Monday, August 14, 2017

Another One's Flown the Nest

Bob, Luke, and I left Thursday morning for a long drive to Alabama.  There was some rain (some of it quite heavy!), but we made it down in about 12 hours, which included a nice long stop at Steak N Shake for dinner (and a long chat with the friendly waitress--I love the south!).

Friday morning we headed over to the university to start moving Luke in!
The nice thing about the housing here is that each student has his or her own room.  That was a big positive for Luke!  The rooms aren't big, but they're not tiny either.  Plenty of room!  The rooms come furnished with a bed that you can raise or lower, a desk, a bookshelf/hutch, a desk chair (that rocks, oddly), a dresser, and a closet that has a really small 3 drawer dresser attached inside on the left that is about half the width of the closet.
Luke decided he wanted his bed up a little higher, so he could fit the dresser under it.  He could have lofted it even higher--there were extra headboard things to do that with in the closet in the common area, but we could never find any pins to attach them.  But what we ended up with is probably high enough.  He also fit a big Rubbermaid tub under there, and some other stuff.
In each suite, there is a common area, and 2 rooms on either side.  This is looking down the hallway from the common area.  Luke's room is the second on the right.  He and the other guy each get their own sink, and then there is a shower and toilet for them to share.  The other side of the common area has the same set-up for 2 other guys.
Here is the common area.  The furniture (or at least the couch cushions) have seen better daysbut they are functional!
There is a little kitchen area with the world's smallest microwave and a pretty small fridge.  I think it will be fine for the 4 boys though.
It really didn't take much time to move Luke in, and we were done in time for lunch.  Before we left, Bob had solicited opinions in his office for good BBQ places down there, and he received quite a few recommendations.  He did due diligence by checking out reviews on the internet, and so for lunch, we tried "Melvin's", which had very positive reviews.  It is a not a place you would ever just come upon, for sure.  It is literally just these tents stuck next to some building, right next to the smokers.
The barbecue was good, although a bit spicy for me.  I had pulled pork, Bob had half a chicken, and Luke had ribs.  Each plate came with a cold bottle of water, and some homemade baked beans and potato salad (no other choices or anything!).  We each got a ton of meat, which was good because we were a little surprised when we went to pay and each plate was $15!  There's no menu there or anything, so we weer just flying blind!  It was a fun experience though, and Melvin was very friendly.

After we finished lunch, we went to Walmart to pick up all the stuff we realized we forgot (trash can, among other things!).    There is no cleaning service for the suites, so the boys are responsible for cleaning their own bathroom/kitchen, and for supplying things like toilet paper!  We bought a big thing for that!  We also went to Sams to buy a different desk chair.  Luke didn't love the one that was provided.  We went back to the dorm and assembled it in the parking lot so we didn't have to carry the big box inside.
After that, my parents and some local friends of their's stopped by!  In a weird situation of good timing, my parents had some friends just move down to Montgomery, and they were invited down to visit them.  So they stopped first to stay the night with friends who live near Luke's school, and of course, since we were there too, they couldn't resist seeing Luke's room and visiting with us!  We all went out to eat at a delicious German restaurant, and then over to Rich and Judy's lovely home for dessert and to visit some more.  It was so fun!

Saturday we probably could have driven back, but I'm glad we didn't.  It was nice to have 2 days in between the big drives.  Instead, after breakfast, Bob and I each exercised at the hotel gym, and then I worked on some chemistry.  Then we decided to go a little further south to another BBQ place that several people had recommended--"Big Bob Gibson"!
This place was actually a physical building with air conditioning, so that was nice (less flies!).  There were a LOT of big trophies all around the room because this place has won some serious amounts of championships, including the 2017 World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest.
I liked this barbecue a bit better because the sauce wasn't as spicy.  Also, Bob had the most amazing mac and cheese for a side dish!  Even better, they had those yummy little rolls of crushed ice, which are the absolute best.  AND (this has never before happened to me) the (really, really nice) waitress asked me at the end if I wanted a "to go" cup so I could take my ice water with me!  YES!  That's the annoying thing about sit-down restaurants on trips--you usually can't refill your water bottle or take your cup with you!

So then we drove around a little more--I finally think I'm getting my bearings there--and then headed back to the hotel so I could do some more chemistry.  Luke was doing ice breaker things at the university since classes don't start for a few more days.  But then we picked him back up and headed over to our other friends' house, the ones we stayed with when we came down to visit.  We had a ball with them, as well as a delicious meal!  It's so fun to see all these friends in other places!  But we eventually had to go drop Luke off and say goodbye so we could start the long drive back Sunday.

We got back after another long 12 hour day, thanks to construction and traffic.  It was a really nice time though.  Originally we thought we'd bring everyone, but once we realized Nathan didn't have to be back at his school until later, we decided to leave everyone else at home with him.  It was a really good decision!  Although I'd like for everyone to see Luke's school at some point, it was good not to have a circus trailing us as we tried to get Luke situated, so we could just focus on him.  Plus it was really fun, just the three of us!  On the way down, we listened to an entire week of sessions from one of the WSS speakers this year, on Jonah.  It was really excellent, and we didn't have to stop it once to settle a backseat dispute or because someone was crying!

I think it was easier for me since we left 2 days after we got there.  I could see him settling in, and everyone was just so very friendly.  I think he's going to have a great 4 years there!  I didn't not want to come home though.  Aside from the always depressing thought of driving back into Northern VA, there is the thought that the school year is about to start again, and I really am not ready!  Oh well--onward and upward, stiff upper lip, and all that.  I can't wait for camping next year . . .

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Introducing Mocha!

This past year was such a hard year, bunny-wise.  Bruno died suddenly at the very beginning of the school year, in September (although looking back, he had not been himself for a few weeks before that), and then Pikachu had his terrible fluke accident, and we had to put him to sleep the beginning of May to end up the school year.  After Pikachu's death, I said to the kids, "No more fragile pets like bunnies!"

And I was completely serious about that . . . until my friend Nicole messaged me while we were in Ohio back in June.  Her family was moving, and they didn't really want to take their bunny with them, so would we be interested in having him??  I remembered pictures of their bunny being carried around by their youngest, and I knew he was a really sweet, good-natured bunny, so after talking it over with Bob, we said yes!
We picked up Mocha on Monday, June 26.  He is indeed such a sweetheart  He's a little smaller than Bruno, and a little bigger than Pikachu, so a really nice size.  He is just friendlier than Pikachu was, so that is so nice. Pikachu was always just a little aloof.  Mocha is quite happy to have company, and he will climb into your lap if you sit on the floor to snuggle (albeit briefly, lol).
He's got this neat white "saddle" around him.
The family gave us their hutch, and let me tell you, it is quite posh--a 2 level townhome!  We hooked the door open so he can always go and in and out of hutch into the run, and he's  really been liking that. We let him out into the schoolroom as well, and so far we haven't left any cords down for him to chew through, so that's a plus!
This is one bunny who *loves* his hay.  He loves it!  The other 2 bunnies ate some of it, and then they would play around with some.  There was always some hay left around in the cage bottom.  Not so with Mocha.  He gobbles down every bit of hay I give him, and it's the pellets that he can take or leave!  He also adores kale, romaine, and any other greens.  After my morning walk while the kids were at swim team, I would pick a bouquet of dandelion leaves and flower, plus clover, to give to him when we got back him, and he would bound out of his hutch when he saw me come through the front door!
Today Mocha had company--a dog named Denver!  He is the dog of some other friends of ours, who are out of town right now.  The Mc's were dogsitting, but they were also away today, so we filled in.  We've been discussing the possibility of getting a dog sometime in the nearer future, now that Verity is pottytrained, so we figured this would be a good test run.  Denver is such an easy dog--so mellow!--and it was really fun to have him for the day.  Everyone thoroughly enjoyed walking him and playing with him!  

Mocha was a little afraid at first, and he spent most of the morning on the 2nd story of his hutch, peering out of the mesh window up there, but he gradually warmed up to Denver.  Denver would just lay by the cage and watch Mocha, until Mocha hopped around a bit.  Then Denver would get up and sniff the cage, and Mocha would run back into his hutch.  So it was a good test run for us--but only if we can get a dog as chill as Denver, lol.

In the meantime, Mocha has firmly established himself as part of our family, and I am really glad that we took the plunge and got another little bunny, especially one as cute and sweet as this one! 

Sunday, July 23, 2017

The End of Swim Season


I am terribly behind on this blog (for example, we got a new rabbit a month ago . . .), and mainly it's because of summer swim team.  I have a love/hate relationship with swim team.  It's great exercise!  It gets everyone up and going early in the morning!  The other kids and parents are so nice!

But . . . it takes up the entire morning!  Plus Wednesday nights and Saturdays!  And we lose (or break, for variety) goggles like you wouldn't believe!

I must say I am looking forward to not hearing, "I can't find any goggles!!" another time this summer.

So here's our morning swim team routine:  The 3 girls and Micah and I leave at 7:20.  Micah's practice is from 7:30-8:00.  Faith's practice is from 8:00-8:30, so I take this hour to walk on the really lovely, shady path behind the pool.  Even though it's shady, the past 2 weeks have been miserably hot and humid, so even shade leaves me absolutely dripping with sweat when I'm done.  

I spend a few minutes picking dandelion leaves and clover for Mocha, our new bunny (who I will introduce in a later post, I promise), and then I take Micah home, and sometimes Faith, as long as she doesn't want to take a long shower.  If she does, I leave her there while Anna and Grace practice from 8:30-9:15.

I rush home and take the world's quickest shower, making sure Caleb and Jonathan are getting ready to go before I get in.  Then we leave to be at the pool at 9:15, which is when their practice starts.  As long as either Nathan or Luke are home, then I don't have to take Drew and Verity, which is lovely.  There have been weeks when no one else is home though, alas.

Then I pick up Anna and Grace (possibly Faith too) and run them back home because they are starving by now (me too!), and we eat a quick bite before I rush back to pick up the boys at 10:00.  

And by then I'm exhausted and ready for a nap, completely unmotivated to start any huge project, or even little one, for that matter!  Sigh.

The season was great though.  Micah won almost all his races, even though he has the craziest way to take a breath for freestyle--he practically rolls over on his back, the move is so exaggerated!  He's a strong boy.  Grace was also at the top of her game.  At the invitation-only meet pictured up top, she won a medal in all 4 of her races.  Anna was not the oldest in her age bracket, but she is still a very strong swimmer.  In that same meet, she came out of the 2nd heat to win a medal, which was impressive.  Faith is also a good swimmer, and she won second place for her relay.  Caleb and Jonathan didn't swim in any meets because they both missed several (different) weeks of the season for various things, like being in Ohio, working at WSS, and going to encampment.  Still good exercise though!

The kids have only been swimming the 2 months of summer swim team, and they've been a little frustrated at things like their start dives, flip turns, and some other technique issues--things that if they just worked on them a little more, their times would probably really drop.  So we've toyed with the idea of having them (the 3 girls, mainly, but possibly Micah) do some swim team during the year.  The only problems are 1, that is pretty expensive, and 2, how on earth are we going to logistically do something like that?!  So we're looking around at different teams and ideas.  

I don't really want this to take over our lives, because we know no one is Olympic-bound (we're just too short!), and we still want them to be able to do other things like run cross country and play basketball.  I guess I'd say "strong kids, not specialized kids" is our goal.  

I just don't see me getting any more energized or motivated throughout the school year, though!

Friday, July 07, 2017

Potty-Training for the Tenth Time, Plus Some Advice at the End

Nathan turned 20 on June 24, which means that I have now been changing diapers for over 20 years straight.  There was never a time where everyone was potty-trained before the next baby came along.  We've had 2 in diapers quite a few times, but never 3, so that was nice.  Still--that's a lot of diapers, and frankly, I am ready to retire.

All that required was for me to convince Verity, and she has not been very interested in the potty!  She has sat on it several times over the past 6 months, but she rarely produced anything at all.  I knew she was ready, however, because when we drove back from Ohio on June 22, she was dry in the car.  I changed her diaper before we left, but she was dry at our lunch stop, so I didn't change her.  At 3:00, we stopped at a gas station, and she was still dry as a bone.  I told her she needed to pee so I could change her then, because we weren't making another stop, and then I went inside with the other girls to use the rest room.  When I came back out, Verity told me she had peed, and she had!  So obviously anyone with that kind of awareness and holding capability should be ready to be potty-trained!

 She's also been dry in the mornings pretty consistently, so we did a "soft start" to potty-training on Nathan's birthday.  And lo and behold, she peed in the potty right off the bat!  The older girls got her excited about wearing panties, so she picked out a pair (we have approximately a million 2T/3T pairs of varying designs) and wore them happily.  She did have an accident later on, but she did pretty well for the first day.  She wore a diaper for church and for anywhere else we were out the next few days, but she again did really well, with really only one or two other pee accidents.

The only problem was that she wouldn't poop on the potty.  She had one poopy accident in her panties (bye-bye Princess Tiana panties--I never liked your movie very much anyway, and I am DONE swishing out poopy panties in the potty, now that no one is following behind . . .), and then she just pooped at night in her diaper (or at the pool in her swim diaper once--oops).
 We tried to encourage longer sitting sessions on the potty, with Luke watching many animal videos on his phone with her, and Grace reading her books, but no dice.  Verity also was never interested in trying the actual big toilet, either.
Then we went to Aunt Rose's house for the weekend.  I didn't pack her little potty, and since she had never peed, much less pooped in a big toilet, I kept her in diapers (or swim diapers) all weekend long. But this big girl was dry as a bone!  And she peed like a champ on the big toilet the whole time!  But she pooped in her diaper, instead of going on the toilet.  Ah well.

Then, on the Fourth of July, we had a breakthrough!  She pooped on the little potty not once, but twice!  Glory, glory, hallelujah!  

It was not all sunshine and roses, however.  While we were at the L's house, watching fireworks, she pooped on their toilet-and then decided to take matters into her own hand, as far as getting off and then wiping herself.  It was not pretty.  Thankfully Linda caught her before she came out to look for me, so the damage was contained!  

Since then, she has had no more accidents, and she is wearing panties full time.  We're still not out of the woods entirely with the whole poop thing, though.  She didn't go at all yesterday or today, and she'll just complain that her tummy hurts. I'm sure she's got some backlog from the stress of it all, so we're hitting that hard with extra fiber and water!  And I'm still putting her in a diaper at night and even sometimes when we go places (like to Bible study tonight) until everything works its way through.  And Verity is still enamoured with our panty selection, so she changes them frequently, even without needing to.  She also must like the look of them on her, because she's taken to not wearing anything else BUT panties around the house.  If you stop by to visit, don't be surprised if a cherub wearing only princess panties greets you at the door!

But I think I can pretty much say I am finished with diapers!  Wow!  I never dreamed that diaper-changing would be what I would become a world-class expert in, but there it is.  I wonder how long it will take for my skills to become rusty?

So what are some final potty training tips from someone who has done it more times than most?
1.  Wait until they are closer to 3.  
2. But make sure that they are really owning it mentally, because like pretty much everything else, if the child doesn't really want to be potty-trained, then you are fighting a losing battle.  One way to motivate them, especially if a younger baby is in your family, is to really play up the differences between "big kids" and babies.  Constantly reiterate what the bigger kid can do that the baby doesn't get to do, but always point out that as long as the kid wears a diapers/he is technically a baby, since that's what little baby sibling or friend baby wears.  In conjunction with that, figure out what motivates the kid, and tell him/her that is only for big kids who wear underwear.  Chewing gum, getting toenails painted--that sort of thing.  Whatever really lights their fire and might make them think it is worth it to wear underwear and interrupt what they are doing to go sit on a cold toilet to eliminate waste.  This kind of psychological reasoning can be why it works to wait until the kid is a little closer to 3 than 2, often.
3.  Try to make it low stress on you and them, as if you don't really care if this happens or not, it just might be nice for them to be a big kid so they get all these big kid privileges, you know?  This is probably easier to do when you are NOT dealing with kid #1, and all the attention is on him.  But like I did with Verity, set him on a potty, reward with M&Ms or whatever liberally, and then put the diaper back on if he's not real interested.  Then after a while of that, then work on wearing underwear, knowing that there will be a few accidents at first. But don't set up expectations for yourself that it will only take a day!  or whatever.  Because it might not (or maybe you'll get lucky), and if you are expecting that, then it's very easy to get totally discouraged.  Expect a month!  
4.  Potty-training is easier in summer simply because there are less clothes to take off or put on, and no one gets cold if they run around naked or just with underwear on.
5.  Like all kid phases, this one doesn't usually last all that long either, even though it seems like you will be dealing with accidents for the rest of your life while you are in the thick of it.  Even if it is tricky for an entire month, that's really not that long in the whole scheme of things (and obviously with special needs, this doesn't apply!).  Like one friend said, no one's kid goes off to college wearing diapers.  They'll get it!
6.  Oh!  My trick for boys, which came from Elizabeth L., who got it from her mother-in-law, who raised 4 boys:  sit little boys on the potty facing backwards!  Then their legs are spread wide enough that everything points down and goes into the toilet, plus they can hold onto the tank for support, so they don't feel like they are going to fall in!  This is a LIFESAVER if you don't want to be dealing with puddles of pee in the front of your toilet and in your little boy's underwear and pants because he didn't sit far enough back/legs far enough apart. 

That's all I can think of right off the bat.  I've always said I would rather go through labor and delivery than potty-training, so I must say I am thrilled to have this basically behind me!  Yay!  I should go out and celebrate with all the extra money we will now have in our budget without diapers and wipes!  Woo-hoo!

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Weekend at the Lake!

The kids had a swim meet Saturday morning, which took approximately forever, as swim meets do, but afterwards, we drove up to visit Bob's sister and her 2 daughters at their beautiful house on the lake! We got there in time for a late dinner, and then bed, because Sunday was a busy day!
 Rose was having a graduation party for her daughter Maddie Sunday afternoon, so we spent the morning helping decorate (which involved fighting over big balloons, if you were in the younger set) and get food ready.
 After most things were ready, Maddie took the kids out on the boat.  Their dog Tucker went along too.  Spending time with Tucker is another thing the kids really look forward to doing at Aunt Rose's house!  You can also see what a gorgeous day it was, weather-wise.  Just beautiful!
 The kids are eating some "walking tacos", except theirs got dumped out on a plate for (hopefully) less mess.  You take a small bag of Doritoes, crush them up a bit in the bag, open the top, spoon in some meat and other taco toppings, and then eat.  Yum!  There were lots of other dips, fruit, chicken, potato and macaroni salads, etc., and a nice cake.  All delicious!
 Here are the 2 cousin graduates, born just a month apart!
 The kids did some paddle-boating during the party.
 Verity and Aunt Rose
 Two boys, happy to be at the lake!
Even Bob and I went paddle-boating!  That's more my speed, lol.
I was able to get in a lot of reading as well, finishing 2 murder mysteries this weekend, both by Jeanne Dams, in her Dorothy Martin series.  Perfect for a relaxing weekend!
 By 7:00 there were really a lot of people there because the lake association was putting on fireworks over the lake when it got dark.  We watched in amazement as the highway sides filled with pickup trucks, and people came from everywhere to line the lake.  We had the best seats though, because they shot the fireworks off literally across the street from Rose's house, just a hundred yards away.  We all just sat on a blanket in the front yard and watched the show!  And it was an amazing show, really.  Thirty minutes long!  We thought a few times that they were having the big finale, but no, it just kept on going!  Verity was scared at first, but then she sat in Bob's lap, and gradually she relaxed and enjoyed them.  If you ask her about them, she'll tell you they were "pitty".  It was really neat to be practically underneath them.  When they actually were done--we just turned around, went into Rose's house, and put the kids to bed!  How great is that!  We will never watch more convenient fireworks ever!

Monday morning, Bob and I took a very long walk around the lake.  We walked for over an hour, and we only got about halfway around!  I love looking at the various houses and cottages.  Some of them are so neat!
 When we got back, everyone played a rousing game of slip-n-slide kickball (well, I documented it from a comfortable shady perch on the trampoline with Verity, along with Micah and Drew at various times).

 Jonathan took this picture.  Note the artsy slant, lol.
 This was our view off the other side of the trampoline.  Very relaxing!  Micah and I played "shapes in the clouds" for awhile.
 After the game was done, everyone swam in the lake for a bit before we had to pack up and leave for home.
But not without taking a picture, of course!  We had such a nice weekend, and it was really special to be there to celebrate Maddie graduating.  The kids are ready to go back up there this next weekend.  Drew especially was *quite* disappointed that we weren't going to be there for the fireman's parade (which is next weekend, along with the 5k), like we were last year.  I think the candy they threw was the biggest draw though . . . maybe next year!

Monday, June 26, 2017

Catching Up--Ohio Visit


 Two Fridays ago, we woke up early and drove up to WSS to see the girls on the zipline.  We picked them up and then continued on to Ohio, where everyone was happily reunited!
 We did lots of fun things, like play in this sprinkler that Uncle Jim bought to save Grandpa's grass from the blow-up pool!
 Grandpa drove people around in the Model A.
Uncle Jim grilled him famous flank steak for Father's Day with Grandpa.
Many chalk art masterpieces were drawn on the driveway.  Aren't Faith and Elia cute in their matching dresses?  The dresses are their "Grandma/Grandpa camp" matching dresses!
We made delicious shaved ices with Grandpa's new shaved ice machine, a Father's Day present from Bob.
We made the obligatory trip to Youngs.  The girls played miniature golf, and then I met them with the littles for lunch and ice cream.

Micah enjoyed watching funny golf videos with Uncle Jim!
Gymnastics happened, as usual.
All too soon, it was time to say goodbye to Emily and Elia, Aunt Claire and Uncle Jim, who all flew out last Wednesday.
We had such a fun time together!

After they left, we were able to meet friends at a park for a play date (and mom chat date!), and then we all went over to Amy's house for the afternoon.  It was a great visit, but much too short, as usual.

The trip was only marred by me hobbling around like a little old woman, having seriously strained my back/knocked my hips out of whack the Wednesday before we left.  I spent more time stretching in the week we were in Ohio than I have probably all year!  Growing old is not for wimps!