Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A False Impression

This morning I took Caleb, Jonathan, Anna, and Grace to their weekly homeschool swim class.  We got there about 10 minutes early, and they went off to the changing room to get ready.  Another mom came over to speak to me whose little son was in the class that was finishing up.  She mentioned how she had noticed how I had "several" kids, but that we were always on time--even early!--and I didn't seem rushed or anything.  She just has the one son, who is 3 1/2 right now (and she is 36 weeks pregnant), but she is always late and/or fogetting stuff, and it is just so stressful, so could I share some tips with her?

Hahahahaha!  I felt like laughing so hard!  How hilarious--she has the impression that we are always on time, and that I am so organized just based on watching us at swim class for a few weeks!  It just goes to show you really can NOT judge just based on limited interactions!!

Well, I quickly disabused her of the notion that we were EVER really on time, except in this one instance where I am bringing less than half of my children (the half that doesn't need much help at all getting out the door), and we only live 5 minutes away.  I described my extreme frustration on Sundays, where we are *always* late, and I usually feel like I shouldn't have even bothered going.   I told her that I was quite impressed that she was even attempting something like swim classes, being 36 weeks pregnant!  Hey, if it was just me trying to get Micah out the door all the time, we would almost certainly be late every single time.  Three year olds just aren't always that cooperative.

Then we started talking about homeschooling, and she said she was getting ready to start homeschooling her son.  She has already ordered the full Abeka pre-school curriculum!  I gave her the advice that my friend Suzanne gave me back when I was wanting to start homeschooling Nathan--work on character issues, obedience with a happy attitude, and lengthening his attention span first.  Then other learning will be much easier!  It's really not worth it to wrestle around with your 3 year old boy, trying to get him to do a bunch of worksheet pages.  Let him be a child and just play!  I said that was a huge benefit of homeschooling--not fitting your child into the holes a school environment wants to push him into, even if he doesn't fit them right then.  Also, I warned her about comparing her son with other kids his age, especially girls (this lady's personality made me worry that she would be the type to compare and worry, worry, worry), since boys often have a harder time sitting still, getting fine motor skills, etc.  She probably won't take a bit of my advice (I know I didn't when Nathan was little, LOL--look how far I've come!), but oh well.  And really, would you take a ton of advice from someone who just told you that your impression of them as organized and on-time was completely 100% wrong?!  Hahaha!

Monticello Visit

 So last Thursday night we slept in a nice Sleep Inn there in Charlottesville, where we met up with the McC's, who had spent the day at UVa.  Christine had all sorts of helpful information to pass on!  After a nice breakfast, it was on to Monticello, where we met up with the Cr family.  Michele, who teaches our 5th/6th grade lit class, had put together this field trip for us, and she did an outstanding job!
We filled a shuttle bus with Rivendell family and friends, and we made it over to the actual house right before our tour started at 10:10.  We had such a great tour guide--knowledgeable and enthusiastic.  We wished we could have had someone like her for our tour of the ship in San Francisco harbor 2 months ago!

I really enjoyed seeing the house, especially Thomas Jefferson's chamber.  I just loved all the windows and the lack of corners, with all the interestingly shaped rooms!  And his desk was so fascinating, with the "polygraph" machine he designed to make a second copy of what he was writing, and the turning fold-up book rack.  I want one of those!  I was really impressed by Jefferson's willingness to learn whatever he needed to do whatever he had set his mind to.  Very inspirational!
We were there right before Jefferson's birthday (which was April 13), and there was quite a little celebration going on!  Bob had to take Drew out of the tour because he was so fussy, so Bob was listening to a speech being given.  He said it was absolutely awful--very anti-capitalistic--and he had to come back inside, rather than stay out and torture himself by listening anymore!  But by the time we got out there, a fife and drum corps was giving a little concert AND there was birthday cake!
The kids happily ate birthday cake and listened to the music.
Then it was on to a tour of his gardens with another knowledgeable and enthusiastic tour guide!  This lady carried around with her a copy of a book about the gardens, which used extensive research into the very detailed diaries that Jefferson kept to be able to recreate the gardens today as they were when he was alive.
After that tour was over, we managed to get a group shot looking out towards the beautiful mountains.  You can't see Drew's head because he is pitching a terrible temper tantrum and being terribly uncooperative!  And it was time for lunch, so we walked back down to the visitors' center, where we ate.  We had brought a picnic lunch, but the other families bought from the little cafe they have there.

After lunch, we watched a 15 minute film called "Thomas Jefferson's World", and then we toured an exhibit there in the visitor's center.  It had a lot of details about the building of the house, which I found very interesting.  Really, there are so many interesting details about Jefferson's life because he kept such meticulous diaries!  It is such a gift that a man who ended up being so famous and leaving such a lasting legacy kept such detailed notes.  You would think that someone keeping those diaries would have to be really boring, not someone famous, lol.
Then we headed downstairs to the "Discovery" area, where they had all sorts of hands-on things for the kids to do--even try out a reproduction of the polygraph machine!  The kids were all kept busy in here for awhile.
This is Anna's lovely house.  Just a few minutes after this picture was taken, Micah melted down, and we had to make a speedy exit!  It had been 2 long days for him and Drew, poor babies.  They fell right asleep in the van!

We took the opportunity to drive through the campus of UVa, just so the boys could see it.  They really weren't that impressed.  There were so many students swarming all over, and there were busy roads with lots of traffic all around.  Plus, Charlottesville is just a bigger city than Blacksburg, and that's not actually an advantage in their minds.  On our way out, we took a wrong turn, so we had to drive down a road with a bunch of fraternity houses.  People were just milling around, climbing on roofs, etc., and the houses just looked pretty ratty.  That was the final nail in the coffin, lol, and neither boy now has any desire to go there.  Although when Luke is really looking at schools, we will probably go back down and actually take a tour and meet with people.  That will be better than just a drive-through!  Nathan for sure doesn't want to go someplace with just a small ROTC detachment, so it's a non-issue for him.

We had such a fun day, and we were so thankful the weather was so beautiful for this whole little trip!  We made it home that night and were so glad to be there.  I was so tired.  The next day Nathan and Luke had to get up early to take the ACT.  Nathan was able to drive himself and Luke over there, which was absolutely lovely!  That gave me some time to recover!  

Monday, April 14, 2014

Virginia Tech Visit

On Thursday, we got up really early (4:30 for me) and left at 6:00 to drive down to Blacksburg for a college visit.  Good thing we had all that practice of getting up and out early when we were trying for space-a flights back in February!  I will say I am SO glad we made that trip back in February when I was not very far along.  This time getting up so early and driving a lot about did me in!

Anyhow, the night before Bob had gotten home really, really late with Anna and Micah after this big baseball game adventure.  We had been planning on making it down to Tech by 10:00 to go to an information session about the Corps of Cadets, but Bob and I decided we would just skip it and sleep in a little bit longer.  We neglected to tell Luke, however, so at 4:20 or so he came in and asked if we were leaving anytime soon.  I mumbled something about leaving later, but I did wake up enough to realize I had to pee, and if I got up to do that, I might as well shower and just get up.

So we were able to make it (barely) in time for the Corps session, and we were so glad we didn't miss it, because it was very informative!  Luke, Nathan, and I went.  One of the things I stayed up late doing the night before was printing off maps and whatnot, so we were able to drive directly over to the building we needed to be at.  An active duty Naval officer (sorry--I simply can not keep Navy ranks straight!) in the chain of command there gave the briefing, and she talked a mile a minute, packing in all sorts of information.

There are about 1,076 cadets in the corps, which means there are hundreds of leadership positions in charge of 30 or more people.  You can be in the Corps without being in ROTC, and 30% take this civilian leadership track.  She said Air Force had the best 3 year ROTC scholarships, and they have the 6th largest AF ROTC detachment in the US.

When you get there, you are put into a freshman company of 30 people (your "buds"), and you become really, really close with them.  In fact, after the first 6 weeks you get some passes to go no more than 50 miles from campus, but the catch is all 30 of you have to be together.  The first year sounded a ton easier than an academy--really only the first 6 weeks are very restricted (no TV/music in rooms, no going off campus, etc.).

She talked a lot about how the Corps tries to help make the academic transition from high school to college easier.  They give you a planner and help you plan out each day from all of your syllabi.  They put you into a study group with 5 other freshmen in your major, along with a sophomore who is also in the same major, to help you with assignments and whatever you don't understand.  You have to study 2 hours for each hour of class, and there are designated study hours in the Corps dorms.  She went on for awhile, and it really did sound like good support.

She talked really fast, but even so, she ran later than we expected, and as soon as she wrapped it up, we had to bolt over to an engineering information session that started at 11:15, so we didn't get to talk anymore with her or ask any questions, which was too bad.  She was really nice!

The engineering session mainly just talked about the different engineering majors offered at Tech.  We did find out that most ROTC students who are also engineering majors take 5 years to finish.  This was surprising, since the Corps lady didn't say a word about it, but it was confirmed by several people.  We were impressed by the rigor of the engineering program, as well as by all the project opportunities for the students.  The only problem with the session was that the room was about 100 degrees, I had left my water bottle in the car when we bolted out to the first session, and I thought I was going to pass out!  I ate a protein bar, but still--I was very glad when it was over!  Nathan did say after the session that he thought he would stop saying he was planning on majoring in electrical engineering, but rather just "engineering", since there were other choices that really interested him as well.

We caught up with Bob and the rest of the kids, who had eaten while we were in the 2 sessions, and they took us over to Taco Bell so we could grab a quick bite.  Then it was off to a meeting with one of the Air Force ROTC officers, a captain.  He was very nice, but he was not really talkative or much into volunteering any extra information.  He showed us a powerpoint presentation on the detachment there (which confirmed the 5 year engineering thing and explained how it worked), and answered a few questions we came up with, but that was it.  He definitely didn't initiate any conversation!  The meeting only took about 30 minutes.

Next, we met up with a cadet named Joe who is a junior there currently on an Army ROTC scholarship.  Lynnea hooked us up with him, and what a blessing that was!   Originally, we had planned to visit UVa this day, but Nathan is not remotely interested in going there, so we ended up deciding to do this visit instead.  But by the time we decided, there were no more slots available for the campus walking orientation tour, and I was so disappointed.  It turned out to be a blessing in disguise, however.  Joe took us on a personal tour of the whole campus from a Corps/ROTC perspective, which was much more helpful than some generic tour!  He was just so very nice!  We really enjoyed our time with him.  He was in the middle of inspecting some rooms when we finished up with the ROTC guy, so we got to tag along with him while he finished, seeing the rooms and talking to other cadets.  It was so nice!  We were really impressed by the atmosphere in the Corps.  Everyone was so friendly, and they seemed genuinely happy to be there.  It was really nice seeing all the uniforms around campus too, especially around the "upper quad" where the Corps dorms are, which is really close to the engineering/math buildings.  You definitely won't stick out like a sore thumb just because you are in ROTC, like in schools with a really small detachment.  One small cool detail--the dorm we were in is called "Monteith Hall"--my grandparents' last name!

The campus is really pretty, and we were there on an absolutely beautiful spring day.  But you will have to google if you are curious because I did not take one single picture the entire day.  I guess I was just really, really tired!  Tons of students were hanging out on the drill field in the center of campus.  I really love the style of architecture they have gone with--sort of old English look, I guess you would call it.  They are in the process of tearing down and rebuilding the Corps dorms and classroom buildings.  They have torn down one main dorm, and it is supposed to be rebuilt and finished fall 2016.  The whole project is supposed to be finished fall of 2019.

Joe had to go to another class at 3:15, so after thanking him profusely for sharing his time and experience, we met back up with Bob and everyone else.  They had been enjoying the drill field as well, flying a kite and eating apples!  Then we headed over to the house of Rob and Chandra Enos, who are part of the Valor ministry to the Corps.  Valor is the military ministry arm of "Cru", which used to be Campus Crusade.  They used to work at White Sulphur Springs, so it was so fun to catch up with them, as well as get their take on the Corps.  It is so nice to know that if Nathan went there, he would already know people in ministry and be able to plug right in there.

We left Blacksburg around 5:30 to drive to Charlottesville, where we spent the night before touring Monticello on Friday with Rivendell.  It was an absolutely exhausting day (for me, anyway), but it was very much worth it.  Nathan and Luke both were very excited about Virginia Tech, saying they could definitely see themselves there.  Our next college stop is VMI, so it will be very interesting to see how that compares!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Happy Birthday, Micah!

We are well in the throes of our "birthday season", where the birthdays come one right after the other.  This time, it was Micah, who turned 3 on April 9!  We started the celebration a little bit early, on last Saturday, when we gave him his "big" gift--a balance bike!  If you don't know what those are, they are little bikes with no pedals, so the child can work on balancing before worrying about pedaling.  We've seen them before (and even had friends who sold them!), but for some reason, we've just never gotten around to buying one for ourselves.  You can imagine Micah is absolutely LOVING his "big boy" bike!
After the bike giving, we all ate ice cream, of which we had a whopping 5 varieties to choose from!
I knew Micah's actual birthday was going to be a crazy day, so I decided we would do a little something on Tuesday for Rivendell.  So I baked cookie dough brownies in the morning, and after the younger kids cam back from TNT, we sang "Happy Birthday" to Micah.
For some reason, he was very unsure about the whole"sing to me" thing, even though he loves to sing to others!  He turned his head away and even started crying, which reminded me so much of Luke in his younger days, who also hated having the attention of everyone on him, especially on his birthday!
But all was well when Luke pointed out to Micah that now he could blow out the candles.  Whew!
On Wednesday, Micah's actual birthday, Bob took him, Anna, and Ian, our friend from church, out to a Nationals game.  They had a fantastic time!  The weather was nice, the people around then were a really fun group, and the Nationals won in a shoot-out, 10-7!  On the metro on the way home, Bob and some other random guy got the whole car to sing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game", and after that, "Happy Birthday" to Micah!  Then this other person gave Micah a foul ball that he had snagged during the game.  Fun time!  They didn't get home until after midnight, though, so it was a long day for a little pumpkin, even though he had just turned 3!

Friday, April 04, 2014

The Dawn of a New Age

I remember when Nathan turned 13, and we started leaving him along with the kids.  It was so freeing to be able to go out for a quick dinner, or run to Lowes or somewhere, without having to take everyone!  And as he and Luke got older, and I got more and more confidant leaving everyone with them (and now Caleb), it has gotten better and better.

A few weeks ago, Nathan got his driver's license, but I've just been so nervous about letting him actually drive by himself.  It hasn't helped that he had all those extra CAP practices for the competition, and the timing was always so rushed, plus we were carpooling.  But now the competition is over, and I finally bit the bullet.  On Wednesday evening, he drove himself and Luke over to the McC's to watch a movie.  It was SO nice not having to drop them off or pick them up!  And then yesterday he drove himself to his orthodontist appointment in the morning AND to rugby practice in the afternoon.

Oh my goodness.  It was so wonderful to not have to be gone in the morning and the afternoon!  I was able to go through a huge pile of mail and papers in our kitchen, throwing stuff out and shredding others, and STILL have time to make dinner because I didn't have to be gone from 2:30-3:30, and then again from 4:45-5:45. What a concept!  It was so nice.  I won't pretend I wasn't really nervous, because I was, especially when Nathan didn't actually get home from rugby until 6:00 (traffic was bad on one of the main roads, which frequently happens, but still . . . I was nervous, LOL).  I think this is going to be a wonderful thing.

The good thing is that Luke should be getting his license a little before Nathan leaves for college, so we'll have continous extra driving coverage even after Nathan goes.  Then we'll have a year between Luke's leaving and Caleb getting his license, which will be very difficult for me, I know, LOL.  I will have been so spoiled!  We'll have another gap year between Jonathan and Anna, but once she gets hers, I think we won't have another gap until everyone has graduated!  And people think we didn't plan our kids (haha, that was a joke . . .)!  Just pray for me--lots of potential for gray hairs between now and then, LOL.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Continuing the Celebration


We may not be great at doing spectacular things on the exact day of each person's birth, but we are great at prolonging the celebrations!  We continued celebrating Anna's 8th birthday all weekend long!  She opened her presents Saturday night, instead of Monday, since Monday night is so busy, with Rivendell the next day.  We figured Nathan would rather be there for the birthday dinner (Monday) than for the present opening!
Anna is modeling a scarf in her favorite color ("teal") from her Grandma and Grandpa G.  They also got her the pink cupcake maker.  It turns out that Anna may not like "regular" cake and frosting, but that is only when she isn't making it!  She and the other girls spent Sunday afternoon making cupcakes, and she was so happy that she could do it all pretty much herself.  They were yummy!

Anna also got an American Girl book about McKenna (sp?), who is a gymnast, so Anna started in right away on that book.  When I was in Sams a few weeks ago, I saw these cute boxed sets of American Girls books which included a mini-doll.  I was so excited, even though there wasn't very much selection for characters.  Anna loves dark hair, so I picked Samantha for her.  Now the other 2 girls want one too (don't tell, but I bought 3 different sets--yay!).  And we got Anna a kite, which hopefully we can use even this weekend, if the weather will just stay spring-like!

Of course, we had freshly-made chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting, as well as ice cream on Sunday!  Monday we had Anna's birthday dinner.  You can tell she is growing up, because she picked a really great meal!  We had grilled steaks, a thin-sliced cheesy potato bake, roasted brussel sprouts, and fruit salad with grapes, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and her new favorite kiwi fruit.  We had practically no left-overs, so everyone else approved of her choices as well, LOL.  I think Anna had a very nice birthday celebration, one worthy of such a sweet girl!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

"Tired"

That's pretty much my reply when anyone asks how I am doing.  I feel just fine--no sickness or any other issues--but boy, am I tired!

Some of that is from exercise.  I've already started exercising at least once a day, in hopes of keeping the gestational diabetes as bay.  Unfortunately, it isn't working according to plan, as I just failed my early 1-hour glucose screen on Thursday (I'm only 14 weeks along).  Sigh.  So now I need to find a morning where I can spare 3 hours, plus driving time, to take the 3 hour test.  Failing it was not a complete shock or anything, but still, there's nothing like "failing" to really depress someone who is not used to failing any tests at all!  I think my body can deal with a reasonable diet with plenty of exercise, but it really can not deal with that modified hummingbird nectar that is the nasty orange glucola.  When I think of how many liters of that stuff I've drunk over the course of 10 pregnancies . . . blech!!

Some of the fatigue is just from a busy schedule.  Wow, do things just get busier with kids in high school!  And since I also wear the "guidance counselor" hat, I am constantly feeling like there are things I should be doing, as Nathan ends his junior year.  Some of that involves college visits.  We're trying to set some up for our spring break, but it's really not my thing, and I don't know what is worth it or not.  Let's just say no one around here is particularly happy that their spring break is going to be spent visiting colleges!

Each week has a lot going on.  Mondays Anna and Grace have gymnastics in the afternoon.  Tuesdays we have 2 co-ops, plus Nathan's rugby practice from 3-5, and then Civil Air Patrol for Nathan, Luke, and Caleb at night (and we are eternally grateful for my friend Lynnea, with whom we carpool!).  Wednesdays Caleb, Jonathan, Anna, and Grace just started a homeschool swimming class.  Also Nathan, Luke, and I have been tutoring at a local elementary school in the afternoon.  This has been so rewarding and fun, and we have really enjoyed working with the kids and building relationships.  In fact, last Saturday and today, Nathan and Luke helped with a pinewood derby held there at the school for the kids.  Thursdays are light, as the only regular thing is Nathan's rugby practice Thursday afternoon, which means that often doctor/orthodontist/etc. appointments are scheduled for this day.  Fridays I meet with Kimberly for our Bible study, usually in the afternoon, and then we have our OCF study in the evening.  Saturdays always have some CAP or rugby thing going on, as well as other random things, and Sunday is church, flag football for those refereeing it, and teen Community Bible study for Nathan and Luke.  In between all this is laundry, school, grading, chemistry prep and so on.

Which is not to say that everyone else in the world isn't busy too, because I know everyone is!  But for some reason what we have going on now is just really fatiguing for me personally, and I find myself constantly falling more and more behind with laundry, housework, and so on.  I'm just so tired!  The discouraging thing is that right now, we could afford to have someone come in once a month and help clean--but I can't get the house decluttered enough to have someone come!  Ack!  Which is why the thought of spending the week of spring break touring colleges, instead of getting caught up on the piles of laundry and paper clutter is not appealing, LOL.

And the thing is--this (school) year is really a "light" year for me.  I am only teaching chemistry and memory work.  I'm only pregnant.  Next year I'll be back to teaching 2 big classes (anatomy and physiology for the high schoolers, and life science for the junior highers), as well as the Latin I class I taught Nathan and Luke a few years ago now I'll be teaching to Caleb, Jonathan, Daniel McC, and at least one more person, and I'll still be teaching memory work.  So that will be busy!  At least Faith should be reading fairly fluently by then.  But I'll also be dealing with a newborn, and nursing, and all that fun stuff.  I don't see me getting ahead in any areas next year, LOL.  Maybe I'll have a really productive summer?  Haha!  I crack myself up!  

So right now I would say that I am really having to depend on the Lord and his strength to get through each day.  It is so silly to think that God doesn't give us more than we can handle--of course he does, or else we would think we were getting by on our own strength!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Happy Birthday, Anna!


Anna turned 8 years old today, along with her birthday buddy Amanda L, who turned 16!  We signed up to bring dessert for Bible study, of course, and Anna picked out several good ones.  She did NOT want regular cake--she has become very anti-regular cake and frosting lately, which I have done nothing to discourage, LOL.  Instead, she wanted angel food cake with strawberries.  She has fond memories of Uncle Paul bringing that to Grandma and Grandpa B's house one time, and she thought it was delicious!  I made 4  nine-inch loaf pans of cake, but I was worried about how it would turn out, since I had never made angel food cake before, so I cheated and also bought one in a regular "ring" shape from Sams this afternoon.  I needn't have worried however--the ones I made were good (and all disappeared), and all that is left is 1 slice of the store-bought cake, plus 1 slice of the homemade that I set aside for Nathan.  I also cut up 5 pounds of strawberries (all gone), and we used 2 bottles of spray whip cream.  Yum!

Anna also picked out frosted banana cookies (and she did the frosting), and mint-frosted brownies (all of which also went, except for what I saved out for Nathan--good thing I thought of that ahead of time, or there would have been nothing left except crumbs, I am sure!).  

Nathan is gone this weekend at a Civil Air Patrol competition with a team of 9 from his squadron.  They have been practicing all. the. time. the past few weeks.  I am so glad all that driving is done, but I do hope they perform well and think the whole experience was worth it!  He'll get back Sunday afternoon, hopefully in time to go to flag football referee training, and then on to Community Bible Study.  Busy!

Anna is really growing into a lovely young lady!  She and Grace have been taking gymnastics classes for a year now at our local rec center.  It is an understatement to say that she absolutely loves gymnastics.  She is always doing walkovers and splits all over the house.  She wishes we had more mats to she could practice her back handspring at home!  We did buy a low balance beam from a friend of ours whose daughter (Caleb's age) was done with it.  Anna LOVES having a beam in the playroom, and she is always doing cartwheels and walkovers on it.  All three girls and Micah too use the beam all the time!  It has really been a fun addition.

Anna has also started a homeschool swimming class, along with Caleb, Jonathan, and Grace.  She has always been a little fish, just like her dad!  She is excited about being on the swim team for our local pool this year.  

Anna's new love is reading American girl books.  She's been reading Kirsten ones, but she is also branching out to Molly.  

With Nathan gone the whole weekend, we are spreading out her birthday celebration over several days!  Jonathan was so sweet this morning, and he got up early to make her breakfast in bed--eggs and toast.  We had her birthday desserts tonight, but we'll have her special birthday dinner and open presents Monday.  She is definitely related to her grandmother--she requested steak for her birthday dinner!