Saturday, May 25, 2013

Happy Birthday, Mitch!

We celebrated Mitch's birthday yesterday.  We were not able to go out to eat, so I tried to make our meal at home special.

 I have made this cake for him before, and it was worth making again.  It is cafe latte's turtle cake from a magazine called Midwest Living.  YUM.

 I made chicken & cheese chimichangas using a recipe from Food Network.  They were very good, too.  Mitch likes his food SPICY, so he helped himself to the jar of chipotle peppers I bought to make the salsa.  They were so spicy that he immediately started sweating.  Haha...he loved them.  

We were blessed by a surprise visit from our friends Luke and Katie.  They couldn't have come at a better time.  They have been such an encouragement to us, and God knew that we needed a visit from them right at that moment. 

Happy birthday, Honey!!  Thank you for all the things you do for our family.  We are so blessed to have you as a husband and father. May the Lord bless you and keep you through this next year full of changes.  XOXO

Quick Update

In pictures...
 Obi sure does love his baby sister...

 Our weather has improved slightly.  It's not snowing anymore!  It has been raining a lot, and that's good, but we do like the sunny days.  I love summer, and while it may not be warm and sunny yet, the sun is setting exactly where it should along the horizon.  Bring on the beautiful sunsets!!

 Mercy is getting stronger, and working hard to hold her head up for a few minutes at a time.

 Malachi is working hard on learning to read.  He can read sentences like this:  "Will Horse like green hay?"  Sometimes he doesn't want to practice his reading.  It always helps if I ask him to read to a different person...they always give him good encouragement.  Here he is reading with Daddy.

 Obi and Tirzah went to the doctor for well-child checkups on Thursday.  Obi is 2 years old.  He weighed 28 lbs and was 35" tall.  He had to have two immunizations (I thought we were all done--boo!--but now we should be.) and a lead test.  Mercy is 2 months old.  She weighed 12 lbs 12 oz and is 23 1/2" long.  She had 3 shots and an oral immunization.  Poor baby!  She was very crabby that evening, but had no other issues.

 Eden was taking pictures, and Mercy fell asleep right at the same time.  Such a sweet baby.  She had just had a bath and is wearing one of my favorites--a long gown.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

"Home" (heavy with pictures)

When Mitch and I went to Florida last year, we gave up our seats on an over-booked flight in exchange for $400 each in travel dollars.  As their expiration date neared, we brainstormed last-minute ideas on how to use our tickets.  Mitch decided to fly to Kentucky and help his mom and step-dad move to Minnesota.  I decided to travel "home" to visit my family in Tennessee and Virginia, just the baby and me, since Mercy could fly free as an "infant in arms".  I had a lot of anxiety about the trip and working out the details, but I shouldn't have worried so much.  From start to finish, the entire trip was a blessing.

First off, Mitch's mom, Karen, came and stayed with the kids during the day while Mitch worked.  (Marc was here, too, but we all know that moms deserve the credit, right??).  My good friend Bonnie was the "Mercy taxi" and saw us off to the airport AND back home from the airport.  Yay!  Our flights were wonderful.  We had a layover in Memphis.  Mercy slept or was happy most of the time, and she charmed other travelers.  A flight attendant got Mercy a set of "wings".  On our little puddle-jumper between Memphis and Knoxville the seat beside me was empty.  I slid over to the window seat and enjoyed the extra room as well as the view. 

On the ground in K-town, I was met by my mom, Janet, and my sister, Jess.  It was SOOOOO SOOOOO good to get hugs all around.  ::Ahhhhh::

 At home, Mom and Jess poured on the love--starting with Krispy Kremes on the counter, to taking over with Mercy.  Jess seemed to have the "touch" for getting her to sleep.  This is good--especially since Caleb was 1,000 miles away!

On Friday Jess took me to the Museum of Appalachia where she works, for lunch.   I had the special, which was Swiss Steak, with green beans and fried apples.  YUM.  Oh, and of course I had a Coke.  :)

 I got to see my sweet niece, Caroline, for the first time in 3 years.  Of course she doesn't remember me, but she was a charmer!

 After lunch we walked off some calories.  The museum grounds were beautiful.  In Minnesota, only some of the trees were beginning to bud, and NONE of the trees had full leaves.  Not so in Tennessee...everything is lush and green.  I must have said a dozen times, "It's so beautiful here!"

 Caroline did a little dance on the stage for us, then we went to school.
 And we toured some homes.  The buildings here were found all over the Appalachias, they were disassembled and reconstructed exactly has they had been on site, and filled with artifacts to be historical.  It is fun to imagine what life was like hundreds of years ago.

I was so blessed to coordinate my trip with my sister, Carrie, who lives on the other end of Virginia.  She drove out for the weekend, too.  Her girls, Beth and Pippa, and her son Angel were with her.

Amazing how our families have grown!  We waited around just long enough for my other niece, Julia, to get home from school.  I was really enjoying my time to relax and visit with my family, but I also kept wishing my kids (and Mitch, too!) were with me so the cousins could play.  They would have had so much fun.  I hope we can go visit soon.

 Joel is "Poppy" to Julia and Caroline.  He got in a few cuddles with Mercy, too.  So sweet. 

On Saturday I traveled up to Virginia to visit more of my family.  There I saw my dad, and I stayed with him a couple of nights. It was fun to see his tastefully decorated "man cave" and to talk camera talk with him.  I dug into his bag of Nikon lenses and tried out a few.  I have to admit, his super wide-angle lens was charm to hold.  :)  Of course, Dad thought that Mercy was a charm to hold.  He put her to sleep. 

I went to see my mom, Cindy.  Yes, I have two moms.  Aren't I lucky??  The term "step" doesn't apply to my moms, but if you really want to know which is which, see if you can figure it out yourself.  ;)  Carrie and her kiddos were staying with our mom for the long weekend, so we spent most of Saturday and Sunday with her, too.  Mercy and I went to church with her Sunday morning (Mother's Day).  We all went out to eat Sunday night at the Huddle House.  It was good food, and I surely enjoyed the drive to Pennington Gap. 

My brother Bobby brought over his family to visit.  He also has two girls.  All my siblings--Jess, Carrie, and Bobby--have two girls (plus Carrie has one boy).  The girls loved the baby.  This is my first trip home where I have gotten to see Bobby as a daddy.  On my last trip home, I saw him one day and the girls the next day while he was working.  My trip before that, they were expecting their first child.  So it was really a surreal thought.  My baby brother is a daddy!  He is a good daddy!  Oh, and obviously I don't get home often enough.

Lee is my step-dad, and he is a tobacco farmer.  He also works in construction, runs a small saw mill, raises cattle, harvests hay, and who knows what else!  Bottom line: he works hard, and retirement doesn't seem to be anywhere in the future.  Lee had four calves in the barn.  One was orphaned, one had a mother who couldn't nurse, and the other two were abandoned.  Lee said it had never happened in all his life and now this year it happened twice.  One calf's mother gave birth just a few meters away from another cow giving birth on the same day.  They got their calves mixed up, fighting over the one calf and abandoning the other.  A few days later the event happened again.  So he is now up to four calves being bottle-fed.  Pippa was such a good helper.  She would wash the bottles, fill them, and help feed the calves.  She even got up at the crack of dawn.  I was impressed!

This small green house (below) is a water bed for the tobacco plants.  There are heaters in the houses in case the temperature falls too low.  Tobacco is an interesting industry.  It is part of "home".

Monday morning I woke up to frost on the windows.  Brrrr...Minnesota came looking for me, and found me!  I loaded up with Mercy and headed to my mom's house in the early morning for one last visit before heading back to TN.  We got over there before my mom was even awake--oops!  The peak in the distance (below) is called the "White Rocks". 

The three of us with our mom.  Mom says she thinks it may be the last time we are all together.  I sure hope not!  Getting this picture was hilarious.  The temperature was right at 32 F that morning, and we were all freezing.  I couldn't get my remote to work (we were too far away), and setting the timer wasn't going so well, either.  Mercy was asleep in my arms, and that slowed me down.  In the end, we were all slightly out of focus, and I was disappointed, but I knew that no one else would be willing to do a retake.  Like I said, there had better be a next time. 

Later, Carrie and I went digging for photos.  I have been saying for 2 months that Mercy looks just like her.  Here is a picture that I think shows it:

It was time to start saying "goodbye" as my trip neared a close.  I drove to my childhood home--the farm where I grew up--and visited with my aunt.  She said, "You are looking more like your mother every day."  I didn't want to be rude, but wow--when I drove up, she was bent over talking to her dogs, and she looked JUST like my grandmother.  So I said, "So are you!"  :)  We visited for a while, but I was itching to get back to Tennessee and my Janet.  I propped my kindle on the dashboard, put on the soundtrack to Lord of the Rings (to my favorite track), and drove over the ridge, a ride I had made many times before.  This peaceful ride only lasted a few minutes, but it was a happy place for me to settle on and I wanted the memory to last forever.  The day was just perfect, and I found a place to pull over and take some pictures of the mountains marching on towards Cumberland Gap.

Below is a picture of my old high school, Thomas Walker.

I cried a little as the road carried me away.  It reminded me of when I left 16 1/2 years ago.  It truly is a beautiful place, with wonderful people I am proud to call family.

Tuesday morning came almost too soon.  I was anxious to get home to my kids, no doubt, but I was certainly not anxious to say goodbye.  My time away had been relaxing, and my cup was full to the brim.  I cried at the curb where Mom dropped us off, Mercy and me.  We wandered slowly through the airport with time to spare.  As my plane lifted off the ground, I found myself crying again.  I wasn't near the window, but whenever I looked out the sliver of window I could see, I was pained to watch the mountains falling away.  

There was so much good stuff that happened on my trip.  I worked through lots of things in my heart, and I was able to reforge relationships that had gotten a little rusty.  I found some answers to questions I didn't even know I had.    There is certainly more.  I surely hope that it won't be so long before I go again.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

What Squirrels Eat

I was reading a new poem about squirrels to Malachi.  It is a cute little poem from IEW's Primary Art of Language curriculum (author unknown) and the end goes:
"Where's his supper--
In the shell,
Out it fell!"
I asked Malachi what it could be.  He didn't understand my question so I rephrased it and asked, "What is in a shell that a squirrel eats?"

Malachi giggled and answered, "A turtle?"

I read the ending again, trying to be patient.  Malachi said this time, "A snapping turtle?"

Oh boy...I figured I was trying too hard.  Clearly he was only hearing the first part of my question, "What is in a shell..."  Nearing exhasperation, I simplified my question, "What do squirrels eat?"

He said confidently, "Nuts!"

I read the poem again, and I think he finally got it.  Some days I am just SO not equipped to be a teacher.  :)

Friday, May 17, 2013

Mercy at 2 months

Mercy is 2 months old today.  She is such a chubby little girl and it still makes me laugh!  Recently we took a trip to Tennessee and Virginia--just me and her.  She was a wonderful traveler!  Here are some pictures:

Next week I will take her to the doctor for her 2-month checkup and she will get some immunizations.

At 2 months, Mercy
~eats about every 2 hours
~usually only wakes up once during the night
~laughed for her daddy just last night
~lifts her head when she is on her tummy, but only for a little bit
~pushes herself forward when she is on her tummy--stinker!
~loves her brothers and sisters
~still loves it when Caleb puts her to sleep
~LOVES bathtime
~has a bit of cradle cap still, but doesn't have newborn acne either, overall her skin is improving
~barely squeezes in to her 0-3 mo clothing, she is ready for bigger sizes, and she missed out on wearing many things because it has been so cold this spring
~spits up a LOT, seriously she leaves puddles on the floor, and she is really fussy after eating (I think she overeats, because when my milk supply was low recently she nursed more frequently and did not spit up)

Monday, May 06, 2013

Small Update

Just want to post a quick update...the weather is finally warming up a little bit so that the snow has thawed.  We had a couple nice days, then it got cold again, and today it is warm again.  It should be nice all this week.  It's wonderful to have the windows open and kids playing outdoors.  The "boys" (Zeke, Josh, and Malachi) are loving the warmer weather.  They are riding bikes, rollerblading, and constantly playing games with their neighborhood friends.  I am SO glad they have friends here their ages.  When we moved in 10 years ago, there was only one family that was the same age as our kids.

I've gotten a little spring cleaning/organizing done, but it's not easy to find the time.  And I have a few "tornadoes" that come through behind me and make it hard to tell any work has been done at all.  No white glove inspections here--Mercy has some spit-up rags that are white, and oh my! If you ever use one to wipe the floor, please don't look at it afterward.  ;)  It doesn't matter if I have just mopped the floor or not.  At this point I think the mop just pushes the mud around.  Haha. My biggest feat last weekend was washing all the winter coats, snow pants, gloves, etc.  I got them all clean and packed them away, not caring if the weather was supposed to be cold again or not.  We just stayed inside when it got cold. 

We are nearing the end of the school year and feeling the push a little bit.  Caleb is nearly done with all his schoolwork, so his days are spent in boredom.  Oops!  I could use a little more training there, I think.  Micah and Eden are behind in their work (mostly my fault, not necessarily theirs, for not building in more sick days), so we are pushing to get done.  Ouch.  Zeke and Josh just do what I tell them too.  They will be working through the summer, but it will only be a math page and grammar here and there.  They will do plenty of reading on their own.  I am just finally picking up the pace with Malachi.  He pretty much got left behind when school was too difficult for me and I made cuts where I had to in our schedule.  He needed more time than I was able to give him, and I just plain didn't feel like he was ready yet for the work I was asking him to do.  So for most of the year we went r-e-a-l-l-y slowly, and focused on learning letters and their sounds, as well as numbers and some easy adding.  Now we will have more time to work together through the summer.  Even though I think he was not ready for kindergarten last fall when we started, I think he will be doing just fine this next school year.  Technically he will be in first grade, but it really doesn't matter to me anymore.  Yeah, I've turned into one of *those* homeschooling parents.  Finally!

Ok, there's more to say and like a broken record I'll say, "Not enough time."

Mercy is doing well.  She is round and chubby.  Definitely packing on pounds a little more quickly than Tirzah did.  I can't wait for her 2-month checkup to see how she compares to her brothers.  She isn't settling into much of a schedule. She still eats lots when she is awake and sleeps lots when she sleeps.  She loves Caleb, and he puts her to sleep almost every day at least once.  I'm grateful for all the helpers to hold her so I can get something done.  I still wear her in a carrier often too, though.  My back has been hurting a lot--I attribute it to lack of stomach muscles and poor posture since she has been born.  :(  It makes it harder to carry her, even in a carrier.  She is spitting up SO MUCH.  It's seriously gross.  I have learned a few tricks to keep her from eating so much at one sitting.  It doesn't eliminate the spitting up, but sometimes it helps.  Yuck.  She is working on holding up her head, and she is also smiling some.  When I lay her on her tummy on the floor, she tries to crawl.  Yep...another one of those.

Picture time, then I'm outta here!

 Who wants a sandbox, when you can dig for worms in the garden???

 This is what we do when it's too cold to play outside.

 My pretty girls all ready for church.