Saturday, November 15, 2014

Verity Update

Verity was 7 weeks old on Wednesday, and by our bathroom scale she now weighs about 10 1/2 pounds with her clothes on . . . or in other words, she now weighs what Micah weighed at birth.  No wonder my poor pelvis was so sore with him!  But anyhow, Verity is gaining nicely now, and she's gotten much, much faster at nursing.  Yay!  She's also smiling a lot more, and doing some cooing, to the great delight of whoever is lucky enough to be holding her.  She is still a great sleeper at night, much to the great delight of her mother, LOL.
She's had some special visitors lately!  Bob's sister Rose came down from PA to visit as part of a work trip to D.C.  She brought some things her girls (who are high school and junior high-age) were done with, so it was like Christmas!  Anna, Grace, and Faith were busily occupied putting together a new puzzle, making lip gloss, and playing with these 2 little rolling hamster things.
And Bob's sister Ann and her husband Wally came up from Richmond to visit with Rose, visit the Capitol and  botanical garden, and take a tour of the Pentagon with Bob.  They spent Thursday night with us, which made the kids very happy, since originally they hadn't planned on staying another night!  Ann brought the girls some supplies to learn how to decorate cakes.  Ann has taught classes for years, so she is a real pro!  The girls can't wait to try some things, and fortunately Drew has a birthday coming up, so they'll have some cake and frosting to practice with!

Everyone else is doing well too.  Bob spent Veterans Day taking out our old french doors and installing a new sliding glass door out to our deck.  Our old one was letting water in under it (requiring Bob to switch out some wood as well), and it was pulling away from the wall, so it was definitely time for a new one.  We decided to go with a sliding door instead of another french one because we don't have any extra room in the eating area, and getting rid of a door that swings in sounded wonderful to me!  The new door has a lot more glass--when I walk by it, I keep thinking the door is open because you can see so much more out of it!  We had contemplated getting a door with blinds built into it, but we ended up deciding that there was no way on God's green earth that those blinds would not break with all these kids trying to open and close them.  So no built in blinds.  But hopefully this new door will last another 22 years, like the last one!

Tuesday was a busy day--Bob was home, installing the new door (and it was a gorgeous day, weather-wise--a perfect day to have a gaping hole in the side of your house), we still had our co-ops, and Caleb got his first promotion that night at Civil Air Patrol!

Not everything is rainbows and roses around here, of course.  I've been so distracted the past 2 months, and I am just now feeling like my brain is coming back online.  But in the meantime, we are reaping some fruits from me being so distracted, as far as attitudes and actions.  We started a new book for character time this year called Character Building For Families.  We worked on the character trait "obedience" for a little while, but now we have moved on to "honesty", since that seems to be the problem for several people lately.  Drew has started acting like an almost 2 year old, with liberal use of the word "no" and some tantrums to boot (although not like Micah, the king of tantrums, thankfully).  Faith and Micah are experts at pushing each other's buttons, leading to loud wails (Faith) and angry shrieks (Micah).  Plenty of character issues to work on, and there is never a dull moment, especially when I am nursing or otherwise occupied!  We're all looking forward to a short Thanksgiving break and a longer Christmas break.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Back in the (Co-op) Saddle Again

Yesterday I taught at Rivendell for the first time since the day before I had Verity.  I was worried about a lot of things, the main one being that my brain would simply not function, but everything went really well.
It helped that for life science, we are starting the unit on genetics, which is probably my favorite one, thanks to great genetics teachers in high school and college (thanks, Mr. Norvell and Dr. Phipps!).  We covered mitosis, modeling the phases with yarn "chromosomes", and then the boys modeling DNA with Twizzlers and gummi bears (since I couldn't find gum drops, even though I looked at 2 different stores!).

Amazingly, Verity was incredibly cooperative.  She woke up at 7:15 to nurse, and then I fed her again while the boys were making their DNA, a little before 11:00, which was about as ideal as I could have imagined.  Maybe she won't be as difficult a child as I was imagining, after the way she started out the first 2 weeks!

Next was anatomy, and since I wasn't finished nursing when class was to start, I had them go around and share about the disease they had written a paper on over the maternity break.  They had to pick a disease that affects either tissues, the integumentary system, or the skeletal system.  It is always interesting to hear about rare diseases that are out there.  I was reminded that I used to follow a blog by a mom whose son had one of these rare diseases, the one Celia researched, a skin disorder called junctional epidermolysis bullosa--"EB"ing a Mommy.  The mom's faith during a tremendous trial was so inspirational.  It is mind-boggling the small things that genetically can go wrong, and wow, the pain and suffering that can ensue.  Heart-breaking.
Next we talked about the skeletal system.  Over the summer I researched small skeletons to buy, but they were really pretty expensive and no one got really great reviews.  But then I found this "bag of bones" on amazon that were rejects from all sizes of skeletons.  I thought that might actually be better, as far as bone identification.  It was actually kind of fun to go through them all and see what we'd gotten!  Plus, it was easier to see the fossa, tubercles, etc. on bones that were not attached to a skeleton.  It was definitely a random assortment though, and we got things like the left femur, but the right side of the pelvis.  Oh well.
Here is a picture of the assortment we got (and note the varied sizes!), but you could never assume to get the same ones.  I think they do include a skull in every bag, and it is pretty nice--the mandible opens with springs, and the top of the skull comes off.  There were several duplicates of bones though.  We got several tibia/fibula sets, for example.

The day went well, anyhow.  In the afternoon was memory work, but Michele, another mom whose oldest child is in life science, has been helping lead that in the afternoon.  That has really been so nice for me.  I stay around and help, but if I have to nurse or whatever, she can lead.  I think once Verity gets onto a more predictable schedule, then we will take turns or something.

Today was Latin class, but we had that last week as well, so I had already gotten back in gear there, sort of.  Fortunately we are just starting the 3rd declension, and I am still pretty confidant about those, so I can kind of coast.  It's moving into the 4th and 5th declensions that I become much less familiar.  Also verb tenses that aren't present, future, or imperfect.  I don't look forward to getting into those again--nothing new sticks well in my brain anymore!  Maybe by the time I'm teaching this class for Verity, I'll really have the pluperfect and all those other weird tenses down.
Before Latin class, Caleb whipped up some frosted banana cookies, his favorite.  And he should have been able to make his favorites, because today was his 13th birthday!  He felt like he should not have had to do any school, but such is the life of a junior-higher, LOL.  At least he got to celebrate with his friends who come over for Latin.  Latin class is just like a party, right?!  We all enjoyed the banana cookies, as well as the chicken packets, brussel sprouts, and cabbage salad that he picked for his birthday dinner tonight.  And ice cream of course for dessert!  We'll celebrate both his and Drew's birthday at Bible study later on this month--no word on what the dessert choices will be yet, however.  Caleb did open his presents before ice cream, and he got a Lego set, a new book, some Swedish fish, and a remote-controlled flying helicopter thing, which is charging right now.  Fun stuff!  And now we have 3 teenage boys in the house, plus one 12 year old.  I can't believe how old everyone is getting!

Caleb has been thinking a lot recently about what he'll be when he grows up, even though I've assured him he has *plenty* of time to figure things out!  He was really shocked to realize a few weeks ago that he most likely will be unable to go to the Air Force Academy, with his asthma and nut allergies.  I had no idea he ever even was thinking he might like to do that, since I had never heard him mention it, but apparently he just sort of assumed that's what he would do.  So now he's sort of recalibrating.  He is really a hands-on person, whose love language is definitely touch, so I suggested considering something like becoming a chiropractor or physical therapist.  I think he'd be great (and how wonderful would it be to have a chiropractor in the family?!  Maybe I can steer one of the kids to be a massage therapist as well--they could go into business together!  I'd be there all the time!)  Yesterday he mentioned that maybe he'd like to go to culinary school.  I can see that too, as he's always been interested in cooking.  He and Jonathan especially love watching the Food Network, and all the cooking shows on there, like Chopped.  So he's got plenty of good options!  I told him that as he goes through high school, hopefully he'll start being able to figure out where his interests lie, and what he feels the Lord is leading him to do.  I can't wait to see how God uses him!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

How Far We've Come

Back on Oct. 6, 2008, I wrote a post about "dysgraphia", which is something that Nathan struggled with when he was younger.  He had such a hard time getting onto paper any thoughts he had in his head.  In fact, one reason I did not end up putting him in the co-op that is associated with our elementary co-op is because I was really afraid he wouldn't be able to do well there.  I knew I wouldn't put him in the 7th grade composition class, for sure.  That year, instead, we ended up doing Classical Conversations, which led to Christine and me getting the idea to start Rivendell, and the rest is history.

But Nathan did struggle for awhile, and I really was worried about how he would do in high school and college.  But the Lord is good.  Nathan has excelled in high school classes, even AP ones, where he had to write essays for the big test!  And we just got back Nathan's scores from the last SAT he will ever have to take, and he got an 800 on the critical reading part--and a 700 on the writing section!   Back in 2008, I would never have dreamed that even possible!  I'm so proud of him!  I was just thinking back, and I thought I should update here, in case it might encourage others who are struggling with things with their younger kids.  Sometimes time really does help work out problems.  I am so thankful we were able to homeschool, because I am sure that being able to do things our own way, instead of being tied to how one teacher wanted or expected things to be done, was really helpful.  We could do a lot orally, for example.  Most of all, I am thankful that the Lord is faithful, and we are excited to see what plans he has for Nathan, and where he leads him next year.  

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Lessons to Learn

Well, things are finally looking up in the nursing department.  Verity is still a slow eater, but she's gotten tons better at nursing, and from our scale at home it looks like she is all the way up to 9 pounds.  Yay!  I would say she is about 2 weeks behind where my other babies have been at this point, so she's taking as long as a 2 week old instead of a 4 week old.  But things are getting better!  She is a good sleeper, especially at night.  I've been feeding her around 11:00 (so putting her down about midnight because she takes so long!), and then she hasn't been waking up until 7:00 or even 7:30.  So I personally am feeling much better and less foggy-brained, giving me hope that I will be able to get back into teaching and everything else!

But it has overall been a more difficult post-partum month.  A lot of that was because of my expectations.  I fully expected to recover quickly and get right back into our routine, and really, I *did* recover quickly!  I didn't have an infection like I had with Drew or anything like that.  But I completely failed to even consider the possibility that my baby would not cooperate with this plan, so it was hard for me to let go of my expectations, especially as far as school went for the younger kids, and just relax.  I started reading Unglued by Lisa TerKeurst, and the book has been helpful for me right now.  I love her sort of "theme" in the opening chapter--"I can face things that are out of my control and not act out of control."  Because I know that God is in fact in control, and I can trust his plan.

God has given me several little reminders of his sovereignty over the past few weeks.  One is regarding our Rivendell schedule.  When I wrote up the syllabi for anatomy and for life science, I planned on starting teaching again on Oct. 28, figuring that would be plenty of time.  I did not plan on teaching on Dec. 9, because the elementary co-op was supposed to be performing a play that day, and I wanted to see it, as well as have the older boys go and support their younger siblings.  But at our kick-off meeting in September, we got the surprising news that the lady who was going to be in charge of the play had decided to drop out (we miss you, Michelle!), so now Dec. 9 was just going to be a regular day of co-op.  Now I didn't need that extra day--but I really could use another day on this end.  So I am going to take one more week of break, going back to teaching on Nov. 4 instead.  What a blessing!  I really want to take some time to just enjoy this last newborn stage.  I think it will be easier to do that, now that nursing isn't quite the battle every time!  I always tell new moms that even thought it *seems* like this phase takes forever, it really is over so very quickly.  So now I need to follow my own advice!

Another little sign was that I found my exact same nursing pump (well, quite a bit newer and less used, LOL) on craigslist for $10!  From a person who lived about 5 minutes away!  (Remember, my pump had no tubing or anything--all parts are dishwasher safe, so it's really not yucky or weird.  Plus, all I really needed was the motor.  I can just use my own bottle and the part that goes on the nipple!)  So that was a real blessing as well.  Hopefully this one will be able to make it for a year or so.

The people from our church have been such a blessing too.  When Jacob emailed me after Verity was born to set up the takethemameal schedule, I almost told him to just not worry about it.  We were fine!  And I didn't want anyone to feel like they had to cook up a ton of food to feed our crowd.  But I didn't say that, and it has been so wonderful to have meals from friends these past 4 weeks.  SO much good food!  Enough for leftovers!  And how lovely to not have to worry about cooking.  That probably would have sent me over the edge, LOL.

Also, one of my friends from church, Holly, gave me a bag of adorable newborn girl clothes right before Verity's birth, passing them down from her daughter.  I was so thankful, because I really didn't have very many newborn outfits at all, but I did think, "Well, it's so sad that these will hardly get any use at all, since my babies are all so big . . ."  Ha!  Verity will be 4 weeks old tomorrow, and we are still wearing the newborn clothes from Holly!  Maybe next week we'll be into 0-3 month clothes.  So what a blessing that bag of clothes has been!

It will be interesting to see what lessons are in store for the next few weeks!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Some Good News!

Verity had another weight check this morning, and she was up to 8 pounds, 6 ounces--a gain of 5 ounces since Friday!  Yay!  And while we were there (it wasn't an actual appointment, but just a weight check with the lactation consultant), I nursed her on one side only, and she weighed 2 ounces more afterward, so she is definitely transferring more efficiently.  The lactation consultant was very happy with it all, so I think that will get them off our backs for awhile.  I'll keep weighing her on our scale here at home, though, just to make sure.  I do think Verity is going to be skinny though, like Grace.  Grace weighed herself today, and she is all of 46 pounds at almost 7 1/2 years of age, putting her at the 5th percentile for weight.  Verity is just not going to be a chunky monkey, gaining weight rapidly, no matter how much she eats!  She'll be happy with that metabolism when she gets older though, LOL.
I was glad to have some good news because my morning did not start off on a good note.  My faithful Medela Mini Electric breast pump died a sad death!  It still makes noise, but it no longer actually provides any suction.  I loved that pump!  I said on facebook that it was almost 13 years old but as I think about it, it's actually just 11 years old.  I used Amy's pump after Caleb was born, and I liked it so much that I bought the exact same kind for myself when she and I were both pregnant at the same time in 2003!  I really don't want to spend $150 to replace it for the 10th baby, but for anyone looking to buy a breast pump just for casual pumping (not because you are returning to work and will need to pump all the time or anything), then I highly recommend this little pump.  It has worked so well for so many years, and it is really easy to clean (dishwasher-safe, no nasty tubing or anything) as well as being really portable.  So there is my recommendation, for what it's worth!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Still Small

I'm sure everyone is waiting with bated breath to hear how Verity's eating has gone this past week.  By last Sunday night she was really fighting the nipple shield, so I stopped using that, and she was fine.  By Monday night, I noticed that she was knocking the supplemental feeding tube out of her mouth with her tongue, so that the extra milk was dripping slowly down her neck, instead of to her tummy.  But she was sucking so well that I decided we could try nursing without anything.  So that was Tuesday and Wednesday.  Verity nursed well, slept well, was happy, and even pooped more.  Yay!  I weighed her on our bathroom scale Wednesday night and Thursday by weighing myself with her and without her--and discovered that she was about 8.2 pounds with her clothes and diaper on.  Hmmm.  That really wasn't much of a gain, considering she was 7# 15 ounces stark naked last Friday.  Christine re-suggested syringe feeding after nursing, so I started doing that again Friday morning.

She had her 2 week well-baby appointment Friday afternoon, and sure enough, she was 8 pounds, 1/2 ounce.  That was after I gave her a bottle of 2 ounces of pumped milk in the car when we got there (and of course she promptly had a huge poopy diaper, of all the times to poop, grrr).  The doctor wasn't too terribly concerned, since she looks and seems so healthy, but I have to go back in Wednesday for another weight check at the lactation clinic.  I've continued with the syringe after nursing, but she will only take about 1/2 ounce.  She really isn't hungry anymore after she finishes nursing, and it seems like she is getting good feeds from me.  I can tell her latch is good and her suck is strong, and she is swallowing the way it is supposed to be.  I easily pump about 5 ounces in 15 or 20 minutes, so I know I have enough milk.  Weird.  So it's still taking forever to feed her.  I need to weigh her again tonight to see if there's been any improvement since yesterday.

I also had my follow-up appointment yesterday afternoon.  Bethesda is trying a new thing--instead of a 6 week post-partum check, they are doing one at 2 weeks, in conjunction with the 2 week well-baby appointment.  So Verity got examined first, then a tech took her to do her 2 week metabolic screening, and I went across the hall where an OB doctor was.  Since I didn't tear or anything, there was really nothing to examine or even talk about, but I think it is a really good idea to combine appointments like that!  As the doctor said, they found that most women, if they were going to have questions or problems, had them in the first 2 weeks, and by 6 weeks were pretty much over all that.  And I am all about not having to make extra trips to Bethesda!  (Although apparently Verity didn't get that memo, LOL)

In the meantime, everyone else is keeping busy!  Bob's sister Ann drove up from Richmond yesterday afternoon, braving the crazy Friday afternoon Beltway traffic.  Bob, Ann, and the 3 girls drove up to PA today to celebrate their mom's 88th birthday.  Ann made lots of good Polish food, plus a cake--sounds like a party!

Nathan was also off early this morning, on his way to take the SAT for the last time.  Unfortunately, there was no Polish food, no cake, and definitely no festive party atmosphere there at the high school.  But now it's done!  Yay!

My dad took Luke and Caleb McC to their cross-country meet, also this morning.  It was cold and rainy, and everyone got very muddy.  Thankfully, Christine was able to go watch the race and bring the boys home.  I wish we could all have watched the race, but it was not a good day for babies to be out!  So instead I spent the morning nursing and syringe-feeding, which is actually how I have been spending most of my time, LOL.  Maybe next weekend!

Sunday, October 05, 2014


Verity has had a lot of attention lately; let's talk about Nathan now!
A week before Verity was born, Bianca, a friend of the McC's, took some pictures of Nathan at a local park!  This was one of those last-minute brilliant ideas I had, ever since I saw some of her pictures on Christine's newsfeed.  Nathan was not very excited about the prospect, but he dutifully went as a gift to his poor, pregnant mom.
But it was actually fun!  Bianca is an absolutely amazing person, beautiful inside and out.  She taught herself English as well as photography, and she has buckets of courage and interesting stories!  She was very easy to talk to, and even Nathan admitted it was better than he thought it would be.
And I was thrilled to have some pictures of Nathan!  My hope is to have family pictures taken in the spring, when Verity is old enough to smile and pose, but before Nathan leaves for college.  However, I am terrible about getting things like that done, especially since I never can figure out what to dress everyone in that looks nice and reasonably coordinated.  So now at least we have some great pictures of Nathan!
Bianca even took some pictures of me, even though I kept telling her I did not particularly want my heavily pregnant stage memorialized!  But I'm glad she did--I've never had pictures taken when I was pregnant before, so it will be good to look back on!
And she took a picture of Nathan and me too.  I love it!
So what has Nathan been up to lately?

  • He took his "candidate fitness assessment" on Sunday, Sept. 21.  We finally found a middle school that had all the facilities needed--a basketball court, pull-up bars, and a track, all in close proximity.  Thankfully Nathan is not even an inch taller though, or the pull-bars would have been too small for him to dead-hang without his feet touching the ground.  The CFA consists of 6 events, done in order, with specified start, stop, and rest times.  It is designed so that you have finished the first 5 events and started on the run within 30 minutes.  First is the basketball throw, which is weird (you kneel and hurl a basketball with one hand as far as possible), but Nathan read some good posts about how to improve this event by using physics and your core.  Second is pull-ups, then the shuttle run, and then sit-ups.  Next is push-ups, and last is the mile run.  Nathan had taken a practice CFA at the USAFA Summer Seminar, and he did pretty much the same here as he had done there, except that one was not run as an official one, so there was more rest time in between events.   He did well, and yay--that was the last big thing to finish for his USAFA application!
  • He got word that he is "qualified" from the DoDMERB board, which means he passed all his medical stuff.  They ask a ton of questions on all the paperwork you have to fill out before the actual appointments, so you have to dredge up stuff from long ago.  In Nathan's case, it was a contact allergy to metal he had when he was really little.  I had to sew material over the snaps on his onesies so he wouldn't break out in a little rash, but we never saw a doctor for it or anything.  And more recently, he had a rash when wearing a cheap watch from Walmart.  So DoDMERB wanted clarification on that.  Fortunately, he didn't have to see a doctor or anything, just write about that in the follow-up paperwork they sent.  We were glad that they didn't have any further questions, and that he is medically cleared now!  That qualification is good for 2 years, and it is good for all the service academies, as well as ROTC.
  • He interviewed with our congressman's nomination panel Wednesday night.  He thought it went well.  He felt prepared for the questions, and he felt he was able to get across the points he was trying to make.  I think he is becoming more comfortable interviewing, what with all this practice he's getting!  He has an interview with a senator coming up as well.  I thought they had to interview everyone who put in an application, but that doesn't seem to be the case for the senators, only the House of Representatives member.  So it seems like this interview is definitely one of those "It's an honor to have made it this far" deals, since there were over 700 applicants, and possibly as few as 45 interviewees.  We haven't heard from the other senator, but actually, it doesn't sound like the VA senators give nominations to people who already have Presidential nominations, so it is probably a moot point anyway.  But more good interview practice, for sure!
  • He's taking his very last SAT on Saturday, missing a cross-country meet to do so, which does not make him happy.  But then he's done with high school standardized tests, except for APs in May!  Yay!