Sunday, December 30, 2012

Oh Snowy Day!

We woke up to this beautiful view out our back door.

So pretty!

Most of the kids were feeling well enough to play (or so they said), so I let everyone except Jordan go out in the snow.  He just wasn't well enough to get cold and wet today.
After church, it was time to play. They were so excited they could hardly wait!

Miraculously, we had enough snow pants and boots for everyone.  They didn't necessarily match but they worked.  Zoey's boots were a bit too big for her but it didn't hold her back.  At all.  I did make a Target run so that she can wear something that fits better tomorrow.  Bless her heart for not complaining!
I know....if I was a better prepared mommy, I would have rummaged around in the basement to inventory their boots prior to today.

When there aren't enough saucers and sleds for everyone, a summer surf board is better than nothing.


Jillian's mittens...she needs some waterproof ones.

Zoey:  Mom...can I take my leg off?
Me:  No.
Zoey:  But it already got stuck between two rocks and fell off.  And now there is a lot of snow stuck to the ankle part. {She had put it back on at this point.}
Me:  Oh, poor Zoey!  But you have to keep it on because you can't hop all over the yard in deep snow.

Sledding should always be followed by mugs of hot chocolate.

I had quite a line up of mugs to fill.

And yeah.... I put that first one there on purpose when I framed the shot.

Christmas cookies and hot chocolate.  YUM!  
Poor Jordan was still coughing a lot but maybe tomorrow he can play in the snow.

Rosy cheeks, static-y hair, and a mug of hot chocolate.

"So, Jordan.  Tell me what you did when we were outside.  I really want to know."

The aftermath of wet snowpants, coats, boots, hats and mittens.

Ahhh....childhood moments of sledding, building forts and being willing to have your feet frozen off just for the fun of playing in the snow.
Good times.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Well...that was interesting...

We had big plans to visit my parents and Jeff's parents over Christmas break.

But alas....the best laid plans of mice and men can certainly go awry. 
And they did.
In the form of sickness.
Apparently 3/4's of the United States is battling a nasty flu-like virus.
And now we are part of that statistic.

Jillian fell prey within hours of arriving at my parents.  She spent Christmas Eve day and Christmas Day pretty much quarantined and in bed with a fever.

We still had hopes of her getting well enough to soldier on to Iowa, but that was not to be.  The day after Christmas, she was fever-free but Jordan and Zoey were not.

We wanted to take ourselves and our germs out of my parents' house to protect them, but there was a snowstorm from Cleveland to New England. 
We couldn't go west to Iowa and we couldn't go east to get home.
We were goin' nowhere.

So we put the sickies in a room with a TV and movies and waited for daylight.
The kids were no better the following morning so we packed up and headed for home.
Thirteen and a half hours later, we were home safely.
But very bummed not to get to see Jeff's family in Iowa.  Wah.

God must have a plan that we do not yet see.

Tonight we have two more sick kids, so I guess it was a wise decision to shorten our trip and head back to the barn.

We DID have a wonderful time while we were there, though!
We saw Ryan!
We ate yummy food.
We spent quality time with my parents.
We ate yummy food.
We enjoyed seeing my dad's brother and his wife.
We ate yummy food.

I need to go to the gym.
I say that like it ever happens.
Or is ever likely to happen.

Here are a few pictures.  I tried to mostly get shots of my dad and the kids together and didn't get too many during the Christmas-present-opening and ensuing bedlam.

Singing Christmas Carols 

The three youngest kids sing a Christmas carol to Grandpa

Katie-bug opens her favorite present of the year.

Ryan's present to Chloe.  They have been best buddies since she was a baby.
Bedtime stories
The photos below are courtesy of my Uncle Jim.
Ryan helps his younger cousins put their new toys together


Group shot!  (Jillian doesn't even look like she has a fever...) 

Sadly, we did not think to do a family picture of just us with Ryan.  wah.
In fact, I have no decent pictures of Ryan because he is so camera shy.

Now we are home and thankful that we were able to see Ryan and spend Christmas with my parents.  Looks like we will hunker down and use lots of kleenex and cough medicine for the next few days as we ring in the New Year. 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

My Dad

I really have neglected this blog lately.  Life just seems to get away from me.

I wanted to post an update on my dad.  He has been having a lot of complications and bleeding that have landed him in ER numerous times.   He went to Cleveland Clinic this week to see if they had better ideas to try to stop the bleeding.  They did.  We were encouraged and optimistic.

They did a surgical procedure today--thinking they would cauterize the tumors in his bladder that are bleeding.

The doctor was not able to get to the tumor(s).  There was too much scar tissue and cancer.  So...this means that he will have to live with the frequent bleeding episodes that cause incredible pain.

He does have the option of one more procedure that might possibly make him more comfortable but it would involve a major surgery. 

I know my parents would appreciate prayer as they decide what to do...and just prayer in general as they walk this road of cancer.

We will be with him for Christmas and are going to try to make it a very special one.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

In Her Own Words...Molly on her trip to Haiti

 My life-changing event.  (My trip to Haiti)
      "So, what did you do?" That was the first question my mom asked me when I 
walked into the door from coming home. I actually was thinking about writing 
this down, as the first question that anyone asked me after coming back from my 
first Missions Trip. Well I guess this kind of counts. I felt like saying, "mom, I 
went to Haiti there's a lot of things I did."   
     Well here's how it all started...our trip starting from when we landed into 
Haiti.  When we landed I knew that there was no turning back. This is it, the 
moment we've all waited for. When you look out of the window right then 
you know that it's not the same in America, of course.
       That day we took a little tour around the area.  That little tour just 
that alone would change a person's thought of  what poor meant.  What we saw 
were houses broken down, kids that weren't all the way dressed, some of them 
were even naked. They also were dirty, they looked like they haven't eaten for a 
long time, but they weren't complaining at all. They all had smiles on there 
faces and it was also hot out, and they didn't have any air conditioning. It was 
heart breaking.  When we came back we talked about it a lot, but that was still 
the first day, the day that we landed. We went to church the next day, and there 
was A LOT of people there. We went to three different church services that day, 
all before lunch time. The people there worship God almost all day, think about 
it, they don't really have anything and they sing their hearts out, plus it's 
also really early in the morning.
     I also worked with kids for three days. Every day they would all line up 
outside and sing their school song, it was really cool.  We acted out Bible 
stories, and sang songs in Creole and in English. They loved it we did crafts 
with them, they would sort of pull your arms and say 'sheeta' which means sit down 
down in Creole. They really liked it when we would sit by them we would sing 
with them, and they would just look at you right in the face and smile. Their 
smiles will just melt your heart. I also worked with the medical team.  I helped 
out with the reading glasses, we would give them something  to read, and if they 
said that it wasn't clear, we would give them a pair of reading glasses. The 
last day I helped with the construction team, we helped build walls around a 
high school. We hauled concrete. It was a lot of work to haul buckets of 
concrete all day. This is what the Haitian men have to do just for one high 
school. They didn't have any of those fancy machines, let's just say they didn't 
have all of those special equipment to build a high school. So, we helped them. 
      Our last full day in Haiti was our "day off" we went up to the mountains 
and to a restaurant and we had American food and went to gift shops .  
     The day we left was a Saturday and the sixth graders came to school to 
study for their test. A few of us went to the church and hooked up a piano and 
started singing worship songs, the kids came out for recess and came to the 
church, and sang with us. They didn't know what they were singing, because we 
were singing in English. But the kids would just come up hold your hand and sit 
by you, and sing with you. Then it was time to get all your stuff together and 
go to the airport. We said good bye to the kids and hugged them good bye. A 
couple of the kids would come up to you and hug you good bye and say I love you. 
That was like the one of the only things they knew in English. Then we left to 
the airport. When our plane took off I looked out of the window, and said good 
bye. When I looked out of the window I knew that I won't be seeing anything like 
this in a LOONG time. I hope to go back to Haiti another time. This trip was the 
best trip I've ever been on in my entire life, and it changed my life forever.
Molly - age 12 
 Molly, a friend, and Jillian

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Like everyone...I have so much to be thankful for today.

- Having a relationship with God
- My family
- My friends
- Good health for most of my loved ones
- Living in America
- Mission trips our family has been able to take this year

And as we loaded up our table with Thanksgiving food, I kept thinking about the hungry people I saw in Honduras who waited patiently in the boiling hot sun for a chance to see a doctor.  Cemented in my mind is the image of a young mom feeding her two small children from a bowl of soup that had belonged to one of the team (we had been eating bowls of soup for lunch, got full, and didn't want to throw the food away when we knew people were hungry.  We offered the waiting families the food and they eagerly took it).

I'm so very thankful for the bounty at my table today, but it's hard to enjoy it without thinking of those who are going to bed hungry tonight.

Or those who are deployed and not with their families. 

Or families who have an newly empty seat at their tables.

This year, my dad is battling cancer and I wish so much that I could be with him for Thanksgiving.  But today, we are miles apart and that is okay because God is enough.
He always is enough.

An excerpt from my devotional today (Jesus Calling, by Sarah Young), said:
"A thankful mind-set does not entail a denial of reality with its plethora of problems.  Instead, it rejoices in Me, your Savior, in the midst of trials and tribulations.  I am your refuge and strength, an ever present and well-proved help in trouble."

Counting my blessings...and they are MANY.

I hope all of you have a wonderful day remembering all the things you have to be thankful for!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Taking two six year olds to Target

First...before I get to the Target story, I wanted to post an update on my dad.  He is currently being treated for cancer with Provenge, which is a vaccine made from his own blood cells to try to get his body to fight his cancer cells.  He did very well with the first treatment but had a second one on Friday and had a bad reaction.  He has been unable to eat for three days and is very sick.  He ended up back in ER the next day for pain.  Then today, he was back in ER for some other complications with his catheter--and they found an infection.  He had a meeting with his oncologist today and was told that his cancer is in his bladder and is 'advancing.'  Also...last Wednesday, my mom fell and hurt her arm--the same one she broke last year.  The ER doctor said it was broken, but today her surgeon said that it wasn't--just a very bad bruise.  So we are thankful for that. 

I'm posting the Target story because my parents love to hear stories about their grandchildren and I thought this might put a smile on their faces.  They've had a tough week.

The kids didn't have school today because of Veteran's Day.  It was my intention to sneak out to Target this afternoon to pick up a few necessities.

Why do I over-estimate my own abilities to fake the kids out?  WHY?

Of course, I didn't get out of the driveway with less than two kids.  The little ones normally do not get to go to the store, for obvious reasons.

But there they were, chirping happily in the backseat, unable to contain their excitement at their good fortune.

When we arrived, I decided to treat myself to Starbucks.  Coffee isn't for kids, so why would they want any?  Right?

I forgot that Starbucks puts juice boxes at the eye level of small children.  How devious.
Soon, two sets of pleading eyes were looking up at me.
Foolishly, I asked if they would rather have hot chocolate. 
Kate is fashionable enough to carefully weigh the pros and cons--and swiftly decided that she wanted the apple juice to save her shirt from a possible spill.
Jake, on the other hand, has no such worries.  He wanted the hot chocolate.

The person who took our order promised the drink would be made cooler than normal.
The person who made it had no idea of what had been promised and produced a boiling hot drink.

So we put it in our the spot where a child can sit, waiting for it to cool off.
We scooted merrily around the store, picking up our purchases.  The kids talked non-stop and kept deviating off course and toward any bright, shiny item that caught their eye. 
Kate, who loves to talk, informed me that she was very chit-chatty.
I agreed.

We admired the pillows, the candles, the knick-knacks.  And then, I looked down.
To my horror, I saw that the hot chocolate had tipped over and was literally POURING in a stream down the side of the cart and onto the floor.
Could I skulk away without notice?
I rolled the cart forward and realized that with every inch we traveled, there were tell-tale drips on the floor.  The wheel was also coated and leaving behind a nice tire track.

I rolled the cart forward again...uncertain.  What should I do?
I had one crummy kleenex in my purse.  It didn't sop up much.
Certainly not enough soppage to hide our trail of guilt.
By then, we were getting some stares from other patrons.  Ack.
"Hide me!"  Or let me disappear into the floor.
It's pretty much impossible to hide a huge hot chocolate spill on white tile.
And there we were, standing near it with brown liquid still dripping from our cart.
It's also nearly impossible not to draw attention to yourself when two six year olds are asking loud questions like, "What it my fault?"  "What are we going to do?" "Mommy, der's still a big mess on da floor."

Finally, a Target employee happened nearby and I went over and told her that we were the obnoxious people who had left a bit of spillage.
She graciously went to get the necessary items to clean it.  I eventually was given some paper towel to clean our cart, and the incident came to an end.
As we were exiting the area, the employee kindly said, "You can go back to Starbucks and tell them you spilled your drink.  They will give you a new one."

Well...that is really nice of Starbucks, but I had a sneaking feeling that if Jake entered the minivan with a full cup of hot chocolate, I would be cleaning another spill when I got home.

He drank what was left in his cup without complaint...and all was right with his world.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Election Day is Tomorrow

I try not to get too political on this blog but I have decided to share my impressions and photos from a political rally I attended a few days ago.

It's probably not too difficult to figure out that I do not support Obama's policies.  I am pro-life and a big advocate for Israel, want better jobs for the poor (and everyone), and do not support 'redistribution of wealth.'

A friend called me the other day to see if I wanted to accompany her to a Romney/Ryan rally in New Hampshire.  Truth be told, I had already decided not to go because it started at 8:30AM, with gates opening at 6:30AM, and the rally was several hours away.  That was just waaaay too early for this girl to get out of bed.  However, my friend had the idea to go up the night before, split the cost of a hotel room, and take a few of our girls.  How could I say no?

We crawled out of bed at 5AM.  I don't do that for just anyone, ya'll.

When we arrived, there was a looong line of people who had obviously gotten up earlier than we had.
It was cold and we all stood there shivering but full of excitement to see the crowd was so large.  New England isn't exactly a bastion of Republican turnout.

Once we got in...we saw the Romney plane and lined up for a photo.

And then we played and the crowd got bigger.  And bigger...  And it helped to keep all of us warm as we stood there looking out over the tarmac.

I digress a minute to say that I wasn't a Romney fan at the beginning of his race.  It wasn't a matter of dislike, I just didn't think he was charismatic enough to go up against Obama.  As the race has gone on, I have come to respect him.  But after being at the rally, I am very impressed.  He was humble, genuine, and there is a kindness that emanates from his eyes.

Back to the rally....

We scored a spot about 15-20 feet from the podium!!  I couldn't believe it!

After an hour and a half or so, the Romney/Ryan bus pulled up to loud cheering from the crowd.  Out stepped Bobby Jindal, John Thune, Kelly Ayotte, and Marcia Blackburn.  Woohoo...BONUS!
I really wish I was taller so I could have gotten up above the crown for a better picture. I was in the middle, so behind me and to the left of me, the crowd was just as large.

Flag waving Patriots

Marcia Blackburn was the first to address the crowd.  She is a senator from TN and was warmly welcomed.

 Bobby Jindal, governor of Louisiana gave a great speech

 I don't know who this was.  

 John Thune, from South Dakota - another great speech

Kelly Ayotte, senator from New Hampshire introduced Mitt Romney.

Chloe stood on the metal fence--craning for a better view of Mitt.

Lo, and behold...ANN ROMNEY was there, too!  Double Bonus!!  She is truly a sweet, gracious woman.  She thanked the crowd for coming and said she knew that most late autumn Saturday mornings in New England were spent raking leaves, and she knew we all had important things to do that we set aside to come out and support Mitt.

I totally love this picture because it clearly shows the genuine love between these two.

Ann bragged on Mitt a bit and he lowered his head, seemingly embarrassed by the praise.

Crowd response to Ann was VERY enthusiastic.
When Mitt stepped up to the microphone, he suddenly was overcome with emotion as he thanked the crowd for turning out on a cold, early morning in New Hampshire.  I was very moved to see how kind his eyes he seemed to really connect with everyone as he promised to create more jobs for those hurting in the current economy.  I got the distinct impression that he is running for this office for one thing...not to be powerful...not to be successful...not to be adored, but rather because he feels in his core that he can help his beloved America.  He could retire and spend the rest of his life leisurely enjoying what he has worked for.  But instead, he wants to serve a nation that needs his help.  He is trading his freedom for a life lived in the shadow of body guards and swat teams (they were on the roof of the airport building behind us).  It was also clear that the responsibility of the Office weighs on him and he takes it very seriously.  He struck me as a humble man, who was truly moved that he might be trusted with this important job.  Absent was the arrogance that is sometimes seen in candidates. 

"Don't vote for Revenge.  Vote for LOVE OF COUNTRY!" he announced, which brought a HUGE ROAR from the crowd.
"America is about to come roaring back!"  brought another enthusiastic, cheering response.

After a brief speech, they left the stage to start shaking hands with people.  I thought they might just shake a few hands and leave, but no...they stayed for a long time, making their way from one end of the fence to the other.  The crowd was holding up three fingers to indicate, "Three more days."

The crowd continued to follow them and take pictures.

Ann graciously spoke to supporters and shook hands.

At that point, I thought we were probably done and could start for home, since we weren't that close to either of them, and I couldn't get very good pictures.  But then my girls decided they wanted to try to shake Mitt's hand and headed into the crowd.  
I couldn't let them go alone, so I started in after them as they wiggled and squirmed their way to the fence.
I'm so glad I did.

Because we got this close!  He was signing autographs, which kind of astonished me.   I did not use a telephoto lens for this shot...we were about 3-5 feet away from him.

I tried to get a shot of him signing this but couldn't get far enough back to get the book into the frame.

He started to move away from us so I was able to get some shots of what he was signing.  He patiently signed one book after another.  There was an air about of caring and patience, not one of manic, "OK--let's get a few books signed for a photo-op and then get on to the next event."  I wish I could more adequately describe this man.  His body language was steady, unhurried, calm, kind, and reassuring.  I felt I could trust him.  That he wasn't trying to impress me, but was just being himself and letting me decide if I was okay with that.

My girls REALLY wanted to shake his hand but were pretty shy about sticking their hands out.  He signed autographs for what seemed like forever (which astonished me all the more) and then just as he looked like he would start shaking hands again, the Secret Service came and took him off to an interview.  

Molly said later, "When we got that close to him, I was shaking with excitement."
I was surprised and delighted that my girls were so engaged in the process.

The girls wanted to follow him to the other end of the fence area to watch the interview, so off we went.  We got up to the fence again--but were pretty far away from the action.  The girls decided we needed to be closer.   
Slave drivers, those two. 

We got a bit closer.  While I lingered to get a few shots, the girls disappeared. 

And then turned up in my next shot!

I turned around to see if the crowds had thinned behind me.
Again...wish I could have been taller to get a better shot of how many were there.
I realize it's not as BLUE as Massachusetts or New York but still...

And then it was time for Mitt to board the plane and go to the next rally.
Good-bye, sir.  Thank you for your willingness to serve this country.
I hope you will be given the job.

The crowd cheers and waves good-bye

On our way out to the car, we stopped for a photo-op with Mr. Ovide who is running for governor in New Hampshire.

Molly and Chloe snagged this sign which they planted in our front yard the minute we arrived home.

Much to my amusement, there was an "Occupy Wall Street" rally on site as we walked out to the car.
They managed to attract a huge crowd of FOUR to attend.
I couldn't resist calling out to them as I walked by, "NICE TURNOUT!"  
To which the person in the green coat gave me the stink eye.  haha 

All in all...I'm very glad I made the effort to attend the rally. 
It was definitely worth getting up at 5AM.