Friday, December 29, 2017

Rhodes Report 2017

If you haven't gotten our annual letter in the mail - don't read the below!  I'm trying to get the year wrapped up within the actual calendar year.  The letters will go out next week!

We hope that you have had some time over the holidays to sit back and reflect on your year.  As we have reminisced, our family's motto continues to be: "Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!  His faithful love endures forever!"

Ah, 2017…… What a year.  It seemed like non-stop busy-ness from one end to the other!
In February, my mom and sister Lurenda went overseas.  They got to do some sightseeing in London during a layover, and see all the sights of the Zimbabwe region while visiting my younger sister Carlsie and her husband Jono and his family.  My dad ended up having emergency surgery while they were gone, to repair a twisted intestine.  The doctor said that the blood supply had been cut off, and he was possibly within an hour of life-threatening damage.  We were so grateful that Dad happened to be with a friend who drove him straight to the hospital, and not working outside on the farm alone.  I moved to the farm with the kids to play nurse until the travelers returned, while my brother JC and neighbors took care of the animals.  Dad had a few "fun" months after that, with multiple trips to the emergency room (the first due to a stomach bug our kids were so kind to share), a kidney stone, and gall bladder surgery.  But now, six months later, he's going strong!  (Thanks to Mom's good care, I'm sure!)
We celebrated 13 years of marriage on March 20.  Lucky 13!  It's been the best one yet!
Carlsie and Jono moved home from Africa in March.  Later that month, Zadie, Elsa, and I took a road trip with Carlsie to northeast Arkansas (about 8 hours) for a job interview for Carlsie.  It was a relaxing time for me, not having to worry about teaching, enjoying beautiful drives, and good conversations with Carlsie.  The little girls and I browsed the small town during her interview, and enjoyed the hotel's pool and hot tub.  The ride home was a bit long with a baby who was DONE with being in the car, and a small girl who couldn't decide about going to the bathroom.  Even though Carlsie decided against taking the job, I still count it as a good trip.
Over the spring, Paul and I designed and built a patio to connect our two decks.  We used pea gravel, native rock, and lumber, and we are thrilled with how it turned out!  Paul designed and built custom patio furniture.  We bought colorful cushions for the couches, and now have a perfect outdoor oasis to enjoy.
We went on our first "real" family vacation in May (“real” in that it didn't include staying with family).  When we asked the kids what they wanted to do for a vacation, they said, "Go to a hotel with a pool!"  We went to Omaha to visit their zoo, and stayed in a 3-room hotel suite (2 bedrooms and a living/kitchen) with an indoor pool and breakfast buffet.  Everyone was happy!  Our luggage consisted of 1 duffel bag (for all 7 of us!), a diaper bag, and a stroller.  After this experience with packing light, I plan to travel that way from now on!
Two days after we returned home, we got a "hail" of a storm.  Golf-ball sized hail pounded our home for a half hour.  It totaled both cars, destroyed our brand-new roof (6 months old), and all the siding and trim on two sides of the house.  (No broken windows!)  It completely broke out the skylight panels on the barn roof, and decimated the trees, garden, and flowerbeds.  When it was over, it looked like mid-January outside - the ground was white, the trees were bare.  (And it was cold!)  It took over 24 hours for the piles of hailstones from our roof to melt.  Thankfully, no one - and no pets - were hurt.  Insurance payout wasn't as great as we'd hoped for the house, but the payout for totalling our cars will cover all the home repairs plus some upgrades.
June was busy with teaching at a Vacation Bible School in Homewood, and an outdoor Bible club in Pomona.
In July, the elders of our church asked me if I would head up our Awana ministry.  (Awana is a Bible-based children’s ministry that is held in churches worldwide.)  I head up the planning and administration, but the volunteer leaders are the ones who really carry the club, and they are doing a fantastic job!  I feel like there are some things I personally could do better, but there is the un-ending "not enough time" factor that seems to plague everyone.  But our club is operating smoothly (for the most part) and has grown, and I can only give that glory to God. I love the ministry of Awana (  It had an impact on both Paul & I in our childhood and teen years.  Now our own children are growing to know, love, and serve the Lord Jesus through the ministry of Awana.  
This fall, Paul and I attended a church leadership retreat, and an Awana LEAD conference, and were challenged regarding our personal spiritual lives, and leadership methods and abilities.  We also both separately attended Encounters, and were again challenged regarding different areas of our lives.  It is so wonderful to draw closer together as we draw closer to God.  
In September, we started our home school year with 4 children.  (Yes, 4.)  What an adventure!  Gideon was only 3, but so stinking smart (and in need of something to distract him from destruction during school hours!) that we decided to put him in Kindergarten with Zadie.  We figured I could teach them both letters and numbers at the same time.  After about 2 months, I realized this was not the best situation - Zadie was learning quickly, and whereas Gideon was learning all his letters and sounds also, his motor and attention skills were far behind Zadie.  So, creating more work - by schooling them separately - has actually made my life easier.  Home-schooling has its days of absolutely maddening frustration (this year, many of them!), but it also has times of deep satisfaction, like listening to your child read or explain fractions and realizing you taught them every single thing they know.
We bought a handgun in the spring, and I surprised Paul with a shot gun for his birthday in July.  He has enjoyed practicing shooting with both guns.  (He has ridiculously good natural ability.)  In November, he went pheasant hunting with the brothers-in-law (JC, Keith, and Jono) and my dad.  We enjoyed smoked pheasant for our Thanksgiving meal. :)
At Paul's work, teams were challenged to come up with a production problem at work, and use a specific set of steps (the "Kaizan Spiral") to identify, troubleshoot, and resolve the issue.  His team won their plant-wide competition, so they went to Atlanta in November to present it at the U.S. Corporate meeting.  Paul’s team won second there, and will be going to Brussels, Belgium, in February to present it at the AGC worldwide competition!
Our family participated in the 15th annual Bethlehem outreach that our church puts on.  This year, I was "lead angel" in charge of 7 angels ages 10 and under (including 3 of our own) - oh my!  Paul was given a new part, portraying a rabbi at the synagogue, reading prophecies of the coming Messiah.  Grandma Janice kept the two littlest ones at home and out of trouble.  We really appreciate all the ways Paul's parents help us out with the kids and with projects. 
With a family this large, you knew a letter couldn’t be short!  But I won’t bore you with more details, and instead will wish you the happiest of New Years!  We invite you to stop by any time you are near, and we will catch up in person – we don’t take this circus on the road that often, so chances are you’ll catch us at home.  

Much love,
Paul & Rachel
Nathan, Jacob, Zadie, Gideon, and Elsa

Updates on the kids individually:

Nathan turned 10 in September.  It's hard to believe that we have been doing this parent thing for 10 years!  Nathan is very much a leader, taking charge during play time and even leading his brothers in Bible reading times in their room.  (He also attempts to be the teacher during school, which does not go over well.)  He excels at memorization, and does well at memorizing verses for Awana and complete poems for school.  He does very well in Math and Handwriting (hallelujah!) but struggles in Spelling.  (Details are not his strong point.)  He is an excellent help on anything we need, and loves working alongside Paul in the shop.  He and Jacob almost completely took over the yard work, and they kept it looking excellent all summer long.  Nathan says his favorite things are Legos, cats, army/military, Star Wars, and nachos.

Jacob turned 8 in October.  He is definitely a follower, which makes for peaceful interaction between the two big boys.  He does well in school, but we struggle with how to motivate him.  (He's a lot like his mother!)  He and another boy lead their Sparks (K-2nd) group in Awana memorization, which is solely of his own, other than me adding it to his school list as a reminder to spend time on it.  Jacob wants to mow the yard constantly, which would work if he was heavy enough to hold the seat down!  So instead he push-mows and rakes.  He loves helping out, but also doesn’t want to leave the familiar (mom).  He says he wants to be a farmer when he grows up.  Jacob says his favorite things are Legos, playing outside, riding his bike, tractors, dinosaurs, camouflage, and mac & cheese.
In April, Zadie turned 5!   Zadie is definitely a princess.  She is obsessed with clothes and shoes (which we don't encourage), and has mastered issuing orders.  Yet despite this, she will often put on her hand-me-down camo and join the boys on their expeditions in the pasture.  She is a sass, but has a very tender and sensitive heart, as well.  Zadie asked Jesus to be her Savior early this year - there is no greater joy as parents.  She is in her first year of Sparks in Awana and is absolutely loving it.  Zadie started Kindergarten this year.  She eventually figured out all the sounds and names of the letters, but the more she’s learned, the more she wants to learn!  (Hooray!  Finally!)  She loves drawing pictures, writing her letters, her "girl" Legos, Beauty and the Beast, riding her bike, peanut butter sandwiches, and pizza.
Gideon turned 4 in December.  People constantly comment on how good his vocabulary is, and how quick he is to figure things out.  He drags Paul’s tools out and “builds” things most times he is outside.  He figured out his letters and sounds fairly well in school, but has no interest in numbers.  (Everything is “3!!!” – his age until this month.) But this cleverness coupled with being the 4th child (that the older 3 don't listen to) often leads to frustration and temper tantrums when he feels he is not being heard.  He is in his first year of Cubbies in Awana, and loves it!  He is a charmer, and knows exactly who will fall for his big, blinking eyes.  (Not his parents! ……usually.)  His favorite things include sugar (in any form), milk, Curious George, toy tractors, and building with "big Legos.” 
In March, Elsa turned 1!  She is a happy girl, full of cheesy grins.  She's a smart little thing, and is just as curious as her littlest big brother.  (I foresee trouble in the future when those two get together!)  She is very much a mama's girl, and wants to be near me at all times – yet when we’re home she is Miss Independence, fetching and carrying and dressing up all over the house!  She's not talking yet (sometimes I wonder if that's deliberate), except for one word – “GO!” which comes in handy, because she is potty trained!  (Her decision.)  We all love having this little golden redhead as part of our family.  Her favorite things include shoes, "cheesing" for the camera, "baby sauce" (apple sauce pouches), and watching Shaun the Sheep on YouTube. 

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