Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Only One

We have only one picture taken on our American anniversary. A polaroid, snapped by the Justice of the Peace that married us in Rochester, NY. This was right after the "ceremony" in the marble halls of the city building. It was Tuesday, Sept 30th, 2003 at approx 11am.

Here it is:
I wore my to-the-floor black Jacob skirt, and a white lacy blouse with frills on the sleeves and square-toed 4ish inch Aldo chunky heels. It was exactly what I had worn to Josh and Heather's Wedding the year before. Brian wore his black suit, with a burgundy tie - the tie was exactly the colour that our bridesmaids dresses had been.

Brian took a few hours off work, and we had to pay for parking. Funny the things you remember.

We picked recited vows from a list the Justice gave us - I think there were 3 choices. We only had a minute to pick them, and the vows that seemed to line up closest with what we'd want to say were chosen. I really do not prefer " I will's" as vows, but love a more traditional "I do". This time though, I didn't really have "full choice", and we said I Will when prompted. So we got say both, haha!! 

The judge read through everything he was obligated to say, a mini-ceremony of sorts, between Brian, myself, the Justice and his secretary. He included the part "if any man show any cause why this man should not be married to this woman, speak now or forever hold his peace", and paused - forever - Like seriously more than 20 seconds of waiting, which feels like 20 minutes when you're in an empty room. Almost like a scene from a movie, I fully expected Julia Roberts to come bursting through the corridor;-) After the long wait, and surprise-surprise, no objections from the empty room, we were married in the United States. The entire process from beginning to end took 15mins, max. Brian went right back to work after dropping me back home. 

It was kind of a strange day. It really was more of a formality than a wedding, which was how we viewed it then, and now. But it still "counts" as something to celebrate. If nothing else, a celebration to the end of the crazy-long-and-confusing visa process.

The days immediately following our wedding found me in Buffalo, paying more money, and filling out more forms, and getting fingerprinted yet again. Just when once visa process ends, another begins. It was time for "permission to work" permits and "permission to travel" permits - and WOW. Can I just say that thinking back on it all, it makes my head spin.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Schools In Session!

Well, we've been officially at school for about a month now. It's going pretty well, I'd say, but - can you say BUSY?!

We've got 4th grade, 3rd grade, 2 Kindergarteners, and a Pre-K. The course load for the 4th grade is much more intense than in previous years, which is an adjustment, and Kenna struggles a bit with her reading and comprehension still (she tests at "average" on the state standardized test, but I'd really like her to do better because it's not an area of strength for her, which is pretty obvious to me - "average" is certainly not setting the bar high, when you're talking standardized tests:-/). Brooks is well above average in this area, so it's one of those things she sort of gives up on - "Brooks is good at it, I'm not". Trying to impart that reading can be fun, is super necessary even if not fun, and a skill to be very well mastered has been our goal. She's making improvements and strides, but not without a few tears. She still has a few dyslexic tendencies with d & b, which seem to be working themselves out with age, but its just taking time, repetition, and practice. Not really her 3 favourite things at the moment:-)

I *adore* homeschooling for this very reason - it's so adaptable! When one person needs more help, we are able to provide it, and can easily make adjustments when something is not working. We center much of our "downtime" around this central-focus of bolstering her abilities where they are weaker. For games, we play Boggle or Scattergories. We read at dinner, and have her take turns reading portions aloud.  Brooks is generally a quick study:-) He, although officially beginning 3rd grade, is pretty much halfway through it already, and doing many 4th grade subjects already.

We have Sonny again this year! Kindergarten is an "optional" in our state, and since he didn't get accepted into the desired public school (they select children by a lottery system), he's getting homeschooled this year. This keeps me busy as well, because of the extra course work with the olders, and then of course, since Sonny & Grey are not independent readers yet, I pretty much have to do all their work with them - teaching them the math concepts, practicing it, giving instructions for worksheets and handwriting techniques etc.

And May-May is learning letters, writing, sounds etc, and playing with lots of playdoh and busy books:-)

We have cancelled out of our science co-op for this year, because we were pressed for time in getting everything "in" and it didn't fit in with our over all focus of the year, being reading and writing (mostly for Kenna's benefit, but helps all really).

The kids do 4 hours of a Homeschool Physical Education program at the YMCA (free with membership), they love it! Kenna and Brooks have piano each Tuesday afternoon. Brooks and Grey currently are playing flag football. And now they all are in Awanas...Grey's in Sparks. HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?! We still adhere to at 7pm bedtime when possible, sometimes it's not with church and sports. But it generally keeps everyone well rested, and Momma totally sane with evenings free dishes and stuff. :-)

We are sort of starting our own mini co-op just right here at the house. I have a fun Geography/Animal Habitat studies curriculum I got from my sister, and it's super hands on and great! For Sonny, Grey & May's benefit, we are going to have 2 other kindergarteners join us every other Friday and well do that together in the mornings. I think they'll really have a lot of fun with it!

So, life's been busy! Like, really busy! It's been nice and fun, but the kids are definitely offering up their share of complaints over the lack of free time. Welcome to the world, guys. Haha!! Super grateful for our trampoline, they are able to bounce off lots of energy with little time involved. The boys looooove to practice baseball and football together too, which is so adorable!

It's been amazing to see how our family is growing up. I still think of them as the adorable little munchkins that used to dance around the livingroom - but they are so far from that now. They are turning into wonderful little people, and we're so proud of them! I guess it's nice to look back and see how far we've come, and see that the path we set out to follow has been endured, and enjoyed, and is yielding positive results. A lot of our friends have kids much younger than ours - we're only 18 months away from Kenna being able to stay home alone. WHHHHAAAAT?!! It's so funny how busy you think you are when the kids are little. That "busy-ness" is but preparation for the real thing, let me assure you. It's amazing how quickly all baby/toddler/child behaviours (and corrections) have culminated into the people that they are. We love 'em, anyway!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Extended Family Pictures

We had Brian's family in town for a week in August, just before Meghan goes back to Moody for college, and Jake & are moving to Belgium!! Jake is continuing his education at a university there, so they are off for a foreign adventure in a beautiful country!
 It was fun to see everyone again, and while they were in town - a photo shoot! We hired Joel DePriest Photography to get some nice family shots, because it will be a long time before everyone is reunited.
Original family

All the girls
All the boys

It's us!

The sisters

Dale & Lauren

Us again:-)
Mom & Dad B

Ann & Jake

Grandpa, Grandma, and the Grandkids

Siblings: Lauren, Meghan, Brian, Ann
Siblings & spouses: Ann & Jake, Darla & Brian, Meghan, Dale & Lauren

With Grandma & Grandpa


Father and Son

The always ready pencil behind the ear...;-) Contractors at heart I suppose. I mean really, who needs a weird, square pencil at a photoshoot anyway? ;-)

Father and Son

Mother & Daughters

Goodbye to Jake & Annie! Have fun exploring the world!

More Glasses

Brian went to the eye doctor recently, as he'd been noticing something a little off with his vision. Interestingly, the appointment showed all kinds of issues, and makes me feel guilty for not making him go YEARS ago. I go all the time, but never really thought about making him go as a routine, since he claimed to have great vision.

Well, issue #1 - He had a lazy eye as a young child and had surgery to correct it, which caused a double vision/eye cancelling the other out situation. So he's always had bad depth perception etc. Guess what?! It's called Diplopia, and they can fix that!! The Doctor cautioned that although it's possible to fix it with corrective prism lenses, it might not be possible for his brain to make the adjustment, after 36 years of doing this "this way" even though it's wrong. But it's definitely worth trying, and the doctor noticed eye fatigue in his right eye from over use (dominant eye taking the brunt of the work). So, gonna give that a shot! If it works, it will correct the double vision, his "head tilt", and his posture, due to the head tilt thing - (He always has his head to one side, and can't tell when it's straight).

Then, he also has a slight prescription needed in his right eye.

Then, the doctor noticed that he has a thin optic nerve leading to the right eye compared to "normal", but the muscles surrounding it are larger than "normal". This is something the doctor said he was likely born with, but it could be something of an issue and has to be monitored over time for changes.

The double vision correction cannot be done with contacts - so glasses!!

If this works, he'll need to wear glasses all the time, so we're going to get him a few pairs. These were some of the frontrunners, and we ordered only one pair to start off - I'll keep which ones a surprise, but you can take your guesses! If his brain is able to make the adjustments to seeing normally, then we'll go ahead and get a different style frame for another look/backup pair.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Hike

Last year Brian and his buddies did the crazy muddy Spartan races together to challenge themselves and their workouts (and friendships). This year, a new challenge. Hike 60 miles of the Appalachian Trail in 3 days. This is a lofty, and nearly impossible, goal. Especially for non hikers/campers like most of this crew.
Our very own non-camper, fixin' his hair, of course:-)

They set off for the Maryland/West Virginia border (about 4 hours away) on Wednesday afternoon. They camped the night and started early on their way - I believe they had to make it approx 22 to 26 miles on the first day, and then each day would be slightly less...
They had prepared as best they could, and got all the gear they needed. Each man had to carry his own things for the 4 days/3 nights. The goal was around 30lbs each, including water. Some men were slightly over, some slightly under. Brian came in around 28.5 including almost a gallon of water. He was one of the lightest packs I think, this was mostly due to his sleeping arrangement, which ended up being a blessing for light weight to carry, but a curse for comfort...
Nate, selfie. Brian and Matt in the background

Much of the terrain was crazy difficult to navigate

They ran into a few complications fairly quickly on Thursday - the terrain was rough. And all the hiking boots, though worn in, were starting to abuse their feet. Hot spots and blisters started coming up fast. Other things (packs, clothes) started chaffing certain ones also, and so it became a painful test of endurance for many...
Some were carrying less water than others, and Thursday was a scorcher of a day. There was a little bit of a water crisis (not enough of it collectively), and they pressed forward through 19 miles that day, and had to call it quits before meeting their rally point. 

Nate, Brian, Pete & Paul
Many spots on the trail are near roads and small towns, and a few guys (incl Brian) walked into town and carried back 20 gallons of water from a convenience store to water the beleaguered troops. It was a hard day, and there was just no more gas to make the rally point - where they ended up having to stop was also a never ending bed of poison ivy. They all had to set up camp virtually on top of each other - the only patch of ground that could be found, ivy-free.
They had two men scheduled to drive up each night and give them spiritual encouragement etc. The guy that drove up on Thurs night was a ray of hope - there were a few guys that were just *done*. The thought of another 2 days of this was just too much, and they were going to hitch a ride home in the morning. So they decided as a group to scale it way, way back. Not to worry so much about the mileage, and take a more comfortable pace.
Gear piled up. 13 guys, and gear, in a 15 passenger van!
This gave the guys who wouldn't have survived another 40 miles a bit of encouragement. They did about 6/7 miles on Friday, nursing their wounded feet, and then about 8/9 miles on Saturday to finish off the trip. Everyone stayed, no one went home
These guys were all in decent shape, some, in exceptional shape - but many things play a factor in things of this nature. The weather. Mental toughness. Injuries. Lack of water. Some could've gone on to do the full 60mi, others were tapped out, for a variety of reasons, at 19. Brian, although his feet were very sore, was sure he could've gone on to complete the entire challenge. He was able to get duct tape on his hot spots before they became too bad (only ended up with one blister), and although his feet were in pain, it was okay.
The weather was HOT. Brian brought, for his sleeping arrangement, a bivy sack and a sleeping bag. This was way too hot, and he would have preferred it be 30degrees at night, instead of 85. Just too hot to get comfortable! Those who had brought hammocks or 1 to 2 man tents had a little more breathing room and slept a little better.
Taking a slower pace allowed for a little more fellowship and camaraderie, which is always nice. Some of these 13 men are really good friends, some barely know each other, so it was good male bonding all around I suppose:-)

They can appreciate like non-other: The young men of the Civil War. Stonewall Jackson required his troops to march 25 miles per day, right through this exact region. (They passed right by a battle spot). 25 miles every day. Not with fancy packs, hiking poles, yummy freeze dried camping foods, relatively comfy bedding packs, and $200 boots. The foot cavalry. It's amazing to get a small taste of the past. What people were convicted to do. What others were made to do, and did it still. They gave what was asked of them. Every last one. Willing, or unwillingly, it didn't matter. They all fought.
The big black snake!

The Siege of Harper's Ferry, September 13-15 1862. The South won this battle when the Union surrendered its garrison here, of more than 12,000 men.

Setting up camp on Friday night. One of the guys dad's came up that night to talk to the guys and encourage them.
They had a great time over all - some were disappointed the 60 mile goal wasn't reached, others, relieved. But at the end of the day, everyone thought it was 'just right', as far as I can tell, from all the stories they're telling.
They had to hike through the town of Harper's Ferry.
Until next year's challenge...