Our 2010 Christmas letter

December 18, 2010 Categories: Kid Stuff | 4 Comments  

I know I’ve severely neglected Mommy Brain. Our year was the craziest and hardest we’ve experienced in a long time, and I simply couldn’t find time to process and then write about what was going on. I’m not sure what the future of Mommy Brain will be – I am blogging at Books and Movies on an an almost daily basis, and I don’t know if I have the time or energy to maintain two blogs. In the meantime, though, here is the letter that is going out with our Christmas cards this week. Hopefully it will explain my length absence.

December 13, 2010

Dear family and friends,

I am writing to you on Natalie’s 14th birthday. I can hardly believe that time has gone by so quickly, and am very grateful that Natalie is doing so well after a particularly difficult year.

Our “hospital year” began with a trip to the emergency room in April when Natalie fell and cut her shin to the bone on our cat’s water dish. (The addition of Sam the Cat to our family is definitely one of the high points of our year!) After X-rays to make sure that she hadn’t damaged her growth plate, she was given eight stitches and we went home, having no idea that we would be back in the same place two months later for something much more serious.

On the last day of school, I took Nan back to the ER for what Kevin and I thought was appendicitis. A C/T scan revealed that a section of her intestines was inflamed. After an ambulance ride to Spokane and some more tests, she was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. Over the course of the summer, Natalie and I spent a total of 25 nights at Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital, culminating in bowel resection surgery in September. Fortunately, the surgery seems to have completely eradicated the inflammation and she is now in remission – a remission we hope will last as long as Kevin’s has (years). God is good and faithful – He gave us the strength to get through the summer, provided her healing through the surgeon’s hands, and provided encouragement, prayer, meals, childcare for the boys, and groceries through the grace of dear friends and family. Kevin and I are so proud of how Natalie handled the ordeal, including four weeks of eating nothing but clear liquids, getting her nutrition through an IV at night. She showed amazing grace beyond her age, and has decided that she will pursue a nursing degree after high school.

The boys were also wonderful throughout the summer, being patient with each other and understanding why I had to be away so much and why both Kevin and I were often worried, stressed, and cranky. And we did have one fantastic event in June – all three of my sisters, their husbands, and kids came to stay in Chewelah. It was the first time in years that we were all in the same place, and our time together was much too short.

Speaking of the boys, Noah is 12 now. He is taking Tae Kwon Do lessons again and has started guitar lessons, which he enjoys. He is changing so quickly, growing into a responsible and helpful young man with a kind heart.

Jonathan is 11, and all boy. He’s affectionate, active, and goofy, in the best possible way. He is taking a geography class and an astronomy class and doing well in his studies at home. And, of course, video games are very important!

Josiah is 9. Our baby is nine! He likes to play with the neighbor, build with his K’Nex and Legos and play video games with his brothers. And, in spite of his “advancing” age, he’ll still curl up on my lap and snuggle.

Kevin is doing well and – thank God – still working full time for R-Garden. He telecommutes from home most days. He has also built up a nice side business designing web sites for various businesses and acquaintances. In spite of the fact that much of our summer was taken up with Nan’s illness, he still managed to take the boys on some fun fishing trips. Lately, he’s been enjoying the snow, sledding and tubing with the boys.

Earlier this year, Kevin and his family suffered a loss as his older sister, Carol, lost her fight with cancer. It has especially been difficult for Kevin’s mom, and we are continuing to pray for her healing and comfort in her grief.

My days are busy as ever with homeschooling, homekeeping, and driving the kids to and from their various classes and extra-curricular activities. For a homeschooling family, we sure spend a lot of time in the van! I also continue to feed my book habit, with my book blog providing an outlet for writing and talking about books – and lots of free review copies.

The past few weeks have been difficult ones for me. I lost a close friend, who died suddenly, leaving behind three boys, ages 15, 12, and 9. It is times like this that it can be hard for me to see God’s plan, and I have to simply hold on to the hope we have in Him.

As we get ready to begin another year, Kevin and I are hoping that it will hold less – preferably NO – time in the hospital and more time camping and having fun with the kids. I’m hoping we can kick it off by using some of our tax refund to take a weekend away just the two of us – we need it!

I hope that this letter finds you all well and holding on to hope in spite of any challenges you’ve experienced in the past year. Here’s to 2011!

Love always,

The Kitzmillers
Kevin, Carrie, Natalie, Noah, Jonathan, and Josiah

Bullet points update

February 21, 2010 Categories: Books , Homeschooling , Kid Stuff , Movies | 4 Comments  

~ We have added a cat to our already crowded household. This is Sam with Natalie.

~ We have started the second half of our homeschooling year. All is going fairly well, although I have decided I am officially very tired of Shurley Grammer. This is not the curriculum’s fault – it’s a great curriculum, and has taught us things I never learned even in college classes, but we need a change and so will be trying Learning Language Arts Through Literature next year. Natalie has declared that decimals are from the devil and algebraic addition is the stuff of fantasy land. I am trying to help her understand that while she may never again use this information, she needs it to graduate from high school, and so must soldier on. All four kids are taking a PE class this semester that includes bowling and softball – and are loving it.

~ We have started attending a church. I am enjoying the Women’s Bible Study. That’s about as optimistic as I feel like being with our recent church experiences.

~ Kevin’s sister Carol is not doing well at all. Her cancer has progressed to the point where all they can really do is make her comfortable. Prayers would be much appreciated.

At Books and Movies lately:

~ Book Review: Candor by Pam Bachorz
~ Interview with Pam Jenoff, author of Almost Home
~ Book Review: Almost Home by Pam Jenoff
~ Book Review: King of the Mild Frontier: An Ill-Advised Autobiography by Chris Crutcher
~ Mini-review: U is for Undertow, City of Glass, and Wounded
~ Book Review: The Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby
~ Book Review: Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
~ Guest post: Patrick Taylor, author of The Irish Country Doctor series
~ Literary Road Trip: Author Kirby Larson
~ 2010 Ireland Reading Challenge
~ Book Review: Spellbinder by Helen Stringer
~ Book Review: The Summer We Fell Apart by Robin Antalek
~ Book Review: An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
~ Monday’s Movie: The Boys Are Back
~ Book Review: A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon
~ Literary Road Trip: Author Molly Blaisdell
~ Book Review: Eldest by Christopher Paolini
~ Monday’s Movie: Surrogates

Vocabulary lessons with Jonathan

February 17, 2010 Categories: Kid Stuff | 2 Comments  

Jonathan: Mom, what does “gaunt” mean?

Me: Very skinny to the point of looking sick.

Jonathan: Like Lindsay Lohan?

I know, I know….

January 21, 2010 Categories: Blogging , Kid Stuff , This and That | 4 Comments  

….it’s been a really long time since I posted here. My mom has informed me that she misses reading my posts and thinks that others probably do, too. I’m not so sure about that – but for the few of you that are still checking back here for updates about me and my life, here’s a quick bullet-points update:

~ We had a wonderful Christmas. Kevin and I and the kids headed south to Chewelah to my parents’ house on Christmas Eve afternoon. We had a wonderful dinner – homemade fried chicken a la Dad – and then headed to church for the Christmas Eve service, at which Natalie and I both sang. We stayed over at Mom and Dad’s and had Christmas morning there. The kids were thrilled with the Wii and played all day long – which resulted in a lot of sore arms the next day.

~ New Year’s Eve we spent with Michelle and Don. The boys played video games, while Michelle and Don and Kevin and I played Mad Gab and Scruples and enjoyed spinach dip and pomegranate martinis. I think that was the first time we were awake for ringing in the New Year in a while!

~ The latest Jonathan-ism occurred when we were having dinner at a friend’s house. He asked for a piece of “German shepherd cake,” rather than German chocolate. :)

~ The kids are getting ready to start second semester P.E. classes, which will include 10 weeks of bowling. They are all very excited.

~ Two of my sisters are dealing with health issues. Marni has been diagnosed with Graves’ disease, a thyroid condition. She’s on medication and hoping that it works and she doesn’t need more radical treatment. Andrea has Raynaud’s condition, which is lack of circulation to hands and feet that causes extreme cold. It sometimes occurs on its own; other times it can be an indicator of something else, like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis. We’re praying for the former.

~ Speaking of sisters, all three of my sisters, with their husbands and kids, will be visiting in June. I absolutely cannot wait.

Well, that’s all the personal stuff I can think of at the moment. Hope this finds all of you well in this first week of 2010.

Happy Birthday, Natalie

December 13, 2009 Categories: Kid Stuff | 1 Comment  

Thirteen years ago today, God gave us the incredible gift of a baby girl. Today, she is a teenager. I know that the adolescent years are supposed to be fraught with angst and rebellion and conflict – and I know there will probably be conflicts ahead – but so far, Natalie has been an utter and complete joy.

So, Natalie, I want you to know how proud your daddy and I are of you. You are a loving, vibrant, smart, beautiful girl, and I am so blessed to be your mom. Never forget that you are a treasure – not only to us, but to your Father who gave you life. I am so excited to watch you grow into the woman He wants you to be.

Happy Birthday, Natalie! I love you very much.

Jonathan’s food confusion

December 6, 2009 Categories: Kid Stuff | Comments Off  

For some reason, our third child has trouble remembering the names of foods. Or, to be more exact, he has trouble remembering how to say the names of foods. Here are a few of his most fun mistakes:

Hot-stickers (for pot-stickers)
Whack-a-moley (for guacamole)
Shirley Temper (for Shirley Temple)


Kid Quips

October 3, 2009 Categories: Kid Stuff | 3 Comments  

I brought home a new lamp for our bedroom the other day.

Natalie: Ancient Lamp?

Me: No, that says “accent lamp.”

Jonathan: It speaks?

Links for Friday – September 18, 2009

September 18, 2009 Categories: Books , Extreme Health Makeover , Kid Stuff , Movies , Reviews , Television , TV on DVD | Comments Off  

Today is Jonathan’s birthday – he’s turning 10. Which means that our house will be inundated with Playstation-playing boys this evening. Three extra boys, plus Natalie’s friend for a sleepover equals 8 kids in our tiny house. Kevin may run away.

I haven’t done an Extreme Health Makeover post in a couple weeks. We didn’t have a meeting on Labor Day and I had a week where I gained 1 1/2 pounds, then the next week lost 1 1/2 pounds, so no further loss so far. Workouts are going well – starting to get into a routine. Listening to the fourth Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants book on audio – makes the workouts go faster.

We’re in a routine with our homeschooling, too – the kids are doing well. The boys love the Horizons Math (we switched from Saxon). Natalie’s not completely thrilled with her history, though I don’t think that’s the curriculum’s fault. She’s enjoying her science and I’m enjoying the short stories we’re reading and discussing.

Even though my web surfing time has been seriously curtailed, I still managed to save a few links to share with you all:

~ Ten Scariest Sea Creatures – and Kevin wonders why the ocean is one of my biggest phobias.

~ The Telegraph: 50 Things That Are Being Killed By the Internet

~ New trailer for New Moon – two people in this house are very excited to see it.

~ Our own Andrea of HJ has an awesome post: Why I Still Homeschool

At Books and Movies recently:

~ Literary Road Trip: Author Jennifer Bradbury
~ Book Review: The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry
~ Whatcha Watchin’? Wednesday – Grey’s Anatomy: The Complete Fifth Season
~ Book Review: The Twelve by William Gladstone
~ Book blogs you should be reading
~ Still time to enter my BBAW Giveaway – win one of eight books. Enter by 11:59 pm PST tonight.
~ Book Review: Girls in Pants by Ann Brashares
~ Literary Road Trip: Author Terry Davis
~ Book Review: Holly’s Inbox by Holly Denham
~ Whatcha Watchin’? Wednesday – Monk: Season 7
~ Monday’s Movie Review: District 9
~ Book Review: The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Congratulations, Natalie!

August 29, 2009 Categories: Kid Stuff | 4 Comments  

Natalie performed at the fair this weekend, singing two songs. She made it through rounds one and two to perform in the Grand Championship, and was singled out for a special award for one of her songs. I am so proud of her! You can see the videos of both songs at Kevin’s blog.

Big catch-up post, plus some links

August 23, 2009 Categories: Books , Homeschooling , Kid Stuff , Movies , This and That , Videos | 1 Comment  

Whew – it’s been a whirlwind week, with no signs of slowing down. Adding in my weekly support meetings and weekly training sessions, plus three trips a week to the gym on my own, has made things feel very busy – not that I’m complaining, since it’s working. Plus we have one more week of summer vacation before our homeschooling year starts back up on the 31st, and the kids want to suck as much free time and fun up as they can, while they can, so there has been a lot of shuttling kids to the city pool and park.

Friday, the kids and I headed down to Silverwood for our once-a-year amusement park day. We went with a friend and her daughter. The kids all read their 10 hours (outside of school reading) for a free ticket. Why don’t they have a similar program for adults? My admission ticket was $43.75. Add to that snacks – not even a meal, just snacks, because they won’t let you bring in any of your own food – and it was a very expensive day. Glad it only happens once a year. And also grateful that they do have the reading program for kids, or we would never be able to afford it.

The kids were all at sleepovers last night, so Kevin and I went out to Mexican food to split an order of chicken fajitas, and then came home and watched Psych on DVD. I love that show. Slept in this morning. I have to go pick up the boys here in a couple of hours, and then this evening we head south to Mom and Dad’s to celebrate Mom’s birthday.

The upcoming week will be just as busy, but with fun stuff. We’re having an extra play date with Michelle Tuesday afternoon, because she leaves on her dream trip to Edinburgh and London on Thursday. For four weeks. Sob. I’m so happy for her that she gets to go, but what will I do without our weekly gabfests?

Then, next weekend is the fair, and Natalie is competing. She will be singing twice for auditions on Thursday, and then if she moves on, again for the Talent Show on Friday, and, possibly, the Grand Revue on Saturday. She had an extra lesson with her voice teacher on Saturday, and I cried: she sounded so beautiful and looked so grown up.

After our fair weekend, it’s time to get back into our school routine. I’m ready. I think the kids are, too, though they might not admit it.

Well, it’s almost time to go pick up the kids, and I haven’t even put my makeup on. I just have enough time to share the links I’ve been collecting:

~ Win some cool Simply Fun family games at 5 Minutes for Giveaways.

~ Sherry has a great post about Miley Cyrus’s recent exhibition of poor choices.

~ Project 2996 is a project for bloggers to help commemorate the Americans lost on 9/11.

~ Am I the only grammar geek who has dreamed of doing this?

~ This little boy is an amazing guitarist.

~ Ever feel stumped for the perfect retort? Check out this list of imaginative insults.

Here’s what’s been going on at Books and Movies lately (By the way, Books and Movies was nominated for two Book Blogger Appreciation Week Awards: Best General Review Blog and Best YA Lit Blog, so thanks to anyone who nominated me!):

~ Book Review: Daniel X: Watch the Skies by James Patterson & Ned Rust
~ Literary Road Trip: YA Author Chris Crutcher
~ Book Review: Sacred Hearts by Sarah Dunant
~ Book Review: The Penderwicks on Gardam Street by Jeanne Birdsall
~ Enter to win a copy of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows
~ Movie Review: Lost in Austen
~ Book Review: Ten Big Ones by Janet Evanovich
~ Some movie links and trailers
~ Author Interview: Elle Newmark, author The Book of Unholy Mischief
~ Book Review: Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon