December 29, 2009

Twas the week(s) before Christmas

Well, I accomplished my goal of getting this post about pre-Chrismas fun done before we took the tree down. We SHOULD take the tree down since Christmas is five days past. The beauty of a fake one is that we could leave it up all year without it dying and dropping parts all over the floor if we wanted to. Amelia asked if we could.

I almost didn't get Christmas cards done this year. It's such an effort to get everyone dressed up for a picture. We happened to already all be dressed up at Amory and Blake's wedding though, so we borrowed the Christmas tree at the reception and took some pictures. This was the best of the bunch. Elizabeth was hungry and grumpy.

It's always nice to get Christmas cards from folks, especially if they're photo cards. I've considered not doing them anymore since most folks keep up with us online anyway. We'll see how I'm feeling about it next year.

We had fun the weeks before Christmas. The kids and I made some Christmas ornaments. Nothing is ever as easy as it looks like it's going to be in the magazine article. They turned out cute though.

We hauled out the tree and got it decorated the first week of December. The tree stood lightless and garlandless for a day or two while I worked up the motivation to put it all on so the kids could work on the rest. They love this part of Christmas.

The kids unloaded the boxes.

They put most of the ornaments on by themselves.

Elizabeth was a lot of help moving them around, mostly OFF the tree. She finally mostly left them alone after a few days.

There are a lot of things I've had to let go after having so many kids, like some of my housekeeping standards, need for vehicular cleanliness, etc. It was let them go or go nuts trying to maintain them. I've yet to be able to shake the need for evenly spaced ornaments on a Christmas tree however, so after everyone was in bed I rearranged a bit.

The finished product.

Stockings hung by the chimney with care. Actually, with hooks.

A random picture I took that week because bed head can be funny.

Except to the bed head wearer.

Another random picture. Because Shannon hasn't shown an interest in drawing or coloring for very long I'm always surprised when he draws something.

Loaders and dozers.

Elizabeth likes art. And the occasional crayon, though we've all tried to convince her they aren't tasty.

The first week in December our church had its Christmas production, which consists of a Saturday performance, two Sunday performances, and four nights of a dinner theater. We went to the Saturday evening one so there was no reason to go to church on Sunday. Amelia had gone home with the Davidsons, and they met us at the bowling alley/skating rink after lunch.

We had taken the kids bowling once before when I was pregnant with Elizabeth. About one game is as long as their attention span lasts right now, but they had fun.

Amelia and Ruthie

Go Daddy!

With ball ramps and gutter bumpers the kids were very competetive. They scored better than we did most frames.


Stylin' shoes. A kid I went to high school with wore bowling alley shoes every day. Wear cruddy shoes into the bowling alley, leave with cool (sort of) new ones. If you can get past the fact that's it's stealing and that you have a bowling alley's name and your shoe size printed real big on your feet, it could be a good way to go I guess.

Next we tried skating, something not attempted in our family before. Amelia really started to get the hang of it by the end and begged to come back later in the week for more practice.

Our kids were the only ones in the skating rink with bicycle helmets on. No parent likes to be the over-protective looking dork, but more than one said it was a great idea. I'm okay with looking like a dork. I've had a lot of practice.

Shannon persevered but fell a lot. One or two more practice times and he'll probably have it. At one point he looked at me and said, "I'm not sure this is the best idea." What, strapping eight wheels to your feet? Probably NOT the best idea anyone ever came up with.

Because they gave us skate rental for free we did let Avery try it- but it was ridiculous, so we took them off of him right away. He had no interest in falling and let us know loudly.

When James and I moved to Cleveland we hung out with the folks that owned the barn where I was keeping Taffy. We met them each week at the Rink N Roll for rollerblading fun. Since then my rollerblades have dry rotted and both bindings broke. James' were still in good shape so he dusted them off and brought them along. I had to use uncomfortable rental ones, but it was still fun. (Wonder what the girl in the background is thinking. "Oh no! That girl's gonna bulldoze into something for sure trying to skate backwards like that!")

Before Christmas we also made a gingerbread house. Actually the nice folks at the gingerbread house factory made it. We just decorated it.

We did mix up the icing though. Shannon decided to go with the gangsta look and wore that hat all day.

Elizabeth watched everybody else and then went and got her own clean whisk out of the drawer to lick. She missed the part where you stir icing with it first.

We did it!

In spite of my inner need for order and symmetry, they did stick the candy on by themselves. I just came up with the ideas and directed traffic when needed. And wielded the icing.

The week before Christmas we:
Had the Strong Rock year 'round staff over for dinner Monday evening.
Had friends from Camp Skyline days stop by for the night Tuesday.
Had Thursday night dinner at Rebecca's on Wednesday. (Huh?)
Went to our Sunday School class Christmas party on Thursday.
Had the Strong Rock summer staff Christmas party on Friday.
Took Saturday off from partying.
Went to the D's for dinner and Rock Band on Sunday.
Went to a Christmas potluck for homeschooling families from our church Monday evening.
Packed stuff Tuesday.
Headed to McDonough for four days on Wednesday.

Our Tuesday night guests were Lindsay and Morgan Myers, who were campers when we were on staff at Camp Skyline and became staffers as we were leaving. They are now respectable 25 year olds, soon to have more degrees than James and I put together. Morgan is in school in Ohio, and Lindsay is in school in Pennsylvania, and both were on their way home to Florida for the holidays. It was great to see them and catch up on the last almost decade.

Wednesday night at Rebecca's most of us worked on gingerbread houses after dinner. We thought it would be fun to have a contest but we all ended up taking too long with it.

Sara and little Ansley, born in October.

Anne and Nikki assembling a house.

Anne, Amanda, and Rebecca

Turns out Amanda has a hidden gingerbread house decorating talent.

Our second gingerbread house of the season. The next morning Shannon looked at the two together and said, "Hey, we have a neighborhood!"

Friday was the Strong Rock summer staff Christmas party. Staff from several summers attended, and it was a lot of fun catching up with everyone. We played a game with wrapping paper where each team had to come up with a scene describing a Christmas movie.

Here's Mary and Baby Jesus.

It's The Little Drummer Boy. (Truthfully I don't remember this being a movie. Was it?)

The Grinch. The guy laying on his back is the Roast Beast.

Cindy Lou Who

No Christmas party is complete without a white elephant gift exchange, and no gift exchange is complete without a giant Dr. Pepper pillow.

Cornhole will be the new summer hit at camp. It's a beanbag game, rather cornbag game, and if you don't think it's a big deal you can Google it and find 1,210,000 entries (I tried it), containing rules, game specifics, places to order cornhole boards, etc. Rick made two sets for us and this one stayed busy all evening long.

Sunday I got to go riding with Mali and Abby (summer staffers) and in spite of it being VERY COLD, had a blast. My winter riding hasn't gone like I had hoped. I thought once the time changed I would be good to go again with morning rides, but this time of year it doesn't get good and light until 7:20, and I have to be done and home by 8:00. This has also been a particularly cold and rainy winter, so that doesn't help either. So I feed, turn out, and leave, but am still grateful for time at the barn.

As we rode by the house James took a picture for me. Starbuck and Mali are on the left, Twister and Abby are on the right, and I'm on Reggie, my favorite midget horse. I didn't realize how small he really looked until I saw this picture. Good looking horses if I do say so myself.

I'm going to end this for now, and plan to post Christmas pictures soon. Like, sometime before next Christmas.

Happy New Year!

Imaginations at work

In case I don't actually get to finish the post I'm planning to work on today, I thought I'd summarize the conversation I just heard between the eldest two Himstedt children. They each had baby dolls they were taking care of, and put them down on the couch and came to the table when I made hot chocolate for them.
Amelia: "It's great to have an evening out without the babies."
Shannon: "Yes, it is."
Amelia (picking up a pretend phone): "I'm going to call and check on them. (To the pretend babysitter on the other end),"Oh, oh no! The babies are passing out? Oh my goodness!" (Turning to Shannon), "We have to go home right away! The babies are passing out!"
Shannon: "But we haven't had dessert yet."

For school we've been working on nouns, adjectives, and verbs. Last week Amelia made a list (on her own) of adjectives that describe me. I was flattered: Pretty, nice, sweet, busy, and sorry (she meant empathetic- that one hasn't reached our vocabulary list yet!). I asked her which one described me best. "Busy," she said. I figured. Thankfully "nice" was her second choice.

Last week Amelia also took to calling me, "Miss Divine," pretending we were doing school. (Even when we weren't- surprising.) Shannon, as her dad, was outside in his Jeep waiting for her to finish "class" so he could take her home. He waited a LONG time too, she didn't get ready to go out in the cold for at least 20 minutes. She said, "Miss Divine, my dad says I will marry somebody like him some day. He doesn't listen to me." Hee hee.

It was nearly dark outside when she finally decided to get her coat on to meet her "dad." In the meantime he had grown weary of waiting and was walking to the front door. She saw him through the window and said, "He's parking! WHAT is he doing?! I don't want to walk home!" She stormed outside, had a few words with him, then they came in together. He explained that they had flashlights and were okay. She said, "I was like, 'What, are you nuts?!' But we found our way home in the dark."

Thank goodness.

December 4, 2009

Turkey Week

Last Monday James' parents arrived after an all night plus drive (15 hours) from Azle, Texas. Thus began a great week with family we don't get to see nearly enough.

Tuesday morning James and his dad got up dark and early for a day of fly fishing. Good fishing is one of the main reasons Dad H. wants to retire to north Georgia some day. That and good places to ride motorcycles. Oh yeah, and maybe because of grandkids too. Meanwhile Mom H. and I took the kids to the newly opened Babyland General Hospital, aka Cabbage Patch Kids Glorified Gift Shop. (The creator of the Cabbage Patch Kids, Xavier Roberts, is from Cleveland, if you didn't know. Our claim to fame!) They just moved it this week to the new location after years in the old one. And it was old. The new one is much nicer and more impressive, and much more representative of the monetary compensation Mr. Roberts has received as a result of his creations.

I wonder how many years away I am from getting pictures where everyone is looking at the camera.

They all wanted one, of course. I gave the customary reply, "Put it on your Christmas list!" No one did.

While there we got to witness the miracle of life. They start announcing that a mother cabbage is "dilated eight leaves apart," so we should gather around the magical tree if we want to be a part of the newest Cabbage Patch baby's entrance into the world. I find the annoucements updating us on the cabbage's dilation progress to be kinda creepy...but at least none of the little people asked me what it meant, so I'm off the hook for awhile.

Looks like Mother Cabbage is almost ready.

Oh, here's the head...a normal presentation...thank goodness.

Here she is! A girl! The (Doctor? Grocer?) asks the crowd for names, and two little girls dub her something like Madelyn Zoe. A clever "Mom, we gotta adopt her! I named her!" marketing ploy that has probably worked countless times.

This is an aside, but being present at a delivery reminds me that I meant at some point to recount my first stab at part of "the talk" with the older two kids. Only the exit part, they're still content with the "you started as a seed" explanation of their origin. A few months ago they started asking me how babies get out. I hem hawed around with the "special place God made for them to come out" explanation, then Shannon quietly said, "I think it's a word we're not supposed to say at the table." This is why old timers propagated the cabbage or stork stories, I'm pretty sure.

Anyway, we got to see the new baby in the nursery as she was weighed and dressed.

There were half-baked babies popping out of cabbages all over the place.

Fast forward to Wednesday. James' brother Jason and his wife Nelissa arrived from Austin during the wee hours the night before. His other brother Jared and his wife Laura, and James' sister Jennifer arrived from Waco Wednesday morning. Jennifer now lives in Austin but still frequents Waco. Tuesday evening some old friends of James' parents, Pat and Merv, arrived as well. That was our Thanksgiving crew, and we had a great rest of the week with them. A few photo highlights:

Jason repairs a few of Jennifer's dreads. Cause if you can't trust your brother to fix your dreads, then who can you trust? (If you don't know how this is done, you get a crochet hook and work all the loose pieces back in.)

Jared explains something to Jason, and I'm pretty sure it was about a guitar.

Mimi reads the kids a story before bed.

Avery puts on Papa's boots, and it inspires a weird moment.

He's really been into weird moments lately, amplified by the presence of a camera.

The boys with Aunt Laura.

Jason and Nelissa. Thanksgiving day everyone worked on a dish or two and we had a terrific mid-afternoon feast. Nelissa made dressing and pecan and pumpkin pies.

Jennifer made deviled eggs. We also had turkey (duh), sweet potato/apple bake, green beans, cranberry sauce (or canberry, as it's called around here), yeast rolls, and cherry/pineapple dump cake. I was pleased that there weren't too many leftovers. We had a very manageable amount once the crowd was gone.

Papa read a thoughtful reminder about gratitude. Elizabeth did her best to yell through the entire thing.

The grown up table. James, Pat, Merv, Dad H. and Mom H.

Some of the kids from the kids' table.

After lunch Avery attacks Uncle Jason.

Aunt Jeni and Shannon.

Everyone considered a nap but overcame the temptation. Since we have no access to stuff on TV there was no football watching. So, some did the next most obvious thing on most people's Thanksgiving Day agendas.

As James puts it, "celebrated our right to form a militia." Just before lunch some weird gray clouds blew in and dropped the already chilly air temperature about 15 degrees. It was COLD!

Jared gives his rights a whirl. (Hmmm, not sure we should talk about forming militias. Jared and Laura DO live in Waco after all. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, Google "Branch Davidians, Waco, TX.")

Some chilly little observers.

It's a little disturbing how natural Papa looks packin' heat.

Jason, armed and dangerous.

Merv, Jared, and Laura. Avery was sitting with Jared earlier, touched his beard, and said, "Why did you leave the covers on your face?" It helps on subzero days like this. I was wishing I had a beard. That was my signal to go back up to the house.

Avery reads to Elizabeth.

And lo and behold, Mimi takes a turn on Guitar Hero!

Jason uses his air guitar to show her how to do it.

On Friday Merv and Pat left us, and then we left the kids with Mimi and Papa and Aunt Sherry (who came down from Senecca, SC for the day), and drove to nearby DeSoto Falls with James' siblings and sibling-in-laws.

And here it is. Pretty, huh?

The ominous sign that greeted us.


We pressed through our fear and treked on. The trick is to stay on deck they've built for your convenience and safety.

Jason and Nelissa.

All of us.

Then as quick as they showed up, they all left. Sad day. Mimi and Papa headed out before we got up Saturday morning, and the rest of the crew headed west a few hours later. It was a great week and everytime we get together I think it's a shame the United States is so big and that families have to live far apart. We would hang out just for fun if we lived closer, and not just because we had to! Thanks God, for the blessing of family.

Saturday afternoon we headed out ourselves. We attended a wedding at Berry College in Rome. Two of our former summer staffers got married, and her family also happens to attend church with several of my family members. She and her mom and dad also happen to work at Strong Rock School. Lots of connections. The wedding was gorgeous and the reception was a blast. I didn't see Amelia at it much unless I was on the dance floor, because that's where she stayed. "I danced until I sweated!" she told us.

Amelia with Amory. A real live bride! (And a pretty one, too.)

Amelia dancing with Grandad.

Elizabeth danced with Grandad too.

She also danced with Daddy, but by this time she really just wanted down.

She was happiest cutting a rug all by herself.

She danced and twirled and cried when I picked her up to leave.

We spent Saturday night in Rome. It's my old stomping grounds as a Berry student and Camp WinShape staffer, and James' somewhat too, since he spent seven summers working at Camp WinShape and the first seven months of our marriage there. The kids always think staying in a hotel is an adventure, which it is with four kids! Elizabeth slept in the bathroom in a Pack N Play so she wouldn't be distracted by the rest of us sprawled out all over the room. I only heard her about five times during the night, so it was a peaceful, restful one for me too. Or not.

Sunday morning we met our friends/ex-bosses from Camp Skyline for breakfast at IHOP, since they live in Rome. It was great to catch up with them and their family. We worked there for four years and were kidless at the time, so they enjoyed seeing the kids and watching us manage the crew.

After that we headed to Berry. Ty (one of our former summer staffers and a recent Berry grad) met James for a mountain bike ride.

Meanwhile I took the kids for a tour of mountain campus. I still love Berry. Many good years were spent there, and a lot of time was spent on the back of a horse. What a great place to ride. I left Berry with a diploma, and WinShape with a God-sent husband and God-sent life calling- camp! I was more than happy to be there last weekend, showing the place to the kids.

There are lots of photo ops at Berry. It's a beautiful place.

Amelia told me she was praying for people like Silas (our World Vision sponsored child) who don't have much like we do. She has a great heart. And it was Sunday, so what better activity to take part in?

And Shannon was toting around a huge log he said was a gun. More like a bazooka.

You can't be near water and NOT touch it. It's impossible at this age.

These noisy beggars followed us everywhere.

Elizabeth gave it up about 20 minutes into our walk. Must of been in part to her partying in the bathroom the night before.

Trying out our skills on a really big hill. This is right beside the historic water wheel on campus, which you would think I'd have taken a picture of. At the time I was thinking how touristy that would be, and it just didn't feel right. The same reason why I don't have any pictures of the humongous herds of deer that wander freely around campus. There were herds of no less than 50 deer in fields everywhere as we drove through. I always remember as a student rolling my eyes at the tourists who would slow me down as I followed them through campus because they had to look at the deer. It's funny how even after (gulp) 13 years since graduation I still feel like a part of that community. But I didn't roll my eyes at deer watchers this time.

James and Ty made it back off the mountain, and after a quick tour of the campus barn (where I got to see an Equestrian Team practice taking place), we headed out to Applebee's for lupper. (Late lunch/early supper.)

We hauled tired kids in the house after the 2 1/2 hour drive home, and got ready to start another week. I have pictures for the next post already, but I have no idea when I'll get around to it. Hopefully I'll get the ones of tree decorating festivities up before we take the thing down. They are loving the Christmas season. In Cleveland they've put up snowflakes on the power poles, and Avery looked up at one and said, "Christmas spiderwebs!" And that's exactly what they look like.

Last, another example of Elizabeth's ability to watch and learn. One of the kids forgot to tie up their horse when they were done galloping around the room so she swiped it.