Friday, September 23, 2016

Field Trip Down South

Today Rivendell took a field trip down to Montpelier, the home of James Madison, and also to UVa.  A few weeks ago I started having panic attacks about how to deal with all the little kids, since we were doing separate tours for high school/junior high, and the younger kids at both places, and I really wanted to be with Luke on the admission tour at UVa.  So Bob generously volunteered to take leave and stay home with Micah, Drew, and Verity.  That was *such* a blessing.  There were quite a few times during the day where I said, "I can't even imagine dealing with the littles right now too."  It was so much nicer without having to worry about them, because I am sure they would have been miserable!

One reason was because we left the house at 7:15.  It was a beautiful drive, but everyone else in our car missed out because they were fast asleep.  We made good time and were actually the first ones at Montpelier.  This literally never happens, and I'm sure it wouldn't have happened if Micah, Drew, and Verity had been there!

We split up into 2 groups immediately and went our separate ways.
This was the only time we saw the older kids.  The view from Montpelier was so beautiful and relaxing!  I would have loved to sit on a rocking chair on that front porch for awhile!
Our guide took us down to a room used as a kitchen for James Madison's mother, who lived here with them, using some rooms on one side of the house as her "apartment".  There were just chairs in the room, and the guide passed out bags of costume stuff, plus a card for each person to read, telling about the person they were supposed to be.  Faith, here, was Dolley Madison, which was a source of great envy and consternation for Anna.  Faith got to wear a little turban, gloves, and a necklace, while Anna had to wear a big white shirt, because she was "Paul Jennings", James Madison's personal servant.  You would not believe the amount of huffing and dirty glares at Faith!  I told her in a fierce whisper that she was showing such an ugly, jealous heart, and that she needed to just read her card and get over herself.  Thankfully she did, but it was touch and go.  Grace was carrying on about her tennis shoes because apparently no tennis shoe on earth can be remotely comfortable for her delicate feet, so she spent most of the tour walking on her tiptoes, with just her toes actually *in* the shoes.  This was one of those points where I was glad not to be dealing with Micah, Drew, and Verity, lol.

The other characters were James Madison's parents, his teacher at boarding school, Thomas Jefferson, and his college friend.  It was actually a very interesting exercise, and a good way to engage the kids.  I think they all learned quite a bit.  After the dressing up part, we toured the rest of the house, which was interesting.  I was again struck by how incredibly well-educated our founding fathers were.  When I hear Democrats talking about how to Constitution should be an evolving document, or words to the effect that they could improve on it, I can't think how anyone now possibly thinks they understand history, logic, etc. well enough to change a single thing.  Really amazing.

The kids impressed the guide by reciting the preamble to the Constitution for our guide when she asked what the purpose of the Constitution was.  I was very glad that our memory work applied!  There were also several things we saw in the house that really fit in with the book that Anna and Grace are reading for their lit class called Diary of an Early American Boy.  It is from a slightly earlier time period, but some of the objects mentioned in it were in Montpelier, so it was fun to see those.
After our tour, we walked over to see the Temple, which is part of an archaeological dig right now.  Under the Temple is the ice house, and the guide said Madison built the temple on top of it so he could sit there and feel the cool breeze coming up from the ice.  Today would have been a lovely day for that.  The weather really was beautiful, but it got hot, walking around in the sun!  That was another time I was glad not to be carting the littles around.  They would probably not have done well on the tour and been kicked out to the "kids getaway" room down in the cellar.
On our way back to the visitors center, we walked through the formal gardens.  There weren't a lot of flowers blooming now, but it was really pretty.  There were some shady parts with benches, which also seemed like really nice places to spend a hot day.  There was a sundial in the middle of the garden, and it accurately showed the time as noon.
After we got back, we had a picnic lunch, just in time because everyone was "starving".  Miraculously they all revived, and we hopped back in the car to drive 45 minutes to UVa.  Emily arranged 2 tours for us, a historical tour for the younger kids, and an admissions tour for the high school guys.  They both started at 2:00, and we thought we would have plenty of time, but then we couldn't actually get to the parking garage in the middle of campus that admissions recommended we park at.  So we had to turn around and go to a different one a few blocks away.  This took up more time, so we had to really hoof it back to the Rotunda, where the tours started.  Again, I was so happy to not be trying to walk fast with crabby toddlers!  

Luke, Caleb, and I went on the admissions tour.  Our guide was really good, sharing a lot of his personal experiences.  He seemed like a real grounded, solid young man, so he left a good impression of the school.  I will say though--I do not like the campus as much as VT's.  It just seemed claustrophobic, with all these narrow paths crowded with people, and a ton of different levels.  Everything was up stairs, across a path, down some more stairs into a courtyard, up some more stairs, etc.  I was pretty disoriented.  But the university itself seems like a good one, lol.  Luke liked it a lot, any how.  He said he could definitely see himself there.  We've just got to finish up the applications.  I need to send in my part--hopefully next week.
We ended our tour at the room that was Edgar Allen Poe's while he was at UVa.  He was only there 10 months as a student.  The high school lit kids just finished a unit on Poe's short stories, so this was a very fitting place to get their picture taken.
Then we reconvened at the bookstore, walked to the Rotunda for more pictures, and finally headed back to the parking garage.  We were so glad for air conditioning and some water!  We quickly drained our water bottles, so we stopped at Chick-FIl-A for dinner.  We got home at 7:35, dropped off Caleb and Luke, and the headed over to Bible study because we were bringing dessert.  Such a long day!

Bob had a fun day too.  He and the kids went to Petsmart to get a few more fish for our fish tank.  Then they took a picnic lunch over to River Bend Park, where they also went on a hike to Great Falls.  Micah, Drew, and Verity had great fun--but Bob ended up carrying both Verity and Drew a lot of the way back to the car!  We should all sleep well tonight!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Chasing Chester the Chocolate-Loving Mouse

We spent Saturday cleaning out our garage because we have a mouse.  Indulge me while I continue to pretend it's just one mouse, thanks.

We first noticed evidence of this mouse during the winter because he ate into a bag of chocolate chips I had carelessly left on the floor in front of our shelves in the garage.  And then later I noticed he had also eaten into a bag of plain M&Ms up on the top shelf.  And also some almond roca pieces from a can the girls had left open on one of the lower shelves.  Those he delicately moved out of the can and nibbled, until the foil wrappers were empty except for poop.  All the other things--boxes of Ritz crackers, granola bars (2 kinds!), graham crackers, etc.--he didn't even touch.

Clearly this was a mouse that loved chocolate.  A mouse that loves chocolate definitely seems like one from a children's book.  I started thinking of him as "Chester".  I thought he would be gone after the winter, and I started not putting chocolate out in the garage.  But alas, Chester did move on to some Sunchip snack mix no one liked that we bought a long time ago at our food co-op.  We discovered this when Anna decided to use some of them up Thursday and found a completely empty bag with a neatly nibbled hole.  There were actually a total of 3 empty bags, so I guess that sustained Chester once I cut him off of chocolate.  The snack mix bags were fairly stale and rancid by this time, so we just tossed the whole box.  But that is what led to the Great Garage Clean-out of 2016.

We put as much stuff out on the driveway as possible so we could sweep out all the droppings under the shelves.  Eventually we got to this dark scary corner between our freezer and the purple garage fridge.  The only time we ever even bother with anything there is when we need some camp chairs or tarps!  
Well, we took every single forgotten item out of this corner, and there we found Chester's quarters.  It was a huge nest made of insulation and shredded paper towel, although I never could see that he broke into our big cases of paper towels.  Knowing us, though, "we" certainly could have just dropped some paper towels and left them for Chester to find.  There was a ton of poop back there too.  I think we have to judge Chester as a refined mouse of good taste because he never bothered the big cord for our fridge which runs right by his nest.  I am so glad he never nibbled on that!
Eventually we got everything put back in the garage.  I got empty plastic storage tubs from the basement to put food in on the shelves, and we moved all the individual bags of chips, which the kids use for co-op lunches, inside.  

We did find an unopened package of mouse traps, so clearly we had these thoughts before, lol.  In fact, we also found a sprung trap under the shelves.  Who knows what we baited it with?  Chester got it out unscathed, though.  Grace was looking at the traps, and she said, "It looks like these will hurt the mouse!"  I said something about it breaking the mouse's neck, which should be pretty  instantaneous death.  "We're going to KILL the mouse?!?"  She was pretty horrified.  Who can blame her?  Our read-aloud just last spring was Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of N.I.M.H..  We've read Redwall, Ralph S. Mouse, Stuart Little, and all those other classic mouse books.  They're cute!  Also full of nasty poop, and while I can deal with "Chester", I really am NOT comfortable with the idea of a whole family of mice including multiple generations bedding down in the scary corner this whole winter!  Of course, we still haven't actually gotten around to setting the traps . . .

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Back to School--a Good Day, and a Bad Day

We officially started back with all our co-ops last Tuesday.  I was worried, since we had been gone all weekend, and Faith, Micah, and Drew got back later from Idlewild.

But not to worry, because last Tuesday went like a charm!  Everyone did well, there were no glitches, even with the computers, and so I breathed a sigh of relief.

That may have been premature, however, because wow, did we ever have quite the day today!  I haven't been feeling well (allergies, I think, plus a bunch of canker sores in my mouth), so I was already not 100%.  We've been having random issues with our printer, which always makes me really stressed.  Bob, Luke, Caleb, Jonathan, Anna, Grace, and Faith were all at the Redskins/Steelers game last night, thanks to tickets from Bob's company, and so while they had an amazing time, they didn't get in bed until midnight. And 3 out of 4 TNT kids had show-n-tell or read-n-tell.

Anna did fine for her read-n-tell, which is like an oral book report.  She picked Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians, which was well received.  Micah was extremely not enthusiastic about his show-n-tell, but fortunately the aide was a friend of ours from our Friday night Bible study, so I emailed her to give her the backstory on his object.  He brought a baseball from a Nationals game he went to with Bob, Anna, and Ian, a friend of ours from church, 2 years ago.  It was right around his birthday, so on the way home, Bob and Ian got the whole metro car to sing "Happy Birthday" to him.  Then this random stranger, who had caught a foul ball during the game, presented the ball to him, which was really sweet.  So Claire, the aide, asked Micah leading questions, which he did answer.  No one else in his little class had ever gotten a ball like that, so they thought it was pretty special, which made him smile.

Grace was a different story, however.  She (reluctantly) decided to talk about our ride in the C-17 when we flew space-a to Travis AFB on our way to Hawaii in 2014.  I helped her type up a little narrative so she could just read it, and I printed out 4 pictures to go along with her story.  In the van this morning, I asked if she had it, and she assured me she did.  But when I dropped her off at her classroom, she turned to me and said, "Oh, I don't think I put it in my backpack."  What?!?  I checked, and sure enough, it was not there.  I told her I would go home and bring it back to her, even though I had to start teaching biology in about 20 minutes, but when I got home, I couldn't find the folder anywhere.  I would just have started teaching class, except Verity chose this morning to have a huge melt-down tantrum.  Eventually I just put her back to bed so I could start teaching, but I was already frazzled, and I hadn't even started my first class!

After we got started, Jonathan appeared in the schoolroom.  He had been in the basement starting the "Traditional Logic" dvds for himself and 2 other boys.  He showed me the disc, which had a largish crack on the back, and so it wasn't working.  Of course it wasn't--not today!  I remembered the second disc had broken the last time we did this class because for some reason, it was really hard to get them out of case, but I hadn't realized the first one had cracked as well.   Lovely!  I sent him back down with instructions to go over the introduction stuff orally, and made a mental note to order new dvds.

Happily, Verity was in a much improved frame of mind when I got her up after my class ended.  When we headed back over to pick up the kids, I got Anna first and asked her if she knew where Grace's folder was.  "Oh, she had it in the van, but she dropped it so it went behind the back seat.  Didn't she get it?"  Well, noooooo . . . and she didn't even mention anything about the van this morning!  I was pretty steamed, so I told Grace that since she had been so deceptive, she was going to have to deliver this little show-n-tell to my afternoon life science class, to the memory work kids, and then to the biology kids during lab on Thursday before giving it next week to her TNT class.  Well, that set off waves of tears and sobbing.  The drama!

It took a good 20 minutes of sniffling and carrying on before she would read it for the life science class, but she eventually made it through.  The boys were very interested, asking lots of questions about the ride (like I knew they would!), so she felt better.  She didn't balk at all about giving it to the memory work kids, and she (happily) told Caleb tonight that she was going to give her presentation (that's a big word for what is like a 1-2 minute thing, lol) to his class on Thursday.  So overall I would say she has gained some confidence, which is good.  My big hope, however, is that she will decide that avoiding things like presentations in front of people by being sneaky is really not a good way to go.  I did point out while we were waiting for her to stop crying before life science, that if she had just read the thing this morning, she would have already been WAY done!  Ah well.  It was interesting.  I'm just glad this was not the first day, or I would have definitely considered it a bad omen for the rest of the year!

And that would have been unfortunate, because really things *are* going well so far this year.  I've made a concentrated effort to work with Micah Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, since those are the days I don't teach.  I started Anna on Teaching Textbooks 5 for math this year, and even though it's only been about 3 weeks, it has already really boosted her confidence, and she is really liking it.  Grace is back to Saxon, this year 5/4.  She and Anna really are in a pretty similar place, but obviously I can't put them in the same program because that would devastate Anna.  So this is working out fine, and she doesn't seem to mind not having a fancy computer program to put her answers into.  Faith is buzzing right along, even getting her work done without me telling her to some days!

This week the online classes start.  It's been really nice to just kind of ease into our fall schedule, since it has a bunch of moving parts and is fairly complex.  After Thursday, all classes and activities will have started, so hopefully we'll be able to work any kinks out of transportation or anything else.  So far Caleb and Jonathan have seemed more motivated to get their school work done, and I can only pray that continues!  Luke and I have been meeting Thursday evenings to work on college application stuff, so we are making some progress there.  There are definitely a lot of plates to keep spinning.  Hopefully once we get this big ship moving, inertia will take over, and we'll just keep heading in the right direction!

Labor Day Retreat

We had such a fantastic time at the Labor Day retreat for my parents' chapel and Bible study group.  The weather was perfect, the speaker was great, and it was so nice to catch up with old friends!  One family who had been stationed elsewhere for a few years is back, so they were there again, and I really enjoyed the times I could sit and talk with Anja.
Saturday afternoon the little boys got to ride around the (corral?  paddock?  I'm not horsey), even though I forgot to sign them up, and there wasn't supposed to be any room left.  They were really looking forward to it, so I was *so* glad it worked out.  Whew!
Drew looked cute with his helmet on!  He was a little more scared of the horse than Micah, but he did fine.  They also got to pet the baby miniature horse who was born back in June.
Caleb was not a cooperative model.
Apparently he is only cooperative when it's a picture with Verity!
Faith really enjoyed her s'mores at the campfire Sunday evening!
Luke toasted some perfect marshmallows, while gazing off into the distance at . . . something.
It was fun seeing my parents again too!
Monday morning, Bob left with Faith, Micah, and Drew to go to Idlewild, the amusement park he's taken all the other kids to.  You can see how excited Micah was about this!  They had a great time riding the kiddie rides.  Idlewild is really the perfect place for kids the ages of Micah and Drew, and Faith always enjoys being the oldest!  The rest of us had an uneventful drive home Monday after lunch.  It was very quiet, since Verity napped, and we didn't have to stop once, since the smallest bladders were not with us!  Bob and the kids got home a little late, around 9:00, and the kids slept really well after their exciting day!

Visit in PA

I'm finally catching up by going back to the Friday before Labor Day, when we headed out early to visit Bob's parents.  We got there after lunch, in time for cake and ice cream on the front porch!  Bob's sister Jane stopped by to visit too.
We sat and visited on the porch for awhile.
The younger kids ran around and played hide and seek.  It was cooler in PA than in VA, so it was really nice for them to be able to run some energy off outside without turning in to a melting pile of sweatiness!
Eventually the older boys moved inside to play some pool.
I love, love, love this picture of Bob's mom with Verity!  She was helping Verity up and down the porch stairs.  We were so thrilled to see how much more she was moving around.  Jane had the brilliant idea for her to snack on Frosted Flakes, since she hadn't been eating too much.  But she loves Frosted Flakes, and they are easy for her to munch on.  She had a lot more energy and was so much warmer than the past few times we've visited, where she mainly sat in her recliner under several blankets, no matter how warm it was.
Luke spent some good time with Grandpa on the back swing, and eventually Jane and Bob went back there too.
We left around 4:00 to get to WSS by dinnertime, but it was a really lovely visit!

Saturday, September 10, 2016

A Sad Farewell

I thought I would catch up on blogging this weekend by writing about our Labor Day weekend at White Sulphur Springs and our first week of co-ops.  Instead, I am sadly remembering our wonderful bunny Bruno, who unexpectedly passed away last night.
We got Bruno on Easter of 2014 from our friends Zachary and Karynn, who didn't have room in the apartment they were moving into for more than one bunny.  I was pregnant with Verity at the time, and I think it was my pregnancy hormones that convinced me that was the right time to get the bunny I had always wanted!  Bruno was a mini rex, which is the softest bunny breed ever.  Most bunnies have a rougher outer coat of guard hairs, but rexes don't have this outer coat.  They only have the soft undercoat.  We always said Bruno was the real "Velveteen Rabbit".  The even better thing about rex bunnies is their wonderful temperment.  Bruno was a happy boy, never biting or being crabby.  He was so good with all the kids!  He got his exercise by merrily hopping away from a lumbering Verity, squealing with glee as she got somewhat close to him.   
 Bruno started out in our study, but when Verity was born, we needed to put her downstairs pack-n-play in there, since it has doors that close.  So we moved Bruno to the schoolroom, where he had this spacious set-up.  He loved to nap on the plastic piece by the litter box.  It was a leftover piece from one of the chair mats for under rolling office chairs.  We had to put that cardboard on top of his cage after he learned he could jump on top of the cage and then hop on out!  Eventually we did get a nicer piece of cardboard.
 Bruno loved to go outside and nibble on leaves.  Once he discovered the shadow of the big van, however, all he wanted to do was hide under there, so we stopped letting him out in the front yard.  No one wanted to spend time urging him out from under the van by gently poking around him with a hockey stick!
 He did like going in the back yard as well.  Lots of things to explore, and no vans to go under!

 He looked like a long (fat) seal when he laid out like this.  It is hard for me to imagine anyone getting tubby on a diet of timothy hay, some pellets, and lots of kale and greens, but he was proof that it is possible!  I guess he needed Verity to chase him more!
 We let him hop around the main floor in the evenings.  We always shut the study door, because of all the computer cords, and we eventually had to shut the play room doors too, since he decided that was his own personal gigantic litter box.  He never peed in the family room, though, and he loved to race in a circle through the room, and behind our long sectional couch.  He would kick his heels up in the air and just have a good time.  We did lose a few computer charging cords and ear bud cords before we learned to be VERY careful about unplugging everything and putting all cords up on the couch so his sharp teeth couldn't snip right through them!  Although he liked to stand on his hind legs and look at what we were doing, he never did learn to jump up on the couch with us.  He also really liked nibbling on books and papers people would leave on the floor.  The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson was a real favorite.  He took some big hunks out of those delicious pages!

 When we had our tree up, Bruno loved sitting under it, occasionally nibbling on a present or two.  I was always worried that he might nibble on the cords for the lights, but for some reason he always left those alone.
 We also liked to let him out on the deck, since we could close gates so he couldn't get out.  When we had our big blizzard in January of this year, we cleared a circle path for him to run around on.  He was pretty interested in this strange white world!
We loved picking dandelion leaves and clover for Bruno to munch on.  His absolute favorite was kale, though.  In fact, I was a little concerned about him this past week because he only nibbled on a bit of the kale I was giving him, which was very unusual for him.

In thinking back, I remember things that were off, but he didn't seem sick or anything that really put up a red flag.  He was definitely eating less the past week or 2, and he was less active.  We would let him out of his cage, and he would hop around the school room a time or two, and then hop back into his cage and lie down.  He was spending more time in his actual little cage in the back, and not on his red carpet where he usually lay.  When I was petting him just a few days ago, I remember thinking I could feel his bones a lot more than usual.  He was molting, so I was thinking maybe his coat was just really thin or something.  But it was even the wrong time for him to be losing his summer coat--it certainly isn't seeming like winter any time soon.

Last night the older 3 boys stayed home, and the rest of us went to Bible study.  When we got home at around 9:30, I immediately saw that Bruno was lying on his side in his cage with his head down.  He was unnaturally still, and I realized he was just staring off into space.  I told the kids I thought Bruno was dead, and no one could believe it.  Jonathan was especially shocked because he had just petted Bruno's head maybe 30 minutes before.  He said Bruno was definitely alive, but he didn't lift his head up very much at all, so he must have died very shortly after that.  There was definitely no struggle, and he never seemed like he was in any kind of pain, so that's a relief.  

Last night as we were going to Bible study as well as early this morning, we saw a wild bunny across the street.  Grace said, "Maybe it's a sign for Bruno!"  I told them that bunny was definitely younger than Bruno (who was right around 3 years old--a birthday buddy with Verity), because wild bunnies don't live very long at all.  Bruno had a good, happy life where he was very loved.  We will all miss him very much.  He was the perfect pet for us--he didn't require tons of taking care of, and he was absolutely silent, except for his little hippity-hopping around the floor.  We definitely didn't need any more noise around here!

We will probably try to get another mini rex sometime.  Maybe after Christmas though.  Our fall schedule is so busy, and I don't know that we could spend enough time with a new bunny right now.  But in gray February, that might be just the thing.  In the meantime, we have 2 years and 4 months of good memories of Bruno.  He was such a sweetheart.  Rest in peace, Bruno!  We miss you!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

End of Summer

The way we knew for sure was it was time to take Nathan back to school!  We had talked about all of us going down, but Nathan wasn't thrilled with a potential circus, and we wouldn't have been able to fit all Nathan's stuff plus all of us in the big van, so we would have had to take 2 minivans, and that seemed kind of crazy.  So instead Bob and I took him down by ourselves, and Luke manned the fort back at home.  It was so special to have the time just with Nathan, and honestly, it was really nice to not have to worry about finding tables for 12 for meals at crowded restaurants.
It was a lot easier to drop Nathan off this year!  He is excited about the new year, and about his roommates, who are friends of his.  We're already missing him though.
This cowgirl with an attitude has grown up this month! Since we got back from Ohio, she's been sleeping in the crib in Micah and Drew's room, so Bob and I finally have our closet back.  We had tried it before, but everyone was waking everyone else up, and it totally didn't work.  There have been a few rough times, bu overall it has been working really well now.  

Verity also has graduated from the high chair.  I haven't thrown it out yet, but I am looking forward to the day that I do, and we have that corner of our kitchen finally empty of a high chair after all these years in this house!

I've been busy making up syllabi for the new school year which starts sooner than I would like.  I'm teaching a regular biology class and life science, plus memory work, and I'll help out Christine with AP psychology.  I hope it will be an easier year, mentally, for me, without AP bio. 

I'm leading the Egypt unit for our other co-op, and that means another chicken is being mummified, just like I did back in August 2009.  Ah, memories. 

I'm also wading back into college admissions waters.  This year it's Luke's turn, so I've been updating transcripts and so on.  This year will be our first time to navigate the common app.  I'm thankful Christine took one for the team and did it last year!  For those of you who don't have access to Christine, another good place to look for answers on how to fill it out as a homeschooler, this thread on the WTM high school board is absolutely loaded with good information.  It has already answered one of our questions!

Although I'm not at all ready for summer to be over, it is, and now I need to get motivated for this year.  I told a friend, it's kind of like childbirth when you've had a lot of kids, and you're pregnant again.  You pretty much know exactly what to expect, and how it is going to feel.  You know you can and will get through it.  Once it starts, you'll deal with it.  But you really, really, really don't want to.  That's me right now! 

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Days of Peace and Quiet

Two years ago was a really, really difficult year.  Verity was born in September, she had all her nursing/weight gain problems, I had all Nathan's college application stuff, and I was teaching anatomy & physiology, life science, and Latin.  Last summer I was really pretty depressed and on the edge of a breakdown, at least as far as homeschooling was concerned.  Driving back to VA from Ohio was the hardest thing I've ever done because I just did NOT want to go back.  I was so done.

Then Bob's company paid for us to go to Vail for 4 days in September, and it was the most amazing time ever.  My parents came out to VA to be with the kids, and Bob and I were away, just ourselves, for the first time since I was pregnant with Jonathan in 2003.  I honestly think that weekend away was what allowed me to get through this last school year after being so depressed and numb during the summer.  I had no idea that I would be so refreshed by just a little time away where no one needed me, and I didn't have to do anything.  It was a gift from God.

Last Saturday, as we were driving home, we stopped to eat dinner with Nathan.  After dinner, Bob and the rest of the kids drove home, I dropped Nathan back off at WSS (remember, we left a minivan up there when we were driving out to Ohio the previous weekend) . . . and then I drove off all by myself to town!  I met my friend Carri (we were on staff at WSS together back in the glory days, lol, and we've kept up over facebook and even a visit to their house in KY through the years), and we had a lovely little slumber party at the Super 8!  She got there about 5 minutes after I did.  We started talking, and we kept right on talking.  Eventually we turned on the Olympics, but we continued talking.  We talked for awhile longer even after we turned out the lights!  And we started talking again before we actually got up Sunday morning.  In fact, we talked so much that we missed breakfast at the hotel, so we drove over to Denny's.  We got there around 9:45 . . . and we stopped talking at 12:00 when we realized we had missed church at the Springs, and we had better get on back there so we didn't miss Sunday dinner!

We both have 10 kids, and we are right there in the middle of the same struggles, with older kids as well as younger kids.  It was so nice to just talk about things with someone who knows what I'm feeling, and who just listens.  We both feel "done" with homeschooling--but of course we aren't anywhere near done, so we have to just buck up!

We sat at lunch with Christa, another friend from way back who has 8 kids and is also in the same boat.  We commiserated about feeling overwhelmed, constantly tired, etc.  It was absolutely lovely, and really, so encouraging.

After lunch, people picked up their junior staff kids and left.  And then . . . it was pretty much just me, along with all the senior staff, who were having a little end-of-summer retreat/clean the hotel session before they left on Tuesday.  See, we knew Nathan needed to get picked up on Tuesday, and I wanted to see Carri Sunday.  Bob was the one who suggested that I stay up at WSS all. by. myself. Sunday night through Tuesday, instead of coming home Sunday afternoon and driving back up Tuesday at lunch to pick up Nathan.  It sounded pretty extravagant to me, but wow--what an amazing gift!  Time to myself!
I went on long, quiet walks.  I didn't have to get back to check on anyone!  I read.  I think I finished 6 books, and none of them were school-related!  I rocked on the porch and gazed out at the trees and hills.  I made some lists and contemplated some curriculum changes for the girls.  I went into town Monday afternoon to use the coffee shop wi-fi so I could catch up on emails, and then I just drove around town, looking at old houses, since I didn't need to be anywhere.  It was lovely.

I really am quite introverted, and sometimes it is hard to live with so many people around me all the time.  But being able to recharge like this, all by myself, was really a good thing, and it hopefully will put me in a better frame of mind to get through this next school year, another one where I have to do all the admissions stuff, and deal with all the emotions of another kid graduating and heading off.  

Sometimes I try to think ahead to when all the kids have graduated, and it will just be peaceful and quiet around me all the time.  I know I'll miss the chaos and noise at least a little bit, and at least sometimes--but that's at least 16 years away, so it's hard to even really think too hard about it, lol.  In the meantime, I'm especially thankful for these brief little respites, and for a husband who is generous enough to see I need them!

Monday, August 08, 2016

Week of Fun and Family

We had a great week in Ohio!  We drove out last Saturday, dropping a mini-van off at WSS on our way for Nathan to use.  We rushed to get to Ohio because Saturday night I had a little mini-reunion with some people from my high school class!  We had such a nice time visiting and re-connecting.  I've heard people say they don't like facebook because they don't want to hear from people in the past, like high school, but I think this is one of the best things about facebook!  I liked my high school classmates, and I really enjoy seeing them and hearing what they are up to!  Plus, we ate Marion's pizza and had delicious cake that Jenny brought, so it was a total win!
Sunday was church and then rides in the old 1928 Model A Ford of my dad's.  Then, for a change of pace, we did facial masks, which was so fun.  Some Korean friends had given my parents the animal and Shrek masks (that's what my dad is wearing, in case you couldn't tell), but they only had 4 of them--not even enough for all 5 girls!  So Bob and I had to make an emergency trip to Walmart to get the blue masks as well.  That gave us enough for all who wanted their skin revitalized and refreshed!  It was a lot of fun, and Verity wasn't TOO scared.
Monday we wanted to go bowling, but we forgot that the bowling alley is (still) closed on Mondays.  Whoops!  So we headed to the park and brought Chick-Fil-A for a picnic lunch.  It was overcast but oh, so humid.  We melted!  Everyone except Verity had fun, and that's because she was being a total crab for some unknown reason.
Tuesday was Kids' Day at Youngs, so Grandpa, Uncle Jim, and Bob took everyone except Verity miniature golfing, which Micah and Drew loved.  Then Grandma, Aunt Claire, Verity, and I met them for lunch and ice cream, and of course the obligatory barn tour.  There was a goat who must have been due any minute with twins and looked extremely uncomfortable.  Poor mama!
This is the cutest picture of Verity with her adored older brother, Luke.  Luke got to try his hand at driving a stick shift Tuesday night when Grandpa let him drive the Model A!
Thursday we went back to the base bowling alley, which was open.  We took up 3 lanes, and everyone had fun.  The girls had gone last week, as past of Grandma/Grandpa camp, and Grace didn't have a very good time because she didn't do very well.  But this time she listened to some good advice from Uncle Jim, conquered her fear of being up there all by herself, and was thrilled to bowl a 98.  Next year, 100!
After we bowled 2 games and ate lunch, we were dismayed to discover our big van wouldn't start.  Bob ran over to the BX and bought jumper cables, and we got it started, but that was unsettling.
Thursday morning the big van once again wouldn't start, but we ladies went out to Mimi's for a lovely breakfast in 2 other vans, and the men all went out to First Watch in another van.  But when we all got back, getting the big van fixed because a top priority.  We decided it must be the alternator, because I was sure we had replaced the battery lass than 2 years ago.  But then my blog came in very handy--I knew we had gotten stuck at TNT when the big van wouldn't start, and Nathan and Isaac had to come rescue us.  But when I went back and read my blog entry, I realized the battery wasn't the issue then, and we didn't actually replace it.  So we ended up replacing the alternator and the battery.  My dad was able to get a garage to work on our van right away, which was a miracle, because the soonest appointments anywhere were the next Wednesday, and THAT wasn't going to work!

Thursday after we went to a local waterpark.  I used to go there with the older boys when we were stationed in Ohio, but it has really changed since then!  The kids had a really fun time.  Grace faced her fears and went down a really steep water slide as well as diving off the indoor high dive!  Anna did too, although she wasn't as initially scared.  We went at 3:00, which was perfect timing, as the daycares were all leaving!  I think Micah, Drew, and Verity had the best time though.  They loved the place!  It was good to get that much energy run off of them.
Friday we sadly had to say goodbye to Aunt Claire, Uncle Jim, Emily, and Elia, as they flew back down to Texas.  We had hoped our 3 girls could go to the airport with them to say goodbye, but sadly the van wasn't finished yet.  This did allow Bob to take Anna and Caleb to the Pass & ID place on base.  Anna never got her first ID card, even though she turned 10 in March, and Caleb's had been expired since February (and he looked like a toddler in his picture, lol).  We had called to make an appointment before we drove to Ohio, and the soonest appointment they had open was in September!  But when they walked in, there were only 3 people ahead of them, and they were back home in an hour!  It was such a blessing to be able to get that done there, because it is a real pain back in DC.
Friday night Luke and I stayed up late to finish this puzzle we had been working on.  I love doing puzzles--it's such a quiet activity!
Saturday morning we had to leave early so we could stop in PA and visit Bob's parents!  His sister Ann and her husband were there, as well as his brother Paul, and a little later his sister Jane stopped by.  She brought ice cream, which was a popular gift on a warm day!  We spent a few hours visiting there, and then we drove on to WSS where we picked up Nathan and took him out for pizza.  It was so good to see him--it's hard to believe his summer there is almost done!
So we had an absolutely lovely week of vacation, which of course ended way too soon.