Thursday, July 28, 2005

Rich Man Poor Man

I got to pick up the van yesterday, and it runs soooo nice now. I am very happy. Chris, however, is grumpy about the bill. It was over $1000. Today our long lost tax return check came in the mail - Finally!!! It never got forwarded to our new address so I had to call the tax office and have them send out a new one. They told me it could take up to 3 months (waaahhh! I filed the darn return in February!) so it was a pleasant surprise to see it in the mail today. It will cover the van repair with a little left over. Unfortunately we were looking forward to stashing the whole amount away for when we move again. I keep telling Chris to stop being so pouty, at least we could afford the repair, even before the check came today; we didn't need to charge it or anything. And hey, it wasn't a $3K transmission!

The boys finished up swim lessons today. Troyer and Noah both passed out of their levels, but Samuel is still a polliwog. His instructor said he needs to build up more self confidence in the water. I could see that through the lessons, he is still nervous about jumping in or swimming without a kickboard or lifevest on. I am still very proud of him; he overcame a lot of his nervousness about being in the water, and I know he can swim enough to stay up if he ever falls in. He is looking forward to more swim lessons next year. Their lessons have been at the school pool, so when the school session starts again, the pool is too busy with the swim team to have lessons there. They offer Saturday lessons, but we'll be at church. So they will wait again until next summer. I still plan to sign Samuel and Caleb up for day camp at the Y at the end of August, and they will get some swimming there.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The Garage Called

Got the call about the van. Turns out it was a faulty throttle sensor, whatever that is. The guy said they replaced it and took the van out, and it didn't give them any trouble. They also said that the alternator was giving low output or something like that, and recommended replacing it. He said it would account for the odd electrical things that have been going on, like the radio going crazy. I told him to go ahead and replace it now, rather than have it go out on me in the future; I hope I wasn't stupid to say ok. Chris doesn't have an office number or email yet so that I could check with him before I ok'ed it. If all goes well, we should get the van back tomorrow night or Thursday morning - yeah!

No News

I took the van to the garage on Sunday and stopped in Monday morning to hand over the keys and explain what was wrong. At noon we drove past on the way home from swimming and I saw that they already had the van in a bay to look at. I thought that was a good sign and hoped for a phone call telling me what they found, but as of this afternoon I still haven't heard anything. The van was still inside when we drove past again today.

Chris got home at a decent time last night so I was able to run Troyer, Noah, and Samuel over to VBS. Our church is doing the "Bibleland Adventure" theme this year, with a Jerusalem Marketplace set up in the gym. It was really cool. Samuel didn't really want to go, and dragged his feet and crossed his arms all the way up until they started the theme song. At that point I left, but I was confident that he would have fun once he saw all the activities. I came back at 8 and I was right, they all had a good time. Hopefully Chris will be home at a good hour each night this week so they can keep going.

Micah's shoulder looks much better this week. It looks like it was a bit of eczema after all. I didn't know it could show up in just a single spot like that, and what an odd place. I think of it being on hands or legs or elbows. But it is paler and drier this week, so I think it is clearing up on its own. I wonder if it was related to the virus that was going around. I say "was" but really it still is. Micah has goopy eye and Noah had a bit of it too. I called the dr but she said if the eyes weren't red then they didn't need drops. I also ran Troyer in to the dr on Monday morning for his throat, and the dr said he was probably ok. I guess a lot of kids have had sore throats lately, but the dr said almost all of the cultures were coming up clear, so he wasn't going to prescribe antibiotics yet. They would call me within 2 days if something showed up on the culture.

I had a fun weekend; on Sunday my sister Michelle came up by herself and she and I went over to Gettysburg, just the two of us with no kids. We toured Eisenhower Farm and had lunch at Friendly's. The weather was beautiful, a little warm but there was a breeze, and the humidity was low (a rarity around here these days!). While shopping for postcards and magnets we found a CD of fife and drum music with all sorts of muster songs that we knew, so she bought it for me. It was fun to listen to in the car on the way home. We are going to try to get the book of music for it so we can learn some of the songs we didn't already know.

Saturday, July 23, 2005


*Note: I wrote this weeks ago, but it took me this long to scan in the photos!

Every year around the 4th of July, I get nostalgic for the past. When I was growing up, I lived in a small town in northern New Jersey. Very typical small town America. Our 4th of July celebration was a huge all day affair, a bit more than typical. We had a great parade with more than just local bands and fire trucks and boy scouts and girl scouts (though we had those too). We had the best fireworks for miles around, and they were free to all borough residents. The fireworks were held at the high school football field; my family lived down the street, so we could walk there carrying a blanket and folding chairs, and then walk home again - no fighting traffic or worrying about finding a port-a-john.

But the best part of all for me was what I considered the essential element for 4th of July, The Morris County Militia. The MCM was a colonial style fife and drum corps made up of kids ages 8 to 18 (or high school graduation, which ever came first). It was started back in 1969, when I was only 2 years old. My older sister begged and begged to join and as soon as she was old enough she became a member. The corps grew in numbers as the patriotism of our country grew with the approach of 1976, the Bicentennial. Soon there were 3 different performing groups within the one corps. It was very competitive to get from "Little Corps" to "Big Corps" and be able to compete in state and regional competitions. The MCM soon became well known at musters and parades all over the northeast. They participated in and won all the competitions there were to win.

The Championship Corps, The Morris County Militia at its best:
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My sister was there in the thick of it, vying for top spots, hoping for coveted fife solos. She really became a talented player. I tried out fife playing for a while right in 1976, and had some fun, but I didn't have the same drive and at 9 years old I wasn't willing to put in the time and effort to become really good. I soon dropped out. But in 1979 I gave it another try. By this time Bicentennial Fever had dropped off and the corps wasn't as big any more. There was only one group playing at all the events, so right away I got to wear the "Big Corps" uniform and march with the big kids. My sister became my fife coach and helped me learn the songs and also the unwritten rules of getting along in the group. I ended up being an average player, but I had a lot of fun.

I'm in this picture!
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We traveled many places, like Old Fort Henry in Ontario, Walt Disney World (twice!), and musters in states up and down the East Coast, as well as countless parades in all kinds of weather from rain to blistering heat to snow (yes we played at Christmas too!). Our last performance was at a muster in Westbrook Connecticut, in 1981. It was bittersweet, because we didn't know the corps would be disbanding after our performance until the practice that morning. The practice run was probably the best show we had marched in a long time.

One thing the MCM did get to do at the height of their fame was to make a recording of their championship music. Of course back in the 70s it was on vinyl LOL. I made a tape of it and played that to death each year on the 4th of July, after I went away to college. Finally, 20 years later, the corps' director put together a CD of that recording plus a collection of performances from the last 3 years of the corps. I wasn't in the corps that recorded the original album, but I am on the second half of the CD! Now I can put it on my stereo (or computer - it is playing as I write this post!) LOUD and remember back to "the good old days."

My sister and I agree, there is nothing out there today to compare to what we had then. We (the Corps) were the pride of our town, had the honored place in the parade, played at the fireworks, and were known by almost everyone who lived there. We were a group of dedicated, hardworking kids who kept clean and achieved great things. It was a group that was entirely voluntary, we didn't get school credits or grades, or get paid. Everyone in that corps worked hard just for the pride of being in it and knowing we were great. I really miss it, and I wish there were something out there for my kids today like it.

Friday, July 22, 2005

A Lot Going On

OK, I was going to post all about what a great week the kids had last week, but today I just have to whine a little.

Our van is severely disabled right now. I can't say "dead" because I can still drive it in second gear. That's right, I can go a whopping 30 miles an hour (and in second gear it starts to make a lot of noise at that speed!). Here's the story: almost a month ago, it started acting funny. Sometimes the power would surge, and sometimes it would almost cut out. The engine light would come on every once in a while. We checked on all the fluid levels and that sort of thing, found nothing. Chris' BIL came over and changed the fuel filter for us, and it was acting better again; we thought great, it only cost $10! But then the light came on again, and the surging/cutting power started again. It wasn't consistent, so we kept putting it off. I had too many things on the calendar to be without a van while it was in the shop. Last week, it started jerking when changing gears up, when it went to 3rd 4th or 5th. The boys have had swim lessons this week, so I've only been driving it 10 miles or less a day, but each day it got worse. On Wednesday I had to run to the store after swim lessons for groceries; on the way home just when the van should have jerked into 3rd gear, it just stalled. Right there in the middle of the road. Ugh. I put it in park and it started up again fine, so I tried again to get home. Once again, as it should have gone into 3rd gear, it just stalled. I managed to get into the parking lot of a hotel and park, so we went inside to call Chris at work. Of course I had to scrounge up fifty cents because the desk wouldn't let me make a local call. Ugh. I felt very lucky I had two quarters in my purse, because that was all I had! lol As we sat and waited for Chris to get there I thought about the van, and the idea came to me that if I kept the van in D2, I might be able to get home, though it would mean I would have to drive slowly. When Chris got there (and it didn't take him long at all, I sure love having him work so close to home!) I suggested it to him and he agreed it was worth trying. We drove back roads rather than the main road so we would annoy the fewest number of drivers lol but we did make it home, at 35 miles an hour top speed. Yesterday Chris came home from work for an hour just so I could take the boys to the pool in his car. Next week MIL is going to come over every morning and watch the 3 youngers so I can take the 3 olders to lessons. I have an appointment to take the van in Monday morning and have the garage look at it. I cringe at the thought, but it would seem that it is the transmission. Waaahhh that is going to be some major $. I also know there is an exhaust leak somewhere, and they are going to have to fix that too.

Oh, did I mention that starting Monday Chris is going to be working out of town? He will be commuting over an hour away each way plus working over time to do office work that he won't get done while he's on site. So I'm without a van and he won't even be around. Waaahhh.

Oh, did I also mention that the boys are all sick this week? It started over the weekend, with Samuel complaining of a sore throat. It took about 3 days and then he was better, but then Noah started complaining about a bad headache. On Wednesday he was crying about it in the pool. The next day he had a sore throat too. Today he finally says he feels a bit better. Meanwhile Micah came down with a high fever on Wednesday. I gave him some Tylenol and he slept it off. By 4 am (that's when he woke me up asking for something to eat lol) he was all better. Now today, Troyer has the sore throat. I sure hope his only lasts 3 days too so that by Monday I don't have to be worrying about how to get them to the doctor when I have no van. Samuel is right now lying on the floor with a bit of a fever and kind of listless. Ugh I hope he is not working on round two already.

Also just something odd, while Micah was sleeping on Wednesday, I noticed a red mark on his back, in the center of his left shoulder blade. I thought maybe it was the start of a rash, or maybe a bug bite. The next day when Chris and I looked at it, it looked like a big flat mole. I can tell you that this is new, he did NOT have it 2 weeks ago. It scares me; I know that moles that pop up out of nowhere are not good. We are keeping a close eye on it. It is pink and oval, and not smooth. The center looks like it is getting dried and scaly. It is less than a half inch diameter. I've taken a picture of it just to document what it looks like so we can compare later to see if it's getting worse. I sure hope it is just some sort of raised rash and not a mole. It worries me.

Here is what it looks like now:
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Monday, July 18, 2005

So Tired

Last week was a busy one; we had 2 extra boys here. Chris and I invited some friends of the boys' from our old church to come down and spend a week with us, so when he went to pick up Troyer from camp last week, he stopped in at their house and picked them up too. We had a great time, they are some of the nicest kids I know. I have lots to tell, but I am so tired! They were polite and helpful, but MY kids wore me out! They were just so excited to have them here. So I want to tell all about our fun week, but it is probably going to take a while. I already have 2 or 3 posts in drafts that I haven't been able to finish yet; hopefully things will slow down here some so I can finish them. Ok, I'm off to take a nap LOL

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Fast Forward

Ok, I am going to forget most of what happened in the last month if I wait for a time to write it all out in detail. Here it is in fast forward:

Father's Day

For Mother's Day Chris got me a bunch of candy and a card, so that's what he got for Father's Day. Isn't it nice that the men have to set the standard for such holidays? We went over to FIL's house for dinner and gave him some cards, but no gift. Chris' family isn't big on cards and those sorts of holidays; much different from my family. My Dad's cards are on my table to give to him when he comes to visit.

Levi Walks

Levi has been cruising the furniture for a few weeks now, but only a few steps at a time, and never stepping away from it. Well, at 10.5 months, he got brave enough and tried it out. Only a step or two here or there, from the end of the couch to the chair an arm's length away. But of course you can guess, less than a week later, he is taking 5 or 6 steps at a time, and now is practicing turning and walking at the same time. The only thing he hasn't figured out yet is how to stand from a sitting position unassisted. He still needs to pull up on something to get upright. Come to think of it, so do I LOL.

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Noah off to Camp

After a frantic week of gathering up clothing and digging out flashlights, Noah was ready to go to camp. We weren't sure if we would all go up as a group to check him in or if Chris would go up with him alone in the car. I like to take pictures dropping them off, but the car would save $ in gas. On Sunday morning, Samuel decided the issue for us. He had not eaten well the day before, and woke up throwing up. Since it was going to be very hot all day, we knew a car trip was just a baaaaad idea for him. Chris and Noah headed out around 10:30, and by 11 Samuel was keeping down Saltines and some soda. I figured he'd be fine as soon as he got some food in him, but still, I'm sure being stuck in a hot van would have made his recovery take much longer. By afternoon he was his old self and eating fine.

Check in time for camp was at 3, and Noah had to take a swimming test before Chris could leave, so he didn't get back home again until 8 pm. It was a long day for Chris.

Dad Here

My Dad was lucky enough to score a ticket to the 50th Porsche Parade in Hershey this year, and was super excited to go. He decided to take an extra week driving up from Florida and stop in at my sister's for a few days on the way. He had a great time at the Parade, even though the temperature was in the 90s all week and he was outside most of the time, often on the parking lot at the autocross. He said the concours was not as successful because of the heat; it was on the golf course.

We arranged that he would get to my house on Saturday after checking out of his hotel. He was supposed to get here around 2. That would give me time to run the vacuum once more and straighten up for him, and get sheets on his bed. He stayed in Troyer and Noah's room, so I made Troyer clean up and he slept out on the couch. Well, at 10 am while I'm vacuuming, someone knocks on the door. Guess who? That's right, my dad! Arrgh! It turned out ok, he came in and sat for a bit, then decided to go out to the liquor store and the cigar store (we don't drink or smoke here, so I didn't have even a beer or bottle of wine for him). That gave me over an hour to get a shower and get dressed and finish picking up. Chris and the boys went to church so I could get the place cleaned up, and they ended up getting home before my dad got back.

I did a lot of shopping for food the day before, and had a great meal planned. We had cold subs for dinner (it was way to hot to cook inside, and I don't have a grill) plus grapes and corn on the cob (yes, I had to boil water for that LOL and the kitchen was HOT!) and I made homemade strawberry shortcakes (Bisquick recipe) for dessert.

Chris was invited to play cards with his friends that night, which he was going to decline, but I told him it was ok. We've been here 3 months and this is the first chance he's had to go hang out with them. I didn't want him to have to wait another 3 months. Saturday nights here is movie night, so I made popcorn and gave the boys Twizzlers and we watched Galaxy Quest. It was very funny, and my dad enjoyed it too. He likes Star Wars and Star Trek, so it was right up his alley. I was hoping Chris would get home by 10:30 or 11 so I could run to the video store and return the movie, but he didn't get home until 11:45. I was already dozing in bed, so I decided to just pay the late fee.

My dad left early the next morning (not quite as early as Troyer and Chris, but that's another topic) for home, and we headed over to SIL's for her 4th of July picnic around 2 pm.

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Everyone but Noah with my Dad

Troyer off to Camp

Chris and Troyer, and this time Samuel, got up and left by 7 am to drive back up to camp. They had to leave earlier this week because check out time for Noah was at 10 am. I called the day before and let them know that we would be getting there a little late, and could we leave Troyer off a little early, instead of having to wait the 4 hours to check him in. They told us it was fine, they would take care of Troyer and help him check in himself.

Samuel wanted to go along because he was so eager to see Noah again. He figured that driving up there meant he would see Noah 4 hours earlier LOL. So I had just the 3 youngest boys at home with me. We cleaned up from my dad's visit, and then headed over to SIL's for a picnic on her deck. I rummaged through the garage and found our box of play-doh and brought that along. I also spent the morning making cookies again. Yum, they turned out much better this time, since it wasn't quite as hot as last time.

4th of July picnics

About 1:30 we headed out to SIL's. I stopped on the way and returned the video (the late fee was only $1, so not bad at all) and got gas. We drove on over to SIL's, and broke out the play-doh right away. It was a good idea to bring it, Caleb and Micah were busy with it all afternoon. BIL was already starting the grilling so it wasn't too long before we started to eat. Levi ate some watermelon and really liked it. I gave him a huge lunch before hand since he tends not to eat much when we are out. To my surprise Chris got to SILs house not much later. I thought he'd be tired and want to go home and nap, but I guess Samuel and Noah out voted him. BIL had fireworks planned for the evening, so Chris just drove straight to their house from the camp.

Noah told us all about his week. He had a great time; he did very well in archery (though he says he got 5 bulls-eyes in one afternoon, which seems a little too good so I'm not sure how truthful he's being) and had great fun learning to jet-ski. He said it wasn't actually lessons, they just had older kids take them out on the lake on the jet-ski and they rode passenger. Well, that was the plan, but one time they were out they hit the wake and his driver fell off. He managed to stay on, so he got to drive the ski back. He had such a thrill! He also passed his swim classes this year, so next year he can take the next level of swimming. I am very happy that he is learning to be a competent swimmer.

I had thought that Chris would want to head home early with Micah and Levi, since they didn't care about the fireworks, and he could get some sleep, but I ended up being the one to leave early while he stayed with Noah and Samuel. Caleb ended up going home with Grandma and Grandpa and spending a few days at their house. Chris said the fireworks weren't that impressive, but I'm sure the noise would have bothered Levi and Micah. In fact, there were quite a few going off all night in our neighborhood, which surprised me since we don't live out in the country. BIL has 2 acres, and his neighbors have even bigger properties, so it's not such a big deal out there; but all the houses here have 1/4 acre lots. It sounds too dangerous to me, but oh well. The noise kept Levi from getting to sleep until after 11.

On Monday we headed over to MILs for another cook out. It was nothing fancy, but FIL got a new grill and has been using it any chance he gets. He made chicken again, and this time we could actually eat it ;-) We had a nice time and headed out to get the boys home for bed. Caleb stayed over again.

Ok, I think I am caught up to this week, hooray! The coming weekend and next week will be busy again because when Chris picks Troyer up from camp on Sunday, he will be stopping off to pick up 2 of the boys' friends from our old church and bring them to stay for a week. It is something we have planned since we moved. The boys are very excited about it. Samuel also has a drs appt on Monday, which I am hoping I don't forget about!