Photos courtesy of Ryan Prouty

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Year in Review 2011

 Wow, this is going to be the toughest year to review because I just blinked and it sped by! Can anyone else relate?? I am not sure if this happens because we are so busy with all the kids are involved in, working so hard, or getting old...surely not the latter!!
 The kids are growing like crazy and keeping us busy with their sports involvement. We sort of knew this would be coming, but were not prepared for how crazy our schedules would be. We were thrilled to be at nearly every game our kids were playing in and love watching them. We both agree its easier to be the one out there on the field or floor than the parent in the stands!! We have bleacher shaped bottoms and have sweated and scorched, and even froze in the stands these past few months! It is great for family togetherness too! We are grateful for our church and church family for the growth in all of our relationships with The Father this year. Alayna was baptized this summer and we have joined a small group that meets in a family's home and have been amazed at how God has used this group to bless us and allow us to bless others as well. We have developed some very real intimacy and some life long friendships to be sure!  
December marked one year at my current job in Pulmonary Medicine. It has been a lot of hours, but I love what I do and the people I work with. JoDee and Mom have been able to fill in the gaps between Paul's and my schedules to make sure the kids are safe and doing their homework and have a ride to a game or practice or someone to pick them up. I have NO idea what we would do without them! It is such a joy to have some of our family here and the kids benefit the most, I think! JoDee has been teaching in Alayna's class since October and has been offered a position for the rest of the year too, part time. What an answer to prayers!

Gabriel graduated from 8th grade in the spring and started 9th grade this fall. I am so THRILLED that we can have all four of the kids at the same school. They watch out for each other and keep tabs on each other so I get all the scoop! These are some of his classmates:

 At the graduation ceremony, Gabe was awarded the Colossians award for character. I was very happy to see that he behaves himself so well at school! He has always been very respectful to his teachers and an excellent, diligent student. He is really finding out that hard work pays off. So many of you know how this young man has struggled with anything related to schoolwork, but he now has learned to be self motivated, needs no reminders to get his work done and always does his very best. I hope he will find out the same on the basketball court since he doesn't get to see much playing time as a freshman on the varsity team!
As you can see by the pictures and if you got to run into him at church in Iowa this summer, Gabe has really sprouted up over the past year. He grew over 5 inches last year and has already grown an inch since fall. He now is nearly 6'2" though our picture above makes him look closer to Paul's height, he is not quite there yet. And as you can see below, he suffered the first official broken bone in the Prachar household this fall. The reason I say "official" is that Riley broke a toe in the spring, but didn't require any casting.
He broke his thumb (at the growth plate) playing basketball over his lunch break at school just before the season technically began.  We had to make several trips to the orthopedic office for follow up x-rays to make sure it was healing correctly and Gabe had the black cast that no one could sign! It was waterproof so he could shower or even swim with it. Pretty cool. The coolest thing that came out of it though was looking at his x-rays. You could easily see that the growth plates were all wide open. This is predictive of him still having quite a bit of growing to do! We will see how that turns out! I have to say its quite disconcerting when your children tower over you. I am not sure who is more happy to find out that he finally outweighs me! 

 Riley turned 12 recently and started 6th grade this fall (middle school, yikes!). He had his own growth spurt over the past year and also grew 5 inches. In our last Christmas card, the two of us were about nose to nose, but he blew past me in no time. Wow, this came way too quickly! He has totally fallen in love with football and also plays basketball to stay in shape for football! He had an amazing football season on the starting offense and defense. We were quite surprised at that since he is just in his second year playing. He was also chosen as one of the captains of his team, quite an honor for one of the youngest players. He was moved around near the end of the season and started playing some tight end (moving from offensive guard), which I have always hoped he would get a chance at. He never did get a pass thrown his way (they only ran about 3 passing plays per game!), but it was fun to watch! He still prefers to play defense and had some great backfield stops this year and also recovered an on-sides kick (we went wild in the stands and totally embarrassed him!) 
His team went to the playoffs (after winning a nerve racking tie-breaker), but lost in the first round. They elected to play in a bowl game in Tampa for teams who lose in the first round and ended up winning that game, so went out on a win. Basketball is not quite as much fun for him, but he is really starting to improve. He qualified to go to the city wide free throw competition after winning his age group at school and when no one showed up to compete with him, he moved on to districts where he missed winning by one free throw. It was exciting! He is doing well in school in spite of all the extra curriculars we have going on. A great lesson to learn so early in life, I think! Most of you know he is planning/working toward/hoping to get to go to Australia this summer with People to People Ambassador Programs. He has to raise all the funds, so we'll see if he can get it done! So far, so its slow but plodding forward! (Thanks for your generous donations, and for purchasing the Pizza Hut cards he is selling!)
Holden turned 10 this summer and started 4th grade in the fall. He is dying for a growth spurt like his brothers had!!  All too soon, I am sure! He also played football this fall and his team won a conference championship, moving on to regional playoffs for the first time in five years. He played left guard on the offensive line and some defense as well. He had a tackle the first time he was put in on defense and we were happy to embarrass him from the stands too!  He is an excellent student and LOVES to read and play learning games on the computer. He expresses a lot of interest in my job and loves to play with a few apps that I have on my phone for anatomy and other medical stuff.  But he also still says he wants to be a pilot (I decorated is nursery in airplanes all those years ago and it seems to have stuck!) He is playing basketball at the YMCA currently and it looks like all those years watching his brothers and dad playing/coaching have paid off. He seems to know right what to do and has good court sense.  
Alayna turned 7 last May and started 2nd grade this fall. She longs to do all the things her big brothers do, and like all "babies" gets frustrated by her lot in life! She was a great sport attending all of her brothers' football games and basketball games and has been desperate to play a sport herself. She attended volleyball camp over the summer and LOVES it, but is too young for any teams yet. So, she is playing basketball at the YMCA too. She plays on a co-ed team and is loving it. It is HILARIOUS to watch at this age, and I have so much respect for the coaches who are starting right into man-to-man defense and fast breaking already! They are trying to catch on, but it really looks a lot like 9-on-1 out there most of the time! She loves school (don't all girls her age?!), especially since her Aunty was her teacher most of the year. She LOVES spelling and actually went to the regional spelling bee as her grade's representative last spring. Lately, she spells whatever she is trying to tell me, which I guess is great practice. She is always asking how to spell something! She continues to be more interested in animals than babies, and I am encouraging her to be a Veterinarian, though she thinks she wants to be an artist and cheerleader when she grows up! She loves watching the cheerleaders at the boys' games and has learned quite a few of their cheers. I remember being exactly the same way when I was her age! She also loves to read and has been quite dedicated to reading her Bible regularly. We do it together when she has a lot of trouble--like when she was in all the "begats" in the Old Testament :o) Her version (NIrV) didn't actually use the word "begat", thankfully, but all those names are downright difficult, even for adults! She loved her birthday trip to swim with the Manatees! I did manage to blog about that!

I was able to take a half day off and accompany her class on a site seeing boat tour of the bay near us with Alayna's class at the end of the year in the spring. It was a gorgeous day for that activity!

Paul and I celebrated our 18th anniversary in June this year. The kids made us breakfast in bed to commemorate that and Father's Day (I think someone put them up to it!) We had French toast and toast!
 And we celebrated Paul's birthday by making Alayna's glow in the dark sidewalk chalk and announcing his birthday to all our neighbors on the newly paved blacktop  in front of our driveway!
Cop humor...
 JoDee and I celebrated our birthday together again! So fun to have her around to commiserate! We met for lunch with Mom at the tea room downtown and wore these glasses. Everyone loved them and gave us birthday wishes! We even wore them on our long walk down the street to the ice cream store! They brought smiles to a lot of faces! We had fun acting like we didn't know what was so funny! You can't read it in the picture, but the balloons on our shades read "Happy Birthday". 
 Our visitors are slowing down lately, but we enjoyed seeing some familiar Iowa faces when our friends the Anderson's came to visit with their kids. Riley and Jake were in class together at Heritage.  Jen is a great friend!

 Probably the highlight of Paul's year was this:
A friend from our small group loves to fish and has his own boat and took Paul for his dream fishing trip this spring. They went about 20 miles off shore to find the big fish and Paul pulled in several fish this size. He is holding an Amber Jack. I can't remember seeing him as excited as he was after that trip!

And I can't believe I didn't blog about this:
 Several couples from our church wanted to renew wedding vows at the beach, so we got together and did it one very sunny day in April:
 Our pastor officiated what was like a wedding but not as we reflected on the past and our continued commitment. It was a gorgeous day at the beach and there was a beautiful flower girl too!
 The whole group:
 Getting crazy:

I wanted to wear my wedding dress for this day, but the other "bride" who was going to wear hers had to back out at the last minute, after I ripped the sleeves off my dress and had it hemmed (its a pretty dress that way now!) I think I would have still suffocated in it that day!! Oh well, we'll have to do it again...maybe at our 50th anniversary!

So that is all I can remember of our blur of a year, just trying to keep up with the kids and all of our work responsibilities and church activities. Each year, I vow to keep better track of what goes on with this blogging, but its been so difficult! I am so exhausted in the evening that I can't even fathom some computer time after the kids go to bed! I can't even keep my eyes open at that point! I did go to Las Vegas last month (that deserves its own blog for sure!) with my running partner/friend Kristin since Paul couldn't go. I went for a medical conference. Look for more on that later!

We pray your year has brought you closer to The One who is mighty to save. Please know if you are still reading this blog that I care about you and pray diligently for you. You are special in our lives. We love you!

Monday, November 28, 2011

For Riley...In case your e-mail has changed in the past 3 years or you don't Facebook...

Hi, this is Riley (with a little help from mom) writing to ask for your help and offer you some great deals on the BEST pizza around! I am hoping to travel to Australia this June with the People to People Ambassador Program. I was nominated by one of my teachers at Venice Christian School. If I can raise the funds, I will get to explore the Great Barrier Reef with a Marine Biologist, and have a tour of the famous opera house in Sydney. I will also have the opportunity to serve on a missions project while I am there and I am most excited about meeting some real tribal Aboriginees and learning to throw a boomerang (though my mom says I should be more concerned about learning to catch it!)

So, you want to help? Here is what you can do: I am partnering with Pizza Hut and offering a $10 card good for 12 free medium pizzas with up to three toppings when you make a $15 purchase. So, when you take your family to the buffet, you can take some pizza home for breakfast or lunch the next day. Or when you order a pizza, breadsticks and dessert pizza, you get a free medium pizza! I get to keep some of the proceeds for my trip too!

Ready to order? Just reply to this post with how many cards you want to purchase and we will deliver them. If you are not in the the area, you can help too! You can use your Pizza Hut card at your local Pizza Hut anywhere! My mom will be happy to include your card(s) in your Christmas card and you can mail me a check (made out to Riley Prachar) in your Christmas card since you are already going to be sending one (wink wink).

Thanks for considering partnering with me!
Riley Prachar

PS: My mom promises to update this blog very soon!!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Vacation in South Carolina

I should say that I will try to keep this short, but our vacation was so fun that I don't want to forget a second of it. Also, Paul had to be in St. Louis for a week, (and that is why we took a vacation in the first place) and had to miss everything. I figured if I had to take a week off work for him to be gone, we might as well go somewhere fun. Our friends Dan and Kate May moved to the Charleston area about a year and a half ago and we hadn't been able to visit, so I was thrilled when she told me that would be a good week for us to come. We ended up leaving a bit earlier because of the last shuttle launch and wanted to try to see it in person. So that meant we left on Friday, July 8th, which is also a very special day because its Cow Appreciation Day at Chik Fil-A. Free food for dressing like a cow. When you are traveling over 8 hours, you might cross paths with a few Chik Fil-As and have to stop and eat there...might! We ended up eating all of our meals there on the way and what a blessing that was! We stopped at a mall in Brandon for breakfast, but they didn't open for 2 more hours, so we had to head back to the van hungry...bummer!

Our next stop was Orlando to meet up with some friends of JoDee's and the plan was to watch the shuttle launch from their house. BUT, we didn't get our acts together and time got away from us and we ended up watching the launch from the Chik Fil-A parking lot. Not exactly what I had hoped for, but still a much better view than if we had stayed home. The clouds were so low that we only saw it for a few seconds and nearly missed it because I was watching the countdown online with my phone and didn't think of the few seconds it would take to reach my phone. Luckily, Gabe looked up and saw it in time for the rest of us to look up at the sky and catch it for a few seconds before it disappeared into the clouds. I was glad we chose to sleep in our beds rather than try to sleep in the van in Titusville to get front row seats to a launch that we could have only seen a few seconds of. We enjoyed time with Jamie and Anita and their family. We shared our costumes so they could get a free meal too.

We stopped for lunch in Georgia:

And dinner in South Carolina

It was fun to see lots of others dressed up too. Some of our stops we would see almost everyone dressed up and at one stop we were the only ones! All worth it though!

For our first outing, we went to an old fort that was right near the May's house. Fort Dorchester was colonized by a group in 1697 who were having a hard time with the weather and land in the northeast. Their lives centered around community effort and the church which was built in 1719. Behind us you see the walls of the fort where the ammunition was stored. This fort was never attacked and that is why so much of it is intact.

The opening where a heavy door used to be:

 The walls were made partly off oyster shells and mortar. Very sharp and would discourage a lot of climbing!

 A long section of the wall
 The roped off portion is where the gunpowder and other ammunition was stored,also called the "magazine"
 While we were there, they were doing some excavating research. This town was abandoned after the Revolutionary war and the forest reclaimed it until 1960 when it was made a public landmark and some digs were started. Much has been found just a few inches beneath the grass that gives clues to the lives of those who lived there once.
 The kids got to take part hands on and help sift through the dirt and find pieces of history. They found some window glass mostly, but were thrilled at the idea that no one had touched that piece of glass in over 300 years.

 It was also a pretty place to take some pictures. The kids are in front of the bell tower which is all that is left of the church. While we were there, there was a couple there having their pictures taken professionally at the bell tower. It was melting hot, but a beautiful spot.

The bell tower and in the background another photographer:

Sunday, we went to Fort Sumter. This was the place made famous for being the place where the Civil War began. The Confederate Army fired upon the fort until they were able to take control of it. The Union Army was short on supplies and didn't have very many men there either because the war was not anticipated. I was very pleased with the history the kids picked up and that they were able to appreciate standing in the place where history was made and touching the walls where soldiers also likely touched as they defended the fort.
 We took a ferry over to the fort, enjoyed the air conditioning just a bit longer. It was so hot while were were there and very humid. I guess it was that way all over the country that week. We were mid 90s with 90% humidity!
 We saw an aircraft carrier that is parked in the Charleston harbor:

And they have a bridge similar to our Skyway bridge in St Pete...though that is difficult to appreciate from this distance:

 This is a fort where the first pirate hanging took place. Also out in Charleston harbor near Fort Sumter:

 There were still some cannons there for us to see and touch:

The opening for the cannon:
There were many different size cannons and each had a different purpose:

Fortunately, there was a museum inside with lots of relics and historical explanations (and air conditioning!) This is the flag that was flying at the time of the attack that started the Civil War: 
Some of the artillery shot through the cannons:

Holden had my little camera and was taking pictures also. I told him I didn't need 700 pictures of "things", and that he should try to include someone from our family in the pictures. He took the above and below pictures. Jo with a musket and Alayna with a model of the fort as it was at the start of the Civil War.

He listens very well sometimes:

 We loaded back up on the ferry and headed back to the harbor. Riley got some pretty shots of the city's skyline. They are known for their steeples. I wish it was a clearer day:
Next we grabbed some lunch and headed to the Hunley Museum. This was a submarine that was used in the Civil War to try to break the Union's blockade which prevented the South from exporting their goods and shut off their supplies as well. It was the first ever successful submarine attack that sunk a ship. The submarine was lost shortly after her successful mission and all the crew (8 men) perished. It was found in the early 90s and raised and is now being restored. We couldn't photograph it, but this is a replica of what the inside was like. There were seats for the 7 men who turned the pipe that moved the propeller that moved the sub through the water. The kids thought it was quite hard work!

Jo, Kate and I with a  replica of the Hunley. It was amazing to see the technology they already had figured out with the sub. It was only 48 inches tall inside (random fact inserted here!)
Monday was even hotter and we got up early and found a farm to pick our own blueberries. They were $10/gallon and all you could eat was free...not sure they profited from us or not! They were so good right off the tree! And they were very easy to pick.

Gabe swears he ate a gallon himself:

Kate and Alayna worked together:

Riley ate his share as well:

But I filled my basket before I ate very many. I liked to see progress!
We ended up with 2 full gallons and it didn't take very long to do that at all. It was very fun and I wish a bit closer to home. I would do that on a regular basis!

 We cooled off at the pool and then decided to try our hand at letter boxing. Kate introduced it to us. It was like a treasure hunt. We tried four times at four different locations. The first three didn't work out because the instructions were too vague and we couldn't locate the boxes though we looked diligently and got eaten ALIVE by mosquitoes. It was TONS of fun...insert sarcasm here. We went to a pretty park for the third try and at least found some cute statues to photograph:

 And some cute kids to photograph:

 We gave up again and headed to the fourth and final try. It was on church property. Apparently the church was quite old and still had a cemetery on the grounds as well. We spent some time reading the headstones and were quite saddened to see so many children's graves. One family had three children buried there. It was a great opportunity to talk about the advances of medicine and how each of our children had had at least one illness that would have killed them if they had been born 200 years ago, and that God had plans for them and therefore gave them to us in this present day for their purposes to be fulfilled. Sobering.
We did finally find success here at the church! It wasn't easy and we probably looked for an hour before we found the landmark mentioned in the clue. I guess its supposed to be that hard, we were really glad to find one at last! We dug out the box from the underbrush and this is what we found:

 Inside was a bag with a book and a rubber stamp. You are supposed to bring your own book and stamp and use the stamp in the box to stamp your book and write the date and place found. Then in the book in the box, you use your stamp and write your names and the date found. It was fun to read through the book and see where everyone was from who had found the box and see their stamps.  The kids liked it and it was free. I think we will try this again around home when the weather cools off.
For our last day, we headed back toward Charleston and stopped first at Folley Beach to see a lighthouse. It was a long walk in the heat but so worth it. So beautiful! And the humidity this time made for beautiful pictures I think:

One of my very favorite pictures of the trip: 
Next, we went to lunch in Charleston and caught the trolley to the Waterfront Park. Waaaay too hot to walk that far! 
The kids had a blast playing in the water at the park. Wading was encouraged in the fountains.

Finally, we headed to Market Street to see the open air market where jewelry, baskets and about anything you could imagine was sold. We saw this pretty building on the way. It looked like a nice place for a family photo

Our drive home was blissfully uneventful, and we are just relaxing until I have to work this weekend and until Paul gets back tonight. I have declared chores off limits and Grammy had the day off, so we went to a double header at the movie theater. We saw Soul Surfer and Thor. Both very good movies. The kids were glad to be home and have a day with their grammy:

Now, we are already looking forward to our next vacation. I have a hard time believing that I will only have a few more years to take these kinds of vacations with the kids. Its so amazing how fast they grow up. Trying to enjoy every minute!