Thursday, July 21, 2016

O Canada!

On July 1, which happens to be Canada Day, we headed off to Canada for our first international trip as a large family (only missing Micah). My mom said she tells people I'm so far north that I practically live in Canada anyway, so I guess this trip is not big news. We were gone for 10 12 days, so I won't be able to tackle this all in one shot.

Genna is not a good traveler. She doesn't like her car seat and will cry persistently. Up to this point, we hadn't really had to endure her screaming for more than short trips. She proved her endurance on our journey, which was not less than 7.5 hours of straight driving (which we did not manage to do). During one rest stop I flipped her car seat around forward facing, hoping that the change of scenery would improve her mood. As you can see, it did not...

Being forward-facing also made it harder to sleep upright in the carseat. Everyone else seemed to do ok. We have more kids than we have electronic devices (believe it or not!), so there were a few squabbles (naturally), but they did ok for the most part. I have more big kids than I have ever had before on a road trip and that definitely helped. This trip was significantly shorter than the trip we made out to Virginia with Patrick and the trip we made out to Colorado and Yellowstone with Kathi. I was left wondering how in the world my younger self managed those trips. Oh I know--I didn't have Genna. ;) Sorry, cutie. At least she fell asleep for a few minutes...

We reached this point where we thought we had passed the last outpost in the US and we would be crossing the Canadian border imminently. Then we didn't. And we still didn't. Miles and miles of flat land with minimal tree lines rolled by. Then finally, it came. I was a bit nervous at the crossing. The border agent asked us to pull to the side and he said someone would help us. We pulled over and waited and waited and no one came. Finally Mitch decided to go inside to see if we had heard correctly. A few minutes later he came out and said that they wanted to see his wife also. I asked if they wanted to see all the kids and he said no. Where's the fun in that? I think they should have had all of us piling in there! At any rate, Miss Crabby Pants wouldn't be left in her carseat, so she got a "get out of jail free" card. We were on our best behavior during our interview with the border agent, but we did share some chuckles as we got on our way. Some of the questions he asked us:
"How do you know these people?" (meaning the ones in the van)
What Mitch wanted to say: I made them.
"How do you know these people?" (The Canadians you are going to visit)
What we said: We met them online.
We could have said oh so much more...
We're sounding real responsible here.
"How much cash are you bringing with you?"
Followed by: "How much cash do you have access to?"
"We just want to make sure you can provide for yourself in case of an emergency." (Canadian nice...I obviously should have asked him for money, right? Haha...just kidding. Don't do that. Getting denied entry into a country is a serious problem.)
 "Do these people have room for all of you to stay with them?"
What Mitch wanted to say: I sure hope so!
What I wanted to say: Is that a question on your screen or are you going to ask me one of the other large family questions next? (Do you know what causes that? Do you have your own reality show? I don't know how you do it!)

Joking aside, I did feel a little like I had just taken a scolding from the border agent. And when I get to the end of our trip...well, if you already know that part from Facebook, then I can't help but feel his money questions were foreshadowing. On a funny (or not) note, I activated two credit cards to use in Canada in case of an emergency. I forgot one of them at home, and no one in Canada accepted the other one (despite their website claiming the opposite). I failed to tell our bank that we were traveling out of country, so when I used my debit card, it triggered fraud protection (naturally). Thankfully after telling them the names and birthdays of all 10 of our children (not really, but almost) we were able to prove our identities over the phone and had access to our cash. Lesson learned. And I'm thankful that our end-of-the-trip troubles didn't happen until we were back on US soil.

So after a long journey, we finally landed somewhere in Winnipeg. Cam and Wes picked out this really nice park in the city. It was buzzing with activity in celebration of Canada Day. We met up with Wes, whom we hadn't seen since Easter 2015, and met his new baby. Then the big guy, Cam, showed up! It was so fun to meet Cam on his side of the border. We met so many of Cam's attendants over the week, and that was really fun. We started off the trip with Emilio, whom we had met this past spring. Emilio loves playing with our kids and he's a great cook too! I never got to blog about their spring trip, but we were spoiled rotten when Emilio cooked for us. Maybe I will dig up those pictures, because what we did to get Cam into our house was EPIC. Anyway, that was then and this is July.

We had lunch in the park and the kids climbed all over the play area. They got some of their wiggles out before we got back on the road.

After this, we didn't really know where we were going. We just hopped in our van and followed Cam as he led us deeper into Manitoba. But not seriously deep. We were still in the populated area (which, contrary to rumors, is more than 10 miles from the border). We stopped in a town that boasts the best rural fireworks in all of Manitoba and set out blankets and chairs to hold our spot. Then we drove to the cabin where Cam's parents live (and where they were hosting our tribe for the week). They not only made room for us, they went above and beyond to make us feel at home for the week. I was humbled to receive the gift of their space. At this point I had been awake since 3 am. Genna was so "done" with the carseat. Mercy was pretty tired too. I opted to stay home and put the girls to bed, and Zeke hung out at home with me too. I was bummed to miss the fireworks, which were pretty great according to everyone else. But I did get to snap a picture of this serene sunset...and that was almost as great...

Ok, so that wraps up day one. I won't write a blog post for each day, but I will end this one here and come back for more later. :)

P.S. I love Minnesota summers because the sun rises early and sets very, very late. By driving north into Manitoba, we gained another half-hour of sunlight. Wow, that was fun! I wouldn't like having to pay it back in December/January, but it was really nice in July!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

June Updates

I realized when I re-read my last post (about Micah's birthday) that I am really rusty with writing. I guess if you don't use it, you really do lose it. I must make time to write more! I must!

We have had an eventful summer already. We kicked it off with a visit from my mom, Janet, and Joel. That launched us into our list of summer projects, which looked something like this (sorry for the bad picture quality):

I never, ever imagined that we would do everything on the list, and we haven't. But with half the summer gone, we have tackled a good portion of it. I erased the list when we took the board down to paint the walls. I rewrote it this week again so we could prioritize the remaining items. We will tackle what we actually have time and money to do...which I think is probably about 75% of the list. That's not bad!

Apparently I need to be more diligent about taking photos of the finished project...

 {Mercy cuteness}

{Sick baby...Genna has had 2 ear infections with high fevers, but I think we finally kicked it.}

Caleb was in the homeschool production of Brigadoon and I was so proud! He LOVED it. I think he will be seeking more opportunities to be in theatre.

We only have minimal landscaping around our house, but we took some time to give it a dig and some fresh mulch. Also sort of related, Josh wants to earn some spending money, so he started a lawn mowing business. He is off to a slow start, but thanks to generous grandparents, he has earned a little money! He is also supposed to mow for a friend soon.

Mitch is learning how to keep bees with his dad. Mitch has 2 bee yards with 14 hives! His yards are on borrowed farm land. He wants to sell queens. I'm happy to have the honey. :) But I'm even more happy to see Mitch doing a hobby that he loves. He has built hundreds of frames for their hives. He is so happy to talk about bees with anyone who will listen. It's also very interesting and Mitch is a great story-teller. So don't be shy when you see him, ask about the bees.

Micah, Eden, and Caleb all spent a week doing local mission work with their youth group. They stayed in a homeless shelter, served meals, cleaned, and led a sports camp. They also did some street witnessing. They reported that their team was unified for doing gospel work, and that was very encouraging to their faith.

Genna is growing in leaps and bounds. She is still nursing, gets up about the same each night, and is very attached to mommy. I feel like I can't get 2 feet from her without her screaming. And she screams, screeches, etc, VERY loudly. She is bossy! She was afraid of the swing for a long time, but one day I put her in it and she loved it. Of course then she didn't want to get out. So it's trading one problem for another I guess. She doesn't talk much yet, but she is learning some baby signs. She babbles all the time and tries to copy our sounds and inflections. She loves to look at picture books and point to the pictures I call out. She also loves to follow her big sisters around and do everything they do.

Also we got epoxy painted on the floor to Tirzah's room. This room used to be purple. Eden wanted to paint it blue, and she found some cheap paint and did so. Then she moved upstairs and left this room to the little girls. It turns out that Tirzah's favorite color is blue. And we found the epoxy in the "oops paint" section of Menard's...for $5 (normally $100)...and it was blue. Just try to tell me God is not involved in the little details of our lives! Eden and a friend are painting ocean scenery on the walls and it is such a fun room.

Ok, that brings us up to the end of June. July is a whole different story, beginning with a 10-day trip to Canada that was unexpectedly extended to 12 days. ;) I have left out so many details here on how everyone else is doing. But shorter, more frequent blogging sessions is the remedy I think.

Monday, July 18, 2016

19 years old!

The way time passes just never ceases to amaze me. Rather than moving forward through time, I feel like I have stood still, while time flows around and beyond me. It is so strange. And now we are marking the passing of 19 years by celebrating Micah's birthday.

We were on a vacation in Canada and were supposed to be home in time for his birthday, but then our van broke down and we were delayed a couple days. So we finally celebrated his birthday a week later. I should count up how many times over the years that we have not been home to celebrate Micah's birthday. It seems that half the time we are going and doing. :)

Micah graduated high school this year, and moved out "on his own" (sort of...). He is working a full-time job doing PCA work with a young man who is the son of friends of ours. He seems like he is a great fit for the job. Later this year he is planning on taking a few months off and doing some traveling to spend time with extended family that live far away. He has some ideas of what he would like to be, but isn't quite sure.

 Eden snapped a couple pictures, then put down the camera and said, "Dad, don't you ever smile?" This was the result.

 Why don't I have a numeral 9 candle??

I'm nervous about my man-child going out into the world to find himself, but I'm excited at the same time. We are a safe place for him to fall back on. What has he got to lose? I wish we had all the money we need to fund his dreams, but instead he is learning good life lessons of hard work and saving. If you think of him, please pray for Micah this year.

We love you, Micah-man. May the good Lord bless you and keep you, the whole year through!

Monday, June 20, 2016

Malachi is 9 years old!

We celebrated Malachi's birthday on the 2nd. This summer doesn't seem to be slowing down any and I'm so far behind. One thing at a time!

On the day before Malachi's birthday, he was sort of "jumping" onto a chair that has wheels on the bottom and missed. He cut his foot open and it looked pretty deep. It was early in the morning, and I wasn't even close to ready for the day, so I woke Mitch up and sent him off to the ER with Malachi. A few hours later they returned, Malachi sporting 5 stitches.

He says he is not going to jump on chairs anymore. We shall see. ;)

At age 9, Malachi...

 ~wears size 8 pants and shorts
~just finished 3rd grade
 ~loves playing Minecraft, or
~loves to read graphic novels and some chapter books
 ~is one of the first kids up each morning
~favorite meal of the day is snack time
 ~is still a super-picky eater
~asked for pizza rolls for his birthday dinner, and chocolate cake
 ~still gets noticed for his smile
~still has a tender heart towards his siblings, and is always willing to share his bed with his brothers
~last year said if he could go anywhere in the world to visit, he wanted to go to Cam's house in Canada...that dream will come true in just a couple weeks!
~has a spacer in his mouth and can't wait to get it out next month (he had an abscessed baby molar that we had to pull)

 ~loves to go to his best friend Zach's house
 ~got some snacks for his birthday instead of toys (which caused nearly everyone else to immediately say, "Why didn't I get snacks on my birthday?" So I guess my shopping for birthday presents for the next year just got simpler.)
~got his stitches out last week and said it hurt as much as getting the shots to numb his foot when he got them in (I guess I should put in an updated photo here...)

 We love you Malachi, and are blessed to have you as our son!!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Way Behind

I'm pretty far behind, and I admit it. We've had a full, busy spring here, and it doesn't look like we'll slow down any at all as we head into summer. Sigh...

I have missed so much and there are literally thousands of photos to choose from if I wanted to even share a glimpse of what we've been up to. I don't know where to start!

So I bought myself a little journal to carry around and write myself notes, so I can remember what I *really* wanted to blog about. And I'll get to it, I hope.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Graduation Announcement

Navigating new waters, we are pleased to announce the first Theis Family Homeschool graduate,

Micah Theis

Class of 2016

HEY Graduation Ceremony

Sunday, May 22, 2016 at 3:00 pm
Calvary Community Church
St. Cloud, MN

We invite those who would join us in supporting Micah as he makes this important step into adulthood. Since many of our extended family live far away, we want those friends who have been our stand-in "family" to feel welcome and invited to attend the ceremony. 

Please join us in extending congratulations to Micah and prayers of blessing for his future.

Thank you!

(We have not yet planned a separate celebration.)

Monday, May 09, 2016

Mother's Day (and Josh's Baptism)

I had a beautiful Mother's Day. Genna woke me up fairly early, and I looked over and thought I saw Mitch's form curled up under the covers. As I got up and dressed quickly, I thought it was strange that Mitch was sleeping with the pillow over his head. I took a second look and realized he wasn't in the was all just a pile of pillows. I had a little chuckle. I came upstairs to find Mitch and Eden working in the kitchen like two busy bees. The table was set for breakfast, pancakes, bacon, juice and coffee were all in the works. I passed Genna off and went to enjoy a shower. It was glorious!! Eden gave me some of my favorite chocolates. Mitch was a natural leader in the kitchen, getting kids breakfast, directing them to their showers, and cleaning up.

Josh had been asking for some time to be baptized. Last Sunday we heard that there would be a baptism service this Sunday, so after an interview with church leaders he was added to the slate. He was SO excited all week long!

After church, Josh and I enjoyed a special date. He had asked me a couple weeks ago if he could spend his allowance by taking me to Pizza Ranch. I agreed, but said that I would pay for my own dinner, and we had to wait until May. Sunday seemed like the perfect opportunity. We had a great reason to celebrate!

We wanted everyone else to be able to celebrate too, so we decided on making blizzards at home. We bought a few extra special toppings for the occasion. Mitch dubbed them "Baptism Sundaes." Hehe. This is *definitely* the start of a new tradition!

Later Sunday evening after the older kids were at youth group, we decided to go on a walk. Judging by my facebook newsfeed, many of my mom friends got to do the same thing Sunday afternoon. It was such a beautiful day! I'm so glad we could enjoy the warm weather. I loved the time with my camera, too.

We had a unique sunset since the sky was so hazy from wildfires in the northwest.

At bedtime my friend Shannon posted a note on facebook that numbers looked good for aurora, so I went out with my camera a little after dark. I didn't pick anything up, but I did really like something about this picture...the shutter was open for 15 seconds. It was a calm night!

The moon was just a sliver, right on the heels of that giant orange sun.