Thursday, March 19, 2009

A Day at the Zoo

I don't often write posts about my personal life, because--quite frankly--it's usually pretty boring. However, every now and then, I do like to post some up-to-date pictures of the kids for those of you who are interested.

Before you read the rest of this post, however, please scroll down or click here to read my reflections on the first part of chapter five of Way of the Ascetics. I started this post about two days ago and saved it as a draft. I then finished it earlier today, but since I saved it as a draft before I posted the last two posts, it appeared before them. So, go read it right now. Don't miss it, because chapter five is great.

Are you back? Great! Now, I'll update you a little on the family.

Many of you know that my wife Jennifer was a full-time stay-at-home mom for the overwhelming majority of the first 14 years of our marriage. Beginning in the Fall of 2004, she began working toward becoming an SLP (Speech-Language Pathologist, the profession formerly known as "Speech Therapist."). This required her to earn a Master's degree in Communication Disorders. Because her undergraduate degree is in English and she had no coursework in CD, she had to complete 27 hours of undergraduate work before she could even BEGIN the Master's program.

And, as Providence would have it, only a couple of months before she began the first semester of undergraduate studies, we found out that we were going to be blessed with our fourth child, who turned out to be Christine. She was due in January. So, Jennifer toughed it out, did the first semester of studies, and then laid out for a whole year. She was finally able to finish the undergraduate work in July of 2006.

Then in August of that same year, she began the actual Master's program. She completed a whole year and was beginning preparations for the second and final year, when we began having problems with some of our kids. Jennifer and I jointly decided that it would be best for her to lay out another year, so that she could devote more attention to our children's needs. Thankfully, this worked very well.

Finally, last August, she began her final year of studies. This last year has been very intense. She has not had to take quite as many courses, but she HAS had to work a full-time internship both semesters. This semester, she is working at an elementary school in the same school district where I work. She only has one class this time, but she also has to take two major exams in mid-to-late April. She has to pass both exams in order to complete her degree and to receive her state license to be an SLP. By May 8 or so, she'll be totally done! We are all looking forward to her first school-free summer since '06!

This past week has been Spring Break (may it be praised!) for all of us. Jennifer needed a lot of time to study for her upcoming exams, and so I agreed to stay home and watch the kids each day while she went to the library and studied. So that the kids wouldn't be totally bored the whole time, I took them a few places. Yesterday morning we went to the Houston Zoo, where we have a membership (we get one each year, because the cost to do so is about the same as only two visits for the six of us).

Houston has a really good zoo, and going there makes for a great family outing. Trouble is, nearly every school district in the 3 million-plus-populated Houston metro area was also on Spring Break this week. I think that at least 10% if not more of that population also decided to go to the zoo or to one of the nearby parks or museums at the same time we did. Houston has some of the nation's worst traffic, and I got to experience it first-hand! (Thankfully, I normally don't). It took us about an hour and a half to make the 15-mile trip to the zoo, park, and get in. Normally, it takes about 30 minutes. By the time we got to the street that the zoo is on at around 10:30, the police weren't even allowing anyone to turn onto the street! The parking lot was totally full and sealed off. So, we drove around and around trying to find a place to park that wasn't ridiculously expensive or far away.

Fortunately, the kids were all very good and almost supernaturally patient. We parked at a museum about half a mile away and walked. Here are some pictures from the outing. Isn't it amazing how fast my kids are growing? Surely other kids don't grow this fast!

This is Audrey, my oldest, with her boyfriend Cobin, who is a freshman in college. Audrey will graduate from high school in June and will be attending the Honors College at the University of Houston this fall. She'll turn 18 in just over a month. I can't believe it.

Here's Courtney, our 10-year-old. She'll also be changing schools next year, moving from her elementary school (here they have only grades K-4) to one of our new 5th and 6th grade campuses.

Beth, who will be 8 in June, is just about to finish second grade. She just entered her first karate tournament and won her match. Tomorrow, she'll try for her yellow belt (and almost surely get it).

Here's Christine, the runt of the litter. She just turned 4 a couple of months ago. She won't even start kindergarten until the fall of 2010. Yes, that means that this fall, I'll have a preschooler and a college student simultaneously!

And here's one more with me and the three youngest. Note my "Longhorn Football" shirt. Go horns!

May the Lord bless you all. Tomorrow, we'll get back into Way of the Ascetics.


Clint said...

Awesome pics!

I know Beth will do well as she goes for her yellow belt.

I am glad they were good for you during the long drive. As you said, supernatural...

s-p said...

Very nice. We have kids from 30 to 16 and all points in between. Enjoy them while you can, they leave too quickly.

d.burns said...

Don't forget the Rodeo/Carnival durring spring break.....

Rachael said...

Oh, fun! I love the zoo. I've been itching to take my girls there lately. Glad y'all had a good time! The weather has been perfect for this kind of thing lately. :)

elizabeth said...

I always love hearing about your family Fr. James! Thanks for sharing!

Katrina said...

I've heard that the Houston Zoo is amazing. Terrific pictures! I'll be taking my own kids to the Phoenix Zoo on Monday, the last day of our marathon 2 week and 1 day spring break.

BTW, and I have said this before, your wife rocks! She is an inspiration for all mommies and wives!

Fr. James Early said...

Thank you all for the kind words. And Katrina, you are right. My wife does indeed rock. She somehow manages to juggle being a wife, a mother, a student, and a Khouria/presvytera/matushka, and she does it all well. She has much more stamina than I do!

Dionysios said...

Father, bless!

Thanks for posting these pictures; you made us feel like been there with you.

Merry Christmas! (just nine months away)