Friday, August 9, 2013

Fe Fi Fiddly-i-o!

This is the song my children are singing at the top of their lungs as we pack our things this morning:

Fe Fi Fiddly-i-o...
Strumming on the old man, Joe!

Oh, dear children...soon you will know the meaning of "banjo"...

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Our Little Bee Hive

Phew! We've been busy little bees buzzing around here and there and it just keeps getting buzzier busier. It's been very out of the ordinary for us, and, strangely,  it's been kind of nice!

Where to start? I'm not sure...

Remember our caterpillar project? I found a tank for sale on craigslist and bought it to raise our butterflies in. Soon after they all died. We had bought a potted herb from Publix that I'm afraid may have been sprayed with an insecticide. All 27 died. I'm sure glad we didn't eat it! The frogs eggs never hatched so we dumped them in the pond. The fishies were happy for the snack. And now we have a giant empty fish tank sitting on the floor in my dining room.out

In the beginning of July I received a phone call from an organization called Education First. The representative was calling because a neighbor of mine had listed me as a reference on her application to host a foreign exchange student. She also asked if our family would be interested in hosting. After discussing it that evening, Joshua and I decided that we would.

The company that Joshua has worked for during the past 2+ years has another location outside of Nashville. On July 3rd, he learned that their finance guy was leaving.

We had our first North Fort Myers Independence Day. Quite an experience, I must say! And I left my camera at my brother-in-laws house. Whoops! I left its USB cable in the draw in the desk though. Apparently Lydia found it one day, got it tangled around one of the legs of the computer chair and then someone (we still are not sure which one) tried to "tow" the chair around the den. I found my USB cord in two pieces. So even if I had my camera...I have no way of getting the pictures out of it.

On July 5th, one of Josh's co-workers encouraged him to apply for the Nashville position. He did.

Monday, July 8th was the day that Joshua turned in his "final" final exam. Hooray!!! He now has completed his education and finished his masters program! The kids and I worked really hard while he was at work to get the house extra, super clean and tidy PLUS decorated for a surprise graduation party! His school colors are blue and green...just in case you were not sure.

 When we heard the car pull into the garage we all put our party hats on and jumped behind the couch to ambush Daddy. As soon as he walked in, Lydia ran out and yelled, "Hi!". The rest of us took that as our cue and jumped up shouting, "Surprise!" and then broke into a very sorry rendition of "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow". But what we lacked in pitch we made up for in gusto!

  We had made him a construction paper graduation hat, complete with lime, green ribbon "tassel". We also made a big sign that read, "Congrats, Daddy! You make us proud!" James suggested we use Christmas lights to make it really festive. How could I argue? I made a fancy, schmancy dinner that was, if I may say so myself, amazingly delicious!! I even had some chilled sparkling grape juice!

 Josh's favorite meal is roasted pork with mashed potatoes and gravy. In my family, whenever we had a roast and mashed potatoes we always had carrots too. I found this incredibly easy recipe for the pork that we just fell in love with. I found it at It's called Stove Top Pork Pot Roast and it was super simple. I am pretty sure that this is how I will always make roast pork from now on. This produced a very moist roast and the gravy was so savory and perfect! Did I mention how easy it was? The carrots are my classic, steamed and then coated in butter, honey and parsley with a little bit of salt to bring out all of the flavors. Nutritious and yummy. The kids gobbled them up.

I had trimmed my rosemary bushes the day before and Josh asked me to make him a wreath with the clippings. So I did. It smelled wonderful, even if it did look a little primitive.

He took it to his office the next day...along with the banner and hat we had made him!

One week later, Joshua received a phone call around noon on Friday, July 12th saying that they were going to fly Josh and I up to take a look at the area and the job. Oh...and we had to be there by Monday! The Lord knew this, and providentially organized our trip to coincide with my in-laws vacation. At the very moment Joshua got that phone call, his parents were heading up towards Pigeon Forge, TN for some rest and relaxation!

We had made plans the week before to have a pizza-making party with Josh's aunt, "Dee Doo" that night. We didn't get to spend as much time with her as we had hoped because we needed to get home right after dinner to pack our things up for the trip. But we did have so much fun. We brought our newest board game, Blokus, and laughed and laughed! (It's a game that is great for teaching little ones strategy and James if pretty good at it already!) Then we had some fun times with the rocking horse...which somehow led to wheelbarrow rides. I was astonished to think that we have never done that with our kids before! What on earth have we been doing these past 5 years??

 So at 7 A.M. on Saturday, July 13th we rented a mini-van and drop up to Tennessee. Everyone had a case of the giggles soon into the ride. It was so fun! And then everyone was very quickly wiped out. James fell asleep reading a book in the very back seat, JoyAnna looked like we had run her over with the van, and Lydia was happy as a clam. Until she became unhappy.

We played the License Plate game too. Listen to the states we found (most of them were found before we had even gotten out of Florida!):

Virginia     Georgia     Florida     North Carolina     Ohio     Michigan     Texas     Mississippi
Pennsylvania      Massachusetts     Arkansas     Washington     Tennessee     Illinois     Kansas    
Wisonsin     Maryland     New Mexico     Oregon     Connecticut     Vermont     Iowa      Missouri
Kentucky     Indiana     Maine     Arizona     South Carolina     Louisiana     Oklahoma     Alabama
New York     Nebraska     New Jersey     Minnesota     California

We arrived late that night and got a little mixed up by following our GPS rather than common sense while trying to find the hotel in Brentwood. But we immediately fell in love with the area and were so excited about this possible life change. Josh's parents very graciously volunteered to meet us in Nashville to watch the kids for us while Josh and I went to shop around for a place to live. But after his two interviews, it was looking like it would not be a wise decision to leave his current job for this one. On our way home we stopped at Cumberland Caverns and had such a good time! If you're ever near McMinnville, Tennessee you should visit. They even host something called "Bluegrass Underground", which is a bluegrass concert INSIDE the caverns! Now THAT is MY kind of shindig!

Unfortunately, I have very few photos to share from those adventures because my camera is STILL in North Fort Myers. I had to use Josh's phone to take pictures, and I often forgot because I am so used to having my camera around my neck. (Hey, Erpa! If you're reading this, maybe you can share some pictures so I can add them to my blog?)

The evening of July 17th found us back at our home in Southwest Florida, minus James and JoyAnna. They went on to spend the rest of the week with Erma and Erpa in Tennessee and Georgia. They visited Stone Mountain for the first time and had such a blast!! We missed them so much. It's amazing how different the house seems without them. And not in a good way. On a happier note, our fist home-grown pineapple was ripe when we arrived home!
Isn't it cute?
Josh called a very dear friend for godly counsel, we thought and prayed about it more, and after several long days of flip-flopping finally settled on accepting the position.

We are moving to Tennessee!!

We picked up our exchange student on Friday, July 19th. All of the host families prepared welcome signs and gathered at McGregor Baptist Church to greet their students. We lined up outside in the parking lot and waited for the 5 or so buses pull up, all the while cheering and madly waving our signs and banners. Each student was taken off the bus, one at a time, and his or her family was called forward to claim them. It was really exciting!

Sam's Chinese name is Yang

We were the last host family to sign up, just as Sam was the last student to sign up. We call that Divine Providence. He fits into our family so perfectly. We absolutely love him. He is funny and kind, he is very helpful and hardworking. He enjoys James, JoyAnna and Lydia and is a very gracious guest.

His Chinese name is Yang, however when he arrived he asked us to call him by his English name, "Sam". Yang is the short version of the Chinese word for "sunshine". I don't know how to spell it. It sounds like "Gee-Yahng". He is 15 and comes from Shanghai, China. He has an older sister who works for Education First, the exchange program he is here with. Sam wants to be a farmer when he grows up. He wants to raise pigs and crops. For now he just has a turtle. You have to start somewhere, right?

Sam's first time playing baseball

He likes chocolate and despises roast beef. He's very good at playing baseball, but he thinks watching it is boring. He is very good at jigsaw puzzles and board games! Josh taught him how to play chess and he picked it up so very quickly. I am convinced that he is a prodigy. Seriously. It is quite humbling to watch this boy play such a complicated game so very well after he only learned it less than a week ago! He also beat Josh V E R Y badly at Monopoly. I laughed and laughed. I have NEVER in my LIFE seen ANYONE beat Josh at Monopoly. It was a beautiful moment.

Notice the look of total shock on his face? Sam was very carefully counting all of his loot.

He has never mowed a lawn before. So when Josh mowed on Monday night, Sam insisted that he help. It was a hot day. The poor boy had no idea what he had gotten himself into! He worked very hard. I was so proud of him. He came in for a drink and to cool off while Josh went around to do the backyard. When he saw Josh moving the potted plants so he could mow the last few feet of the yard, Sam said, "Oh! I must go help Mr. Eads." And he was out of the door before I could say anything!

James is usually Daddy's mowing buddy, but he was just as happy to follow behind Sam this time.
This afternoon we had some Sandhill Cranes visit us for lunch. I was disappointed that Sam wasn't here to see them. Tonight we are taking him to a baseball game. Tomorrow morning, July 27th,  he leaves to go with the other students to Orlando to visit some of the theme parks. He will return Monday evening. I think we are really going to miss him. The following Monday, August 5th, he will leave to return to China.

We were invited to return to Tennessee during the week of August 11th so that Joshua can learn his new position and we can find a place to live. Then we plan to make the big move beginning on August 31st, during Labor Day weekend. So we will be there to see the fall colors, and feel the last few sighs of summer as the fresh new autumn breezes bring cooler weather. Ahh...just the idea of cooler weather! And maybe we'll see the bear and deer getting fat for winter. Joshua promised his children that they would see snow this year. I cried at the thought of my children finally seeing snow.

My children have never lived anywhere else. They have never experienced seasons. It's exciting to think of the new experiences we will have. But it's bittersweet. We have a lot of family here. Almost all of Josh's immediate family lives here. My grandparents, two aunts and an uncle and some cousins of mine live here. Also, we have been a part of a very small home church over the past year and a half. In some ways we are closer to them than our biological family members. We also have a family that lives down the street from us that we are close to. It breaks my heart to think of leaving all of these dear people.

So...if you are reading this, and you happen to be one of those people...please remember that as long as we are there, you will always have a place in Tennessee to hang your hat.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Eads Explorers!

On Friday, James, JoyAnna and I watched a female Black Swallowtail butterfly lay her eggs on our parsley. She carefully flew all around my herb garden looking for just the right plants. Rosemary, Oregano, Basil, Chives, Mint, Aloe, Tarragon, Thyme, and one scrawny little Parsley plant. Yup...the scrawny parsley was the one she chose. That's because Black Swallowtail butterfly larvae only eat parsley, dill, fennel or rue.

I asked Josh on Saturday if he would go to Lowe's and help me pick out the things we would need to build a butterfly habitat. One large enough to plant 3 or 4 herbs in it with a screen enclosure. And that led him to have this revelation:

"James. You and me. We're gonna start a club!" 

"We'll call ourselves, 'Eads Explorers'!"

We'll have a cool sign like this:

Caw Caw!! ROAR!!!

 We're going to do neat things like:

Build Bat Houses

You know you want one!!
Plant Butterfly Gardens

Raise Praying Manti

Build a Mason Bee House

Learn to Identify and Capture the Elusive Snipe

Get a Glow in the Dark Ant Colony

Learn Wilderness Survival Skills

Take Camping Trips Outside of our Backyard!!

...and that's just to name a FEW!

On Monday morning, after a what seemed like a 48 hour monsoon, I opened the blinds to find a blob of frog eggs on the window behind our pond.

We went out after breakfast to scoop them off the window and put them inside Fishy James' old plastic tank.

Then I dig up the parsley and potted it so I could place it inside the butterfly enclosure. That's when I noticed that they had hatched already!! Teeny tiny little things.

We counted more than 10 eggs on the parsley plant, so when they start getting bigger I am going to have to find something bigger for them to live in. I've been trolling Craigslist trying to find an old fish tank to turn into a butterfly habitat. That way, when the butterflies are grown and released, we can catch other critters to keep in there for awhile. You bass, or frogs or wolf spiders. Whatever it is that the kids like to bring home.

Can you see the tiny little one between my thumb and forefinger? That was how small they were the day they hatched.
I'm pretty sure the frog eggs won't hatch. I'm not sure why the frog put the eggs on the window. Josh suggested that maybe some frogs lay their eggs out of the water. I'm wondering if it was a confused frog? Tuesday morning, they looked very dry but were still stuck to the side. They fell off later in the day and sunk to the bottom of the tank. Not much has happened since then.

The caterpillars today are much bigger than when they first hatched. They're so cute! And they are devouring this parsley. Josh bought another parsley plant and a dill plant home for them when they finish the first one. I wish they'd eat the stems. It seems so wasteful to only eat the leaves, no?

Can you see the caterpillar on my finger? Much bigger in just 2 days!

 We'll keep posting their progress as they grow. It's such a special thing to have had the privilege of being able to watch them grow right from the mother laying the eggs on the plant, and hopefully, through to metamorphosis!

Oh! And don't forget...every club has to have their own theme song!!
This will be ours:

Would you like to be an Eads Explorer? 


Orlando Trip

Josh had to go to Orlando for the Annual HFMA Conference, so we all went with him to keep him company! We left Saturday morning and visited MOSI. We have a membership, so admission and IMAX films are free! We watched two IMAX movies...James requested sharks (and Josh was really excited about that one too, of course!) and the girls requested butterflies. So that's what we did. We learned a lot! In the butterfly movie we saw, for the first time, a butterfly laying her eggs on a plant. So cool!!

Then we left, ate a quick lunch and drove to Clearwater to go see Winter at The Clearwater Marine Aquarium. With our MOSI membership, we get in for free, or half price, to other museums, aquariums and zoos throughout the year. During June we could visit The Clearwater Marine Aquarium for free!

And, no...we did not influence him to make the silly face and gestures. He just came up with that on his own. What a clown!

We saw Winter, who is the star of the movie DolphinTale, and some other injured animals. The kids had fun checking out the touch tank...their were spider crabs and sea urchins and hermit crabs, sea stars and all sorts of neat things to hold. We really enjoyed looking into the big tanks of fish.

Then we were able to pet stingrays...which is always a favorite thing to do! We rode the trolley through Clearwater...and I think that was by far the most exciting part! James and JoyAnna got to sit up front by the driver and he talked to them like big kids and was so silly and fun. They just loved that!
 Ever the avid birding family, we were excited to see this pigeon. In fact, I can't even begin to explain how excited James was about this pigeon!
"THAT'S a pigeon?!" 
...and then a million questions as we're trying to run to catch the trolley. It's a pigeon, kid, come on! No, seriously, I took a picture and told him he'd have to identify it...I didn't realize just how many different types of pigeons there are. And it really was cute that he was so impressed by the common pigeon. There was a guy sitting on a bench in front of it and he was laughing so hard at the scene we were making over a pigeon.

 And this heron!

My mother's heart was terrified thinking of all of the horrible things that *could* happen with our kids sitting 10 feet away from us at the front of the trolley. It was a good test of faith, I suppose.

Lydia was NOT happy that she had to sit with Mama. That was a good lesson in obeying even when we don't want to. Lydia forgets that she's not as big as James and JoyAnna are because they play so nicely with her.

 Here was the trolley we rode on!

When we got to the hotel in Orlando, Lydia was exhausted. Our beds were like fluffy clouds! We all looked like this shortly after climbing in.

The view from our room...they had the neatest pools at the Hilton Orlando. There was a huge family pool, a quieter more private pool, and even a lazy river pool with rapids and waterfalls! Josh and I LOVED the lazy river, but the kids did not think that was much fun. They preferred splashing in the family pool.

We visited SeaWorld and checked out the new Antarctica attraction. James took James on the "Wild" version...the girls and I took the "Mild" ride. Which was just fine with me because I had a migraine and was concerned that I might become violently ill with too much jostling about.

In case you're was about 30* in with the penguins...and we got stuck on the ride due to technical there we were, covered in sweat from just standing in the 50 minute line in the Florida Summer heat, with our little beads of sweat freezing on our bodies, hoping the ride would hurry up and get fixed so we could get outside to thaw.

By the time we finally got in to see the penguins, the girls were crying because they were so cold. Ach du liebe!

Oh! But while we were standing in line for an hour, my little explorers found some funky moth-like creatures in the bushes.

Ever the fearless children they are, they plunged their hands in and scooped up the little creatures.

Soon everyone in line was holding their very own moth.

Do you know what these are? Josh and I were joking that they're probably some highly venomous species and there are our kids letting them climb all over them...I have never seen them before. (The moths, not the kids. I have seen them before.)

The Peabody!!
We walked Josh over to the Convention Center one morning. It was connected by a long walkway right to our hotel. And The Peabody, on the opposite side of the Convention Center was ALSO connected!

We walked over to go see the ducks being marched out to the fountain, but had to turn around due to some problems with a particular child's attitude. We never got to see the famous Peabody Ducks. :(

On the way home Josh surprised us and took us to Downtown Disney. It was my first time.

This was outside of the Irish restaurant. Lydia was not sure of the old man sitting there on the bench.

Then we managed to get her to sit on his lap, and everything was just fine! What a ham!

We went to the dinosaur store and the kids got to be paleontologists. Lydia would not go in because she hated the feeling of the sand on her feet. You should see the poor girl at the beach. Why do we live in Florida?

 Here is Josh and James digging up a big bone. They had so much fun!

We visited the Lego store. We had never heard of this game before but it looked SOOOOO fun!! We are thinking of getting it for Christmas this year.

James and Lydia had fun building with the Legos. JoyAnna didn't really care. She was happy just to watch.

James is so into Lego's right now. It's really fun! He loves building cool planes and trucks. He's always inventing new vehicles. See his plane?

This dragon scene was completely done in Legos!
We ate lunch at the Rainforest Cafe. I had never been there before but always wanted to go. My neighborhood friend, Nikki, had gone with her dad and told me how neat it was. Ever since I've wanted to eat there. Josh remembered me telling him about that, and so that's where he took us for lunch. So sweet!

JoyAnna's giggling at the end of the video cracks me up every time! She laughs like my Uncle Billy. I miss him!