January 10, 2012


Welcome to October. Fall came once again to Cleveland, and the leaves and temperature were nice in north Georgia. Here's one of the leaf pictures I got.

Yeah, I didn't get any leaf pictures.  But you can trust me. It was pretty.

I got a picture of Daisy though, now four months old. We thought we had lost her there for a few days. She followed the kids and I on a walk across the camp road and down the trail that goes to the blob from our house. When we were nearly to the lake we didn't see her with us anymore, and I didn't think anything of it since cats have such a great homing instinct. Except this one, apparently. Our walk was on Sunday afternoon, and by Monday morning she still hadn't shown up. By Tuesday morning I figured something had happened to her and started preparing the kids for the worst. Tuesday afternoon I was in the office and Rick, our terrific maintenance and grounds guy, walked in. I mentioned not being able to find Daisy and he said, "Oh, she's been on the front porch of one of the cabins for two days." Sure enough, she was on the cabin porch, hungry and wet (it had been raining all day), nearly within eyesight of our house. I'm thinking now that that Incredible Journey movie where the dog and cat traverse the entire country from coast to coast to find their people MIGHT have been exaggerated.

Well here's a familiar scene.

Eleven days after Avery's birthday is Shannon's birthday, October 4th. Mom was in town, helping me out with the kids so I could spend a little time at the office.  We took him to the restaurant of his choice for dinner. Guess which one he picked!

Seven years old!

We finished out the school week as usual, then had a party three days later on Friday to celebrate both Avery and Shannon. There was talk about what kind of cake we should do for some time, but they both finally settled on a monster truck theme. Suits me, it's easy to frost a mud cake!

Each of the boys invited friends and we did dinner and playtime in the gym.

Andrew, Lydia, Trevor, and Shannon.

I love a soup buffet.

Avery invited Abigail. I had her every Wednesday in childcare at church when she and Avery were two-year olds, and now she's in my preschool choir. Such a sweetie!

Amelia and Sarah.

The boys, the cake, and a couple of dangerous objects on the table. A great combination!

The best part!

It was a fun party and everyone had a great time. We're very blessed with friendships and people who care about investing in the lives of our kids.

We spent the first part of the next week doing the usual thing; school and gymnastics on Monday, school work Tuesday, then Wednesday we left for a short jaunt to Chattanooga. Periodically James and I get out the calendar and map out family time when he can get away. Pretty much every weekend is spent taking care of groups at camp, so taking a few week days is generally easiest for him. (Thanks to the beauty of the home school schedule, it is for me too.) We had Aquarium yearly passes that were about to expire, as well as our children's museum passes that we could use at the Creative Discovery Museum in Chattanooga.

We got to the Tennessee Aquarium mid-morning and stayed until it closed.

They have shows with all kinds of different non-swimming critters.

James sent the older two kids and I on a behind-the-scenes tour. It was very cool. We got to see where and what they prepare for fish and critters in the different tanks, and genrally see what goes on behind the Employees Only doors.

We also got to feed the fish in one of the huge salt water tanks. They eat congealed green cubes of...I'm not sure what that is. It was some combination of grasses and nutrients those type of fish needed.

There was a giant sea turtle that lived in that tank.They taught him to come to the surface when they banged on the metal walkway over the tank to get a treat on a stick, so we got to see him close up.  Divers were going down to feed the fish and he had to be out of the way because he posed a hazard to the divers. Getting hit by him swimming by would be like getting hit by a VW Bug. 

He liked to eat broccoli.

I always wondered how they built such an impressive aquarium. They just pulled it out of a box. Voila, instant ocean.

We got to see the quarantine area where they keep the critters that are new or sick. This is an actual octopus. Did you know that octopi isn't actually the plural of octopus? I learned that on my behind-the-scenes tour. VERY useful information, now I can correct everybody. These things have creeped me out ever since Sesame Street days as a little kid. There was a Sesame Street segment with a live giant octopus that slithered and undulated its tentacles, accompanied by ominous pipe organ music. I think it was supposed to be fascinating and educational to little kids but it stressed me out every time I saw it. CREEPY.

There were plenty of other interesting, non-scary animals in quarantine.  We also learned something about the filtration system at the aquarium, which is pretty amazing. Not that I understood any of it. Maybe that's why I found it amazing.

At the end of the tour we got to have a hands-on experience with a gecko.

He was pretty cool.

Then he asked me if I'd like to buy some car insurance. Just kidding.

After seeing the divers from above, we got to see them from below sea level once our tour finished. This one is wearing a Tigger hat. Our guide said that around 150 different divers volunteer their time at the aquarium to feed fish, and many drive a couple of hours to get there. They had a neat network of volunteers that took care of nearly every facet of the aquarium, with a relatively small full-time staff. Our tour guide was retired and volunteered his time one day each week.

Some of the tanks had jack-o-lanterns in them since it was only two weeks until Halloween.

Amelia liked hanging out with the penguins.

Hmmm, that's a strange looking penguin in khakis up on the rocks.



We enjoyed our day at the aquarium, ending it with a fun IMAX film about two animal rescues/reserves in Africa. One focuses on gorillas, the other on elephants.

We also walked around in the art district and tried to look cultured. There's a pedestrian bridge with its walkway made entirely of glass blocks, so you can see the busy highway below. If you avoided looking down while walking it wasn't too nerve wracking.

I liked this particular piece of art.

Sometimes art mimics life.

We enjoyed a yummy Mellow Mushroom dinner, then headed to the hotel. Elizabeth crashed and I took the oldest three swimming. It was more like a jump in/jump out though, since the water was freezing. I've yet to figure out why hotels bother to keep indoor pools open if they aren't going to heat the water. Even if the room is warm, underground is still a constant 50-55 degrees...which makes in-ground pool water COLD! There wasn't a hot tub to use as a countermeasure, so we went to bed.

The next day we headed to the Creative Discovery Children's Museum. It's the best kids' museum we've been to.

You have to love a place that lets you shoot water.

There was also a system that showed you how a lock in a lake works.

Perhaps some foreshadowing of things to come? Paging Dr. Himstedt...

We took a break at lunch to walk down to Chili's to meet our friend Alisa. She was a counselor and head counselor with us at Camp Skyline, then worked full-time with us there for a year. She is now Skyline's summer director and she and her husband live in Chattanooga.

She was also two weeks away from having their first child, Mary Margaret. It was terrific to catch up with her.

After lunch we headed back to the museum and stayed until it closed. I'm still not sure we saw everything there.

How a pulley works...

Hunting for dinosaur bones.

Shannon and Daddy had fun playing with the K'nex sets. They built vehicles they could run on a slot track.

Avery and Elizabeth had some fishing and captaining fun on the boat.

She's making this thrilled face because I wouldn't let her put on the rubber rain boots that were on board the ship. We were literally seconds away from leaving and I didn't want to have to tour the ship hunting for shoes and socks. Mean mommy.

We pulled out of the parking lot around 5:00 to head for home. By 5:02 two of them were snoozing, and we lost the other two by 5:10. A short but full and really fun two days. We'll be doing it again sometime.

The preschool choir I help with at church sang in front of the congregation for the first time that Sunday. Both Avery and Elizabeth are in it. Pictures are always bad in the sanctuary due to the combination of pathetic lighting and pilot error, but I did get a few while trying to help "direct" the singing.

Don't they look like they're "happy and they know it?" Bree, Aslyn, and Bella spent the first few minutes crying and snotting. Since they are all youngest siblings in their families, in line behind several brothers and sisters, their parents sat back and took pictures instead of rescuing them from the scary stage. Firstborns get snatched up at the first sign of distress, siblings on down the line get their distress captured by a camera for everyone to see and laugh at later. Not that I would know anything about that firsthand....

Cute, aren't they?

This is the only picture I got with both Avery and Elizabeth in it.

"If you're happy and you know it stomp your feet!"

Here's a random picture of Daisy up a tree. It was next on my camera, so here it is.

She was hiding from Daniel's dog Winston. Amelia worried about her since she was about 20 feet off the ground, but she eventually came down on her own. I didn't think anyone in our White County volunteer fire department would like to leave their real job to come rescue a cat.

The following Sunday the other two kids sang with their choir in church. You can just make out Amelia in the middle of the picture. Shannon is...somewhere.

That night we went back to church for the ordination of our youth pastor and good friend Carlton. He has pastored our youth at church for nearly ten years. He and Alison have felt the call to start church, and he officially resigned in October. They will be meeting with others in their home at first, and will be building small groups through discipleship and mentoring. I am really excited for them, and know it's going to be great! I'm particularly grateful that God didn't call them far away, as the selfish part of me would have kicked and screamed at having to let Alison and her family go. White county has a large percentage of unchurched/unsaved folks, and Carlton knows it's God's will for them to stay right here.

The ordination service was also a kind of send-off. It was a sweet time, and the words said about Carlton and his heart for ministry were right on.

They were prayed for by leaders and deacons, including our worship pastor James,

our pastor Levi,

and a BUNCH of other folks. A reception followed, and Carlton was showered with thanks and gratitude for his investment in the lives of so many. I realized I would now be flying solo in kindergarten Sunday School, as Alison had been the lead teacher. (I'm happy to report that it is going very well. I miss her though. :( )

October was a fairly quiet month, just plugging away at school work, feeding horses (unfortunately with very little time to ride), going to gymnastics and church, shopping for groceries and the other details that make life run smoothly, getting together with friends on Friday nights, and in general wondering where the time has gone.

The last significant October event was Halloween. The kids talked for weeks about what they wanted to dress up as this year. Amelia wanted to be a ninja and eventually Shannon decided he did too. Avery wanted to be a pirate since he's into all things pirate lately. (I can't figure out why we glamorize pirates. They still exist, and they still kill people!) Elizabeth wanted to be a cat, which worked out great since I could recycle Amelia's cat costume from last year.

This is the first year our church did "trunk or treats." In the past we've always had a fall festival but not with the free-for-all giving out of candy. Each truck or car with its trunk full of candy also had a game the kids could play, run by a Sunday School class or other sponsoring entity. There were also bounce houses and a raffle. It was a lot of fun, and we came home with a FULL bag of candy, probably more than we could have scored trick-or-treating. The kids managed to make it last until the beginning of December.

There's no telling how much candy they ate on site.

Camp has a (somewhat) portable archery range that makes an appearance at schools and fall festivals, or anywhere else we want to teach kids to shoot a bow for fun. James set it up and also had a camp video playing with brochures to hand out. We only live 20 minutes from church, but it still surprises me how many of our church folks have never seen camp. They just know we disappear every summer.

Pirate Avery with Karina. I'm still trying to figure out a way to get her to live with us full-time. If only her parents didn't love her so much.

Looky, I did it, I finished another post! I can move to November now! Don't you want to re-live the holidays since they were such fun? We will, and soon....maybe. As soon as possible, anyway.

First, a few things I thought were humorous this week. Avery continues to work on drawing, and usually his stick people have scary teeth and faces. I'll try to post one sometime. He drew two people, me and himself, with the signature pointy teeth and said, "I just love vampires. I love all monsters, really." What does this mean?

Today Shannon asked me if I was going to the store later. I told him I wasn't, and why did he ask? He said, "Oh, I just wanted to do some window shopping."

The scenes that follow are my favorite. I couldn't wait until the December post to share, though I took the pictures on December 31.

Amelia likes to dress up in this dance costume my mom got from a friend whose kids were in dance. (It's made an appearance on this blog more than once.) You can see what sort of mild winter we've had by the fact that she's in no sleeves or shoes and is plenty warm. Anyway, I asked her if she was a princess and she said, "No, I'm a siren." (She's really been into mythology lately.) I said, "Don't sirens get sailors into all kinds of trouble?" "Yes," she says, "they have to do whatever the siren wants when she sings." I thought that was imaginative and let it go at that.

A few minutes later I hear her singing, and Shannon is moving towards her. I get a little closer, and hear her say, "Siren says, wave your arms." He obediently waved his arms. At this point I was stifling laughter.

"Siren says, jump into the sea!"

The siren is off to find her next victim.

Run sailors, run!

Cats are not charmed by siren song.

Nor have they any reverence for siren apparel. 

Amelia told me not everyone thinks it's still okay to pretend, as a girl at the park that was her age told her it was too babyish when Amelia asked her to play. Amelia told her having an imagination is a good thing. I have to agree.