October 22, 2008

Our week

It's been a week since I've posted anything, mostly due to the fact that I'm suffering from a case of Priorities. This is the condition in which you'd really LIKE to be doing things you enjoy, like blogging, but out of necessity other stuff gets in fun's way. Like dishes, laundry, grocery shopping, hourly putting away thousands of items that land in the walking space (or hounding the little people who put them there to put them away), etc. Okay, so it hasn't all been pain and suffering.
Wednesday of last week we hit the road after gymnastics class and headed to McDonough. My dad was out of town on business, so the kids and I stayed with mom through Saturday. The main reason for going was to see my grandparents- Nanny, and Granny and PaPa, plus any other relatives who happen to be un-busy. My family gets together pretty regularly, but since most of them live in or near McDonough it's easy for them to throw something together last minute and we can't usually come. Hence the occasional trip to visit. We spent most of Wednesday afternoon with Nanny (my mom's mom), who lives next door to my folks. She enjoys the kids, and I enjoy her. I know we would hang out a lot if I lived near her. The kids enjoyed playing with Grandmommy's toys that evening, and after much popping up out of bed for lots of trivial things, they finally all went to sleep.

Thursday morning mom gave the kids the choice of a trip to the Aquarium or to Imagine It, which is a children's museum in Atlanta. They had been there before, and have talked and talked about it, so that's what they chose. There's really nothing "museum" about it, it's a big place soley for kids to play. They do have several exhibits, as they call them, but they're all to play with.

Here Amelia tends to her flower garden. She loves planting and picking the flowers. Maybe we'll do a real one this summer.

They have a Bob the Builder theme going on as the special exhibit for a few months, and had a lot of construction themed things. Shannon hauled rocks all over that place in a wheelbarrow.

All of them painted, and Avery particularly enjoyed it. Perhaps because at home I still try to make him think he's "painting" with a brush and water while the other two use real paint. I think he's catching on...

Poor Elizabeth gets dragged around wherever we go, with no normal nap time to speak of. I was a bit of a sleep Nazi with the first two compared to how it's gone with the last two. Doesn't look any worse for it, does she?

They have a couple of bins full of "moon sand," which is sand somehow mixed with wax. It sticks together like wet sand but doesn't get all over the place and doesn't stick to you.

Here's Shannon's favorite thing, the ball crane. There's a whole series of "machinery" balls can go through, elevators, coveyer belts, chutes, and then the crane. He thinks this is the coolest thing there. Here he is dumping the balls into the crane's box so he can get in the seat, turn the crane, and dump them in another bin.

Everyone had their face painted. Avery had a really good angelfish on his cheek, and sat very still while it was being painted. He was proud of it. Amelia's butterfly and Shannon's puppy were at their request. Shannon's had a cute tongue painted on, but he licked it off after about three seconds. (Hence, the smudge.)

We ended up staying about six hours that day, until it closed and they ran us out. That sounds like a long time to play at one place, but the time really did fly and they still weren't ready to leave. If you're ever in Atlanta with kids, I recommend going to this place. Thanks for a fun day, Grandmommy!

On Friday my brother Jonathan and sister-in-law Lisa came to mom's house. Jon works with my dad, and drives from Marietta to McDonough almost everyday. He brought Lisa and my niece Jordan, and we got to hang out while he was at work, then they spent that night at mom's. We took all the kids to visit my dad's folks, Granny and PaPa. It's always great to see them, and we enjoyed our visit. I don't get to see them nearly enough. They've had a lot of health issues over the last year, particularly my Granny. Papa has diabetes and she's always taken care of him, but this past year she had a stroke and has been working hard to recover. He has mostly taken over running the household and taking care of her. She has taken it all in stride, just as she always has handled the curveballs in life, but did ask me before I left to keep praying that she could get back to normal again. I know it's hard for her, she's always been very independent and active.

I got to spend part of Friday afternoon doing some long overdue clothes shopping, get this- BY MYSELF! If I weren't so "economically minded," I might have come away with a whole bunch of stuff, but ended up with enough to tide me over for awhile. I've finally decided to retire some of my wardrobe from college. This decision is based partly on the outdatedness of some of it, but mostly on the hole/fray factor. Shopping wasn't easy though, on top of disliking to part with my money, I also seem to be woefully stuck between the junior department being too young/skanky and the women's department being a little too "mature" for me. Perhaps this is why I tend to end up in the dressing room with things that look just like what I already have at home (minus the holes). Be safe, go with what you know.

While at Grandmommy's we also played outside. This is my almost 15 month old niece, Jordan. She's a cutie pie, and is a fun age. Did I mention earlier that I'm going to be an aunt again? Jon and Lisa are expecting! :) This makes me happy.

Seems Shannon is doomed to ride a pink bike wherever he goes. Thanks to Mimi he does finally have a helmet that doesn't have princesses on it. At one point he cut the handlebars too sharply and took a spill. He has spent the last week telling people about his, "road rash."

Saturday morning Jonathan and Lisa headed for home. The kids and I spent some more time with Nanny, and walked over to see my Aunt Jackie and cousin Luke, wife and son to mom's brother, my Uncle Don. Mid-afternoon I packed up the car and headed back to the hills. We had a Sunday School party that night, and I decided to go straight there from mom's rather than going home first, since then I would have to backtrack several miles. James was busy with a men's retreat at camp and couldn't join us anyway. We enjoyed fun with friends and some awesome soup and chili.

Shannon immediately found Curtis who was hooking up the tractor for a hayride. He loves man stuff, and always wants to help.

Here's the hayride crew! This was the first really chilly evening we've had this month. The kids went on hayride number two after it got dark and were all piled under blankets.

The party was hosted by Pete and Heather Talton, who are in our class. This is Heather and their son Silas, who is just about to be a year old. On the left is Carson Baumgardener, who likes little ones and is going to be a big sister again herself in May.

Sunday the kids and I went to church while James wrapped things up with the group at camp. That afternoon we had Open House here at camp, to show folks the facility, tell them about the program, and give them a chance to try out some camp activities (climbing, horseback riding, canoeing, archery, riflery). The day was beautiful, and we had a steady stream of folks, frankly more than I was expecting. This was the first time we have held one in the fall. We're doing all we can to fill up camp, which isn't easy with the patheticness of the economy right now. God is keeping things going a day at a time though, and we have faith that He will keep camp growing. There were a lot of summer staff around that day, so it was fun to catch up with them. My kids will grow up warped in some way I'm sure...today we were discussing birth order and Shannon asked me when we had the counselors!! I wish I had Open House pictures, but I was busy giving camp tours the entire time.

Monday was a "boring" stay at home day. We never left the house and still I felt I accomplished zero, but looking around realized that at the end of the day the kids were fed (at least three times), were clean, were in clothes that were clean, Amelia had "been to school," and the house although untidy didn't smell funky or weird, so...seems I accomplished plenty!

Tuesday morning we had playgroup at INK (Interactive Neighborhood for Kids) in Gainesville. This is another children's museum, and the kids love going there. While at the one in Atlanta I bought a membership, which is recognized by the Gainesville one. Now we can go whenever we want, which suits the kids just fine.

Here are Lyndsi, Amelia, and Ruth in the library. Ruth is practicing her shorthand typing skills.

There's a display with things that work when the kids press buttons. Avery loves this one because there's a train that goes around and a backhoe that digs when you press the right button. He also loves this shirt. "See my PUNkin?," he says, in classic Avery talk. (Accentuate the first syllable.)

Here's Jenny holding Elizabeth. She has developed this licking thing. One night a few weeks back while holding her I suddenly realized my shoulder was soaking wet, and that she was licking me! Oddly enough I also have a picture of Amelia at this age with her head turned to the side, licking her car seat. Guess she's hinting that she's ready to try some solid food...

There's a very friendly turtle there. He kept following Avery every direction he walked, and would come up to the glass when he put his finger on it. Maybe he likes PUNkin shirts too.

On the way home the older two kids made sure I knew they didn't want or need a nap that day. I usually do school with Amelia while the others are napping anyway, but Shannon usually still sleeps a little each afternoon. After all of our partying with Grandmommy and friends, they were actually tired and fell asleep in the car. I woke up two very whiny kids when we got home, and told them to go lay down on the couch or chair, thinking they would perk up after a few minutes. Here's what happened instead.

They both slept an hour and a half this way!

The rest of the week was spent doing the usual, gymnastics Wednesday morning with a trip to Ingles thrown in just for fun (and groceries and laundry detergent, lest we go hungry or be doomed to stinky clothes). Wednesday night was church, Thursday was spent at home until going to Rebecca's for Thursday night dinner. My dad joined us, since he was in town, as did Alison's mom who was visiting from Ohio for the week. Today is Friday, another homebound day. We do have a group here through the middle of next week, so it's been great to have meals taken care of. We went to the Dining Hall for all three of them today.

We officially have nothing planned for tomorrow, Saturday, either. James will be busy all day with now two groups who are here at the same time. I hope to get some pants hemming done since all of Avery's winter stuff is too long. If only I were good at it. I put it off tonight so I could work on this. Seems when you read a post that it shouldn't take very long to do it, but it really does. Picture loading isn't quick, then I blah blah blah about everything that's been going on, then because it's me and I don't like typos or weird grammar, I re-read several times before I officially post it. (No doubt you will still find plenty of typos and weird grammar!) So...it's not a short process. But it's still fun, and one day when there are no toys left in the walking spaces, a lot less laundry to do, and when grocery shopping takes me 1/4 of the time it does now (sniff, sniff), I will be very glad I spent the time on it. (Sniff. I will stop thinking about that now.)

And here's one last parting shot of Elizabeth, who I, perhaps a bit biased, think gets cuter everyday.

October 14, 2008


We had a great mini vacation to Charleston, SC over this past weekend. We left Friday to head that way, after James single handedly made pizzas for a group at camp. We had been planning to go to Rick and Diana's wedding for sometime, but we didn't get the logistics figured out until the week before. We considered farming out the kids (except Elizabeth) and heading up there, though I really did want to bring them with us. In the course of talking to Curtis and Jenny Davidson about possibly leaving Amelia with them, they said they had been considering Charleston as a fall break possibility. So they came along too, and we found a great arrangement at a Residence Inn with two bedrooms. The kids thought it was awesome and were ready to move in. My parents also came for the wedding, and stayed in a room next door.

We caravanned to Charleston, and managed to cram a five hour trip into only seven hours, arriving at 10:00 PM. This was after 2 or 15 potty breaks, and one particularly un-quick stop at a Chick-Fil-A where a bus pulled in at the same time we did and let every person out at the door. Talk about a crowded place! We managed to get food for our families and then ate outside on the parking lot curb. I wondered with all the food orders being made if they might run out of chicken and doom us to a dinner of carrot and raisin salad.

I've yet to mention the rain. Well, it rained. And rained and rained and rained and rained. All weekend. Saturday morning after breakfast in the hotel (where more than one person commented on the fact that there were 8 kids, and how did that happen, and were we all related, were some adopted, etc.), we decided to go into downtown Charleston and look around. It was cloudy but just spitting a little rain when we left. By the time we made it to a parking spot, it was POURING. So instead we made a trip to the grocery store and then back to the hotel for lunch. The hotel had a great heated outdoor pool and hot tub, so we let them go swimming. When we asked for pool towels the lady at the front desk said, "You realize it's raining, right?" What the hey, you're already wet when you go swimming!

We left for the wedding mid-afternoon, leaving all but Elizabeth with Curtis and Jenny at the hotel. They made a party of it while we were gone. Earlier Rick had called to make sure we weren't planning to wear our favorite shoes, as the wedding was outside in Diana's back yard and the grass was squishy. They had wanted to get married on the beach but apparently there is a lot of hassle and expense that comes with that, so instead Rick built an arbor and they hauled in some sand so they could still get married "barefooted on the beach." They also ended up renting a giant tent to accomodate Mother Nature.

It was a happy occasion, and no one's spirits seemed dampened at all by the downpour. It was a nice celebration, and they were very happy.

Here's Rick, Diana, and Diana's daughter Danielle. Danielle is a student at the College of Charleston, and she will be staying in Charleston. Rick and Diana will be our new neighbors at camp, and they will be moving into the farm house next door since Rick just sold his house in Clevland.

Here are Danielle, Diana, Rick and Rick's sons Andrew and Tyler, who both live in Cleveland. Both of them have worked with us at camp as well.

Rick and Diana have a cool story. At the end of Andrew's senior year of high school, he was invited to go on a cruise with a friend from Cleveland. He met Danielle on the cruise, and kept in touch with her after returning home. One weekend Rick drove him up to Charleston to see her, he met her mother Diana, and three years later look where they are! We are very happy for Rick. He means a lot to us, and is irreplaceable at camp. He's the one who has made camp the beautiful place it is today.

Sunday morning my folks went back to McDonough, since my dad had a business trip to get ready for.

Sunday was our day for sight seeing. It was also Bennett's 8th birthday. We went to Patriot's Point to see this:

This is the USS Yorktown, an aircraft carrier commissioned during WWII. It was very cool to see,and makes me all the more appreciative of those who have and do sacrifice for our country. I don't think this could have been an enjoyable place to live and work. It was operational with 3000 men. Today's aircraft carriers have over 6000 people on board. Wow!

We darted in and out of the rain touring the Yorktown (it took us three tries to finally get to see the flight deck and the historical aircraft parked on it...and even then we got rained on). We also took a boat ride out to Fort Sumter. Just prior to that we had a picnic in a pavillion by the ship. A lady came up to us with over half of a leftover birthday cake and offered it to us since she couldn't take it two hours back home. What are the odds- we had a birthday boy, here was a cake!

This trip was the first time we've taken the kids to anything historical, and there were many opportunities to show them how things were "back then." Shannon kept commenting about "the smell" everytime we went to an enclosed part of the ship. I told him that's what old stuff smells like. History stinks, in other words. :)

Here's the boat ride out to the fort. It started raining so hard at one point that we all ducked down below to get out of it.

Here comes the weather. This was an amazing bridge. Way cool.

Fort Sumter

Here's Maggie getting shot out of a cannon.

Avery also tried to shoot Shannon out of a cannon. The boys thought the weapons were awesome, and wanted me to take them out of their display cases at the museum.

Heading back from the fort.

There are a couple of retired ships to see docked near the Yorktown. With all the dodge-the-rain-with-8-kids-in-tow fun we were having, we only got to see this one, the USS Clamagore, a sub. Talk about TIGHT! I think I would not enjoy serving on this thing very much.

And here's how Elizabeth spent the day.

Out of all the neat things we saw this day, my kids decided the best part was "the dolphin show." There were dolphins just off the deck of the ship, and they kept surfacing and eating fish. We saw them swimming upside down with the fish above them. It was really neat, and an unexpected treat for the day.

That evening, wet and bedraggled, we found a seafood restaurant and Bennett got his chosen birthday dinner, a plate full of fresh shrimp. Avery was actually asleep on the bench on the front porch of the restaurant while they got our table ready. He managed to perk up for food.

All were tired, but it was a good day. Monday morning dawned windy and sunny. We headed out to Folly Beach so the kids could see the ocean before heading home. The wind was whipping up miniature sand storms as the top layer of sand dried from all the rain. The water was chilly, but it didn't stop any of the kids. They thought it was great regardless. We played on the beach for about an hour and half, then hosed everyone off in the COLD water at the shower house, good enough for the long ride home.

Avery loves the water and it is hard to explain to a two year old why you can't just let him go in the ocean alone. He also liked chasing seagulls. He was getting frustrated about not being able to catch one.

Sand art.

To say Amelia loves the ocean is an understatement. She's been talking regularly about going back to the beach since we went to Gulf Shores last September.

Here's how Elizabeth spent most of her first trip to the beach, safely cocooned from the blowing sand.

And this is what a mama does on vacation, and is why she's rarely in family pictures. Go Jenny!

We got back home at about 9:00 Monday night. The kids travelled great, in spite of the Expedition being packed all around them and nearly to the ceiling. There just isn't a lot of cargo space with all the car seats and stuff that goes with kids. We're considering taking the truck to Texas when we go for Christmas.

Charleston was a memorable trip. James and I decided we need to go by ourselves sometime, and take all the time we want wandering through ships and historical things actually reading all of the information as we go. This will also be a great place to take the kids again when they get older and can start to appreciate history. In the meantime we all agreed that next time renting a house on the beach wouldn't be a bad way to go!

October 10, 2008

Off to SC

I changed the font colors/sizes again to make it more readable. Any other comments? I'm trying to decide if this look is too frou-frou for my taste. I'm just not tech savvy enough to be able to find many other options. I think I like this one pretty good- better than the old one, anyway.

Today we're off to Charelston, SC. Our maitenance guy here at camp, Rick, is getting married on Saturday. Our friends the Davidsons are also going, as their kids are on fall break next week and they were going to go somewhere anyway...may as well make it a party with us. :) There will be pictures to follow, sometime next week. After I dig my way out from under the laundry and unpacking after returning home.

Today there will be 5-6 hours in the car with the kids. Should be a good mini trial run for the long haul to Texas in December (14 hours).

Here's a picture I took this week of Avery pretending to be a baby with Elizabeth.


October 9, 2008

Opinions anyone?

So is the blue type too hard to read? Weigh in on this topic and your overall opinion of this look below, or e-mail me: himstedt2@yahoo.com. Thanks!

Under construction

I'm working on making this blog cuter...so it looks a little weird right now. If I had lots of free time I could probably get all this stuff figured out. Oh well! Let me know if you see anything weird with the text (other than that you can't read it because I haven't fixed the colors yet). Thanks, and have a lovely day.

October 7, 2008

A party and some torture

This past weekend the kids and I were without James. He went to Tellico Plains, TN, where he and some four-wheelin' friends camped for the weekend and went off-roading/trail riding/rock crawling in their Jeeps. Tellico is highly regarded within the off-road community and is apparently a terrific place to have some adventurous fun...and tear up your Jeep. Fixing it is at least half the fun anyway. I'll have to get James to give me some pictures of him in action so you can see for yourself what his new hobby entails.

Saturday we went to Caleb Raffray's 3rd birthday party. He turned three last month but they were in Florida for the birth of Sophia, his new sister, during that time. The party was at the Lollipop store in Dawsonville, which is a fun place. It's a toy store where they let you play with the stuff (wow), and it has a neat party area complete with a giant slide and some other bouncy things. Some of the pictures I took aren't very clear because my camera was confused by the lack of light and the speed at which the kids were flying down the slide. We may visit the Lollipop store again sometime just for fun. (They have prayed each night since Saturday that we will. Really.)

Avery looks kind of terrified, but he was having a blast. At the bottom he always face planted and went head over heels, got up laughing, and scooted up to the top again.

Shannon and Elliott

Caleb had a pirate party, complete with a double decker pirate ship cake. Shannon got Happy Birthday sung to him and got to blow out his own candles too, since it was his actual birthday that day. (Thanks, Erin!)

Here's Erin and sweet little Sophie.

Sunday Shannon made his debut in front of the church. His preschool choir sang during the service for the first time since he's been in it. He's funny about singing, especially in front of people. At home he sings and makes up his own songs. During choir, apparently, singing is some sort of little boy torture. The pictures are again not clear and because the kids are on the risers there are plants and mic stands in front of them, but you'll get the idea of how it went.

Aren't they cute? Shannon is on the back row, behind a mic stand. They did three songs, and in the first one they were supposed to crouch down and then slowly "grow, grow, grow," then "shrink, shrink, shrink." He stood the entire time, NOT singing, oblivious to what everyone else was doing. In the second service they had the kids sitting so they started from the crouched position. He sat through the entire song. At least he doesn't cave to peer pressure.

Here's a pretty good representation of how he felt about the whole thing. During the second service he even threw in a loud, "I gotta go potty!" between songs. Precious. Makes a mama proud.
Yep, he loves it.

I was thinking after the two "performances" how I was glad I could think it was funny and not be embarrassed. With the first kid you're thinking how you hope she behaves herself and does everything just right so others will know you're a great parent and have taught your kid right. I'm now coming to appreciate them as individuals with individual preferences and personalities. So what if he hates singing in front of people? I pray that if there's one thing we can do for our kids it's help them discover who God made them to be, since He had a purpose for making them that way. Shannon didn't throw a tantrum or act ugly, he just didn't join in and sing. I might have to work with him on not announcing his personal needs to the entire congregation, however. I also think he'll end up thinking singing is pretty cool, since his Daddy loves to do it, even in front of people. Shannon just hasn't had the opportunity to see that yet. But he does think that everything his Daddy likes is worth liking too.

After we got home from church it was such a beautiful afternoon we ended up playing outside for most of it. Avery and Elizabeth napped and the other two practiced their driving on the little Jeep.

James got home mid-afternoon, then I went to the barn for a riding lesson. I made a lot of progress this week, and am truly enjoying having someone instruct me. A lot of folks have kidded me that after 26 years of riding don't I know how to stay on already? I'm even a certified riding instructor. I just haven't had someone teach me higher level stuff, particularly in dressage (Google "dressage," if you want to learn more). It's been awesome and very enjoyable. One day I'll try to take some pictures during a lesson, and show you sweet Jasmine, my mount of choice lately. She was given to camp last year by a lady who knows my friend and riding instructor, Susan. The cool thing is that Susan trained Jasmine years ago, so she has a lot of training on her. The horse definetely knew more about dressage than I did when I started riding her.

Monday and today have been spent entirely at home. I've officially been nowhere since Sunday morning. You'd think I could have knocked about 50 things off of my to-do list. I think I accomplished three. I often wish I had a video camera running all day so I could do one of those fast forward views to see just what goes on in a day around here. I probably walk 20 miles in my own home, bend over 3,406 times to pick stuff up, and carry at least 158 pounds of laundry up and down the steps. I'm glad God is always quick to remind me that if I wasn't doing these things it would be because there weren't little people (and another big person) living here. So for the years I get to enjoy them, I'll choose to embrace and love the lived in look my house has. Thanks, God!

And here are two of the sweeties now. Amelia wanted to hold Elizabeth, so for about 20 minutes the two of the vegged in front of a movie. Elizabeth never fails to smile for Amelia and laughs at things she does all the time.

I love that God gave Amelia a sister. And with two girls in the family, perhaps James and I will be taken care of in our old age as well! :)

One last random picture before I sign off. This was from one day last week when Alison took Elliott to the dentist and left the younger two with us for a little while. Elizabeth is a month older than Tozer, which makes them four and three months old in this picture.