Wednesday, September 20, 2017

If You Give a Doctor an Appointment . . .

So the end of August I took Anna and Grace in for physicals because they needed forms signed so they could run cross country.  I'm pretty good about getting babies in for well-baby checkups, but once the kids turn 3, I'm a lot less consistent if they are healthy.  (Okay, we pretty much never go in for physicals anymore because who has time for that, and I've always been running smaller kids in for well-baby appointments.  You would think that would make it easier, but it is next to impossible to keep all my kids on the same "team" of pediatricians, so the upshot of it all is that the olders never get well child appointments.)  BUT we needed paperwork, so off we went.

Bethesda is a teaching hospital, so what that means is you always are seen by a resident, then the supervising doctor, and that is what happened that day.  Both ladies were super nice, and definitely super . . . thorough.  They both spent approximately forever listening to both girls' hearts--sitting up, lying down, over and over again.  Lots of murmuring and "Did you hear that? . . . How about now?"  Eventually the older doc said that they heard a murmur in both girls, which was perfectly normal, except that Grace's had a different sound to it.  Not "like a guitar string, and also not harsh, but different."  Okay . . . They asked Grace a bunch of questions about whether she has ever felt dizzy or faint while exercising, or ever felt her heart race or anything.  (No)  But they decided we needed to see cardiology for a consult.

So this morning was our consult with the pediatric cardiologist.  Before we were even seen, Grace had an EKG done.  Then the resident came in to say that looked just fine, and he took a listen to her heart.  He listened for awhile but didn't even hear a murmur, much less one that sounded weird.  Next the supervising doctor came in, and he also listened for awhile, but couldn't hear anything wrong at all.  He was actually a little irritated that they sent her over, although he did end that sentence with the obligatory "better safe than sorry," lol.  He said that every child probably has a murmur at some appointment--a murmur is just blood flow they can hear--and that they aren't anything to worry about.  If there are actual real structural problems with the heart, then those murmurs won't be here one day, gone the next, so a problem most likely wouldn't just all of a sudden show up at a routine physical at age 10 with no symptoms of a problem.  So Grace got a clean bill of health, and her heart is cleared to keep on being as physically active as it has been, which is good because she has another cross country meet coming up on Saturday!

The second issue the original doctors found with Grace is that she is really skinny.  This is not actually a new problem for her.  Although she was 8 lbs. 13 ounces at birth, she quickly fell off that, and has spent the rest of her life hugging the 5th percentile growth line for weight. Once when she was 18 months, she got really sick with a stomach bug over Christmas, and she dropped back below 20 pounds.  At that point everyone was concerned (even me!), and we had to give her cream on her cereal, lots of butter on bread, ice cream every night, etc.  This was while I was in my third trimester of pregnancy with Faith, battling gestational diabetes, so that was a challenging period for me, lol.

Anyway, she has always been skinny.  The problem here was that she did have a doctor appointment back in May, when she had strep throat, and since that time she had grown taller but lost some weight, so she was on the day of the physical 55 inches tall but only 59 pounds.  That puts her BMI at the 0th percentile.  So now we are supposed to go back for a weight check in November so they can make sure she is not losing anymore weight.  

Grace has put herself on a strict regimen of milkshakes almost every afternoon, and I am pleased to say that it is working!  When she was measured today, she was almost 56 inches--and 66 pounds!  She's really packing it on!  That puts her in the 11th percentile for BMI, and actually it makes me wonder if the scale over at the pediatric clinic was really accurate that day?  Weird.  No one looks at Grace and thinks she is wasting away, an unhealthy "skinny".  She looks strong and fit--just skinny!  Anyhow, I don't think I'll be bringing her back in for the weight check.  It's not like we can just pop over there for 15 minutes.  A 15 minute appointment takes me the entire morning, driving there and back plus navigating the parking garage.  And beside, we have to make other trips for Anna . . . 

Which brings me to Anna's issue.  She got out of the physical appointment unscathed and pronounced healthy.  But now there is a routine lipid scan for 10-12 year olds, so both girls had to have blood draws.  I got a call from the doctor a few days later saying that Anna's LDL had been very slightly elevated, so she needed to go back in for a fasting blood draw.  We did that before our weekend at WSS, but again, I got a phone call the next week.  Her levels are *just slightly* elevated, right at the top end of normal.  SO we need to go back in 2 more months for another fasting blood draw so they can keep an eye on these levels.

Well.  I quickly researched high LDL levels in kids, and all the articles talked about were obese kids.  Parents were supposed to encourage weight loss, healthy food choices, and more exercise.    Anna is 58 inches and 80 pounds, giving her a BMI of 17, which is completely healthy.  She is super fit, strong, and active.  She swims, runs, plays basketball, and was competing in gymnastics until this past spring.  She runs a 20 minute 4K, and at this point in her life, I don't actually think it would be healthy for her to exercise more, and she certainly doesn't need to lose weight!  She eats very healthily, and rarely eats any fried, fatty food.  We don't eat tons of red meat because it's expensive to feed all these kids steak and roast all the time, and I cook pretty much all the time, with very little processed food.  She doesn't even eat cereal most mornings, which is our most processed meal--she usually makes herself a fruit smoothie!  

I did ask around, and people suggested more oats, chia seeds, and fish oil.  So now we are making big batches of steel cut oats in the instant pot with chia seeds, and she is eating a bowl of that every morning.  I also got some chewable omega 3 pills from Costco, and she's eating 2 of those a day.  We'll see if any of this makes a difference.  I have had 2 other friends tell me that their very active and healthy teen sons also have slightly elevated cholesterol levels, per this blood test, and it makes me wonder.  How did doctors get these healthy-range numbers for growing tween/teen kids?  They are wanting to help obese kids, but it seems like maybe they are pulling in healthy kids with their wide net.  I don't think Anna is at risk for heart problems right now, and neither of our families have histories of kids/young adults with high cholesterol.  Once people get older (40's, and less fit), yes, but that seems pretty normal. I wonder if once she is through puberty and in her 20's, if she will still have any cholesterol issues (well, probably not because of all the oatmeal, lol!).  Maybe this is something that works itself out in healthy, non-obese kids, especially since she's not in a range that would indicate a need for medicine or anything.  Regardless, we'll be back at Bethesda for another fasting blood draw the end of October.  

And so now you see why I don't make annual well child appointments a priority for healthy kids of mine!  If you don't report a problem, they'll find some!   

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Elementary Chemistry

Today and last Tuesday I taught chemistry to the 3rd and 4th graders ar our elementary co-op.  It was fun, although tiring.  I was having a hard time keeping all the different classes I'm teaching right now separate, since they are all sort of related to chemistry!  I'm glad this teaching is now over, and I can just focus on the other three, lol.

 Last Tuesday we talked about the periodic table.  When I was hanging up my periodic table posters (yes, plural) before we got started, one of the boys in the 3rd grade who was just walking in said, "I don't really understand what the periodic table is, or what it's good for." How about that for an introduction?  I told him I hoped he wouldn't be able to say that anymore after we finished!

I told them about Mendelev, who is credited with discovering it (although if you read other books like The Disappearing Spoon, which I highly recommend and have all my regular chemistry kids read, you'll find out that it is a complicated and very interesting story involving several other people as well . . .).  But Mendelev is a character, and he looks like the kind of person who you would find doing crazy experiments in a chemistry lab, lol.  Even though others had the general idea of how most of the elements were arranged, and what the patterns were, he gets the credit for discovering the table mainly because he was brilliant enough to leave holes where he predicted other elements would be discovered (and they were).

We spent a long time on what an element is, and more importantly, what an atom is and how it is structured.  We made these atom mobiles of a carbon atom (with 6 protons, 6 neutrons, and 6 electrons).  Although we talked a lot about the atomic number, I didn't go into atomic mass too much, which is a change from when I taught this 7 years ago to the 5th and 6th graders.  We also talked about the elements that have seemingly crazy chemical symbols that don't relate to what we call the elements (eg. Pb is lead, etc.).  They thought those were pretty interesting--well, maybe that was just me, lol.  Thank you, Latin!  And lastly we talked about each column of the periodic table, and how those elements all have similar properties.  I love the periodic table!  I even wore my "I wear this shirt periodically" t-shirt with the periodic table on it.

Here's a closer picture of Faith's paper plate carbon atom, complete with 2 outer shells for electrons.  I used pompoms for the atomic particles, which I bought from amazon.
For this Tuesday, we went a more experimental direction.  We talked about how to tell the difference between a chemical and physical change.  I gave them 4 main "clues" that a chemical reaction occurred:  it produces gas, it emits heat, light, or a new odor,  a new solid is formed, and it changes color (but this is tricky, because color change does not definitely mean a chemical reaction!).  Then we did some experiments to demonstrate those clues.

First was the classic "vinegar in a bottle, baking soda in a balloon" one.  When you put the balloon over the bottle mouth and shake the baking soda down, it reacts, forming sodium acetate, water, and carbon dioxide, which foams up, filling the balloon.  Most people had done this before, but hadn't thought of what was actually happening in the reaction or what the gas was.
 Secondly, we did a reaction with hydrogen peroxide and yeast in a beaker with a thermometer in it.  I had made up observation sheets so they could write down something about each experiment, and for this one, they had to mark the starting and ending temperatures.  It rose almost 30 degrees (F, although I made sure to tell them the C temperature too all the time), and it also foamed and bubbled, so they knew gas (oxygen in this case) was also being produced.  We talked about other exothermic reactions, like the ones used in those handwarmers, as well as endothermic ones, like the ones in those instant ice first aid ice packs.

Thirdly, we made slime, which was a big hit.  This was glue dissolved in water, with borax dissolved in water added to it.  This was definitely the big favorite as far as experiments go, because who doesn't like slime??  The 4th graders added green food coloring, which is why the slime below is tinted.  It was a good demonstration of a solid coming from 2 liquids.
 And lastly, I had 3 test tubes with water in them and a drop of green food coloring.  In the first one, I put a dropperful of vinegar, in the second a dropperful of hydrogen peroxide, and in the third (which is the first in this picture, because it's turned around, lol), I put bleach.  The bleach immediately turned the green blue, which impressed them, but it kept getting lighter until it was a very pale yellowish green.  We talked about the bleach you might put on white baseball pants actually having a chemical reaction with the green from the grass stains.
 Here was my table with a lot of my stuff on it.

After all the experiments, I gave them a handout with a ton of different chemistry lab equipment pictured, and then I showed them most of the pieces, thanks to my incredibly well-equipped science armoire here at home.  They liked seeing an erlenmeyer flask, volumetric flask, graduated cylinders, beakers, a ring stand with ring as well as the holder for burettes and thermometers, wire gauze, ceramic triangle, evaporating dish, crucible, various tongs, wire loop, 24 well reaction plate, and other stuff.  They were all pretty interested, and one girl said wistfully that she really wished she could come visit my lab, lol.  Maybe I'll inspire some future chemists!  After that, they all played with slime while I cleaned up.  It was fun, but I'm glad it's over!  

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Starting Up

A week ago, we had just gotten home from a wonderful retreat at WSS with my parents' chapel and Bible study group.  I had lots of time to visit with friends, which was so lovely.
 Bob and Anna got to try out the new high ropes course.  Bob was not a huge fan, although he completed it.  He did it with Anna, since she was younger than 13.  We may have to find someone else to go with Anna (and Grace too, since she'll be 11), as he wasn't sure he would do it again, and I am positive I'll never set foot up there!
 It was great to see my parents, of course, and the speaker, an active duty chaplain who used to be stationed there, was really good.

We left after the picnic Sunday evening and the bonfire.  Caleb drove us home so he could get in some night time driving hours, and he did a great job.  Usually we leave Monday after lunch, but we weren't all the way prepared for the start of Rivendell/TNT, and the house was a disaster area.  It was nice to have Monday to clean and finish preparing.

Tuesday was the TNT kick-off--Drew's first day!  This has been eagerly awaited for, well, as long as he has been conscious that Micah was going somewhere he wasn't, lol.  And it's definitely been awaited for since probably July, when he got his backpack out and filled up his pencil box.  He asked almost every night, "Is tomorrow TNT day?"  He is so happy to be going!  I totally should have taken a picture of everyone, but alas, taking first day pictures never became a tradition for me, and I'm not about to start now.  Maybe I'll think to take one this Tuesday--"second day of co-op"!

Usually I'll be doing chemistry lab Tuesday mornings, but the first day we had a moms' meeting, and then a picnic.  Since it was Drew's first day, it was nice that I could be there all morning, and I just worked the schedule so that we only had chem on Thursday afternoon, which is when we normally will have our chem class.

The 2 boys had some online classes on Wednesday, but Thursday was another busy day.  Last year Anna had German on Thursday morning, and I had signed her up again.  There was a conflict in that she and Jonathan both had to be different places at 9:00 (Jonathan at his math class), but I was able to work out a carpool to get Jonathan there. My morning was still going to involve a lot of running around, though, with dropping him off at 8:30, then Anna off at 9:00, then running home to try to accomplish something, then leaving at 9:45 to pick her up, coming home for another brief bit before runnign out to pick up Jonathan and his classmate, leaving at 11:45, and then coming home to teach chemistry from 1:30-3:00 followed by physical science from 3:00-4:30.  I was not looking forward to Thursdays at all.

But then we realized that Anna could take German with another friend who was going to be doing German with Joel Tuesday afternoons AT MY HOUSE!  Yay!  So that took care of some of the running around, and I have a bigger chunk of time to work with the girls on math and grammar especially Thursday morning!

Friday is AP chemistry lab in the morning.  The 2 kids who are taking this class are super self-motivated, exceptional kids, so they can pretty much run their own labs with just minimal input from me.  We're taking some time Friday mornings to go over questions they might have, but honestly, they know as much as I do.  My chemistry knowledge level is not longer AP level, so we are all working through this class together--I'm doing the chapter questions and everything too!  The upside is that will make teaching the regular chemistry class a total breeze.  I assigned the first 3 chapters of the AP book (Zumdahl, 9th Ed) for summer work--that covers the first 9 chapters of the high school book, lol (which is BJU, so pretty rigorous for high school!).  Side note:  I also assigned Alchemy of Air by Thomas Hager as summer reading, and I can absolutely recommend that book because it was so fascinating.  It detailed the development of the Haber Bosch apparatus that fixes the nitrogen in air into ammonia, which can then be turned into fertilizer--and also bad things, like poison gas.  I just tonight finished reading another book by the same man called Demon Under the Microscope, about the long road to developing sulfa drugs, the first antibiotics.  It too was absolutely fascinating!  I've decided I really like this author!

Saturday was the first cross country meet of the season for Anna and Grace, the only 2 kids of ours who are running this year.  It was down in Richmond, so the girls had a cheering section of Aunt Ann, Bob's sister!  Caleb went down with them and Bob so he could get in even more hours of driving (would that he were so diligent about the online portion, lol).  The girls ran in the middle school race, which was a 4k.  They did fine, although both of them felt like they did terribly.  But Anna ran a 20.30.5 4k, and Grace a 22:48, which is good for a 6th grader and a 5th grader in the first meet of the season!  There were only a handful of other 6th graders there, and no other 5th graders.  It was a beautiful day, weather-wise, for a cross-country meet!
Incidentally, the girls are running for the same team, different name.  The school they ran for last year folded, so the coach started her own private online homeschool academy so they could continue racing in meets against other schools and get into more competitive meets like this one.  She is a great coach, definitely going above and beyond for the team!

Now we're looking at the start of another week.  For the next 2 Tuesdays I'll be teaching chemistry at TNT.  (I am definitely all in for chemistry this year!)  I don't know that we'll totally get into a good weekly routine until that is over.  Tomorrow a few other classes start up that didn't happen last week with the Monday holiday.  Grace and Faith are taking a German class with Anna's teacher from last year, followed by an art class also with her.  Hopefully those will be fun!  The boys have some online classes tomorrow too.  This year is definitely the most complicated year yet, as far as schedules, outside classes, etc.  I'm trying to not stress about it.  One day at a time, right??  I'll be glad when the year is over and it's time for camping again, though!

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Summer Appliance Revolt

First we had to replace our fridge (with pretty much the same fridge, just newer) back in May.  That fridge has been keeping everything frozen in the freezer, and cold in the fridge, so that is good and expected, lol.  But the ice maker has been like an ice maker on steroids!  It furiously pumped out ice in these very sturdy lines of 8.  They never broke into individual pieces when they dumped in--I would have to take one line out and whack it on the side of the counter to get the cubes to break apart because they were so thickly attached together.  But hey, we had ice, right??  I was happy!

But then the excess of huge lines of ice actually broke the ice holder under the ice maker!  Well, we had kept our old drawers and shelves, so we had the container from our old fridge, which fit just fine.  So we switched them out and didn't think much more of it.  But then the ice maker really slowed down.  Eventually, it wasn't making ice any more, but it had clearly been releasing tons of water into our ice holder, because there were big frozen slabs of ice (I know--redundant, lol) on the bottom of it.  Alright, with no more ice forthcoming, it was clearly time to figure out how to call the repairman.  We just bought this crazy thing!

The repairman came on Tuesday, after 2 weeks of making ice in a single (broken) ice cube tray we dug out of the back of the cabinet that I used to freeze homemade baby food in.  To say I was glad to see the man would be a huge understatement.  I am not European--I love my ice cold water!  I told the guy about our icemaker on steroids, and he promptly replaced the icemaker.  Five minutes later, he was gone!  And I am happy to report that we are back in the ice business, hopefully for many more years this time . . .

In July our cook top decided to join in the rebellion.  When we moved into this house, there was a horrid JennAir cooktop (with big electric eyes, and a huge fan in the middle) that was original to the house.  By 2008, only 2 burners worked, so things were becoming desperate.  Sometime in the summer of 2008 we got a new flat cooktop, and I was soooo happy.  We had trouble once summer of 2012 while Siri and her family were staying with us.  The burners were coming on and not going back off again.  Bob was able to fix whatever was wrong, and we didn't have any more issues.

Until July 12.  I had spent a (hot, humid, but very fun) afternoon at Mt. Vernon with 2 of my high school friends.  I rushed home so I could take the kids to their swim meet, while Caleb heated some left-over spaghetti sauce and made some more noodles.  When I got home and walked past the cooktop, I could feel heat emanating from it, even though it was off, so I jiggled the knob to see if maybe it really hadn't turned all the way or something.  Well!  The burner started glowing bright red, and it was throwing sparks!  Ack!!  Caleb ran over to watch it while I ran downstairs to flip the circuit breaker.  Amazingly I was able to find the right switch right away, because the previous owners labelled the circuits fairly well.  Whew!

When Bob got home, he took off the knob, and we could see gray ash down under it.  He saw something that was lose, so he tightened it, and we threw the switch again, but it just started sparking again.  So--clearly a new cooktop was in order.

We spent a long time looking on the Lowes and Home Depot websites, comparing burners of all sizes.  Obviously we need big burners for our huge pots, but we were constrained by our counter cut-out.  Eventually we found one we could live with, and we ordered it--but it wasn't delivered until the end of July.  So we had to make do with my electric skillet and a really weenie plug-in electric burner we have for some reason (times like this, I suppose, but I don't remember ever buying it, lol).

Eventually the cooktop arrived.  Yay!  We got it out of the box--and discovered that there was an extra lip on the bottom that made it not fit in our counter cut-out, even though it was the same size on top.  Whoops!  We hadn't even looked at "counter cut-out size"!  Grrrrr . . . .
We talked about cutting the counter, but that seemed risky.  Then Bob did more reading and found out that this cooktop actually needed a 40 amp circuit instead of the 30 amp one we had.  Sigh.  Obviously this was not the cooktop for us, so we sent it back.

We went back to the websites.  We spent much time examining cut-out sizes as well as burner configurations.  This time we were even less excited because we already knew that we couldn't get ideal big burners in our size, and now with our electric constraints.  Our old cooktop had one big burner, one slightly smaller but still big, and 2 small ones.  We eventually settled on one that has 1 big burner and 3 small burners that are too close together to use for big pots.  The 2 burners on the left can work together, which would be great if I had any oblong pots.

Really the only saving grace for this cooktop is that it doesn't have knobs.  Normally I don't like more computer controls, but I am glad to not have bulky knobs taking up so much of the space.  But for some reason, not having knobs makes for a lot of wasted space, such that it is very hard to fit more than one big pot on at one time.  So that will be tricky to deal with, long-term. And the buttons will probably break easily . . . just like all other appliances seem to do now.

When we went to install this one, our counter hole was almost too big.  It turns out the "counter inset size" measurement on the website was off by 1/4 inch.  There is only a little bit of the cooktop that is on the edge all around, which is not ideal.  So honestly, who knows what to believe when ordering these things.
I am very ready to get a commercial kitchen!  At least the kitchenaid dishwasher is still going strong after several years.  If that had given up the ghost this summer as well, I think we would have been eating cereal and sandwiches permanently-- and on paper bowls and plates too!

Saturday, August 26, 2017

The Great Room Re-Shuffle

Here's a floor plan of our second story.  Nathan and Luke have always have bedroom #4, in the top left corner.  We've shuffled other kids around, but usually the newest baby has been in room 3.  Verity, of course, slept in our closet for her first 2 years, moving in with Micah and Drew in that room just a year ago.  The 3 girls have been in room 2 for several years, and Caleb and Jonathan have been in room 5.  

We started thinking about how to rearrange the rooms when we started thinking about Luke going off to college.  It seemed ridiculous to keep their room as an empty shrine to them when they were both gone most of the year, and we had 2 other rooms with 3 people in each of them.  Also, the 3 girls were sharing a bathroom with Caleb and Jonathan, and it was just getting crowded.  Jack-n-Jill bathrooms sound really great in theory, but in actuality, the doors into the other room were always getting mysteriously left locked, and no one wanted to claim responsibility for that, or for any messes left on the counter/by the toilet, etc.  So there was a lot of tension and quarreling from this bathroom.  Plus, as the girls move into puberty, it just seemed better to have a girls bathroom, and then a boys bathroom on the other side.

But the next question was, if Nathan and Luke give up their room, where will they stay when they're home, and where will all their stuff go?  We have a room at the foot of our basement stairs that seemed to fit the bill.  The previous owners had put a humongous built-in desk down there, and it only had a tiny window, so we weren't going to use it as a full-time bedroom.  The only problem was that the previous owners had painted it a dark shade of green.  The whole room, even the door.  It was as dark as a cave!  (Well, the other problem was that the room had accumulated a lot of junk that we had to dispose of, lol.)

When Nathan got home from his few weeks at WSS, he got right to work painting the room.  It took 2 coats of primer to cover that green.  He did a great job though, and now the room is so much brighter! If you look at the top left of the picture, you can see one of the cubbyholes in the built-in unit that is still the same dark green.  The room is really a pain because not only is there a giant desk taking up all of one wall, we have a big wooden door covering our electrical panel on another wall.  We need to get a bunk bed, probably from IKEA, and a small dresser, but that's about all that will fit in that room!

 It was sad to see Nathan and Luke pack up all their stuff and move out.  Here's what the room looked like when Nathan went back to college.
 Not long after he left, the girls were highly motivated to get everything switched around, so they encouraged Caleb and Jonathan to move their stuff.  So they did.  They pretty much just dumped it all in the middle of the floor and ignored it, with no attempt at organization or anything, and this is actually pretty much how the room still looks right now.
The girls, on the other hand, made short work of moving Faith and Verity into what used to be Caleb and Jonathan's room (so now the 4 girls will share a bathroom, as will the 4 boys on the other side).  They organized both their rooms and cleaned the bathroom as well, so their side was pretty much sparkling, lol.  
So Tuesday night was officially Verity's first night in a big girl bed.  We did dig out our bed rail, but she's been just fine.  She and Faith have actually slept really well in the same room.  Faith did not want to go to bed at the same time as Verity, so she's been sneaking in a little later, but Verity has gone off to sleep just fine by herself, and not woken up when Faith comes in, so that's a success.  And actually Verity is sleeping later than she was with the 2 little boys.  I think they all were waking each other up or something.  
 So that leaves just Anna and Grace in their room.  I don't have a picture, but Anna is on the top bunk, and Grace is sleeping on the double bed below all by herself.  She is so happy to have the bed all to herself!  For most of the past several years, all 3 girls have slept in the double bed, so to have it all to herself must indeed feel like a great luxury!  Every morning she comes down and comments on how easy it is to find a comfortable position when she's the only one in the bed, lol.
And Micah and Drew are left in their room!  We need to take down the crib, which will give some much needed space in there.  It will be so incredibly weird to not have a crib up anywhere, after having one up for over 20 years.  We need to get a "real" bunk bed for Micah and Drew, instead of the toddler bed under the junior loft bed.  Drew is getting too tall for the toddler bed!  He doesn't seem to have made the connection that Verity jumped straight to a big girl bed, and she's almost 2 years younger than him . . . hopefully that won't occur to him either, lol.  Then I guess we'll sell the loft bed and toddler bed, since we won't need them anymore.  

There you have it--5 bedrooms, each with 2 people in it!  

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!