Jaxty's Place

My place to ramble about my family, my crafts, my travels and life.

He did it!


Zack actually graduated high school!


We are so very grateful for Lighthouse Christian School for getting him through his last two years of high school and awarding him his diploma.


We are not sure how he would have done it without the blessing of that school.


The extremely small class sizes, personalized educational plan and love and patience of the teachers was invaluable.


It was just what Zack needed to get through this major milestone.


We are so happy that 3 out of 4 of his grandparents could be there for his big day.


Since it was “Red Nose Day” for charity, Grandma Sandy thought it only appropriate that we got one picture with our red noses.


Zack’s graduation present was his very first suit…something that he has really wanted for the past year. He sure looked good in it!


Now Zack looks dapper when he asks “who wants to hire me?”


Congratulations Zack on your accomplishment!




Zack’s Post High-School Plans

My baby is graduating high school!


I can’t believe we are almost empty-nesters (sort of…Zack won’t actually be leaving home for a while).


Carl and I have been talking with Zack regarding his future plans for the past few years. We are all realistic that Zack is not college-bound due to his learning difficulties and lack of motivation.


We have been steering him in the direction of the military or technical school. We have specifically mentioned that electrician, plumber or auto mechanic would be good fields for him to consider.


After Kelly recently mentioned that she took the Strong Interest Inventory as part of a graduate class, it reminded me that that test was how I became a Speech-Language Pathologist. I entered college as a pre-veterinary student. After my first biology class, I quickly realized that blood and guts were not my thing. Unsure what to do then, I went to the guidance office and was given the Strong Interest Inventory. When Speech-Language Pathology appeared at the top of the list (home economics teacher and nurse were up there as well), I took an introductory class and decided that it would be a good choice for me (and it was)!


So I looked online and found the test and had Zack take it as well.


And boy did Carl and I hit it spot on…Military, Electrician and Auto Mechanic all appeared in Zack’s Top 10!

These careers did not….


Ha! I get the sense that English/writing is not his strong suit. And having no filter and being very blunt doesn’t make for a great religious leader.

So Zack has decided to enroll in the local tech college for his electrical certification to pursue a career as an electrician. I hope that he finds much success in his chosen career path. We wish him all the best and are very proud of him for actually graduating!

I thank our friends, Michelle and John, for sharing their beautiful river-front property with me to take Zack’s senior photos while my mom and Sis were here.


To see some more of Zack’s (unedited) photos, see below:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


A Return to Paradise

…for Anthony that is!


If you recall, Anthony was blessed with an amazing opportunity to be a camp counselor at Camp Homelani on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii last summer. This week he was again offered a position with the camp for this coming summer. However, instead of being a camp counselor, Anthony will be the “Surfer Lead.” This position does not mean that he will be in charge of surfing but that he will be in charge of a cleaning/maintenance crew. It will give him more free time (that’s where the surfing will come into play) and a slightly larger stipend each week. Hooray for Anthony!


He will be finishing up his sophomore year of college in about a month and then heading to a friend’s house in Seattle, Washington for a week. From there, he will leave for Hawaii for the summer for more visiting with friends before camp begins. At the end of the summer he will return to Jacksonville to visit us before Anthony and I get to bond during our 3-day road trip back to Phoenix with his pickup truck. Good times!


We are very proud of Anthony and excited for his second summer in paradise.


Congratulations, Anthony!

(Photos “borrowed” from Anthony’s Instagram account from last summer.)




Kelly Visits Memphis

Since the in-laws weren’t able to come for Christmas, the kids really missed spending time with their grandparents. So I was very impressed and proud of Kelly and Avram for deciding to go to Memphis for a long-weekend to visit with the grandparents and Aunt Leslie.


While in Memphis, they visited our first house together, the one were we lived when Kelly was born.


They did some thrift-store shopping at some of Grandma Sue’s favorite places.


They played games together.



And of course, there was lots of yummy food and some “adult beverages” for those that wanted them.


I’m so glad that my kids enjoy time with their grandparents and take time out of their busy schedules to visit and/or call them on occasion. I think we did something right to raise such thoughtful, caring children that value family-time together.


I’m glad that you all had a great visit!



I forgot to mention here that Zack got a new job after the new year.


After a full year at Chick-fil-A, he has moved on to Lowe’s Home Improvement Center. He is working every Monday through Friday from 4pm until 10pm each night unloading the delivery truck.


He is enjoying his hefty paychecks and not having to deal with the public. It’s good, hard manual labor at it’s finest!


As far as what comes next after his high school graduation in May, he has no idea...looks like he may be working at Lowe’s full-time until he makes a decision.

Congratulations on the new job, Zack!


Kelly’s Visit

It was so nice to have Kelly home with us for 8 days over the Christmas holiday and we were very glad to have her boyfriend, Avram join us for most of that time as well. It was really great to spend time with both of them. Some other noteworthy things that we did included eating lots of yummy meals together, including “make-your-own pizza” night.


We enjoyed several bonfires while they were here.


We played many games together.


We even played a complete game of 12-dot dominoes. Carl and Anthony knew that it was very close between them. They began making bets with the loser having to jump in the pool or go surfing without a wetsuit being thrown out there. They waited anxiously as the scores were tallied up.


Ha! And then it was a dead-tie, which was amazing since Anthony won 6 rounds and Carl only won two…but Anthony had some high point rounds. Both of them were relieved to not be on the losing side of a bet.

We went to Mickler’s beach one afternoon and although it was warm and sunny at our house, it was cool (60s), windy and foggy/cloudy at the beach. That didn’t stop Avram from taking a dip in the ocean. Crazy Minnesotan…although it probably felt like the MN lakes in the dead of summer :).


For their last afternoon in JAX, we went to the beach again and it was a much better day.


It was warmer, much less windy and with bright, shining sun.


Perfect way to end their visit!

One evening, Kelly, Avram and Zack drove downtown to see the city at night and another day Kelly and Avram spent the day in St. Augustine. Kelly, Avram and Zack also had a good time thrift-store shopping and Kelly and Avram picked up a whole bag full of new clothes for super-cheap. Score! (No photos though of any of those events).


We loved our family time together and are so happy that Kelly and Avram came to spend time with us for Christmas. I dread the day when we can’t all be together at this time of year. We hope to see them in June…I am thinking of visiting MN this summer when Carl goes to shoot the second dance recital. Until then, we love you and miss you already, Kelly and Avram!




St. Augustine Alligator Farm

All of our children are home!

Kids (1).JPG

Anthony arrived last Wednesday evening and Kelly arrived this past Tuesday. We are so very happy to have them with us to celebrate Christmas.

On Thursday, Kelly and I decided to be tourists and visit the St. Augustine Alligator Farm (Carl was working and the boys declined to come…they missed out!).

This park features all known species of the world’s living crocodilians. The St. Augustine Alligator Farm is now the only facility in the world exhibiting living specimens of all 24 currently recognized species of crocodilian.


There was a funny crosswalk sign outside the Alligator Farm that made us laugh.


It was way more interesting than we thought it would be. We arrived just in time to see the Alligator feeding. There were about 35 gators crowded around the feeding stand, just waiting for a tasty morsel.


We saw baby alligators that were oh, so cute!


We saw the Albino Alligator.


We saw Albino babies (which do not come from Albino adults actually but are just an anomaly of nature).


We saw the wooden alligator carved from one piece of tree.


We saw birds, snakes, lemurs, turtles and other animals as well.


I think the baby alligators were our favorite, especially these babies sleeping on their mama.


The $24 admission ($22 with our AAA discount) is a little steep but it was interesting to see. It takes just over an hour to walk the whole park. There are some educational programs throughout the day as well but we didn’t watch any of them.gatorfarm-12Thanks for going with me Kelly. I enjoyed it!


Zack’s 18th Birthday

I was going to write Zack a sappy, reminiscing blog post for his 18th birthday and then I realized that I already did that last year  :). You’re welcome, Zack. The big change from that post is that Zack has held a steady job at Chick-fil-A for nearly a year now, in addition to his work at the stadium during home Jaguar games selling merchandise. He also seems to be narrowing in on a career path with an interest as an automotive repair technician. We need to set up an appointment at the technical college to check it out.

Zack loves the fact that Florida acknowledges Veteran’s Day (which is always on his birthday) with no school since that was not the case in Minnesota. Zack decided that he wanted to see a movie for his birthday. But first, we stopped for lunch at Arby’s.


Then we went to the theater and saw “Doctor Strange.” Zack liked it. I thought it was “meh.”

After Carl got home from work, it was Zack’s choice for the third year running to eat at Buffalo Wild Wings.



Afterwards, Zack got to open his cards, including one of my most favorite cards created by me :).


Even Zack was impressed and stated “that’s actually very cool.”

We are grateful for Zack and look forward to seeing what his adulthood brings!


Happy 18th Birthday Zackary!


The Russian

Many of you have already heard the story of our youngest child, Zack, who was adopted from Russia and shared a last name with me. His adoption story is truly miraculous and many within the family have wondered if he could really be related to my long-lost great, great-uncle. When I was in Chicago with Aunt Sandra last month, some of the women that we had dinner with one evening were talking about the genetic ancestry testing that they had completed. That got Aunt Sandra and I talking and with her financial backing, I ordered an ancestry composition test from 23andme.

A few weeks ago, the kit arrived and after having Zack fill up a test tube with his spit, I sent it off and waited for the results. They said it would be a 6-week wait but in under two weeks, the results arrived. And what did it show?


Eastern European 79.3% (Teal)

Eastern Europe, represented by people of Ukraine, Russia, Poland, Lithuania and Hungary, is bordered on the east by the Ural Mountains. Although there are no such geographic borders to the west, eastern Europe has been distinct from European countries to the west in terms of cultural and linguistic affiliations.*

Northwestern European 9.8% 
Northwestern Europeans are represented by people from as far west as Ireland, as far north as Norway, as far east as Finland, and as far south as France. These countries rim the North and Baltic Seas, and have been connected throughout much of history by those waters.
Finnish 6.7% (Black)
Finland has been occupied continuously since the end of the last ice age. Despite their proximity to Scandinavia, many Finns speak a language more closely related to Hungarian than to most Scandinavian languages, which have similarities to English and German.
Broadly Northwestern European 3.1% (Light Blue)
Northwestern Europeans are represented by people from as far west as Ireland, as far north as Norway, as far east as Finland, and as far south as France. These countries rim the North and Baltic Seas, and have been connected throughout much of history by those waters.
Southern European 3.2% (Dark Blue)
Southern Europe, including the Iberian, Italian, and Balkan peninsulas as well as the island of Sardinia, is a region defined in great part by the Mediterranean Sea. The Mediterranean has provided transportation routes, keeping these regions connected.
Balkan 2.5%
Located in the southeastern corner of Europe, the mountainous Balkans are rich in both cultural and linguistic diversity.
Broadly Southern European 0.7%
Southern Europe, including the Iberian, Italian, and Balkan peninsulas as well as the island of Sardinia, is a region defined in great part by the Mediterranean Sea. The Mediterranean has provided transportation routes, keeping these regions connected.
Broadly European 7.6%

Much of Europe was buried under miles of ice ten thousand years ago. As the glaciers receded over millennia, Neolithic farmers from the Near East joined Paleolithic hunter-gatherers to settle Europe.

*So what this means is that these tests do not break down the regions into small enough categories to distinguish Russian from Lithuanian ancestry. Darn it. We still can’t tell if Zack’s great, great, great-grand relatives were Lithuanian. 
I was encouraged by 23 and me vs. other ancestry DNA tests because it said it was able to look at the maternal and paternal lines separately.
All that they results showed me were Zack’s Maternal Haplogroup was D4j:
and his Paternal Haplogroup was R1a1a:

So again, this didn’t really help me figure out if we were long-lost relatives.

However, based on other people who have given their DNA to 23andMe, they did identify 1260 potential relatives…third to sixth cousins or distant relatives that share less than 1% (.09% to .55%) of identical or overlapping DNA segments, indicating a common ancestor. It makes me want to do the test myself, or send in my dad’s DNA (since it would be an even stronger connection since he’s a generation back) to see if they find any common DNA between Zack and myself or my father.

The 23 and me reports also included things like 22 Trait reports.

This included things like, based on his genetic makeup…
    • Zack is 98% likely to have lighter eyes (he does)
    • Zack is 96% likely to have lighter skin (he does, for sure!)
    • Zack is 87% likely to have light hair (he does)
    • Zack is 72% likely to have straight or wavy hair (I’m not sure if you’d consider Zack’s hair wavy or curly….there’s a 16% chance he’d have big curls so he might fall in that category if you categorize it more curly than wavy.)
    • Zack is 81% likely to have no hair loss before the age of 40 years
    • Zack is 84% likely to have no bald spot

The report also gave us information such as:

  • Zack, is unlikely to flush after drinking alcohol. The alcohol flush reaction is characterized by redness or flushing of the face or neck after consuming alcohol. You likely can break down alcohol normally.
  • Zack is less likely to be a deep sleeper.  Zack, people with your genetic result tend to have typical sleep depth.
  • Zack is unlikely to be a sprinter. Zack, your fast-twitch muscle fibers likely do not have the alpha-actinin-3 protein. Endurance athletes tend to have more slow-twitch muscle, while sprinters tend to have more fast-twitch muscle. Some of the variation in fast-twitch muscle depends on a protein called alpha-actinin-3.
  • Zack is likely to exhibit typical or less movement during sleep.  Zack, people with your genetic result tend to have about 10 limb movements per hour of sleep.
  • Zack is likely lactose intolerant.  Zack, you likely do not produce the lactase enzyme.

Finally, 23andMe did not detect any variants for carrier status of 39 different gene disorders, such as autosomal recessive polycycstic kidney disease, cystic fibrosis, glycogen storage disease, phenylketonuria and related disorders or sickle-cell anemia.

Although there was a ton of information, there was nothing really earth-shattering or unexpected in the reports. It did NOT help to solve the question of whether Zack and I are actually related by a common ancestor three generations back. But Zack can bask in the knowledge that he is at least 80% Russian with some other European countries thrown in just for fun.

Thanks for trying Aunt Sandra!


Wordless Wednesday: Senior Year!

This is the best photo I could capture…fleeing teenager who won’t stand still for the camera!

Best of luck on your senior year, Zack! Keep your head down and your mouth shut. Let’s make it through senior year without any major incidents, suspensions and/or a revocation of driving privileges.