Sunday, November 29, 2009

It's beginning to look a bit like Christmas....

I haven't gotten all of the decorations out....but here are a few of my Santas from my Santa Claus collection, and a few nutcrackers from the NC collection....I'm still working on our little Charlie Brown tree.  AKA the Norfolk Island Pine that is substituting for our usual Christmas tree this year.  I ran up to Publix the other day just to buy a small strand of lights.  Unfortunately, I bought icicle lights which, well, don't work so great on a tree.

I felt so much better on Thanksgiving that I thought I was finally getting over this cold.  Not.  I have been terribly congested the past couple of days and suffering from a sinus headache.  I hate colds.

Yesterday the kids went downtown with Ging Ging (my mother).  She got a hotel room and they had a little party to watch the boat parade and the fireworks.  My great Aunt Helen and cousins all came and brought a ton of food (according to Clay, who we all know is RULED by his stomach these days!)  Hopefully, they got some great photos which we will be able to post later...

Tim and I enjoyed the peace and quiet, got Chinese takeout from Ming Moon, and went to bed early.  Pathetic, aren't we?

Friday, November 27, 2009

Black Friday?

How on earth did the day after Thanksgiving come to be called "Black Friday"??  Is it just me, or does it sound like something bad?  I hate that term.  I also hate the big fuss that is made of the shopping on this day.  I am NOT a "Black Friday" shopper.  The thought of (A) getting up at some ungodly hour and (B) fighting hordes of frenzied, maniacal crazy people just to (C) save a few dollars makes me (D) break out in hives!!  Ugh.  I'd rather have my toenails pulled out one by one while listening to whiny country music.  By the way, if you were one of the frenzied, maniacal crazy people enthusiastic, early risers out shopping today - or if you are a fan of country apologies!!

Here's what the Van Kuikens did today:

Not much.

Seriously.  We all slept late, which was delightful.  Then Tim and I sipped our coffee while perusing the paper.  We pulled out the Christmas decorations and put them up (except for the tree, as I have already mentioned in an earlier post!).  Clay cleaned his (disgustingly dirty) bird's cage.  Buddy is a happy cockatiel now.  We  I took a nap!  We read.  We ate leftover turkey, etc.  We are now thoroughly sick of leftover turkey, etc. hence we are having pizza for dinner tonight!

I must say though, that a bit of the shopping frenzy has hit me and I am beginning to get into the spirit....I may see what sales I can find later this evening.  Online.   Fa la la la la......

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

A photo of my wonderful son demonstrating his usual exemplary table manners!
Happy Thanksgiving!!!

The turkey is roasting away - stuffed with lemons from our tree, onions, garlic, rosemary, basil and oregeno....the house smells heavenly.  The mashed (smashed) potatoes and stuffing are warming, the green beans are simmering, gravy is made...and the cranberry sauce is ready to be sliced.  Ha Ha. I've tried doing the "other kind" of cranberry sauce and no one liked it!  My family likes the "old fashioned" kind.  You know...from a can.  Dessert will be pumpkin pie and a fudge pie from The Fresh Market, with whipped cream.

Today has been a nice, mellow day.  I woke up feeling MUCH better...I can breathe today!  WOO HOO!  Tim and the kids played frisbee golf around the neighborhood while I cooked, we've watched some football, read some books, the kids pulled out the Magnetix and have been playing (nicely!!) with those.  I have been gathering up some of the Thanksgiving decorations, and getting a few of the Christmas ones out.

Later this week I'll post a photo of our Christmas tree!  Since we are going to Michigan for Christmas this year, and because the house is still for sale, we've decided not to put a big tree up this year.  Instead, I got a Norfolk Island Pine, which we will plant in a big pot after Christmas and try to keep alive!

I hope you all have a quiet and relaxing - and delicious - Thanksgiving!  

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


                                                                                                                                 This is one of our resident eagles that I snuck up on.  I got to within 20 feet of it !!!!
these are some pictures of the blind mosquito pandemic we had

They were everywhere !!!!

Heres Paige's new kitten  sleeping

 This a picture of a bass i caught in our creek.  thats right... the little stream, drainage thing.  It weighed about 10 pounds.

Other than those weird things that I happened to get pictures of, my life has been pretty normal.  School is good as can be, tae kwon do is going good  and life at home has been ok.  Mom and dad still get mad at me a lot though while Paige is the little angel.  Oh well.

PAIGE'S TURN:   Homeschooling is good. I like being able to do work on my bed. I have a lot of catching up to do because I "technically" missed the first nine weeks. That stinks, but oh well. 
     My kitty is adorable, as you can see from Clay's pictures above. His name is Gus, like in Cats. I really can't wait until he is DE-clawed. He wakes up around 5 or so in the morning and wants to play, but I still want to sleep. It stinks, and everybody else in the house thinks I am going crazy because I wake him up every time he falls asleep. If I see him sleeping, I tell everybody to wake him up. But apparently, Clay just takes pictures and lets him sleep. :-( oh well! 
     Nothing that interesting has been going on. Thanksgiving is tomorrow.  Happy Turkey Day!!! I am going to eat dinner now,  am starving. Mom made pot roast! YUMMY!!!!!


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I'm feeling sick, so not going to write much today.  Here's the bullet points from the past couple of days:

*  After getting the house immaculate on Saturday, we never heard anything from the people who "tentatively" wanted to see it!!

*  Sunday morning, however, we got a call that someone else would like to see two hours.  Yikes.  Thank goodness the house was already clean - just needed to run the vacuum, wipe stuff down, etc.  The showing went well, they liked the house, loved our view....but ultimately thought the house was just too small for them.

*  Yesterday Paige had her check up at the pediatrician...she is now 4'10"!   She got vaccinated for the regular flu and H1N1...Clay went in the afternoon and was vaccinated.  From what I have heard, this H1N1/Swine Flu is awful!  Tim and I plan to head over to Walgreens later this morning to get vaccinated.

*  As I said, I have been sick for the past few days - runny nose, sore throat, etc....but no I think this is "just" a cold.

*  Last day of school today - then Thanksgiving break!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

I was woken up at 6:30 am this morning by the purr monster/love cat/Gus.  Awww...sweet kitty, but AARGH!  It's my only morning to sleep in!  Thank heavens for coffee!  So...Gus and I are the only ones awake.

Tim got home last night - hooray!  He had to leave for work the day after the funeral, and since then we have only seen him for a day here and there.  He is home now for 8 days including Thanksgiving!!!  He also managed to get Christmas off for next month.  :-))

Yesterday was spent ironing the humongous pile of clothes which has been building up in my laundry room, cleaning ceiling fans (yuck!), wiping down all of our kitchen cabinets (because apparently, I am the only one who can see the sticky mess that results from spilled orange juice or grape jelly!!), scrubbing bathtubs, grocery shopping (squeezed that in when I picked Clay up), and cleaning the ovens. Well, technically, the oven cleaned itself last night with the self-clean feature and I will wipe it out today.  We still haven't heard when, or if, the showing will be - but I figured that all this stuff needed to be done anyway.

This morning Tim is planning to pressure wash the outside of the house because those darned blind mosquitos are everywhere!!  Clay took some photos yesterday and last night and wants to do his own blog post, so I'm sure you'll get to see the pictures of those nasty things covering our windows.  Blech!!  He also got some amazing shots of our eagle - I'm telling you, he IS the bird whisperer.  Whenever I try to get close enough to get a better picture they fly away.  Clay managed to get halfway down the dock!

Keep your fingers crossed, say a prayer, or whatever works for you - that the people (hopefuly) looking at our house fall in love with it and want to offer full price!!  LOL  Well, I can dream can't I????

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Gus and other stuff...

Photos du jour of Gus/aka "Little Man"/aka "Pootie"

Isn't he getting so big?   Such a cutie.  Well, except for the little problem he still has occasionally.

Nothing exciting to report here.   I had a message from our realtor saying that we may have another showing on Saturday.  I love having a little notice to make sure it is clean!!

I have been debating whether or not to share the following if you are reading this, DO NOT tell Tim!!  My poor, computer-illiterate husband!

Tuesday night he came home just for the evening - he left for another three day trip the next morning.  So, in his defense I will say that he was very, anyway, Tim goes online to check the bank balance and make sure his paycheck was deposited, etc.  The next thing I hear is him harrumphing and yelling about how he is sick and tired of the kids always getting on the computer and messing everything up.  I ask what the problem is...and he informs me that he cannot log on because the kids have messed something up and the computer will only write in capital letters!!!!  Speechless?  Waiting for the punch line?  So was I!!  I told him that they didn't mess anything up, he needs to click the "caps lock" key.  He shrilly informs me (seriously, he was getting a little shrill) that he doesn't have any idea what that is and it is all the kid's fault, etc. etc.  I try to explain where the "caps lock" key is (Really?  Really?) and he stomps off to go terrorize our poor children for having the temerity to HIT THE CAPS LOCK KEY and   mess up his little system.  I fixed it for him, and all was well.  But, c'mon, really?  Later, once he'd calmed down I tried to tell him that he was being ridiculous and it wasn't the kid's fault that HE messed up.  So, then he informs me that it isn't his fault - no one ever explained this stuff to him - he never had a computer class!!!  Ahem.  As an aside, I'll just mention here that I HAVEN'T HAD A COMPUTER CLASS EITHER!!!  I mean, it's not rocket science, is it?  OK, I know you think I am exaggerating.  I'm not, I swear.  I couldn't make this stuff up.

Aaawww.....bless his heart!  Love you honey!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Lazy morning

Yesterday at 8:30 am I had a phone call from our realtor - yep, someone wanted to see the house.  In two hours.  YIKES!  Naturally, the house was a disaster (clothes everywhere from everyone trying to find clothes for a funeral and then a wedding...nothing fit anyone!) So...Paige and I ran around like crazy people getting the house clean.  The feedback?  Hmm, they're not sure if they even want waterfront.  He does, she doesn't.  He wants a sailboat, she doesn't.  He loved our house, except for the bugs (the blind mosquitos are swarming right now), she thought it was much too small for them and their two daughters.  Whatever.  At least my house is clean now!  :-))  By the time we got back home, it was almost time to pick Clay up from school.  I got to the school, and then realized I would have to wait because he had a makeup test in his AP class.  I sat for 35 minutes in the car with the sun shining right in my eyes - because, naturally, I forgot my sunglasses - and by the time he was finished with his test I had a raging headache.   The next thing on my "to-do" list was a trip to the grocery store, but I was SO NOT in the mood for that! I rummaged around in the pantry to see what I could throw together for dinner and found the cute little baby, orange lentils I bought when we were in France....I chopped up some celery, carrots, and onions and sauteed them, added chicken stock and the lentils and then added some rice.  It was delicious!  I'm going to tell Tim to look for some more when he is over there.  After dinner, I ran the kids to ballet and taekwondo.   By this time my head was killing I popped an Advil PM and hit the sack!

Today I am feeling very lazy.  The only thing that I HAVE to do is that grocery store run.  And fold a few clothes (The washer and dryer are very convenient hiding places!!)...And empty the dishwasher (another convenient hiding place).  And walk on the treadmill. (I didn't hide anything on the treadmill, but I am determined to get myself in shape!)  Huh.  I guess I'd better get appears that I have a bit more to do than I realized!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Yesterday afternoon I arrived at Clay's school a bit early for parent pick up, and then we rushed home so we could see the Shuttle Atlantis take off.  It was a beautiful, clear day so we had a great view of it!  Click here to see the photos I took which CNN may or may not have used!! I'm not sure because I was at Taekwondo with the kids.  Oh well.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Quote of the day

You may remember that we have the chalkboard paint on our pantry door, which I LOVE by the way!!  It's great for shopping lists, reminders, etc.  Lately, I have been finding famous quotations or bible verses and putting them up -  I found this one, and I love it.  I keep thinking about it.  It's Gandhi's version of "What would Jesus do?"

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A beautiful wedding...

The wedding was beautiful...the setting was at The Cummer Museum of Art, outside in the garden at sunset.  Fabulous food, with a southern theme (fried green tomatoes, pulled pork sandwiches, shrimp-n-grits...)  We arrived early so I could try to get some photos of the kids (I was hoping for the Christmas Card Photo) but I forgot the memory card for the good camera...still I managed to get a few good shots.  Who knows, you may be seeing one of these again in December!!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

As promised.... are the photos from the Nutcracker excerpts performed this morning at St. Catherine's Catholic Church...

Friday, November 13, 2009

Family Fun

The rehearsal dinner for my cousin Bailey's wedding was tonight and it was so wonderful to see all the family members that we don't get to see often enough!  

The happy couple, Larry and Bailey....and my beautiful cousins, Bailey and Mary Ashley (aka "Mash")

No more helicopter mom!

My friend Suzette (who also used to be a bit of a helicopter mom) told me she is making a conscious effort NOT to be one these days, and that life with her teenager has gotten much more pleasant - so I decided to take her advice and try to control my hovering instincts.  Clay just calls them my nagging instincts.  Whatever.

I told Clay at the end of the first quarter that I was not going to check his grades online anymore.  I told him that he knows what we expect, and what the consequences will be if he brings grades lower than a "B" home.  (No more facebook, no more cell phone, and definitely no more fishing!!)  Clay looked shocked, and said, "But what if I am getting good grades that I want you to see??!!"  I told him that he can always print them out to show me, but that I wasn't going to keep track of stuff and remind him about stuff anymore.  We are now at the end of the third week of the 2nd quarter, and Clay has come home every day, gone online and checked his grades, let his teachers know immediately if there were any mistakes, and has ALL "A'S" AND ONE (high) "B"!!  By the way, the "B" is in French.  May I just say that I am SO PROUD of him!!  And, may I also say, "Thank you, Suzette - you wise woman!!"  

I do admit to still doing a bit of helicoptering with his room and bathroom.  Hey, I'm a work in progress! And, really, that's just about sanitation!

In other news, Clay is on antibiotics for his ear infection and is feeling much better.  Clay and I are getting our hair cut today after I pick him up from school.  After that, we are going to my cousin Bailey's dress rehearsal dinner, and tomorrow is the wedding!  Also, tomorrow - Paige will be performing an excerpt from Nutcracker at St. Catherine's Church.  I can't wait to see her in her costume!  (Photos soon!)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Poor Clay

OK, I admit it - I haven't put all my Halloween decorations away yet.  But - Gus has discovered one of them, and he just loves playing hide-n-seek in the jack-o-lantern.  I don't have the heart to take it away from him.  Let's hope he gets bored with it before Christmas!!
Poor Clay told me yesterday his ear was really hurting...we got out the eardrops and started him on those (along with some Advil) hoping that would take care of it (sometimes it does). Unfortunately, he woke me up at 4:00 am to tell me it was REALLY hurting and the Advil wasn't helping.  So he's home from school today and we are taking him to the doctor in a couple of hours.  Hopefully, he'll start feeling better once we get some antibiotics in him!

On another note - may I just mention how much the bottom photo annoys me.  Please pay particular attention to the fact that you do not see any girl's shoes in that heap.  Ahem.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Bird Whisperer

The first photo is proof that miracles happen!  My children cooperating and cleaning the kitchen together.  Well, technically it's a photo of CLAY cleaning and Paige freaking out that the "blog papparazzi" is getting a picture of her in her headgear.  Wah wah wah.
The second photo is of a little bird that was stuck inside the pool enclosure.  Clay went out and chased the poor thing around for a while, and finally caught him.  Yes, caught him.  Clay is the bird whisperer.  Really.  Who remembers the little finch that Clay caught - which lived happily with our female finch and had several generations of little baby finches (which we then had to find homes for).  We named them Romeo and Juliet.  But I digress - the point is, Clay CAUGHT that little bird too!  Then there was the time a neighbor's parrot got out and was in our yard.  The man tried and tried to get the bird to come to him and it wouldn't.  He went home, and Clay went out in the yard with some grapes in his hand and just sat there talking to the bird.  That bird flew right into his hand, calm as could be.   So you see why I call Clay the bird whisperer.  I figure it is just a matter of time before....

THIS guy flies down to bond with him!!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

...and a time for every purpose under heaven.

Although we are all still so sad and melancholy, it is time to get back to work.  Paige is hitting the books again this morning after a visit to the orthodontist.  Tim is in Brussels, Clay is at school, and I am doing laundry, running the dishwasher, straightening up, etc.
Last night I heard from an old friend, out of the blue!  It was great to hear from him - we love hearing from our friends!  (hint...hint...)

"But you, O Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, and the one who lifts up my head."
Psalm 3:3

Friday, November 6, 2009

To everything there is a season...

We are all still incredibly sad, and still a bit in shock - the entire situation just feels unbelievable - but we are beginning to heal.  Clay has a strong support network in his youth group, and has begun to communicate with his former school friends from St. John's, which helps a lot.  This afternoon I am picking up Clay and some of his friends (who also went to St. John's last year) from the high school and taking them over to St. John's where they are having a memorial service for Kevin this afternoon.  Clay arranged all of this - calling St. John's to make sure it was OK for them to come, organizing everything....I will pick them all up after the memorial and bring them back to the house and feed them (hotdogs, chips???) and then I will take them back up to SJCDS for the football game.  Kevin was a football player, so there will be another short memorial before the game.  The students at St. Johns have also apparently designed t-shirts and made bracelets which they will be selling at the game, and giving the proceeds to Kevin and Katie's mother.  The funeral is Sunday.

I am (along with someone else from the church) making dinner for Dana's (the mother) family tomorrow (Yikes - for 25 people) and then the funeral is Sunday.  The point is that having something to do helps!  

We will move on, and life will get back to normal - but our hearts are heavy, and a part of my children's innocence has ben ripped away.  I have gotten so many messages of love and support from so many - and I want you all to know how much I appreciate it.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Tuesday, November 3rd was a terrible day.  (Click on link for entire story)  Katie (11) and Kevin (16) Whitelaw were killed by their father, who then shot himself...while their mother was taking a shower.  The parents had been going through a divorce.  We have known this family through church and schools for many years.  Clay and Kevin were good friends.  We used to give Katie the clothes Paige had outgrown.  Katie and Kevin were beautiful, sweet, loving children with gorgeous red hair.  

Clay and Paige are so shocked and devastated.  We have all shed many tears.  It is such an incomprehensible act.  I truly do not know how to explain this to my children - I can't fathom it myself!  Clay especially is having a hard time dealing with it.  He woke Tim and I up last night in the middle of the night because he kept having nightmares.  Our gangly, 15 year old boy then crawled into bed with us.   The kids wonder if their own daddy could ever do something like that.  Kids shouldn't have to wonder about stuff like that.  

There was a beautiful candlelight prayer service at the church last night.  Over 700 people attended.  The mother, my friend Dana, was there and it absolutely broke my heart.  The worst thing that can happen to a mother has happened.  

Please - pray for Dana Whitelaw.  She has an unbearably hard road ahead.  Please pray for my children as well - especially Clay.  Go hug your children.  Tell them you love them.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

How November is starting out for the VK's....

Tim left for a trip this morning, the kids were at their grandmother's...and I was planning on a mellow, relaxing day.  I started to color cover my gray....had the gunk all in my hair.  Then the phone rang.  Tim was on 295 when a board fell off a pickup truck in front of him and he had a blow out.  I quickly rinsed off my hair, threw on some clothes and drove out to (almost) the airport, picked Tim and the (bent) rim up and drove him to the airport to make his flight.  Then I drove back to Orange Park, found a tire store, bought a new tire....and headed back out to the airport.  Many thanks to my Uncle Craig, who came along and replaced the tire on Tim's car for me.  After that, I dropped Tim's car in the parking lot for him, and drove BACK AGAIN to Orange Park. It is 2:30 pm and I just got home.  Whew.

Tim was very lucky - you can see in the photo that his tire was just shredded - he could have had a serious accident.

All is well  now....but I am going to run to Publix, and then take a nap!
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