So I raided Alex's tablet to get all the pictures Caleb sent him. Seemed simple enough, click all photos, sign into dropbox, and viola! Not only did I get all the Caleb-at-Bethel pictures, I also got all of Alex's online avatars. Here is just a sampling of the evolution of Alex's online persona since he got his tablet:
Let's just say I find the above very, very amusing. Alex also still had the pictures he took of some gingerbread cookies he decorated last fall. I'll trust most of you will recognize who these two characters are:
All right, on with the show. First off: random tidbits.
Corbin got his first session of his behind-the-wheel instruction done. Of course his record-it-all mom had to get a shot of him behind the wheel of the instructor's car:
Damselflies have been especially abundant this summer. When we go to our favorite woods they swarm around us. Even right in our own yard they are everywhere. Here are some neat shots Nora took right in our yard of some and their cousin, the Dragonfly.
Much to water-loving Ella's joy, we finally got a warm enough summer day to bring out the kiddie pool. Anna was all too happy to join in.
I gladly played lifeguard, although my burnt arms and legs later regretted it.
Did they just sit around and soak? Um, Ella's nickname is Stunt Baby for a reason. Anna gladly thought up plenty of stunts to try.
They thought I was reading on my i-pod, so I was able to get some rather humorous stealth shots.
Anna in full rabbit mode:
Ella wasn't about to be out done:
Ah, yes. It's summer.
All too soon the day arrived to send Caleb off to New York. He made all his friends one last batch of his famous truffles.
Unfortunately, I did the one thing I promised myself I would not do as we said our last good-byes at the airport: I bawled like a little girl. How could I not, just thinking of not seeing his face again for such a long time? The finality of it all got to me. Here he was, a grown man that we had somehow raised, for better or worse, about to spread his wings and leave our broken nest.
Ugh. Curious as to how that feels? Tear out your intestines and pour salt all over them. And I have to go through this 6 more times? (When I get like this Alex always looks at me and says, "Breathe. Just breathe, Mom." Good advice, really.)
So how did his flight go? All he'd say is it was better than a roller coaster. And turbulence is a very bad word. Especially when it's over Lake Michigan. Here are some pictures he took of his first flight, to Philadelphia:
Meanwhile, while Caleb was soaring above the clouds, I tried to pull myself together for the other kids so we could enjoy the rest of our day. Corbin wanted to try out a doughnut place he found online, which was a great way to get my mind off of matters. Nothing like driving in the pouring rain in downtown Minneapolis to keep one's mind from wandering. It took a bit of skyway walking to find it, but find it we did. They all agreed it was worth it. Here they are, eating a nice nutritious ultra-sugary breakfast.
Alex managed to take a stealth shot of me taking a shot of them.
The kids got a bang out of the big city, and were most impressed when I mentioned we had lived in a four-plex on the south side when Alex was just a baby. We found ourselves driving right past the millionaire's new football stadium, still under construction.
Ella was thrilled to see trains everywhere.
After some thrift store bumming we headed for the Como Zoo. Ella was excited to see a huge "turtle."
Of course Alex was appalled I had hopped a railing to get a picture for her, and made sure I knew his view on that little matter. I assured him I wouldn't pull the same stunt in the big cats area.
We had a good morning, letting the animals distract us from thoughts of how Caleb's journey was going. The penguins cuddled:
The sea anemones amused:
And the starfish made us marvel.
I started getting anxious again after a bit. Caleb's first flight should have landed. His second flight would be leaving for New York soon. While the girls watched the polar bear attack and drown a barrel, I voiced my hope of Caleb texting us soon to the boys.
Sure enough, Caleb sent Corbin a text. His first words? "Has Mom stopped crying yet?" Oops.
We took in all Caleb's updates while waiting in the rain to see the Sparky the Seal show. Somehow the rain no longer mattered. We were all on cloud nine. Caleb was going to be all right. We all were.
A little candy never hurt, either.
How was the show? Pretty anticlimactic. Seems there has been six different Sparkys over the years, and they were just training in this new one, number seven. She reminded us of our dog Bubba back at home.
Caleb sent us one last message showing his next plane just before he boarded. When I saw the plane, I grew a bit anxious again. Especially when he said there was absolutely no pictures or phone use allowed on this flight, so we'd have to wait until he landed again to hear from him.
Time to visit the primates. We are never sure who's watching who in that building.
Deciding what to do with one's life is like a sloth in a box: Some are content just sitting in the box they've been given, while others expend much time and energy trying to make a true impact. (Granted sometimes that impact is one's own face hitting the cold hard pavement below...)
Why do they bother putting "Do Not Climb" signs on things that just beg to be climbed?
Cats are just loaded with personality. This tiger being no exception. First he smiles for the camera...
Then sticks out his tongue.
We finished ogling at the wildlife...
and headed for the tropics trail, where free flying tropical birds zoomed over our heads and mice, lizards, and frogs rustled at our feet. Anna and I took our selfie there, which Corbin photobombed.
My favorite animal in this zoo:
We had to take a photo of Anna on the zebra in the kiddie area, just for old times sake.
Before leaving we explored the conservatory. Rosa with her namesake:
The fish all circled the fountain. It was a bit... creepy.
No matter. The many tropical plants were what we came to see anyway. While I tried to appease the overtired and over-hungry Ella, Alex and Nora took lots of cool pictures. Here is a sampling:
Everyone must have been getting hungry, because a collective moan emitted as I opened the door leading to the Japanese garden. No matter. This is way more yummy than food, anyway.
Anna was thrilled to see a bunny munching away in the rain.
Nora is taking a Chinese language course this fall. She is really into all things orient, including bonsai trees. (Of which she really wanted to get one. I had to assure her they would just become really expensive cat food in our house.)
I appeased my over-hungry navigator with a huge confection from the gift store so he would have the energy to lead us to a restaurant for lunch.
The best thing about fast food? The kids meals come with strangely random toys. Anna's food came with bull horns.
Somehow they seemed to fit Corbin better, though.
One last stop before we reached home: Cold Stone Creamery. Or, as we know it: Best. Ice Cream. Ever.
Good thing Corbin wasn't driving us home.
Caleb endured his final flight, and soon was at his new home. He has not one, but two roommates, so his "bedroom" is also their living room. Here is his bed, with his belongings we had mailed out earlier:
And the other half of the room:
They have since acquired a television (to watch the jw.org broadcasting) and are working on getting a couch and another desk or two. They thought a microwave and refrigerator were a bit more up on the list of important things to get. No worries, we sent Caleb plenty of in between meals nibblies to share.
Only three young men could handle sharing one closet and still have room to spare.
Caleb says they all get along really well. One of them works in transportation, so he isn't around much, anyway.
The first week or so Caleb was just on a high. "I can't believe I'm actually at Bethel!" was a common phrase.
He was in orientation for about a week. When not in session, he was free to roam the grounds. He loved his new backyard:
which includes hundreds of wooded acres, a soccer field, a farm, and much, much more. Guess where he spent most of his time?
He is just like his mother that way. People are nice. Lots of people together is fun. Being able to hide from it all and collect ones thoughts is a requirement for sanity purposes.
More outgoing people may find our kind strange, but to us it helps keep it all in perspective.
And as an added bonus for Caleb: plenty of birds he had never encountered before.
He also combated homesickness with the comfort of the familiar.
It was comforting to us back home, too, thinking he was exploring his woods while we were wandering ours.
Unlike our flat land, he loved the "mountains" all around him. They are often covered in low clouds. Here's his view from the top of one:
Not only am I jealous he gets his sunsets an hour earlier than I, but I am envious that he is treated to a nightly firefly rave party as well.
Caleb's first assignment was to gain some weight. The poor boy has always been as light as a feather. He also gets tons of comments along the lines of "How old ARE you?!?" While he can't do much about looking way younger than 19, he is all too happy to be on an all-you-can-eat diet.
A highlight of his official Patterson tour was meeting the other Caleb, of Caleb and Sophia fame.
The congregation he is assigned to is in Connecticut, near the ocean. It is very different from our rural territory. He spotted an unusual bird in his first day out in service:
After nearly two weeks he finally got his assignment: a waiter! Check out his snazzy uniform:
He is one of the many who collaborate to feed hundreds in a matter of minutes three times a day.
Overall, the separation has been more endurable than expected. Technology really helps to keep us close.
Random amusing item of June: Alex has had problems with sleeping right through his wake up alarm lately, so he purchased a new clock.
Ella seems to be taking all these major family changes in stride. For a four year old, she sure is one smart cookie.
For a bit we somewhat avoided our forest frolics. Eventually the memories of being eating alive by mosquitoes faded, and the desire to devour s'mores drove us back. At first we just hung out on the beach and playground after gorging on the roasted treats.
Warm sands and sunsets. What more could one want?
Happiness is not the result of the things one owns, or even accomplishes. True contentment comes from being satisfied with what one already has, and enjoying it to the full by sharing with others.
Even after the sun has set, we cannot return home until Ella goes down the slide "one more time" about ten times.
Another windy evening, another impromptu kite flying-fest on the hilltop.
Alex and Corbin have been awesome about stepping up and helping their little sisters out. Here's Corbin readying a kite for Ella.
Of all the high-tech gadgets she plays with at home, none of them come close to putting a smile this big on her face.
Go ahead, Anna. Offer her your favorite toy. Offer her to do her chores for a week. Offer her the Brooklyn Bridge. You're never going to get a turn flying that kite. Period.
Another well-isn't-that-special (and totally random) thought for this page: Did you really have to park that close to the back of my van?
Yes, the girls still go to our friend's farm once a week. And yes, if I do not post an occasional photo of their rabbits here I face the wrath of hormonal preteens.
After an incident in which Ella, um, loved a bunny too hard, she was taught the proper way to handle their fragile furry friends. She even was christened into their club, and is now the proud "owner" of her own little bunny, named Belle. Here she is with a another (yet unnamed) bunny.
Anna still has a soft spot for any calico colored ones. She named this one Clover after she hand feed it a bunch of clover.
This one sports a mustache.
Ella loves them so much it hurts. Literally. She has rabbit claw scratches all over to prove it.
Oh well. They wouldn't miss their weekly day on the farm for anything.
Don't worry too much about the bunnies. The girls mostly do various chores in the gardens and such. They get plenty of love breaks.
We will finish out June with a final forest frolic. Fire-starter Corbin assumed his roll.
The savages feasted...
and constructed many a s'more.
It was a very breezy day. Perfect for keeping mosquitoes at bay. This poor little guy was having a hard time battling the winds, and seemed to appreciate the cupped shelter of my hands.
All those little green inchworms we had found weeks earlier were now tiny regal fellows.
The forest beckoned us, and we heeded it's call, relying on the strong winds to keep our foes at bay. The younger girls and I found a resting Red Admiral.
This slightly damaged one we spotted nearby is a White Admiral.
The Anna and Mom selfie, shadow version, with an Ella cameo:
June's flower bouquet, while not as showstopping as May's, still makes for some scrumptious eye-candy. Here is a small sampling:
On a side note, while researching the above flowers, I have found out that all but the vetch are classified as invasive weeds from Europe, and should be reported and destroyed immediately. Um... no. Can't we all just be from the planet earth and live together in peace for a change?
The two girls and I met back up with the other four, who were on the beach. Well, or were on the beach. Nora started wading out a bit...
The wind made some nice waves. The temptation was just too much for her, I guess.
Water-loving Ella didn't need any encouragement. She joined right in.
Summertime at it's best.
Nora even got her best bud Rosa to join in.
The trek home involved a leach removal and some wet bottom issues, but that was all soon forgotten, and we returned a couple days later, armed with swimsuits and towels.
The perfect ending to a long day: relaxing on a beach while the kids dance before the setting sun.
I think I lost at least five overly tense muscles that evening. Ahh...
Alex's body decided to revolt the next day. To the point he had to call in sick. How does his mother comfort his feverishly sick body? With lots of candy and Ho-Hos, naturally.
So who comforts said mother? Oh, I have my means of coping.
Hugs to all of our dear worldwide family. Next stop: (I can't believe it's already) July.