April 30, 2011

Blessings Amidst Difficulties

Ted has been gone just under two weeks, and we've already had our share of tears, bickering, and breakdowns.  And he's not even overseas yet!  The first week he was gone, I truly felt the prayers of MANY people.  I actually felt calm and patient under circumstances which were less than ideal.  By Thursday of that week things were falling apart, though!  I'm sure the entire training and deployment period will be similar, full of ups and downs.  While I don't look forward to being apart for so long, I do look forward to seeing how we all grow throughout the experience.

I had tried hard to get us on a fairly predictable schedule, and then this week's testing schedule kind of threw that off, so we're just taking it a day at a time right now.  I am desperate to get a better chore system in place--we've done different things at different times, and since starting the GAPS diet, things just got all out of whack.  I have a tool that I plan to use, but I just need to find/make time to sit down and get things together for it.  In the meantime, the kids are getting pretty used to me asking/telling them to do whatever is most urgent!  I even gave Tobin his first laundry lesson today...on Wednesday, when I was finishing up everyone's laundry, I realized I had piles for Charis, Arden, Kenna, and Lucan, but none for Tobin.  I'm not sure how this happened, since HE was the one who supposedly brought the dirty clothes downstairs from the boys' room.  Anyway...I was not amused, and I decided he should be the one to wash that extra load of laundry.  So he has folded half of the clean clothes, and the rest are in the dryer now.  He mentioned, "Hey, Mom, this is fun!  Maybe I can do this to earn tickets some time!"  I'm sure that enthusiasm won't last too long!  But I have to say...it is a blessing to see that my children are becoming more independent.  I can't imagine facing a long separation with children who are ALL needy.  Even Kenna is quite the little helper, and she can do far more than I give her credit for, I'm learning!

Another big blessing I had this past week was my friend Erin coming over Thursday afternoon with a meal for us.  She came early enough (having cleared the times with me beforehand) that we could have tea and visit while our girls played together.  I really enjoyed the company, and it was so nice to not have to worry about dinner!  (I actually got a cooking-free day that day, since we heated up leftovers for breakfast, ate out for lunch, and had dinner delivered!)  I met Erin about a year ago at a stamping party I did, and we connected right away.  We have several things in common, first and foremost being our faith.  She lives on the other side of our town, but it's not a far drive, and we've gotten together a few times back and forth.  Then, our daughters were in the same play this spring, so they got to know each other better and have become good friends.  I'm always glad for Charis to find a good playmate...the girls in the neighborhood are too "old" for her in more ways than one!  (Including the one who is her age, if you know what I mean!)

Anyway, Erin was aware of our dietary restrictions, but she insisted that she loves a good food challenge and wanted to bless us with a meal now and then while Ted is away.  I so appreciated her taking that step to ask what kinds of things we can and can't eat, then following through with, "Pick a day next week and I'll bring you dinner!"  Such a blessing!!  Just knowing I have friends who are praying for me and who WANT to be a help is very encouraging.  (By the way, in case you're wondering, Erin brought us turkey chili, salad/veggies, and a fruit tray for dinner!  It was all very good!)

This might sound odd, but my Bible-reading schedule has blessed me these past couple of weeks.  See, Ted and I have been part of a class at church that is going through a chronologically-laid out Bible.  It seemed we were going through the Law and other such things for an interminable amount of time, followed by the depressing saga of Judges.  Things were getting interesting with David's account, and now--praise the Lord!--we're reading through the Psalms, topically arranged.  (The ones that went along with David's life story were inserted into the narrative, which was really cool.)  I have to say, the timing couldn't have been better!  The Psalms I've been reading each day have been just what I've needed.  I'm so thankful for God's Word and its ever-present power!  Having this community on Sundays is also a source of encouragement as we discuss the Bible and share and pray for one another.

Today, the sun is shining, and it's actually warm enough to be outside and ENJOY it!  Another blessing!  I'm sure we're not the only ones in the country who have experienced higher-than-normal levels of precipitation.  I do believe we set the record for the rainiest April (in this area), having surpassed the previous record of 9-something inches.  Waking at night for thunderstorms and howling winds hasn't exactly been the best way to stay well-rested, but I am SO thankful that we have NO leaks in our house and that the basement has NOT flooded!  (That happened several times in our previous Ohio house, so it's not something I take for granted!)

All in all, we're doing pretty well.  The road before us is long, and certainly there will be more trying times than what we've been through.  But it's good to take note of all the ways, big and small, that God is taking care of us.  Every blessing He pours out, we'll turn back to praise, and when the darkness closes in...we'll still say, "Blessed be His name."

Week of Testing

Given our current family situation, you might think that's what I'm talking about when I say we've had a week of testing, but I'm actually referring to TESTS!  Tuesday through Thursday of this past week, Charis, Tobin, and Arden joined other members of our homeschool co-op for the Stanford Achievement Tests.  They were actually looking forward to this experience, believe it or not!  They made some great friends from last year's series of tests, and I did, too.

Parents are asked to help two out of the three testing days.  Tuesday was my day "off," so after I got the kids settled, Kenna and Lucan and I did a couple of errands.  It was quite pleasant shopping with "only" two children!  Especially since I let Kenna push her own miniature cart at Kroger--she was SO proud!  Then we came home so I could put away groceries and clean up the kitchen (we kind of left the house in a whirlwind, LOL), and I spent some time reading and playing with the little ones before we picked up the olders.

Wednesday and Thursday I was a helper in the 4th grade testing room.  Easiest job I've ever had...I worked my way through the excellent book, Cheaper by the Dozen, which is SO much better than the movie, which is absolutely nothing like the original memoir.  I was hard pressed not to laugh out loud on many occasions!

As I knew they would, the kids had a great time with the other kids who were testing, and each day they blew off the tests as "very easy."  I'm not sure whether to be pleased or concerned, LOL!  Although I will say that Arden was quite disconcerted that there was no multiplication on the 2nd grade math tests--it was all addition and subtraction.  I'm just hoping he didn't blow through it thinking it was super easy while making silly mistakes.  (He tends to do a lot of math in his head rather than writing everything down, no matter what I advise...his mental math skills are so much better than his handwriting skills at this point!)  It will be interesting to see how they all did.

To celebrate when testing was over, my friend Julia and I took our 10 kids to City Bar-B-Que, which delighted the kids to no end.  We had eaten there for Ted's going-away luncheon and discovered that it's pretty friendly to our diet (if we just close our eyes to what is probably in the sauces...but most of the kids don't like the sauces anyway), and the prices are good as well.  It was nice not to have to come home and throw lunch on the table, since testing went until noon each day.

I did make the kids continue with their science activities throughout the week, since we are monitoring the growth of our bean and corn plants.  (They look fairly sickly compared to the ones on the DVD...guess two solid weeks of rain and no sun can do that to a plant!!  Ours are indoors, but still...)  And we tried valiantly to keep up with our history reading.  But we are still a couple of chapters behind in The Lewis & Clark Expedition, and I finally decided that we could make our read-aloud a read-to-yourself this time since both Charis and Tobin had expressed interest in reading Justin Morgan Had a Horse on their own anyway.  We still have 9 weeks of curriculum left, and I'm hoping to double up on reading when possible so we won't be doing school all summer long.  With doing the Bible Bee again this year, I want to be sure we have time to soak in God's Word, plus just have some down time.  I think we all need it!

April 24, 2011

He Is Risen Indeed!

I woke at 4:53 a.m. today.  Mom Radar, Ted calls it.  One of my children who shall remain nameless had an accident and had taken all the bedding down to the laundry room.  The child was able to get back to sleep, thankfully, allowing me to continue my sneaky Easter work.

I set up an Easter egg scavenger hunt all over the house.  (Yes, it rained more last night and again today, though we did see the sun briefly...no outdoor egg hunts for us!)  Before leaving for training, Ted helped me pick out Easter baskets for the kids.  We didn't necessarily have a plan in mind, but when we saw the baskets with balls--soccer, basketball, and kickball--and a VERY small amount of candy, we decided we had found just the thing!  We bought one for the boys and one for the girls.  (The girls' balls are all pink and purple!)  I hid the baskets in two different closets in the basement, then set out the eggs around the house that had clues leading them to the next location.  In each egg I also included two of the Werther's sugar-free candies (one for each kid), which are really quite good.  I figured the kids should have SOME kind of candy on Easter!  After all, we celebrate a really SWEET story, don't we?!

Once the eggs were hidden, I continued with my typical morning routine--typical, anyway, now that Ted is gone.  Fix hot tea for me, lemon water for the kids.  (Part of our diet plan.)  Set out everyone's allergy medicines.  (Sigh.  That's what we're hoping to get AWAY from with this diet.)  Fetch the paper and briefly scan while hot tea finishes.  Enjoy quiet time with the Lord while sipping tea.  Today I thumbed to nearly the back of the chronological Bible that we've been reading along with a "Resolve to Read" class this year, and I read the Easter story that way, which was neat...all the accounts put together, in order.

By the time I finished my shower, the house was still quiet.  I even made our banana-squash-peanut butter pancakes, set everything out for breakfast, and it was STILL quiet!  So I had a quiet breakfast and read the comics before my children had a chance to get them all out of order, and by then it was time to wake the crew.  While I was getting their plates ready, they searched for 4 of the Resurrection Eggs that I had hidden in the kitchen.

As a side note, I highly recommend this family kit!  We've been using the eggs in various ways for years.  Sometimes I've hidden one egg per day leading up to Easter, but often--like this year--Easter comes and we're just not ready.  (Yes, I know, Easter was late this year!)  So we did 4 eggs Friday right before the Good Friday service, and I intended to do 4 eggs on Saturday as well.  But, ahem, things do not always go as planned, so we ended up doing 4 this morning and the last 4 this evening.

I put slips of paper in each egg with the Scripture references on them, so the kids read the passages as they opened each egg.  Charis helped Kenna "read" her passage by asking her to repeat the phrases, a job that Kenna took VERY seriously!

The kids then enjoyed their breakfast, and I was positively bursting, trying not to hurry them along TOO much.  But the countdown was on...after all, we did have a church service to attend!  So at 9:00 I gave the girls, who were finished eating, their first egg with the first clue in the hunt.  Charis was SO good with Kenna, letting her help find the eggs and be very much a part of the whole experience.

The boys quickly finished their breakfasts as well once they realized what was going on, LOL.  Then the "race" was on--according to the boys, it was a RACE to see who could find their basket first!  It was so much fun to watch the commotion!  Lucan happily wandered around in the midst of the fray.  The kids' excitement over the baskets was so great they didn't even mind when I made them fork over the candy!  They were all very excited about the balls.  Prior to this we had one girls' soccer ball, and Tobin just got a kickball for his birthday.  That's it!  So it's time they added more to their collection, and, Lord willing, maybe it will stop raining enough for them to actually go outside and use them...they're driving me crazy in the house, ha!

I had to hustle the crew out the door shortly after they found the baskets, but we made it to church in good time and even had time for a family photo before taking the kids to their classes.  (By the way, the girls received these matching Easter dresses from a homeschool family in our co-op whose daughters had outgrown them.  Aren't they precious?!)

The service was very, very good.  Even though it was a bit gloomy (weather-wise) outside, the worship was phenomenal, and the message (from 1 Peter 1:3-5) was right on.  Meanwhile, in the kids' building, Charis was enjoying being a part of the Easter drama for the kids' service.  It sounds like they had a great time of worship and learning as well.

We came home and I quickly made a batch of almond flour biscuits to take with us (along with our homemade strawberry jam, yum!) to Sidra's house for our Easter meal.  I had given her our squash bake the day before so she could pop it in the oven.  I also heated up some of the navy bean casserole I had made earlier in the week--there was enough left to share, and I thought it would go well with the pulled pork she was making.  We enjoyed visiting and watching the kids play for a bit before the meal.  I was proud of the kids--they were well-behaved and mannerly and ate almost everything on their plates!  We had a great meal, and it was nice to have some fellowship.  (And, I confess, it was REALLY nice not to have to clean up dishes, LOL!)

We came home a little after 2:00 for naps.  Lucan was NOT happy about napping--Sidra had given us an old toy guitar that her kids didn't play with anymore, and Lucan is rather attached to it!  But I managed to carry him (kicking and screaming...I guess he's really 2 now, isn't he?!) to bed, and after sobbing awhile, he got quiet, so I guess he resigned himself to his fate.  The older kids watched the Jesus film and...who knows what else they did?!  I was napping very soundly in my room!  I have no idea how long I would have slept if it hadn't been for Arden knocking on the door and saying, "Mom?  It's 5:15, and I think maybe you should get dinner for us!"  Um, yeah, OK, I'll get right on that!  Heh...good thing I had planned for us to just heat up the leftover pizza I had made last night!

So a 3-hour nap wasn't entirely my intention, but it was very nice to sleep soundly and wake to find that the kids were entertaining themselves well and hadn't done any major damage to themselves, each other, or the house!  While the kids ate their dinner, I read Benjamin's Box, which goes along with the Resurrection Eggs.  (It also happens to be the book I read out loud to Arden the day he accepted Jesus as his Savior 3 years ago!)  Then they played while I ate my own dinner (I like doing the crossword and eating in peace!), and then I brought out the chocolate-frosted cupcakes.  Lucan seemed happy enough with his unfrosted cupcakes, so I didn't bother adding to the mess!  I let Charis hide the final 4 Resurrection eggs, and then we had our weekly family worship time by reading the last Scriptures, talking about the aspects of the story that were represented by each egg's contents, and singing and praying together.

Kenna and Lucan went off to bed, and the other kids and I enjoyed our weekly episode of The Amazing Race.  (Not the outcome, unfortunately, but it was otherwise a fun show.)  And I guess that wraps up our Easter!  To view more pictures, see our album here.

Happy Easter to you, too!  We're so thankful we have something to celebrate.  As my dear husband posted this morning, "If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep" (1 Corinthians 15:19-20).

Christ is risen, indeed!

The Week in Review

So it's been a whole week that we've survived with Ted away.  One down, 56ish to go, I guess!  Though I purposefully tried not to schedule a whole lot for after his departure, somehow we have managed to stay busy, no surprise.  Here's a quick review:

I had an OB appointment (21 weeks!), and everything is going well.  I heard the official report from the ultrasound that everything looks very, very good for Baby J, so that was reassuring.  His little profile is so sweet, and now that he's kicking around a little more forcefully, I'm starting to realize that this is really happening!

And the deployment is really happening, too.  After my appointment we went to the airport to drop Ted and his mounds of luggage off.  (He's in training right now for a few more weeks.)  Sunday was a lot harder for me than Monday was--I was very hormonal and emotional on Sunday, probably made worse by all the people giving well wishes and prayers and so on.  But the actual drop-off wasn't too bad.  We went home and had a fairly normal school day, considering.

Again, tried to have as normal a day as possible.  We began with our usual school routine, had piano lessons, and did the run out to the farm to pick up our milk.  (My friend Julia and I trade off and go every other week--nice!)  It was POURING most of the day, so we did have some fun lighting candles all over the family room and reading some poetry plus starting book 1 of the Harry Potter series during Lucan's nap time.  Thankfully the rain stopped as we headed out to the farm afterward.

After our evening baths and Skype time with Ted, I put the younger two down and the older 3 piled on my bed and we continued reading more in the Harry Potter book.  I decided that we would continue the series this way--after Kenna is in bed.  It gives the older kids some time with me, and we all truly enjoy it.  Plus, we purposefully waited to start the series with the kids, AND plan to read most if not all of them aloud with the kids so we can discuss things along the way...and Kenna's just not there yet anyway.  We might as well make reading times that include her focused on books she can understand.

More rain.  And an 8 a.m. dental appointment for Kenna and Lucan.  We were finished by 8:12, LOL.  I had planned a couple of errands, but the stores didn't open until 9, so we went to Walmart and shopped for a few items I needed anyway plus a birthday gift for Tobin and Arden's friend, whose laser tag party was that evening.  Then I ran into the Vitamin Shoppe, and then we browsed Goodwill and found some spring/summer clothes (not that it has really FELT like spring around here, but I have faith that it will warm up for real eventually!) for Lucan, who is officially finished with all the hand-me-downs we had stashed away as well as a few things for the older three.  (Kenna has plenty of clothes, thanks to my awesome sis-in-law, Ski, who sends us her daughter's clothes when she finishes!)

It was spring break for the AWANA program, so we sent the boys off to play laser tag (along with food they were allowed to eat--I sent the remains of Tobin's birthday cake slathered with extra frosting so they could enjoy a treat while the other boys had Maggie Moo's).  I was so proud of the boys for sticking with their own food!  I know it wasn't easy (I did enlist the enforcement help of the birthday boy's mom), but they did it.  Meanwhile, we put Lucan to bed and the girls and I watched a National Geographic DVD, In the Womb.  It was quite good!  Kenna fell asleep on my lap, but Charis and I really enjoyed the whole thing.  It was well done.

Finally, a sunny day!  And reasonably warm!  I'm so thankful I decided to make this an errand day, since it rained again all day Friday.  We had a lot of places to go...
  • The library on base--just a drop off--only to discover when we got home that the DVD we had watched the night before was still in the player.  Sigh.  (Thanks to a friend who works on base for taking it back the next day!)
  • The optical shop so Tobin's glasses could be repaired (we went to the one on base, since we had to go there anyway)
  • The BX for a few items...got Charis some summer sandals so she could have them for Easter Sunday
  • The commissary for groceries (narrowly avoided having a couple of meltdowns at this point)
  • The orthodontist's office to pick up Charis's scans--she is having a consultation with her pediatrician to determine if further review is necessary for some possible sinus issues the doctor saw on her X-rays
  • Goodwill to return a pair of sandals Charis had wanted--we got home and discovered they were BOTH right shoes!!!  How weird is THAT?!  (Obviously she has learned to try both shoes on before purchasing, LOL, and obviously I need to pay more attention to what is coming out of my cart!)
  • And we attempted to swing by the library, but it was 11:15, and it doesn't open until noon on Thursdays.
Whew.  At home, we had lunch, did a minimal amount of school, finished laundry for the week, and barely managed to get dinner on the table, baths finished, Skype session with Daddy, etc.  Along the way things kind of fell apart...really, the first time it had gotten pretty bad all week.  The beginning of the week sailed along quite smoothly.  I was having a lot of fun with the kids (I KNEW it was a good thing not to schedule any activities this week!), and everyone was making a lot of effort to help me out.  But today was just too much.  We had lots of squabbles, meltdowns, crying, and everyone ended up being sent to bed earlier than they expected.  I did end up having a good talk and prayer time with the older kids, Charis especially, but by the time all that was wrapped up, it was 9:30 and I pretty much fell into bed, exhausted.

More rain.  At least we finished our errands on Thursday!  We wrapped up the school week and started thinking about Easter.  The girls tie-dyed eggs using a kit we had found, while the boys opted instead to play with their new Lego purchases, which arrived in the mail that day.  I worked on some kitchen projects, overseeing the egg-coloring process but more than happy to let the girls do what they wanted.  Really, Charis has been SO helpful with the younger kids.  Before Lucan's nap, she had rigged up this "horse" for Kenna to ride.

And she's been great with helping run bath water for the little ones, keeping them happy, or generally doing whatever I need her to do.  Tobin, likewise, has stepped up quite a bit as well and has offered to do general household tasks like empty the dishwasher even when it's not his turn, vacuum, get the mail, etc.  (Of course, I have to be honest, a lot of the time he is hoping to earn extra tickets for computer/Wii time, LOL!)

So anyway, we had a simple dinner of leftovers before going to the Good Friday service at church, which was very lovely.  There was child care for kids under 3, so I had 4 of the kiddos with me.  Kenna sat on my lap for most of the service, and it was actually very nice to just sit and cuddle with her and Tobin, who leaned against me most of the time.  The kids had good comments about the service as well, and it was a great way to lead into the weekend of celebration.  Kenna in particular has been asking all kinds of questions, and it has been so neat to see her grow a little more in her understanding of the gospel.  At age 4, she obviously isn't yet getting the whole picture, but I loved her questions!  "Why did Jesus die on the cross?"  And usually, no matter what I answer whatever her question, she immediately asks, "Why?"  That's my Kenna!

Guess what?!  More rain!  But sporadic...I think the kids were in and out of the house a few times, and we did manage to get to the library without getting rained on.  Today we CLEANED and prepared for Easter.  We did not get around to doing our traditional Easter Story Cookies, although I had plans to make them according to our new dietary standards.  But we did make vanilla cupcakes so I could use some more of our leftover chocolate frosting for an Easter Sunday treat.  Also made a squash bake for Easter dinner, which we spent at our friends' house in the neighborhood.  I let the kids watch a DVD while I propped up my feet in bed and worked on clues for a scavenger hunt that I wanted to surprise the kids with for Easter...also had time to catch up on some business work/emails/etc. 

That evening after baths, etc., the older kids and I enjoyed another reading night before tucking in.  And then I enjoyed some quiet time to read myself, beginning with a couple of chapters in Cheaper by the Dozen.  Also finished up Baby Name Book #1, which may be the first and last name book!!  Yes, I found one I like!  Need to talk with Ted about it, though, and I'm not totally sure about the middle name.  But I went to sleep feeling like our little guy is becoming a bit more known to me...we pray hard over the names and characters of our children and ask God to direct us to the right name and give us a vision for what He wants for that child.  So choosing a name is like the first step in knowing a little bit more about this new little person!

And I'll save Easter for a separate post. :-)

April 16, 2011

Tobin's Pirate Party

Wow, a whole afternoon with nothing scheduled!  Tobin's party was from 11 - 1 p.m., and we were cleaned up and had Lucan in bed by 1:30.  So the girls and Ted and I watched a movie on the couch, and now I'm enjoying the unfamiliar sensation of having some time on my hands!  So I've posted pictures from the party on Facebook, as well as lots of pictures of the fabulous cake, and now I'll detail how the party went.

First of all, I must say that once again, Charis proved her worth as a party helper!  She and I worked on a lot of details yesterday afternoon, and I could not have pulled this event off without her help.  Second, we came up with the pirate theme just over a couple of weeks ago.  Tobin was asking for a dress-up party, but he was having a hard time deciding what kind.  He just wanted everyone to wear some sort of costume.  I suggested a pirate party and showed him some ideas I had found online, and he and Arden got very excited about it.

We printed invitations on vanilla card stock, tore the edges, and burned them slightly on the stovetop for good effect.  Then we rolled them up and tied them with hemp.  The boys loved getting their special invitations, and Tobin was so pleased to deliver them to friends at church and around the neighborhood.  We invited a total of 13, and 8 were able to come--a fairly manageable number!

I borrowed heavily from ideas we found online for all the party activities...here's what we came up for the invitations:

Ahoy there, Mate!
It be time to celebrate
Tobin’s 9th birthday!

There be strange goings on at Pirate Bay, ‘n’ yer needed to save the day. In your pirate finery you'll be enjoyin’ some good eatin’ by the sea.

Meet yer mates at the 11th turn o’ the hourglass on the 16th day of April. Dock yer ship at (our address) in the town o’ (our town). Send a seagull or call with your RSVP (phone number) so we can be sure ta have enough grub and spoils fer all.

The weather forecasts were calling for thunderstorms, so we prepared for indoor activities--kind of a shame, because we had great ideas for a pirate relay race/obstacle course as well as other fun outdoor activities, but as it turned out, it was a good thing we were inside!

When the boys arrived, Charis gave them their choice of tattoo and handed them a couple of game sheets (a pirate trivia quiz and word scramble) to work on while we waited for everyone to arrive.

Then it was time to head to the basement for games.  We played 4 games (had one extra planned, but decided against it when the time came).

1.  Cannon-Volleyball, a team game, used foam swords and 1 black balloon.  The object was to prevent the cannonball from falling on your side of the ship.  The teams named themselves (the Cutlasses and the Ninja Squirrels) and did a couple of practice rounds.  The boys used the swords to whop the cannonball to the other team's side, then passed the sword to the next person.  We did the best 3 out of 5 and awarded "gold coins" (made from yellow card stock and punched with a circle punch--Charis even stamped designs on them!) to the winners.

2.  Cannon-Volleyball Duels:  This was one-on-one, similar to the team game, and we gave a gold piece to the winner of each faceoff.

3.  Cannonball Pop:  Ted had blown up black balloons ahead of time, and Charis attached yarn to them.  The boys tied the yarn to their ankles, then had to run around popping other people's balloons.  It was hilarious to watch them!

4.    Walk the Plank:  We laid a blue plastic table cloth on the floor and outlined a "plank" with shaving cream.  The kids were blindfolded, spun around, and told to walk the plank.  They got a gold coin if they could walk all the way across without touching the shaving cream!  They also had a chance to turn around and come back, without taking off the blindfold.  Hilarious!

We had a "Shoot the Pirates" game planned (trying to knock down pirate figures with waterguns), but since it was a one-at-a-time game, and we had just made the boys wait their turn for walking the plank, we decided we had better forego this one and move on!

So we moved upstairs, and I had Ted go over the answers to the pirate trivia and word scramble games (with Charis continuing to give coins appropriately), and I finished putting out the food.  Before we prayed and ate, we let the boys choose pirate prizes based on who had the most coins, but everyone was able to get something.  (I just got 4 pirate play packs at the dollar store and put the daggers, hooks, eye patches, telescopes, etc. down the center of the table for decoration, then the boys picked from these items.)

For our food, we had hot dog "ships," cannons (carrot sticks), cannon balls (black olives and Whoppers), lifeboats (apple slices), and planks (chocolate sugar wafers) plus chips.  The planks and Whoppers were leftover items that I needed for putting the cake together, and I certainly didn't want them around OUR house!  The guests polished them off, no problem!

We decided to go ahead and do the cake next and let the boys eat cake while Tobin opened presents.  I must say, this cake went over much better than Kenna's did, HA!  It looked AND tasted great, if I do say so myself!  Here is the recipe I used for the cake.  (I used 3 cake rounds, cut in half and "glued" together in half-circles with frosting, then cut just a bit off the bottom to help the ship stand up without rocking!)  You can see more details in the cake album, but I just want to point out the Rolos and candles for the cannons, the Whoppers for the cannonballs, and the fun Playmobile figures.  I used a skull and crossbones graphic I found online (warning: do NOT have children in the room when doing a search for skull and crossbones images!!  yikes!) and printed it onto label paper so we could peel and stick to the card stock.  I baked the cake and assembled the boat part with frosting yesterday, then did frosting touch-ups and added everything else this morning.

Tobin scored with the loot this year--lots of legos and other great boy toys!  And a Barnes and Noble gift card even, enough to make his li'l pirate heart sing!  After he finished opening presents, we did our last activity, a treasure hunt.  It was so funny to watch the boys herding through the house trying to find the clues.  We sent them from one end of the house to the other to wear off energy, ha!  The treasure chest (our cooler) contained the party favor bags for the boys, and they were so excited.
One boy thanked me over and over for letting him come to the "best birthday party ever!"  Of course, I couldn't help but think maybe he doesn't get out much, LOL!  But I was pleased that everyone seemed to have a good time, and while the two hours were considerably louder than the princess party Kenna had, the boys really were great kids, and everything was easily cleaned up.  All the effort was definitely worth it!  Ted and Charis helped make things flow smoothly, and having handed our camera to Eilene, one of the neighborhood boys' moms, I was really able to enjoy the party and help move things along.  I think it was a memorable day for Tobin, and I'm glad we had the opportunity to give him a special time before Ted leaves.

April 15, 2011

Piano Recital

We have recently entered a new phase of parenthood--attending kids' events!  We tried purposefully for years to avoid putting our kids on sports teams or getting too heavily involved in activities that don't include all (or at least multiple!) children, but after we settled into life here in Ohio, it was obvious that the time had come for us to provide opportunities for the kids to further their talents and interests.  I don't see anything wrong with first graders playing soccer, doing gymnastics, or whatnot--I enjoyed going to my little brother's soccer games!  But given the size of our family, it has never been an option, really.  Time and money limitations again and again dictated that we just needed to be patient and wait for the things that God would lay on our kids' hearts to pursue.

Thankfully, the doors opened for music lessons to be a part of our lives when we met Mrs. D, a sweet lady who comes to our house to give the lessons!  Charis began in September 2009, and Tobin started his lessons in March 2011.  Both of them had their first piano recital last weekend, and it was such a blessing to see them perform along with many of Mrs. D's other students (many of whom are also homeschooled).  Another blessing was having my parents here to attend the recital with us.  Who knows how many of my own piano performances they sat through over the years!  It was neat to be on the other side of things.  I kind of feel like a grown-up. :-)

Tobin performed before Charis did, and he sat down and began playing so quickly Ted didn't have a chance to get any video.  So you'll have to be content with a photo of him at the piano until I can capture him on video here at home--and, given his love for attention, I'm sure he'll be happy to oblige!  Then you can listen to Charis playing her song.  I haven't really observed her playing in a long while--just listened while working in the kitchen, mostly.  I'm very pleased with her technique!

Aquarium Field Trip

On April 4 we took a field trip with our homeschool co-op to the Newport Aquarium just over the border in KY.  I had heard it was a great place to go but wasn't about to venture out by myself...plus, the cost kind of scared me.  So when we had the opportunity to sign up for a special class AND aquarium tour, I decided it would be worth it.  We took our friends Stefanie and her kids Jessica and Justin along with us in the Suburban--so nice to fit us all in one vehicle!

The class that we attended, "Tails and Scales," was wonderful.  The kids got to see, touch, and learn about a hog-nosed snake, a blue-tongued skink, and a boa constrictor.  The class was about a half hour, and all the kids really enjoyed it.  (Stefanie and I did, too!)  Then we went back to the aquarium proper.

Well.  It was the first day of spring break in the Louisville area!!  If you can imagine about half the population of a city crammed into the winding passageways of an aquarium, you can get an idea of how claustrophobic and paranoid we began to feel trying to keep track of all our kids amidst the swarming masses.  The kids were pretty clueless about our stress--they were too busy learning new things and exclaiming over the various creatures they got to see.  (Giant Japanese spider crab, anyone?!)

Stefanie and I were more than a little exhausted by the time we reached the shark "petting" tank, so we herded everyone into the cafeteria to fill our bellies before seeing the very fun (and entirely stress-free) Penguin Palooza show, which was a wonderful way to end the trip.  Lucan especially loved the penguins, laughing out loud at their antics. 

After we had our fill of penguins, we made our escape left for home.  All in all, it was a pretty good trip, but I could have done without the massive crowds.  And I was so thankful for Stefanie's company on the drive to and from as well as her and Jessica's extra watchful eyes!  (Although we're thinking maybe we should go back without kids some day, ha!)

Here are some favorite pictures...

CO Family Visit with Pictures

Anders and Lucan take a bath together!

Family dinner!  Love our big table!

Grandma J helps Lucan get the most out of his birthday cake.

Kenna LOVED to be around Baby Cade!

Our visit to Young's--it was hard to get a picture of Anders that wasn't blurry because of his excitement!

Cousins picture...minus Anders...

This is why we should have taken a photo FIRST thing in the morning!  Poor Anders was DONE!  This was right before they left for the airport, so he was more than ready to go home!

Happy Birthday to Lucan!

OK, so I'm a little late posting about this, but Lucan turned TWO on March 27!  We celebrated with our family, including our Colorado family!  Rhonda, Joel, Sarah, and their two boys Anders and Cade were with us a few days over spring break.  Lucan had no idea what was going on, but he had fun nevertheless and was very excited to get some new puzzles (especially the dinosaurs, "ROAR!" and the kitty, "Yow!").  He and Ted shared an incredibly yummy birthday cake, since Ted's birthday happened while he was TDY in Florida.  (We used this frosting...MMMM!  Honey instead of agave syrup, though, because we can't have the syrup on GAPS/SCD, and homemade yogurt cheese instead of cream cheese.)  Oh, my!  I must say, it was WAY better than Kenna's birthday cake!  Hooray for legal sweets!

Quick 2-year-old stats for Lucan:  he is 28 pounds and 34 inches.  Not the biggest boy we've hatched, but he's definitely a happy and healthy boy!

Some of my favorite pictures are below.  My parents came for a brief visit last weekend, and we did a belated celebration of Lucan's birthday and an early celebration of Tobin's.  So the last picture is of one of the gifts they brought for Lucan.

April 12, 2011

Pre-Deployment Update

I've been holding off on posting anything about Ted's deployment, because it seems the government can't make up its mind about anything these days, but people have been asking, so here's what we know so far.

Ted leaves on Monday, April 18, for four weeks of training, which will include several hours a day of language lessons.  He graduates from this on May 13 and has a tentative load date of May 20 (the day he leaves to begin traveling to his final destination, which can take up to a week because of all the stops the rotator makes along the way) with a report-no-later-than date of May 28.  The "rules" are if your load date is less than 7 days from the end of training, you just stay in place and leave from the training site for the deployment.  If your date is more than 10 days from the end of training, you return home and leave from there.

So what if you fall between that 7-10 days?  Obviously this dilemma puts the government workers in a complete kerfuffle, and no one seems to know what to do with Ted.  (How hard can it be to make the policy greater than or less than 7 days?!)

As you can imagine, planning has been next to nonexistent, since we really have had no idea how to prepare.  Trying to be prepared for every scenario is exhausting.  It's easier just to live in denial and deal with what we need to as it arises.  I'm sure that's not the best approach, but it's the only one I have energy for these days.

After much back and forth between various offices, the "final" word we have as of now is that Ted will return home after his 4 weeks of training.  HOWEVER...there is a 50-50 chance that the powers that be will change their minds during his TDY and decide to move his load date up, thereby sending him directly from training.  This REALLY complicates things...for example, Ted is supposed to be carrying weapons overseas.  He will not carry them to training, so if the plans change, that puts a lot more wrinkles in the process.  And that doesn't address the "stuff" question--should he carry ALL his deployment gear to training just in case?  Or just what he needs for the 4 weeks and presume that if the government has to get weapons to him, they may as well take care of the rest of his stuff too?!

Not to mention the emotional aspects of this.  Do we tell the kids Daddy is coming home for a little bit--hopefully?  Do we prepare for a 13-month separation by saying all our goodbyes just in case?  And if so, and Daddy returns between training and deployment, will it actually be harder to say goodbye all over again for a year?

Meanwhile, time is ticking down...

April 09, 2011

Kid Tidbits

  • Her role as The Mouse in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland has been way fun.  It's been amazing to see the confidence that she is exuding as a result of this experience!  While we haven't actually seen a performance yet, we've heard wonderful things and are thankful she has had this opportunity.
  • Piano remains a favorite activity, and since Tobin recently began lessons, she has helped him get off to a great start, teaching him a few songs (one of which became his recital piece) and giving sisterly advice.  She has progressed very well and definitely has natural talent.
  • Science has become a favorite part of the school day for her.  Now that we're heavily involved with experiments and activities (all related to plant growth), she is really taking an active role in her own learning process.  She is very detail-oriented and does a fantastic job with her charts and record keeping.
  • As usual, she continues to enjoy reading and crafting, although those activities have slowed a bit with the heavy rehearsal and now performance schedule with the play.  I'm sure we'll return to normal after the play is over, and I'll have to hunt her down when she has her nose in a book or is buried in the craft room!
  • The above picture is from our field trip to the Dayton Art Institute.  Her class did a sculpture tour, then an art workshop where she created the piece she's holding.

  • As mentioned above, Tobin began piano lessons on March 1 and performed in his first piano recital today!  Mrs. D, the teacher, asked me if it would be all right to put him on the recital schedule, even though he had just started, because he was doing so well.  This is due in large part to Charis helping him learn a couple of songs right off the bat, some of his favorites that she used to play.  Now, he sits at the piano a good majority of his free time and teaches himself!  I am really quite amazed at what he has accomplished in such a short amount of time.  It's evidence of self-motivation, that is for sure!
  • Having been told that he will soon be the "man of the house," Tobin is trying to make sure that also entitles him to Daddy-sized portions of food (particularly dessert) and extra computer time.  Mom's not buying it.
  • Tobin's picture is from our field trip to the aquarium.  It's just so TOBIN!

  • The biggest news for Arden is that he was baptized at our church on March 27!  It was very special timing, as our Colorado family was able to be here to witness the event, and Ted was here to baptize his son.
  • He has finished his last Sparks book at AWANA along with the review patch and is now coasting through the book 1 review, which is the only Sparks text he hasn't completed.  The reason he didn't do it when we were in Las Vegas is the only book they had available was REALLY old...this was during the transition stuff, I guess.  Anyway, he is flying through it!
  • At 7 1/2 years old, he has conquered multiple-digit multiplication.  Is it wrong for me to be proud?!  I'm still fairly amazed at his math abilities--they are much more advanced than his handwriting abilities, LOL, which sometimes causes difficulties in reading his math work, but on a typical day, he can whip out 346 X 79 with no problems!
  • Arden's picture is from our trip to the Air Force Museum with our Colorado family.

  • An obsession that may not disappear anytime soon is the fact that she wants a baby in her belly just like Mommy!  She first informed her brothers that there IS a baby in her belly, and now she just keeps asking me when she'll get a baby.  Charis is very careful to always explain to her that first she has to get married and have a husband!!  One of my favorite quotes related to this is, "When I'm a mommy, I'LL have a baby in MY tummy!"  Yep, that's kind of what makes you a mommy!!
  • Related to this is her fascination with my growing belly.  At the beginning of the pregnancy, when I was trying to explain how the baby would grow inside of me, I made the mistake of telling her that my belly would get bigger and bigger, and soon it would look like a beach ball.  Well, Kenna thinks that is just a hilarious description, so she will often giggle and tell me, "Soon your belly will be a beach ball!"  Note to self:  You have no right to be offended by the words of a 4-year-old when you're the one who taught her what to say!!
  • One thing I've noticed about Kenna is her wonderful manners.  She consistently thanks me for things that I wouldn't even necessarily expect to be thanked for, and I love it!  Don't get me wrong--we still need to remind her to stay please or other such things, but overall, she is very good with this, and it warms my heart to hear her say something like, "Mangoes!  Mommy, you bought mangoes!  They're my favorite!  Thank you for getting mangoes, Mommy!"  (It's also cute how so many things are her "favorite.")
  • Kenna still works very hard to pronounce her "Ls," and it's cute to hear her carefully saying words with them.
  • Her picture is from last Sunday...she recently got this dress from her cousin Tabitha, and of COURSE she had to wear it to church!  And of COURSE we had to take a picture!

  • Our baby is TWO years old now!  We had a little family party when Ted's family was in town visiting.  Since Ted's birthday is 5 days before, they shared a very yummy cake with very yummy frosting that was completely legal on our current diet!
  • One of Lucan's favorite possessions is his stuffed cat, which he calls "Yow."  (This is how he says "meow.")  He actually has lots of stuffed buddies that he adores, but Yow follows us into the Suburban for many an adventure.
  • One of Lucan's favorite words is BUS.  He very precisely says every sound in this word, and he says it as frequently as he possibly can, such as when spotting school buses, semis, RVs, SUVs, or anytime the fancy strikes him.  In fact, today he had a fit because he was LOOKING at a church bus in the parking lot after the piano recital and Ted needed to buckle him up so that he was NOT facing the BUS!  Daddy promised to drive by the bus, which got the buckling process complete, and we drove very s-l-o-w-l-y beside the bus, which made him happy again.
  • Apparently people are amazed at Lucan's puzzle-putting-together skills.  What...don't most 2-year-olds do 48-piece puzzles by themselves?!  OK, maybe not, LOL!  Kenna didn't even get interested in her 12-piece puzzles until she was 3 1/2!  But it is one more way Lucan is like his big brother Arden, who was doing 100-piece puzzles by himself at 2 1/2 years of age.  Lucan will spend hours working on various puzzles throughout the house, leaving behind quite the mess.  ("Mess" is another fun word to say.  He knows what it is, and he often points to the girls' room and says "Mess," which is entirely appropriate.)
  • Lucan's vocabulary is growing by leaps and bounds as he now tries to repeat everything we say.  One of the family favorites is after his bath, when he runs out to the family room trying to repeat Daddy's phrase, "NAKED BABY!!!"  
  • He likes order and actually seems to enjoy cleaning up when it's time.  "Neen up, neen up!"  Maybe, finally, one of the kids got my organizing gene!  (This, Ted notes, is one way he does NOT resemble Arden.  Sigh.)
  • Currently we are in a phase where Lucan prefers for US to spoon feed him.  Mommy especially hopes this phase comes to an end very soon.
  • In case you missed the Facebook announcement, we are having another boy!  The ultrasound was last Friday, and the picture seems quite clear.  So at least we're following the pattern:  girl, boy, boy...girl, boy, boy.
  • Baby is quite active, as evidenced by the extremely difficult time the tech had in getting certain measurements.  Movements are getting strong enough that other people can feel them...IF they happen to land on my belly at the right moment!
  • No picture to share yet...they gave us printouts on base, and we don't have a scanner.  But he has all his fingers and toes and looks to be very healthy!

Two Weeks in a Nutshell

Whew!  I hope Ted's deployment goes as quickly as this year has so far!  Here are some highlights from the last couple of weeks:

  • Visitors!  Our Colorado family--Ted's mom Rhonda, his brother Joel and wife Sarah, and their two boys Anders and Cade--came to visit March 26 - 30.  It was a fun-filled whirlwind as we maneuvered everyone to and from church, Young's Dairy, and the Air Force Museum (two separate trips), trying to squeeze in naps and game time along the way.  It was great fun getting to know our nephews and watching our kids interact with them.  Lucan is now very proficient at saying "baby," a very important skill. :-)
  • Appointments!  Dentist appointments, orthodontist appointments, well-baby appointments, OB appointments...this will probably just never end, will it?!
  • Date night!  A couple from church kindly offered to come watch our kids so Ted and I could escape get some time together.  We were so tired that we ended up home by 9:30!  But we did enjoy dinner at an Indian restaurant (although we were disappointed--it was under new management, so not quite as good as we had experienced before) and browsed a closing Borders store, found some fun deals, and then spent some time in Starbucks reading our new Cul-de-Sac comic book.
  • Kids' Street Live!  Now that we're doing this monthly at church, time REALLY seems to fly.  We love our time rehearsing with the team as well as putting things together for "show time."  It's a great way for us to keep up with what our kids are learning in church each month, plus minister as a family.  It was bittersweet, though, as it was Ted's last KSL.
  • Tim Hawkins!  We enjoyed his comedic performance with Charis, Tobin, and Arden along with a couple of families from the neighborhood.  Laughed so hard our sides hurt!
  • Field Trip!  The kids and I "enjoyed" a trip to KY to visit the aquarium.  We took our friends the C family along for the ride, and it was nice to have Stefanie's company and navigational skills on the drive plus her and her daughter Jessica's watchful eyes on all our kiddos--particularly since it was a gray rainy day and the first day of the area spring break!  CROWDED!  Our homeschool group's class was a lot of fun, but touring the aquarium itself was rather stressful for us adults.  Nevertheless, the kids had a blast and learned a lot.  Meanwhile, Ted was on base passing his physical fitness test--woohoo!
  • Lunch date!  I met with a friend and downline member for lunch on April 5, then went shopping for Tobin's upcoming pirate birthday party.  It snowed while I was out, and it just seemed so wrong...I bought flip-flops for the kids from Old Navy!
  • Play!  Charis's opening night for Alice's Adventures in Wonderland was last night.  She has had a blast this go-around, and we can hardly wait to see her.  Her schedule has been very crazy, but she has been loving every minute of it.  I'm thankful this time around we were able to get into a good carpool situation with two other girls in our neighborhood (both teens), who are very sweet.
  • More visitors!  My parents came into town yesterday for the weekend.  This is quite handy, since they'll get to see Charis's play tomorrow afternoon, as well as...
  • Piano recital!  Today was the first piano recital we got to attend as proud parents!  Both Charis AND Tobin performed, along with about 15 other kids.  It was quite short, which was good, since it was smack in the middle of Lucan's nap.
  • Pre-deployment fair!  OK, maybe that shouldn't have an exclamation point, but really, it was quite fun!  The base did a tremendous job with this.  Apparently they do it a couple of times a year.  The Build-A-Bear Workshop folks came out with product to donate, so each child got to create his/her very own bear that includes a voice recorder with a special message from Daddy.  What a GREAT idea!  The kids love their new bears, and Lucan probably played his Daddy message about 983 times today.  I'm hoping it lasts until Daddy actually leaves!!  In addition to the bears, there were lots of other freebies and information about resources.  I signed up for a free night at the Dayton Dragons (local baseball) and plan to take the older 3 kiddos and get a sitter for the younger two.  Also got a cute board book to read to the youngers that talks about Daddy being gone but doing the same types of things the kids are doing here (eating lunch, brushing teeth, reading books, etc.).
So...I guess that helps catch me up on here a bit!