Thursday, June 30, 2016

Summer Diet Plan--A New Twist

When I started my Whole30 back in April, my friend Lisa messaged me to tell me what her husband, an Army doctor, had discovered in his search for diet success.  He started eating only during a 3-4 hour window, from around 4:00-8:00 PM, mainly vegetables and whole grains, with meat once a week.  He lost 25 pounds in 3 months, and he said it only took him about 2 weeks to adjust and not feel so hungry.

Well, of course I immediately rejected that as insane because I could never imagine going without breakfast, much less not eating most of the day!  My thought was, "I'd rather look pregnant . . ."

As swim season started out, we had practices in the evening for the first 3 weeks.  That meant we had people swimming from 5:30-7:30 every night, and it made dinner really tricky.  I had already not been eating after dinner, and after a few days it dawned on me that it really would just be better all around if I could have dinner ready (and me be done eating it) by 5:15, when we needed to leave for swimming.  This meant I had to start thinking about dinner by like 3:30, so I felt like my afternoon was really cut short, but that's what I started doing.

Well, it was only a short hop, skip, and a jump in logic to wonder what would happen if I shortened my eating window on the front end too.  I really wanted to be able to eat whatever I was making for the family to eat for dinner, because it was hard enough getting everyone out the door at 5:15, and I couldn't deal with making a separate thing for me.  So I started backing up my first meal of the day until lunchtime, and eventually to around 1:00, so I was eating only between 1:00 and about 5:15--closer than I had ever dreamed of being to that 4 hour window.  Of course, I was NOT eating mainly vegetables and whole grains, with meat once a week!  I ate a cupcake to celebrate Nathan's birthday, and some things like that, but only in the afternoon.

At first it really was hard.  I thought about food pretty constantly, and I felt like I was just spinning my wheels, not really accomplishing very much, until I could finally eat (and that was back when I was starting to eat at 11:00!).  And then once I felt full, I only had a brief window of time to do things before I had to start on dinner.  It was choppy.  But that did eventually get better, although I don't know if I would say I've completely "adjusted".  I lost another 2 pounds, which is not incredible, but remember, I was eating things in the afternoon that were not particularly healthy, and I was eating regular stuff for dinner, even the occasional slice of pizza.

Things kind of took a turn for the worse as we switched to morning practice.  I knew we don't usually eat dinner so early, so I started trying to move my window of eating later in the day, like from 3:00-7:00.  That was *really* hard.  Again, all I could concentrate on was food, and since I started eating so late, there was really no time when I got lots done!

The good thing about morning practice is that I walk every day while Micah and Faith are practicing, but that bad thing is that means I'm not doing the Bow-flex weights anymore.  And also, I'm finishing my walk by 8:30, but then I still have hours to go before eating, so I am definitely hungry and not focusing extremely well after that (but surprisingly not light-headed or any other symptom of crashing blood sugar, not even a headache).  Also, once I finished eating at 7:00, I still felt really full by bedtime, and I didn't sleep as well.  Plus my kids seemed to engage in a coordinated attack on my sleep, by Drew and Verity crying for several nights at random times for no discernible reason, and by Jonathan needing to go to the ER until 4:00 AM.  Several days of poor sleeping resulted in a mouth full of cancer sores, including one on the back of my throat.  I thought I had strep throat because my throat was so sore!

I stopped feeling so good and healthy, and in fact, I was slightly nostalgic for the "good old days" of Whole30.  I never thought I'd have a rosy memory of that month, lol.  I did more reading about intermittent fasting, and it seems I'm probably doing the 4 hour window thing a bit wrong, because it seems like Lisa was describing the "Warrior Diet", which has a lot to do with your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, and in fact you really are supposed to eat before bed, to help the body recuperate.  I honestly felt a lot better eating in the 1:00-5:00 window, though.  I will say that I no longer miss breakfast, and I've even been able to make a 4 hour trip to Bethesda for doctor appointments, go to Sams and Walmart, and do a lot of other things without eating breakfast, and I actually feel just fine.  It's really going past 1:00 that gets hard for me, so I am probably going to lengthen my window so I start eating then again for the next little while.

I'm sure eating a Whole30 diet and having a short eating window would be a great combination, but the whole point of me trying something different was so that I didn't *have* to eat paleo all the time, especially as we do some traveling.  So far I haven't really found anything that seems really sustainable, long-term and during the school year especially, except for my plan of eating a paleo breakfast and lunch, and then a regular dinner (and eating it as early as possible, I guess).  I never thought I'd ever be able to only eat during a 4 hour window, though, so I have to say I am pretty proud of myself.  This has definitely been an interesting experiment in eating patterns!  I've noticed I don't eat as many vegetables as I did on Whole30 because 1) I'm not eating them with breakfast, and 2) by the time it is time to eat, I often just heat up leftovers because I am *so* hungry, instead of making a big salad or whatever.  I know I need to increase my intake again, and I think that probably starting to eat at noon or 1:00 will help with that.  I shall continue experimenting!

Oh, I should also mention as far as results go, that I have not lost a single bit more around the waist, so this post-10-pregnancies tummy is going to be incredibly stubborn, I'm afraid.  I have lost inches on my thighs, but who really cares??  No one looks at them and asks me when the next one is due!

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Excursions, Planned and Unplanned

Thursday night Bob and I took Anna, Grace, Faith, and Micah to see Riverdance!  Through Wolf Trap's "Youth and the Arts" program, we could buy 3 adult tickets and get 3 kid tickets for free, so while it was still expensive, it was a lot less so.  Since Luke and Caleb are both away at encampment this week, Jonathan stayed home to watch Drew and Verity.  He was going for the coveted "best big brother of the week" award, because he gave them ice cream AND made popcorn for them while they watched "Brave".

We had a fantastic time at Riverdance.  The skies threatened rain the whole time, but it never happened, which was good for the people who were seated on the lawn!  The kids have all watched the video cassette of Riverdance that we have, so they knew what to expect, but it is so electrifying to see and hear it in person.  Even Micah was enthralled!  Irish dancing is another of those things I wish I had learned during the time after we moved to Colorado when I thought I'd be pregnant but wasn't.  Well, actually I suppose I should have started at age 4, like all the dancers did, but I don't think anyone in Los Angeles or Okinawa had heard of Irish dancing back in the late 70's/early 80's, at least not among our circle!  Anyway, I'm sure it's too late now.  But I love watching it!

Bob and I went to see Riverdance when we were stationed in Colorado Springs back in 2000 to celebrate our anniversary.  When I saw the summer Wolf Trap schedule this spring, and saw that Riverdance was coming, I told Bob that was what I wanted to do to celebrate this year, even though it was a month early!

It was a late night for us, and when we finally arrived home around 11:00, we were greeted by Jonathan, who showed us this lovely bullseye rash on his arm.  Jonathan had actually not been feeling all that well the past few days.  He had been complaining of his neck and arms aching, as well as being sluggish.  Thursday he kept saying how cold he was, and he wore his jacket inside the house all day long.  I felt him, but he didn't feel really feverish.  He also had a big headache, so finally at dinnertime I told him to take some Motrin.  I just assumed he had some kind of virus, though, and I would never have suspected Lyme disease without him seeing that rash, so I am very thankful he saw it, and that it was in a place he could see easily.
So Jonathan and I headed off to the ER at Bethesda.  We weren't going to be around on Friday to make an appointment, and I really didn't want to wait any longer for him to get started on antibiotics, especially since he really wasn't feeling well.The ER was crowded, though, and we had to wait a long time to be seen.  We both brought books, though, so we were good.  Eventually we were seen, and the doctor agreed that it was a classic presentation of Lyme.  He wanted to put Jonathan on 2 weeks on amoxicillin and have us come back "if there were any more problems".  I kind of pushed back, asking if that meant if he was still feverish and achy, or what, and was 2 weeks really long enough?  The doctor said he would actually go call the on-call pediatric infectious disease doctor, so he disappeared again.  When he came back, he had a new plan--21 days on doxycycline.  That sounded much better to me, as I have heard of that antibiotic for Lyme's.  So Jonathan has started on his 3 different antibiotic in the past month.  Hopefully it will do the trick though.  The big question is, does this have anything to do with that infected bite on his scalp?  Who knows?!  Poor Jonathan.  This has not been his best month!  We didn't get home until 4:00 AM, and we were so tired!
The reason we couldn't get an appointment on Friday is that we had already made plans to drive up to WSS to surprise Nathan for lunch on his 19th birthday!  Bob took leave and came with us.  It was so nice that he could drive, as I was not really in any shape to do so myself.  Nathan was surprised, and it was so good to see him!
We were just sad Luke and Caleb had to miss out, but oh well.  Micah was exceptionally happy to see Nathan, and he kept running over to hug him or get up in his lap.  Before we went up there, he and I were talking about the trip.  He asked when Nathan was going to come home, and I said in August, but only for a few days before he went back to college.  "College?!"  Micah said.  "I thought he was done with college!"  He is going to be a disappointed little boy when August comes, and Nathan heads off again to VT!

Verity was also happy to see Nathan.  Several of the other girls of staff wanted to hold her, but she just held on even tighter to Nathan and burrowed into his neck.  She was pretty tired by the time we left, and she fell asleep pretty much as soon as we drove off the property!  So did the other kids, so we had a nice, quiet drive back, for the most part.  I was so glad we drove up!  Nathan said seeing us was "the best birthday present", so it was all worth it!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Cookies and Scalp Infections

Today I made ginger snaps, which I have made a million times before--and I left out baking soda!  Fortunately that did not make them inedible, but they are certainly not going to be eaten anywhere outside this house.  That doesn't really have anything to do with anything, except to say that even though I always think my summer will be totally relaxed and stress-free compared to my school year, obviously that isn't true.

It's okay though.  Micah and I were doing some reading and math this morning, and he sat on his pencil, breaking it. He really wanted me to get up and sharpen it, and I told him he could do it.  "How come you don't do very much around here?" was his response.  Haha!  Clearly I have no reason to ever be stressed at all, because I am just lazing around on my rear, not sharpening pencils when they break!

After our math lesson, Jonathan and I headed to Bethesda for our 4th and hopefully last trip in a week (hopefully in a long while, actually!).  Usually that many trips in a week means I am in the last few weeks of pregnancy, but I am happy to say that was not the case here! This saga began about a week after we got home from camping, when Jonathan mentioned that he had these two weird lumps on the back of his neck.  I palpated them and could tell they were just swollen lymph nodes.  In fact, I clearly remember his having 2 swollen lymph nodes on the back of his neck many years ago, and I rushed in to the doctor, thinking the worst ("Tumors on his neck!").  But as the doctor said, he had just fought off some infection, and they would eventually go down.  They did, and so I wasn't too worried this time.  Then, last Thursday morning Jonathan showed me a large swollen lump on his scalp.  It was on the left side of the back of his his neck, but under the hair.  It was painful, and he was complaining about having to move the strap of his swim goggles.

Hmmm.  Well, clearly this was the infection those swollen lymph nodes were attempting to fight off, and they were not doing a very good job!  I couldn't get an appointment Thursday, so Friday we made our first trip to Bethesda.  After waiting 45 minutes in the exam room for the doctor to finish up with her previous patient, she finally came and examined Jonathan's neck. She said it could be bacterial, perhaps from an infected spider bite, or it could be fungal (although we could never figure out where a fungal infection on the scalp could have come from). So she started him on Keflexand told us to go to the ER if there was no improvement by Sunday lunch.

We had a great Saturday, with Faith's last 2 softball games in the morning, and a graduation party for Isaac McC in the evening.  But there was no noticeable improvement in Jonathan's neck.  In fact, the redness and swelling seemed to be spreading.  Sunday morning we could definitely tell things were worse.  The swelling and redness had spread to around his left ear, as well as to the hairline on the right side of his neck.  There was at least one more swollen lymph node as well.  I took him in while Bob took everyone else to church. That ended up being a great decision, because it turns out with all the excitement we had COMPLETELY forgotten that Bob, Luke, and Caleb were on to work in children's ministry that day!  Oops!

We didn't have to wait too long, just long enough for me to finish a delightful book about an owl named Wesley and the wildlife biologist who raised him and cared for him for 19 years.  Very interesting!  Also we watched the reports of the tragic shooting in Orlando that had just happened, and we just so shocked and saddened.  Then Jonathan was put on Clindamycin, and we went home.

I could tell by the next morning that his neck was much improved, but the peds clinic called at 8:30, and they wanted him to come in for a follow-up appointment. Sigh. Okay.  We headed back in for a 10:20 appointment, although I neglected to tell Luke.  As we were parking, my phone decided to let me know there had been texts--several of them, in fact, as well as a call--from Luke, wondering where I was.  He was supposed to pick up a guy from church who had just had knee surgery and take him to his check-up and therapy.  Aaaaahhhh . . . he couldn't very well take the big van, but I was stuck . . . fortunately the McC's came through and let Luke borrow their minivan.  It was stressful there, though!

The doctor agreed that Jonathan's neck looked much better.  Whew!  When we were there on Friday, that doctor had noticed that Jonathan hadn't technically been in to see the doctor in like 6 years.  That's what happens when you are in a big family and you are healthy!  I always try to get the younger kids in for well-baby checks, but the older kids just kind of fall off my radar screen, unless they need things like epi-pen refills, a la Caleb.  I do want to point out that at 13, Jonathan is only about 75 pounds, which is around the 5th percentile . . .  fortunately the doctor didn't say anything at all about that, which, as I said a million times to Verity's doctors, is perfectly normal for our kids!

So he needed a tetanus booster, which I really wanted to get done before he goes to Camp Caleb this year.  The doctor didn't want him to get shots on Friday, when a fever from vaccines might have confused the scalp infection issue, so I had been planning on getting that done on Monday.  But with Luke needing the van to pick up his friend from his therapy, we rushed on home.

Which led to our final trip today, to get those shots. Jonathan should now be good to go for awhile.  And hopefully no one else will need to go in, because there is nothing like spending 4 hours away from home for a 20 minutes appointment to really make you feel like you accomplished nothing in a day!  I was so thankful I no longer have to drag all the little ones to every doctor appointment.  That would have made for an even longer, more stressful week!

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Pictures, Swimming, and a Birthday

I'm behind, so this is a catch-up post.
 The one thing I wanted to do before Nathan left for the summer was have pictures taken of all the kids at Portrait Innovations.  For some reason, it was really important to me to have a group shot of all of them to match the ones I have of everyone else, and I also really wanted a baby picture of Verity to match ones of the other kids.
I really wanted to capture her before she got much hair!  Her hair is finally starting to come in, and she has these adorable curls on the side of her head, which you can even see in this picture!
The actual taking of the pictures went surprisingly well.  We drove 2 vans, so after the pictures were taken, Nathan drove everyone else home, and I stayed to pick out the shots I wanted and wait for the pictures to be printed.  I read my book in a comfortable chair and was happy as could be!  But no one wants to repeat the process anytime soon, lol.  Hopefully the next pictures we get done will once again be outside with one of our friends taking the pictures!

Swim season started last Wednesday.  We have 6 people on the team, from Caleb down to Micah, which means we have swim practice every weeknight from 5:30-7:30.  This makes dinner tricky!

Micah has been doing much better than he did last year, when he was recalcitrant and mulish, refusing to get in the water half the time.  He can swim, but he doesn't know how to breathe well, so he swims a few strokes, then lifts his head and doggy-paddles to the side where he breathes for a second or 2.  Then he launches back out for another several strokes.  Repeat the entire length of the pool.  He's cooperative, though, so I'm confidant he'll get it down!
Verity has enjoyed the pool.  Sometimes we takes her and Drew to swim while everyone else practices.  She will only go in the big pool with Caleb (she hates her floatie), but she loves the baby pool.  Drew does too!
Jonathan turned 13 last Thursday!  Now I can say we have 4 teenage boys!  With swim practice, it made celebrating more difficult.  He picked enchilada casserole for his birthday dinner, and he, Caleb, Luke and I enjoyed that while the younger kids swam, and then I brought Caleb and Jonathan to practice and picked up the youngers.
After everyone else got home and ate dinner, he opened his presents.  His siblings had spent all afternoon doing mysterious things in the garage, with much giggling.
They found an enormous gift bag in my closet and put a piece of bubble gum in it, hidden by a ton of plastic bags and tissue paper.
They also wrapped up nail clippers in a whole ton of progressively smaller boxes.  (That's a joke because Jonathan has nails that grow at super-human speeds, and he constantly needs to clip them.)  Jonathan is a lot of fun to have around!
He also got some normal presents, like a book, an "as seen on TV" flying saucer, a very difficult book on folding money into cool things like battleships and tanks, and candy.
Thursday afternoon I decided to make a giant chocolate chip cookie cake, and I wrote on it with a can of frosting.  That didn't work so well, lol, and no one likes the taste of canned frosting, so I could have saved myself the trouble!  We were going to make a cake on Saturday, but Saturday ended up crazy--helping friends move, a pool party, a double-header softball game for Faith--and no cake got made.  Jonathan said he doesn't even love cake, so he was fine with it, but I was glad he had the big cookie and ice cream Thursday night.  Saturday he picked mint frosted brownies to take to the pool picnic, and all the kids had a ton of other snacks and goodies there, so no need to feel sorry for his lack of cake!

Sunday, May 29, 2016


This weekend was our annual camping trip with other homeschoolers.  We had a really fun time, and although the weather was hotter than it has been other years, it still wasn't too bad.  It rained Friday night, but fortunately we were already all set up, and the pitter-patter of rain was nice to fall asleep to.  I think this year I slept the best I even have on this camping trip, and that was mainly due to me not nursing anyone.
We used the same tent set-up we had last year, but this year we took 2 minivans instead of dealing with the big van and the big black box thing that goes on the hitch.  It was so easy to load and unload, and we had plenty of room for all our stuff!
It was so nice that Nathan could be with us, both for last weekend at WSS, and also for this trip.  One thing he and Luke spent a great deal of time doing this weekend was making fires and cutting wood.  For some reason the forest service had felled a ton of trees in the campground, so there was plenty of wood around to be chopped.  Nathan had thought to borrow a maul from the L's, and that came in handy.  Bob brought his "sawz-all" from Harbor Freight, which also was very useful.  Since the site has electricity, we could plug in the charger and use it all weekend!
A few years ago Nathan had ordered this literal chain saw from amazon--it's a chain with 2 handles, and you store it in a little pouch.  Here Bob is demonstrating it, but usually Nathan and Luke each took a handle and sawed away.  It was really quite impressive, and they demonstrated to several of our fellow curious campers.
Nathan and Luke also got to show off their mad wood splitting skillz, thanks to all their years of staff at WSS.  We had a nice pile of split wood pieces by our fire, constantly being replenished.
Verity had the best time ever (when she wasn't tripping or tired, lol).  She wandered around to the various campsites and ate a ton of candy.  In fact, Nathanael Cr. remarked that Verity was being stuffed full of candy "like a slot machine".  (She did not complain!)

We went on our usual hike to the falls Saturday morning.  Four years ago, when we were coming back, I got distracted by a temper-tantruming Micah, and we went off on the wrong trail.  Well this time on our way to the falls, I was talking to several other ladies, and AGAIN we went off on the same wrong trail!  Although I actually have a pretty good sense of direction when driving, don't trust me when hiking.  The real problem seems to be that I look down at my feet and don't pay any attention to signs.  Anyhow we eventually made it to the falls, via the long way, but I had been carrying the backpack for Verity the whole time (without Verity in it, which must have looked odd to the people we met along the way).  Verity was with all the other kids in a group ahead of us, and she had to get passed around the whole time.  She got to ride the way back though, and Nathan and Luke were with me, so I did NOT make the wrong turn.
After all the excitement of the hike, plus having gotten up around 7:00, really wore Verity out.  She eventually took a really long nap in her pack-n-play, which was nice for everyone else.  I got to read more of my book, Bill Bryson's The Road to Little Dribbling, which was funny and light--perfect reading for a relaxing camping trip, although I will say Bryson seemed a lot more curmudgeonly than I usually think of him.  Also more cussing.  

Micah and Drew once again loved the little construction toys,  They are so perfect for camping trips!  Verity enjoyed them too.  She got so dirty sitting on the ground playing that I had to change her shorts before we went on our hike!

Saturday night we had our second annual taco potluck dinner with 4 other families that we know a little better.  I made the taco meat using Amy's nacho meat recipe.  I used 6 pounds of hamburger, and a ton of cans of beans and diced tomatoes.  Everyone else brought all the toppings you can imagine, plus chips and tortillas.  It was all so delicious, and every bit of meat was eaten! 
Sunday morning we had our church service and then lunch.  After lunch the middle 6 kids went crawfish fishing in a creek with some of the other dads.  Bob walked Verity around the loop in her stroller so she would fall asleep because she was super crabby, and we had already taken down the tents.  Nathan, Luke, and I read and napped in our chairs, and Drew found this caterpillar.  He named it "Darby" for whatever random reason, and he played with that poor thing almost the entire time the other kids were gone.  I could hear him talking to it, and making up stories.  It was so cute!  Eventually we got worried that he would accidentally kill poor Darby, and how traumatic would that be for both of them, so we convinced him to leave Darby on a tree.  He continued to watch and talk to Darby until Darby made the great escape, and Drew couldn't see him anymore.  This was upsetting to Drew, but I think the rest of us were all cheering silently, "Run, Darby!  Flee!"

Each year there is a big "pie iron" dessert contest for our loop Sunday night at 7:00.  We stayed for it the past 2 years, but it just doesn't work all that well for us.  It's crowded, the kids are all starting to break down, and we get home really late while everyone still needs a bath, plus there's a ton of stuff to unload.  So this year we had our own pie iron dessert extravaganza Sunday afternoon after we got all the tents put away and everything else cleaned up.  I brought a ton of possible ingredients--raw sugar cookie dough and chocolate chip cookie dough, pie crusts (all those things were premade, which made it easy for me, lol), caramels balls, mint chocolate chips, oreos, marshmallow fluff, leftover Hershey's bars from s'mores, whipped cream, chocolate syrup, nutella, bananas . . . We had some pretty delicious entrees, and we all got to enjoy pieces of them!  That is really the nice thing about a big family--when other things don't really work, you can just do your own thing, and there are still enough people to make it fun!
Here Luke is posing with one of his creations, a pie crust filled with nutella and marshmallows, with whipped cream and chocolate sauce on top.
Faith and Bob used chocolate chip cookie dough for the outside, and they put a Hershey bar in the middle.  There were many other combinations, all of them delicious.  It was a fun way to spend the afternoon!  And it was a lot nicer to get home a little earlier.  It made unloading and giving baths a lot less stressful.

So this year's weekend was a ton better than last year's.  After we got home from the camping trip last year, we really didn't think we were going to come back.  We debated a long time about whether we should pay our deposit for this year, but we finally decided to go ahead and pay it, since we knew we would be able to find someone to take our place.  I went into the trip last year already feeling so depressed and defeated--it was at the end of the long and emotionally draining college admissions process for Nathan, with all Verity's nursing and weight gain difficulties on top of that.  We were also smack-dab in the middle of what turned out to be 3 months of unemployment for Bob.  We had just gotten through testing, and most people in the family being sick, and I so just wanted a weekend to get back on my feet.  Instead, we got blamed for getting everyone else in the loop sick, even people we never had any dealings with, and it was literally the final straw for me.  I was so emotionally done.  That was the lowest I've been in a long, long, time, and that was when we started thinking that it was time to move back to Ohio in the next few years.  It took me months to recover from last year, and I was not at all sure how this year would go.  Fortunately it was not at all like last year, and I really enjoyed visiting with everyone and just resting.  It's funny what the Lord uses to move in our hearts and prepare us for the future.

But for now, it's just time to go switch laundry around.  I"m looking forward to sleeping in my own bed tonight!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Notes For Next Year's Testing

Standardized testing was this past Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.  I'm the testing coordinator for our elementary co-op, but it's open to the high school co-op associated with us, as well as really anyone else who hears about it and contacts me, lol.  This year we had 21 families totaling 37 kids.

Last year I found out that the Stanford test, which we had been using for years and years, was no longer going to be published or supported starting in June of 2016.  While we could have had one more year of Stanford, I chose to go ahead and make the switch to Iowa Test of Basic Skills.  We test so late, and I was afraid if there was any sort of hiccup, then we would be stuck.

Switching to ITBS did require a ton of extra work though.  We've always had 3 mornings of testing, with nice breaks in between sections.  The high schoolers finished in just 2 days, but everyone else took the full time.  With Iowa, however, there was really a big discrepancy in testing times.  The first and second graders were supposed to take about 4 hours 25 minutes (although the second graders ended up taking a lot longer), and the high schoolers had 4 hours 20 minutes.  But the 4th-6th graders took 5 hours, 26 minutes, and the poor 3rd graders took 6 hours, 11 minutes!  Those probably don't seem like vastly different times, but when you're trying to schedule all the grades so everyone ends around the same time each morning, it was just a challenge.  I ended up having the 3-8th graders only complete the core subtests on Monday and Tuesday, and then those whose parents wanted them to complete the extra subsections for the complete battery (science, social studies, and maps and diagrams, primarily)  came back on Wednesday.  We had 15 kids come back, so I'm glad I offered that option.  The 2nd graders didn't end up finishing the complete test on Monday and Tuesday, so 2 of them came back to take the extra subsections on Wednesday as well, even though that isn't how I had scheduled it.  But things happen, and especially with the younger grades, things can just take longer.  I'm glad it all worked out.

I ended up playing around with the schedule for a long time in April and early May.  When the big box o' tests showed up at my doorstep, I really wasn't ready to look at them, so I just ignored them.  They came right when I was leaving to pick Nathan up from Tech, so I definitely had other things on my mind!  Finally on the Tuesday night before testing, I got around to checking off the contents against my master list of who had signed up, to make sure I had enough tests for each grade.  My heart sank when I discovered there were only 2 second grade books, instead of 3, which is what we needed, and in fact was what the packing slip said was included.  I looked through all the books again, but the missing booklet was nowhere to be found.  I resolved to call BJU first thing in the morning, but I did not sleep well because I was so worried!

I called, and the lady was so nice, apologizing for their error and assuring me they would get a test booklet out to us right away.  She even thanked me for giving them more than one day's notice of the problem before we started testing!  So, feeling greatly relieved, I went back into the study and started on some other task.  I moved a big pile of papers around--and right there on the desk under the papers was the missing test booklet!  To say I was shocked was an understatement!  At that point I had a vague recollection of getting out a test booklet to look at the student information on the back so I could instruct the teachers on how they should fill it out (homeschoolers obviously don't have a school or district or whatever), but for me to a) leave the booklet out of the box, and b) completely forget about ever even doing that was so completely out of character for me, especially with such a high stress area like testing, where I am usually *VERY* careful with everything about it because I don't want to screw things up!  The only possible conclusion is that I am losing my mind, LOL.

As I stood there in the study, clutching the booklet, I was stumped as to what to do--if they had already sent off the extra booklet, they would be super mad (justifiably so) at spending money for rush shipping, but maybe they hadn't already sent it off?!  I stood there pondering . . . and then the phone rang!  It was not a number I recognized, but it turned out to be the BJU "solutions department" leaving a message.  I quickly found a phone and answered.  The lady said she had heard there was a problem with my order, and she just needed to get some more information so they could send off the missing booklet.  I was able to let her know that the missing booklet had been found, and that the real problem was that I was just a moron, lol.  She was very gracious and relieved to hear it was not a problem on their end, while I was mortified, but relieved that I didn't have to worry about not having one test booklet come Monday.  Whew!  That whole thing gave me some more gray hairs, for sure.

One other thing that was a little bit of a wrinkle was discovering in my big box that I only had one set of test administrator directions for all of 3-8th grades.  I had those kids divided into 4 different sections, so clearly that wasn't going to work.  With Stanford, BJU sent a set of directions for each grade, so ordering extra sets of directions wasn't even on my radar screen, since we never had more than 1 section of each grade.  I ended up making 3 photocopies of all the direction pages of the administrator book.  When we actually started testing, I realized I should have included copies of the table of contents, which would have made it much easier for my administrators to actually find the correct pages, since my schedule doesn't just go in order through the book.  (It is nice to break up the language and math sections.)  Ah well, next year . . .

The actual testing part went fairly smoothly.  There were a few small hiccups, like me scheduling 4-8th grades for "word analysis", not realizing that was one of the extra sections that only the 3rd graders too.  The 4th grade test administrator came out all puzzled, having searched the kids' answer sheets for a place to answer word analysis questions, and not finding any such section.  We couldn't find any section in their test booklets either, so it was a real conundrum until I got the bright idea to look at the master test administration page that showed me that "word analysis" for 3-8th graders had a little cross by it, signifying that only the 3rd graders had that section.  Oops!  And it took the 5th and 6th graders a lot longer to bubble in all their information than the 5 minutes I had allotted, so I'm mentioning that here in hopes that I'll remember to give more time for that next year.  Probably not, lol.

Anyhow, it's done, and the big box o' tests is on its way back to BJU as of yesterday evening.  I'm so glad to get that off my plate!

This is only my 5th year to be in charge, but I'm really tired of it!  Maybe next year it won't be so bad, since it won't be a new test.  I already don't like change, and I definitely don't like change that makes more work for me!  When I think that other TNT committee jobs are things like "answer questions for first-time moms in TNT", or "answer questions and show around prospective moms"--well, let's just say it makes me want to hand off testing!  But realistically no one would take it, I don't think.  The only reason I took it over from Leisa was because no one would take it 5 years ago.  I tested that year with newborn Micah sitting next to me that whole 3 days!  If people will let a mom who had her 8th baby just 6 weeks before take over testing, then I am not confidant anyone would jump to volunteer to take it over now!  It is easier now that I'm not having any more babies, that's for sure.  Again, maybe next year will be a piece of cake . .  we'll see!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Retreat Down Memory Lane

This weekend we headed up to White Sulphur Springs for our Bible study retreat.  Because there was a wedding up at the big new hotel, we got to stay at Harrison House.  This is where all my memories of summers spent at WSS took place, as well as memories from when we had a lot less kids, so it is a pretty special place!  I really love the comforts of the new hotel . . . but there is a lot to love about the old hotel!  They had just finished renovating all the bathrooms in Harrison House, so that was super nice.  We had such a grand time this weekend, and it was really lovely to have the place all to ourselves.  We didn't have to worry about kids disturbing people working, or anything like that.  It was great!
The weather was really quite dismal the whole weekend.  Thankfully Friday was nice, though.  As soon as we got unpacked Friday afternoon I told everyone I really wanted to get a picture of all the kids on the wagon.  Well, the wagon has seen better days, and the right rear wheel is actually not attached right now.  Instead the wagon is being held up by a block of wood, so we decided it would be better to not have *all* the kids on the wagon.  Since it rained off and on and was incredibly dreary the rest of the weekend, I was SO glad I insisted on getting pictures Friday afternoon!
One part of the deal we had for using the old hotel was that we provided our own meals, except for Saturday dinner, which they brought down for us from the big hotel.  The teenagers were amazing cooks for us.  They got up at 6:00 both mornings to make us breakfast--scrambled eggs and bacon Saturday morning, and pancakes and sausage Sunday morning.  Saturday for lunch we were supposed to have a picnic of grilled hamburgers and hot dogs up by the picnic pond, but even though it was not raining at that moment, the place was definitely drenched.  Instead, the teenage boys grilled everything and brought it back down so we could eat in the warmth and dryness of the dining room.  Amanda L was the "captain of the mess", and she ably organized everyone, and kept things in the kitchen running like clockwork!  We all brought a bunch of food--much more than we actually needed, lol.  If any sort of natural disaster had occurred, we would have been set for several more days at least!
It turned out that Saturday was not a bad day, even though it was so dreary and overcast, because it didn't actually rain all that much.  This meant we could walk around to different places, even though it was pretty chilly.  In the morning we had a session where we shared about relationships--with God, with our spouses, with others in the Body, with nonbelievers.  It was really thought-provoking, and a good time of sharing and prayer.

Bob and I took a nice walk after lunch (although our shoes got wet!), and the kids did a lot of bowling.  They all went rock-climbing in the afternoon too, even Micah and Drew!  And of course there was lots of just visiting on the porch.  John H. and I had been discussing why everyone really likes rocking on the porch of the old hotel, even though the new hotel has a perfectly lovely porch, with a beautiful panoramic view of the mountains.  I think it's because at the old hotel, you are down in the trees, which are restful in and of themselves, and you can hear the birds and the water from the creek across the street.  It really is so peaceful.
Saturday night after our catered dinner of baked ziti, we headed over to Fort Cochran for some fun.  The kids did some impromptu charades, we sang some songs, and then we roasted marshmallows and made s'mores.  The fireplace was so deep, we could fit a bunch of kids actually *in* the fireplace!  We were glad to be warm and dry though!
After the s'mores, there was an unplanned "feats of strength" portion of the program.  Caleb was the first one who was able to pull himself up onto the loft, using just his arms, followed by Nathan.  Others tried, but it was really slippery and tricky.  Eventually people started helping the younger ones up, much to their delight, and then Geoff A. made it up, representing for all the parents.  It was quite the spectacle!  We pulled out the ladder to help get all the littles down, lol.
Verity spent her weekend wandering around, being picked up by anyone she came across.  This made her quite happy, for the most part, except when she was crabby because she had just had her shots on Thursday.  What a life she has, surrounded by especially young men who cater to her every whim!  Elena gifted her with a purple Care Bear that she won at Dennys, where the McC's ate dinner on Friday night.  Verity really took to it, carrying it around everywhere and sleeping with it.
Because it was so wet and rainy the whole weekend, Verity's hair really had some curl to it, including this adorable little curl behind her right ear.
Sunday we had a time of worship, and then a devotional by Geoff A.  He and his family are preparing to retire and take their final move.  In a very moving time, he washed the feet of all the men there, and talked about how they had influenced him and his family.  At our church, Pastor Mike has been going through John, and his sermon on Jesus washing the disciples' feet was just a few weeks ago, so that was fresh in my mind, and made it all the more meaningful.  We will really miss their family!
After pizza for lunch, we all packed up and loaded up in the pouring rain--but not before I got a line picture of the kids in front of the door of the Harrison House.  I love to compare these pictures over the years and see how the kids are growing.  Verity was on her absolute last legs here, and she was very glad to get into the van and go to sleep!  Luke drove the whole way home, in which we had to stop 2 times in a 2 1/2 hour drive for various people to go potty.  And Drew (who was one of the pottiers at the first stop) STILL had an accident in his car seat!  Too much lemonade this weekend or something . . .  The stops and the rain made the trip home seem much longer than usual.  No one wanted to come home because we have testing for the next 3 days, so that is definitely not something to look forward to!

I totally paid no attention to my paleo diet this weekend.  I ate pancakes, pizza, brownies, chips . . . all things I haven't eaten in 6 weeks!  I enjoyed it too!  I'm sure I gained back 5 pounds, lol.  I guess it's back on the wagon tomorrow.  I'm very thankful for a relaxing weekend with good friends who are like family!  What a blessing!