January 31, 2009

Parties, parties, parties

Wow, doesn't that title make it sound like we've really had a good time the past week and a half. I should have titled it "Parties, parties, parties, and misery." More on that later.

We kicked off the partying last Saturday by celebrating Elliott Hicks' 5th birthday. His birthday was the 2nd, but everyone knows that's a terrible time for a birthday so close to the holidays, so his party was a few weeks later. After that the kids and I headed to McDonough to spend some time with my folks and grandparents. That was part of the reason, anyway. The main reason was to pull off a birthday party for my mom. Her birthday was December 29th, which everyone knows is an even WORSE birthday than January 2nd. We were Jamesless, as he had a camp fair to attend in Greenville, SC.

Mom turned 60 this year, and she was a bit dissapointed that her family was too slack to do anything in celebration of this milestone. Actually we all worked behind her back to have this party. For the past weeks I've been rounding up addresses and e-mail addresses of her friends. Facebook is great, I was able to contact a bunch of her friends' kids who I grew up with and am now Facebook buddies with to get their parent's info. We held it at Strong Rock School and she didn't have a clue it was coming. There were about 75 people who came, and it was fun for me too since I hadn't seen most of them in 10 or more years. Unfortunately my camaera sat idle until the last half hour of the party because I got busy and forgot about taking pictures! Here are a few I got, mostly of family.

Here's Dad explaining to Mom how we arranged it all behind her back.

Me and my brother Jonathan, and parents, and Avery who was checking out a flower from the table centerpiece while Shannon protected us all with his sword.

My sister-in-law Lisa, Jonathan, Jordan my niece, and my folks. Apparently Avery had somewhere he needed to go.

Nanny, Mom, and Mom's brothers Uncle Don and Uncle Ned.

My mom's friend Peggy made the birthday cake. There were two other sections but by the time I remembered I had a camera we had already eaten two of them!

It was a fun day and we enjoyed pulling a surprise on Mom. Too bad for her she didn't know about it. She wore very uncomfortable shoes to church that morning and spent her entire party in stocking feet.

Awhile back we spent the day at Strong Rock School promoting camp, and I meant to post more about it there for anyone who's interested. I took pictures that day, so I'll post them somewhere toward the end.

I spent until Tuesday at my folks' house, visiting with family and taking a mini-shopping trip to Target and Ross' ALONE. I don't think I've ever been into Ross' without kids, so I've never been able to browse properly. I ended up with a pair of Levi jeans for $8.99! That's my kind of (cheap, thrifty, miserly) bargain! They also had several pairs of Sketchers shoes for 1/3 of their usual price but they were all about 1/2 size off of what I wear one way or the other. Rats. I'll be back. Some year.

I stayed at Mom and Dad's through Tuesday, intending to take the kids to Imagine It, the childrens' museum in Atlanta we have a membership to Tuesday morning. Monday night Elizabeth came down with a fever and a good case of the grumpies. By Tuesday it was worse, so instead of playing all morning and heading home during nap time, we instead headed to Gainesville for a 2:00 (during naptime) appointment. They coudln't find anything wrong right off but her fever was 102.6 by then, so they did bloodwork and such. By 4:00 (time to get up from naps) we were finally on our way home...with no answers and a prescription for Omnicef in case it was a urinary tract infection. I called for results the next day and they didn't have them, and told me to call back the next day. Meanwhile my not quite 8 month old baby has a high fever off and on and is miserable. (Hence the "Misery" part of what should have been this post's title.) Having had three very healthy children and this being her first fever, my thoughts of course run to things as drastic as a serious infection coursing through her entire body, or leukemia, or something. Every mom's reaction. Right...? Anyway, we trekked back to the doctor's office on Thursday and he finally found what appeared to be a very red throat, and said it's probably either strep or a virus of some kind, but we'd keep her on the antibiotic just in case. Tonight I found on her a pretty good rash, which indicates strep (come to find out...I didn't know that until recently). So, I guess that was it! Today she's feeling much better and has been fever free for a day. Yay, not leukemia.

In the midst of all of that fun, James had a birthday on Thursday. He's now 35, the age which I remember just a decade ago thinking sounded O-L-D. Guess what- it's not! We had our Thursday night dinner at Ryan and Stefanie Pitts' house, and it also happened to be Ryan's birthday. Ryan is always James' first pick when it comes to hunting buddies, and they've also been to Brazil on mission trips a few times together.

So here's what a cake looks like when you have exactly 10 minutes to assemble it because you've had an unscheduled second visit to the doctor's office for the week, and your day didn't go at all as planned. Tilt your head to the left and it looks pretty straight. Good thing it tasted better than it looked.

The combined windbag power of a 35 and a 34 year old man blew some of the almonds right off the top of the cake and into the floor. And then, as if by magic, some of the white candles re-lit. That was Stefanie's idea.

A few more Thursday nighters. Keith, Anne, Alex Anne, and Meg Jennings, and a random Knott boy, Trey. He has attached himself to Anne lately. He knows she needed a boy too.

Stefanie Pitts, lady of the house. (The only lady...they have three boys!) Elizabeth took a good, feverful nap in her arms.

Let's see, what else have we done this week? The usual stuff- school with Amelia, working on the ever present, constantly growing Mount Laundry, gymnastics, church, did I mention laundry? There are times I imagine closing my eyes, waving my hand over the clutter in a room, saying, "Be Gone!" and poofing it away. I haven't got that to work yet.

Shannon is doing pretty well now that I've started (nearly) daily reading lessons with him. He can put words together and sound them out, using the letters he's learned so far. He's interested in learning letter sounds and names, and has surprised me with how well he can do it, in spite of the fact that he bounces as he learns.

Avery is picking up a lot too, just by being around it, I guess. He's learned most of his colors and shapes, and can tell the difference between some letters and numbers. He's forever surprising me with the things he says and thoughts he has, for a 2 year 4 month old. The other day he was playing with some plastic critters and put a bunch of them in a bowl. He says, "They're swimming," then marches a dinosaur over and into the bowl and says, "The dinosaur's gonna eat the kids!"

Here he is scribbling on the chalkboard set. He said, "I drew a triangle!"

Okay, so you have to look hard to find it, but it's right there in the middle. See?

The kids are getting old enough now that we have great car conversations. Shannon in particular asks all kinds of questions. For instance, "Mom, why do fireworks have "work" in their name?" Because they had to work hard to get them put together? Maybe? Today we drove out to check on a horse I didn't see right away in the pasture, and they wanted to know why. I said, "She isn't with the herd, so I need to make sure she's okay." So that sparked a conversation about what a herd is, and what can be in a herd. I had explained that some types of animals live in groups so they can keep each other safe. Amelia asked if the plants she saw growing close together were a herd. Shannon said, "Oh, like birds." "No, that's a flock." It's getting more confusing. He then insisted that butterflies could be a herd. Then wouldn't you know we passed a group of about six cyclists on Highway 129 just after that....so that was obviously a herd of bicycles, to their thinking. Amelia was starting to catch on, then got silly talking about a herd of ballerinas. I like how the conversation ended though, with them deciding that even though people didn't go in herds, Daddy kept us safe. :)

We had big fun at the grocery store, as the older two wanted to take a dollar each of their own money to spend. Ingles has a dollar section, so after much agonizing Amelia walked away with an imitation Barbie (Farbie?) and Shannon chose a motorcycle. Here's what the packaging on the motorcycle reads:

21 Century New Edition Simulating The True Styles and Making Carefully
Totally New To Come Into The Market!
- Handsome appearance, various styles to have both the quality of tenacity
- To be highly praised and appreciated by the consuming public
- We continuously offer the latest thing lowest price

But here's the shocker....it says right on the box that it's MADE IN CHINA! Who would have guessed? You'd think with all the millions of dollars we send to stimulate the Chinese economy that some of these companies could afford to hire a translator position so they wouldn't have to rely on crappy Chinese to English translating software!

I also got to give a horseback riding lesson this week. Rebecca, our office manager at camp, has a niece who is interested in horses but hasn't had the chance to be around them. Her family (Rebecca's brother and sister-in-law) are making a couple of months stop in Gainesville (from Oregon) to live with her mom while en route to the mission field overseas.

Here's Bliss with Taffy. She was a terrific student, fearless, and a sweetheart as well. One more birthday I've yet to mention- on January 25th, Taffy turned 34! Looks pretty good to be the equivalent of 102 in people years, doesn't she? Taffy has great genes.

And here are a few random shots of the school.

Strong Rock Camp was started by James and I and my parents in 2005, after beginning construction in 2001. Strong Rock School was founded two years later by my dad and his two brothers. That's where the connection is, the school and camp are completely independent of one another. The school is in Locust Grove, GA, near McDonough where my family lives. It opened in 2007 with nearly 400 students, K-10th grade, and this year is up to 750 K-11th. The goal is eventually to have around 1200 students with separate buildings for elementary, middle, and high school. It is an amazing vision for a Christian private school, with everything a public school could offer by way of sports, band, and the usual things people don't want their kids to miss out on by attending a Christian school. The leadership is amazing. A lot of it is made up of Christian teachers who had been in public schools for 15 or more years and were tired of the public school scene.

A shot of the courtyard from the cafeteria.

Another shot of the courtyard.

This verse is over the door in the main hallway. It pretty much sums up what the school is all about. Check out www.strongrockchristianschool.com for more information. (When I have time and it's not so late I'm going to learn how to link stuff so you can just click on that address and not have to type it in yourself. Can't be that hard, can it...? (Says the one who can't even remember what she had for dinner last night.)

Alright, this has now officially been a post o' random stuff. I shall now say goodnight. But not before I show you one of my favorite things about Elizabeth.

Her hair! I love this hairdo. Nearly 8 months later I'm still trying to get over the fact that a Himstedt baby has hair. I love it!

January 20, 2009

And life rolls on

Wow, what an exciting week and a half we've had since my last post! Well, not really. But it would have been fun to write about it if we did.

It has been COLD, so we've mostly been staying indoors. It's weird that the temperature can go from being like summer in December to the polar opposite (really polar!) in January. The past three days haven't gotten much above freezing. A big waste...since there was no snow. Georgia gets five days a year like this and we've already wasted three of them with no snow on the ground to play in. It did blow around like a snow globe off an on all day yesterday but didn't land anywhere. That was an ugly way for the weather to act, I thought. (On the plus side, there weren't any accidents related to icy roads. A silver lining!)

We've made our own fun, mostly at home. Last week we did the usual things- gymnastics and church on Wednesday, playgroup here on Thursday, dinner at Rebecca's that night, then Friday my folks came up for the weekend. Dad, James, and Daniel met at the office for awhile about camp stuff then we had dinner here at the house.

Saturday morning James and I picked up Brad and Erin Raffray's horse. Nearly a year ago they took on a rescue case, a mare who was about 400 pounds underweight with two really nasty wounds from a splintered fence post. She's healthy now, and hopefully she'll work out for camp. We enjoyed our two kidless hours together.

Sunday morning we went to church, and that afternoon my folks left. Amelia and I went out to the barn and I took a ride on our new horse. She hasn't been worked in a long time, but was did pretty well considering.

So far this week we've had one of those stay at home weeks the kids dread. Every morning they get up saying, "Where are we going today?" We did have a thrilling time at the grocery store Monday, our one outing for the week. I had to make sure we had our milk and bread in case we got snowed in for 7 hours, like has happened before. That, and we were pretty much out of everything.

Today we went to gymnastics, and then I had yet another eye doctor appointment. This time I managed to get out of there in under 2 hours. The rest of the week should be fairly quiet too. This weekend we'll head to McDonough to see Nanny and Granny and PaPa. James will be doing the first of several upcoming camp fairs to promote Strong Rock, one in Atlanta on Saturday and in Greenville, SC on Sunday. It gets busy from now until the summer with staff interviews, more camp fairs and camper recruiting, getting programs ready for the summer, and hosting weekend groups at camp.

Here's some of the fun that was had at the Himstedts this week.

The kids love to put on their footie pajamas and "luge" down the stairs as fast as they can. That's the only time they wear them. They don't sleep in them for some reason, but they sure are slick on the steps! When they turn around on their bellies- I make them go feet first since we don't have stair sliding helmets- I swear they can get to the bottom in less then two seconds.

Another safe landing.

I really just thought Avery looked cute this day. He walked all over the place with his hat and his gun.

Today he only had one gun. Sometimes he carries up to three at once. Should we be worried?

Soon after I took this one Shannon knocked him down, he cried, and I reminded Shannon to apologize. So Shannon said, "Sorry, Avery," kissed him on the head, and skipped away. Avery said, "Wait! A hug!," and ran after him toting his gun. When he realized he couldn't catch him he said, "I shoot you!" The many faces of Avery.

Stair sliding was followed by an impromptu dance party. Word to your mama.

A classic Amelia outfit.

Shake it like a Poloroid pic-cha. (A little Black-eyed Peas, for those of you not hip to the lyrics. Like me. I am hip. Right on the cutting edge of today's music.) I believe the song that was playing was actually either "The Birthday Be-Bop" or "How Much Wood Could A Wood Chuck Chuck" off of a Silly Songs CD.

Shannon has the makings of a real serious dancer.

I can't even remember what this was about. Avery is so two right now. He has fits of frustration over the smallest things. In spite of the fact that the sound which accompanies this face has gotten pretty old, this still cracks me up. I wish I had taken a picture of him in Shannon's Power Ranger mask, stomping around with great purpose saying, "I'm Spider Ranger!" Shannon sighs and corrects him, "Avery, it's not Spider Ranger. It's POWELL-RANGER!" There's a lot of the blind leading the blind around here.

A few cuties from Thursday's playgroup. Elizabeth (7 months), Sophie Raffray (four months), and Tozer Hicks (6 months).

Sophie and her mom Erin.

Elizabeth is really into tags these days. I haven't met a baby yet that didn't go through a tag loving stage. She finds them on blankets, toys, clothes, whatever she grabs. Note the high-tech toy besider her...a bulb suction for icky noses. Nothing but the finest for our daughter.

This tag is delicious! I always get cracked up by this particular tag, which says, "READ BEFORE EACH USE," then lists all the things a Boppy pillow is not to be used for. Before each use? Talk about covering yourself!

Another playgroup highlight, Amelia and Elliott cutting a rug.

A.K.A., future blackmail.

One day this week I was folding laundry on the bed, and I look up to see Amelia putting a hanger on her head and quietly singing to herself, "I'm the laundry fairy..." Man, could I use about a half-dozen of those!

On Monday I had talked with her about the significance of MLK day and what Martin Luther King, Jr. did. When I asked her later what it was about she told me it was about everyone being treated the same, then said, "Did he tell all the black people?" I said yes, and all the white people too. Then she said, "He must have been tired after that!"

Last week Rick our camp maintenance man/property caretaker extraordinaire took down a big, dead tree in front of the cabin below our house. While my dad was here over the weekend he split some wood to take home. The boys went to "help."

All the pictures I took of them with their Grandad didn't turn out right, as there was some kind of sunshiny haze all over them. My dad naturally exudes sunlight. I hadn't noticed that before.

So here they are helping Andrew (Rick's son) load his truck.

James and Rick figured it was a shame to waste a perfectly good giant stump, so Rick made a chair out of it!

So there you have it, random snippets from our life once again. I'm off to bed....


January 9, 2009

This week's jollies

Time for another weekly post. And what a week it has been! I am feeling rather sleep deprived, as I had three nights of barf-o-rific fun! Praise the Lord I was not one of the victims.

All of the boys were down and out with a vicious stomach virus. Shannon started with it early in the week, right at bed time (why is it always at night?). Thankfully he's getting big enough to understand the concept of the toilet being the best place to get sick. I made a bed for him next to our bed so he could be close by during his distress. He did pretty well the next day but was down and out again the day after. The same night around 3 AM it hit James. Seems like the little guys bounce back a lot quicker than the big folks. James was miserable for two entire days, and stayed either in bed or on the couch...or another room in the house, the details of which I will spare you.

The night after Shannon and James were hit, Avery comes down the stairs about 11:30 (30 minutes into my sleep), saying, "There's yucky stuff. Yucky stuff in my bed. You help me?" I don't know why it didn't occur to me what it could be until I got to his room. Only another mom can understand the carnage. Or possibly a nurse. Ewwooooo!!! He was very sweet though, patiently sitting through a bath then the bed/floor clean up process. When I was done I intended to play fruit basket turnover with the beds and put Shannon in Avery's bed (since I had yet to remake Shannon's bunk bed) and put Avery on the makeshift floor bed in our room. Before I could move Shannon Avery started back toward his bed saying, "Thank you! Thank you, Mommy." Since I didn't want the virus I didn't kiss him. But he was so sweet I wanted to.

Thankfully Amelia and Elizabeth were spared, and I mostly was too. I felt wiped out and yucky yesterday and part of today, but didn't get the full blown version. I was still able to function, thankfully!

So that's mostly what has consumed our week. Yesterday everyone was a lot better, so we went to playgroup at Alison's. Then she kept the kids while I went to the eye doctor and was held hostage there for TWO AND A HALF HOURS! I've been thinking my now three year old corrective eye surgery needed a touch up in my left eye, but it turns out I just have really, really dry eyes. Apparently the surface of your eyeball doesn't like to be parched and will take out its frustrations on your vision.

Last night was Thursday night dinner at the Davidsons. We made yesterday a party all day after being quarantined to the house earlier in the week.

I did take a few pictures this week. The kids have had a blast with their new Christmas gifts. I had a Colorforms set as a kid, and thought they might enjoy one too. They are really creative.

Amelia made people in a boat.

Shannon was explaining his creation in great detail. Turns out this is a stop light, air compressor that turns and the air goes out there and this thing goes round and round and then it goes up machine.

These two are actually from last week. A new trick Elizabeth has learned- clapping. She likes to practice a lot.

We reached a milestone today with school. Amelia finished the book we used to teach her to read. We did "100 easy lessons" in only 450 days! She was reading well before the end of the book, we've just been using the stories in it for continued reading practice off and on. It still feels good to finish something!

Shannon has started the book as well, now that he's four. At first I was worried that he was too, um, energetic and strongly focused elsewhere to do it just yet, but he's really making progress now. He especially likes to practice the writing part of it, and puts his pencil in a death grip and writes his letters very small. This week he traced his hand on a piece of paper and said, "Look at my hand writing!" Huh, looking back at this picture I realize why he was having a tough time this day. He's actually right handed.

Now for several pictures of a cute baby.

Check me out, I can sit up.

And I can do it while flapping my arms like a chicken!

Aren't I cute?

And now for another installment of, "What My Sister Amelia Did To Me While Mommy Wasn't Watching."

Is this stuff edible?

Today the kids and I made candle holders from baby food jars and tissue paper. They thought it was a lot of fun, made even better by the fact that the Dollar Store tea light candles in them smell like cookies. I found an awesome website, www.education.com, that has a lot of terrific ideas for teaching things to kids of all ages, as well as a lot of neat art projects. I've had this one bookmarked for awhile, so we finally did it today.

Here they are with their creations.

And the photo shoot digresses from here.

Avery sniffed too much of the glue...

We are looking forward to an uneventful weekend. Things are about to get busy around here at camp, so we'll enjoy one last weekend together as a family. Perhaps put away another ton or two of stuff, continue to organize the seven acres of junk in the basement, maybe sneak in a horseback ride. We did finally say goodbye to Christmas at the house this week, so progress is being made. There's something decidedly UN-festive about a Christmas tree still up two weeks after Christmas.

Have a happy weekend!