Friday, January 3, 2014

Top 10 Adventures in 2013

It's that time of the year for the year-end countdown of our Top 10 Adventures this year.  We had a fun New Year's Eve where we all came up with our favorites from the past year and then we narrowed them down to our top 10 Adventures.  Here they are....

#10  Everyday Family Fun
It was interesting that although we had some big adventures this year, some of the ones that the boys mentioned as being the best were the everyday activities, like baking cookies or reading books or having a Roman Feast at the end of the school year or watching Daddy grow a beard and helping him shave it.  It is always good to be reminded that adventures happen not just in the big events, but in the mundane as well.
We actually don't do this very often, I guess we will have to do it more.
We studied ancient history this year, so it this was a fun way to wrap it up.
#9  All Things Squishy
It seems that many of our favorite things this year were either slimy, scaly, or had antennae.  The boys adopted several new pets including fire-bellied toads, a salamander and a hermit crab as well as enjoying the annual spring-time ritual of catching as many tadpoles and froglets as they could, topped off by experiencing banana slugs, starfish, jellyfish, and sea anemone (but more about that later).
Ulysses the Hermit Crab
Banana Slug
Baby moon jellies washed up on the beach- no stings!

One of many, many frogs caught at the creek.
#8 A Newer, Larger Camper

This was a great investment for us.  We used it to take trips to Moab, the Sand Dunes and Steamboat camping this year.  Since it has a working heater, water pump and fridge it should make it more comfortable for those long trips we like to take where we bring our own hotel room behind us.  We had a few adjustments to make to figure it all out, but it seems like it will definitely make it more economical for a family of five to travel.  If only we could float it to Hawaii....

Putting Nate to work... set it up, take it down, repeat.
Somewhere in Montana

#7 Graduation!  (Finally!)

  Jeff graduated from Colorado School of Mines this year with his Masters Degree in Geological Engineering.  It was a long six years, but he was able to complete it while working full time and without too much stress on our family time.  We are so proud of him.  Not only did he get his Masters degree this year, but he also turned 40 and grew a beard.  And shaved it.  And grew it back.  Sigh...

Jeff with his proud Mom and "The Beard"
Jeff's birthday 14er - Mt. Democrat
The Beard is back, a little more tame this time.

#6 Old Friends, New Friends and Moved Friends
We got to spend time with visiting friends from Missouri, Texas and Wisconsin this year and were so glad to get to hang out with them after not seeing them for so long.  The boys have been making new friends at their new homeschool enrichment program as well and we continue to enjoy great times of fellowship with our church family at church picnics, fall festivals and through music team.  One of our least favorite, but probably most significant events involving friends was saying goodbye to our good friends and neighbors as they moved overseas for their own new adventures.

With the Richesons in Breckenridge in July

Jennifer and Tracie in Breck
The Nordlies in September
Jennifer and Sarah
Crazy buddies
The best neighbors, daily playmates, we miss you tons!

#5 "The Prairie Dog Incident"
We have a wonderful open field behind our house filled with grasses, rocks, and a creek.  It also has plenty of critters, but many of the usual pests are kept under control by our cat, Grizzly, as well as the foxes and coyotes that keep our number of household cats to a minimum as well.  My usual worry when the boys head out to the field is that they will stumble upon a rattlesnake, so when Trevor came running back from the field one day screaming hysterically "It bit me!" and dripping blood from his hand, I was sure I would soon be calling 911 for anti-venom.  When I was able to understand that it wasn't a snake but a prairie dog that bit him, several questions came to mind.  "We've never seen prairie dogs before, are you sure?"  (Mom, I know what a prairie dog looks like.) "How did you get close enough to a prairie dog?"  (I scooped it up in a net because it was swimming in the creek.)  "Why did it bite you?"  (Because I was trying to make it stay in my 5-gallon bucket.)  "Why did you pick it up?"  (You never told me not to!)  And the question everyone is now wondering, "Do we need to worry about tetanus, rabies, THE PLAGUE???"  (The doctor and health department declared that everything was OK, and so far we haven't seen any foaming at the mouth, so we think he is all good.) 

Why me?!?!
#4 Biking Adventures
As usual, we had plenty of biking adventures this year.  We started with a biking vacation in Moab.  Everyone was riding for this one and we enjoyed the scenery and the fun slick rock.  We will definitely be going back.  Ethan raced in his first bike race this year, a 5 mile race called the Ridgeline Rampage.  He was first place... coming off the starting line.  Next year, he thinks he will pace himself a little more.  Jeff also rode the Rampage - 20 miles for him, which prepared him for his first year to ride as part of a team for the Firecracker 50 in Breckenridge.
#3025 - that's our boy!
Firecracker 50 (Divided by 2= 25)  Go Jeff!

#3 Boating Adventures
One of our new favorites this year was river sports.  We purchased some cheap river tubes and Jeff has an inflatable kayak and we did a couple of trips hoping no one would fall out and drown.  Only one person fell out, and the only thing that got drowned was Jeff's wedding ring, which must have slipped off in the cold South Platte.  Next summer we are planning a new hobby... gold panning in the South Platte.
Ready to go!

The Yampa

The South Platte


#2 Adventures with Guns
Well, it had to happen sooner or later, I suppose.  Boys like to shoot guns.  Jeff purchased a couple and took the boys target shooting.  One thing led to another, a couple of hunter safety courses and a few Duck Dynasty episodes later and we ended up with this...
Mom was at a women's retreat while this occurred.

And our #1 favorite adventure was....
#1  A Two-Week Road Trip to the Northwest
Our faithful minivan carried us through Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Washington and back again, hauling our newer, larger, HEAVIER camper (see #8 above) on our first ever epic road trip.  We did 5 National Parks, an island, a lava tube, a beach, tide pools, ferries, kayaks, rainforests, prairies and active volcanos.  We had a fantastic time and hope to do it again this summer (all bugs and kinks being hopefully worked out).  Destination is undetermined at this time, so we are taking suggestions.  For lots of pictures of those adventures, you can check out our previous post, which contains our scrapbook.
The Hoh Rainforest, Olympic National Park, Washington State

To all our friends and family: Have an Adventurous 2014! 

We would love to have friends join us on our adventures, too.  Give us a call if you are up for a camping trip to the Sand Dunes or Moab, a little tubing on the river, or maybe a hunting trip (especially if you know what you are doing).

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Brain-iversary: Neurologically Intact!

I am about a week past my two year "Brain-iversary" and I just received the results of my most recent MRI. The short answer is everything is fine. Although it took a long time for the doctor to get to that. Don't leave me in suspense! The longer answer is that the MRI indicated some post-treatment changes. This could be something or nothing. On the brain scan, it looks like a small bright area near where the tumor was removed. The Doc says that indicates increased blood flow, or could be scar tissue from the radiation treatment that was post-surgery. (This is my best translation of Doctor-speak). This area was visible last year at my one year check-up, and is now just a few milimeters bigger - indicating that we need to continue to watch it. My next MRI will be in one year.
The doctor indicated that the options are...
1. That it is nothing - just post-treatment changes.
2. That it is regrowth of the original Meningioma tumor. If it continues to grow at a slow pace, the treatment option would be just to zap it again with the Cyberknife. This might be several years off, depending on what future exams show. Slow growth would indicate it is still non-malignant.
3. If significant growth is noticed in previous exams, they would want to go in, remove it and biopsy it. Not good. But this doesn't seem to be the case. The change was very little at all in one year.

The most interesting news is, after a very thorough exam, which consisted of walking back and forth across the tiny exam room and then sticking out my tongue, the doctor pronounced me "neurologically intact"! It's just a good thing that I didn't tell him that I homeschool my three boys, randomly burst into silly songs and am considering completing attempting a triathlon after being a non-athlete my whole life. All of which has caused my friends, my kids and my husband to question my "intactness" at one time or another. (I'll just keep that my little secret...)

Neurologically Intact!!

You can find my Brain Tumor Story here, and pictures of the original tumor here. And plenty of other posts under "Brain Surgery" in my sidebar, if you just can't get enough.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Resolved... to read!

Seriously, I don't think I need to resolve to do this. I LOVE reading, mostly classics, history, theology or applied Christianity. Oh, and blogs. (See my "Blogs worth reading" sidebar.) Since I always have at least 3 or 4 books going at one time, what I really need to resolve to read is the Most Important Book Ever Written, better known as the Bible. When my kids learn to read I tell them that the main reason I am teaching them to read is so that they can read this most important book, and it is the first book that I give them once they have learned to read on their own. Why would I need to "resolve to read" this book, if it is the most important book ever written? I have read it, actually. Well, most of it. Certain parts over and over again. But some parts I have just skipped over. Some parts I like to pretend aren't in there. And even though I believe it is the most important book ever written, I find that unless I read it regularly - I forget what it says, or at least I begin to act like I forget what it says. It's almost like a person who looks into the mirror and then goes away and forgets what they look like. (I think that comes from this book, too.)

I recently listened to a sermon by John Piper called Holding Fast the Word of Life which really inspired me to want to read the Bible every day. In this sermon, he lists several promises of the Bible related to the reading or hearing of God's word. The whole thing is inspiring and worth listening to, especially for his extended quotation of the entire book of Phillipians at the beginning, but here are the promises that he reminds us of at the end of the sermon...

Hold fast to it for the sake of faith. “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17).

Hold fast to it for the sake of your joy. “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11).

Hold fast to it for the sake of your freedom. “If you abide in my word . . . and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31–32).

Hold fast to it for the sake of your holiness. “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17).

Hold fast to it for the sake of the Holy Spirit. “Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith” (Galatians 3:5)?

Hold fast to it for the sake of life. “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).

Hold fast to it for the sake of strength and stability and fruitfulness. Your delight will be “in the law of the Lord, and on his law you will meditate day and night. You will be like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that you do you will prosper” (Psalms 1:2–3).

So I am resolved to read through a portion of the Bible every day. There are a lot of good plans out there for reading through the Bible, but I have chosen the M'Cheyne Bible Reading Plan. I like it because I will be reading whole chapters at a time, Old Testament and New Testament together and I can supplement the readings with some free commentary and explanations from D.A. Carson at his blog, For the Love of God.

The boys have all decided that they would like to set a Bible reading goal this year as well. Jeff wants to read the whole New Testament this year. He listened through much of the Old Testament last year. The oldest wants to read all of 1 and 2 Kings. I think he likes all the battles in them. The middle child wants to read all the Psalms. He figures if he can read three Psalms each week, he can get through them all. The youngest, who can't read yet, wants to listen to the book of Acts. He likes Acts because he can read that word and can find it in his own Bible.

If you are also interested in a read through the bible plan, you might try this link: Bible Reading Plans

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Resolved... to write!

It's time for New Year's Resolutions. I actually really dislike resolutions because they are addicting to me. If I make one resolution, I have to make 10. There are always plenty of things I want to accomplish and if I start thinking about it, my list will be a mile long and who can ever keep all those? Plus, the typical resolutions are always at the top of my list... lose weight, get in shape. I don't like jumping on band wagons so even if it would be good for me to resolve to do those things, I don't want to do it because it's what everyone does. Nevertheless, here I am making New Year's resolutions. But I won't write them down here. They will remain personal, so then I don't have to feel like a failure if I don't keep all 92 of them. The only resolution I'm writing down is to actually write something on my blog this year. And look... I just kept it. Whew.

I started this blog in 2009. I always wanted to write a blog, but for much different reasons than I have now. I like to rant and rave and offer my opinions and I thought a blog would be a perfect place for that kind of an outlet. I can get in trouble with that a lot though, so I changed the purpose to be a place where we can just report on our family activities, post pictures, etc. I started with a Christmas "Yule Blog" and posted our annual Christmas letter as one of our first blog posts. God had different plans for the blog, as it suddenly became a good place to share news, prayer requests and updates regarding my brain tumor, surgery and recovery. In that way, it became a huge blessing for me and for our family. Keeping it up without a crisis has been a little more difficult. I never actually expected anyone to read the blog, but so many people read it during my surgery that I think I began to think I was actually writing it for readers, rather than just for myself and maybe the family to read. That is a lot of pressure and can really induce writers block!

So my resolution this year is to just write. It is "Adventures with the Graves", so I will write about stuff that is important to our family. When the kids get older they can read about what we read, what we did, what was important to us. Ultimately the purpose of the blog is to glorify God through our family and what I write about it. My passions are reading, homeschooling, theology, history, and the gospel of Jesus Christ. Our family enjoys books, riding bikes, camping, church activites and all the joys and perils of raising boys. So these may be some of the topics that I write on this blog. If I have readers (other than my mom), it will be based on God bringing them. If not, I will enjoy the process and think of it as a record of God's mercies and grace in our family as we depend on Him and grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord. Happy New Year!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Adventures in Books

One of our favorite adventures as Graves are the places that we go through the books that we read. This year in our little school, we are learning about the American Civil War, so we have begun to have some adventures in the mid 1800s, starting with learning a little about slavery. This is a pretty tough subject, but really amazing as we learn about the people whose faith helped them to endure hardships and cruelty, whose courage helped them to escape to freedom on the Underground Railroad, and whose compassion helped them to rescue others and work for equality, justice and freedom. Here are a few great books that we would recommend to you, if you are studying slavery, the underground railroad or abolition in school, or as family read alouds...
Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom By Carole Boston Weatherford Illustrated by Kadir Nelson I really liked this picture book about Harriett Tubman. The book covers events from Harriett's life and crucial decision points for her. It features conversations between Harriett and God that appropriately emphasizes her dependance on God and her prayer life. The illustrations were excellent. This was a good follow-up to our read aloud on Harriett Tubman's childhood. (See below.)
John Brown: His Fight For Freedom By John Hendrix This is a picture book that would actually be appropriate for middle elementary grades. It discusses the abolitionist John Brown and his raid on Harper's Ferry. It takes a very complex issue and handles it very well for kids. There are some discussions of the economic issues involved with slavery and the controversial decision to try to lead an armed slave rebellion. There is a little more violence than would be appropriate for a picture book (one discussion of John Brown's killing men with a broadsword and one mention of Brown's death by hanging), so this might be one you would want to preview for younger kids.
Courage to Run By Wendy Lawton We really enjoyed this book about the early life of Harriett Tubman. Rather than dealing with her escape from slavery, or her work on the Underground Railroad, it dealt with her childhood as a slave and some of the events that shaped her and her faith and prepared her for her future. This book incorporates several Negro Spirituals into the text, so if you are reading it aloud, you might want to brush up on those songs (or get a CD from the library) - as it really adds to the reading to sing them instead of read them. Most were familiar to me (Go Down Moses, Wade in the Water, Let My People Go), but several I did not know. As with any book about slavery, this book does discuss the violence done to slaves, which I think is appropriate for the story - but you may want to read slightly ahead if you want to be careful with how graphic you want to be with your kids.
Amos Fortune, Free Man By Elizabeth Yates We read this book last year, because the time period for this song was a little further before the turbulent era of the Underground Railroad. This book deals with slavery, but not from the aspect of escaping from it, but from a slave that works to buy his own freedom and then the freedom of others as well. This was an excellent book. I was constantly finding connections between physical slavery and our spiritual slavery to sin. I think this book really helped to illustrate to the boys the implications of what it means to be a slave and then also to be "redeemed" or "bought with a price". We talked about what it meant when Paul says, "It was for freedom that Christ set you free, so do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery." This is a great family read aloud for any family. Do you have any other favorites for kids on this period of history? I would love to hear your comments! (Coming soon... more civil war era books for kids and adults.)

Monday, September 5, 2011

Our Summer Adventures

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