Friday, August 29, 2014

Book Reviews: Krista McGee's First Date, Starring Me, and Right Where I Belong

Krista McGee is a Christian author who writes for a teen audience. I first "met" her when the big girls and I read her Anomaly trilogy, which are dystopian.

First Date, Starring Me, and Right Where I Belong are set in the present day, and are thus very different from her dystopian trilogy.  But I really enjoyed them!

Where do I begin?  Well first, the 3 are loosely connected.  The first stars a girl named Addy, whose best friend is Kara. The second book stars Kara and includes, among other plot points, her walk that results in her becoming a follower of Jesus. The 3rd book stars Natalia (a girl from Spain who comes to Florida with her stepmother) and Natalia becomes friends with Addy and Kara.

Each of the books has a plot loosely based on a Bible story.  First Date revolves around a reality show where the winner gets to go to the prom with the President's son.  Ok, any thoughts on the foundational Biblical story?  Yep, ESTHER!  I thoroughly enjoyed First Date because McGee keeps pulling in little tidbits from the plot of Esther (but without the massive destruction and hangings in the real book of Esther!)

Starring Me is based on the Biblical story of Isaac and Rebekah.  Right Where I Belong is loosely based on the story of Ruth and Naomi.

All 3 have strong romantic themes.  In all 3, the main female character is strongly attracted to a (different) specific male character.  McGee handles it quite well.  The young men and women struggle through complex issues while still clinging to Biblical truth.  The gospel is very directly presented.  I appreciated that in all 3 books, there are serious discussions about male/female relationships and how to have a godly relationship in the midst of physical attraction.  I also loved that the 3rd book includes long discussions about the pain of divorce and the common struggles in a marriage between a Christian and a non-Christian.

There are some moderately "deep" issues in these books, so I would say they are best read by teens.  But there is no random kissing and certainly no one is jumping into bed.  The books are lively and fun to read, and include some excellent points to ponder. I heartily recommend these books.

The Rehabilitation of King the Cat

  We have a pack of outdoor cats, some strays, some not.

  In the picture above is a yellow cat, named King.  His brother, Kazuma, is one of the cats to the right.

King and Kazuma came to us as kittens a few years ago.  They were friendly, bouncy, happy kittens, and we loved them. Initially they were indoor cats, but they grew tired of being indoors and wanted to be outside, so we let them out into the glorious outdoors.  .

A couple of years ago, King mostly disappeared.  By mostly, I mean he would show up every few weeks and eat, but mostly he was on "walkabout". He grew increasingly shy and nervous around us, and got more aggressive with the other cats.

A few months ago, he wouldn't let us get near him.  When we saw him, it was usually only a brief glance as he furtively snuck onto the porch to eat some food.  If we opened the door, he fled in apparent terror.  I am not sure if he was abused elsewhere (I hope not) but I think it more likely that his weeks of solitude out in the wilderness just made him excessively shy of people.

Regarding other cats, King seems to have adopted a "feral cat" approach. He is neutered but acts quite a bit like a roving tomcat.  He fights other cats and has the scars to prove it.  He is a pretty mangy looking beast, if the truth be told.

BUT, we have a house full of cat lovers.  Our older children, especially Lydia, have been working to win King's trust again. And they have succeeded.  King is now a full time cat again.  He is around most of the time, and now will deign to allow the children to pet him. He has grown quite friendly -- to people, anyway.

The other cats may regret that he isn't still on walkabout, as he still picks fights.  But the kids and I are happy to welcome King back to our cat pack.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

First Week of Homeschooling

This was our first week of formal homeschooling for the new school year.

I know various moms do "the first day" in various ways. I read of one mom who had her daughter leave her house every morning, go around the house, then come back in the front door so that both of them formally knew she was now "at school."  That's cute.

Some moms take "first day of school" pictures of each child, and plan something special.

Those moms are not me.

Truth is, I never ever ever feel ready to "start school" for the year. There are always more papers to print out, more to study and investigate, more preparation.  So I've learned that I just need to pick a day and get started.

I've also learned that we all do better if we ease into our homeschooling year. So last week was mellow.  The 6 older kids all had school, but not very much school. We did a little math, and some algebraic Balance Benders pages, and some reading.  This week, we'll add some more subjects but not a full load.

In addition to school, we enjoyed some swimming in our pool (which counts as physical education) and I had 3 well child checkups.  Rose was 8 lb 15 oz, which means our little lady has gained close to 3 lbs in 2 months. I'm pleased with that!  Angela and Joseph somehow missed well child checkups for 2 years!  I don't know HOW I did that, and I feel badly as I think there is value in having a basic checkup every year.  But neither has scoliosis or any other obvious issue, and both are growing well.  Angela has always been thin -- she was our smallest baby at only 5 lb 12 oz at birth. She's now on the 75% height curve and has moved from 5th to 10th percentile on the weight curve.  Joseph is also pretty tall, 75th or 80th percentile.  He has actually dropped on the weight chart to around 25th percentile.  He used to be a chunky boy (quite a bit like Daniel) but he has slimmed out the last few years.  He is a good eater except that he loathes fruit -- but he does eat lots of vegetables.  He's just naturally thin, like so many of his siblings.  We actually have only one child is who is a little short for her age, and that is our sweet Miriam.  There is nothing wrong with being short.  I'm guessing when all the kids have grown up, many will tower over her but that is fine :-).

So, first week down.  It went pretty well.  There are always so many virtual balls in the air and with Rose needing frequent feedings and care, I feel very busy and stretched.  I keep praying for wisdom about how to spend my limited time and energy, and I am working on having FAITH that everything I am supposed to do, I can and will do with God's strength.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Bye-bye Chickens

  So we made a momentous and difficult decision -- we decided to get rid of our chickens.

We've had laying hens for several years and they are many positive things about them. We got fresh eggs. We had a great place to use our food scraps.  We enjoyed watching them peck and jump around and do silly things.  We had some extra chores for our kids and they learned responsibility by caring for the hens.

 But...we have a new baby, and we're starting homeschooling soon, and Kevin has a new, exciting, more challenging job at work starting in a few weeks.  We felt it was wise to simplify our lives.  A local friend was interested in taking the hens and her husband came by and took them away in 2 batches this week.

  It is kind of sad to look out at the coop and the chicken yards and see both unoccupied.

 I find it hard to stop doing "good" things.  Chickens are good in some ways. I've come up with several positives about owning them. But sometimes it is wise to drop a "good" thing in favor of something better -- in this case, less stress and more time to relax instead of dealing with our chicken hobby.

  Chickens may be in our future someday. We still have the coop, though the fences will come down (which will allow for easy access for mowing.)  But for now, this is a wise decision.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

New Roof

2 weeks ago today, we had a hailstorm. It was the most localized hailstorm I've ever experienced; that is to say, we got pummeled, but our local friends either go no hail or minimal hail.

I think you can just see the hailstones in this picture.

So our garden was pummeled.  There were holes in the produce and the leaves.  That made us think, of course, about the roof.

I called a local roofer (who has a great reputation) and asked him if he could look at our roof for hail damage.  The initial contact was a little funny; he was obviously busy when I called, and he said it was extremely unlikely we had hail damage.  He kind of blew me off.

Well, Kevin went up on the roof and looked around:

He saw what looked to him like hail damage, and when he showed pictures to some friends with knowledge, they agreed.

So we called back the roofer, and he agreed to come out. He said he saw hail damage but wasn't positive our homeowner's insurance would agree.

We contacted our homeowner's, someone came out, and he agreed it looked like hail damage.

So we decided to go ahead and have the roof replaced.  The roofer made things happen very quickly...the shingles arrived yesterday and RIGHT now, we have 9 or 10 people on our roof, pounding away.

It is all a good thing. We obviously don't want damage to our house from rain leaking in. We're thankful the roofer was able to get us fixed up quickly.

Today is a bit odd as it is Angela's birthday AND we have a driveway and yard full of trucks and a great deal of extraneous noise.  But supposedly the new roof will be on in 2 days.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Book Review: Stories of Faith and Courage from World War II by Larkin Spivey

I got this devotional book on my Kindle, on loan from the library. It is a yearly devotional, with a short commentary plus a verse or 2 for each day of the year.  Since I only have it on loan for 3 weeks, I'm just reading through it all.  Indeed, I'm on Dec. 22nd, so I'm almost done.

Great book.  I have read a few books about World War II and obviously it was an epic time in our world's history.  This devotional ties in stories about the war with specific spiritual truths.

There are many useful ideas and thoughts, but perhaps the overarching message for ME is that it is easy to get wound up about little things. I read about bombing raids on English and German cities, and Hiroshima, and the sufferings of prisoners of war, and I realize how easy it is for me to get upset about stuff that just doesn't matter.

Another thing that occurs to me is that in a way, life is simpler (though certainly not easier) when life revolves around a grand, national goal.  Certainly there was much disagreement during World War II about how best to fight the Axis powers, but in general the whole nation was united in the war effort after Pearl Harbor.  Also, many people had to set aside normal pursuits in favor of supporting the war effort.  So young men went off to fight, and most just obeyed orders, instead of deciding whether to go college and what career to pursue. Women who normally would be deciding how to spend their days were pressed into hard service working in factories and on farms. Again, not easy. I don't wish I was living that life and I'm especially thankful there is no pressure for me to work outside the home, away from my children. But sometimes options are hard.  I pray for God's wisdom often because we have so many things we COULD do that sometimes I get wound up in a knot wondering if I am using my limited time as God intends.

Sleepy Baby

Rose slept through the night last night. Thank you, baby!  I actually woke up at 6 a.m. and was wide awake (and itchy because of chigger bites -- I hate chiggers!) I went into her little room and sat on a chair there reading my Kindle until she decided to wake up at 6:30 a.m.  So 7.5 hours last night...I think we'll call that sleeping through the night.

So far my milk supply is holding up. I'm drinking and drinking and drinking, and also have been eating steel cut oats because I was told oats help with milk supply.

Oats are high carb and my blood sugars are up a bit.  I had my blood draw a couple of weeks ago and my A1c was 6.0.  That's higher than usual -- I'm usually 5.5 or so.  I am not surprised as I have been eating more carbs.  I have to admit it is hard for me to not worry about 6.0.  I'm an engineer and obsessive about numbers, and I am convinced that one key to a healthy life long term for a diabetic is to keep my blood sugars low and stable. BUT, I will not nurse Rose for more than a year at the very most (and I doubt I'll make it that far) so I think it is Ok to run high for a few months.  And really, that isn't incredibly high. My doctor was very pleased with 6.0, but as I said -- I tend to be obsessive.  Non diabetics run around 5.0 and my long term goal is to have blood sugar levels close to a non diabetic. Again, long term.  I know once Rose is done nursing and I drop steel cut oats that I'll do better with blood sugars.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Longer Attention Span...

I've mentioned how much work Daniel is.  He is great, but crazy busy and often getting into things he should not.

In the last week, it seems like he's been a LITTLE easier to care for.  I say that because he is starting to play with toys for more than 2 minutes.  This morning, he played with that marble toy for a good half hour, and then spent some time lying on the floor with his pillow pets.

He hasn't played in the toilet in at least a month.

He hasn't dumped water QUITE as often as usual.

Yes, I think he is mellowing out just a bit. Stay tuned to see if that lasts, or if this is just a phase.

Park trip

I know going to a park doesn't SEEM like a big deal, but thanks to pregnancy and then the birth of Rose, I've been sticking pretty close to home all summer.

So last week, while our 3 middle girls were in Michigan, I took Lydia, Isaac, Joseph, Daniel, and Rose to a local park.  We had a picnic and then the 4 kids played on equipment, climbed trees and rocks, and ran around.  Naomi decided to stay home and read, in a totally quiet and peaceful house. Needless to say, our house is rarely quiet and peaceful!

We had fun at the park.

Running Daniel all over is a great way to guarantee a good nap!

Big rock.

Happy baby. She is starting to smile at us!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Job Change for Kevin

BIG news on the job front for Kevin!  He interviewed for a deputy chief job on base and got the job!

So in a month, he'll be moving to a new job and taking on a new and exciting set of responsibilities.

It'll mean more hours of work and more pressure, but will also provide challenge and interesting tasks.  So we are excited and happy.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014


My folks were in town this weekend, meeting Rose for the first time and also enjoying the company of 8 other grandchildren (and oh yes, Kevin and me too!)

They took our 3 "middle girls" back to Michigan with them until Thursday. It really is surprisingly quiet with only 6 kids here!

I miss them though. BUT we're managing to get some extra stuff done while they are gone.

This is our sun room. I won't show you the before pictures. It was messy.

I'm happy to see it clean for at least a short time!