31 October 2010

Halloween 2010

The kids woke up excited this morning.  Halloween!  It's Halloween!  And this year we get to carve a jack-o-lantern!

Just a brief note - the last two years we have lived in an apartment complex.  We didn't have anywhere to put a jack-o-lantern so we didn't carve one.

It took a couple hours - after all, we had two pumpkins to carve!  But this was the final product:

The kids thought the end result was AWESOME.

Then it was time to get the kids ready to trick or treat.  Jon got himself ready while I pulled out the temporary spray-on hair color to give Jacob jet black hair.  Twenty minutes later he was ready to go:

James was next.  He sat in front of me for the hair color application....and I immediately noticed a problem.  The hair color bottle had been mislabeled - our "red" hair color was actually bright, florescent orange.


I started to wipe away the bright orange, and noticed that what was left after the wipedown was an orangey-red color.  Close enough to the Ron Weasley color, right?  James took a look in the mirror and pronounced it "cool" - so I went ahead and sprayed the rest of his head, added some freckles...and voila!

Still, not the shade of red I would have chosen...but James liked it, and that's all that matters, right?

I had to wait until it got darker to take a pic of Jon's costume.  He had chosen an outfit that had eyes that light up, and it just didn't show well in the bright sunshine.  But a few hours later, the blinking lights were nice and visible.

You can kinda make out his face behind the screen...kinda.  He loved it once it got nice and dark because he could flash his light at the kids walking past us, and freak them out.  I think he spent the last twenty minutes laughing at the reactions to his bright eyes.

Here's a couple extra pictures of the kids in their costumes:

And last but not least.....

...the candy!

The kids had a blast.  While making rounds of the neighborhood, they ran into a lot of classmates, running door to door in an increasingly growing group.  Near the end, there were over twenty kids running up to the same door yelling "Trick or treat!" in unison.

At one house the owner ran out of candy before getting through all the kids - the one kid left out was a three-year old girl in a fairy princess outfit.  She burst into tears when she realized everyone else got candy except her.  James went up and pulled a candy bar out of his bucket and held it out, saying "Happy Halloween, don't cry!"  I would have taken a picture, but since it was someone else's kid, I didn't feel comfortable taking the shot without permission.

The only negative aspect of this Halloween was the religious fanatic three doors down.  This guy was outside yelling at every kid that passed.  "This day is of the devil!  You participate in the devil's holiday!  You, little boy, will go to hell and burn for all eternity!"  He was also yelling at the parents.  "You demons in disguise!  Dragging innocent children into damnation, hiding the sin of the day behind candy and fun!  There is a special place in hell for those who turn their own children away from Jesus!"

He seemed particularly offended by the costumes of my younger two boys.  I know a lot of conservative Christians don't like Harry Potter, but seriously, this guy was crazy.  He actually reached out towards Jacob at one point, as though to grab him by his cloak, and at that point I kinda snapped.  I stepped between the fanatic and my son and said firmly that I no longer go to church, I refuse to indoctrinate my children in a religion before they are old enough to think for themselves, and that I was an agnostic and proud of it.

The look on his face was priceless.  At least his shock meant he didn't continue with his diatribe until we were several houses down.  But seriously, if this guy tries to touch one of my kids again, for any reason, I'm going to call the cops.

Foster kitties

A few days ago, Adopt-a-Pet contacted their foster families asking if anyone would be able to squeeze another cat or two into our households.  Turns out a couple of shelters had called about a cat overflow...nearly 30 cats and kittens were going to be euthanized if temporary homes were not found.

Sean and I talked it over.  We decided we could handle a small litter, but no more than that.  We definitely wanted kittens rather than full-grown cats, for a couple of reasons.  First of all, adult cats are rather territorial, and we were already having problems with our cats getting along with Sapphire.  Kittens - especially young kittens - are not territorial, and this would seriously lower the number of dominance battles fought between cats.

Secondly, we had been told during our foster parenting orientation that kittens had a faster turnover than adult cats.  We fully understand that Sapphire might be with us for up to a year, because adults don't get adopted as quickly.  However, kittens tend to have a 1-2 month stay before adoption.

Yesterday we went to pick up our new additions to the household, and I thought I would introduce them here (my apologies for the blurry camera phone pic).

This young man has been named Alf.  He's eight weeks old and very friendly.  He is also amazingly calm and cuddly for a kitten...he would almost rather curl up on my lap than chase a toy around.  With his personality, I can picture him being a perfect companion to an older retired individual or a calm girl or boy.  Right now Alf is being watched closely, as his eyes and nose are running and he sounds congested.  He'll be going into the vet early in the week, as I suspect he has pneumonia. 

This little guy is named Lewis (after the explorer).  He immediately had to investigate his surroundings and the people in the home.  He's incredibly active - in fact, that pic above is the tenth pic I took, and only the first one that came out - the rest of the pics were too blurry from his constant movement!  Jon had to half-pin Lewis on his lap just to get him to hold still.  This little guy has NO fear.  He approached Gryphon (who weights at LEAST 15 times what he weighs).  Gryphon was hissing at him - acting the part of the big bad scary cat.  This didn't worry Lewis in the slightest.  He jumped right on top of Gryphon and tried to pin the larger cat to the floor.  The result?  Gryphon took off in terror with little Lewis in hot pursuit!

The kids are excited about the kittens.  I made sure to sit them down beforehand and explain that these are not kittens for keeping.  I explained how there are a lot of cats out there who need a temporary place to stay before they get adopted, and the kids all understand that they don't get to keep these cats.

The boys are really happy that they get to help out with the fosters.  Every morning the younger boys make sure to feed all the animals in the house - even before their own breakfast!  Jon enjoys grooming the cats - both our own, and the fosters.  And of course, since they play with the cats, they are helping to acclimate the animals to human presence.

I like the fact that this exposes the boys to the concept of volunteering, and of helping others less fortunate - even if the others are animals rather than humans. 

26 October 2010

Old pictures

Still fighting with our new computer - can't seem to get new pics to download from our digital camera at all.  I got some pics from my cell phone camera to download, but they came out blurry.  So I decided to go onto facebook and through my saved pics in my email to see if I could find any pictures to put up here.  I found a few.

This is Jacob, after his haircut back in June.   Sadly, this was the most recent clear pic I could get to upload.  Jacob is now 7 years old, in second grade.  He loves to run around, and to climb rock walls and go hiking.  He also loves to draw.

James, on the same day.  He likes having his hair spiked up.  He's eight years old now, in third grade.  Last year he tested out at a forth grade reading level!  He decided he was old enough to read the entire Harry Potter series this past June, and is now on the sixth book.

(James and Jacob insisted that I include this pic from Halloween 2009.  They like to dress up in related costumes...this year they will be going out as Harry and Ron from the Harry Potter books)

Jonathan had been growing his hair out for Locks of Love.  After having a couple family members die of cancer, he was keen to help out in any way he could...but then the Gulf Oil mess happened, and he decided to cut it for that reason instead (one of the ways they have tried removing the oil is with human hair).

Jon is now 13 years old and becoming quite the mature young man.

This is Ayla.  She's been a member of our family since October of 2007.  When walking home from the store, I had heard what sounded like a frog in a marsh we were passing.  James insisted it was a cat, so to prove him wrong I called out "Here kitty kitty kitty!"  To my shock, a plumed tail started moving towards us, and this pitiful little half-grown cat raced into my arms.  Her long fur was matted with burrs, her ribs stuck out, and she had run through a pool of stagnant water to get to us, so she was soaked, shivering, and smelled of dead fish.  She also had a cold that made her meows sound like a frog croaking.  We cleaned her up and she has been a faithful companion ever since.

Here is Gryphon - as you can see, he likes being petted!  We got him in April of 2008...he was just a tiny kitten then.  His owners had planned to put him and his entire litter to death, but a friend of ours rescued them and then went around to all her associates, begging people to take in a kitten.  How could I have said no to that handsome face?

Hamtaro - she's about the friendliest hamster you are ever likely to meet.  We've had her since - let me think...probably March of 2009?  One of Sean's coworkers had a litter of hamsters to get rid of, and he thought she would make a good addition to the household.  You can't tell in the photos, but her back legs are deformed, and her spine twisted.  Despite the pain she must be constantly in, she has a pleasant personality and has never shown any sign of aggression towards the children, no matter how much the carry her around.  We've nicknamed her "Kamikazi" - whenever she manages to escape her cage, she heads straight for the cats.  It's like she thinks they are great big hamsters to play with.

This is Sapphire.  She's not ours.  Last spring we signed up to become foster parents to abused and abandoned animals.  It took a while to get all the paperwork through, but six weeks ago we finally became certified foster parents!  Sapphire is our first "foster child" - she's a two year old Snowshoe Siamese.  She's about the size of a four month old kitten, and will be that small for the rest of her life.  She's still in the process of acclimating to home life - only a week ago she finally allowed the children to pet and stroke her.  She's unbelievably playful and affectionate once she grows used to people.  She still has a ways to go before she is fully rehabilitated, but she is currently up for adoption.  If you are interested, please visit http://www.adoptapet-il.org and fill out an adoption application.

And this pic I am posting due to popular request by dozens of friends and family members:

That's right, I'm engaged!  Sean and I will be marrying in a private ceremony next month, but plan to hold a reception in celebration of our vows a year and a day from our "hand fasting" date.  I know it is a bit nontraditional...but heck, neither one of us are traditional people, and so this works for us.

I'd love to show off a recent picture of my fiance, but he's incredibly camera-shy.  Every pic I have taken in the last year has his hand covering his face!  But I managed to take a picture of his high school graduation photo...the photo is several years old, but his looks haven't changed much since then.  So here's the only clear picture I have of the love of my life:

Cute, isn't he?  I certainly think so!

Well, there you have it - these few pics will have to hold everybody for a while!  At least until I figure out why I can't download my digital camera to the computer.

Stupid computer.

17 October 2010

Isn't the internet wonderful?

My family members and friends are scattered around several different states and in three different countries.  It's difficult for everyone to stay in touch with one another!  So I have created this blog so as to share aspects of our lives with those who live far away from us.

We just got a new computer two weeks ago (our old one was stricken with a virus and died), so I no longer have a wide array of photos on this hard drive.  To make matters even more interesting, I took some pictures yesterday and tried to download them to the computer today, and couldn't get the hard drive to accept downloads ~growls~.  So there will be photo updates in the near future (once Sean gets home and figures out why the stupid thing won't accept pic downloads).

In the meantime, I will give a brief update about the children:

Jonathan is 13 now.  He's doing wonderful in school - getting A's and B's.  On Friday we got some paperwork in the mail concerning his ISAT scores (ISAT stands for "Illinois Standards Achievement Test").  The highest score available was "Exceeds Standards", followed by "Meets Standards", "Below Standards" and "Academic Warning".

If memory serves me correctly, in spring of 2008 Jonathan scored below standards in math, and had an academic warning for reading and science.  But this year he focused and scored "Meets Standards" in both reading and math, and "Exceeds Standards" in Science!  We are really proud of him and took him out to dinner at the Golden Corral to celebrate.

James is eight now, and in third grade.  He is reading at a high fourth grade level, and his math skills are nearly as good.  He loves school and enjoys his teacher, Mrs. Davidson.  He's a bit frustrated right now, because he still hasn't gotten the hang of riding his new bike....but he'll get there.

Jacob is seven, and in second grade.  He is also advanced in reading and is working hard on math and science.  He likes his teacher, Mrs. Tripp.  In fact, he wanted to know if we could invite her over for dinner!  He also is learning how to ride his new bike, but gives up easier than James does.  However, Jacob is very competitive, so I think once James starts riding in circles around him, Jacob will focus hard to get the same skills.

I have more to type, but that will have to come later...it's 7:30 on a school night, and I need to get off the computer and focus on getting the boys ready for bed.  I'll put up another post in a day or two - once Sean gets the computer to accept pics!