Saturday, May 13, 2017

Homeschool = More Family Time

In January, we started homeschooling all three school-aged children. Natalie was thrilled to have more time with her brothers and sister. Although it was a lot of work and frustration because we're all new at this, it has been very rewarding! Right away we started seeing benefits of being together more and having more freedom and flexibility (and less crowds!).

One day for lunch, we decided to pack a picnic and run to a park in a nearby neighborhood. You can't do that in public school on a weekday!

We went to the movies one day when everyone finished their work in time (It was to see Rogue One, not King Kong, but they were having fun with the "dirty hand" display).

I love to see them hanging out together! I wish I could say it was always easy-going between them, but that would be unrealistic. I will take what I can get!

It's crazy and chaotic sometimes. It can be dramatic and difficult, too. But it's also really fun and rewarding and...just so worth it. They're making memories together. They are bonding. And they're giving their little sister a chance to be less isolated than her age would normally require. I know it's probably temporary, but we are enjoying the benefits of homeschooling!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Nine on the Nineth!

 Noah turned 9 on the 9th! He chose to go to Laser Tag with his best friend Jayden. In order for Jared to make it, we went while he was still in town.
 These guys love this stuff! And, apparently, picking your nose in a picture is the cool thing to do. I guess Jared's not cool.

Afterward, we went to CiCi's Pizza...where only Natalie would stand still for a picture. That just tells you that had fun and kept getting up for more pizza. Actually, they spent the majority of the time in the arcade.
 Jayden's gift for Noah was the coolest--Minecraft and animals!? Pretty good combination, coming from a fan of both; going to a fan of both. Noah was pretty proud of this stack from smallest to biggest:

On the day of Noah's birthday, he woke up to a phone call from his Dad and some presents--of course the cheetah shirt was a favorite!
This guy is a sweetheart. I can't believe he's nine already!

His Uncle Danny knew he'd love this building set. Noah worked on it for hours (he had help here and there, but it was mostly just him). You can see just the beginnings on his actual birthday.
 For his birthday dinner, Noah chose wisely (steak!). And all the kids were pretty excited about their very own bottle of carbonated sugar.

Noah's cake was from Cold Stone Creamery--deliciousness!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The Middles on New Year's Day

I had to show off some of the middle children's crazy silliness from January 1, 2017. Jared busted out the camera while these two were outside.

Ellie jumped for her photoshoot.

Noah threw a rock and caught it the whole time.
These two kiddos are so special! They love to play--together as well as alone. They have a pretty hard job being not quite oldest and not quite youngest. But we sure love them for who they are!

Monday, May 1, 2017

Christmas Day 2016

Also known as: New Year's Eve (day).
There's something glorious about a Christmas tree on the morning of its intended holiday. We left Natalie's angel wings on it for the entire season.
 We came down to find Ellie and Isaac happily playing the new chess game.
Even Natalie was awake. "I just woke up like this."
Noah was still in bed. What 8 year old want to sleep in on Christmas!? He tricked me; he was really awake.

Let the present-opening begin!
 Everybody loved their gifts, but our favorite part was watching Natalie.

She was pretty tuckered out by bedtime, though--we found her like this:

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Science at the School of Laney

So, I have to skip ahead today. I know we haven't even gotten to New Year's on the blog, but the kiddos had to present their science research and the Internet's the only way to do it right. I did try to text their videos to the aunts and grandparents that were the intended targets of this Knowledge Fest, but the files were just too dag-blasted large. Spoiler alert: we started homeschooling!

This month, we were learning about so many sea creatures, it was awesome. But the kids all had more questions about certain ones--questions that take more research and time. So, we decided to make a project out of it. We checked out books and did internet searches, watched videos and even went to the beach (yeah, that's why homeschool rocks)!  Toward the end, we lost our momentum, but we finally finished yesterday, so it must be presented.

Ellie: Jellies
Ellie was originally interested in just jellyfish, but some of the books she read got her interested in all things jelly, so she went all out. She made some drawings and the bulletin board was her choice of backboard. Here is her video presentation: 


Isaac: Whales
Isaac had originally been researching clams, but, after a few days, he decided clams weren't as exciting to do a whole project he switched to whales. After much ado about which animal to do, he pulled this Power Point off in a single afternoon. However, if you want to view the slide show, you have to get an invite for Key Note Live. Sorry, I tried every way I could, but the photos of slides wouldn't upload. Boo. Send me your email if you want an invite.

Noah: Sharks
Noah wanted to do sharks; he didn't change that. He wanted to make a video; he didn't change that. And he wanted to have it on a poster; he didn't change that, either. However, after a zillion half-starts, the only video that got finished was not to his liking...but we weren't going to change it. So, it's not as perfect as he would like. Blogger is unable to upload both videos, so I'll put it in the next post. Here's some of his pictures:

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Christmas "Eve" 2016

The best part of our Christmas was having the Daddy home. Although everyone was happy to have him there again, no one doted on him more than Natalie.

 We had a nice dinner and made gingerbread houses that wouldn't stay up, but were pretty just the same.

We sang songs and did the usual traditions, including the star (flashlight) hunt all over the casa to hear different parts of the story of the Nativity.

The boys were a little too crazy to pose for a decent picture, but the girls obliged.

Silly boys.
 We we finally got around to opening presents, all eyes were on Natalie. It is so magical to see a little one discover Christmas wonders! I was super curious to see what Gerry sent home with me weeks before, so that's what I chose to open. I couldn't have been more surprised--a lap harp! Although, for some crazy reason, that thought had occurred to me.... I still am not proficient, but I think it's a darn cool instrument to have!
 Silly boys. They can be found like this at nearly any given time. And here is Natalie opening Bob & Tiffany's gift of play food. She LOVES it!
After much fun and shenanigans, we put the kiddies to bed with some old-fashioned Mom & Dad caroling in Spanish. Good times (for us padres)!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Ways to Await Another Christmas

Our good friends, the MacBeths, invited us to come with them to the zoo on the day after Christmas. It was their youngest daughter's birthday, and she loves the zoo. It just so happens that we love the zoo, too! Our passes had expired a few months previous, so it was awesome to be their guests (the MacBeths have the fancy passes)!

That evening we joined the MacBeths again, this time in Government Canyon. We enjoyed a fantastic dinner of hot dogs and s'mores to top off the birthday celebrations. I love hanging out with the MacBeths; one of my favorite things about them is how they have an extra gourmet version of everything for the adults--spared no expense!, as John Hammond would say. No pictures of any of that; sorry.

It was nice to just be with my kids again, and not have anything but a celebration/Daddy's homecoming on the horizon; no school or obligations except to enjoy each other. I have to savor these moments because I often miss them if I don't. Being away from them the previous weeks helped us all enjoy each other a little more.

 And then there was the dentist. Here we are, waiting.

I had to snap this because it feels so rare to see people reading books these days. Every other person in that room was on their phone (including me). I love that my kids love to read. They also love to talk and interact; I love to see that in them. I don't want them to ever grow up and get phones and turn into the common, boring people I see all around.

Natalie interacts with people, as well. She learned to give kisses, but on this particular day they were followed by 3 smackeroos to the forehead, for good measure. I didn't quite catch all that on video, but we enjoyed the moment all the same.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017


We had a memorable holiday season this year. Instead of celebrating Christmas on December 25, we waited for Jared to get home and celebrated December 31st. It made for more partying, actually.

The cute grandkids of our next-door neighbors came out to socialize on Christmas Eve during the day...already in their pajamas. 

We celebrated Hanukkah and had some latkes on Christmas Eve.
After church on Christmas Day, Natalie was asleep in the car and the kids were so cute, I had to take a few pictures.
These jokers!
I added some decorations to the house on PicMonkey...since the kids say we're boring....
That evening, our good friends, the Redds, invited us to dinner at their house.
Such good times. And such good potato salad...Chilean style! And that was how we spent Christmas, the first time around.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Say What?? El Paso!?

Okay, so I've mentioned a few times that Jared had been in El Paso for work quite often, since September. At first I had thought this "temp" job would only be a few weeks until he found something closer to home. But then, it turns out, he really liked the job, and those "close to home" jobs were not turning up so much. So he was back in El Paso for another few weeks. I was overjoyed when he accepted a San Antonio job, but it wasn't going to start until January, so I had to bide my time.

It was hard to be a single parent for so long. I don't know how military wives do it--they are made of strong stuff! Sometimes I had to just leave and go on a walk around the block (usually in a huff). Sometimes the kids had to do something similar.

Our phone conversations with Jared usually buoyed us up somewhat. We needed all the strength we could get. One night as Jared and I were talking after I had finally put the kids to bed, he said something like, "I just wish you could be here and work here. You'd really like it." I passed that off as one or both of the following: 1) Jared's communicating to me that he missed me; 2) a way for him to convince me that his job was great, and, therefore, these sacrifices were worth it. I didn't for a moment take it seriously.

I mean, come on: I hadn't worked since June 2010 (six and a half years of unemployment, people)! Sometimes I even forgot I was a nurse; I just kept renewing my license every two years.

So I forgot about it immediately. Our anniversary was approaching, but he wouldn't be home for it. We had been celebrating every milestone/birthday/holiday since Halloween a little early because he was always gone, and the big 1-4 wouldn't be any different. HOWEVER, he did get me an early surprise for my anniversary: a JOB in EL PASO, complete with babysitting from my very capable sister, Noelle!

Say what?? Yep.

It was a bit of a whirlwind after that: getting all the approvals, trying to get all the necessary documents sent (mostly from Alabama), airline tickets, etc. But somehow, we did it. The deal was, I was going for the experience: a break from full-time mothering, a vacation with my husband, and a chance to be a nurse again. I wasn't going for the money. Noelle would be paid every cent I earned. Believe me, she totally earned it!! For an account of what went on for the week and a half I was gone, see Noelle's blog. It is a great, honest & hilarious read.

On the way to El Paso, I could hardly believe I was going. Was this for real? Would Noelle survive? Would my kids miss me? The answer to the last question was: Yes, but probably only Natalie!
 Being there in El Paso was an experience I'll never forget, but I couldn't really take pictures. We were working 12 hour shifts, 7 days a week. We were working with unaccompanied minors, so we couldn't take pictures. But it was an awesome experience to work with these beautiful kids and the special co-workers I met. Now I could see why Jared loved this job! What's more, I was able to brush up on my Spanish and my nursing assessment skills and I made a lot of friends in those few days. Because Christmas was fast approaching, the place began to take on more and more of a festive appearance...

While I was there, the food was great and the nights were long but almost magical. It was hard to stay awake all night, especially when it was slow, but I'm so glad we got to bond with those folks!
 And have you HEARD about the provider in charge!? He is one handsome devil, quite beloved by both patients and nurses alike. Jared showed me what an awesome NP he is (I already knew he was, but I actually got to see it)! That might have been the best part. Everybody loves Jared. That's my husband! He made everyone laugh, whether he was telling a joke to a patient in Spanish or chatting it up with the staff. He made everyone feel at ease because you can ask him anything: he won't mock you for a dumb question or tell you he's too busy, ever.  And I got to follow him around when I wasn't busy, learning new words or assessment techniques. Nobody else did that, but I've got Wife Privileges.

Here he is in front of one the church buildings we attended.

The mornings were always glorious and clear, with the Organ and Franklin Mountains of New Mexico looking like a watercolor painting. By the way, we technically worked in New Mexico, but we stayed in El Paso.

 Soon, it was time to go home. I worked my last night and took a quick nap on a couch in the airport the next morning. I was so happy to be able to sit on the plane by my new friend, Damaris, who had trained me on my first day!
I came home to a clean house (!!) and I soon picked up my little loveys from their friends' houses. I was surprised at what a sweet feeling it was to hug each one of them--I knew I had missed them, but the hug was what made me really feel that love. Home again, home again, jiggity jig.

PS-We are ALL so grateful to Noelle, who made this all happen!