Thursday, May 31, 2012

February - May 2012

In the beginning of February, my closest friend in Texas had a crisis and left her family.  It’s been devastating on the whole community, but her husband and children the most.  Jon and I both felt torn up over the incredible hurt and loss for the broken family.  We found as many ways as we could to support the family and love on them.  In this process, we’ve really gotten enmeshed into the community here and are walking real life out with our neighbors and friends.  It’s been intense.  But the upside for us is the many new friendships that have quickly moved from acquaintances to deeper friendships through this trauma.  Over the last few months, I am finding my groove here in a new way.  I am hosting lots of meals at my house and am building more depth and closeness with my new friendships.

We are finally no longer cut off from the world of technology.  The local internet company, who denied us internet, got bought out by a bigger company, who had no problem getting us our own internet connection.  So now we have internet again!  Our last internet attempt with burying the Ethernet cable to our neighbor’s house lasted for about 3 weeks before an electrical storm fried that option.  The new connection is good enough to let me check emails and whatnot, but not fast enough to stream anything.  We also have a working land line at home too, thanks to my dad who sent me a Magic Jack.  The Magic Jack gives you a telephone line off of the internet.  It works about as well as the internet, so not that well, but better than nothing.  It’s the price of living in a rural area.  I do like that I can use the data on my phone over wifi now.  It’s much faster than the roaming I was using previously.

Valentine’s Day was low key this year.  In the morning I found some chocolate covered strawberries and my favorite champagne in the fridge. It was really sweet and I was really surprised.

We took a long weekend trip to Missouri to visit my cousin Kara and her son Jude, as well as her parents, my Aunt Dar and Uncle Darrel. On the way we got to stop for In-N-Out in Dallas!  Man, we sure miss our favorite burger stop.  Caleb was excited that he could easily eat it.  He had two loose teeth that have been making eating tricky for awhile, but as of that morning, he had a new toothless grin! Jon had to pull out his two teeth because a collision with Ben left his mouth bloody and painful. They were loose teeth anyway and blocking the new adult teeth growing in.

It's a 10 hour drive to Kara’s from where we live. It's nice that I live close enough to be part of her life again. Her parents live in the house with her too. Aunt Dar was like a grandma to me my whole life, but even more so since my grandma died when I was in Jr. High. My grandma is her sister. She always sends my kids birthday and Christmas cards, plus a gift or money. It’s really sweet and much appreciated.  We haven't really seen them since they moved to Missouri. We used to always do holidays together and have really missed them since they moved. It was really good to see her too! I’m glad Ben, Caleb, and Jude will get a chance to know each other over the years.

While there we went to Fantastic Caverns. I was fine until they turned all the lights off for a full minute to show us what true dark is and how your eyes are unable to adjust in true darkness. I was trying so hard to not freak out. I knew I would have a hard time in the cave, but it was so bad. I am absolutely claustrophobic. I was fighting terror. I didn't fully recover until awhile after we were back outside. Probably only Jon knew the extent of how I was feeling. I'm glad I kept it together. At one point while it was dark, I put my hand on Caleb's knee; to reassure him in case he was feeling scared. He was like, "Mom, why are you touching my knee?" Yah, he wasn't scared. He thought it was so neat, as an experience and as a new science discovery. Ben was fine too. Even Jude, the 3 year old was fine. I'm such a wimp, but not wimp enough to let my fear stop me. Got to be brave for the boys! Want to teach them to be brave in the face of fear!

Kara sent me home with a sprouting jar.  I had never heard of it before, but I love it so much already.  I just put in the alfalfa seeds, soak them overnight in water, and rinse them twice a day. In less than a week I have home grown alfalfa sprouts to eat in my sandwiches and salads!  They are so tasty and I can do it again and again!  I’m itching to start making my own yogurt next.  I use a cup of plain lofat yogurt in my protein shakes every morning.  I would save quite a bit of money making my own, but I want a yogurt making machine to help simplify the job.  I can’t wait!

Shortly after our return home we got to help celebrate the birthday of one of Caleb’s new friends at a roller skating rink.  We all had a blast.  Ben was really shaky and unstable when we started.  We got him this support rail the rink has for young kids to hold on to while skating to stabilize them.  He used that for a while, but it wasn’t too long until he wanted to try on his own.  Each time around he improved noticeably.  We were all super impressed with how quickly Ben got the hang of it!

Jon and I celebrated our 11th Happy Saint Birth-A-Versary (Jon’s birthday, our anniversary, and St. Patrick’s Day)!   We had a full weekend.  We had friends over one night and I got to break in my paella pan.  We feasted on delicious paella, a dish from Spain, which looked as good as it tasted.  Then the next night we celebrated Jon’s birthday with a party at our house, a bonfire, and his favorite meal, chile verde.  Then the next night Jon and I got to go on a date for our anniversary.  It was a really nice weekend.

One weekend we went camping at the Frio River with our cousins Aaron and Andrew, the Ericksons, Jake and Lena Hamiter, and the Rusch family.  I was afraid I wasn’t going to get to go because I came down with a bad cold a few days before we were supposed to leave.  But my fever broke a couple hours before it was time to go, so I decided to go for it.  I didn’t feel very good, but it beat sitting at home alone.  And I’m so glad I went.  It was such a gorgeous place and the weather was perfect.  We went with a good group of people.  Our campsite was right on the river.  It was so nice to hear the sounds of the river while you lay in your tent.  We were right by a perfect shallow area of water, so the kids could play in the river to their hearts content.  I hid in the shade while the other ladies lay out in the sun.  One afternoon, the boys all canoed and kayaked miles down the river.  That was the highlight for Jon and Caleb for sure.  Some of the guys dared the rope swings that were randomly along the river.  Another afternoon my boys paddled me around in the canoe like I was a princess.  That was so sweet.  Caleb is getting to be so big, strong, and capable.  We finished off our weekend by grabbing some tasty Texas BBQ on our drive home with Aaron and the Rusch family.

Our home improvement has been slow going, but we have made some headway on my garden.  First I transplanted my tomatoes to bigger pots and tried some new techniques I learned from a gardener I met at the Farm Patch, a fresh fruit and veggie store. I scratched the stems up with my thumb nail and then planted 80% of the plant under the soil, leaving 20% above ground. This is supposed to promote more root growth. She said to do this process once more and to plant half in sun and half in shade. The plants in the sun will produce until the intense heat of summer, which is when the shaded plants will start becoming bountiful. Great tips for Texas gardening!  Then, we found garden fencing piled up behind a shed on our property, which you need to keep deer and rabbits out of your garden. Plus a neighbor we just met that day gave us wood to build our raised planter beds. I feel like God is totally caring for my wants even though we have no extra money.  So we tilled, built raised beds, and set up one wall of our fencing.  My brother came for a visit and finished putting up the rest of my garden fence!  He is so awesome!  I have roma tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, squash, and a variety of herb seeds planted.  I planted some cantaloupe, but it hasn’t sprouted.  Oh well.  This is all a big experiment anyway.  I sprouted a variety of peppers in my kitchen window until they were ready to be planted outside.  Jon and the boys did a bunch more work on my garden for Mother’s Day.  It’s in really good shape now.

We also got pretty far on remodeling the guest/boys bathroom.  It is transformed!  It previously had mobile home flowered wallpaper and carpet.  The carpet was so problematic with so many little boys coming through my house.  I constantly cleaned, but to no avail.  It always smelled of urine.  So not okay!  I’m so thankful this problem is finally solved!!!  I’m also very happy with how much cuter the room is now as well.  We still intend to replace the sink cabinet, but one thing at a time.

Caleb got to take a trip to California to visit his best friend Sam and to take the CA Star test, which is the required state standardized testing. We're still homeschooling under our CA school. They've been so generous with us in letting us borrow all of our curriculum, so we wanted to honor their request to have Caleb take the test with his class.  He traveled alone for the first time and was gone for 10 days.  I was fine while he was gone even though it was a really weird concept. Mostly sending him on a plane by himself for the first time was when I was worried. But my brother decided to visit and book his ticket on Caleb's return flight! So I had a little extra peace of mind one way and I saved $100. Each way has an extra $100 unaccompanied minor fee. Ben was having a lot trouble with the idea of his big brother being gone. He didn’t want to go to sleep by himself in his room and was just generally worried.  But we booked a ticket for my mom to come visit us the week before Caleb left for CA and she stayed until Caleb returned.  That way Ben had a whole 10 days of Grandma’s undivided attention.  That made ALL the difference!  Caleb wasn’t homesick at all even though he had never been away from home alone before. Here is what Caleb wrote about his trip.

I took a trip to California to visit my best friend Sam.  When I got off the airplane, I was greeted with a squeeze-the-breath-out-of-you hug sandwich.  Sam and his 4 year old sister Vida were so happy to see me, that they had a hard time releasing me from the hug.  I have many favorite memories from my trip.

I got to see my old school friends at the park one afternoon.  Van turned our imaginary game into a stick fight.  I explored my old favorite jungle area with everybody:  Kaleo, Kalani, Van, Luke, and Sam.  It was really fun seeing my friends again.

The next day Sam and I went to a jump house with Romeo and Natasha since they couldn’t go to the park to see me.  We were trying to take a picture, but Sam kept getting distracted watching a television.  I fell off of a slide the wrong way and skinned my elbow.  Thankfully it didn’t hurt too much, but I did get a big scab.

One day, Sam’s mom took me and Sam to the California Science Center in Los Angeles.  By using a lever, Sam and I got to pick up a 2000 lb. truck by ourselves.  We saw space capsules, learned about deep sea vents, and we learned more about earthquakes.  For a small earthquake, it’s safer to be in a smaller building, but for a larger earthquake it’s safer to be in a taller building.

Part of my time there was testing at my school.  The test was kind of fun.  I liked the science section the most.  It was great to see Ms. Robin and my other teachers again.

Sam’s dad took me, Sam, and Vida to the beach one afternoon.  Sam and I built a really cool sand castle.  We had to protect it from the waves by digging moats and building a giant wall between the castle and the sea.  It was a cool and overcast day.  I liked standing right where the waves crashed against me.  It’s kind of like the meaning of my name, Caleb Morgan, which is faithful, bold, and the edge of the sea.  My Mom says that means I will be steady against the storms in life.  That’s what I was thinking about when I was standing in the waves.

I had a great time in California and I can’t wait to go there again.  I love and miss my friends there so much.

We had a lovely couple of weeks with my mom here.  She and the boys did lots of crafts and read lots of stories.  While Caleb was gone, she made some special art to hang up in the boys’ room.  Super cute art!  Having my mom around was really nice for me too.  I enjoy her a lot.  While she was here we got to have our first crawfish boil in San Marcos with Aaron and his friends. It was really fun and super delicious!  We also went on a tour of the Blue Bell Creamery with the Goyco family. They have four kids and homeschool also.  It's a huge factory and was really interesting. A delicious bowl of ice cream ended the tour. Yum! What a perfect way to entertain Ben while his big brother was gone. And bonus: it totally counts for studies!  Before we knew it, the trip was over.  We picked Caleb and my brother up from the Austin airport and delivered my Mom to her plane to go home. I'm happy they gave me and Ben a gate pass. We got to go through security with Grandma and find Caleb and David in the terminal.  It’s nice how it all worked out.

We had a great visit with my brother! We had authentic Texas BBQ and he spent lots of time playing with the kids.  One afternoon he decided that the boys needed new yo-yo’s.  So we scoured the town for yo-yo’s capable of doing tricks.  Then he and the boys spent the rest of the day learning and practicing yo-yo tricks.  Such an awesome uncle thing to do!  He and Jon spent all of one night fishing with our neighbor Ron on his boat.  And to top it all off, he finished fencing in my garden for me. He is a blessing and a sweet little brother.  He really blessed us in lots of ways!

I also got a quick visit with two of my childhood friends, Lorena and Sonia.  I’ve known Sonia since kindergarten and Lorena since Jr. High.  Sonia lives in Dallas and Lorena was staying out there interning for a short time before going back home to CA.  They came and spent a night and a day with me.  We had such a good time reconnecting and catching up.  I love those girls!  And I love seeing people I love!

Jon had to switch his driving license over to Texas and had to take both the written and driving test.  He went through some nonsense in the process, so I wanted to do something special to celebrate once it was all over with.  I attempted to make him a knock-off of Cheesecake Factory's Adam's Peanut Butter Cup Fudge Ripple cheesecake to surprise him with...oreo cookie crust, caramel, fudge, butterfingers, peanut butter cups, and peanut butter frosting rosettes.  It was his favorite cheesecake to order at the restaurant, and it was only possible thanks to my awesome Mom.  We were tight on money, so she bought me the spring form pan and the ingredients.  It was evil in a super tasty sort of way.  Not bad for my first cheesecake.  I need to tweak my recipe a bit for next time, but….ummmm!

The night before Mother’s Day, Ben asked me if I would like it for Mothers Day if he does all the work so I can rest, relax, and not have to work like I usually do. He said I could tell him jobs to do. It was all his own idea with no prompting at all. I love seeing him really think about how to bless and love me.  In the morning I woke up to homemade cards and Dutch Baby pancakes.  Then the boys put rabbit fencing around my garden. I'd lost three pepper plants to those wild rabbits. And Jon plans to make me a tiered pot shelf too! I'm very loved and cared for!  I love my boys so much!  I also got a yogurt maker for Mother’s Day.  I’m trying to get my recipe perfected.  I’m excited and enjoying the process.

Springtime is really nice in Texas. The trees are all blooming and the weather is really nice.  Everywhere I look I see fields of wildflowers.  Every week it seems like a new wildflower is predominant.  One week driving to town Texas bluebonnets covered everything, then some gorgeous pink flowers, then big yellow flowers, and on and on it goes.  I had no idea how prolific the native Texas wildflowers are.  It’s stunning! Birds are very busy building nests and laying eggs.  One morning I sat in my garden on my little green bench watching a mama bird build her nest.  Back and forth, she flew.  Finding twigs and fluffy things to make her nest.  I love the simplicity moments like that bring to my life.  And I love my garden…it’s my happy place.

Random Thoughts & Antics:

I'm shocked to discover my feet fit into Caleb's rain boots! He's 10! I had to borrow his bright yellow SpongeBob rain boots to run to a neighbor's on a super wet and muddy day since I don’t own any rain appropriate shoes yet.

While eating cookies, Ben exclaimed, "I'm the first one to be last!" He was so proud he made his cookie last the longest.  This is a feat for Ben.  I’m happy he’s learning to savor instead of gobble.

I'd been a little distracted one morning. So when I came out of my room, I found that Caleb had been teaching Ben chess. They had made it through a whole game. Ben is only 5! Caleb walked him through each move. Ben has no idea how awesome he has it. Caleb is the best big brother in the universe!

That’s it.  Love you all!
Jon, Rebecca, Caleb & Benjamin