July 30, 2011

VBS, Free Time, and Another Week Down

Our church had its VBS last week from 9 a.m. to noon.  All the kids except Lucan were able to go, plus we took Justin, a friend of the boys, along as well.  Mornings were a bit hectic, since the only one to wake up on his own was Lucan...after hollering at the older kids for their last chance at breakfast, it was time for the frenzied beginning to our days.

The VBS was very well done, and I am so very thankful for all those who volunteered to make it work!  Some days there were 200 kids there, and I know I could not have handled being part of the chaos!  The kids had a great time, and Lucan and I enjoyed some extra one-on-one time.  I didn't plan my week super well, but I do feel I made fairly good use of my 3 hours with only one child.  Here's what Lucan and I did:

* Monday:  Shopped at Sam's Club and Kroger; put away groceries; got to squeeze in a phone call with my long-distance friend Joy.

* Tuesday:  Went to two farms to pick up fresh eggs and milk; came home to put them away and make muffins.

* Wednesday:  Fun day!  I decided NOT to do errands.  Took Lucan and a bag of books to the park (books for me to read, that is), then realized that I had to go potty, and we were at a park with no public restrooms.  Sigh.  Made a dash for home, where I figured I might as well start some laundry before heading out again!  But we did go back to the park (swinging by McD's for me to get a latte), where Lucan happily played before we did ONE errand--to the Christian bookstore to buy the book Radical, which Ted and I plan to read through together, and to buy a little stuffed Larry to go with Lucan's little stuffed Bob. :-)

* Thursday:  To base to pick up Arden's prescription and do a bit of shopping at the BX and commissary, then home to put everything away and start some chicken broth/kitchen work.

* Friday:  HOME during the morning...I packed a picnic lunch, Skyped with Ted a bit, and made sure the house was picked up (the kids did most of the picking up Thursday night, but Lucan tends to undo everything) to prepare for two WONDERFUL women who came to clean bathrooms and take care of the main floor of the house while we were out for the afternoon!

After VBS was all finished on Friday, we headed to the pool where the kids had swimming lessons.  (I can hardly believe it's been nearly a month!)  We met Justin's mom, my friend Stefanie, and her older kids, Jonathan and Jessica, there at the pool.  It was a great day--nice and hot for swimming, but with our seats in the shade, it wasn't bad sitting out.  Lucan LOVED the baby pool area, and everyone had such a good time that we stayed for about 4 hours.  We took the little ones into the big pool, and it was very refreshing!  Lucan was attached to Jessica, not even acknowledging that I was nearby, but I suppose he had gotten his fill of Mommy during the week, LOL.

By the time we got home, as you can imagine, everyone was pretty wiped out!  The house was shiny and clean (woohoo!), and the kids scattered to do whatever, leaving the downstairs area pretty quiet!  I gave Lucan a separate dinner while the kids watched Looney Tunes--that helped him feel that he was getting in on "movie night," and then we put him to bed and enjoyed Papa John's pizza with our movie.  Everyone slept quite well last night--no surprise!  It was a big week for everyone!

Today has been a quiet day at home, catching up on laundry and the Bible Bee studies we missed the last couple of days.  I am very proud of the kids for all they have accomplished so far!  Only 4 more weeks until the Local Bible Bee!

July 21, 2011

Thirteen on Thursday

In lieu of a lengthy update trying to recall all we've done since I last blogged, we'll do bullets...

1.  Preggo update:  34 weeks and counting.  Total weight gain so far:  23 pounds.  The boy is head down, face up.  Praying he turns before delivery...remembering Lucan's difficult delivery almost makes me want to schedule a C-section!  I do NOT want to go through that again!

2.  Swollen ankles, lots of pokes and jabs, multiple night time trips to the bathroom...yes.  We are ready to have this baby.  I'm praying for an early birth date.

3.  Hot.  Very hot.  And humid.  But I suppose I'm describing a good portion of the country when I say that, not just our little corner of the world.  See last sentence of #2.

4.  Community garage sale this week.  Yes, the hottest week of the summer!  We were "open" for business from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. and made $160.  Not bad, considering we didn't really have much "big" stuff for sale!  I plan to open up tomorrow morning only and close before lunch.  A friend came over with a table and some stuff and her girls, and it was great to have company and help.  The kids sold water bottles and snow cones and made a bit of money that way.  But mostly they stayed in the house keeping cool and watching the little ones!

5.  Got another family (military) pass to the Boonshoft Discovery Museum.  We had one 2009-2010 and let it lapse, but I decided it would be a good option for getting out of the house and doing something educational.  The day we went (a couple of Fridays ago) we took along 3 kids from a family who are friends of ours.  It was cuh-RAZY, with tons of kids in buses showing up the same day!  But on the plus side, we got to watch the launch of the space shuttle Atlantis while seated in the planetarium--very cool!

6.  My good friend Jennifer T, whom I met in Idaho, came to visit for a few days last week.  I loved having a friend come to visit!  The kids loved it, too.  We played lots of games of Bananagrams and set, took the kids to see Kung Fu Panda 2, and Jen and I got to go out for lunch and the Harry Potter movie.  Good times, good conversations and prayers together.

7.  Just finished reading the second book of the Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series, The Hidden Gallery.  GREAT books!  The kids wanted me to finish tonight, so they got to bed late.  (I wanted to know what would happen, too.  Darn it, though, there will apparently be another book after this.  Guess we'll have to wait a few months.)

8.  After MONTHS of sleeping on the top bunk, with no incidents or issues whatsoever, Kenna rolled out of her bed and landed on the (carpeted) floor at 12:30 a.m. last night.  She cried hard for a few minutes, resisted my efforts to comfort her, climbed back up to her bed, and promptly fell asleep.  She seemed none the worse for the wear today, and when I asked, she said she only had "a little tiny spot about this big" on her back that was hurting.  ???  I guess she's OK???!

9.  Lucan can officially climb in and out of his crib.  One afternoon this week during nap time, we checked on him and discovered he had thrown all of his stuffed animals out to make room for the doll stroller, which was in bed with him.  He was asleep under/beside it.  This evening, he had crawled out of bed and was playing happily when Tobin went to check on him after we heard some thumps.  He let me put him back to bed, but he was still awake when I checked on him at 9:45!  (Still in the crib, though.)  It may be time to make the transition to the big boy bed that is already in his room.  Sigh.  My baby's not a baby anymore!!

10.  Saturday marks 2 months down of our deployment.  This month has absolutely dragged as far as marking deployment time goes.  Our weeks seem to fly by, but it seems we've been close but not quite there (to the 2-month point) for ages now.  Strange, this time warp.

11.  We are finishing week 7 of our Bible Bee studies.  Charis is in week 4 of her memory verses.  I've managed to keep up with the Primary National Track memory work, thanks to my morning walks.  Charis has a lot more verses than I do to learn (500 vs. 250)...I'm praying she doesn't get discouraged.  It's not that she hasn't had time, but she has chosen to spent the majority of her days reading her stacks of library books...

12.  I have not given a single thought to school, although I suppose I should seriously look at the Sonlight catalog and start preparing our order.  Hoping that Baby arrives in mid-August, I'd like us to try to stick with our usual Labor Day start to the new school year.  We'll see if that ends up being a realistic plan or not.

13.  Looking forward to having my parents come soon--still working on the dates, as it depends on my dad's work schedule, but hopefully they'll be out here the first week in August or so.  Then Mom will stay here to help me get through the final days before Baby arrives and help with our transition.  I could cry I'm so happy to have her come!!!  Having Jennifer here for a few days reminded me of how nice it is to have another adult in the house...someone else to talk with and pray with, someone else to help keep kids entertained/occupied, just another responsible grown-up...I guess I hadn't realized really what a burden it can be to be the ONLY one responsible for so many other people.  If it weren't for God's sustaining grace, there is no way I could even face a tomorrow, let alone a whole year's worth of them.

July 06, 2011

Baby Comments

Kenna was patting my tummy and told me, "I'm giving Baby the High Five!"

During this same cuddle session, she sweetly informed me, "Mommy, the baby in your tummy makes you look fat.  But you are not fat!"  Um........thanks?!?!

Currently, Lucan's only spoken reference to the pregnancy is, "Uh, oh, baby, belly!"  And various combinations of those words.  ("Baby, belly, uh oh!"  "Belly, uh oh, baby!")

July 03, 2011

How We're REALLY Doing

We're 6 weeks into this deployment now, and I suppose it's pretty safe to say we're in the "new normal."  Of course, I'm no longer sure what normal is around here, seeing that it's summer and our routine varies so much from day to day despite my best efforts at keeping some sort of schedule for sanity's sake!  But even if Ted were here, that would likely be the case, as we try to make the most of our time "off" school and enjoy the good weather when it's here.

This morning at church I saw a fellow member of my Sunday school class before the first service.  I asked him how he was feeling--we had prayed for a specific health issue for him last week.  He replied, "Do you want the quick answer or the five-minute answer?"  I got a pretty good update on him, but I liked his response to my question so much that I may have to start using it.

People ask me often how I'm doing or how our family is doing.  I can easily give a quick answer:  "We're hanging in there," "We're doing pretty well, considering," or "Not too bad, thanks."  But there is so much going on that it's hard to capsulize our circumstances and our responses to those circumstances in an answer like that.  I'm thankful people ask, but I know it's always going to be difficult to know just how to answer.  There are some days that if I were to be around people who ask, "How are things?" I would burst into tears.  And there are other days that I can honestly and cheerfully respond, "God is so good!  We're doing just fine right now!"

So, in the interest of keeping things real, here's our first 6-week check-up.  How are we REALLY doing?

We have had no sicknesses or physical problems at all--if you don't count my puffy, swollen ankles, leg cramps, and pregnancy varicose veins, ha!  Lack of rest can be an issue for all of us at times, and I probably feel that more keenly with being in my third trimester.  I simply don't sleep as deeply as I would if Ted were home.  I do make naps/rest time a priority and probably nap at least 2-3 times per week, but I also cherish my early morning quiet times and consistently wake between 5 and 5:30, most often without an alarm clock.  (The baby squishing the bladder may have something to do with that, LOL.)  So, bottom line, we're doing well in this area.  I've been able to go on morning walks more often than not, and I'm feeling healthy overall.  The pregnancy is going well, and our little guy is kicking more and more each day.  I'm so very thankful for all of this.

We're still following the GAPS diet...more or less.  We seem to be cheating more often, but "cheating" for us means eating buns with cheeseburgers or sneaking some popcorn with a movie.  (OK, OK, so I've had some M&Ms too.  Sue me.)  The good news is that we don't really see any symptoms appear as a result of our cheating...so...I'm not exactly sure what that means for us, but the plan is to at least attempt to remain on the diet as much as possible through Thanksgiving.  Following that, I am hoping that the baby will be sleeping through the night and I'll be more coherent and better able to transition us back to eating bread (prepared properly) and so on.  The boys haven't had any need for their inhaler, so that's a very encouraging sign.  It will be interesting to see how they do in the fall, as that is typically a bad time for their allergies and asthma symptoms.

"Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things" (Col. 3:2).  I've known from way before Ted left that our minds would be an enormous battleground during our time apart.  What perfect timing that we began our Bible Bee study soon after Ted left--we've all been making a concentrated effort to memorize Scripture as well as study 1 Peter in depth.  "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--His good, pleasing, and perfect will" (Romans 12:2).  I know all too well that fear, doubt, depression, and other negative emotions can set in if our minds are not set on Christ.  So, while I must confess that I had my doubts about this aspect of my health (I think I even told Ted, only half-jokingly, that it would be a miracle if I didn't end up having to check myself into Mental Health Services in the next year), I can at least say, "So far, so good."  I've been keeping myself mentally girded by memorizing Scripture plus have spent more time reading for learning and pleasure than usual (magazines AND books--something I don't often allow myself time to enjoy during the school year, aside from the books I read with the kids).

This is probably the toughest one for me.  Number one, I'm a woman.  Number two, I'm pregnant.  Add those together and you get a hormonal wreck on occasion!  When Ted first left the country, during that first week, I physically FELT the prayers of many people.  I was strengthened in so many ways, encouraged by countless little things, and I just knew we'd make it somehow.  And not just survive, but thrive--we've prayed from the beginning that God would be glorified through all of us, no matter where we are.  I braced myself for difficult days to come, but it seemed remarkable to me that we went for seemingly such a long time without any major mishaps or crying fits (on my part anyway, LOL).

As we knew it would, though, "stuff" began to emerge.  First it was behavior issues with Tobin--as in hearing bad reports from his Sunday school teacher, plus my own observations of the way he was treating his siblings (with malice) and responding to me (with disrespect).  Then it was the escalated bickering amongst all the children (even Lucan, sigh, who has learned to say, "Stop it, Arden!").  Then came my own meltdowns--frustration at the children's lack of self-control, bad attitudes, etc., and my own weepiness the night I felt I just hit a wall; we had only made it 5 weeks, and the year loomed so long before me that I just felt utterly defeated.  For about a day and a half I could barely do anything without crying.  I felt like a failure...we hadn't even made it very far, and I already felt like giving up.  But what can you do?  It's not as if I can pop out the DVD and change it for something else I prefer to watch.

"Do you not know?
   Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
   the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
   and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
   and increases the power of the weak."  (Isaiah 40:28-29)

I memorized those verses on my morning walk the day after I had felt so down.  They were familiar before, but now they're locked into my brain.  God used His Word along with His servants to encourage me:  not only did I receive many uplifting comments on Facebook (sometimes it pays to let people know you're down!), but out of the blue a friend called--without knowing anything about my present state of mind--to inform me that she had a meal she wanted to deliver to us which could be used that day or kept for later.  (Since I was in no frame of mind to cook for people who typically mow through their food without tasting it, I was especially thankful for a ready-made meal that night!)

I have to expect that the emotional part of this whole ordeal is probably going to be the hardest because it will be the most unpredictable.  For one thing, I never know when something will hit me and cause my feelings to crash, yet I can't live life based on how I feel.  (Otherwise there would be days or even weeks when no one would eat anything and nothing would get done around the house!)  I'm trying to prepare myself for even bigger highs and lows after the baby arrives and my hormones are in their full, raging glory--that, coupled with the lack of sleep thing, just may send me over the edge!  Dear friends, PLEASE keep asking how I'm doing then! :-)  But in addition to my own emotions, the kids all have their own ways of handling their dad being so far away for so long, and that in itself is a huge challenge.  (As an update for those who have prayed specifically for Tobin, I've seen efforts on his part to at least TRY to be more peaceful, and his attitude toward me has definitely improved.  We've spent some one-on-one time together, and I think he's learning to communicate a little better as well.  Thanks to those who have prayed--it's helping!)

This is the best part.  God really is so good!  While I chafed at all the time we had before the deployment ("just hurry up and go already so you can come back!"), at least we had more than adequate time to feel as prepared as we possibly could for this thing to happen, to acknowledge that despite it being a "fluke" (given Ted's medical coding and all the waivers that had to be signed) it was, in fact, a God-given assignment for our family.  I feel absolutely no resentment toward God regarding the path He has set before us.  Ted and I both view this year as an opportunity to grow in our walks with Christ and to be conformed more into His likeness.  We know it will stretch and challenge us in all areas of life, and we pray that we will bring our Lord glory in the process.

I feel more focused on my relationship with Jesus, as He truly is my Help and my Strength, my Refuge and my Rock.  It's as if everything else that doesn't matter has simply faded away--life, in a sense, is so much simpler now.  I walk with Jesus, I take care of my family, and I do what I can to support and encourage Ted from a distance.  That's it!  Other things are either on the back burner or even off the stove for the time being!  I haven't missed a morning quiet time yet; though there are days when kids wake earlier or I wake later and I have to rush a bit, my prayer and Bible study time is sacred to me, and I feel that God is honoring my desire to keep Him first.  I desperately need God's wisdom and strength to get through each day--that was apparent the moment I first became a mother, but my awareness of that need has only grown by leaps and bounds over time!  I often feel that most of my days are somehow a prayer poured to the Lord, as the Holy Spirit intercedes for me "with groans that words cannot express" (Romans 8:26).  Being more aware of my dependence on Him, I am also blessed with a deeper awareness of the countless ways He blesses me and upholds me.

So there it is...how I'm REALLY doing, as of this moment, 11:11 p.m., Sunday, July 3, 2011. :-)

July 01, 2011

Dayton Dragons Baseball

At the pre-deployment fair in April (the event where the kids got their Build-A-Bears with Daddy's voice recorded in the paws) we were able to pick a date to attend a local baseball game courtesy of the "Hometown Heroes" program.  I picked a Friday, today, thinking it would be easiest to get a babysitter for Kenna and Lucan, as I didn't really think taking the WHOLE crew would be super enjoyable for anyone.

So tonight was our big night!  Jessica C babysat, which thrilled Kenna to no end, as she adores "Miss Jessica."  After an eventful day--the kids finished swim lessons by passing their level 4 swim test this morning, then stayed at the pool with the C family for a picnic lunch and more swim time--we took off for downtown Dayton.  Thankfully the stars aligned so that I could get a nap myself; otherwise I may not have had energy for all of this!  Actually, a big thank you to my friend Stefanie, who thought of the idea of having the kids swim with her family for awhile, then have some down time at her house until I let her know that I was awake from my nap!

Anyway, our evening was more than just a baseball game.  We were to meet an hour and a half before game time for our VIP treatment!  We got free parking, then met our tour guide, Jeff, at the entrance to Fifth Third Field.  He took us behind the scenes, down the hallways to the locker rooms (of course we didn't go inside, but we did see pictures!), to the dugout, out on the field, up to the press and video/radio rooms, and various suites.  The kids got to push the button to make smoke come out of the Dragons' mouths on the scoreboard, something we got to see several times later in the evening, as we witnessed two home runs and the Dragons won the game!

In addition to the tour, we got $40 in baseball bucks to use towards concessions (and trust me, we used all of it for dinner!), plus a bag filled with goodies:  4 baseball hats, one extra-large t-shirt (which I ended up wearing, since my own white shirt got some of my dinner on it...darn that pregnant belly!), a couple of posters, and a ceramic dragon mug.  And our seats were fantastic!  Right along the third base line, just a few rows up from the dugout.

I figured we'd be cheating on our diet, but actually, we didn't do too badly!  The kids all chose cheeseburgers, while I enjoyed a Philly Cheesesteak sandwich.  So, OK, we shouldn't have had buns, but I figured it was much better than cotton candy!  And the boys got some popcorn, which Charis and I ended up finishing when the bags were too big for them to eat by themselves.  I also brought healthy snacks (clementine oranges, dried plums, and fruit leathers), and we pretty much ate our way through the game!

It was a beautiful, clear evening--most of the heat of the day was over, and we enjoyed some cooler breezes.  And, best of all, no rain, though the forecast called for possible thunderstorms in the evening.

We brought along our "Flat Daddy," since if it weren't for his deployment, we wouldn't have been attending (or at least in such grand fashion!).  We had our picture taken by the Dayton Daily News team...not sure if it will show up in the paper, but I think Flat Daddy caught their eyes!  They asked our names, etc., just in case they do use the picture.  So I guess we'll look for it!

Here are the pictures of our adventures...

Outside the entrance to Fifth Third Field

Looking out of the press box

Making the scoreboard dragons' eyes light up and causing steam to come out of their nostrils!  The kids thought this was way cool.

Charis poses by the ball that stuck in the wall of the TV room!

At our seats...the empty chairs were mostly filled by the time the game started.

Heater and Gem, the mascots

Is anyone really surprised that Tobin spent the first half of the game reading and eating?!

Arden had a blast--can you tell?!

We girls had fun, too!

Mom, when can we have more snacks?!

Woohoo!  We won!  (Note the red eyes and nostrils spewing steam!)