Friday, April 17, 2015

Verity Update

Today was another weight check, this time with a completely different doctor.  I was prepared today, however.  For one thing, I brought Grace and Faith with me, as evidence of skinny, healthy children.  Also I printed off 0-36 month growth charts and filled them in for Luke, Anna, Grace, and Faith.  They all showed that between 3 and 6 months, my kids drop down to a (much) lower growth percentile line.  Grace's was the worst--she went from the 60th percentile at 2 months down to below the 5th percentile at 7 months, and she continued on that line until at least 20 months.

You may wonder how I have weight data for all these kids for their first years.  I had the good fortune to start keeping a "baby's first year" calendar with Nathan.  These are blank calendars where you fill in the date blocks for each month, and you can write on the days or put stickers on or whatever.  These calendars come with some "first year" stickers like first bath, first tooth, starts crawling, etc.  There are so much easier than a traditional baby book--just jot down the weight when you come back from a doctor appointment, or write down some special thing in a square.  Easy peasy!  You used to be able to buy these in stores, but for the last several (4 maybe?) I've just had to order them from Amazon.  I don't know why they aren't more popular!  I now have a little keepsake for each baby that they can look back at if they are curious when they got their first tooth or started walking or whatever.  Or I can look back at when I need to chart their weight gain, LOL.

So anyhow, I was totally prepared for the doctor.  Verity is up to 14 pounds, 3 ounces, which is the 9th percentile, up from the 7th percentile.  The doctor thought that was great and told me to keep doing what I was doing.  I told her that I had been forcing food on Verity, and now she has even started spitting up some, and I was actually quite uncomfortable making her eat when she obviously wasn't hungry.  The doctor said I should just let her eat until she's done, but not worry about getting anything extra in her, which is good because that is what I have been doing.  Good grief!  Then the doctor said it was obvious that our family growth pattern was big babies who thin down between 3 and 6 months.  Well, yes, obviously--or maybe it's a metabolic disease?!    Actually, it's just like I've been saying--my babies are very active at an early age, and they have high metabolisms.  Once they start moving around, they lose weight for a little while until everything evens out.  It's really not such a bad thing to have a high metabolism!

So this doctor was totally unconcerned, and I could tell she was actually a little puzzled as to why we were in there, since Verity was such an obviously healthy baby, LOL.  We don't go back until 9 months.  Hopefully I can get the same doctor then (*making a note of her name on the calendar*) . . .
Verity has been really getting strong!  Last night she got herself up to sitting, which made her so proud of herself!  She's also now able to roll from back to front at will.  She has done it before, but it was more of a lucky accident, where everything just happened to come together at the right now.  This afternoon she was playing with this crib toy that used to be my cousin's back in the day--a certifiable antique, LOL!  We have it attached to the posts in our upper hallway railing.
After playing with everything for a little while, she pulled herself to standing!  Big girl!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Twists and Turns

"In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps."  Prov. 16:9

The school year is winding down, but I haven't said much lately about Nathan's plans for next year.  Going back to the end of 2014, Nathan finished up a zillion applications and interviews.  He was notified in December that he received a 4 year type-1 Air Force ROTC scholarship.  This pays for all his tuition for 4 years at any school, plus a book and fee allowance of a little less than $1000 a year, and a monthly untaxed stipend during the school year that for freshman is about $300 a month.  Only 5% of scholarships are type 1.  How exciting!  He also was pleased to find out he received a nomination from our representative.  You should apply for all the nominations you are eligible for, so although he had Presidential nominations to all 3 academies because of Bob's service, he also had applied to all 3 of our congressmen.  The unofficial word here in VA is that the congressmen talk, and they do not duplicate nominations because there are so many qualified applicants, especially in our district in northern VA.  So we were astounded when Nathan received word that he had also been awarded a nomination from one of our senators!  He even called to make sure it wasn't a mistake.  It wasn't--it just apparently is extremely rare!  So that was very exciting too.

On Feb. 5, Nathan was surprised to receive a "big fat envelope" containing an appointment to West Point!  This was a huge surprise as well, since he had only a Presidential nomination for there, and he certainly wasn't expecting an appointment there, especially not one sent out in the "first wave" of only 500 appointments offered.  He had not really seriously considered going there, although we have several Army friends who we respect so very much, so he and Bob made an appointee visit up there in March.  He spent the night there and had a wonderful time.  He and Bob both were very impressed by the caliber of cadets they ran into.  The only drawback he could see was that when you graduate, you're in the Army, and Nathan really would like to fly.  February was really an "Army" month, because he also received word that he was awarded a 4 year Army ROTC scholarship!

March also brought word that Nathan had been accepted into Virginia Tech's College of Engineering.  He really enjoyed his visit there in the fall, so that was very exciting to hear.  Our friends who had been involved in Cru ministry with the Corps, however, said in their monthly ministry letter that they were being called in a new direction--out to Colorado Springs to work with Academy cadets!  So we were thinking that the Lord was definitely moving for Nathan to go out to Colorado next year.  But we received word in April that he had not been offered an appointment this year.  Since it seemed like everything was lining up for that, it kind of felt like the rug was pulled out from under us, but we can definitely say that the Lord slammed that door shut.  So the decision really was between West Point and VT.  In the end, Nathan decided he wanted to stay with the Air Force, so he will be using the AFROTC scholarship.  If he decided to reapply to the academy for next year, he could do that as well.  We'll see how the Lord leads.  In the meantime, other friends are also going to VT, so he is looking forward to a fun year next year.  And he will be closer to home, for sure, so that is a nice advantage.  We are really proud of him, and are so thankful for how the Lord has blessed his hard work!  We are trusting that the Lord has good reasons for shutting the door he did, even though it was hard to hear.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Happy Birthday, Micah!

Micah turned 4 today!  Hard to believe it has already been 4 years since I pushed out that huge 10 pound, 8 ounce boy!  And he's stayed big too.  He didn't have any of Verity's weight gain issues!  I think he's going to catch up to Faith soon, and after that it won't be long til he passes up our waif Grace as well.

We started the day with pancakes and eggs that we ate in honor of Micah, since he picked today to sleep really, really late.  Eventually he did get up!

Bob's sister Rose visited last night, and she swept in like Santa, bearing all sorts of wonderful gifts for everyone!  So not much school got done today, especially for the younger crowd, but they had an absolute ball playing with Model Magic, making scrapbook pages and bracelets, and (for the girls), playing with make-up.  Arts and crafts day!

Micah picked quite the birthday meal:  fish sticks and pierogies, with broccoli thrown in by me because well, vegetables.  Thursdays are busy, with Faith's co-op, rugby practice for the older 2 boys, and gymnastics for all 3 girls, so hey, I wasn't complaining about an easy meal!

After dinner, Micah opened his presents.  He got a Transformer and a game from Grandma and Grandpa, a penguin "Pillow Pet" , a foam sword and shield, a Lego Star Wars t-shirt (*cough* that I found on the top shelf of our closet recently--I had meant to give it to Jonathan many years ago but evidently forgot all about . . .) AND a box of Skittles and a small bag of Gummi Bears.  I think you can see what he was the most excited about . . .
He did have a really fun time playing his new game with Grace and Drew later on, so I guess the Skittles weren't the *only* thing he was excited about!
Don't tell Micah because he didn't notice, but I didn't actually bake him a cake today.  We actually celebrated both his and Anna's birthday last Friday, April 3, at Bible study.  Anna wanted angel food cake with strawberries and whipped cream again, and Micah picked funfetti cupcakes with orange, green, and blue frosting.  The girls and Micah did all the decorating, and the results actually reminded me of the cake in the classic children's book Spot Bakes a Cake.  You'll have to check it out!  We did have ice cream tonight to celebrate, as well as leftover chocolate banana "muffins" for anyone who wanted one.  (They are technically called muffins by the recipe, but really are cupcakes!)
A year ago, I felt like we had made strides with Micah--he wasn't having nearly as many huge temper tantrums as he had been, he decided he wanted to be potty-trained, and we had even made a huge trip to Hawaii, with very unpredictable travel arrangements!  But there were still issues.  Every Sunday, dropping him off to nursery was a huge melt-down, and a ginormous cause of stress to me.  He still did have temper tantrums over little things.  But I could definitely see progress.

I see even more progress looking back over this year.  His tantrums are much rarer, and often they are exacerbated by him needing to go potty, so that is one of the things I always do when he starts getting wound up--try to get him to pee.  But sometimes he still will take some minor thing in the day and choose to melt down over it for no good reason at all, usually at a highly inconvenient time for me, LOL, like right at the start of Latin class, for example.  I usually just hold him tight and even sing to him for awhile.  Eventually he stops struggling and screaming angrily, although it can take forever.  Then he settles down and goes back to being his normal sweet self, because really he IS quite sweet most of the time now (I have not been able to say that before!).  He and Drew get along well for the most part.  I can tell they are going to be very close, like Nathan and Luke, or Caleb and Jonathan.  God has been very gracious in giving our kids to us in "sets", except for Verity!  Micah absolutely adores Verity, and he's very sweet with her.  Next year Micah gets to start gong to our elementary co-op, so I am really praying he will do well with that, and not go into his "recalcitrant mule" mode, where he is totally and completely uncooperative.  He's doing better with his children's church class, but there are still some days he doesn't want to go there and pitches a loud fit.  We have saints working in children's ministry for sure!

So I'm looking forward to seeing what this next year holds with Micah!  Hopefully he will continue to make progress in controlling his impulses and his anger--and I pray he will come to know the Lord at an early age so he will have the help of the Holy Spirit in him!

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Happy 6 Month Old

"You talking about me?"

Yes!  This happy little pumpkin was 6 months old back on March 24!  She's been busy doing all sorts of things like crawling, which has enabled her to get pretty much whatever she sees, albeit slowly and jerkily.  She's also started solid food.  She thinks rice cereal and bananas are okay, but she really loves gnawing on frozen bagel pieces.  Gotta get those teeth in!  She's definitely working on teeth, but none have appeared so far, making her one of our later teethers.

Astoundingly, she has not packed on a ton of pounds.  (I'm shocked.  SHOCKED, I tell you!)  Verity had her 6 month well-baby appointment this morning.  She's up to 13 pounds, 7 ounces, but that's only the 7th percentile.  She had climbed all the way up to the 13th percentile the last time we were in for a weight check a month ago, but that was with much emphasis on feeding tons extra.  So after we stopped having to go back every week, I started getting more casual about force-feeding Verity, and just letting her be done when she was done.  We were still supplementing with about 3 oz. of formula after each nursing session.  Honestly, she is happy, sleeping well, actively moving around, and so on, so I once again was not remotely concerned.  I mean, I kept weighing her, and she was gaining weight, so everything is good, right?

Wrong.  Apparently Verity missed the memo, but she was supposed to be gaining 15-20 g a day from 3-6 months.  Unfortunately, over the past month she only averaged 8 g a day.  That is an acceptable weight gain per day for babies over 6 months, but not under.  I don't know who comes up with these random statistics, but the doctor today was concerned about that.  She kept saying how we needed to "make sure she can gain weight".  Well, duh, obviously she can, as long as I am really forcing the food on her.  But when I stop doing that, it seems that she trends back down to the lower percentiles, where I suspect her body is designed to be.  The doctor actually told me she could not rule out a metabolic disorder, and I just stared at her and then laughed.  REALLY?!?  She also said something about Verity "not meeting her milestones" and I immediately countered, "You mean mileSTONE", because obviously every other thing about Verity's development is on track or ahead.  Even her head circumference and growth are right on track!  I kept saying that she was following the exact pattern of several of my other kids, but the doctor wasn't buying it.  "I can't stand in a court of law and say, 'Well, I was concerned, but she said all her other kids were skinny'".

She threw out some potential solutions, including giving Verity the bottle first.  I immediately shot that one down, going into great detail about how difficult it was to get Verity to start nursing again once I had given her the bottle back in her first week of life, and I certainly was not going to have my milk supply drop off for this.  I told her about Luke, and about how I did stop nursing him at 6 months, since the doctors told me that starting him on formula and solid food would make him start gaining more weight (it didn't help).  I know a whole lot more now, and I am not weaning so my child can meet some arbitrary weight standard!  I'm really quite a pretty calm and laid-back, non-confrontational person, but I was highly irritated at this point.

We finally agreed that I will give Verity 5 oz. of formula after each nursing session, and I'll try to fit in an extra bottle somewhere during the day, although I'm still not sure how that will work.  And I'll bring her back in 2 weeks for yet another weight check.  She'll probably have gained, since I'll be forcing food down her, but as soon as I relax a little, she'll drop back down again.  Grrrrr.  You know, breast-fed babies are supposed to be less inclined toward obesity because they stop feeding when full, instead of just mindlessly draining however much is in a bottle.  Well, what is poor Verity learning but that you keep eating until your stomach is full to bursting, even when you have no interest in eating?!  How on earth is THAT a good thing??  Se'll definitely be ignoring any "full" sensations!  Good grief.

This really is going to be the last weight check.  I am toying with the idea of bringing in the younger 7 kids (max that will fit in the minivan, LOL), so the doctor next time can see all our skinny but healthy kids.  (I did not choose to make the next appointment with this same doctor I saw today, LOL.)  It just seem pointless to me to keep bringing in an obviously healthy baby for weight checks, and it certainly is a huge waste of my time.  So this is it!  I have had it!

Bonus picture of Micah and Drew, who wanted their picture taken too.  

Monday, March 30, 2015

Out With the Old, In With the New

Two Mondays ago, we were finishing up dinner.  Bob asked me if I could go on a walk, and I told him it had to be a quick one, since I still had things to do to prepare for Rivendell the next day.  I ran upstairs to grab a sweatshirt and brush my teeth.  As I was brushing my teeth, I thought I heard a strange voice downstairs, and sure enough, when I got downstairs, Bob was leading through our kitchen a lady, who I recognized as someone who lived in the neighborhood, although not on our street.  "And THIS is how much food we have to make EVERY night!" as he gestured towards the huge (13x20 in.) casserole dish that was actually still on the table.  Ummm . . . what is going on? was what I was thinking.  I assumed we were in some sort of trouble, although I couldn't figure out what for, since it's been a cold winter, the kids haven't been outside too terribly much, we haven't done anything to the outside of the house . . .

The lady seemed really nice, asking how many kids we had again--was it 7?  We chatted for a few minutes about her husband's recent bout with blood clots, as well as her son's badly broken arm that kept him out of lacrosse last season.  Her son did just recently have appendicitis, though (insert appropriately somber hmmming).  Bob and I waved her out the door, with Bob calling after her that we would see her at her house in a few minutes.

As soon as she left, Bob told me that we weren't in any kind of trouble--she had actually come over to offer us their old refrigerator, since they were remodeling their kitchen.  Ahhhh . . . that would actually be a good thing!
We have an extra refrigerator out in our garage, along with our freezer.  Both these appliances came from my grandparents, when they moved into a retirement home back when we lived in Colorado Springs.  Although this fridge has served quite faithfully, there is no getting around the fact that it is at least 25 years old.  My grandparents bought it from Montgomery Ward, but when they brought it home, my grandma didn't like it at all, which makes sense because the freezer is tiny, and the fridge part isn't much bigger.  So not too much later they bought another fridge (one with the freezer on the bottom, which we also got when they moved into the retirement home--we traded them our kitchen one for their house they were selling), and this one went into their garage.

Now the freezer part does not keep things reliably frozen, so I pretty much only keep things like chocolate chips and nuts in there--nothing I would really care about thawing, like meat or ice cream.  When we were stationed at the Air Force Academy, we used the fridge that came with the base house and kept our other "better" fridge in the garage, so Bob took this fridge to the squadron for 2 years.  The cadets were not super gentle with it, so it developed a bit of a mold problem around the seals that I never could get to go completely away.  And by now it is a complete mess inside, but it still technically worked, so we had no thoughts of replacing it.  We definitely need a second fridge, with all the food we go through in a week!  I try to keep at least 6 gallons of milk and 9 dozen eggs in there, as well as a 5 pound bag of cheese and plenty of fruits and vegetables, among other things.

So Bob and I headed over to this lady's house.  Geographically speaking, it was the farthest house in our little neighborhood from ours.  I was quite curious to see inside it because last summer, while I had gestational diabetes with Verity and was marching around the neighborhood daily, this family had started a renovation that included adding onto their basement so they could add onto their kitchen.  This is my dream, since the kitchen/laundry room is the only part of our house that I really don't like.  I had even dreamed of making a permanent shed (attached to the house) under our deck, and putting a room on top of it that would be where we could put our table, so our kitchen would be bigger!  Indeed, we went inside, and WOW!  The kitchen was AMAZING!!  They had an island as big as our table (which is 9 feet right now, and 4 feet wide!).  I was quite envious!  But then as we talked, she said she would have loved to have a big family, but they got married late, had several miscarriages, and then were so happy to have their one son.  I'm so thankful for our kids.  I definitely wouldn't trade them for a beautiful kitchen, and here is this lady, envying me.  Perspective . . .  Oh, this is funny though--the lady said she had asked all her neighbors if they needed a second fridge, but they all had one.  So then she was thinking who could possibly use this, since it was in such good condition . . . and they thought of that family with all the kids!  Ha!

So they had put the fridge on a dolly.  We called Nathan and Luke to come over, and then the 4 of us wheeled this huge fridge through our neighborhood to our house.  It was quite the parade!  The boys wondered what was more suspicious--2 teenage boys in hoodies walking through a neighborhood at night, or 2 teens with their parents wheeling a fridge down the street, LOL.

I am a little embarrassed to say that it took us until today to be able to actually replace the old fridge with the new fridge.  Let's just say our garage has suffered great disorganization and tendency toward chaos during this cold winter.  We had to work 2 full afternoons to get things organized enough to have room to switch them around!

So here's the new fridge:
You are probably thinking, "Ummm . . . is that really PURPLE?!?"  Yes.  Yes, it is.  A bold choice, to be sure!  In the dark, it just looked black, so we too were a little startled the next day when we opened up the garage and saw it in natural light for the first time.  Bob says the doors actually have covers on them that we could take off, and it would be black underneath.  Maybe sometime we will, should we ever want to, say, move it into our kitchen.  It's nicer than our kitchen one!  Bigger, too!  It's only 6 years old, which I believe is newer than our main one as well.  (ETA:  I just checked my blog, and it appears that we bought our current kitchen fridge on March 1, 2006--right before Anna was born!)  Anyway, it is absolutely wonderful inside--so clean and SO big!  And such an unexpected blessing all around!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Happy Birthday, Anna!

Anna turned 9 yesterday.  She celebrated Friday and today, but not yesterday, though.  Friday Elizabeth L. and Anna's birthday buddy Amanda took her to see Cinderella and eat lunch at Chick-Fil-A.  They did this last year too, and I do not exaggerate when I say this is a highlight of Anna's year!  She considers herself *extremely* fortunate to have been born on March 28 eight years after Amanda!

Yesterday, Anna's actual birthday, was a crazy day.  Nathan and Luke had rugby practice, Caleb and Jonathan had 2 rugby games down south, and Anna was invited to the birthday party of another girl in her co-op class at the same time as Caleb and Jonathan's games!  Bob was in PA with his sister Ann celebrating their dad's 90th birthday, so Anna had to ride with a friend to and from the party.  She had a wonderful time, and hey--a party I didn't have to plan!
So this afternoon we celebrated Anna!  We had her birthday dinner after church.  Once again, she asked for steak.  I went to Sam's Wednesday morning to buy everything.  I never go in the mornings, since we're always doing school then, but this week we're on spring break.  Being early meant I was able to snag steak that was marked down because it needed to be sold that day and used by Sunday.  Perfect!!  Anna also requested thin-sliced cheesy potatoes, cabbage salad, and fruit salad with lots of berries.  I forgot raspberries, but she had strawberries, blueberries, and her favorite blackberries, along with kiwi, her non-berry favorite.  We had brussell sprouts too, since I had a package we needed to use up.  Yummy!

Funny note:  in the picture above, facebook wanted to tag her as me!  Ha!
Anna wanted a strawberry cake, and she wanted to decorate it.  The girls got in some more cake decorating practice with Aunt Ann, who came down Thursday night and decorated a cake for her and Bob's dad that night. Anna had lots of plans, so we just made a 9x13 cake so she would have plenty of room to work.  She had a ball, and it turned out really well!  Caleb helped with the squiggly lines and the sea shells on the side of the cake.  The fresh strawberries on top were also her idea, and they were really yummy!  I'm telling you--it is a wonderful thing that I don't have to make elaborate cakes anymore for kids' birthdays!  I am all over this new trend of decorating your own!
Before we actually ate the cake, we did presents.  Anna has gotten really good at doing hair, so we got her some more hair things--lots of various headbands because they keep getting broken around here, and also this cool little thing that helps make buns.  I'll have to take a picture because it's neat.  We also got her a new jump rope, which everyone has been using, as well as a neat book of Frozen crafts and hair-related ideas that I had just happened to see at Michael's several weeks ago. Oh, that small package on top is candy--a bag of gummi bears and a box of Lifesaver chewy candies.  For Luke's birthday I got him a random bunch of chocolate and chewy candies, which was well-received, and everyone was very envious.  So I thought that might be a nice tradition, since it's really hard to know what to get for birthdays when you have so many kids, and you really do NOT want a ton of new junk coming into the house all the time.  Plus, we don't do anything candy-related for Halloween or Easter, so they don't get a ton of candy during the year.  So, edible gifts--a win/win all around!

The cake tasted as good as it looked!  Someone gave Verity a bit of frosting, and although she didn't know quite what to think of it at first, she soon decided it was a lot tastier than that rice cereal stuff!  In fact, some got smeared on the arm of her bumbo, and she spent the rest of the time trying to slurp her bumbo as best she could.

And this is what is left of the 9x13 cake.  I guess everyone can have a really small piece tomorrow?
ETA:  There's actually even less left now that I left it out on the table for a little while unattended . . . it might not see tomorrow at all!

So wow, 9 years old!  Anna is becoming a beautiful young woman with a lovely smile!  Like I said before, she loves doing hair, and fortunately there are several willing helpers to be practiced upon right here.  She also loves gymnastics and swimming.  She's a good reader, but she would rather be flipping or being a contortionist than actually sitting down and reading a lot.  She's good at math too, but again, that definitely doesn't light her fire.  She has really developed into a good helper, taking pride in keeping whichever room is her assigned room for the day clean and picked up.  And it goes without saying that she loves babies and is a wonderful big sister especially for Drew and Verity!  I think she will be in great demand as a babysitter in a few more years--she certainly has oodles of experience!  We look forward to seeing what this year holds for Anna!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Rugby Success

Today Caleb and Jonathan got to rugby practice, AND they were on time!  This is actually a huge deal, because we have failed pretty miserably so far this season at this very low bar.

In January we thought maybe Nathan's rugby team from last year wasn't going to happen this year, since we had gotten no emails and the website hadn't been updated.  So we started looking around, and we found another rugby team not too far from us.  The problem was that they had practices on Tuesday nights, which meant Nathan and Luke would miss CAP, so that wasn't ideal.  But then it turned out Nathan's old rugby team WAS going to have a season, so it all became a moot point.  The coach from the other team kept in contact with Nathan, however, and he asked if Caleb and Jonathan would want to play, since this club has teams for younger kids.  Well, sure!  Why not?!  It wouldn't be as bad as basketball season, where we had 6 kids on 6 different teams!  This would only be 4 kids on 2 teams!  Piece of cake!  And Nathan can drive him and Luke to their practice!

Except for some reason, we have not been able to get this second rugby team on my mental calendar.  It didn't help that there were a ton of practices cancelled in January and February because of bad weather.  Even at the first practice Caleb and Jonathan went to, I sent them off to the wrong place because somehow I misread the email--a bad omen, for sure.  Since then, it's been one thing after another, but mainly, I just forget all about their practice until I happen to look down at my watch and realize--hey, Caleb and Jonathan have practice tonight, and it is starting *right now*.  One time I misread another email and totally had the wrong starting time in my head.  I did check the email as I was stopped at a red light on the way home from dropping the girls off at gymnastics, and whoops!  That's when I realized practice actually started half an hour earlier (*right then*), and I wasn't even back home, much less on the way to rugby!  So we skipped that one, since we had been 25 minutes late the practice before because I failed to allot anywhere near enough time to get to this different practice location in D.C. rush hour traffic.  Gah . . . so embarrassing!  I was really developing a complex!

But tonight we had success.  Jonathan made a big sign to hang on the wall under the calendar to remind us of rugby.  All throughout the day he and Caleb reminded me that practice was tonight *at 5:30*, not 6:00.  And so we left at an appropriate time and made it there early!  Wow!  It's only taken us 2 months!  Clearly I am at maximum mental capacity right now, with no extra margin.  Good thing spring break is this next week!