Sunday, May 31, 2015

Double Birthday!

With Ezra and Irene's birthdays so close together, they happened to both fall during the VoB retreat, so we decided to wait until this week to have a special day for them. We decided that the theme for them should be a Farm theme, with farm animal crackers, mac and cheese, fresh veggies, local hard-boiled eggs (doesn't get more local than your own back yard...) and a barn cake with cupcakes that looked like either hay or grass. We put the cows and sheep on the grass (all grass-fed, right?) and the chickens and pigs on the hay.
Our friends, the Vaughns, happened to be in the neighborhood for their homeschool co-op, so we told them they should come by and celebrate with us.

 We set up various games for them to play. The first was Pigs in a Pen. (I kept calling it Pig in a Poke from European Vacation.)
 The object was to stomp the pink balloons and get the quarters and dimes inside.
 Then we split the kids up. Some played horseshoes (I swear Elijah should go pro).
 Others played Pin the Tail on the Cow. Ezra Vaughn managed to nail it dead on. I think that having a cow at home gave him an advantage.

 Even Irene got in on the act.

 Then the kids played Pin Drop.

The idea is to drop the clothespin into the jar. It looks easy until you're standing on that chair doing it yourself.
 The last event was an egg race. The kids had to carry an egg in a spoon around the hay bale while zig-zagging between the stumps. Once they got around , they were to take the egg and throw it at the bullseye. Unfortunately, I vastly underestimate how strong our chickens' eggs would be. They just bounced off the hay bale and landed in the grass. The kids finally started throwing them at the tree behind the hay.

 Irene took a throw or two.
 Show-off. :)
 We also had a duck pool for the kids to splash around and cool off.
 And last, but not least, our kids had a few sack races. Sadly the Vaughns had had to leave just before then, but we still made a go of it.
After everything was cleaned up and the littles went down for naps, I took the older 3 to see some farm work in action; namely, cutting, raking and baling hay... But that's another post. :)

The kiddos got some very cool gifts and had such a wonderful time. It's always fun to play games together as a family and with friends. 

Happy Birthday Ezra and Irene!

Friday, May 29, 2015

No More Braces!

After a whole year, Olivia finally got her braces off this week!
 She was such a trooper and went through the whole year with great dedication and very little complaining. 
 Dr Reynolds at Reynolds Orthodontics was fantastic with her and we're thrilled with the results.
Last year, she had to get the braces because of that one crazy tooth that decided to come in behind the rest. 
Just for comparison's sake this is what she looked like last year. You can see the big gap where the hidden tooth should have been. 

What was the first thing she wanted once they were off? Gum. :)

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Breakfast with Cousins

Aunt DD and Uncle Rudy were passing through town, so we met up with them for breakfast along with Nana, Pop-pop and Uncle Greg.
 The controlled chaos was fun. :)

 Fortunately, Chick-Fil-A's play place was there for them to burn off some energy after eating.
 Sweet Vivi! :)
Sadly, we were missing Kira, Aiden and Rooney, but it was so fun to see Max and Vivi even for the short time we had. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Olivia's Baptism

We recently went on a retreat with our congregation, Valley of Blessing. Before the retreat, it was announced that there would be an opportunity for Tevilah, or baptism, while we were there. Olivia heard about it and went to Pastor Richard and asked to be baptized. He asked her a few questions about her faith and agreed that she should do it.

Israel, our assistant pastor and worship leader, gave a little message before-hand, explaining why tevilah is important in the life of a believer. Then Pastor Richard took her into the water and she did it! The water was freezing, but she was determined and made the commitment. :) We're so proud of her!

As a side note, Israel's not having a stroke at about 2:30 into the video. Irene was so gung-ho about getting in the water that she nearly took a dive off the embankment we were standing on. :)

Monday, May 25, 2015

Valley Of Blessing Family Retreat 2015

We were finally able to work it out to be able to go in the Family Retreat with VoB this year. We'd missed the last couple of years because of Rebecca's schedule, but this year, we planned ahead so she had the time off.
 We stayed at a center called Higher Ground Christian Retreat near Ararat, Virginia about 10 miles north of Fancy Gap along the Blue Ridge Parkway. The center sits on a ridge that offers a spectacular view of Pilot Mountain and the surrounding area to the south. If you look carefully on a clear day, you can even see the tall buildings of downtown Winston-Salem.

The center had 3 different houses, some offering hotel-style rooms and one with several rooms with bunk beds. Despite the amenities, we took advantage of the stunningly good weather and camped out in our portable 3-room condo.
 Sunset was pretty the first night.
 There was a fun playground that reminded me that the kids might need tetanus boosters...;)
 We went up on Friday, a day earlier than most folks, to help get things set up and arranged. Since we were not at the community center for service with everyone else, we had a morning devotional/service with the few folks who were there. We read the Torah portion for that week and had a very lively and deep discussion about it.
 Once everyone else got there after lunch, the fun really started. We officially opened the retreat with a short service to go over the ground rules and the theme for this retreat which was Unity.

 On Sunday, we briefly celebrated Irene's birthday with some strawberry muffins with strawberry butter.
 We couldn't quite get her to put up two fingers, tho...
 Later that day, we rode out to a creek for Olivia's baptism. While our kids normally all flock to the water like ducks, Emma would have nothing to do with that icy cold creek.
The rest of them? Not so picky. It was freezing cold, but the other 4 got in without too much hesitation.

 That afternoon, we had a challenge where we had 5 minutes to get to know someone and then we had to present that person, speaking as if we were them. It was pretty difficult because we were't supposed to stick to the simple things: job, family, pets. Israel wanted us to figure out the person's passions and dreams from the stuff they told us in conversation and present that. 
To pair up, we had to make a chain. The way you attached to the chain was by announcing something that you enjoy (reading books, fishing, etc). Then a person from the crowd who shared that interest would come and link with you and then announce a different thing they liked. it went on until everyone was part of the chain, then we were paired up and sent off to talk. 

 One of the funniest pairings was Duncan, who is 13, with Nanny, who is 96! Duncan didn't glean much from the conversation, but Nanny displayed her spunk and clear mind by laying out a great presentation of Duncan.
 One of the teenagers, Ashlyn, entertained our littles while we did the activity.

 Sunset that evening was pretty as well.
 While we were off resting after dinner, some of the kids went and had a water balloon fight. Unfortunately, there were some issues with the balloons breaking and with who got targeted. Ezra came to us to express his disappointment in his most expressive fashion and I couldn't resist documenting his lament. :)
That evening, we had a bonfire and made smores! :)

It so happened that Sunday was the feast of Shavuot, which marks the time when G-d gave the Hebrews the Torah and when the Holy Spirit came down upon the disciples after Yeshua's resurrection and ascension. To mark the occasion, we blew the shofar just as G-d did on Mount Sinai on the day he gave the Torah.

The next morning at 5:45, we got the kids up and took them on a tractor ride around the grounds. At various places, there were meditation stations that had some of the things Yeshua referred to himself as in the Gospel of John, like I am the vine, I am the good shepherd, and I am the light of the world.
Byron, one of the folks that helps maintain the center, and Kevin, one of our VoB members, took turn talking about the various things Yeshua talked about and why.

The kids all had a great time, but it was very early for them to be up. :)

We are so glad we were able to go this year and hopefully we will be able to arrange it for future years, as well!