Sunday, November 30, 2014

Thanksgiving

Thom and Brittany and Jackson, Graham and Jane joined us for a whole week surrounding Thanksgiving! We super loved having them here. Brittany is a great running buddy and kitchen cleaner and our kids played really well the whole time they were here (it got a little bit less good towards the end but I would still say they were all good!)

Somehow I didn't get any pictures until Thanksgiving Day. I guess we didn't actually do a whole lot besides play at the house and eat good food. Our only out-of-the-house event besides church on Sunday was Chris' department's tailgate. We met Thom and Brittany straight from their drive out at the tailgate party before the big MSU game the Saturday before Thanksgiving. Besides that, it rained or was cold most of the days they were here. We did get all the kids out for a walk twice! 

Chris had to work the first two days still, so Thom did some kid-watching while Brittany and I did some shopping and we precooked some things. With a noisy house of kids playing, and the smell of favorite holiday dishes baking and some choral Christmas music...it really started to feel like a familiar holiday. Its been more than two years since we've felt that!

For Thanksgiving dinner we had a few other people join us: some good friends from church Dan and Angela and a one of Chris' co-workers who has been amazingly helpful and welcoming to him, Cindy.  The kids made some place cards, and we clipped some fresh ever green sprigs for the centerpiece, but we kept it pretty casual...eating off plastic plates (but they looked really nice!) and serving everything buffet style. 

It was my first time cooking the entire meal for company. Not that I did all the cooking. Between Chris, Thom, Brittany and myself, I could hardly claim even a fourth of it! It was not stressful at all and tasted delicious. 


After our late lunch, we went on the second of our two walks with the kids. We all hopped our back fence and walked along the dirt roads of MSU's South Farm. The scenery was beautiful and the air nice and crisp. My favorite things. We did a lot of looking back across the last year and feel SOO grateful for so many normal/mundane things. In all of these respects it was a perfect Thanksgiving.



The only downside to the entire week was having some nursing problems with Frederick and its repercussions. He had a stuffy nose and was maybe teething a bit which resulted in some biting. OUCH! I got really sore after a few days (I was still nursing him about 4-5 times a day) and that made me miserable and cranky. I worried we had thrush because of the pain, but couldn't find any rash. By the time the cuts were more visible, they were infected and I had to stop nursing. I was uncomfortable with engorgement and worried about getting another clogged duct (I had one just the week before!) and with Chris still focusing on work and dealing with his mounting anxiety about his upcoming PET scan, he wasn't able to give me the care or attention I wanted. But the day Thom and Brittany drove back home, we were finally able to communicate better and my cuts started to heal. I managed to keep nursing Frederick once a day through this so he's not totally weaned but he's close. I normally love nursing and was very sad to give it up but this bottle feeding stuff has its advantages too. Its fun to rock and feed him a bottle without worry of pain, and now Chris gets a chance to get some extra Freddy Cuddles when he puts him down to bed at night.

Friday, November 21, 2014

The renovation begins!! Dirt work

The moment we've waited months and months for has begun: our house renovation! We're converting the current 1-car garage into a playroom which will bring the attached storage room and laundry room into the heated/cooled section of the house! Then we're building a new two-car garage with a shop area in between our house and the guest house! The new garage will connect up with our house via the laundry room which we will expand a bit to create a nice mud room and we'll finish off the 1/2 bath that is inside the laundry/mud room. Then above the new garage we'll build two bedrooms and a bathroom which connect in with our main house upstairs right where Gwen's room is located. We lose Gwen's room as it changes into a lounge/common area connecting the new bedrooms with the rest of the kids bed rooms upstairs.  

We are SO SO SO excited to have this start. I honestly don't know what I'm more excited about: the big playroom right off the kitchen, being able to walk barefoot to the laundry room, having a mudroom, parking our cars inside a garage for the first time since we've been married (I guess we had an unattached garage for 1 year in Canada), having a tub and 2 sinks in the kids' bathroom, having another bedroom and getting the kids settled in their 'permanent' rooms, using the covered patio across the back of the garage looking over the backyard, feeling safe with the installation of a below-ground storm shelter inside our shop area of the garage or being able to organize and use a large indoor storage room!!! Seriously, guys... this is like 1/2 of our dream home becoming a reality!! We feel so grateful to be able to make this happen right now. 

Renovation stage 1: Dirt Work. Pulling back part of the existing driveway to pour new cement connecting it and the new garage. Gwen is in our current garage watching the first big machines go to work.


Digging up the not-so-great-for-foundation-dirt where the new garage/shop area will be.


Putting in the new good-for-foundation-dirt:


Packing down the new dirt:


Playing in the old dirt. Not completely necessary for construction but totally necessary for childhood.




TMI - Wiping Freddy's backside a while after he ate all this dirt totally brought me back to changing my other boys diapers when we lived in Escondido Village (EV) at Stanford and they played/ate in the sandbox most days.  

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Day 365 - Chris is 1 year old


1 year ago, Chris was on Day Zero, like this: 





(getting his stem cells injected back into his body after an intense week of chemotherapy)

And now, a year later we're celebrating our return to normal life. I asked Chris how he wanted to celebrate...maybe go out to dinner as a family...or a mid-week pizza and a movie night at home...or bake a special cake, etc.  He said having a normal day would be a perfect way to celebrate being able to live life again. So 3 cheers for packing lunches and taking kids to school, a 7:45-5:45 work day, attending meetings and working on code, coming home for lunch, having leftover soup for dinner (4th day running), having a slice of a left over cake your wife made for a church function the day before,  rushing off to a church youth activity you're in charge of - this week a Cookie Bake Off, coming home to your 4 kids asleep and your wife busy sewing, and playing a few basketball computer games before cuddling your wife to sleep at 10:00pm. Happy Birthday, my Christopher! I am so glad to be mundane with you.


Speaking of normal life, these are scenes I see almost daily. Gwen putting Frederick up on the piano so he can play, and Alec showing the rest of us some cool science experiment he learned at school or saw in a book. 






Monday, November 17, 2014

Storm shelter and Winter arrive

Our storm shelter has been delivered which is the first step in starting our first round of renovations for our house. Pretty exciting. This metal box is going to give us peace of mind during the tornado season and potentially save our lives! We got the largest one that seats 10-12 people. I can stand up in the middle and we hope that Chris won't have to hunch over when he's sitting on the bench inside. :) Now we are all set for the soil/concrete/foundation work on the new garage addition to begin! Hopefully it happens this week. 


We really are enjoying the fall weather and colors, but since I took these pictures, we've had much colder/windy/rainy weather and most of the leaves are gone and it really looks and feel like a Mississippi Winter! How exciting. 


The schools are really ultra cautious about the weather here and because the temperature (with windchill) was hovering around or below freezing, the kids don't get to go outside and play for their one and only 15 min recess. So we decided after school to hop our back fence and roam the farm lands of Mississippi State's South Farm. 


Besides Fall and the current state of our house, the other things we have to say goodbye to are Gweny's red cowboy boots. The soles are more often then not completely bent back in 1/2 and they've caused her a couple of crashes on her bikes already. Chris says shoe glue will fix the problem but I'm doubtful. I guess we'll see.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Yogurt

"What? they gave me the whole container?! That must have been Daddy's idea." (It was)

"Hmm... how does this spoon thing work?"


"Forget it, I'm going in without it!"


"Oh, thats good stuff."


"What if I tip it back even more?"


"Perfect!"


"Oh, there's the spoon thing again! Lets try that one more time."


"Hmm... that looks familiar"


"But no, nothing is coming out!"


"Whatever. Spoons just get in the way" 


"Can we do that every time?!" (No.)

Soccer season


Alec and Charlie have been on soccer teams this fall. Charlie's team is incredible and dominates every game. Charlie is a good team player, and positions himself in a good positions (meaning he DOESN'T just follow the pack with the ball like most kids his age do). He is a good defender and even scores a couple goals every game. Needless to say, Charlie has been having a blast. They're doing the "Academy" style training for the 6 and unders which means he meets about once a week for soccer, sometimes during the week for a game or a practice and sometimes on Saturday for an Academy Session where all the kids in the division do drills together. I think its a great way to teach and practice skills but still have the fun of being on a team and playing games.

Chris has been Alec's coach and they have made MASSIVE amounts of improvement since the beginning of the season. His team is full of really nice kids and super appreciative and supportive parents/families. But, they were literally the worst team in the U8 division with an average of losing by 6 and having only scored 1 goal (by Alec) in the first 5 games. I'm just being honest. Alec is the best player. He has good focus, knows where to be on the field, kicks the ball the farthest, and the most accurately. Most of the other kids on his team don't seem like they've ever played soccer before and a few don't really pay attention on the field 90% of the time. It was pretty hard for Chris to enjoy the games and usually came home hoarse, but luckily Alec is young enough to not get too bent out of shape about always losing. He notices, for sure, and often asks, "why do we always have to play really hard teams?"  Coach Chris stuck with it and scheduled an additional practice.  He does a great job of staying positive with the boys and complimenting and sticking up for them. One time he even collectedly questioned the ref on an absurd mis-call and got the resulting goal discounted! Some of the other kids on their team also joined the Challenge Division (like the club team with additional practices and games on Sunday). And guess what? They started getting better! A bit more aggressive, a bit more defensive. They finally got to play some teams with similar skill levels and they won a few games!! Whew. Winning sure is more fun than losing and it is more fun to be married to a coach who wins, than a coach who doesn't win. :) 

The games were mostly at 5:45 on Tuesday or Thursdays, sometimes at 6:45 and sometimes at both or sometimes at the same time! They made for crazy-feeling evenings and Frederick gets pretty antsy on the sidelines, staying up hours past his bedtime. Blessedly, he's really a pretty good baby when he's being held or fed and I can usually manage to stave off the screams whilst keeping tabs on Gwen and/or Charlie and follow the game(s). 


Its been fun to get to know the other parents of the players and watch the kids improve and my boys do so well on the field, but I'm also looking forward to break. :) Spring season starts up in February. 

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Finished clearing the tree debris!

Thanks to our good friend, again and again and again, we finally got the tree all cleared up! He came by again this past week to saw up the main trunk into lots of piece and again took them off to be firewood. Then Chris and I spent another Saturday morning hauling branches and branches into the bon fire. We had flames this time passing 25 feet high! This fire has had embers smoldering and burning constantly for a couple of weeks! Seriously. Even after a few rainfalls and a week after the last fire, I smelled and saw smoke coming from the ashes. We have like a 2 feet deep and 4 foot square pile of ashes.


Also on our to-do list this Saturday was to do one last mow of the yard before storing the mower out of the way for the garage renovation. Chris wrapped up each of the kids (except Frederick who doesn't like the loud noise) and let them drive the lawn mower for a bit. 


Hail State and a Tailgate

We're #1! Seriously. Mississippi State Football is nationally ranked #1. Apparently, the tailgate parties here have always been legendary but now they're even more crazy. We try to make it to at least one and would have gone to more this season if we could figure out where to park. We rode bikes up to one a few weeks ago but today was windy and cold, we weren't sure biking would be a good idea, so we left early enough to find parking by our old house on campus. Chris' Department Chair made a couple of enormous pots of gumbo and it was DIVINE. I loved the chicken and pork version. The computer science department's tailgate basically consists of eating good food under a tent in front of their building as we watch football on a flat screen, talk, and occasionally play some lawn games. Pretty relaxing and enjoyable. On our way back to our car we like to walk through "the Junction" to see the mass of tailgaters. 



We were lucky enough to run into the drum line! Brought back memories of watching them practice in our backyard when we lived on campus.