us sign the 1099 form, which apparently is necessary if we want the $1000 for the "cash for keys" program. Ted told him that we were leaving, and he got all snotty about it and said we'd have to come to his office or we wouldn't get the money. This agent has gone out of his way to be rude and unhelpful, scoffing at the concern we expressed when we got the 3-days-to-quit notice yesterday, even though he was the one who said we needed to call him ASAP if we got any eviction notices posted. (Not only was the notice posted on our door, but we also got a copy in the mail yesterday.)

Meanwhile, Ted has put in no less than about 8-10 phone calls to the attorney's office from whence came the eviction notice. Conveniently they are never around, though Ted did actually talk to a real, live paralegal yesterday who promised to do some checking and get back to us. I'll give you one guess as to whether we heard back from her.

So now Ted has donned his military uniform and is marching down there in person to see if he can get some answers. He is also taking signed 1099 forms that we printed off the Internet to Dillon's office so he can't whine about us not cooperating. Even though I do say it myself, my tall and buff husband looks pretty impressive in his uniform, so I'm hoping that he'll at least command some respect from the people who talk with him, because respect, let alone common courtesy, has been sadly lacking in all of our interactions with these people.

October 01, 2007

Day 4 of the House Hunt

This is hopefully the last day of actually house hunting. (See post below for why we need to get out of here ASAP!) We looked at 3 houses, and the first one of the day was by far the best of the three. In fact, we decided that it was by far the most logical choice for our family, so we have filled out an application and are meeting the owner at 6 p.m. to give her the application and the $100 application fee. (Yet another out-of-pocket expense...)

Here are the stats:

* Two-story
* Five bedrooms, one downstairs (which will be the office) and 4 upstairs
* Three bathrooms
* 2434 square feet
* $1500 per month
* Ceiling fans
* Cathedral ceiling
* Decent sized back yard with grass and enough space for our trampoline
* Two-car garage that is deeper than most around here--a little extra storage area, which will be helpful. (We've had 3-car garages in the past two places, which has been nice because of all of Ted's tools.)
* Ceramic tile floor downstairs--beautiful, but a bit of a drawback since Kenna will be learning to crawl soon. But all of the upstairs is carpeted.
* Gated and established community with a community pool and rec area.

There are a couple of minor drawbacks:
* The kitchen is even smaller than the first house we were in and has tile on the countertop--ick. At least it does have a small island (and I do mean SMALL).
* The house is in a different part of town. Ted will only add about 5-7 minutes to the park-and-ride, but it's farther from church. Closer to the library and the park where the kids have P.E., though. I was really hoping to stay in our zip code, but I'll get over it.

So...Lord willing, I guess this will be "our" house for the next 22 months or so!

Can Anyone Please Tell Us What's Going On?!

We signed a "cash for keys" agreement last week, Thursday, I think, saying that we would be out of this house October 11 and receive $1000 from the bank.

This morning we found a notice on the door, dated September 27, that says we have 3 days to get off the property that we are "unlawfully" residing on. Ted has been trying to talk to the attorneys who sent the notice, but he's been given the run around by an exasperated-sounding secretary. Like we have no right to know what's going on?!

We are at least 70-80% packed, so as soon as stuff goes through for a new house, we can start getting out of here. Can we be out of here in 3 days? Do we HAVE to be out of here in 3 days? And 3 days from when, exactly? If it's from the date on the letter, that would be two days ago! Nice of them to post it early this morning, the cowards. HELLO--WE'RE THE VICTIMS HERE!!!

I have never been so frustrated in my entire life. We have done everything possible to cooperate during this whole process, and darn it, we're even LOSING $1500 to boot. And yet everyone we encounter treats us as if we're criminals, or even if not to that extreme, they act like it's no big deal to throw a family out of the home they've been making rent payments on faithfully for 16 months.

Can someone just acknowledge that we're getting a raw deal here?! Can anyone in the financial machine that is turning our lives upside down even say, "Hey, I'm so sorry this is happening"?

Thank the Lord that He at least is on our side!!