June 25, 2012

Family Photo

Thursday, June 21

The only thing we scheduled for this day was updating our family photo wall!  It had been three years since we had a picture taken with our whole family plus Joel's family and Rhonda.  There have been two new additions since then, Cade and Zaden, plus the kiddos have all grown up so much we figured it was definitely time for a new shot.  We hired a friend of the family who has done Joel and Sarah's family portraits for awhile now and does absolutely beautiful work.  If you live in the Denver area, you can check her out!

Didn't she do a great job?!  I really love this picture and look forward to adding it to our collection!

The rest of the day was spent cleaning up the Suburban and repacking things to be ready for our departure early Friday morning, as we had an 800-mile trip to Mountain Home, Idaho!  For dinner we enjoyed a taco bar and Joel's birthday cake and ice cream!

Notice Ted has his shades on, because Joel's candles are so bright!

Yay!  All 34 candles out in one go!

Goodbye, Cast!

Wednesday, June 20

The main event of the day was going to Colorado Springs to get Kenna's cast taken off at the medical center on the USAFA campus.  Since Kenna was unable to bear all her weight on her wrists, she still needs to wear a splint and have a follow-up appointment once we get home, but we're happy she has the freedom to take the splint off if/when we go swimming.  Now...please pray that she doesn't re-injure the wrist in the meantime!  Charis noticed the difference in size between her arms--Kenna's right arm is a little chicken wing after 3 weeks in a cast!

Speaking of chicken, we made a quick trip to the Garden of the Gods after the cast removal, trying to hurry so we could meet Joel's family at Chick-Fil-A for dinner.  Unfortunately, the traffic gods were not on our side, and we missed them completely--but we still enjoyed a CFA dinner (thanks, Rhonda!) and got home at a reasonable hour!

June 21, 2012

Big Outings

Tuesday, June 19

This was a really big day for the kiddos.  The older 3 got to experience their first visit to a real amusement park, Elitch Gardens.  Ted and Joel went with them, which worked out well since Tuesday was Uncle Joel's birthday!  Apparently they all had a great time, although Tobin got a bit nauseated on one of the upside-down and backwards roller coasters, but he LOVED the wooden coaster.  And Charis discovered she REALLY needs bigger shoes...her toes were rather pinched, especially after her shoes got soaked near a water ride.  But otherwise, I think they all enjoyed their outing.  Here are a few pics (to see more, you can view the Facebook album):

Joel and Charis waiting in line

Tobin and Arden being silly--how unusual!

Heeeeeeere it cooooooomes!

After the drenching!

Drying out while enjoying slushies
Meanwhile, Rhonda, Sarah, and I took the 5 little ones up to Tiny Town & Railroad in Estes Park.  The buildings are miniature replicas of all kinds of places, some famous and some that would be typical places from Colorado history.  Of course we had to ride the train!  Anders, Kenna, and Lucan were so excited to get into the caboose (NO ADULTS ALLOWED!), so Cade and Zaden got to ride with the grown-ups.  After the ride was over, we followed the path and explored the buildings until we came to the playground at the end of the road.  The kids played for awhile and then clamored for lunch, so we obliged, let them play some more, and then made our way back to the start.  It was the perfect amount of time for an outing with the younger set!  Here are a few pics; view the rest of them in the Facebook album:

Cade, Lucan, Anders, and Kenna

Cade, me, Rhonda, and Zaden

Grandma cuddles Zaden and Anders

Kenna by the church

Lucan...I don't remember which building this was!

Cade and Lucan explore the windmill
And here are a few pics from us hanging out around Grandma's condo later in the evening...there is a little boy, Logan, next door with whom Arden especially gets along, and a small playground on the other side of their condo where the little ones enjoy playing.  Check out our Kenna, rocking the monkey bars with her cast!

Logan and Arden

Lucan found a guitar!  He was singing a song about going down the slide. :-)

Nothing stops that girl!!

Logan and Arden were so kind while playing with the little guys!  Cade and Anders wanted to play baseball, too!

June 20, 2012

Fellowship with Friends

Monday, June 18

After Ted and I returned (with Zaden) from our hotel getaway, he headed out again to take care of some boring business, such as renewing his driver's license and our Suburban registration--AFTER getting an emissions test, of course, which was much easier than the hoops I had to jump through last year to renew the registration and get an emissions test waiver while Ted was deployed.  He ended up being gone about 4 hours, which probably wasn't as horrible as it could have seemed, since he was able to take his Kindle and pretty much sit and read.  (Frankly, that sounds like heaven to me!)

Lucan got a great nap in the afternoon; Zaden did not, but we had plans, so we pressed on anyway!  We left around 4:30 to visit our friends Bill and Mellisa B and their children, Jessica, Liam, and Kyla.  Bill and Ted have been best friends since high school (yes, Bill and Ted HAVE had excellent adventures, why do you ask?!), and we've always gotten together with our families when we've been in Colorado.  Charis and Jessica are just weeks apart in age, and Liam is always happy to have other boys to play Legos and Star Wars with.  All the kids had a blast running around while we grown-ups caught up.

Kyla, Charis, and Jessica
Mellisa and Bill prepared a wonderful meal of grilled burgers and hot dogs, sweet corn on the cob, grilled potato "chips," and coleslaw.  Ted and I brought salsa and cream cheese with tortilla chips to munch while the grilling finished and watermelon for dessert.  The 100+ degree heat waned considerably as the sun set, and it was a very pleasant evening.

The one bad thing to happen was a playtime accident involving Lucan, a picnic table, and a slab of concrete. :-(  He got a pretty good-sized goose egg on his forehead.  Thankfully he let Ted hold an ice pack on it for awhile, and he cheered up considerably after having 3 slices of watermelon.  Three days later, I am pleased to report that he seems to be doing just fine!  But ouch, it certainly hurt to even look at his poor little head that evening!

One of the fun things we talked about was Bill and Mellisa's decision to really downsize and simplify--to the point of selling most of their personal possessions and purchasing an RV to live in.  They moved out of a nice, large house in a rural area and tried to sell it.  Currently they have some good renters in it, so things have worked out well.  Their dream is to purchase land sometime down the road, but a short-term goal is to be able to do more traveling with the RV.  Mellisa homeschools the kids (they are going to use Sonlight next year--woohoo!), and she and the children spent a couple of months last year in Indiana visiting family.  Since we're in the midst of preparing for an overseas move, I am definitely all over the simplify-one's-life thing!  It does get difficult the more people you add to the family.  We don't really buy a lot of stuff, but somehow stuff just walks into our home and multiplies.  I've broadly hinted to some wonderful and well-meaning family members (who probably know who they are, LOL) that we don't really need or want any more STUFF! :-)  Instead, save the money and come visit us in Italy!

Anyway, it was fun to see where the B family is now and hear what God has been teaching them during their recent transitions.  Also, their RV is set up pretty similarly to what we'll be staying in while we're in Yellowstone, so it gave the kids an idea of what to expect (although I suspect "ours" will be quite a bit smaller...or at least feel like it with 8 people inside!).

We're thankful God has allowed us to keep up with good friends over the years!

Father's Day

Sunday, June 17

I'm so used to attending church on Sunday mornings instead of Saturday evenings that Father's Day seemed to start off so differently this year!  But it WAS nice to have a leisurely morning at home, particularly since we had some kid issues in the night.  Later in the morning we packed some snacks to take to a park that had a small water play area as well as a sand pit and playground equipment.  We stayed as long as we could without melting and then went back to the house for lunch.  The grown-ups had Chipotle for lunch (yum!), and then the little boys and I got a good nap while the others had some chill time at the condo during Joel's afternoon softball game.

A very sleepy Zaden!

Munching chips in one of the few shady spots left on the playground equipment!
(Notice Kenna's Cheeto Smile?!)

Lucan does some "driving."

In the evening Ted and I went out to eat while everyone else had Papa Murphy's pizza and a movie night.  Then, we came back to the condo to collect Zaden and an overnight bag and went to the Magnolia in downtown Denver to spend the night, my Father's Day/15th anniversary gift to Ted.  (Our actual anniversary date is the 28th of June, but we'll be in the middle of Commission Week then!)  We got a deal on a fireplace suite and enjoyed getting to have some uninterrupted time together, as Zaden took the change of scenery all in stride and promptly fell asleep when we put him down.  (Hey, one closet looks the same as another when you're inside in the dark, right?!)

Ted surprised me with an early anniversary gift as well, an amethyst necklace and earring set from Kandahar.  It's gorgeous!  I don't have a picture of it yet, and I'm not sure a photograph would do it justice, since it changes color in different kinds of light.  When he gave it to me, Ted said something about how I shine in the various roles I fill...I'm not exactly sure of the wording, but I know it turned me to mush and pretty much made me a puddle. :-)  I love him!

I wonder what the next 15 years will bring us?!  All we know is, God has been so faithful, and life is certainly an adventure when you follow Him!

June 18, 2012

Hanging with the Fam

Saturday, June 16

Family + free time = a great way to kick off vacation!

Saturday morning dawned bright and early for the high-maintenance members of our crew.  Joel's family came over for breakfast, and then we played ball outside with the young'uns until it was obvious that we needed a bit more space.  So we packed up and went to a nearby park for some play time, taking snacks to tide us over until lunch.  Our adventure ended with Uncle Joel wading through some slimy muck to retrieve a football that had gone astray just as we were walking back to the parking lot.  Ewwwww!  Fun for the kids to watch...not so fun for Joel (or Sarah, who watched as he schlepped through the mud with her flip-flops in order to preserve his brand new shoes!).

Joel and Sarah patiently taught Lucan how to play baseball, 
a skill that likely would not have happened otherwise!

Tobin, Arden, and Anders threw a football around for awhile.

 Charis was eager to show her Uncle Joel (an English teacher) her book of poetry.

 Zaden and Ted hanging out at the park.

 Cade, Arden, and Tobin

Lucan, Kenna, and Anders

 Joel battles the slimy muck to rescue the football, much to the kids' amusement.

Afternoon naps back at Grandma's condo, and then we attended the evening service at Joel and Sarah's church.  It was neat to see their new building--so big and beautiful!  The message was about fatherhood and was very good.  We went to Joel and Sarah's house after the service for a lasagna dinner and enjoyed visiting and watching the kiddos play.  All in all, a very fun and easygoing way to hang out with the fam!

 7 out of the 8 cousins...eating dinner while Zaden catches a late nap inside.

Day 2 of Driving

Friday, June 15

Friday morning was so much more relaxed than the day before!  Craig and Mimi cooked us a yummy breakfast of pancakes and eggs with bacon, and we enjoyed a leisurely time of fellowship before loading up to hit the road again.

We changed the seating arrangement--and THIS was the key to a very happy road trip!

Middle row:  Charis, Zaden, Tobin
Back row:  Lucan, Arden, Kenna

Oh, my!  The difference was night and day!  Zaden was fussed over by big sibs who didn't think it a crime for him to suck his thumb and go to sleep.  And Arden, our tender-hearted boy who is so good with little ones, played with Kenna and Lucan pretty much all the way to Colorado.  I don't know what all they were pretending back there, but it involved all of their blankets and buddies and a fair amount of silly voices.  All I know is, it was a MUCH better day of driving!  We went about the same distance as the day before, but it only took us 10 hours.  Better traffic conditions (I love driving out west!) and better coordination with our potty stops allowed us to make much better time.  Praise the Lord!  We arrived at Grandma J's house while it was still light and had time to wind down before getting kids to bed.  Getting to see Joel and Sarah and their boys made for a fun welcome!

It IS possible to have a good road trip with 8 people in a Suburban!  Hooray!  This means there is hope we will retain some shreds of sanity before we're finished traveling for the summer!

And We're Off!

Thursday, June 14

After a later-than-normal night and an earlier-than-normal morning, our clan finally piled into the Suburban, ready to begin our Great Road Trip.  I would like to say that our spirits were high and we sang joyfully as we drove away, but unfortunately, the truth is we were all rather tired and grumpy.  I had wanted to leave our house by 6:30 a.m.  We pulled out of the driveway at 8:33 a.m.  Honestly, that really isn't bad when I consider how many people (plus all their STUFF) we had to coordinate, but with 630 miles to drive and friends waiting for us in Kansas, I was hoping to start sooner rather than later.

Our seating arrangement:
Front:  Ted and me
Middle:  Zaden, Lucan, Tobin
Back:  Kenna, Charis, Arden

Not an hour into our journey we hit major traffic due to an accident east of Indy.  We crawled along for an hour, going roughly 10 miles during that time.  Meanwhile, Charis was struggling with motion sickness in the back of the truck.  Thank the Lord for Ziplocks.  (Yes, that's plural--after two episodes, she felt much better.) 

More traffic west of Indy.  Potty stops right after the baby FINALLY dozed off.  Fighting.  Bickering.  Flailing.  Lost shoes, books, buddies.  Tears.  Whining.  Yet another potty stop.  (We averaged 30 minutes per potty stop, but the good news is I was able to nurse the baby during that time, and Lucan used the potty, too!  Not that his diaper was ever dry, but still.  Progress.)

Zaden never did nap, poor baby.  Every time he would doze off, sucking his thumb, Lucan would shout, "NO, BABY ZADEN!" and grab his thumb and pull it out of his mouth.  Lucan also "kindly" threw various toys at Zaden and Tobin, making sleep for Zaden and reading for Tobin a near impossibility.

After 14 extremely long hours, we pulled into Craig and Mimi's driveway.  What a relief!  And what a blessing to spend time with them and get to see their gorgeous new home that they had custom built.  Last time we were in Kansas, I got to see the land they had purchased nearly a decade ago, and they showed Ted and me the unprofessional blueprints they had sketched out themselves as they dreamed and planned.  It was such a joy to get to see how God brought them through that whole journey!

Mimi and I stayed up talking until 3 a.m.  But I did get nearly 4 hours of sleep, and the kids and Ted all slept quite well also.  Whew.  Day 1 ended much better than it began!

June 09, 2012

Loveable Lucan

I can say with a fair amount of certainty that Lucan has to be one of the most easygoing 3-year-olds I've ever known.  Most of the time he is an absolute delight to be around, and his silly antics and constant random chatter keep us well entertained (for free, even!).  As you can see from the picture above, he is 100% boy--this was taken after he and his friend Sean entertained themselves for over an hour with a couple of snow shovels, lots of ice, and some dirt from the yard!

Lucan naps a few times each week, on occasion even putting himself to bed.  The picture below shows him as I found him, half asleep, in the entryway the other afternoon.  He uses his "Doof Dog" as a pillow and curls up with his "Soft" (owl blanket), with other stuffed buddies and pillows about.  The difference between this picture and a regular nap time scenario is that we generally don't allow him to sleep with pirate ships or blue balloons...

This picture shows Lucan with some of his favorite things.  While he isn't as obsessed with buses as he used to be, he does enjoy having a bus or a ship to place his Veggie Tale characters in.  These things go with us EVERYWHERE these days!  Even at the airport when we welcomed Ted home, you can see him in the pictures holding Laura the Carrot and Junior Asparagus with his USA flag!  He also loves his Cars lego set from Grandma J and really anything to do with cars, even though I don't know that he's super familiar with the movie.  He has hand-me-down pajamas with Mater and Lightning McQueen on them, which you can see in this picture of Lucan with my brother John, so maybe that's part of it.

Other Lucan tidbits:

  • He is potty training!  Really, there has been--and is no--good time frame to potty train this kid.  Daddy deployed right after he turned 2, and now that Daddy's home, we're preparing to go on a major vacation and move overseas!  So, we're trying but not exactly expecting miracles.  Still, maybe God will be gracious!  Lucan loves the attempts and seems to think the whole process involves one long string of words:  "Pee pee poo poo potty, Mommy!"  Whenever he produces (always #1, so far never #2), it's still "Pee pee poo poo potty!"  He loves to get an "M L M" (what he calls M&Ms) as a reward.  Bet you didn't know potty training was a multi-level marketing endeavor.
  • Hugs from Lucan include sound effects.  How can you not melt when he wraps his chubby arms around you and says, "Mmmmmmmm!"
  • He is definitely in the independent phase.  He finally learned to say, "I did it!" instead of "I made it!"  Which was definitely an adorable phase while it lasted.
  • I'm a much more patient mommy now than when I had other 3-year-olds in this independent phase.  I've learned it's much less stress and saves time to just let him do certain things himself, such as climb into the Suburban and into the car seat instead of lifting him up.  But I still have to sigh when he reverses a process that he thinks you've helped too much with and starts all over just so he can do it himself.
  • I have NO IDEA where this one came from, but he is often heard muttering, "Little bit one zero [fill in the blank about whatever topic is at hand]."  This morning it was, "Little bit one zero Bob the Builder movie."  He has been saying these four words in connection with random things for at least a month now, and no one in the house has any idea where he came up with it or what it seems to mean!
  • He is a very agreeable child and quite obedient, although we're working on coming right away when called; he tends to get very absorbed in what he's doing and doesn't want to come unless there is an obvious motivation, such as food.
  • He is also a very polite child and even corrects others on their manners.  He once told me "thank you," and when I didn't respond quickly enough, he said, "Say 'you're welcome, You-can,' Mommy."  Oops!
  • Lucan entertains himself amazingly well.  Like big brother Arden, he can be content with doing puzzles and building things for hours at a time.  The only bad thing about this is that because he is so content, I don't sit down with him as often as I might otherwise to cuddle and read to him or interact with him that way, because he plays so well by himself!  Hopefully we can work in some preschool cuddle and reading time once we get settled after our move!  In the meantime, this is a great season of our lives to have an easy-to-entertain boy!

Zaden Update

So...Zaden turned 9 months old on May 24!  I'm sure one day I will look back and feel that his entire first year was a blur, the way I barely remember Arden's first year because of having a 3-year-old, 18-month-old, and newborn all at once.  But for now, I'm treasuring all the moments I can scoop up and stuff into my heart.

Normally I would have skipped the 9-month well-baby check-up, but since Zaden's weight has kind of been an issue, I figured I'd go ahead and schedule an appointment, especially since we were able to piggy back with some other errands at the hospital the same day.  Looking back at some of his stats...

2 months: 10 lbs, 15 oz (54th percentile)
4 months: 13 lbs, 9 oz (14%)
6 months: 15 lbs, 2 oz (7%)
9 months: 19 lbs, 5 oz (27%)

2 months: 23.3 in (84th percentile)
4 months: 26 in (76%)
6 months: 26.6 in (46%)
9 months: 28.5 in (50%)

So it was definitely nice to see that his weight is in a better range!  They asked me to bring him back for a check at the 7-month point, since he had dropped into the single digit percentiles.  I wasn't concerned, since he hadn't started solids until after he was 6 months old, so he was bound to gain weight once he was eating something besides breast milk!  As you can see, he definitely doesn't look like weight is a problem, ha!  Look at that double chin!

Some fun facts about Zaden:
  • He is our first thumb-sucker!  It's so darn cute that it's pretty much impossible to discourage the habit!  It used to be he would only suck his thumb when he went into his bed or right after waking up, but he has started to pop that thumb in his mouth a lot during his waking hours, too.
  • When we put him in bed (on his tummy, his preference), he sucks his left thumb and uses his right hand to stroke the hair on the top of his head.  A-DOR-able.
  • He has a slight dimple on his left cheek.  This is rather a novelty for our family, although Lucan does have a slight dimple as well.  Stinkin' cute.
  • While he looked like a little clone of Arden and Lucan the first few months of his life, he looks like a mini Ted now.  His smile, like his daddy's, totally rocks my world.
  • Look out world--he's mobile!  He has the army-man crawl down pat!
  • Tile floors are a bit of a deterrent at present, but I'm sure it won't be long before he'll be trying to explore the stairs.
  • He's a great little eater but not terribly patient--once you put him in the highchair, you'd better make sure the food is ready to be shoveled in!
  • His face totally lights up when someone smiles at him.  It's a good thing he is Number Six, because I think he'd be a very sad, lonely boy if he didn't have such a circus happening around him all the time.
  • Seriously, he is the easiest baby I've had.  I'd have a dozen more kids if I knew they'd all be as easy as this boy!  He eats well, he sleeps well, he doesn't have any health issues, and he's so happy and easygoing that it is truly startling when he cries!

June 04, 2012

Encouraging Words

In our Sunday school class a few weeks back, the teacher wrote these words on the board that his wife had copied down for him from a devotional.  I wish I could give credit to the one who wrote them, but that information is long gone!  Still, I hope it encourages and blesses others as it did those of us in class that day.  It is written as if God Himself were speaking to us as individuals.

"Don't be so hard on yourself.  I can bring good even out of your mistakes.  Your finite mind tends to look backward longing to undo decisions you have come to regret.  This is a waste of time and energy, leading only to frustration.  Instead of floundering in the past, release your mistakes to me.  Look to me in trust anticipating that my infinite creativity can weave both good choices and bad into a lovely design.  Because you are human, you will continue to make mistakes.  Thinking you should be error free is symptomatic of pride.  Your failures can be a source of blessing, humbling you and giving you empathy for other people in their weaknesses.  Best of all, failure highlights your dependence on me.  I am able to bring beauty out of the morass of your mistakes.  Trust me and watch to see what I can do."

ETA:  This excerpt is from Jesus Calling, a devotional book by Sarah Young.  Thanks to my friend Charlane who gave me the information so we could give credit to whom it is due!