January 10, 2016

August Birthday Boys

Whew...still catching up on 2015...I hope in heaven we get to review all our precious memories from life here on earth, because time is speeding by WAY too fast down here!

We have two birthdays in August. Seanin turned 2 (on the 14th) and Zaden turned 4 (on the 24th). We had a simple family party for Seanin. Our cousins from Omaha had homemade pizza and cake with us. (Charis made the cake!)

Then on Zaden's actual birthday, which coincided with the first day of public schools in our area, we decided to go to the Omaha Zoo! We got a military membership, and it is a fantastic deal! We had his birthday party the next day, since on Tuesdays there was a discount at a local bounce house play place. We spent about an hour and a half letting the kids bounce off the walls there (ha!) and then came to our house for lunch and cake. Charis made this cake as well--from scratch, and it was amazing!

Simple & Sweet Summer Memories

Charis learned to drive! So strange to see our (then) 14yo daughter in the driver's seat! She started in her Grandma J's Subaru and graduated to our big beast of a van. We figure if she can drive that, she can probably drive anything! We live in a state that allows 14-year-olds to drive, but she can't get her license until she turns 16. Lots more opportunities to practice!

Adding to her skills, Charis received instruction from the Pie Crust Master (aka my mom!) and made us a number of delicious pies. Every now and then she comes to the kitchen and says, "I think I'll make a pie." I LOVE this girl!

My friend Erin and her three daughters came to visit us! We met this family while we were in Ohio. As Erin is originally from Iowa, she asked if she could pop over for a visit when she was out this way visiting family. We were thrilled to get to share lots of time and conversation with her and her girls, who were great friends of Charis. They have all grown up so much!

My  mom's cousin Pat had some health issues and ended up spending some time in a nursing home very close to us even though she lives in a different city. It was fun to walk over and surprise her with flowers and a card for her birthday!

What a joy to live closer to family! All my first cousins on my mom's side live in Omaha, and we've been able to get together a number of times. Ben and Reema's girls, Maelin and Joyella, have come to spend the night with Kenna several times. On one such occasion we taught the girls to make our homemade pizza recipe. They were quick learners and have apparently made it a number of times for their family!

OK, I confess I still have not learned to tell the girls apart...and now that it's been some months since this picture was taken, I can't remember which of the girls told me she just LOVED to chop vegetables, but I do remember telling her that I would hire her!! That would make my job in the kitchen so much easier, lol.

Our church hosted an Amazing Family Race at the local park in August, and event our kids had looked forward to all summer!

There were a variety of stations with different tasks for the teams to perform.

Lo and behold...our clan came in first! Our prize was a Ladder Ball game for the backyard!

Soon after winning the Amazing Family Race, we had a backyard picnic and put our new game to use!

Zaden decided he didn't need naps...

And then there was the time Seanin found baby Rhema's little pink pants and put them on, apparently thinking they'd be perfect shorts for a chunky toddler...

...and then lay down on the floor to cry when I insisted he must take them off!

We received a precious care package...this beautiful bowl from dear friends of ours we met during our time in Napoli. It has a prominent place on our counter and reminds us of the sweet fellowship we experienced during our overseas tour.

Family Photo Shoot

On a lovely August evening we had another photography session with the talented Melissa Pennington, who captured our sweet baby girl before she left that precious newborn phase!

Isn't she sweet, our little Rhema Riyel? :-)

I was thrilled that we got some nice shots of the whole family, too! Considering how many of us there are, I am especially impressed with our new photographer friend! She is a mama to 7 kids herself, so I suppose she has had a lot of practice getting multiple people to look toward the camera, lol.

And these precious, intimate photos...I love the delight reflected in the faces of the older kids! I framed these shots to give to Tobin, Charis, and Arden for Christmas. And I know I'm biased, but there's pretty much nothing else that can warm my heart like seeing my handsome man love on his children.

My heart is full. I never thought I'd be a mama of many, but I'm so thankful that I am.

January 02, 2016

Bible Bee 2015

For the fourth year (not consecutive) our family participated in the Bible Bee program over the summer. The studies have varied from year to year, from 10 weeks to 12 weeks to, this most recent year, 6 weeks from start to finish (which happened to work beautifully with our overseas-move-and-new-baby kind of a summer!). The older 4 kids did independent work on their Bible studies, working their way through the first 6 chapters of the gospel of John and memorizing 12 passages of Scripture (roughly 50 verses total). I would have liked for our family to have done more study time together, but I was just not able to manage it with the tail end of an exhausting pregnancy, trying to finish unpacking and settling in, and then of course having a newborn to care for.

Still...it was a wonderful opportunity to dig into God's Word more, and though 8-year-old Kenna especially could have benefited greatly from some more specific guidance, it was still a growing experience even for her. This year all the contestants tested online--NO local testing centers or oral recitations to be judged. So we were able to set up our laptops in different parts of the kitchen and test our four kids here at home.

We did invite some folks from church and the neighborhood to come over the evening before so that the kids could recite 6 of the 12 passages before an audience, an on-your-honor requirement in order to qualify for Nationals. It was fun to share with others some of the hard work the kids had invested throughout the summer.

A week after the testing date, folks met at their "local host" location for some Bible Bee activities and to learn who had qualified to compete in the National competition, which was to be held in San Antonio in November. When we registered to participate in the Bible Bee, the "local" host we were assigned was from Kansas City!! It was hard to believe that no one closer to us had volunteered to host! (We plan to be hosts ourselves next year!)

But joining with the group in Kansas City for their local celebration event actually worked out really well for us:

1. Our Suburban, which we had shipped in APRIL, finally arrived in the States (delay due to the ship catching fire and having to return to the original port for inspections, etc.--thankfully our vehicle was not affected by the catastrophe).  The pick-up location happened to be in St. Louis.

2. We have very dear friends, Craig & Mimi H, who live in the Kansas City area!

So, due to the timing of retrieving the Suburban, plus the fact that we could stay with the H family, we planned a little road trip and enjoyed visiting with our friends plus being part of the local Bible Bee celebration, where we learned that Charis had qualified for Nationals for the second year in a row!

It was a fun trip, despite Rhema being pretty high maintenance at that time...due to her stalled out weight at the two-week check-up, I had had to focus almost exclusively on feeding the baby and helping her learn to nurse efficiently, a process that took several weeks and had me on an emotional roller coaster as my milk supply went up and down. But we were still able to travel, and it was neat to see the kids get to participate and meet some other Bible Bee folks.

Kenna recites a passage during the primary optional oral round.

Tobin and Arden with the other juniors.

Charis and the seniors.
The event in Kansas City was August 8. Nationals were the week before Thanksgiving. Qualifiers had additional memory passages plus the next 6 chapters in the book of John to study on their own. Since Charis had also qualified last year--when we were still living in Italy--this was her second year to be able to attend. (She and I flew together and met Ted's mom Rhonda in Orlando, where the event was held last year, and it was an amazing experience! Not only did we three "girls" have a blast spending time together, but we also got to meet up with two different sets of missionary friends!) We really wanted our whole family to be able to attend and worked hard on our budgeting and planning to make it happen. I'll write about that in a separate post...