Sunday, November 30, 2008

Further Sanctification

Our family is huddled around the fireplace in the master bedroom, watching "Fairly Oddparents" and eating pizza we just had delivered. Don't imagine that this is some warm, cozy family moment. We're in the bedroom because it is on the only floor in our house that has heat right now.

One of our furnaces is not working. It stopped working Wednesday, before we left for Thanksgiving with the in-laws in Lindsborg, so we knew we were in for a cold night when we got back yesterday. The upstairs furnace is apparently fine; the top floor is a comfortable 70 degrees. The main floor is a chilly 59. The basement -- a frigid 50. Considering we're expecting a low of 24 degrees overnight (with more light snow flurries), I expect the basement to be even colder in the morning. No homeschooling down there tomorrow.

Again, I shouldn't complain. I know I shouldn't. But for crying out loud -- ANOTHER thing breaking down in our house??? And does this stuff ALWAYS have to happen on the weekend, when nobody will come fix anything?

But in the spirit of Thanksgiving . . I'm thankful we do have one furnace working so the house is livable. I'm thankful that it's working on the floor where our bedrooms are, so our sleeping routines aren't disrupted. I'm thankful for the insurance we have on these things. I'm thankful that Pizza Hut delivers. I'm thankful for sweatshirts, afghans, and comforters. I'm thankful for laptops that warm my lap as they run. I'm thankful for the ready-made science lesson -- "See, girls, heat rises". I'm thankful that tomorrow is Monday, when handymen make house calls. I'm thankful that we have big windows with a southern exposure on our main floor, so if the sun actually shines, the living room will get warmed pretty well.

And I'm thankful that we at least have hot water this weekend!

Once again, Eileen's sweet Puerto Rican accent is echoing in my mind: "Apparently, the Lord believes that I require further sanctification . . "

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Two Shows and a Craft Fair!

I've had a rather delightful weekend!

It started with "Christmas at the Orpheum" Friday night. The Orpheum is a historic theater in downtown Sioux City, built in 1927, renovated and re-opened in 2001. It is absolutely gorgeous! "Elegant" was the fitting word that Eastin kept repeating as we toured the place. And one of the nicest things in my book: the women's restroom. It was huge. Stall after stall after stall -- stretched most of the width of the building, I believe -- and you could enter and exit from either end. That may seem like a silly thing to get excited about, but if you're a woman and have tried to get into and out of the restroom during a brief intermission, you understand my appreciation.

The show was sponsored (I think) by the Briar Cliff University music department. It featured the Briar Cliff choir and University Singers, the Sioux City Symphony Orchestra, a guest solo soprano and guest feature pianist, plus choirs from two local churches (including the Methodist church I mentioned in an earlier blog). For anyone who doesn't appreciate classical and/or choral music, it might well have been a bore. But my girls enjoyed it, tired as they were. And I actually got goosebumps when every voice and instrument joined for the finale, "Joy to the World". Glorious! Great way to start the holiday season.

Then yesterday, after art class, library and lunch, the girls and I stopped at the Craft Fair in the Convention Center downtown. Fun to look at, but a bit overwhelming. Two floors full of crafts is a bit much. But it was good for stirring up the creative juices again. Got a few piles of craft supplies I've unpacked in the basement that I need to either do something with or put out on the garage sale.

THEN, last night, Leslie and I went to the Sioux City Community Theater to see their Youth Theater production of "Holes". I'd never read the book or seen the movie, so I was curious about it. Interesting show. Well-done for a youth theater production. An interesting theater building -- a nice, wide open stage with no kind of curtain and very little backstage that I could imagine. They did a good job of creating the image of these holes they were digging at various depths.

But even more interesting . . the "snack bar" area was almost as large as the theater seating area. They apparently do some "dinner theater" things sometimes. I'm anxious to get involved in a production there now. The girls may beat me to it, though. They have auditions in December for the next youth theater production, "Mulan Jr.". Leslie's still deciding . . she's not crazy about Mulan. But, next summer they're doing "High School Musical 2". I'm guessing that's a done deal -- I expect to spend the spring and summer driving the girls back and forth to rehearsals for that. I can't imagine them giving up the opportunity to be in HSM2.

The best part of the "Holes" evening, though, was just spending some time alone with Leslie. We had some good talks, a lot of laughs . . we really needed some time away alone. Everyday life and school is so full of the bickering and childish moments that I really need to have nights like this to remember what a fine young lady she's growing up to be.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Food, Glorious Food

I'm becoming quite the little cook since we moved to Iowa.

This, of course, will come as a surprise to Keith when he reads it.

Note, though, that I didn't say a good cook, just "quite the little" one.

Mainly, I've been trying to actually cook real food more. Not just heat up quickie pre-processed stuff. Not eat out. Really cook.

A few things have motivated this, I believe. 1) A new kitchen to toodle around in. 2) Rediscovering old kitchen tools that I forgot I had as I unpack. 3) The fall weather -- always makes me crave real, home-cooked food and real, home-baked desserts. 4) My friend Robin's blog ( about "going green". I find myself making my weekly meal list and walking through the grocery store thinking, "What would Robin do?"

You would think in farming country here, I'd be able to find some places to get fresh organic produce, fresh hormonal-free milk, fresh chemical-free meat (or whatever the problem is supposed to be about meat . . ). No such luck, yet. And Keith works for a dairy, for crying out loud.

Eastin has also shown a sudden interest in cooking. She wants to help out preparing meals anytime I will let her . . . as long as she isn't in the middle of something else more fun.

The unfortunate side-effect of all this -- my new jeans I bought a few months ago aren't fitting very well. (Of course, I can undoubtably blame some of that on all the free Blue Bunny ice cream we have around here.) I've been steadily gaining weight a little bit at a time all year since we knew in January we'd have to be moving. Food therapy, you know. In fact, I may very well have gained back all the weight I lost two years ago during "Godspell". (I don't know, because our bathroom scale isn't working.) That's depressing.

And the holidays are coming up, with all the goodies involved with that. I gotta find an adult dance class around here soon . .

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

To Quote Charlie Brown: Argh!

OK, just allow me a brief rant here.

I just spent an hour and a half trying to get our address changed on the various accounts, subscriptions and so forth that we have out there. I've been doing some of that all along, but decided today I needed to get it all wrapped up.

So, I've spent about a third of that time on hold.

Perhaps another third of that time, I've spent talking to computers that listed no press-button option for "address change" or "speak to a real human being". At least one of these I just had to give up on--they wouldn't take my account number and they wouldn't let me go anywhere else without it. I'm not sure how I'm going to contact them.

Two of them kept me on the phone transferring me from one line to another, getting this or that information from me, only to tell me at the very end of the call that they couldn't change the address for me because I'm not the primary name on the account.

Only one of these transactions was easy. I called the Lindsborg News-Record (my husband's hometown newspaper) and immediately got a friendly voice who not only cheerfully changed the address for me, but also engaged me in some brief small talk about the family.

Small towns have a lot going for them, you know?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Trials and More Trials . .

My three biggest pots are on the stove, full of water that I'm trying to get to boil. Why? So that Keith and I can carry them all into the bathroom to fill up the bathtub so the girls don't have to take baths in freezing cold water.

Our water heater has ceased to heat water. And it is leaking. We discovered this yesterday morning while I shivered and whined through a very c-o-l-d shower upstairs. The good news is, we got one of those insurance deals with the house where major appliances like that are covered in the first year or so. The bad news? They can't get out here to replace the heater until Monday. No hot water, all weekend long.

Our water heater in Jersey died at the beginning of the summer, too. And not only did we have to pay for a new one, but somehow the new heater would not fit in the space where the old one had been. Apparently, the builders installed the water heater and built the room around it . . very tightly. Oddly enough, though, the next larger model would fit. So, we had to buy a new and bigger water heater. Yeesh.

Our humidifier has also not been working here for the last month. A man came out yesterday morning to look at it--it just needed a new valve of some kind. He replaced it and cheerfully presented me with a $250 bill. Good grief! We could have bought a brand new humidifier for that price!

And then there's the saga of Keith's car. Soon after he got here in August, the transmission went out (thank you, Lord, that it didn't happen on his drive here!). There's only one guy in town who does much work on Mercedeses--a man Keith heard was very nice, good, but very slow. No lie. Keith didn't get his car back until a week ago. He not only had to pay an exorbitant amount to get the car fixed, he also had to pay for a rental car the whole time it was being worked on.

I know I shouldn't complain. Really, I shouldn't. We've had some real financial blessings in the last few months -- like that fact that we sold our house for a relatively decent price, in only a couple months, in a terrible market. But seriously . . it feels sometimes like nothing is going our way. Everything has to be expensive and difficult. As if we have money and patience to burn.

I'm sure there's a lesson in here somewhere. Some profound point I could make to enlighten all of our lives. Maybe I'll think of one while I'm boiling more water to wash the dinner dishes.

Friday, November 14, 2008

A Word from Eastin

Eastin wants to share a little bit with everyone about how she's doing:

Hi! This is Eastin as you already know. Moving here is pretty hard but I made three new friends Lexi (10) Abigail (7) Debra (10) The latest playdate I had was yesterday with Debra and I've been missing all the people I met in New Jersey I can't wait to go there! I'm going there in the spring it feels like a decade till spring! It's really cold here and it just snowed for three days! But I only got to go out and play once in the snow with Lexi. (Who is our neighbor if you haven't known) We had a snowball fight and I had the biggest snowball in the world! Too bad I missed Lexi with it. It was a good one! Oh, and the funny part about Lexi her name sounds like Leslie! When she was over Mom called, "Lexi!" and Leslie went, "Yeah?" "Your Mom's here!" Isn't that funny? I hope your doing good in New Jersey! I would like to hear from you!

[Gwen's note to self: we need to review run-on sentences in homeschool. :)]

Thank you, Eastin!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Some Miscellaneous Thoughts on How Life Goes On . .

I feel relatively healthy today. That's news, because I think there hasn't been a day since we left New Jersey that I haven't been dealing with illness of some sort at some level. And off and on for the month or two before we left, too. Nothing serious, but annoying nonetheless.

Early on, I assumed I had picked up germs on the airplanes flying out here for visits. Then, I attributed it to general stress. Then allergies seemed to be the culprit -- and I'm still not ruling out that theory. Leslie and I both seem to be sneezing and rubbing our itchy eyes on the same days.

Eventually, I deemed it to be some type of post-stress syndrome. Kind of like how I always used to be sick over the Christmas holidays after pushing myself so hard at the end of school. I feel better today, but this is getting old . . .

Beyond that, the Kandts continue to adjust. The girls have had new friends over for playdates. I'm getting some housekeeping routines down. Keith hasn't been traveling much (though he leaves Monday for a couple nights). And we enjoy some kind of Blue Bunny ice cream after dinner most nights.

We're basically done unpacking the boxes of stuff to be put away. Now we're going through the boxes of stuff to sell/store/give away/trash. This may take us months . .

Homeschooling continues. I seem to have lost my knack for scheduling our day -- I always seem to plan way too much to accomplish, or not enough. Today we made a model of a volcano. One of those obligatory things . . it was very simple and basic because I hate doing that stuff. If there was one subject I would give up to someone else to teach, it would be science. Not that I don't find it interesting, but it's one of those subjects that almost has to be hands-on, and for some reason, my experiments never work. At least today's only required the reliable vinegar and baking soda reaction.

Eastin went out for a basketball league Tuesday night. Actually, it wasn't a tryout--it was an "evaluation", because everyone makes a team. She's never played before. When she asked me over the weekend if she could play goalie on her team, I decided her father, the athlete, needed to handle this one. He filled her in on the basics, and she apparently knocked his socks off at the evaluation. For someone who's never played, she did amazingly well! Considering she ranks in the 95th percentile of height for girls her age, basketball may very well be her thing.

So, anyway, life goes on, even in Iowa. But it does seem to go slower here. Maybe that's because I haven't crammed our lives full of activities yet. Or maybe that's because it's Iowa.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Would someone please just assign us to a church?

Church shopping is the pits. We started on Methodist churches this morning. That means we're getting desperate. :) (That's a joke, Hope friends!) I know it's been a while since we moved and had to find a new church, but I don't remember it being quite this frustrating. There are so many factors going into this.

What denomination? We both grew up Baptist, but we were members of an Evangelical Free church in Springfield and a Methodist church in Jersey. As much as we still feel like Baptists, we're not married to the denomination. Which only increases the number of choices.

What "worship style"? Most churches do "contemporary" worship anymore -- praise bands and such. Keith has never cared for that. Today, we went to a church with very traditional music. Chancel choir, old hymns, organ (and a great organist, too). I have to say, it bordered on glorious. I enjoy the contemporary praise stuff, too, but I do miss the majesty of the old-fashioned style done really well. Unfortunately, that style doesn't appeal to very many young people anymore, so most services in that style are full of seniors.

What size of church? Big churches have activities to appeal to our whole family -- drama, music and such for me, recreational ministries for Keith, active youth group for Leslie (and lots of preschoolers for her to care for), active children's ministry for Eastin, Bible studies for us all. But they also can be very impersonal -- easy to jump through the hoops and never really be personally accountable for your spiritual growth.

Small churches, on the other hand, are often more intimate, you get to know people better, more sense of community. But not much in the way of activities. Maybe that shouldn't matter, but it's what we're used to now . . Plus, we want a good number of kids in the church so the girls have opportunity to meet a lot of friends. Plus, I don't want to feel pressure to volunteer for every job with an opening because the volunteer pool is small.

And then there are the other little issues that come up. Today's church had a woman for an associate pastor. Now, I know for a lot of my friends, that's a no-brainer. Either, "Woman pastor? Why not?" or, "Woman pastor? Of COURSE not!!!" Sigh. I just don't know yet what to do with that one.

The things that really matter, that really should be the factors in our decision, are unfortunately the things you can't always judge from a couple of visits. I remember someone saying once that you should look for the church where God is obviously at work, and join Him in His work there. You can't always tell that from one or two worship services.

That's why I'm guessing our search will be going on for a while . .

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Saturdays in Siouxland

Sioux City has an art center . . the aptly named Sioux City Art Center. Because of Leslie's interest in art, that was one of the places we visited early on. Frankly, it was a disappointment at the time. But I suppose we should have expected that. We've had a family membership at the Philadelphia Museum of Art for a few years now, and to be honest, not much else in the nation can live up to that.

But the SCAC does have a lot of relatively affordable art classes, which is a good thing. Since I am NOT an artist in any way, shape or form, we relied on our homeschool co-op in Jersey for our children's art education (thank you, Janice!). The earlier-mentioned Cvrk family has a son Leslie's age who invited her to join the pottery class he's taking this fall at the Center. It happens to meet at the same time as a "Saturday Art Lesson" time, for Eastin's age. So, our art curriculum for the fall is set.

Now, Saturdays have become downtown cultural days for us. And the Art Center is starting to grow on me. There's not much in their collection, but the building is a nice place to hang out. They have a small restaurant with artsy organic food, a small nice gift shop, and a hands-on art room for the little ones.

Eastin loves her weekly art lesson. Leslie's still deciding about her pottery class. It's actually a class for high school through adult -- they let Leslie in because they had already let Micaiah in, who was her age. But she maybe isn't quite old enough. She doesn't have the strength the others do to really mold the clay on the wheel very easily. The teacher says that's OK -- that just means she has to concentrate on technique, and when the hand strength comes, she'll be all set. But Leslie gets a little discouraged. The fact that the others in the class (a small class, too) have already been doing this for a few weeks doesn't help.

But, there are new classes starting in January, and I'm sure we'll find something else she'll enjoy. I enjoy hanging out in the building and working on my lesson plans for the week. Then a walk through the enclosed, above-the-streets walkway through downtown to the library. Then a nice little lunch for us all someplace downtown . . it all makes for a good culture-rich, family-togetherness kind of Saturday. :)

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Weather Report

It's snowing. A light dusty fall of snow -- very pretty. I don't remember it ever snowing this early in New Jersey, although I understand that this year, it did. In general, I'm expecting colder weather around here than anywhere else I've lived before.

But what I didn't expect was the WIND. That was one thing we didn't have much of in our area of Jersey, at least. Yeah, we had occasional windy days in Kansas, with gusts that would sweep you off of your feet. On summer days, it could feel like a blast from a furnace. Hard to describe if you've never experienced it.

But we've been in Iowa about a month now, and I bet almost a third of that time, the wind has been strong enough to turn an umbrella inside out. Leslie's room is a spooky place to be on a windy night. It sounds like a little girl crying outside her window. I'm grateful neither girl has brought up the "haunted house" idea, or we'd probably have serious problems on our hands.

Yesterday afternoon I put out the trash and recycling--including a bunch of empty cardboard boxes we'd unpacked. By evening, the wind had picked up again. The trash can was knocked over. The recycle tub was in the middle of the yard with the empty cans and milk jugs strewn everywhere. And the boxes were nowhere to be seen.

I feel a little guilty. I'm a litterbug. I just sent six or seven cardboard boxes flying through the atmosphere to land in someone else's yard and trash it up. But at that point, there was nothing I could do. There were gone. And how was I to know it was going to happen?

Anyway, the inclement weather has altered our afternoon plans. The homeschool group is going bowling instead of hiking along the river. Wise move, I'd say. Although I was looking forward to the hike.

And this evening we are invited to the home of the family we met at the pumpkin patch last week for dinner. I hope those plans don't change for the weather. And I hope we have a pleasant, sociable evening. We could use one.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

My Election Summary

So, if you know me and my family, you know that last night was a sobering one in our home. Yes, we were hoping (although without a lot of hope at that point) for a McCain victory. Obama seems like a decent man, but I question the direction he wants to go with the country. It seems to lean too much toward "Your country is going to take care of you," which creates weakness, dependency and division, rather than "Your country is going to enable you to take care of yourself and your fellow man," which creates strength, integrity and unity.

In any case, our man lost. But last night was not a night of mourning for Keith and I as much as it was a night devoted to intense parenting.

You see, the girls, like most children, were rooting for their parents' team. They wanted McCain to win, too. They don't really understand the issues (although, I'm pleased to see how much more Leslie is coming to understand them all the time), but Mom and Dad are Republicans, so, so are they. And this loss was depressing for them.

"It's not fair!" we kept hearing. (Parents, how many times do we hear those words?) We found ourselves repeating our time-worn mantra, "Yes, it is fair (at least, as far as we know right now). Just because it's not what we want, doesn't mean it's not fair.

"McCain deserves to be President!" McCain deserves our respect and gratitude for his service to our country, but nobody simply gets this office because they deserve it -- they are chosen by the people.

"This Electoral College system is stupid!" Hmm. Well, I couldn't argue that one very well.

But one of the biggest things I kept trying to point out to them is that, although Dad and I think a lot about these things, and we have very good reasons for why we think the country should be run the way we do, it is entirely possible that we are completely wrong. We must always approach these situations with confidence in our positions (if they are well-thought-out and well-informed) but with humility based on our limitations. We think McCain would have been a better President than Obama. But we don't really know.

I was reminded this morning--while doing my devotions looking out my bedroom window on the beautiful valley behind our house and the neighbors' American flag waving in the center of my view--of the scriptures that talk about how the kings and rulers of this world are like ants to God Almighty, the true King.

There's a poem I used to teach called "Ozymandias" (I believe -- don't crucify me if I'm mistaken about the title) that talked about the ruins of an ancient monument. At its base, the ancient ruler had encouraged all to look about them at the greatness of his empire and his achievements -- and the modern observer saw nothing but empty sand and desert. In the wide scheme of things, Barack Obama is a modern Ozymandias, a blip on the radar. He can do no more good or no more harm than God allows him to. And whatever achievements he has, whatever "change" he succeeds in bringing about, will only last as long as God sustains it. God is the one we look to for hope and protection and "change we can believe in".

But I encourage all of us to pray for our new leadership, that they will allow themselves to be willing instruments in the hands of God, the true Sustainer.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

What I'm Learning on Facebook

No, I'm not going to talk about the election on Election Day. Other than to say, go vote. (I voted yesterday -- cool, huh?)

I'm going to talk about Facebook. A few friends from my Godspell cast talked me into joining Facebook before I left NJ so we could keep in touch. I thought it didn't sound at all like my proverbial "cup of tea", but I'm actually enjoying it. Old friends from high school have found me there. Friends from other places we've lived. My buddy list is an eclectic group.

And that's one of the things I like about it. I have friends on Facebook who are passionately liberal, politically, and others who are passionately conservative. I have some who are strong, faithful, conservative Christians, and others who are just as strong and faithful liberal Christians . . and others who are just somewhere in the middle Christians. And others who have no faith at all. I have friends on there old enough to have mothered me, and friends who are young enough that I could have mothered them. I have friends who post things with swear words that I have to shield my daughters from seeing (yeah, you know who you are!) and friends who I would venture to say have never spoken a swear word in their lives. I have intellectual friends, artsy friends, sports-fanatic friends . . it's quite a tribe, my buddy list.

And anything I write on there is going to be seen by all of them. That's good for me. It keeps me centered. It keeps me real. It keeps me from leaning to one side or another of my personality to appeal to one person--or group of persons--in particular.

I have to do that in my blog, too, but I would venture to say, more people read my status daily on Facebook than ever glance at my blog.

The "status" business on Facebook is one of the coolest parts for me. Every once in a while, you can just write in a little phrase to tell the world what your "status" is at the moment. Sounds dull, if you've never seen it, but people can get very creative with these. They range from the informative ("Emily is bummed she's missing the parade due to a scratched cornea.") to the mundane ("Janice is home now.") to the creative ("Owen is in love with Jon Stewart, but don't tell his wife, because I think she is too, and I don't want any family squabbles over this.") to the bizarre ("Michael is not your rolling wheels, he is the highway.") to the thought-inspiring ("Robin has decided to listen to her heart. Enough with my head already. It's not as smart as it thinks it is.").

And this all brings me to . . my friend Ashley's status on Sunday: "Ashley is 'Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the way. Walk in it."'" (Yes, that cluster of quotation marks there is correct punctuation in this situation. I am the Grammar Queen, after all.)

That's scripture, for those of you who don't recognize it. I recognized it, but had to ask Ashley for the reference again (Isaiah 30:21). I wanted the reference so I could plaster it on my walls -- at least on the walls of my brain. Because I feel lately like I'm looking to the right, and the left, and up, and down, and behind my back, and around the corner . . and I have no idea where to go.

What church should we join? What book should we study in Reading this month? How do I stop the girls from fighting all the time? What should I make for dinner? Should I buy the organic, expensive milk or the cheap, hormonal milk (thanks, Robin)? Should the girls go to "real" school next year, and if so, which one? Who should I call to babysit for us? Which room should I get organized first?

I changed my latitude and longitude, and suddenly, I have no sense of direction anymore. I don't know where to go.

But apparently, if Isaiah heard the Lord right, He's trying to tell me. Maybe if I stop with the frantic questioning in my head, I'll hear that voice behind me . . "This is the way . . "

And here's hoping our next President--whoever he is--is listening for that voice, too.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Pumpkins and Pals

Before we actually moved here, we met one homeschool family to get some info about the laws and such in the area -- the Cvrks (pronounced "Swirks"--go figure). They have 7 kids. Then last week, we met Keith's boss's family who also homeschools -- they have 9 kids (6 adopted from Russia). They seem to grow families around here like they grow the corn -- in abundant quantity.

But we've still been feeling the need to get to know more people -- particularly Eastin-age and -type people. So, yesterday was our first official event with the homeschool group here. They have a phys. ed. activity every Friday afternoon (next week is a hike down the river, the next is ice-skating, etc.). But this week, in honor of Halloween, they had more of a field trip. We went to a pumpkin patch for the morning. I almost didn't go, because my in-laws already brought us some pumpkins when they brought the girls back, and because I hated to get out of our morning school routine that we had just gotten back into. And because I've just been in a lousy, pouty kind of mood all week and didn't feel like trying to feel better. (Ladies, you understand those days, right?)

But I bucked up and we went. And I'm glad we did.

We met several new families and heard a lot of good info about the community (Fairway groceries are cheaper than Hy-Vee's, for example). Plus . . drum roll . . Eastin met a friend. A genuine, bouncin'-off-the-walls, spazzy kind of girl like her. They met and hit it off immediately, before I'd even matched the kid to her mother in the crowd (like Eastin, she wasn't anywhere near her mother). And as it turns out, her family lives in Sergeant Bluff, about 5 minutes from us. And their family just moved here in September! AND I happened to sit by this woman at the mom's meeting the other night (we just didn't get a chance to speak) . . AND we sat behind them at church last week!!

It doesn't stop there. This is another big family -- 8 kids with one more on the way. So, not only did Eastin hit it off with 7-year-old Abigail, but Leslie (as those of you who know her can imagine) quickly became enamoured with Chloe and Naomi, the two "babies" of the family (both under 3--this woman has her hands full). And mom Shelley and I hit it off, too.

So, all in all, it was a productive morning even though we didn't do school. We did relationships -- which are more important than school in the long run, right? (Please say, "right!" I don't need any guilt trips right now . . . )