Saturday, December 31, 2005

Thoughts on 2005 and 2006

As I sit here smelling the ham cooking that we will take to the L's house tonight, I've been thinking back over our year. We didn't move last year, and I feel so much more connected here now. But moving did occupy many of our discussions around here. We discussed moving locally, which I was not in f avor of. We almost signed a contract on a new house back in May, but I am glad we didn't do that, with the downturn in the housing market. We talked a lot about whether or not we would move after Bob retires in another year and a half. Although there are many good things about the NOVA area, I really do not want to stay in such a crowded, high-traffic area for the long term. It just stresses me. But that brings up the question of where we might go? Huntsville, AL is still a big possibility, since there are a lot of space jobs moving down there, and Bob is pushing for a warmer climate. When we took the quiz over at findyourspot.com (thanks, Dy, for that WTM board recommendation!), Colorado Springs showed up in first place. That is certainly always on our list, since we loved living there, and loved being back there this summer. Ohio is on the list too, since family ties pull there strongly! But obviously the Lord has not given us clear direction yet, and we're still praying for that.

In the mean time, we have a big house and an ARM mortgage. Should we sell now and rent for the remainder of our time here? Do we just trust that the Lord showed us this house, and he will sell it when we're ready to move? Hard questions. We want to use our house to minister, and to that end, we might have another family live in our basement next year. They are old friends, and he is going to a one-year school at Bethesda starting in May. It would provide companionship for me, and a mentoring opportunity as she starts homeschooling, much as the L's did for me when they lived with us so long ago. We're all praying about that.

I do feel confident that being here in D.C. is where the Lord wants us right now. We have grown closer to Bob's family this past year. They even visited our house, which hasn't happened before. We don't know how much time his parents have left, so we are glad for the time we have now. We've been able to be a support for Bob's sister as she goes through a messy divorce and custody trial. I know that wouldn't have happened if we had moved farther away.

We're also not sure what Bob should be doing after retirement. This past year he got his real estate license--should he do that full-time when he retires, or get a job somewhere else and do it on the side for more time? Is real estate really what he wants to do after retirement in the first place? We talked a lot about these things this past year too, and we don't yet have any clear direction on them either!

Looking towards 2006, we are so excited about having another baby in March. It was not incredibly easy to get pregnant this time, so we are even more thankful for this blessing. When I feel her (?) move inside me, I just think about what a miracle it is that another little person is living there!

Well, I need to start basting the ham with my glaze, so I will stop the reflecting for now. I think that next year is shaping up to be one that teaches us more about faith and trust, as we let go of our strong desire to have everything all laid out in front of us in a neat little package. Instead, we have to put our hand into the Lord's and let him lead us, trusting that he knows what is best for us, even when we don't see the path clearly.

Library Statistic

During this bout of sickness, I had some time to catch up on my reading. One thing I read was the latest Reader's Digest, where I found this interesting statistic from the American Library Association:

Ohio residents check out 14.6 items from the library each year. The
national average is 6.9.

I'd like first of all to thank my mom for personally raising that statistic in Ohio--I'm sure she is the reason Ohio is so far out in front! But secondly--14.6 items per year? That is the highest? Doesn't that just amaze you? The library is FREE, people! Take advantage of it! Wow. I should look up all the states, because I am curious as to where Virginia rates. We have pretty good library systems here in NOVA, and all my friends check out tons of books too.

Speaking of libraries, I went yesterday afternoon since Bob got home early. The bad thing about this sickness was that I hadn't been to the library before it all hit, so I didn't have any new books for myself to read. Well, actually that's not true--I was THRILLED to receive Climbing Parnassus for Christmas from Aunt Claire and Uncle Jim , but that is a book I want to read with a highlighter in my hand, not my head in the toilet! LOL! What I really wanted was some cozy brain candy--hey, if my stomach can't handle candy, my brain still can! I was forced to reread some collections of Christmas short stories that I had around the house. Nothing makes me more Christmas-y than reading Victorian or Regency stories set at Christmas time, preferably at a nice house party in a large estate in the country. Ahh, it sounds so fun! Going out and gathering all the greenery and mistletoe, finding a Yule log, making wreaths and garlands, going wassailing, sledding, skating on the frozen pond (there's ALWAYS one of those, as well as lots of snow, you know!), church at a cute little coutry church, having a huge Christmas feast that the cook makes and the servants serve and clean up . . . sounds great! Just the thing to escape vomit-filled sheets and my own sad lack of servants to wash them! LOL! Anyhow, I was glad yesterday to get some fresh books to read. Still nothing too challenging though--I even found a "cozy" murder mystery set during Christmas! Just the thing to read during Monday's football extravaganza!

Speaking tentatively and quietly here . . .

I think I can say that we are out of the woods now! No one has thrown up for 2 days, and no one had diarrhea yesterday. Hooray! I did NO laundry yesterday! Instead I spent the day coaxing Jonathan to start eating again. He was really the only one I was worried about. Last October (over a year ago), he got really sick and vomited at night for 10 days. We took him to the doctor a few times, but they said it was just a virus and he wasn't dehydrated. That was true, but he also lost a LOT of weight since he pretty much stopped eating, and he was skinny to begin with. I was very afraid of that happening again, and indeed, he sort of just stopped eating after he threw up the second time. He would have maybe 2 bites of applesauce a day, but he would drink water. And once he stops eating, it is so hard to get him started again. He's 2 1/2 and MAYBE 27 pounds, probably less now, so he just doesn't have any fat reserves there! He was just laying around yesterday morning, with not much energy at all, which obviously worried me greatly. So I held him on my lap and spoonfed him yogurt after it was apparent he wouldn't be eating more than a bite on his own. For lunch I made his all-time favorite--hot dogs. For dinner I "made" tuna and noodles, another favorite. And he ate them! Today he was back to normal, eating cereal at breakfast and chattering happily away. Amazing how getting a little bit of food in you really revs you back up!

Thursday, December 29, 2005

The virus is still winning

Yesterday morning Jonathan threw up again in my bed (was it just last week that I was laughing at Melinda for changing her sheets so often?! LOL! Now I'm changing them every other day!), and he was generally crabby all day long. He didn't want to eat rice, toast, soup, etc. No, what he wanted was cake and cookies, and he was not a happy camper when I said no to them! Caleb woke up with diarrhea. I felt pretty good during the day. Bob brought home Boston Market chicken for dinner, but by then I wasn't feeling all that well again. I ate a little bit, but before the boys went to bed all of that came right back up again. Sigh. So I guess I'm back to toast and soup today. I'm so glad Bob's family isn't coming today! When we talked to them on Monday, I couldn't imagine still being sick by Thursday--surely everyone would be done with this by then! Now I'm hoping and praying we're well enough to go to the New Year's Party at the L's house Saturday. Nathan and Luke are SO looking forward to this. We went there last year, and we counted down at 9:00, then blew noismakers, threw confetti, etc. Nathan and Luke thought that was about the most fun you could have legally! You can tell they had the misfortune of being born to a boring mom who doesn't do parties! : ) So I do hope we are able to go--maybe we just won't be able to eat anything! Luke is still holding out, the lone one who hasn't been sick at all. Who knew he had such an iron stomach?! I'm praying he won't get sick now, at this late date! I think that would really throw me into the looney bin.

We are certainly having a break from schooling! I hadn't planned on doing anything formal, but now we're mainly . . . not doing anything at all. They have watched a lot of videos and played a lot with their Bionicles and Playmobil. I have definitely noticed that when we don't have any real goals for the day, then there is a lot more bickering and complaining, so I am hoping we can get back into a more regular routine next week. I would love to send them all outside, since we're feeling a bit cooped up here in the sick house, but it is raining, and I don't feel like dealing with pneumonia on top of everything else! It has been funny to see what things the boys come up with on their own. Nathan has wanted to write some letters (!), including one, of his complete own volition, to Thangaraj, our Compassion International child from India. They are the same age, with birthdays only a few days apart, and I have done a lot of encouraging Nathan in the past to take more of an interest in writing him, so I was pretty excited when he came up with that! Nathan has also been organizing some stamps for his stamp collection. Since that involves sorting and organizing, Luke helped too. When my family first lived in Ohio, we lived in a huge old house next to another huge old house, where a childless widow lived. She gave my brother a big envelope with all sorts of old stamps in it. They've all been canceled, but it is so interesting to look at them. Many are from old Communist countries that no longer exist. Dan passed them all down to Nathan, along with ones from my mom and dad's amazing collection of international friends, so we have plenty of stamps to sort through and put in his album! It's a fun hobby for someone who likes history and geography as much as Nathan does.

Well, everyone is playing very nicely right now, so I am going to go read the paper. Wow--what a plan! : )

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Homeschool Store

To give everyone, including myself, a break from the vomit-filled posts of late, I thought I would finally talk more about the great trip Mom and I had to the Home Educator's Resource store in Lewisville, TX, which is about 45 minutes away from Dan and Melinda's. I first heard about this store on the Well Trained Mind message boards, where ladies from Texas were always talking about how great it was, meeting there, etc. So when I realized it was pretty close to Dan's, I knew I wanted to make the effort to go and see if it really was as great as everyone said!

Mom and I went on a rainy Monday afternoon, after getting detailed directions from Mapquest. We found the shopping center without any problems, but I actually called the store from the parking lot because I couldn't see it, and I wasn't sure we were in the right place! The store is tucked back in a corner and hard to see. It's not that impressive of a storefront, and it's I guess what you would call 2 stores wide, but they sure pack a lot of stuff into that area!

The store sells both new and used curricula. Everything is divided by subject, and a lot of things are divided by grades within subjects as well. I thought it was very well organized. I especially loved having the used curricula right next to the new. You could compare prices, and you could easily thumb through the books to see if they would work for you! There are so many great places to order stuff for homeschooling, but I get frustrated when I can't see what I'm thinking of buying. I have ordered a few things that sounded great, but just didn't do it for us, and being able to look at these things before hand would have saved me some money! Also, I frequently will hear someone talk, especially online, about some new thing, and then I wonder if maybe I should switch. I love the opportunity just to browse through things to see if they really are better. So I loved the store, and I wish there was one close to me! Right now, homeschooling conventions are the only way for me to look thorugh curricula, and they are not always convenient to go to. I doubt I'll make next year's HEAV one, since I'll have a pretty young baby who will still be nursing a lot, and I don't want to drag her around.

So what did I look at and buy? I was thrilled to find Famous Men of Rome and the student guide from Memoria Press . I had been planning on ordering them, but I saved money by buying them used. I also found the study guide for D'Aulaire's Greek Myths, which we already have and is a big favorite, espeically with Nathan. I think we will start Famous Men of Rome this coming year, and we'll probably do D'Aulaire's a few years later. I spent a while looking at all the history books, but I didn't buy much else there, since I love what we have already (Story of the World). I did buy some used historical fiction books for Nathan to read on the way back. I browsed through the math section but didn't buy anything there. We use Saxon, and that is pretty easy to find used, even around here. I looked a long time at the grammer section. Nathan is using Rod and Staff 3 this year, and while I like it just fine, I didn't really want to go on with it. So after looking at several different choices, I decided to go with Easy Grammer 4/5 next year for him. We actually are doing a lot of our grammer in our Latin time, so I don't want to have to spend too much time on it separately, and I think the EG format is more like what Nathan will like. I was able to get the workbook and teacher's guide both used. I looked at writing curricula too, but they didn't have the two that I am interested in, Classical Composition and Classical Writing. (I guess you can tell I am leaning toward Classical Writing, since I bothered finding a link, but I would have liked to look at it! LOL!) I bought a used copy of Mystery of the Roman Ransom, which is a sequel to Detectives in Togas, a book which Nathan really liked. I looked at the Real Science 4 Kids chemistry curriulum, which I have considered buying. I liked it alot, but I decided against buying it. It is fairly expensive, and we just don't do a lot of formal science right now. We read a lot of books and do more nature study type things.

I bought 2 things that were totally not on my official "list", but I was intrigued by them. One was a Contenders For the Faith manual. This is a book of projects and skills to do with young men to help them grow up to be godly men. We have talked about this book with our friends Craig and Christine, but we had never seen it. I really liked it, so I bought it. Bob was excited about doing the projects with the boys. It covers a wide variety of areas such as Biblical Manhood (Bible memory, reading, and journeling, etc.), Field and Forest (archery, birds, camping, ecology, insects, trees, etc.), Knowledge and Skills (huge category here including astronomy, chess, electricity, finances, fire safety, first aid, gardening, and much more), Leadership (biographies, organization, public speaking, scheduling, etc), Recreational Activities (badminton, croquet, fishing, hiking, etc.), and Others, which talks about various ways to care for others in the Body of Christ. So overall, it seems like a very comprehensive book, and I think it will take a long time to go through all the projects! There are places which have clubs like AWANAs to do Contenders of the Faith, and the companion book for girls, Keepers of the Faith, but I've never heard of one anywhere near us. That would be really neat, I would think, like a good combination of AWANAs and Boy Scouts.

The other impulse buy was Buckles and Bobbins , a beginning sewing book specifically for boys. I was pretty excited about finding this. Nathan and Luke love to make pillows, and they made several for Christmas presents (Nathan made one each for Grandma and Grandpa, and luke made one for Caleb and one for Jonathan). They just handstitch them, but I know they would love to learn how to use the sewing machine. Unfortunately, I do not have the necessary skills to teach them how to REALLY sew! I make things, but I can't read patterns, so I just wing it. This books steps through things quite nicely, and the projects include a pillowcase, laundry bag, potholder, work apron, fleece blanket, pajamas, duffel bag, sportsman's vest, cargo pants, and backpack. It includes all the patterns, plus detailed instructions, so maybe I will even be able to learn something from it! I would love to be able to make costumes for them especially. This will probably be more of a summer project, so ask me how it's going next year! And if it goes well, then everyone can expect plenty of homemade Christmas presents! LOL!

I also bought a few used books for Caleb and Jonathan so they would have some new books to look at on the long car ride home. All told, we spent a few hours there, happily browsing. I was so glad I didn't have the boys with me so I could really take my time! I know whenever we make it down to visit Dan and Melinda again, that I will make another trip to the Home Educator's Resource store!!

Monday, December 26, 2005

Well . . .

Caleb only threw up one more time last night, so that was a huge blessing. But he ran a little fever and generally had a restless night, so Bob and I kept popping out of bed to run check on him in case he was about to lose it all again. I doubt Bob and I would have slept all that well anyways, because we both realized that our stomachs were not feeling so settled. All through the night I kept saying that I didn't think any of my food had digested at all--my stomach felt so distended and horrid. Bob finally got sick around 6:00, and I around 9:30. And I was right--considering that it had been over 12 hours since I last ate, there was still tons in my stomach. All that they say about the digestive systems of pregnant women being slow is right!

Nathan was a real help today, getting everyone dressed and generally fed. Caleb wasn't that hungry, and neither was Jonathan, which was a big clue. Bob and I just stayed in bed while they all watched videos all morning ("Mom, can we watch ANOTHER Lone Ranger?" "Yes. Whatever you want." " Yay!!!"). In the afternoon, they all played with a new play-doh set also from Aunt Melinda and Uncle Dan, as well as a construction flannelgraph set from Pam. I guess the benefit to having both Mom and Dad being sick at the same time right after Christmas is that there are new toys to occupy everyone very nicely. Finally Bob and I made it downstairs to eat toast. Quite a change from our feast yesterday!

Jonathan was very whiny as bedtime approached, and he said he didn't feel good, so I figured his time was coming as well. He didn't eat much today, but he did drink a lot of soymilk, and that all just came back up a few minutes ago, poor guy. We're praying it will be short-lived for him too. So that brings us to our tally of 5 down, one to go. I wonder when Luke will start? We are supposed to have 2 of Bob's sisters come here Thursday night with their families, but now that is obviously up in the air. Bob thinks if they come at all, then they will get sick too. We'll see what happens to Luke, and also what they want to do. Ann still wants to come, but I don't know if Rose will.


*Update* At 10:45, I again got the "Mom" call from upstairs--surprise! It was Nathan again. Since we figured he was over and done with all of this, he was sleeping in the top bunk, and he managed to throw up not just all over his top bunk, but also all over Luke's comforter below. *big sigh* This may come as a surprise, but I am so tired of cleaning up vomit!!! I am really not dealing with this well now, so I'd appreciate your prayers that no one else throws up again tonight, and that this virus will just pass from our house--SOON!

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas!!!

We had an absolutely lovely Christmas, starting yesterday, and I hope you all did too!

Nathan threw up for the last time at 2:00 AM Saturday morning, with no signs of troubles yesterday at all. Yay! I was able yesterday morning to get out to Target and the dollar store and get a few things for stockings, which made me feel better. Ed stopped by in the afternoon to drop off presents, and they ended up coming back over here with KFC for dinner after the candlelight service at their church. We decided not to go anywhere, so the boys just played here and I baked some cookies (another new recipe) and made some sugared almonds and pecans. YUM! It was very relaxing, and then we had a great time visiting with the L's over dinner and dessert. Nathan and Luke were particularily thrilled to see Zachary and show him their new "Visorak Battering Ram", which is a Bionicle contraption that Uncle Dan and Aunt Melinda bought them for Christmas, thereby ensuring themselves "Most-Favored Relative" status for the upcoming year. LOL! I stayed up late baking a cake for Jesus' birthday cake (just a round one--Jesus doesn't get a theme birthday cake!) and putting together an egg/hash brown/sausage breakfast casserole (but no bread--I don't like soggy casseroles).

This morning we all woke up around 9:00. Even Nathan and Luke have been sleeping late since we got back from Texas, which has been nice, but we never open gifts or stockings really early anyways. I put in the breakfast casserole and made oatmeal muffins, and then the boys opened their stockings. At the dollar store I found these great plastic cowboy rifles, which even make a cheesy loading and shooting sound, and I know you will all be shocked by this, but the boys absolutely loved them. Jonathan carried his around all day. Unfortunately they are made with the high quality you might expect from something you pay a dollar for, so Bob has had to take all of them apart at one time or another today to reconnect wires, ect, even at one point doing some impromtu soldering. He's a regular gunsmith! Fortunately the boys love them even when they don't make their cheesy noise. We also gave them some cheap little flashlights from Walmart and little "Wooly Willy" things, where you move the magnetic shavings around to make hair, beards, etc. on a face. That was a big hit too! They also got ring pops, some chocolate bells (or Starbursts, if you are allergic to chocolate!), a candy stick from Cracker Barrel, and a candy necklace, again courtesy of the dollar store. What a great place! Mom filled her own stocking with dark chocolate squares from Target . . .

After breakfast, we opened our presents. Bob's mom always sends money for us to buy the boys something, so yesterday I had the brainstorm to go to Target and buy a Playmobil knights set. It was just a small one, with 3 knights, and then I also bought 2 separate knights on horseback. The boys were excited about them, and they have played with them much of the day. I had hoped they would use them in their big cardboard castle that we made this summer, and that's exactly what they did! Bob got me a "Message" Bible, which I've wanted for awhile, and I bought him a John McArthur Bible commentary, so between the two of us, we gave the Christian bookstore some good business! Pam surprised me and sent a package a few days ago that I opened today. I was so thrilled to find scrapbook pages and borders that she made for me! Now I am actually excited about doing some more scrapbooking, if I can just force myself to make the time! The L's bought us a beautiful, huge new popcorn popper, which I know will be put to good use. Our old one is pretty small, and the bowl has a crack, so a replacement is very welcome!

We had our Christmas dinner at a normal dinner time, and I just baked chicken breasts for the main course. I also made mashed potatoes, gravy, cornbread stuffing (which was just Pepperidge Farm, so I spent no time on it, but as it seems like always happens, it received rave reviews. Go figure!), broccoli, and a strawberry jello salad that I only rarely make but is my absolute favorite. I spent much more time on it than on the dressing, but it only received a lukewarm response. Caleb, Luke, Bob, and I liked it, but Jonathan and Nathan didn't. Ah well. After dinner we read the Christmas story, moving the felt characters on our background around, and then we sang "Happy Birthday" to Jesus and ate our cake. By then it was getting late, so the boys went off to bed--a great Christmas day!

As I thought back over this whole Christmas season, I realized I actually liked the way we did it this year, with having 2 separate gift-opening times. After we opened gifts in Texas, the boys played with new toys, read new books, and played new games in the car on the long ride back home. Then after we opened gifts today, they spent most of the day either playing "Lone Ranger" with their new guns, or playing with their Playmobil knights. So you can definitely say they were able to appreciate all of their gifts this year, unlike some years when it seems like we just have to rush them to keep on opening presents, and some presents kind of get left behind and ignored!

Just to let you all know, the day didn't end on the best of notes. Caleb threw up while getting ready for bed. Oh no! Unlike Nathan when he was sick, Caleb has eaten a ton of food today, and much of it pretty recently--lovely stuff like strawberry jello with lots of fruit and chocolate cake. So if he throws up as often as Nathan did, it has the potential to be a very messy and long night. I am so very thankful, however, that the Lord allowed us to have Christmas Day without anyone being sick during it!

Friday, December 23, 2005

Christmas

I'm having a bit of a dilemna regarding Christmas right now. When we were down in Texas, we opened presents and basically celebrated Christmas with my family. So that leaves me a little unsure of what exactly to do on the actual day. Nathan is still excited because we have stockings, but he doesn't know that, well, I really don't have anything to go in them! Usually we have some little things, and some candy, but this year all we bought were little flashlights from Walmart. And I don't have any special candy for them either, so anything food-related is going to be the same things they have been snacking on as we drove across the US! I am disappointed that almost no churches around here are having services actually on Christmas morning. There is a little church not too far away that celebrates Mass in Latin, and we have talked about visiting there, so we are going to try to find out if it has a service on Christmas morning. Maybe we will go there. If not, I think I will at least make a special breakfast dish, although there are not many of those that don't have a lot of cheese in them, making them not edible for Caleb! I am also at a loss as to what to do for Christmas dinner. We might possibly have 2 of Bob's sisters and their families come for a few nights next week, so I was thinking that I would make a ham and have a traditional dinner while they are here. For one thing, my ham is not defrosted, so I couldn't make it Sunday even if I wanted to! But what do I make to make it seem special? I can't decide! I am planning on baking a cake tomorrow so that we can do our traditional celebration of Jesus' birthday. We'll read the Christmas story while we put up the figures on our flannel background, and we'll probably sing some Christmas carols or something. Then we'll sing "Happy Birthday" to Jesus and eat his birthday cake. Still, it doesn't seem that special of a day, and I can't think of anything else to do. It doesn't help that we are all just so tired from the drive, so no creative juices are flowing!

Update: maybe we won't be doing much at all, even tomorrow, when we were planning on going to a living Nativity at a local church. Nathan has just thrown up for the second time. The first time, we all just assumed he had eaten something this morning at Sams' (we had tons of free samples!) that hadn't agreed with him. The second time, however, makes me think it is a bug, possible the one that was going around our homeschool co-op before we left. Apparently there were kids vomiting all over the place, and many families were affected, even the L's. Weird that it would start for us so much later, and after a few weeks of no exposure to any other kids. I guess no matter what, this will indeed be a Christmas to remember.

Tire Excitement

I mentioned that Dan and Melinda seemed to have been cursed with tire problems, and it looks like they rubbed it off on us! As we were driving through Arkansas on Wednesday (we seem to have problems mainly in Arkansas, lol), I pulled off at a rest stop to go to the bathroom. I was changing Joanthan's diaper in the van when a lady and her husband came up and told me that our back right tire was very, very low. I told Bob when he came back out, and they were quite right. Fortunately, they had one of those little guys in their car that blows up tires, so they tried to reinflate the tire. It got a little bigger, but it was obvious we had a pretty big hole, which Bob found by running his hand over the tire. We were able to make it to the next exit, where we found a can of Fix-A-Flat in our back. That enabled us to limp onto 40 more miles to a WalMart that had a tire center. When we got there, the mechanics took the tire off to patch it and found a huge goose-egg bulging out on the inner sidewall. They told us it could have blown at any time, but we would never have been warned about it if we hadn't had the leak, since we would never have seen anything suspicious. Wow! The Lord was really watching over us, and we're so thankful that he answered our prayers for safety that morning before we left. So we got a new tire, and while they were putting it on, we bought a package of turkey, some cheese, a loaf of bread, some chips, and a half-gallon of orange juice (it was a Super-Walmart, obviously!), and we had a little picnic back at the tire waiting area. What an exciting dinner stop!

We're home!!!

Here is the trip summary--3700 miles driven in 10 days, one new tire, countless M&Ms, cookies, crackers, raisins, etc. consumed, and 6 all-too-short days spent with family!

We had such a great trip. We left Tuesday, Dec. 13 and drove to Nashville. The next day we drove on to the Dallas-area, to Dan and Melinda's house. We did run into a huge traffic jam on the west side of Memphis, so we took a sudden 30-mile detour to try to get around it. That led us through many poverty-stricken little Arkansas towns such as Earle, which looked as though every building in it should be condemned. Wow, you don't see those things from the interstate. A sobering perspective.

Thursday Dan worked half a day, and then we started down to Corpus Christi in a caravan. We again ran into a traffic jam in the middle of Dallas, and we rerouted ourselves for another detour when Dan's tire blew out. Not to worry! We all pulled off between the highway and an exit ramp, and Bob and Dan changed the tire like a pair of pit stop mechanics. The detour led us through Grand Prairie, which reminded us somewhat of an urban "Earle". We also ran into lots of traffic in Austin, leading us to conclude that we are magnets for traffic tie-ups, while Dan and Melinda are magnets for flat tires, since that was their 4th in a year. We had a lot of fun caravaning with them. Melinda rode in the minivan some, giving her practice in being the "stewardress of the van", the person responsible for picking up dropped toys, getting new books for people, choosing new music, distributing snacks, etc. It's a full time job! We ate dinner at Cracker Barrel and got into Corpus pretty late.

Friday was the day of the big ceremony! It was freezing cold and rainy, but we (the boys especially) had a great time sitting in James' airplane. The ceremony was at 3:00 in the afternoon. I was concerned, since that is naptime, but the boys did okay. Jonathan and Caleb were very wiggly, but there were a lot of other kids there who were crying, etc., so it was fine. James looked so handsome and distinguished in his uniform with his wings pinned on! We were so very proud! We all went out to Olive Garden to celebrate. THere were 18 of us there, so it was quite the party!

Saturday we went to the Texas State Aquarium, which was very nice. We were thrilled to find out it is a reciprocating member of the American Zoological Association, so we were able to get half off admission with our membership card from Boonshoft. My personal favorites were the jelly fish display, and also the seahorses. They are just so cute, and you probably know that female seahorses only carry the eggs to the father--he fertilizes them, carries them until they are ready to be born, then he pushes them out by contracting his body. Very attractive species, especially to a pregnant woman!

In the afternoon, we all went back to our hotel and watched football in our room. We got an amazing room--it was literally the size of two rooms, and we had 2 king size beds, plus a pull-put couch, 2 easy chairs, and 2 poofy chairs that went around a little table. There was a ton of empty space in the middle for the boys to play in as well, and it was obviously the best place for everyone to gather and socialize! We ordered pizza and had a regular party there! We were really thankful for the perfect room that the Lord provided!

Sunday we drove back to Dallas with Dan and Melinda. As we were heading out of Corpus, we stopped to get gas, and I realized that I had left a folder with driving instructions and more importantly, the extra pictures of the boys from WalMart that I had been handing out. Bob and Dan volunteered to go back and try to find them (which they did, praise the Lord), and Melinda rode with us again. Bob thought maybe I left them there on purpose so Melinda and I could have more time together, but I can assure you that I did not! I did really enjoy riding and talking with her though--it made the miles pass quite quickly! We met up with Mom and Dad at Cracker Barrel, and Bob and Dan caught up to us there too, and we all ate lunch. Then we did a little bit of shopping at the San Marcos Outlet Malls. The only flaw in our plan was that it was the last Sunday before Christmas, and they were PACKED!!!

Monday I did laundry, and in the afternoon Mom and I ventured to Lewisville to a homeschool resource store that I had heard about on the Well-Trained Mind board. It was fantastic, but I will devote another post to it. I had too much fun! That night we celebrated Christmas together and opened our presents. Tuesday we got packed up while the boys played with their new Bionicle toy and watched Lone Ranger videos. Wednesday morning we said sad goodbyes, drove to Nashville, and then got home yesterday at about 9:30. We're all so tired, but it was an absolutely wonderful trip. My family is so spread out that we all get together so rarely, and when we do, it is a very precious thing.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Just to mix it up a little

The boys were unloading the dishwasher this morning, and Luke was complaining about all the mixing bowls in there. Nathan rather condescendingly pointed out that it was because we had done lots of baking lately.

Luke: "Duh."

Nathan: "Luke, you don't always need to say, 'duh'."

Luke: "But I don't!"

Caleb: "Yeah, sometimes you should say, 'for Pete's sake'."

Sunday, December 11, 2005

It finally happened today . . .

At church, a friend was introducing me to her mother. She said something about the one in my tummy being a girl, and the mom said, "She won't be there much longer, I'd reckon!" So now I have proof that my belly is huge, and I look like I could deliver any day, while in fact, I am only almost 25 weeks along and still have a good 3 1/2 MONTHS left! Sigh. Where is the chocolate? LOL--just kidding! See, that's the kicker--I haven't actually gained any more weight than I ever have at this point. I have gained a respectable 17 pounds, which is not super great, but it's certainly not obese either. I am right on track to gain my usual 35 pounds. But I look as big as I did when I went into labor with Nathan. I think this is just another example of how people aren't really used to seeing women with big families. You can be cutely pregnant with 2, even 3 pregnancies, if they are spaced far apart. Then you can wear those modern maternity fashions where your shirts hug and accent your poochy little belly. When you are carrying number 5 in 8 years, you outgrow those shirts at about 4 months, so what's the point of buying them?! Those stomach muscles are permanently damaged!

In other news, our garbage disposal broke this afternoon. I was grinding (is that the right verb?) some cereal that didn't get eaten before church when there was a tremendous clunking, big-broken-metal sound. At least I know it wasn't because I was putting some hard thing down there! That cereal was beyond soggy! The dispposal is not a huge priority before we leave, but hopefully Bob can replace it when we get back. At least it is something he knows how to do!

I am pleased to report that I am mowing my way through my to-do list before we leave for Texas on Tuesday. I mailed off a package to Bob's mom yesterday, I got all of our Christmas cards done and stamped, all our presents are wrapped, and I've started laundry and packing.

Also, for those we will be seeing in Texas, be prepared for Luke's hole-y grin. His second front tooth came out just a day or so later than the first, so he is definitely speaking with a bit of a whistle. Feel free to sing, "All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth", but don't expect that he hasn't heard it before! LOL!

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Well, now we know why I had my blood clot . . .

. . . it's something beautiful people have troubles with! My brother was kind enough to send me this article link , which discusses Miss Indiana-USA. She noticed her arm was purple and swollen last week, and she was admitted to the hospital. The doctors found a blood clot, and they also did surgery to remove her first rib. Here is some more information on Paget-Schroetter syndrome, which is exactly what I had, although my doctor never called it that. He always just used the more generic "thoracic outlet syndrome", but Paget-Schroetter syndrome is evidently a specific manifestation of thoracic outlet syndrome. Interesting. My clot was in the subclavian vein, and my symptoms were just as are described in the second link. And I too felt "like an elephant kicked me in the chest" after my surgery. Wow, we have so much in common! The picture in the first article looks just like me too. . . LOL!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

New "Grammar" Concept

Yesterday the Washington Times had an interesting article on the front Metro page entitled "Baltimore Redefines Grammar". Here's an excerpt.

BALTIMORE (AP) -- Remember when a noun was defined as a person, place or
thing? In a teen magazine that is becoming part of the Baltimore
middle-school reading curriculum, the noun is being redefined as "stuff." That
makes a verb "what stuff does." It's part of a new approach in the
Baltimore school system to teaching reading and writing in middle schools.
Some say the new method doesn't have much of a track record. The change is
being made after a dismal performance on state standardized tests this spring.
The Baltimore Sun reported Sunday that officials have spent at least $2 million
on Studio Course. The curriculum uses teen magazines, places grammar on
the back burner and lets students write about whatever they want. The magazines
the schools are using to engage children include Cosmo Girl, which has a feature
this month called "Five Hot New Kisses," with explicit tips on making out, and
Teen People, whose November issue includes the articles "Hot Boy Next Door" and
"Flirt Better." If better test results are what school officials are
after, they have no evidence the new curriculum will do that. Only one
other city, Denver, has used the program. "I can't imagine Baltimore would be so
ignorant to think it's research-based," said Kay Landon, a sixth-grade teacher
in Denver. "They can look at our test scores. Our test scores have not
gone up. The kids are getting shortchanged."


Well! Isn't that an interesting concept?! All you can do is feel very sorry for the kids. That is so sad. I see so much bad grammar around from people who HAVE been taught it correctly, that I can't imagine how these poor kids are going to murder the English language. "The curriculum uses teen magazines, places grammar on the back burner and lets students write about whatever they want." But students who don't know any grammar and write whatever they want are not going to be able to communicate very effectively. So I am assuming, since this is an urban school system, that they probably have a high percentage of minorities. And now these people, when they graduate, are not going to be able to clearly express themselves in writing in the language of our country. So this policy is, in effect, going to take away the voice of all these kids. Chasing trendy "stuff" (hey--a noun!) is not ever a good teaching concept, and it is very sad that inner-city schools are where they experiment with it (well, that and California, but that's another problem).

Maybe there is a bigger problem than first meets the eye in Maryland? Montgomery County, MD, is the place where they approved that graphic sex-ed course that, among other things, involved a pretty teenage girl showing the right way to put a condom on a cucumber. I blogged about that last November here. After parents sued, a liberal judge ruled it couldn't be used, since the curriculum basically said people who thought things like homosexuality were wrong were bad, and it specifically named several Christian denominations. Apparently that was the bad thing, but now it's back to the drawing board for that county. Wonder what they will come up with? Well, we know that Maryland can redefine grammar, so it's no wonder they are trying to redefine marriage and so on as well!

Monday, December 05, 2005

Christmas Letters

Yay! We finally got our Christmas letter done and copied! I guess we just weren't really inspired this year--I felt like pretty much everything we're doing now is what we were also doing last year. We are having another baby, but let's face it--it's not like that is exactly an unusual occurance based on past newsletters either! So our update is pretty brief, but at least it's done. Also, I didn't want to buy any more paper this year. Each year we buy a pack of 100 sheets, and we use about 70 or 75 of them. We faithfully save the rest, which really adds up after awhile! I decided that we should try to use up all these odds and ends this year, which required some different formatting for various "editions". We're using 3 different types of papers--one with snowflakes, one with a ribbon around it, and one with some greenery. So now you all can just wait and wonder which one you'll get! What excitement! I would love to get these out before we leave for Texas, so I think I will sign off and go fold some letters. And if you are someone we are planning on seeing in Texas, then you can just expect to get yours there! : )

I can't wait to start getting everyone's newsletters and Christmas cards. So far we've gotten a grand total of two! I have never understood those people who hate them. I love them! We have enough friends that I know we won't see anytime in the near future, some we probably won't see again until we meet in heaven, and I absolutely love to hear what they and their families are up to. We usually get such boring, non-personal mail, but December is a great month!

Saturday, December 03, 2005

A Crazy Night with Friends

We usually have Bible study at the L's house Friday nights, but last night Ed has his work Christmas party, and we're between books, and it's almost Christmas, so the rest of us met over here for pizza and fellowship. Tim and Amy stopped by Costco and picked up three of their take-n-bake pizzas for all of us (3 families--6 adults and 10 kids). We cook the take-n-bake pizzas from Sams all the time , so we fired up our ovens and popped 2 of them in. About halfway through, we noticed smoke coming out of the top oven. We looked in and found that the crust was pretty "done", although the rest of the pizza wasn't. That's odd. We turned the oven way down and kept watching it. A few minutes later a blob of something actually caught on fire on the bottom of the oven, so we had to rescue the pizza quickly before it really burned! In all that excitement, we noticed smoke coming out of the bottom oven--what is up with smoking ovens?!! So that pizza had a burned bottom crust too. Good grief! Can I just say again that we NEVER have had problems cooking pizzas (or really anything else either) ever before?!!! The third pizza was just fine however (are we stuck in Goldilocks or something?!). Fortunately none of us are too picky, so we did a good job on all the pizzas, burned or not.

Then the kids went downstairs and the adults sat arounds and talked. Soon we could hear Caleb wailing downstairs. To my expert ear, it sounded like someone had taken something away from him, so I wasn't too worried. It turns out that he uses the same cry for both small and big things, however, and he and Luke had banged heads pretty hard. He just had a bump, but Luke had quite the swollen and bleeding upper lip. And that tooth that was loose is now VERY loose! Luke was crying too, but fortunately I had some medicinal chocolate Snickers cheesecake on hand, and that made a cool, soothing compress. : ) It was my first attempt at a cheesecake, because I don't really LIKE cheesecake, but this one was all chocolate with a chocolate crust and cut-up Snickers bars in the filling as well as on top, along with drizzled chocolate sauce. YUM! (My oven did NOT burn the cheesecake or even the chocolate crinkle cookies I made earlier that afternoon, I am pleased to report. So evidently the oven became possessed sometime after 4:00 Friday afternoon. LOL!) The cheesecake was a big hit with everyone, as were the cookies and also the buckeyes that Amy brought.

After dessert, the kids disappeared back downstairs again. Soon one of them came upstairs to tell us that the glass in our coffee table had broken because "they were trying to put it in right". Bob leaped downstairs to clean that all up. We never did get a satisfactory story for why the glass was OUT of the coffee table, but I will say that our kids did not appear to have anything to do with it, as they all had believeable alibis at the time of the incident! I never really cared for that coffee table--another thing that Bob got I think when he graduated from the Academy in 1987, and frankly once you have kids, a table with glass in it will NEVER look clean. But still, now we have to replace it, although it is pretty low on the priority list.

So the night was full of excitement, as well as good fellowship! I guess this is why I don't as a rule throw any formal parties! LOL!

UPDATE: Luke did indeed lose his first tooth last night (Saturday) while watching football. And the 2 right next to it are also pretty loose, so I expect it won't be too long before they are out too. It was quite a hit he took!

Jonathan--another one like me

First, as funny story about Jonathan from a few mornings ago while we were eating breakfast.

Jonathan: ROAR!!

Luke (in a kindly, big brother voice): Are you being a lion, Jonny?

Jonathan (still roaring): NO! I'M A BUTTERFLY!

LOL! Luke pointed out to him that butterflies don't roar, but he was unconvinced.

A few days ago I wrote that Luke was a lot like me. Well, it turns out that Jonathan also shares some of my personality traits. Specifically, he is very picky about some anal little things. For instance, he has particular ways that his shoes must go on, and they absolutely must not be "too tight". It never fails that when we are running late, all I hear is "Too tight! Too tight!" along with lots of fussing. So I have to make a big show of undoing the velcro strap and then redoing it so that the shoe will be acceptably loose. When I was a little girl, my particular bugaboo was "shoes that slide up and down on my heels". I have distinct memories of some mall in L.A. with a Buster Brown shoe store, and us walking around trying on shoes, but me always saying "No, not these--these slide up and down on my heels". So I guess what goes around, comes around, although ironically my shoes could never be tight enough.

Jonathan's other particular idiosyncresy is that his pant legs must always be down, NOT hitched up at all on his socks or by his knees. This normally doesn't present much of a problem, but recently we've been on a real "Lone Ranger" kick around here, and so he wants to wear his cowboy boots pretty much constantly. And when you wear sweat pants and cowboy boots, it's almost impossible to keep your cuffs down around your ankles! A good deal of my time seems to be spent carefully folding over his pants cuff, then carefully inserting them into the boot, taking care to keep them as far down as possible. It's quite a process, and it rarely works to his exact satisfaction. And you can tell that my argument of "You NEVER see the Lone Ranger fussing about his pants cuffs and boots" just isn't convincing enough. I wonder what Jonathan's kids will be like? LOL!

Friday, December 02, 2005

Doctor Update

I had my doctor appointment this morning, and it went pretty much as I expected! Everything looks fine with the baby, and I told her about my rash. She looked at it, said "Hmmm . . . " and then said there were lots of pregnancy-related rashes, but it was very unusual for them to start this early and to not be on my stomach. Exactly what my research said. So she didn't have anything new to suggest, and she wants me to go to a dermatologist. Which is easier said than done! I don't have authorization to go off-base for anything other than OB care, so I think I will have to call the Fairfax Clinic, which is my primary care provider, and then see if whoever I see will refer me to dermatology at either Ft. Belvoir or Bethesda. Then I will have to try to get an appointment there. If I'm extremely lucky, I may be able to get seen before the pregnancy is over! (You may think I am joking, but alas, I am quite serious!) So I am not counting on any relief or answers in the near future, other than miraculous relief from the Lord. I have found something that does numb the itching--it has as the main ingredient camphor, and it gives a nice icy/hot sensation. I use that before I go to bed, and that does help. Right now I am praying that the Lord will just take the rash away, and that He will enable me to deal with it until it is gone, whenever that may be. I guess this is fair play, since I have never struggled with morning sickness, heartburn, varicose veins, etc. that so many other people suffer from during pregnancy!