Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Camping


This weekend we went camping again, where our friends reserved the entire loop of a campground.  It was so fun to be there with all the other homeschooling families!  This year Nathan and Luke had to be at the running club they are volunteering with at a local elementary school Friday afternoon, so they drove up separately.  Having 2 vans made it *so* much nicer.  Since we no longer have even 1 extra seat in the big van if we all go somewhere, there is really no way on earth we could have fit everything in.  Now we'll never be able to go back to just one vehicle, LOL.  Well--maybe in a few years.
We tried a slightly different tent configuration, with the 2 tents perpendicular to each other.  It was fine, but really, when you have 2 huge tents, there's no way to configure them where they don't take up a ton of room!
We had thought that this would be Nathan's last camping trip, but with him going to VT, then he possibly will be able to come next year too.  Nathan and Luke really liked driving up later--to a campsite that was already set up!
When we drove up, Bob saw a big dead log by the entrance to our loop.  He went back to it with a few of the boys (but not Nathan and Luke, since they weren't there yet), and Caleb and Daniel McC carried it back to our site.   We had brought a reciprocating saw, which we could plug in since our site has electricity, so Nathan cut the log into chunks and then split each chunk, using his wood-splitting skills he learned at WSS. We had plenty of firewood!
I spent a lot of time at the camp stove, since we eat the same prodigious amount of food camping that we do at home.  Maybe more, since the fresh air makes everyone hungry!  We are still borrowing the L's faithful campstove--just like camping in Colorado 18 years ago.  Ahh, the memories . . .

I wasn't anti-social, I guess, but I mainly just stayed at our campsite and let people come over to me to visit, which was really nice.  Caleb, Nathan, and Luke stuck around our site mostly, so it was really nice to just hang out with them.  I also finished the book I was reading, Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.  It is rare that a book lives up to its hype, but I really enjoyed this book.  Her writing was so descriptive.  It was also all in the present tense, which normally I don't care for, but in this case, it made it seem more dream-like or something.  A very basic plot is that a girl and a boy are locked into a magic competition of sorts, and the circus is where this competition plays out.  What was very unexpected for me was how much I identified with the main character, Celia, at the end.  She was just so very weary of holding everything together, which is how I have felt this whole year.  Not that I really am holding everything together, thankfully, but just keeping track of everyone's stuff, schedule, etc.  Anyhow, it was a great book for a relaxing weekend.
Verity did pretty well.  The first night was really cold (although not as cold as the first year we camped!), but she slept okay.  Every so often she would cry out, particularly if someone else had made noise (*cough* Micah, who needed to go potty twice during the night . . . ), but she always went back to sleep, so I didn't have to nurse her.  Three years ago, Drew was up all the time because it was so cold, and he bit me so very hard that it took weeks for me to recover.   That was my hugest fear, and I'm so thankful that didn't happen again.

This weekend was the last hurrah for the yellow bumbo, though.  I put a ton of duct tape on it so it would last, and it did (barely), but now we must say goodbye.  It has served well.  Thanks, Melinda!
The boys perfected using tortillas in the pie iron.  They were folding them like professionals!  This one has left-over taco meat and cheese from the potluck we had Saturday night.
Drew was a little stinker (a cute one, though).  He wandered more than any other child we have ever had, so he was always turning up in other campsites on the other side of the loop from us.  Micah mainly hung out with the bigger girls, of which there was a little pack running around together the whole time.  I guess next year Drew will go with them more?  He was sure a filthy dirty little boy by the end though.  He and Micah did play with all our little digging and construction toys a lot.  He wore that sweatshirt all the time, even on Sunday when it got quite warm.  He loved it!

When we left on Friday, no one had been sick since Wednesday (Grace), and we were all relived to have this behind us.  I was able to finish testing Anna and Grace Wednesday afternoon (Anna) and Thursday (Grace), so we were able to mail off the big package before we left on Friday (yay!).  But Friday night after we had all just gone to bed, Caleb threw up almost at the bathroom.  He never threw up again, but he didn't eat much Saturday.  Now tons of other families that were camping are sick, even ones we had nothing to do with.  But hey, feel free to blame us for any sickness you now have, or ever will, whether or not you were even anywhere near us.  It makes it so much better when you can blame someone, and we'll be the sacrificial scapegoats for single-handedly bringing the plague to everyone in Northern VA.  Other than that, it was a great weekend, and we are very sorry for anyone who is sick.  Hopefully it will pass quickly.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Limping to the Finish

Wow, May is almost over?  We're pretty much "done" for the school year, but there's no sense of "Whee!  Time to relax!" that there was when the kids were all younger.  I still have some grading to finish, and there's always prep for next year hanging over my head.  Jonathan and the girls have some math to finish over the summer, but that shouldn't be too bad.

We had our last Rivendell meeting on May 12, with our usual big ice cream party to celebrate.  I know I was so glad to be done!  With Verity's birth at the beginning of the school year, plus all her weight issues, Nathan's college stuff, Bob's job situation, and more, this has just been a stressful, tiring year.  It's too bad, though, because the anatomy class I taught was my favorite high school class to teach!  I liked the book we used (Valerie Scanlon's Essentials of Anatomy and Physiology), and the labs were fun too.  By the end, the boys were really seeing how the whole body works together, the various systems supporting each other.  Such a useful class!  It's back to AP biology next year, and I'm dreading it a bit, actually.  I need to rework a lot of things, including the labs, and I know it will take a ton more time and brain power each week to prepare.  One of these days, it will all be easy!  (Well, I can hope, LOL.)

Micah has ramped his temper tantrums back up these past few weeks as well, adding some extra stress to finishing.   One memorable one occurred on the morning that our friend from church was taking family pictures of us!  Mich was cold (and had to pee, as it turned out), and he had a huge screaming fit, frustrating me to no end.  He eventually settled down and she got some great pictures, but it really threw me off, so I totally forgot that I had wanted to get a picture of the kids lined up, for example.  As Luke pointed out, however, this *is* how life with Micah is.  I guess we'll never forget that, for sure.  And he had been doing so much better!

Nathan and Luke took 3 AP exams this year, with 2 of them being on the same day, last Thursday.  They got home from that marathon day at the local high school and rushed straight off to rugby practice.  They both woke up in the wee hours of the morning, vomiting and having lots of intestinal distress.  Maybe they picked a bug up from the school?  Who knows?

The unfortunate thing is that we were planning on driving to White Sulphur Springs that day for a retreat with our OCF Bible study.  We waited around until things seemed to be under control, so we left around 2:00.  We stopped at McDonalds when we were about 30 minutes away--and Drew threw up all over the floor as he took his first bite of cheeseburger.  Ack!  My lightning-fast reflexes miraculously prevented his clothes from getting too messed up, but still . . . no one was very hungry after that, LOL.  We got there, the kids ran around a bit, and I decided to give him and Micah a quick bath.  While I was starting the water, Micah threw up, but we did manage to get most of that in the trash can.  So that wasn't looking good.  We got through the next day, and it was really fun and refreshing.  But both Micah and Drew threw up again during the night on Saturday, which was weird.  I felt queasy, dealing with them, and at 6:00 AM I was down.  I just stayed in bed until I could finally eat a saltine cracker around noon.  I showered, and we somehow managed to get packed up and drive home, although we left Drew's beloved blue and white checked blanket there.

But we couldn't rest and recover because the next 3 days were standardized testing for our big co-op, and I'm in charge of that.  Plus, we had the minimum of qualified testers, so it wasn't like I just could not show up.  I was able to make it, without eating too much.  Caleb felt queasy the whole 3 days, but he never did throw up or anything. Faith got sick Tuesday morning.  Anna made it until Tuesday afternoon, and she threw up as soon as we got home.  Bob was feeling bad at that point too.  Grace started Tuesday night, and it definitely took her longer to bounce back.  Everyone else felt better after 8-12 hours, but she didn't really start feeling better until after lunch today.  That leaves Jonathan and Verity . . . we are praying this virus has run its course!

We've got things coming up:  Nathan's graduation party, a trip to TX, lots of trip back and forth to WSS for Camp Caleb and boys support staff, a trip to Ohio for grandma/grandpa camp, getting Nathan off to college.  During the school year I always think, "Oh, I'll do _______ in the summer!"  But in reality, it never seems to happen that I clean out the storage room, organize things, go through closets, etc., so each year, we fall farther and farther behind in household organization.  Well, at the very least, I'm not pregnant this summer.  Maybe that will help.  We'll see . . .

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Big Birthday Weekend!


Grace turned 8 on Friday, and we celebrated at Bible study!  She requested Air Force dessert and Andes Mint cookies, both of which were very well received.

Then on Saturday, after an afternoon of rugby, special visitors came--Bob's sister Rose and her 2 daughters Maddie and Amanda!  It was so fun for them to visit!  The main reason they came was to celebrate Bob's birthday on Saturday, which was a "milestone" one, for sure.
We ate Grace's (and Bob's!) birthday dinner of sausage roll, cabbage salad, roasted broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots, and fruit.  They brought yummy chocolate cupcakes, which we devoured outside by a fire in the firepit.  We were thankful the weather was so nice all weekend!
Grace also opened her presents Saturday night.  She got a book, some "Frozen" socks, some modeling clay, some candy (including some chocolates from Rose and the girls!), a card game, and a kit to make and decorate a garden stone.
Verity was happy to see more people to love on her!
Sunday was another beautiful day!  Rose took the girls and Micah on an early morning walk around the neighborhood (where they saw a DEAD SQUIRREL!!  There was much excitement!).  I made pancakes while they were gone, and after eating people played Grace's new Apples to Apples Pictures game. This game is great for younger kids.  "It" reads a word, and then the other players pick one of their cards that has a picture they think best demonstrates the word on the original card.  "It" picks which card she thinks fits best, and the person who put that card in wins the round.  We like the original Apples to Apples, but often younger kids don't understand the words on the cards to pick one, so with just pictures, anyone can play!

They also played a rousing game of Wits and Wagers before we ate corn dogs for lunch.  Grace had requested those for lunch on her birthday, and I bought a box at Sams months ago--and then we both totally forgot about it.  So that was a fun lunch!  Then everyone went outside again.  The trampoline got a lot of use, as the girls were very anxious to show their cool older cousins every single trick they could think of, LOL.

We were all sad when it was time for them to drive back to PA, and we're hoping to be able to visit their house on the lake up in PA this summer.
Sunday afternoon Grace put together her stepping stone.  It's a butterfly, can you tell?  It's really pretty!  I was happy to find these kits.  I wanted to get another present for Grace, so I just stopped by Michaels on Friday on my way to another store.  These were on a display right in the front, 40% off!  I grabbed it, hopped in line, and was done.  My kind of shopping!

So we had a fun weekend of celebrating, with special company!  Now it's back to our regular routine--but only for 2 more weeks!  Woo-hoo!  Summer vacation is almost here!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Year of the Bunny


Hard to believe it's been a whole year since we brought Bruno home on Easter from our friends Zachary and Karynn!  He has been such a fun pet.  He's super soft, he is so cute, and best of all, he is so quiet!
We used to have his pen in the study, but when Verity was born, we needed to put the little playpen in there so she could nap downstairs as a newborn with the study doors shut.  So we moved Bruno into the schoolroom, where he reigns as the Rivendell mascot.  ("Go, Fighting Bunnies!"  Ha!)  When someone is in there working, we let him run around the entire schoolroom, although we have to make sure all the computer charging cords are up, or else he will nibble on them.  We now have quite a few books that have little nibbles taken out of the edges as well!  Bruno also loves to chew up paper left on the floor, so "my bunny ate my homework" could be an excuse, except that you shouldn't have left your paper on the floor in the first place . . .  The entryway is hard wood, and for awhile, Bruno was very scared of the hard wood, so he always stayed in the schoolroom.  But eventually he got over his fears and started venturing out into the entryway, so we now put our whiteboard across the entrance to the schoolroom.  It fits perfectly!  Bruno loves running laps around the room and kicking up his heels.  He's so cute!

We bought him a little cat tunnel/scratching thing with little balls hanging down to bat around.  Sometimes he's more into it than other times, LOL.  What can I say--he's a spoiled little bunny!  We had to put the cardboard on top of the cage in back because he figured out he could jump on top of the cage and then out back in June last year.  We were going to make something more permanent, but you know, once the cardboard worked, pretty much everything else was a higher priority, so we never got around to it.   The clear plastic in the front of his cage is part of a mat that goes under an office chair.  When he was in the study, Bruno used to push out his cage with his nose so that he could lay on the plastic chair mat.  It must feel nice and cool!  So when we moved him into the schoolroom, we cut off part of another mat and put it in his cage for his napping enjoyment.  He usually flops down there after he's been running around for awhile.

Sometimes the kids will let him run around the playroom (on the other side of the entryway from the schoolroom), which has the added benefit of having doors AND no cords.  We also take him outside when the weather is nice, and he loves to hop around the yard and dig in the mulch.  He's been hiding under the minivan in the driveway the past few times we took him out, though.  I think he feels vulnerable in the yard without our big oak tree having really any leaves yet!  We see a hawk circling around up high, and I'm guessing Bruno sees him too.
Bruno would make a tasty meal for a hawk!  He's been living the good life here, and he's become a bit chubby, shall we say, in the past year.  "Less carrots and more exercise" was our New Year's resolution for him.  You would think it would be impossible to gain much weight at all on a diet consisting primarily of kale and timothy hay, but apparently that is not true, at least for bunny metabolism.  Bruno loves his kale, but he is not such a huge fan of spinach.  Romaine is okay, and he loves eating pieces of banana for a treat.  Surely he is not gaining too much weight from eating toilet paper tubes!  He loves to nibble on them, and fortunately for him, we have a constant supply of them, LOL.

I'm so glad we went ahead and got Bruno!  He is such a sweetheart, and the perfect pet for us right now!

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!