May 28, 2011

Highs & Lows & Double Rainbows

Well, we've made it through another full week of Ted being gone.  Sad that out of the 38 or so days that we've been apart this year, only 5 of them so far count towards that 365-day deployment!  We took him to the airport last Sunday morning before church, then went to the second service, which was probably a good distraction for me.  I was really wiped out...the night before Ted left wasn't exactly restful, and emotional exhaustion is never a fun thing.  I crashed after church, and after my nap, I took the kids to the park, where we enjoyed the last bit of good weather before the thunderstorms rolled in for the week.

Starting Monday, we threw ourselves back into schoolwork, having taken the week off that Ted was home.  That was definitely a good thing--we needed to get back into a routine again!  Plus, when I looked at the calendar, I realized that we only had two weeks before the older kids go to day camp, but close to 6 weeks of curriculum left.  Yikes!  I do NOT want to be schooling all summer; while we've done that in the past with great success (Las Vegas summers don't really leave one wanting to be outside a whole lot), the truth is, we all need a break.  Besides, we'll be doing the Bible Bee again this year, and that's pretty intense.  I plan to have the kids continue with math (or review math, in Arden's case, since he's finished with his book), plus their Sword Study and Bible verse memorization for the Bee, of course.  And lots and lots of reading, but that goes without saying in our family!

I was very proud of the kids--they worked hard to catch up, and I was able to make good decisions (I think) about what to skip, what to postpone, and what to work on.  It was a great school week!

We had an adventure on Wednesday when a tornado warning cropped up in the evening.  I was finishing a phone call with my mother-in-law when suddenly it began hailing.  I herded the kids down to the basement--actually, I took candles, matches, a flashlight, the phone, the computer, and Lucan's change of clothes (I was trying to get him in bed) downstairs, while the older kids were all in a flurry to get their blankets and buddies and pillows from their rooms.  It took them longer to make their "nests" in the basement than it was actually hailing and storming outside!  We had a couple of power surges, but nothing major, and the hail we got around here wasn't enough to do any damage that I can see.  A short ways south of us, though, got softball-sized hail!  We took opportunity to read some Bible verses and pray during the storm, and we were sure to thank God for His protection afterward.

Thursday evening I attended my first deployed spouses' support group meeting.  The email had said there would be "snacks" provided, plus activities for the kids.  Since the meeting was from 5:30 - 7:30, right over the dinner hour, I made sure we had an early dinner and packed snacks that the kids are allowed to eat on our diet (dried bananas, apples, and raisins).  Good thing, since the "snacks" they provided were pizza, chips, and sodas!  I settled the kids in their room, where they were looking forward to seeing Night at the Museum on a big screen.

My part of the meeting went pretty well.  The first hour they were collecting feedback from the spouses to send on to higher-ups who are gathering info about how to improve their support programs.  The second hour we got to visit.  There were maybe 10 moms there.  One of them I recognized from our church, and we visited for awhile.  Another is in the homeschool group we're part of, but we hadn't met before.  So of course I had an instant bond with both of those women!  I did talk with a couple of other ladies as well.

Unfortunately...the kids were NOT having a good experience next door.  My children were apparently the only ones who were interested in seeing the movie; all the others were running around, turning the lights off and on, talking, yelling, etc.  Worst of all, a kid about Tobin's age (but much bigger) grabbed his snack bag out of his hand and proceeded to eat the rest of his dried fruit, then returned the bag with a single raisin inside!  I didn't learn about this until after we were in the Suburban driving home.  I had wondered what was wrong with Tobin, who came to me immediately after they let the kids into our room, looking very upset, and asking when we would leave.  I was pretty upset that there was not more oversight and felt so bad for the kids, especially Tobin.  The "volunteers" that they had said would be "doing activities" with the kids were teens who apparently weren't too sure how to handle the mass chaos.

Next time--and there probably will be a next time, because this is one way I can get out of my Christian bubble and, Lord willing, be salt and light--I will ask if my kids can bring their own books and snacks and sit in the back of the room.  They all agreed they would much rather do that than be thrown to the sharks, LOL.  The daughter of the other homeschooling mom did just that, so I don't see why my kids can't!  The meetings mostly seem to be a chance for spouses to get together and gab (or vent!).

So, at least it was a good opportunity for us to talk about being witnesses for Christ no matter how others treat us!  And on the way home, we were blessed with the privilege of seeing a bright, full, double rainbow, just perfect timing!  I was encouraged that God will not allow us to be "flooded" with more than we can handle, and again, another opportunity to speak with the kids about God's goodness and faithfulness.  (All while hearing Lucan's frantic cries of "Rainbow!  Rainbow!  Rainbow!"  I think he has a new obsession...)

Friday morning was another high--the first time we got to Skype with Ted!  He was able to call us twice on the phone during the week, once from Kyrgyzstan and once after he arrived at his final destination.  Unfortunately, we were out the second time, but it was good to know he had made it safely.  I was glad that the kids slept in on Friday, as Ted and I were able to have a good, uninterrupted conversation on Skype first.  Then we connected again after the kids were awake, and it was a happy, chaotic shuffle for the most part...Lucan seemed to be melting down over something I can't remember at the moment, but I think he eventually realized that we actually were able to "talk Daddy," which any other time during the week he had been desperate to do.

I spent a few hours that afternoon cooking with Bethany, who came over with Eliana about mid-morning.  It wasn't as productive as our first day together, but then again, it wasn't nearly as long as that day, either!  It was nice to have company, though, and to have some adult conversation.  (Which, now that I think about, I actually got to enjoy two days in a row, LOL!  I visited with my friend Stefanie at the last homeschool P.E. session on Thursday, plus the support group that evening!)

For our pizza & movie night, the girls and I watched an episode of Christy while the boys did other was kind of nice to do a shorter movie, as we were able to get the little ones in bed, and then I did what is becoming a favorite tradition with the older three--we cozied up in my bed and read another chapter in our current Harry Potter book!  We read through the first book while Ted was in New Jersey, then watched the movie with him when he was home.  Now we're about halfway through book two.  I love being able to read it WITH the kids and enjoy the humor together, plus discuss things with them as they come up, everything from an unfamiliar British term to the characters' choices to the deeper themes that emerge.  It gives us something to look forward to after a long day, though we probably only read it 2-3 times per week, depending on our schedule.

Today found us heading to the library and Kroger, my first grocery run since Ted left, and it was a quick one.  I'll have to plan a more thorough shopping trip before long, but I am just not up to it yet--too much to do!  It was a fairly uneventful afternoon...I tossed a football with Arden for awhile, set up the wading pool in the backyard for Kenna, then took some time to work on our digital album, yay.  Then we dropped Charis off at church for a Route 5:6 game night, and the rest of us headed with a picnic dinner to a quiet park that we discovered when we met my friend Claire and her kids there last year.  It was so nice and cool out!  I knew we needed to get out and enjoy the good weather while we could!  It's supposed to be hot and humid early next week, followed by (surprise!) more rain and thunderstorms.

Whew.  That's a rundown of the week.  I'll have to post separately about our school update and more personal thoughts and spiritual musings...

May 25, 2011

Lucan's Current Obsessions

Nowadays Lucan has some strange and amusing fascinations, and I wanted to note them before he moves on to another phase! 

I've mentioned before how much Lucan loves to see a BUS or talk about a BUS or play with anything having wheels, which is also a BUS.  Any larger vehicle (including trains, trucks, our minivan, and the Suburban) is a bus.  Any smaller thing on wheels, such as a normal car, is a bike.  Despite efforts to educate our son as to the proper names of wheeled objects, he is firmly convinced that there are only the two categories.  We may be making progress, however; he recently brought to us a toy dump truck and informed us that he had a "dump bus."  Maybe something is getting through!

Lucan is also extremely fascinated with Bob the Tomato.  I'm not sure if this is because of Veggie Tales or simply because Bob is so easy for him to say, but he adores Bob.  Charis has kindly taken to drawing pictures of Bob for Lucan to color and even made him his own Bob & Larry poster for his wall, which lasted a surprisingly long while as decorative art before it was yanked down and dragged about the house.  During Ted's week at home before his deployment began, he took to asking Lucan if he wanted to "eat Bob" when he was cutting tomatoes for dinner.  Lucan apparently has no qualms about devouring an object of his affection, and I've been able to get a variety of foods down him by asking him if he wants a "yellow Bob" (yellow pepper) or an "orange Bob" (bite of carrot).  Actually, he's a pretty good eater as it is, but I thought it was funny that he wasn't voluntarily reaching for the peppers until I mentioned they were different colored Bobs!

"Daddy" is another obsession, and not just Ted.  Lucan loves pointing out the daddy figure in all of his storybooks and is especially fond of "Daddy Dart," a figure Charis draws frequently.  If you've seen the 3-2-1 Penguins episode about Planet Tell-A-Lie, you may remember the dart characters...she watched the bonus feature on how to draw them and began drawing them everywhere, even drawing a dart "J family" with all of us represented (including a Baby Dart!).  So, in addition to drawing Bob, Charis now draws Daddy Dart for Lucan's viewing pleasure.

A newer addiction is "Sam."  During school on Monday, I was reading to the kids about Sam Patch, a man who gained fame in the early 1800s by jumping from high surfaces into water.  There was a picture of Sam leaping off Niagara, and Lucan wandered into the kitchen to hear the rest of the story.  He loved the picture and kept exclaiming over it.  "Sam" is an easy name to say, surprise...he now says "Sam" a lot.  And yes, "Sam" gets drawn quite a bit now, too.

Lucan also adores any kind of music, exclaiming delightedly, "A song!  A song!  A song!" when he hears music or singing.  ("A song" seems to be one word in his mind, so when you read that, say it fast!)  In fact, he was so delighted with this toy guitar that my friend Sidra gave it to us to keep, since her kids seem to be uninterested in it nowadays.

I think that sums up some of his interests nowadays.  I know I'll look back one day and think, "When did he stop loving buses so much?!"  But for now, I love his enthusiasm when we're out and about!

May 19, 2011

13 on Thursday!

  1. Ted returned home Friday evening, having graduated from his deployment training at Ft. Dix, NJ.  He caught an earlier flight, and we were delighted to pick him up in time to enjoy a family dinner at the Cracker Barrel.  (Yes, we did cheat on our diet again!  But not too badly.)
  2. Despite my fantasies of hiking and picnicking as a family during Ted's week off, the weather has put a literal damper on any outside activities.  In fact, we had to kick the heat on a couple of nights.  Curse you, La Nina!
  3. Various things have been checked off the honey-do list...just a few more to go.  Mark my words, though, the biggest things will happen AFTER he leaves.
  4. Lucan has been beside himself to have Daddy home again!  Life has seemed almost "normal" this week.  I'm trying not to think about how confused the poor li'l guy will be next week...
  5. I got a nap 3 days in a row!  And I've been sleeping in until 6:30ish!  I'm trying not to think about how poorly I'll sleep next week...
  6. The kids were so excited to watch the finale of The Amazing Race (which we DVRed) once Ted got home.  It was a rather disappointing finish for us, as our favorites had dropped out in a line before the final 3 teams.  Ah, well.
  7. On the other hand, GO BOSTON ROB!!!  (The kids did NOT watch that finale with us...we're pretty protective with TV time, and Survivor is not on the docket anytime soon.)
  8. Owing to the fact that it has been cold and/or rainy most of the week, the boys have been delighted to play Wii with Ted, who has obviously become addicted to the Lego Indiana Jones game the boys bought with their spending money just before his training.
  9. Kenna and Lucan have, quite possibly, heard more stories this week than in the previous 2 months combined!  Between Ted and myself having extra time to sit and cuddle, they are loving all the attention.
  10. Ted and I got away for a quick date last night.  Eilene offered to let the boys come over to play for an evening, so after dinner was over, Charis got to experience her first official babysitting job!  Armed with our cell numbers and Eilene's home number, plus instructions to help the evening go smoothly, she very capably organized a fun evening for the younger two, successfully put Lucan in bed, oversaw the final chores and clean-up, put Kenna to bed, and was enjoying some reading time when we returned home after seeing Soul Surfer.  The movie was incredible--but coming home to a bubbly, confident Charis and hearing her tell about her evening as Babysitter Extraordinaire was just as wonderful!  I can't believe our baby is so mature and responsible!!  I feel so grateful and blessed!
  11. I've been trying to take advantage of our relaxed week to catch up on some scrapping.  I completed our 2008 family album Stampin' Up! style using the My Digital Studio program.  (To see pictures of the pages, go here.)  I've even begun working on our 2009 album!  I have high hopes of finishing it this month as well so that I can get a good discount on the price of printing the books with the special going on this month.  But even if I don't finish that one, I can at least print the 2008 book and know that I'm well on my way!  Digital and DONE means more to me than beautiful, hand-crafted pages that are only designed in my head!  I've had to face reality...and my reality includes 5.5 wonderful children. :-)  So here's hoping that I can set aside more time to capture our memories!
  12. Lots of errands this my hair trimmed, eyebrows waxed, one-hour glucose test completed, OB appointment, groceries, blah blah blah.  It's nice to be able to leave the house with OR without kids!
  13. While it's not fun thinking about what's just around the bend, I'm so thankful for God's peace and sovereignty.  A recent ladies' Bible study I was involved with delved into the topic of FEAR.  (Appropriate timing, eh?  Amazing how God works like that. ;-)  One of my favorite quotes from one of the ladies was, "Feed faith, starve fear."  I've gotten back into the routine of memorizing and meditating on Scripture, and I fully intend to feed my faith this year and not give fear an opportunity to get its claws around my mind and heart.  Will you pray the same for our whole family?  We would certainly appreciate it.

May 11, 2011

Good for the Soul

This pregnancy has been the absolute WORST as far as my commitment to exercise!  I spent the first trimester feeling nauseated and extremely exhausted...not to mention it was COLD outside, making me less than excited about opening the door to go for a walk, let alone a run (which I did frequently in the early stages of past pregnancies).  Before the end of the first trimester, we began a new diet, which made me even more exhausted because of all the work involved, but at least my nausea disappeared.

The cold weather, however, lingered.  And while I attempted to do P90X Yoga with Ted now and then, I found getting up so early to be so much more difficult than it had been in the past.  I finally gave up and resigned myself to a flabby pregnancy, hoping that our new diet would help offset my lack of exercise.

Well.  I have now become part of the Varicose Veins club, and the discomfort behind my right knee drove me to do a bit of research.  Surprise!  Exercise is supposed to help.  Sigh.  I just couldn't bring myself to get up and do a DVD or Wii workout, though.  And days upon days of rain meant going outside happened only out of necessity.

Early this week I began thinking about the few mornings the week before Ted left for training that I had gotten out for a morning walk.  (He was on leave, and we were taking it easy with school, so I didn't have to get up at a ridiculous hour; plus, I didn't have to worry about what was happening with the kids.)  I really, REALLY enjoyed being outside in the fresh air, seeing the sun rise and some early signs of spring (which didn't seem to last long, as the cold weather and rains came roaring back...thank you, La Nina).  It made me feel energetic again, even if I wasn't running--and I found I really was missing being able to run!  It's not so wise to take up running at this point in one's pregnancy, however, so I gave it some thought and prayed that the Lord might help me do SOMETHING in the way of exercise.  I know I need to take care of's going to be a looooong year ahead of us, and I have to stay healthy and sane!

So, yesterday and today both I got up at my usual time--and that's the kicker!  I've been waking at 5 a.m., but somehow "haven't had time" to exercise!  I decided it would be too depressing to wander around the neighborhood in the dark, so I did my usual hot-tea-and-quiet-time routine and THEN headed out.  Yesterday I walked about 15 minutes, then poked my head inside the house to make sure all was still quiet, then went back outside for another 15 minute walk.  Today I just stayed out for 30 minutes.

The walks were wonderful!  I'm hooked!  Best of all, the Holy Spirit prompted me to bring the little spiral note book I got for the purpose of Scripture memory.  I had written out Psalm 145 at the beginning of the year, intending to memorize it, but as life became more complicated, I set aside that project.  However, I have now discovered a wonderful way to exercise my body, mind, AND spirit...I've been working on memorizing the verses as I walk.  I'm already about halfway through the Psalm!  Praise the Lord!

"I will exalt you, my God the King;
I will praise your name forever and ever.
Every day I will praise you
And extol your name forever and ever.
Great is the Lord, and most worthy of praise;
His greatness no one can fathom.
One generation will commend your works to another;
They will tell of your mighty acts.
They will speak of your glorious splendor,
And I will meditate on your wonderful works.
They will tell of the power of your awesome works,
And I will proclaim your great deeds.
They will celebrate your abundant goodness
And joyfully sing of your righteousness.
The Lord is gracious and compassionate,
Slow to anger and rich in love.
The Lord .... [??  Forgot this line!  Arg!  And it was one I didn't think I'd forget.]
He has compassion on all He has made.
All you have made will praise you, o Lord,
Your saints will extol you.
They will tell of the glory of your kingdom
And speak of your might,
So that all men might hear of your mighty acts
And the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom;
Your dominion endures through all generations."

That's as far as I've gotten to this point, and I typed it from memory after not having reviewed it since this morning. :-)  Check me and see how I did!

May 08, 2011

Mother's Day

I had a wonderfully quiet beginning to my 2011 Mother's Day!  I "slept in" (i.e. hit snooze twice--unusual for me when Ted is gone) and rolled out of bed around 5:20.  Had plenty of time to make and enjoy hot tea with my quiet time, plus set everything up for banana-peanut butter pancakes.

Kids were still quiet and in bed after my shower, so I made my first batch of pancakes and enjoyed the undefiled comics section while eating breakfast.  Time seems to speed up when kids wake, though, so before we knew it we were rushing off to church!  It was gray and chilly when we left.  Church was incredible--loved the worship set, the message, the fellowship, the encouragement.  Our "Resolve to Read" class has grown so close in the months since we began in January, and I love the discussions we have each week.  We have a variety of ages--a teenager, several college students, and adults all the way to maybe 80-something, so it's wonderful!

The kids and I headed home for a simple lunch (leftovers!), but we had better things to look forward to in the evening!  Lucan desperately needed/wanted a nap, choosing not to even eat lunch at all.  After I got him settled, the kids gave me some precious, handmade goodies.  Kenna, seeing that Charis had made multiple items, apparently decided that her original single drawing was not, in fact, enough, and so she busied herself making (or possibly finding?) other projects, and she kept bringing them to me at random intervals!  Of course I had to exclaim over each one!

I enjoyed a small bit of leisure time, doing the crossword and reading the paper out on the deck in the sun, which decided to grace us with its rare presence.

I finished prepping a veggie tray to take to Erin's house--my friend who brought us the chili dinner a couple of weeks ago invited us to her house for dinner on Mother's Day!  It was such a blessing to receive the invitation and reminded me of another spur-of-the-moment invitation I received when Kenna was a newborn and Ted was finishing a deployment in Tampa.  Adam and Laura T sat with me in church that Sunday and asked if I had plans.  Upon learning that I was going home, they told me to come to their house instead.  I ended up having a very pampered, relaxing day, and the kids had a wonderful time playing in their amazing back yard.  God surely blesses us with encouraging friends!

Lucan was sound asleep at 3:15 when I went into his room, but he cheerfully stood up to announce "night night!"  We stopped by Kroger to grab some produce--I wanted to take some strawberries along for our dinner as well as pick up some flowers for Erin--and then we headed to the S's house.  It was another relaxing afternoon, with wonderful fellowship.  The chicken dish Erin made for dinner was fantastic, and Charis was so excited that she got to help make the deviled eggs along with Erin's older daughters!  Lucan and Evangeline played at the water table in the back yard and got thoroughly soaked.  The older kids thought it was hilarious that he ate dinner wearing girls' clothes while his own were in the dryer!

We left shortly after dinner to come home...Lucan was rubbing his eyes and obviously needed to get back to bed.  We Skyped with Ted just a short while so Lucan could say hello and good night to Daddy, and then I gave the kids the chance to read or play quietly for awhile as I finished putting things away.  I got them all in bed fairly early (8:30-8:45ish) so I could Skype with Ted myself awhile.  My Mother's Day gift from him was Sarah Palin's new book, America by Heart, which I look forward to reading.  I'm glad for a gift that will last longer than flowers on my counter. :-)  I love flowers, and I do appreciate them, but I constantly feel that I'm having to clear off the counters for kitchen prep, and there's just not really room for a big bouquet.  Add to that the fact that I've become ridiculously practical since becoming a mother...!  So I was delighted when Charis surprised me during her Skype session with Daddy by handing me the book and hearing that it was my gift from Daddy and the kids!

Unfortunately, I didn't get to talk to my own mom today...had to leave a voice message!  Hopefully soon, though!  Ted did talk with his mom in between our Skype sessions.  Happy Mother's Day to all the wonderful moms in my life! 

May 01, 2011

Cooking Day

On Friday I had my first cooking-with-a-friend day.  Bethany and her family are on the GAPS diet as well, and we started roughly at the same time.  So it's been REALLY nice having a buddy to go through all this with.  We decided it would be beneficial to us both to get together to work on some cooking projects.  She brought her kitchen (nearly!) and Eliana, her two-year-old, who did very well playing at our house for the nearly 7 hours that we were working!

So, are you ready to be impressed?  Here's what I got done:

  • 3 whole chickens cooked in our ginormous stock pot...bones went back into the pot for a more healthful batch of broth, which I finally finished canning today.
  • 8 one-quart jars of yogurt made.
  • 2 batches of mayo...which never emulsified.  Sigh.  But I think it will work well enough for salad dressings.  (I made a batch of Ranch tonight and used 1/2 yogurt and 1/2 of the mayo, and it looks and tastes fine!  Slightly runnier than I usually make, but hey.)
  • 5 pounds of carrots peeled and chopped.
  • 4 1/2 dozen cinnamon coconut muffins baked.
  • 4 batches of meatloaf prepped--one for dinner, 3 for the freezer.
  • My first attempt at macaroons sans sugar--they are quite good!
  • A batch of peanut butter balls--the PB mixture is in the fridge...haven't yet gotten around to actually rolling the balls and wrapping in wax paper.  That will be a job for when I can have the kids help!
Bethany got quite a bit done as well.  I didn't keep track of all she did, but I know she at least did the following:
  • 2 batches of mayo, one of which emulsified.  (We decided the egg whites were to blame.)
  • 3 pounds of carrots peeled and chopped.
  • Lots of banana muffins baked--don't know how many her batch ended up making.
  • Macaroons--which I nearly burned by forgetting they were sitting in the oven when I went to preheat the oven for my muffins!!  Oops!
  • A big pot o' spaghetti sauce.
  • Cucumber salad.
Not a bad day's work, all in all!  We decided that we should plan these approximately every other week.  It was nice to plan for it and try to have the kids' school work finished (we didn't make it, but that's another story) so they could have a day off while I could feel good about accomplishing something useful and not feeling guilty about neglecting them!  Actually, I asked Stefanie if she would mind having the boys play with Justin at her house after lunch, and that worked out well for all of us.  It was a gorgeous day, so they were able to be outside with a buddy and out of my hair, LOL.

Charis was supposed to "babysit" the younger ones, but I had to call her out for duty a few times.  She initially liked the idea, but when it came down to it, I think she just wanted her own free time.  But she was helpful when she needed to be, and Kenna was pretty patient with Eliana.  Lucan and Eliana played well together aside from a few inevitable sharing battles.  I was so thankful it was a nice day so the kids could go in and out as they pleased.

We did learn that we'll need to build in some clean-up time next time!  We had to rush out of the house to get Charis to church for her T&T girls' sleepover.  I was very glad I had made meatloaf and squash bake ahead of time so dinner was waiting for us when we got home!  It took me awhile to clean the kitchen, and then Kenna and I whipped together the macaroons--I had all the supplies out, and I didn't want to leave the egg whites.  I figured if I didn't do it before bed, it wouldn't get done!  I was so glad we made them...Kenna and I had a good time together while the boys played their Wii games from the library (which we picked up on the way to church), and they are sooooo yummy!

I'm already looking forward to our next cooking day.  It was wonderful to get together and be mutually encouraged.  Even though we didn't have much time for "deep" conversation, spending time with another sister in Christ who is on a similar food journey is just so encouraging!  Another blessing!