Saturday, March 30, 2013

Coloring Eggs

Yesterday we colored eggs by mixing shaving cream with food coloring and painting it on. After they sat for awhile, the eggs were rinsed off. The kids really enjoyed coloring the eggs this way.

As soon as the eggs were colored, the kids wanted to eat an egg.  Then they wanted another.  As quick as they were colored, they were gone!
The kids who went to Mexico made it home safely last night.  We gathered in the living room to hear all about their trip.  The kids had an amazing time serving and worshipping.  They desire to be forever changed and not have the "high" wear off. 
Praise God.
Tomorrow is Easter. 
Let's celebrate.
He has risen!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Now We Wait Till The Garden Grows

Last weekend Julia and Taylar got up early to make Cinnamon Roll Pancakes.  They were so good!
They were a nice treat before Adam, Caleb, Annalyn, and Julia left for Mexico.
Adam had to get in some last minute Oliver time before he left for the week.

Caleb and Taylar got in some last minute snuggles.
I love this picture of Annalyn and Julia. 

The four of them left around 9am last Sunday.  It has been strangely quiet without them.  I can't wait to see them on Friday and hear all about their time in Mexico doing construction and Vacation Bible School.
I think this picture is adorable.  Oliver is such a big boy!
Anastasia is learning to make bread.  She knows how to roll it, cut it, and paint it with egg wash.
My Mom has been here the last few days.  She helped up set up our garden.  Yesterday we went shopping for plants, seeds, and gardening tools.  Today we planted tomatoes, pumpkins, watermelons, radishes, cucumbers, dill, bell peppers, and green beans. 
Look behind Anastasia-- we have a grape vine growing!
Paul, Dennis, and Alex played in the trampoline off and on all day.  The weather was perfect!
Spring is definitely in the air.  Not only have we been gardening but we have all been pulling weeds, trimming tress and bushes, cleaning the yard, and sewing a new cover for one of the patio swings.  Thanks Mom for all the help and inspiration!
Galina and Anna planted the radishes while my Mom and Rachel planted the cucumbers.
Anna also tended to the ants on our peach tree.  We have tried petroleum jelly rings, coffee grounds and crushed egg shells around the base of the trees, and white chalk.  Nothing seems to keep the ants completely off the tree.  Any other non-pesticide ideas?

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Oh, Hi, Ojai ! So High !

I don't blog much ever and Christine likes it when I do... so here goes...for her!
The Five of us here, Sveta, William, Me (dad) (John), Rachel, and Anna got invited to a very special place.
In fact, a fellow BSF'er, invited me last year and I didn't go because then I was "too busy".
So this year, I said yes.  Yes to a Friday-thru-Sunday full weekend no less--at a camp 3+ hours away!!!

You must not think for even a second that this was because I'm not busy this year!  Because I actually don't think I've ever been busier, EVER.   You think being a "husband of one wife" is challenging enough? (it is!)  Well imagine the work needed for her to really appreciate the effort!  (like blogging?)  Or do you think having 17 children would make it "impossible" to be a "good father" to all of them?  (Or to any?)  Well imagine the complications of practice and game schedules with having (just) six in organized sports!  Or do you think perhaps helping to run a juice factory is busy?  Well, try that--while helping to build and run a second juicery at the same time!  Well that's me right now.  Too busy.  But this time, I was wise enough to say YES and in fact, yes, because I am too busy.

"Forest Home" is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year.  It is a beautiful mountain camp area that Julia served at recently.  It is where the famous Billy Graham, in the 40's, became a Christian.  And Christine has posted pictures of baptisms of many of our children occurring in a fun and pretty lake up there!  However, that's not where we went.

It turns out that 10 years ago the same "Forest Home" started running a camp in Ojai Valley (technically Oak View--about ten minutes due north of Ventura)--And that's where we went !

Annually, they have an event called "Upkeepers weekend".  This is when volunteers from all walks of life get room and board and 'pay' for it with "up keep" --general maintenance tasks like painting, staining, clearing brush, etc.  115 of us showed up (their largest group ever!) and SO much got done.  Friday night, Saturday night, and Sunday morning had other activities and the children really enjoyed them.

Even without the activities, William was beyond content in the gorgeous oaks and sycamores.  Here he is before 8am in front of our tent cabin.

His clearly favorite game though was called "carpet ball".  Here he is midroll.

They enjoyed rock climbing and "flying" down the "zip" lines.  Here's Rachel proclaiming victory at the top!

Here are Anna and Rachel waiting to Zip down.

Here is William enjoying a good burger.

Here are Anna and Sveta (and William in line (again) for his next of a total of six hamburgers this trip!)

And for a video of the classic zipper,  here's Sveta:

A great hike was when William and I decided to go up to the top of the mountain--a great view of Lake Casitas.   We couldn't even believe we could go higher than the cross!

At sunset, my favorite, a pretty hair-wind-blown picture of Anna and Rachel:

Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly when one shoots into the West, the sunlight blocked out the white cross atop the hill in the background.  Do you believe me that it's there?  Interesting.  Just like in the busy-ness of life, it can seem to disappear.  But I love the picture because I KNOW it's there.  And I love my life because I KNOW it's there--regardless of who else believes.

Rachel once told me a long time ago that she wanted to live until she was about 25 years old or whenever wrinkles start.  Of course you can guess how much that saddened me to hear as she was serious and I clearly still remember.   Well, Anna and Rachel went on a walk and they met two "old ladies".  This is in quotes of course because nothing about them was old.  They were also climbing to the top of the mountain and they were hard to keep up with!!!  Wonderful conversations began and Rachel and Anna came back and couldn't stop speaking of their new friends.  The next day they were recognized as getting their 90th birthdays celebrated recently/soon.  Rachel spoke of how beautiful they were (inside and out!) and has a wonderful new perspective on life.  They exchanged phone numbers and everything!  I'm thankful for that divine encounter.

Regarding the team had the job of staining/protecting all the whiskey barrels that are used as trash cans as well as the half barrels that are used as flower pots.  And then staining all the bleachers around a large fire pit!  And then, lastly, cleaning the bridge that goes over a creek--apparently there was a lot of bird poop on the top of it.

When we got to the bridge, I grabbed a broom and started hitting the sides with it strategically to get off the leaves and cobwebs and general debris that made it look much older than it probably was.   To do the side of the bridge at the middle, I had to stand down near the water.  Unfortunately, from there, I could see the underside of the bridge.  I'm not very descriptive but I'm sure it would have been a troll's paradise--cobwebs on spiderwebs on wasp nests on just undisturbed yuck.  I kind of thought surely this assignment was to do the railings, the top, and the sides--"No one would ever see underneath the bridge and that's just too much to do at the end of the day from the banks of the stream or from in the stream!"

So when the staff maintenance man appeared and the question was asked, "What about the bottom side?"  Without any hesitation, he replied something like, "Yes, that would be great."

Well I believe I got another round of several of life's lessons right there...
1)  Are you a good helper if you only do the "easy"?
2)  Should a job not be done if most people won't see its results?

I had REALLY happy children up there this weekend with me and was grateful for my brief escape--I don't think I could have shown my appreciation in a better way--not only did God make it all possible and He clearly sees even the undersides of bridges, but this one staff person also does go under the bridge occasionally too because there are various water valves underneath.  In the end, he was right, it was great!

I felt so good about it when it was done and I regret him getting asked if it should have been done in the first place!

"Cleaning the underside of a bridge"--in my life, could be analogous to adoptions of children.  Knee jerk reactions of mine regrettably are often, "no way" / "why bother" / "let someone who cares more do it".  But my partner always says, "That would be great".   And I believe I've been blessed with feelings of accomplishments that maybe only matter to a few people that I know my God appreciates.

I hope others decide to leave the busy-ness of life behind them next year and that it is another record turnout then!  I can't wait to discuss it with my other children who are in Mexico now (I miss them).  Christine seems game as well !

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Two Boys = Three Tubes

Nolan and Oliver had tubes put in today.  Since Oliver is so young, he was one of the surgery center's first patients.  As soon as Oliver was in recovery, they took Nolan back.  Both did great!  However, the doctor confirmed that Nolan does have choleastoma in his right ear.  She is going to refer us to a great doctor down in Palm Springs.  She could not place a tube in that ear.  When she went to place the tube in his left ear she saw that his ear drum was perforated which was causing all the discharge.  She roughed up the edges so the tissue would close around the tube.  Despite this news about his ears, Nolan isn't letting it slow him down.  He has too much stuff to do!
Like this!
While Oliver was doing this.
Since I was gone most of the morning, I had to go over the kids' work after lunch.  Let's just say, I am very much looking forward to Spring break next week.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

It's the Little Things

When I saw this I had to grab my camera! Nolan is so smart!  When he couldn't open the refrigerator he used his foot to force open the door.
Dennis loves being a big brother.  He enjoys making Oliver smile and laugh.  Just a few years ago his big brothers were pushing him around.
Tonight Andrew and Paul bought chocolate pudding pies with Adam at the store.  They wanted to eat them for dessert after their baseball practice.  Paul asked Andrew how long he microwaved his pie.  Andrew told him twenty as I put Paul's pie in and hit start for an automatic thirty seconds.  Paul quickly told me to stop the microwave when it got to 10 seconds.  This is such amazing growth for Paul who has only been home for 2 1/2 years.  Not only does it demonstrate assertiveness, but also problem solving, and everyday math. 
Tomorrow my Mom and Sister are coming for a visit.  Yay!

Monday, March 18, 2013

So Cute!

Oliver is so funny.   And adorable.  He is such an amazing little man exploring his world.   Everything is so interesting to him.  And he pays careful attention to what others are doing so that he can copy them later.  Just the other day I caught him trying to put on Nolan's shoes.  And he likes to try and get dressed. 
Time has flown by with Oliver home.  He never fails to bring a smile to our faces.  He fills our hearts with joy and we seriously can't get enough of him.
Oliver rocks!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

It's Friday!

Another week flew by just like that.  I did manage to fill out pages of forms for Adam, Caleb, Annalyn, and Julia to go to Mexico in a few weeks.  Each of them have to earn $50 to put towards the trip.  John will be taking Rachel, Sveta, Anna, and William to a family camp where they will be working to help fix it up.   And yes this event required that a bunch of forms be filled out too.  As did the forms for seven of the kids to go to Sky High tonight.  All those forms are perhaps the reason why the week flew by.  :)  Caleb, William, Galina, Annalyn, Sveta, Anastasia, and Anna had a blast at the indoor trampoline park.  The rest of us went to Paul and Andrew's baseball game.  The first at bat, Paul swung at every pitch-- even the lousy ones and was struck out.  The second at bat, he hit the ball hard and took off running.  He was so gung-ho that he kept running till he was tagged out at third.  But it didn't matter-- we were all thrilled including him and he did bring in two runs.  Way to go Paul!  Andrew had a great hit too but was called out for throwing the bat.   He was just so excited as were the other boys who were called out for throwing their bat.  When Paul saw this, he set his bat down as gently as he could before he took off running.  It was too funny!

Oliver has seven teeth now!  He recently got two of his top molars.  Talk about strange.  He hasn't gotten his canine teeth yet and only now is he cutting one of his incisors.  But with only seven teeth he is still beating his four year old brother Nolan who has a total of five teeth!

Nolan went back to the ENT today for a check-up.  The doctor removed the sponge in his ear and threw out the word cholesteatoma.  She said she can't say for sure until she gets a better look when Nolan is under anesthesia next week while she places at least one tube.  Of course, we are praying that Nolan doesn't have this.

Despite all the progress that Anastasia has made in school these last two years, I have requested that she be formally evaluated to see if she qualifies for an IEP.  She is going into high school next year and will have trouble completing the standard remedial curriculum so I hope an evaluation will help in figuring out where she needs the most help.  It is not that I do not think she can get a high school diploma-- I just don't want it to be such a struggle for her. 

We are continuing to eat more healthy but have slacked off some.  Still, the changes are obvious as our family is drinking more water, eating out way less, not buying junk food, and serving more fruits and veggies at every meal.  I don't want this to be a phase so I am not treating it like the latest fad. 
The change has been hard on most of my bio children who I did not insist try new things.  When I was younger I actually had the philosophy to wait to push "adult" foods on them like sautéed onions and so they never learned to like them.  Now, I serve up big helpings of cooked veggies like broccoli, kale, squash, red peppers, and onions to Alex, Dennis, and Nolan.  And guess what?? They eat it no problem.  Oh how I wish I had done some things differently.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


This is Galina's snack masterpiece. It is a homemade whole wheat bran muffin topped with sliced banana and drizzled peanut butter. Did I mention that Galina makes the best bran muffins ever?
The four youngest boys love books.  Even Oliver enjoys flipping through the pages.  
Alex and Dennis are reading whole books now!  They have improved so much in the last three months.
Bless his heart, Nolan pretends to read like his big brothers.

Look at the bruise on Nolan's forehead.  He was chasing one of the boys around the house and fell down.  Ouch, but he is such a trooper.

Oliver is doing so many new things.  He thinks he is a big boy now!
He is signing more, crawling faster, and finding his way into everynook and cranny of our hearts.
Here he is wearing hip helpers to keep his legs from spreading far apart.  They seem to help although he is not thrilled to wear them.

Our Olliepoppers!
I took Nolan to the ENT yesterday.  His outer ear infection just wasn't clearing up.  I'll spare you the details, but will say that his ear is now clear and a sponge has been inserted to help keep in the drops.  He is on an oral antibiotic too.  The sponge will come out Friday.  Unfortunately, this infection will delay his dental surgery that was scheduled this week, but we all want him to be healthy when he goes under general anesthesia.  It has been rescheduled to next month.
What blows me away is how high Nolan's pain threshold seems to be.  He is my little trooper.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Getting Healthier

Six of the kids are doing baseball or softball this year. I'm not sure what I was thinking when I encouraged such organized chaos, but it is what it is and we are managing.  I am so thankful that we have two drivers to help out with the running back and forth to practice.  Literally, that has become their chore since they have been paying their sisters to do their house chores. :)
Pictures day was last weekend.
Julia, Anastasia, and Galina are on the same team.  As my Mom and I sat huddled under a blanket this past Tuesday night taking turns coughing as we sat in the bleachers, we watched each of the girls hit the ball.  
Girls softball is pretty fun to watch!
Paul and Andrew are on the same team.  My Mom and I watched only one inning of their game but learned that they won when their coach took them for ice-cream afterwards.  Since Jonny is younger he is on a team all his own.  I haven't seen him play yet.
Go Gators!
As if I don't have better things to do with my time, I became obsessed with this braid when I saw it online.  I had to try it out on three of the girls with long enough hair.  It came out best on Julia because her hair is not cut in layers.
We are all well now... mostly.  I have a lingering cough and Sveta has a sore throat, but Oliver and William are definitely back to their same ol' self.  
The days are incredibly busy right now since our home school charter is doing lots of state testing right now.  Lots of preparing adn juggling time to fit in these extras.  Last week Anna and William took the writing test.  Next week Rachel takes the CAHSEE.  And later this month the kids do their fitness testing.  
Next Friday Nolan is scheduled to have general anesthesia to have all his dental work done.  After jumping through needless hoops, the dental staff has cleared him for the procedure.  Then the following week he will have tubes put in along with Oliver.  
John and I watched Fat, Tired, and Nearly Dead this past weekend.  What an eye opener.  I have decided to feed our family better.  I mean it this time-- no turning back.  I hope.  I really want to do this.  For them... for us.  I am not going extreme-- but I am doing things little by little.  What we have left in our pantry I am using up.  I am just not replenishing the supply of processed foods that have ingredients I can't pronounce-- except for the 8 big boxes of  Lucky Charms I bought for only three dollars that have codes inside for free movie tickets.  I am using 1/2 whole wheat flour now and more and more olive and coconut oil.  Whole wheat bran muffins have become a favorite snack.  I learned how to make this awesome stir fry with kale, red peppers, broccoli, carrots, onions, and squash.  Our sandwiches now are packed full of fresh veggies.
Like I said... little changes.  And I see a difference.  Two of my kids are no longer constipated.  I am down five pounds.  Oh and the kids are more grumpy.  That is the one part I don't like.
Oh well-- change is never easy.