Monday, December 31, 2012


It's been a busy December for us. We've spent it baking cookies, doing Christmas shopping, and celebrating Christmas in a few different ways.

Our first real "Christmas" celebration was about two weeks before Christmas. One of the leading musicians at church had suggested a private Christmas music recital, and Mandy, of course, was invited to participate for a few different songs. About a week or so beforehand, it was suggested that Seth join in for a song at least, so he and Mandy spent some time practicing via duets. It was Seth's first public performance, and people loved it; several people asked when he will be joining the rest of the musicians on Sunday morning, but that won't happen for a while yet. Mandy also did very well on the pieces she did with the others. You can find a few of the videos on my facebook page.

On the Saturday before Christmas, we had our annual family get-together with Grandpa Mike. Our group was smaller this year because several members of Uncle Josh's family were sick. We enjoyed some lunch and talked. Mom and I had to leave early because we had to clean the church, but Dad, Seth, Mandy, and Ben stayed for a few more hours.

On Christmas Eve, we got together with Grandma Linda. Again, some of Uncle Josh's family was not present, though a few members did come. We enjoyed some dinner and then opened gifts. Then we played a new game, where you had to think of a word and then get people to guess what word it is based on what it rhymes with; some of the younger cousins proved to be very smart at this game. Afterwards, we drove home in a rather dense fog and, as is our Christmas Eve tradition, we were allowed to open one gift. Then we (which included Ben) sat down and watched a movie.

As is Mandy's tendency, she woke me up at 8:30 to open presents. Ben also came over, and there were gifts for him as well. We all got new clothes (my favorite are the various scarfs I got and also my arm warmers), and I also got three books (two of which are about Medieval culture, and I'm almost finished with the longer one). Other gifts included a new wallet, a game for the Wii, and some other practical stuff that we needed. After presents, then we had breakfast. We had our annual quiche, but this year we also added muffins (which included gluten-free ones since I could only eat half of the quiche- I'll explain why in a minute), bacon, and sausage. Then we spent the rest of the day chilling out, reading from our new books, playing Lord of the Rings Trivial Pursuit, and watching a movie.

The last real part of our break happened today (December 31st). I spent part of the day at the movie theater and then with some friends for a late lunch. Later in the afternoon, we (which again includes Ben) hung out with Uncle Josh's fam (they're finally feeling better) and had dinner. And now we're back at home enjoying a relaxing New Year's Eve. Tomorrow will be the last day of the break, and then it's back to our normal schedules.

Now, about the gluten-free thing. For about a month now, I've been avoiding foods with wheat and gluten with them because I am seeing if it has anything to do with my long-term sinus issues. Ever since July or so, I have had several issues like headaches, migraines, ear pain, and sinus pain. After three trips to three different doctors with no results, my mom suggested that I ignore wheat. Ever since then, I have been feeling a lot better; most of my symptoms have disappeared, and I've felt more energetic, among other things. So, ever since then, I have done my best to avoid wheat/ gluten. This, of course, is not always the easiest thing to do. Especially when we go out to eat because very few places sell good salads or even grilled chicken. Potlucks and eating at other people's houses has also been tricky, especially when I can largely only eat meat, vegetables, and fruit. Still, the results are worth it for me.

So, it's been a good year for us, and we've seen a lot of changes. We've seen Dad and Seth adjust to working for NCR. We've seen Mandy graduate high school and start courting Ben. We've seen quite a few people start courting (and in a few cases, get engaged). We've watched our family grow (and it will continue to do so next year). We've seen a lot of work done to the house (which we're still working on). We've seen Mandy get her first job and Seth being accepted back to NCR. I wonder what will happen next year.

Saturday, December 1, 2012


November has been a very hectic month for us. Every single weekend (i.e. Friday and Saturday) we have had something going on. The first weekend was the church's annual ladies' retreat, which Mom, Mandy, and I attended; we enjoyed ourselves there, as we always do. The next weekend was another church wedding; I raise my glass to Mom because she was on her feet for sixteen hours that day, helping prep and doing things in the kitchen, not to mention the cheesecakes she decorated and helped serve at the reception, and then because she and I cleaned up the disaster- zone of a church afterwards; she did an amazing job. Then the next weekend was the church's annual Thanksgiving dinner; I made a batch of delicious rolls, Mom did potatoes and stuffing, and Mandy made a cake; it was another lovely event that we all enjoyed, especially hearing the testimonies of other people on how good the Lord has been to them this year.

Last weekend was Thanksgiving, which we celebrated at Uncle Josh's house. This year was more special because we had Ben and his mom and then Sarah (Gabe's girlfriend) join us for the festivities. Ben, as I have said before, fits right in with the Cunninghams, and his mom seemed to really enjoy herself in our company; Sarah also fit in very well too. We enjoyed plates of delicious turkey, ham, stuffing, gravy, potatoes, different varieties of rolls, green bean casserole, and then various desserts. We stayed there for several hours. Mandy left to spend the night with Sarah, and Mom left in the late afternoon; so Dad, Uncle Josh, Ben, and I sat outside around the fire and talked for a little before the cold (and hunger) drove us back inside the house. It was a good Thanksgiving, and I have uploaded pictures from it on facebook.

We have exciting news about Seth. A few weeks ago, he learned that NCR was willing to bring him back on to work in another division at the same location where he had worked, so he went up there for an interview. They said they would hire him back on as a full-time employee with all the benefits, but for weeks they did not say anything. This week, they called Seth back and asked him to start next week, which is very good news.

As for renovating the house, I have yet to get pictures because we are not fully done. We have painted half of the living room and dining room a dark green (a color of which Mandy approves- she is our color stylist who tells us what color would look good), and Dad and Seth spent several long, painful hours on their hands and knees tearing up our old beige carpet and putting down pergo (it's sort of like hard wood, but it's not real wood). The pergo has been laid down, but we are still working on putting up the new baseboards and staining them. Next up, Dad has plans to re-do the floors of both the utility room and the kitchen (both of which will require some logistical maneuvering), but we probably won't do those until the spring or summer.

I have been looking into other options for either further schooling or certification. I have a couple of ideas, but I still need to discuss them and figure out which one would be best for me. Two weeks ago, Mandy and I went to a church family's home; while she looked after two of the kids while the mom and her oldest were out running errands, I helped tutor one of the children in her schoolwork. I have only done this once because of Thanksgiving and other things, but I am hoping to start back up again next week because I found myself enjoying it.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Arrival of Fall

Fall has now officially arrived in Georgia. The leaves are changing color, and several of them have already fallen. The temps have cooled down, but this week they have been cooler than usual.

For the past few days, Georgia has been undergoing some strong winds (thanks to Hurricane Sandy). This has made it very cold outside, and it is making our trees shake like crazy. Even though we have been getting a ton of dead branches on the roof and all over the yard, we thankfully have not had any other damage. We are grateful for this, especially as yesterday we learned that there was a young boy in the Atlanta area who got hit by a fallen tree and is currently at the hospital in not-so-good shape.

While the winds have been gusting around us, we (and by that I mean largely Dad, Mom, and Seth though Mandy and I have helped when we could) have been busy on a major house project. It is not finished yet and likely will not be until the end of the week, but I have been taking pictures and do plan on posting them when it is all said and done. Want a clue to the big project? New floors and paint :D

Otherwise, nothing much else has been going on. We had a church dance a few weekends ago, but, because my computer is as good as dead and Mom's is on its way to the grave, I have not been able to make any compilation videos of either that dance or the one we had over the summer. Ever since late September, we have been busy each weekend with church gatherings, get-togethers with friends or family, or even short trips. Dad is continuing with work, Mom continues with making cheesecakes for either various church events or for friends and teaching her students, Seth is still working on getting his certification and doing some work around the house, and I am still doing house work and looking for something better to keep me busy. College is looking less like a viable option due to decreased financial aid and increased tuition and fees, but recently I may have had a door elsewhere open. Mandy has also been busy with work, her times with friends, and, of course, Ben. The two are still courting, and they make an adorable couple; last weekend, they went out with two friends (who are also courting) and took some pictures, one of which is Mandy's profile picture on facebook. Today, Mandy also has a chance to use her mad cello skills; she and a few friends from church are performing background music for a benefit dinner in Atlanta. Even though she is still nervous about performing in front of people, it has been encouraging over the past year to see Mandy be able to use her musical talents for wedding reception music, an eagle scout ceremony, and other events.

That is just about it. I will try to post pictures of the house after we finish our big project.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A Week at the Beach

For the past several years, the clan has wanted to go on a vacation together. However, ever since our last trip in 2005, we have been unable to for a variety of reasons. This year was different, and the Lord was gracious enough to allow us to go to Cape San Blas. Unfortunately, we were short a few people, as Noah and Gabe were too busy with work and school and Ben was unable to take time off from teaching to go with us. Nonetheless, our rather large group rented two houses (one of which was the one we five stayed in during our vacation last year, and the other was on the same extended driveway).

We left on September 8th. The day before that was rather hectic. We had to run several errands, and then Mom and I had to clean the church (Mandy previously had that job, but I've more or less inherited it when she got her current job) and go shopping. Then I went home and made rosemary potatoes, as we three kids spent the rest of the evening hanging out with some friends. It was a fun time, as we enjoyed some homemade barbecue, got involved in a water balloon fight that also included a hose, and sitting around a campfire and just talking. We wanted to stay longer, but eventually we had to leave because we had to get up the next morning.

On Saturday morning, we woke up around 6:30 and began helping Dad pack up the car as well as packing some last-minute items. The clan was supposed to meet around 7:30, but several members were late, meaning that we did not get on the road until after 8 AM. We made a few stops for breakfast, lunch, and gas, but we made good time and got to the beach houses in the mid-afternoon after a seven hour drive. We then unpacked and had pizza for dinner.

The days all sort of blended together, so I will just point out some highlights of the trip.

The weather was absolutely gorgeous. It was stormy on Saturday and Sunday, but the weather cleared up and grew calmer. As the weather grew calmer, so did the ocean; on one of the days, the water was almost crystal clear and was so calm that it was more like a lake than an ocean.

We five had a nice house. Nicknamed "The Treehouse," it had a nice set of spiral stairs. Some of the younger cousins had fun throwing some toy stuffed dragons down the stairs and seeing how far they could go. Because only we five were in the house, it was quieter than the other house. On a few occasions, some of the older cousins came over in the afternoons to do some schoolwork without the chaos of the younger cousins.

Our days were pretty relaxing. We would wake up the mornings, enjoy some breakfast, go down to the beach for a few hours, go back to the houses for lunch, relax in the houses during the afternoons, get together for dinner, go down to the beach for a walk or for some brief swimming, and then hang out for the evening before going to bed. We did venture out a few times during the week. On Tuesday afternoon, we went to Applachicola; we did a bit of casual shopping, had dinner at a local restaurant, and then got ice cream at a local tourist stop. On Thursday, we had dinner at another local restaurant and then went back to the house to have Key Lime pie for dessert. Also on Thursday, we went out in an attempt to do some shelling; however, one place only had smaller shells while the other place was undergoing high tide and thus had no beach.

This year, we saw quite a lot of wildlife wherever we went. There were jumping fish (Uncle Josh said they were whiting), and we even saw some other fish while we were swimming. We saw dolphins several times, especially when the fish were doing their acrobatics. We even saw a few sting rays; one of those times, we saw one jumping out of the water, and Uncle Jason caught a video of another one swimming near the shore while we were out shelling on Thursday. On Thursday, we saw a pelican on shore while we were shelling; the fellow had a rather large fish in front of him and was trying to eat it, though we think the fish may have been too big to fit into his mouth. Still, it was an entertaining scene. Our other wildlife, unfortunately, also included black flies; these flies were horrendous, flocking to us when we were doused in bug spray and sitting on the beach or when we were standing in the water, and nothing seemed to keep them at bay; they were one of the reasons that some days we had return to the houses early. Other wildlife included a few frogs, some rather loud locusts who nearly made us go deaf, sand fleas, ants, and a mysterious big cat (i.e. bigger than a house cat) that was hanging around the garbage cans.

On Thursday evening, there was some debate on whether or not some people would return home on Friday. The next day, Uncle Jason and his family decided to leave a day early so that they could get home and be able to get ready for church on Sunday; Mom, Mandy, and I also decided to go home early with Grandpa Mike and Marsha so that we would be able to get the church cleaned early. It seemed to be a long drive home on Friday evening, and Mandy was antsy, especially as we grew closer to Atlanta. Ben, who had kept an eye on the house and the cats for us, waited for us three, and Mandy was extremely ecstatic to see him; the two stayed up until 2 AM that night talking as, there was not a good cell phone signal down in Florida to allow them to talk on the phone. Three of us coming home early proved to be good, as we were able to get a good night sleep and then devote Saturday to cleaning the house and cleaning the church. By the time Dad and Seth came home on Saturday afternoon, we were ready for Sunday.

It was a good trip this year. It was nice to relax and to be able to spend time with the clan, as nowadays it seems difficult due to everyone's schedules and due to several of us growing up and being semi-independent. I took some pictures, but unfortunately my camera went kaput on Tuesday, so I only have pictures from before that point; Mandy also took some too, and we both have uploaded some on facebook for your viewing pleasure.

And so, now it is back to our normal schedules. Dad and Mandy are back to work, Seth is doing his part-time job and his on-line certification, Mom is back to teaching her students, and I am back to doing housework and looking into colleges. For myself, Nanowrimo is coming up in a little over a month, and I am getting ready for it; I've got a couple different story ideas, but I probably won't decide on a story until the last minute.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Beer and Driving

A few things I'd like to mention before our guests arrive (because of Labor Day, we're having some family and friends over for dinner).

One, I want to mention one of Dad's birthday presents for this year. A week or so ago, Ben and Mandy were thinking about what to get Dad when one of them (I believe it was Ben) got the idea of giving him beer. And not just a normal case; no, forty-five beers, in honor of how many years he's lived. So, last Monday, Mandy and Ben went shopping and bought (I should say that Ben bought them and that Mandy helped pay for it) forty-five bottles of beer. Some of the bottles were in cases, some in six packs, and a few single bottles. Dad was very surprised to see it, and so now his beer fridge is full. It was a very nice gift, and kudos to Ben for thinking it up.

Two, last weekend a certain someone drove roughly fifteen miles from a place near home and then back to the house. Yes, it was myself, with Dad directing me from the passenger's seat. I've been thinking about going back to college again, but the college I applied for a few weeks ago means that I would need to learn to drive. So, I have finally found motivation to push myself to drive. So, Dad and I have been trying to find time on Saturdays for him to take me out driving because Mom doesn't want to and because Seth and Mandy are too young to teach me. I started off rather nervous, but I loosened up and felt more comfortable. I even changed lanes a few times and interacted with some decent afternoon traffic. Granted, I wasn't perfect, but I felt very accomplished afterwards. Driving no longer seems so frightening, and I pray that I will continue to pursue it and overcome my fear of it.

I mentioned above that I'm thinking of returning to college. I applied for one a few weeks ago and am waiting to see if I got in for the spring semester. If I get in, then I will go in for a history major. The college's website has a list of internships, and the ones in museums were enough to make me excited as I looked at them. If I do get into this college and can afford to go, then it will require me to move in with Grandma Linda, as she lives much closer to the campus than I currently do. So, some pretty big things might be on the horizon for me later this year.

Well, gotta dash. Our company is beginning to arrive. My next post will probably be about our trip to Florida, which will happen next week.

Monday, August 27, 2012

A Few Summer Events

- A formal dance. Due to popular demand, Mandy decided to plan another formal dance at the church. She and a few of her friends did the decorating themselves, and they asked people to bring the food. That day, Mom and I spent some hours in the kitchen and dining room preparing the food; we contributed some some ham and cheese sandwiches, chicken salad sandwiches, some baked crackers, and a tray of fruit. I nearly had a fashion emergency when the blue dress that I bought for last year's formal dance refused to zip up (problem with the zipper, not with my waist); I was not happy with the prospect of wearing something that wasn't formal, but Mandy finally managed to get the dress to work, much to my relief.

The dance itself was very enjoyable. We had a good amount of people and, for the first time at any dance, we had an equal amount of guys and girls. I managed to capture some videos of the event, but I was out on the dance floor quite a bit and did not get a lot of variety of the dances. I also had the rare opportunity to dance the complicated Scottish dance "The Clumsy Lover," the only time that night it was done; unfortunately, no pictures or videos were taken of it, though I was told I did a good job at it, despite missing a few of the steps. We danced for quite a long time, and my feet were killing me afterwards. Still, it was worth it.

- Mandy and Ben are still courting. Ben has become a regular fixture at the house, and he has become almost like a fourth child in the family. Lately, he has started his teaching again, and so we are seeing less of him, which is weird because we have gotten so used to him. We got a good laugh out of it yesterday when, while we were at a church wedding, Mandy ended up catching the bouquet; apparently Ben got a good chuckle at it too when Mandy called to tell him about it.

- Mandy has a job. Her first day is tomorrow, but she'll be working for an insurance company. The job is not too far away from the house, and another plus is that she'll be working with two guys who go to our church so she won't be alone at the job either.


Friday, July 13, 2012

4th of July

Last Wednesday, we had our annual 4th of July family celebration. This year's was special because we had two potential new family members join us for the day; Mandy's suitor Ben and Gabe's girl Sarah were both there and had the opportunity to meet the rest of the family.

This year, we met at Uncle Jason's house. It proved to be a hot day, but it was bearable with low humidity and plenty of shade from the trees. Each family brought their own meat and a few side dishes, and so there was plenty of delicious food to go around. Mom made her first banana cheesecake for the occasion, and it was very, very yummy. After the meal, the younger kids got into the new swimming pool while the adults sat down nearby to talk. It was a quiet yet enjoyable afternoon, just sitting around and enjoying each other's fellowship. Eventually, some of the older kids, feeling the heat, joined the younger ones in the pool. Nathan loved the water, and Noah was constantly holding him up while he squealed with delight and peered over the pool rim at us. Noah also got involved in a rather spirited water gun war with Hannah, which led to some innocent bystanders getting a bit damp.

After spending the afternoon at Uncle Jason's, we stopped by the Howlands for a little visit. We chatted for a little while and then, when the sky had gotten dark enough, walked up the road to watch the fireworks. We did not get a good view because there were too many trees blocking the fireworks, so unfortunately there was not much to see. Finally, because Dad and Seth had work the next day, we had to leave, and we left Mandy to spend the night with the Howlands.

Ever since then, not much else has gone on. Dad and his brothers are traveling for a family wedding this weekend, Mandy has got several social activities, Seth is waiting to hear back from a potential new employer, and I am waiting for Georgia Gwinnett to send my transcripts to an on-line college that I applied for a few weeks ago. We've also been enjoying more interaction with Ben, as he visits us (in particular, Mandy), and last night we kids went out to a movie with him. Otherwise, things have been pretty normal around here. I've heard rumors of another upcoming dance in August, and I hope it'll happen because our last dance was cancelled due to supposedly bad weather and I miss dancing.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Adventures of the Cakes

In March earlier this year, a lady at our church started a cooking class for the young ladies. Once a month or so, we go to her house and cook something. We've made pie crust and pork tenderloin once, and last Saturday it was time to learn how to decorate a cake.

Things got off to a bad start on Saturday morning. Due to an oversight, one of the cats devoured a piece of pizza and left the crust all over the kitchen floor, which meant I needed to clean it up. Then it was time to make vanilla buttercream frosting. We only had enough milk for one batch when we needed two, and Mandy and I had to leave and pick up two other girls for the class. So we grabbed our cakes and the bowl of frosting and began driving all over the county to pick up our friends. It was 9:30 in the morning, and it was already in the upper 80's. It didn't help that our suburban has no A/C, and so it made for a very hot ride. We arrived late, and I fretted over the frosting, which did not look very good but turned out to be fine.

We had a good time. First, we iced our cakes (we got some extra frosting, so there was enough for Mandy and I), which was quite a task in and of itself. Then it was time to decorate. The lady had shown us some techniques, like basket weaving and shell borders, and so it was up to us to experiment and have fun. Mandy decided to go complicated and do a basket weave on top of her cake, which she was not happy with, and I did a poor attempt to recreate an ocean with a sun and a palm tree. After a few hours of handling the sticky frosting and admiring each other's culinary creations, it was time to go. However, we four were beginning to worry. By now, it was around 1 PM, which meant it was very hot. The car had no A/C, and the heat could melt our frosting and ruin our hard work. We rolled down the windows and decided to stop halfway home at Chick-fil-A, where we would bring the cakes inside and let them cool down a little bit. By the time we reached the place, two of the cakes were already showing signs of the frosting melting, smudging, or falling off the cake. After lunch, we resumed the ride home, whereby we were all staring at our cakes and ordering the frosting to stay put for just a little longer.

My cake and Mandy's did not really survive. Apparently, hers was dry and the frosting fell off, and I've been afraid to taste mine. Nonetheless, it was an interesting adventure during the hot temperatures down here.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Feeling Hot

Generally southern summers aren't horrendous in regards to heat; some years are hotter than others, but generally the humidity is what irritates most people.

Not this time. I don't ever recall (though I could be wrong) Georgia getting into the triple digits temperature-wise. According to, it's already 95 degrees F, and it's not even to the heat of the day yet, which usually happens sometime between 3 and 5 PM. Thankfully we have AC (though two of our cars don't), but our unfortunate garden doesn't. To keep the garden alive in this heat, we're having to water it twice: a good dousing in the morning and then again in the afternoon. Though it makes me worry that I'll water it too late and end up killing the plants instead.

I'm really craving a thunderstorm right now. With sheets of rain lasting for preferably most of the day, both to cool down everything and to water the plants. I pray we'll get rain soon. And not only us but the other heated states, especially Colorado as it battles wildfires.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Last Homeschooler

Yes, it has happened. Mandy has officially finished high school. Unofficially, however, she still has some work to finish over the summer, but she is technically graduated. The big event took place last Saturday.

On Thursday and Friday, the realization that the party was upon us finally hit us. We began to mad scramble to get the food prepared. I spent two days making the bacon-wrapped smokies and also made the chips for the mango salsa (it took an incredible amount of willpower to stop myself from tasting the fruits of my labors, but I was satisfied with both of them on Saturday), and Mom worked to decorate her cheesecakes, make the salsa, and work on the meatballs (a joint endeavor between her, Dad, and myself), and Mandy went shopping for shoes and a necklace to wear for the party. Saturday was a mad scramble to complete the final preparations, make sure the house was clean, and make sure nothing had been forgotten.

The party was held at church, and the decorating committee did an amazing job at arranging the purple and green on the tables and also at doing the flowers. Because the party was for Mandy and her friend Leila, we had quite a bit of friends and family from both sides come out for the occasion. We had probably close to 150 people, though unfortunately I did not get any pictures of the crowd; so the few pictures I did take make it look like the church was empty, but I assure you that was far from the case. Once everyone was seated, Leila's father got up and welcomed everyone. Then Pastor Strevel got up and gave a charge to Mandy and Leila about being godly women and serving God's kingdom; it was an amazing and well-spoken charge. Then it was time for the first performance. Mandy did not want to give a speech, but Leila did, so they worked out a compromise: Mandy would accompany the singer Joseph while Leila would give a speech. So, Mandy and a few of her friends did a beautiful performance of "Take My Life and Let It Be." I'm going to try to upload it to facebook soon. Then Leila gave her thank-you speech. Then the dads got up, said a little something, and presented Mandy and Leila their diplomas. Then it was time for the highlight of the show: the slideshow of the girls' lives. The slideshow was done by Leila's brother Steven, who did an amazing job on it. Check out the following link to see it on youtube:

After the slideshow, it was time for the reception. There was plenty of food to go around: hummus, stuffed grape leaves (I don't remember if that is the exact name, but I know it is a Lebanese dish), fruit (strawberries, pineapple, watermelon, cantaloupe, grapes), bacon-wrapped smokies, mango salsa, meatballs, and then a cheese-cracker dish. There was also delicious punch and plenty of dessert: a small cake from Costco and then Mom made four cheesecakes (including one that was gluten and dairy free, which went over very well and apparently tasted amazing). Mandy was running around, getting pictures with her friends and some family members, and she got several of them. I did not get many pictures because I was either eating or because I was taking pictures with her camera; she has uploaded 27 of them to facebook, so check them out.

Another nice touch was the pictures on the gift table. The girls showed off some of their senior pictures, and each of them had a picture with large white borders that could be signed on. Both of them got plenty of signatures from friends and family, and they each had plenty of gifts and cards.

After the crowds began to thin out, we started cleaning up. Some of the guests, who had arrived late and did not see the slideshow, watched it with us again, and this time we were all laughing and making comments about each other. Then the clean-up resumed. Because we had so many people, the main part of the cleanup took maybe about an hour and a half. Once everyone was gone, Mom did a bit of sweeping and mopping. Seth and Mandy went to a friend's house to relax and have fun, and Mom and Dad went out for an hour or so. I was tired and stayed home, happy to have my feet up and to be relaxed.

Originally, we had had plans to go to Florida this week. However, those plans eventually had to change due to several reasons, including a broken car with no A/C and a broken dryer, so we had to postpone the trip. Dad and Seth still took the week off from work, and they are both relaxing from jobs that are becoming very stressful due to the integration at work. It has been a relaxing week, very nice not to be running around preparing for parties or the like. Mandy and I still are thinking of going to Virginia for the annual family conference later this month, but circumstances have also changed and so neither of us may be going this year.

It has been emotional watching Mandy graduate. On Saturday after the slideshow, her best friend was in tears, and there were several emotional hugs from friends and peers afterwards. Mom has spent twenty years homeschooling the three of us, and now those days are over. We three kids are now graduated from and finished with high school.

Before I close up the post, I wish to express my gratitude to the ladies who helped out with the party. As Mom pointed out, it was amazing to see everyone's specific gifts come out in the preparations. We had her beautiful cheesecakes, the pastor's wife doing a beautiful fruit arrangement, the young women doing the decorations, and even those who did not have a specific gift but worked hard to keep the food stocked and to help out here and there. I offer a big thank you to each of those ladies for their hard work and for the love they put into it on Saturday; without them, the party could not have happened.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Memorial Day Fun

So, we've got a few hours to go before Mandy's graduation party starts, and the last few days have been very hectic. But, before I forget, I'll mention a hilarious event that happened on Memorial Day.

At the farm where the church holds their annual Memorial Day picnic, there is a small lake that most people use it for boating and such. For years, no one dared swim in the lake because it doesn't look very clean and because of giant snapping turtles living in its depths. Last year, because it was so hot, several of the teenagers and young adults jumped in to cool off, and this year was no exception either, even though its temps were reasonable. Last year, someone decided to organize boat races, and they were held again this year. I teamed up with a friend, and we were the first to go up for the women's team. The green boat we were in was a bit tipsy, and it actually tipped half-way over while we were trying to get it into the lake. The race itself was largely neck and neck, and we did better than I expected. We were on our last leg when the other boat got too close and knocked into us, making the boat tip. I grabbed my glasses and bandana just as our boat flipped over. One of the young men jumped in and helped us push the boat back to the shore. It was difficult treading water with me fully dressed (and wearing denim, which is heavy to begin with), but I finally reached shallow ground. Apparently, according to my partner's oldest brother, we were the most entertaining ones to watch. So, needless to say, I spent the rest of the afternoon soaked, but it was fun.

And thus is the tale of my first time being in the water on Memorial Day.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Summer Madness: Part 1

So we've been busy lately. Part One of summer madness as started, and the next parts are going to be just as crazy. So, here is part 1.

On the second weekend in May, Mandy had her second cello recital. Instead of the formal black and white that she wore last year, Mandy went for a different look that was more of her style anyway. She wore a long black skirt, a sleeveless white shirt, and then a long maroon vest; oh, and she went barefoot. Mandy did good, except for a couple of goofs that happened because either her hair got caught in the strings or because her sitting position was not what she was used to, causing her intonation to be off. I recorded a video of the performance, but Mandy was not happy with how she did and has told me not to upload it.

The week after that was also busy. Mom took her students to a tree farm for the afternoon, and we had them over for burgers that night. Her students, to show their appreciation for her teaching over the past year, gave Mom a series of gifts: a two-night stay at a little bed and breakfast in southwest Georgia, a cheesecake pan, a stainless steel skillet, and then the extra money. It was very generous, and we were very touched by it. Then on Friday, Mandy went with a group of her friends to Six Flags for Homeschool Day. Mom and I used that day to get some shopping done and do running around. On Saturday, one of Mandy's peers had a graduation party that we attended.

Then last week was very busy, largely with us camping at Blue Ridge in North Georgia. We had two families over for dinner on Monday, and then on Tuesday Mom made dinner for a church family that recently had a baby while Mandy and I went shopping. On Wednesday, there was more running around and then hasty preparations to leave. We ended up leaving the house later than we wanted to be, which led to us having dinner on the road. We arrived at the campsite on the north side of the Lake around 8:30 or so, and we had to set up the site as quickly as we could before it grew dark. Then we made a fire and sat around it for a little while before going to bed. The first night, as always, was the hardest because we were getting adjusted, and it was cold. Mom made lemon blueberry pancakes, bacon, and eggs for breakfast, and then we hung out that morning. We visited the beach for a swim and waited for another church family and Mandy's Latin teacher Ben to show up. On Friday, we went tubing down a nearby river, and it was a nice two-hour trip. I kept hitting rocks and such, and at one point I actually got stuck on a branch, which was embarrassing because a guy was fishing nearby and watching me. Mom also had a few funny moments on the trip, such as when she and her tubing partner got a spider on their tubes and had difficulties getting rid of it or when she fell out during the last set of rapids, the most intense of the trip. After our fun-filled trip, we went back to the parking lot, where we learned that our pastor's step-father was being rushed to the hospital, so we offered up a prayer for him. On our way back to the campsite, we learned that the man had died upon arrival at the hospital. It was a bittersweet evening with the man's grandchildren, who had gone tubing with it, but we nonetheless enjoyed some fellowship. On Saturday, we got up, had breakfast, and then began packing up. Mom, however, accidentally burned her hand while she was dumping out the dishwater on the fire, but she's all right. Then we drove home, where we unpacked, did some laundry, and took much-needed showers. All in all, it was a fun trip with our friends, and we all enjoyed it.

And so, now on to Part 2 of the summer madness. We've got Memorial Day festivities tomorrow, Mandy's graduation party, and then our trip to Florida.

Monday, May 14, 2012

My Big 23rd

So, yes, it has happened: I have turned 23 years old. And yes, it is quite frightening to think that I am that old.

Anyway, I had a good birthday this year. I originally did not have any plans for my birthday, other than my birthday dinner and getting my gifts. Dad then suggested that we go see "The Avengers," and I whole-heartedly agreed to the plan. We invited some friends to go with us, so we had a decent-sized group.

I spent the 3rd and most of the 4th doing some proofreading work for a Christian publishing company (to clarify: I get paid for it, but the work is so sporadic that I don't really consider it a real job), and I was itching to get it done by the weekend, which I successfully did. Mom took me over to Kinko's, where we scanned over 200 pages and converted them into a digital file and then sent them off before we picked up Zaxby's for dinner. I quickly figured out my reimbursement for work and enjoyed the meal.

Then it was time to go see the movie. In the past, seeing movies for my birthday can be hit-or-miss (for example, I was terrified after watching "Fellowship of the Ring" for my birthday years ago, which I have gotten over, and I was not fond of "Spiderman 3," which I still do not like). However, this movie was well-worth seeing. As I said, we five went to the theater and met up with five other friends. Mom had bought the tickets earlier that week, so all we had to do was walk into the crowded theater. The group ended up splitting up because of a lack of room, but we were only a row apart. We watched some pretty worthless trailers (which is typical nowadays) and listened to some guy in the back loudly make a crude comment which made most of the audience laugh. Guess it just goes to show you how crude humor is nowadays. Anyway, the movie finally started, and we all really enjoyed it. You can check out the review on my "Ramblings" blog for more details. Afterwards, we ten stood around and talked about what we liked and how much fun we had. Then we all went home.

For my presents this year, I got a new MP3 (because my old one was becoming very irritating in various ways), clothes (some of which I have yet to go out and buy yet), a hand mixer (which has already gotten some good use in the kitchen), and "The Hunger Games" trilogy for kindle (I have read the first two books and am working on the third).

On Saturday, Mandy had her senior pictures taken by a lady at our church; we have yet to see the final product, but we are eagerly awaiting it. After the photo shoot, Mom made my birthday dinner. By request, there was steak, mushroom risotto, and green beans. It was a delicious meal, and we all enjoyed it. While we ate, we watched "Captain America," one of the recent predecessors to "The Avengers" and the only one of the series that we had not seen yet.

It was a good birthday, and now everyone's focus has turned to the rest of the month. We've got camping trips, trips to Florida, parties, and much more between now and the end of June. Not to mention that this year Mandy and I are going to the family conference in Virginia, though we are going with a much smaller group this year. So, needless to say, we are going to be quite busy for the early part of summer.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Animal Antics

Two recent events that are humorous and about animals.

Event #1: for the garden this year, Mandy suggested that we try to grow strawberries. We bought some plants and have planted them in cinder blocks, so we shall see how they do. Anyway, this year the squirrels have been particularly bad in raiding the garden boxes. For some reason, they like digging in the boxes, which often kills the sprouting plants. To solve the problem, Dad made a kind of screen made of chicken wire and some pieces of wood; we lay it on top of the boxes, and it allows the plants to grow but prevents the squirrels from digging in the dirt. However, we didn't count on what would happen last week.

That day, for some reason, the squirrels were being particularly mischievous in our backyard, and Mom was constantly going outside to shoo them away. Well, one of them decided to be bold. He approached one of the strawberry plants, grabbed it, and then took off across the yard with the plant in his mouth. Mom, Mandy, and I stood there in shock before Mom shooed away the others. We're not sure why the squirrel wanted the plant, but it was a rather humorous moment, watching a squirrel uproot a plant and carry it away.

Event #2: I have never been much of a breakfast eater, but lately I enjoy having two pieces of pre-cooked bacon for sort of a light meal (until I find a better replacement, which I am thinking up as I write this). This morning, I microwaved my bacon and sat down at the table. I prayed and then, when I opened my eyes, I found Boo right in front of me, sniffing at my meal. I shooed her away, and miraculously the deaf cat walked to the edge of the table. I only had my eyes closed for five seconds, and that cat had the audacity to try and steal my breakfast. She is getting bolder in her thievery, and I do not like this new development.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Brief Blurb about Birthdays

Among all the chaos of a busy schedule filled with school, work, social events, and Bible studies, so far we've had three birthdays this year.

Mandy turned 18 back in February. Her birthday party took place (I think, if I remember correctly) a week after her actually birthday. Bethany had a very nice setup for the party, putting up balloons, mix-matching the plates and bowls, and even having a basket for people to put their mobile devices in (so people would interact and not be more interested in their phones). We enjoyed bean soup with various toppings for dinner, and we had quite a large crowd of people in the living room. After the meal, the guys cleared the tables and took them downstairs, leaving us with enough room for the games. The "games," actually, was one large game with several small games underneath; this made it more entertaining and kept people's interest up. Everyone, except for the game host Ben C., was divided into four teams. And then, each team was told of a specific challenge that they had to compete for, so each team volunteered one person. Some of the challenges included who had the smallest feet, who could solve a certain math problem, racing from the kitchen to the stairs crab-walk style (we posted Alex at the stairs to prevent any tumbles; this race got a bit crazy, and I actually got a large bruise when one of the contestants accidentally crashed into my leg during the race), and a paper plane challenge. We were all very much entertained, and we all enjoyed it. Next, it was dessert. Bethany made a delicious strawberry cake with homemade whipped cream for the topping (Mandy always asks for strawberries for her b-day cake). Then, because it was getting late, it was time for presents. Mandy got gifts such as a little notebook and candy, Converse shoes (she was ecstatic to see them), a sketch of her and one of the other party guests (a beautiful and realistic drawing... it's hanging in our bedroom for all to see), a neck scarf, and a micro-camera lens for her camera (a gift from a few of her friends).

Mom celebrated her birthday about two weeks ago. The weekend before, the church bonfire and dance was cancelled, so I saw "Hunger Games" earlier in the day and then in the evening Dad, Mandy, and I went shopping for Mom's birthday presents. The next day, we gave Mom her presents: a new Bible, an otterbox (a protective case for her iPhone), an iTunes gift card, and a nice mug from Starbucks (the real nice kind that has excellent insulation). She's also been enjoying her new Kindle, and she's been having Mandy use it to read "1984" for school. A few days later, Mom and Dad went out for dinner together at a nice restaurant.

Seth's birthday is still in the process of being celebrated. I can't believe he's 20 years old; it's rather frightening to think of how old we're all getting. Seth has received one of his presents (the music stand and the light thingy for it), and he's been using it a lot (much to Mandy's relief because he was always borrowing hers when he practiced his double bass). Actually, on Sunday evening, Seth and Mandy did some duets of hymns we enjoy (Mandy did melody, and Seth did bass), and they sounded good. I imagine at some point later this year, Seth may join the musicians at the front of the church, though where he's going to sit is another question because that double bass is enormous. Anyway, Mom and Dad have bought Seth's gift but for some bizarre reason, it has yet to arrive, despite supposedly being in Lawrenceville for several days. Mandy and I haven't bought Seth's present either because we've been so busy, but we are planning on going shopping for him very soon. Seth is also planning a get-together with some friends, but he's having a few issues with it because of the scheduling of a new Bible study for the young men at church; nonetheless, we're hoping to have it later this month.

It's scary to think that my birthday is next and that I'll be 23. Yeah, very scary; I don't feel like 23 or like I'm even in my 20s at all. I'm not making any big plans for my birthday... unless something comes up. I think the older you get, the less inclined you are to celebrate because you've done it so many times before. Besides, right now I'm more focused on looking at potential colleges than thinking about my birthday. Right now, I don't have any plans to return to GGC; I've not been impressed with the classes and the offered courses, and the school's got other problems too that I am not particularly fond of. So far, I've been looking into other colleges where I could double major in history (I prefer actual world history i.e. histories that most people don't know about, like Africa or Asia) and English (I'm preferring something where I can focus more on writing because literature isn't my strong suit and because I want to work some more on my actual writing). So far, the list is small; Dad and I have been trying to see what works out and which one I should apply for, but so far there's a problem with all the options (such as I don't want a USG school because they have way too many unnecessary requirements before your major, the school's too far, etc...). Right now, it's just a matter of praying for wisdom and guidance in picking a school.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Thieving Cat

Our little black cat Boo turns eleven this year. We think she's going deaf because she doesn't seem to hear us sometimes, and she's showing signs of getting old. Within the last few months this cat has turned from sweet into irritating. Why? Because she is turning into a food thief.

Maybe it's because of the new cat food that we bought to keep our cats from puking or that's healthy for them, but whatever the case, lately Boo has not liked it. She has had a chronic cold for a while, and it has caused her to lose some weight (and she was already small to begin with). So, once a day, Mom gives her some wet cat food with an egg yolk mixed in; Boo loves it, and so do the other cats, who will gladly finish whatever she doesn't eat. Boo now has loved it so much that whenever someone is in the kitchen fixing a meal or getting a snack, she'll follow you in and stare at you, acting like it's time for her to be fed. It gets quite irritating when she's staring at you and you're getting a piece of dark chocolate.

Not only that, but Boo lately has been getting bolder in trying to steal food. A long time ago, the family discovered (the hard way) not to leave any bread products out, even if they are in a bag, because Boo will try to steal them. Recently, now it's been meat or anything else she can get her paws on. Last night, Mom set some scallops in the sink to thaw so that we could have them for dinner. I was in the kitchen and putting shrimp on skewers when suddenly I looked over into the hallway, and I found Boo and her son Oatmeal were gnawing on something. I realized it was a raw scallop. I moved to pick it up and throw it away, but Boo growled and took off with the shellfish. She and Socks battled for it under the coffee table, and I didn't interfere again.

Today, Boo is at it again. She gnawed through the plastic wrap that's covering the tilapia, and I'm pretty sure she touched the fish. I'm going to have to warn Mom about that when she gets home. In the meantime, I've covered the package with a metal pan so that Boo can't get to it.

I swear, I don't know what the cat is up to. She's never been this bad before, and she's only getting bolder in her old age.

On another note, we received news this week about Seth's job. Last summer, Dad's company Radiant was bought out by NCR. Dad's not been formally offered a position yet (as far as I know), but it's likely that he's going to stay. Seth, on the other hand, has been rather iffy because manufacturing (where he works) is going away or is being moved to Columbus (which is on the other side of Atlanta and a few hours away). This week, we learned that Seth will be let go in either September or October. He and Dad have already been talking about other employment opportunities either within NCR or in other companies. However, it is good that Seth is staying in so long because several other people in his division will be let go over the summer, so that means he will likely be one of the last ones to leave. Still, he's got work until early fall, and he's still staying pretty busy at the moment as the move takes place; keep him in your prayers as he begins considering new employment and which direction to take.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Adventures in Bad Weather

So, yesterday we had a bit of a run-in with some bad weather in Georgia (and elsewhere). For us, the worrying started earlier in the day when the storms started hitting Kentucky, and there are people in the church who have kin up there. Then there were reports of storms from Alabama. Our sister church has connections to a family in Alabama, and they were hit hard last year, resulting in a death of a neighbor; ever since then, a man from our church has been helping the families rebuild their homes, and others have often contributed help as well. So we spent the afternoon praying for those in the path of the storm.

The weather indicated that north Georgia would be hit by the storm, but we weren't sure how much we would be impacted. Dad and Mandy made plans to go to Uncle Josh's for the evening, so Mom, Seth, and I stayed home and hung out. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. We had some rain, and lightning occasionally flashed. Sometime around 9 PM we learned that we were under a tornado watch (which quickly turned into a warning). I started watching, and some ladies on facebook were giving updates on where the storms were. Mom and Dad started texting each other, and we learned that Duluth (where he was) was in the thick of it. Mandy later told us that everyone (Uncle Josh's entire family, Dad, and her) went down into the basement and stayed in Noah's room for a while. From what I understand, the tornado was about five minutes away from them, though it (or another one, reports are sketchy) may have been closer. Then, via facebook, I learned that there was another tornado (or it might have been the same one; I haven't been able to find out how many tornadoes were in Gwinnett County last night) was in Suwanee, near the Mall of Georgia (which is about fifteen minutes away from us). About ten minutes later, our town was declared as being in the clear of bad weather. But now it was our turn to worry about our family and friends to the northeast, towards Jefferson and Winder, as the storm headed that direction. As far as I know, we haven't heard from them, though I've seen people on facebook or gmail, so I'm supposing they're all right. When we went to bed later that night, it started raining heavily and lightning grew more frequent. And now, this morning, it is cold and very wet.

In short, it was a rather interesting night. With texting about tornado warnings, facebook posts, and listening to a weather program, it was a bit stressful. But, otherwise, we are doing fine. I'm thankful for the Lord's protection last night, especially towards those who were closer to the bad parts, like Uncle Josh's family. As I lay in bed last night, I thought of one of the hymns we sing in church (which is based off of a psalm); one of the lines says "the lightnings flash at His command; He holds the tempest in His hand." It was very encouraging to think about how the weather is completely under God's control and how He protects His people, even in bad times.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Career Direction

For the past few weeks, I have been praying to God for wisdom in what career direction I should take. I have been talking with Dad, and he has suggested that I become a paralegal, which would mean two or two 1/2 years of college at another college outside the county. However, today I finally received a manuscript from a Christian publishing company that I will proof so that they can see if they want me to become an editor. I am going to do the proof-testing, continue praying for wisdom, and see what comes out of it.

On a related note, I have been posting things here about the novel "War of Magic" that I started working on in April of last year. Last week, I made the decision to halt any further work on the novel. I am not happy with it, as I find it too meandering and disjointed, I am not connecting well with my characters, some editing problems, and a few other reasons. I have, in the meantime, re-connected with a novel series that I will have been working on for five years this May; I am currently working to see if I can indeed salvage it and find a way to finish the story in just two books instead of adding a third. I am still considering publishing one of my stories through createspace, but I am not sure which one it will be and am reluctant to self-publish without good feedback from other people.

Life around here continues to be busy. Mandy's birthday celebrations are next week (I can't believe she's going to be eighteen), Dad and Seth are continuing work, and Mom and Mandy are continuing to juggle school and various social events.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

What's Up?

Well, we've been rather busy around here for the past few weeks.

The biggest event took place over most of last week. Our sister church Chalcedon had a modular that was for seminary students, but it was open to the general public for free. Mom, Mandy, and I went to a good majority of the lectures, as Dad and Seth had work or did not want to make the trek to Cumming because they had work the next day. It started with two lectures on Monday evening, and then between Tuesday and Thursday there were eight lectures a day (with breaks for lunch and dinner), and then Friday ended with two lectures. The series was well-done, and I learned quite a bit about church history and theology, including heresies that I had not known much about or about church fathers that I had never heard of before. We also had the opportunity to meet people from other churches in the denomination. I think I'm finally beginning to put faces to people, namely those from Chalcedon. It was a very fun and enjoyable week, but it was also tiring, given the hour-long lectures, waking up early, and then getting home late. However, I believe we've fully recovered and are now back on our normal schedule.

Then we've had a few other minor things come up. Two Fridays ago, I went back to the coffee shop with my friends to sing karaoke. We had a good time, and one of us suggested that we start making it a monthly occasion to socialize. And also, Mandy's birthday is coming up in a few weeks, and so there have been plans for her celebration; her best friend Bethany is planning a party (Mandy knows the invitation list and the location, but otherwise Bethany is keeping her in the dark about everything else), and then we're planning on having a dear family from our church join us for dinner on Mandy's birthday. Mandy is also working to help arrange a formal dance at church in March, which we're looking forward to.

I think that's all that's been going on around here. I'll try to update when something comes up.