Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Limping Home

Well, we made it safely back to VA last night, but we have had it rough, healthwise! I thought Grace was getting better on Saturday, because she was sleeping better and wasn't quite as fussy as she had been. But Saturday night was bad again, and Sunday was awful. Since the other kids were still coughing and hacking, Mom volunteered to stay home and watch the kids while Bob and I went to church. So we said goodbye to Dan, Melinda, and Emily, who left to drive back home Sunday, and then Bob and I had a nice date to church and out to Panera Bread for lunch. We tried a new church, a church that identifies itself as a 9 Marks church, like our one here is VA. It was good, but we are just so spoiled by our pastor here. His sermons are sooo good!

When we got home, it was obvious that Grace was not doing so well again. She was fussy the rest of the day, and the night was once again terrible. She really only slept if I was holding her, which meant not much sleep for me. Plus, she was running a fever again, and bothering with her ear, so we decided that I would take her to the ER at Wright-Pat Monday morning. When we got there, I was prepared for the long haul, based on how many people were there, and how long they had been waiting. Thankfully, however, we were seen fairly quickly. As it turned out, the doctor said that her ears did not look infected right then, but that there was tons of stuff oozing out of her right ear, so it must have ruptured. I had actually noticed this weird lava-like flow of stuff in her ear that morning, so that made sense. The doctor said the hole would most likely mend itself, and that she would probably feel better, now that all the pressure wasn't there anymore. We're just supposed to keep an eye on her, and if she starts running a fever again, then take her back in because it probably got reinfected. So, poor baby, she really was not doing well on Sunday! I should have taken her in then! Oh well, she is doing better now, and the ride home was not too bad with her.

Nathan, who you may remember started off this whole plague 2 weeks ago, started complaining about his upper jaw hurting on Monday, and he also started running a fever again. I'm wondering if he doesn't have a sinus infection, so I have an appointment for his this afternoon. Jonathan and Anna are still coughing away, but they've been sleeping fine, so I'm not too worried. I think they are on the mend.

We also generously passed this bug off to my mom (tis the season for sharing, you know), so she has also been coughing and all stuffed up. Hopefully now that our germ-laden presence is out oft he house, she will start getting better!

The last few days I have had a very hard time with my blood glucose levels. I guess it's just the stress of everyone being sick and again me not sleeping, but it is so discouraging. Sigh. My next appointment in on Jan. 6, so I am hoping that things improve before then. With that in mind, I am off to the treadmill. I am thrilled to say goodbye to the old exercise bike at my parents' house! My poor pelvis is eternally thankful not to have to get back on that thing!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

New Christmas Tradition

Every year we have a birthday party for Jesus on Christmas, complete with cake, the song, etc. Last year the kids asked why we didn't give Jesus any presents, and this year my mom had a great idea to remedy that in a tangible way. She asked our family, my brother's family, and my aunt and uncle to all donate some money, and then we would look through the Samaritan's Purse gift catalogue and pick out something to give that would help a needy family somewhere. The gifts are things like shares of livestock, shares in a well for a village, stocking a fish pond for a village, food and medicine for a new mom and baby for a month, and so on. The stories are so touching, and the needs are so great, that soon you find you wish you could just give all your money! The boys really took a lot of time looking through the catalogue, with Nathan even marking the things he was interested in. We decided we would give a flock of chickens, as well as a share of a livestock animal, with our money. The boys decided to donate the dollars that the stranger had given them in Wendys on our trip out here, and they are excited to save up this next year so we will have more money to give! So it was definitely a good idea, and one we will continue to practice.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Merry Christmas!

I know I'm a day late, but I hope you had a wonderful Christmas! We sure did. It is so great to be here with my family. The only problem is that we have brought with us some terrible coughing ailment, which is passing through the family, and I'm sure we are sharing it with Dan's family, as well as Mom and Dad. Nathan started coughing the day before we left VA, and since then Jonathan, Caleb, Grace, and Anna have also been coughing up a storm. We went to the Chrsitmas Eve service at the chapel, and Jonathan sounded like he was going to hack up a lung. I should have kept him home!

Grace really had a hard time sleeping for several nights with her coughing and snuffling. She also ran a fever, so she really wasn't feeling well. We borrowed a vaporizer from Amy, but that didn't work any miracles. I discovered that when I am feeling puny and also not getting any sleep, my blood sugar numbers are not good. It was really amazing. No matter what I ate, even a salad and turkey/lettuce/cheese sandwich, which I ate for dinner one night instead of pizza, my numbers were higher than 120. Oh well. Today I am finally feeling better and a little more well-rested, so my numbers are back down where they normally are.

The boys have really been enjoying 2 new games they received--electronic Battleship, which Amy got them, and Star Wars Monopoly, which Dan and Melinda got. I would say Anna's favorite gift was a pair of pink dress up high heels that Melinda got her. She wears them all the time! We got Grace a doll of her own, since Anna is rather bossy about the dolls at home, all of which are technically hers. But so far Grace has not been able to establish complete control over this new doll either, LOL. Anna is just a bit too bossy.

Bob's parents give us money each year to buy something, and this year Bob went out early Sunday morning and bought a surprise for us, which I opened on Christmas--a laptop! With that and the mp3 player we bought before leaving VA, this has been a very technological Christmas for us. I guess we finally decided those were 2 "fads" that were staying, so we better jump on the bandwagon at this late date, LOL.

Dan and Melinda and Bob and I got to go on a double date Tuesday night. We went to a local restaurant, and it was very nice! I had pecan-crusted chicken, which was absolutely delicious. We had a fun time with Dan and Melinda. Mom and Dad held down the fort back at their house with all 7 kids. We'll be sad when Dan, Melinda, and Emily leave on Sunday to drive back to TX. And then we will leave on Tuesday! Back to the old routine . . .

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Here in Ohio!

We made it safely here on Thursday, about 20 minutes before Dan and Melinda drove in! We had a nice drive with good weather, and we got halfway through The Bronze Bow, our book on CD. I have fond memories of the middle school librarian reading that book aloud to us during library time. It's really good.

We did have an interesting experience when we stopped for lunch. We stopped at a Wendys in West Virginia, and the people were very friendly. A nice elderly man talked to us in line, and later he told us that he had 8 children, and it was nice to see a big family, since you just don't see that much anymore. As we were eating, a man came up and started talking to the boys, who were sitting at a table behind me. He asked the boys if they were excited for Christmas, and they all said yes. I sort of turned around and told him we were on our way to Grandma's house. Then he handed each boy a dollar bill and told them to have a merry Christmas! They were thrilled, and as I turned around to remind them to say thank you, he put a twenty dollar bill in front of me! He was a younger man, around Bob's age I would say, but he told me he was all alone for Christmas--his parents were dead, and he didn't have any siblings, aunts, uncles, anyone. So he wanted us to have a merry Christmas. It was so sad, and I didn't really know what to say, other than how sorry I was and thank you! No one has ever come up and given us money before, though. That was a first!

We are having a great time here with everyone! The 3 little girls are so cute playing together with their dolls! They really have done a good job sharing, so we haven't had many incidents! It helps that there are plenty of dolls to go around.

I have been doing well with my glucose numbers, surprisingly. Of course, I have been exercising like a mad woman. We even went to Young's last night. I only had half of a turkey bacon club sandwich, and half a scoop of ice cream, and then I went home and rode the bike for 30 minutes. But my number was 103!!

I must go help with dinner!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Diabetes Update

Well, I think I am settling into more of a routine and getting more comfortable with the whole thing. My numbers have been great. My highest was 114 after dinner the first night I checked. Yesterday we had our annual neighborhood Christmas party at our next door neighbor's house. He always puts on a nice spread, but I was very careful to eat mainly protein choices and veggies, but i did have some sugared almonds for dessert. My number after dinner was 106. Then today we had our monthly fellowship meal after church. I followed the same plan--half a piece of chicken breast, a few bites of 3-bean chili, salad, and green bean casserole, with a brownie for dessert--and my number was 101. Yay! Of course, as soon as we got home from both these events, I jumped on the treadmill, which brings me to the exercise part of my regimen.

I have been exercising at least twice a day. Most days I do my big workout on the treadmill in the mornings (at least 40 minutes), although some days I will do a pregnancy workout video. Then after lunch I either do my pregnancy pilates video, or I walk another 20-30 minutes, but this time at a more leisurely stroll. Sometimes we swim after dinner, although it's not like I'm swimming laps, just splashing around the pool with the kids. But I'm still active. Now you might be wondering when in the world I am fitting in over 1 hour of exercise a day. It has become a temporary high priority, so there are things that are not getting done, that's for sure. I'm glad this is December, when I don't have high expectations for doing tons of extra schoolwork, for example. Nathan and Luke are doing math, grammar, and Latin daily, and we are listening to Story of the World CDs in the car. Sometimes we do spelling and memory work, but not always. Caleb and Jonathan get fitted in, but not as regularly as they were. It's funny though--having a little bit of a breather for Jonathan in reading has helped him, and he's become a lot more confident.

With all this exercise, I am burning over 300 extra calories a day. Now remember, the dietician put me on a 1800 calorie/day diet because I was 10-15 pounds overweight when I got pregnant. Well, the first few days of that, I was starving! I think Carri is right--it's just not enough calories, especially with all the exercise. So I took it upon myself to increase my protein. Instead of the "6 almonds" that would be a protein serving for a snack, for example, I would eat a handful. Or have an extra spoonful of peanut butter, or a little more meat at dinner. That has helped. I'm also drinking a ton of milk, which is helping me feel full. Of course, with all this milk and peanut butter, I worry about allergies . . . and this will be an odd-numbered baby, which for us tend to be the allergic ones . . . but oh well, what can you do. I can't deal with anything else right now. I may switch to sunflower seed butter, but I'm not switching to rice or soy milk.

I am thinking that if I keep on this diet after I have the baby, the baby weight (plus the extra 13 pounds!) should melt away! That is a happy thought. But then I wonder if I would be able to keep up my milk supply . . . I guess we'll see. I know I won't be able to keep up this exercise schedule! At some point, real life (and a nursing baby!) will have to take priority!

So now we are preparing to go to my parents' house for Christmas. We'll see how I do with the diet and exercise there. I have an appointment with the doctor on Wednesday, before we leave on Thursday.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Just like in cartoons!

Our homeschool co-op had their Christmas skating party yesterday morning. Almost as soon as he had started around the ice for the very first time, Caleb fell forward and totally landed on his face, which gave him this lovely goose egg. I had just finished putting Jonathan's skates on and was going to take a picture or 2, if I could see the boys, when a group of girls came over to tell me that Caleb was hurt! He was crying, but it really was just like a cartoon--this huge egg sticking straight out from the middle of his forehead! A staff member got some ice, so we iced it for awhile. I had a bottle of infant motrin in the diaper bag, so I poured that down his throat. The lump went down pretty quickly. Obviously he looks like he's doing just fine here, and he did indeed get right back out there and skate the rest of the time. He's a trooper! To be honest, we've had our fair share of goose eggs, so I wasn't that concerned. I'd much rather deal with a goose egg than a broken bone!!

Nathan and Luke had a great time. They whizzed around, playing games with their friends, and having a ball. Jonathan went around a few times by himself, clutching the side of the rink, but mainly he went with Nathan or Amanda to hold onto. The girls and I froze on the metal bleachers by the rink, LOL.

After everyone skated for a little more than an hour, we had a pizza party. I was a bit concerned, since this would be the first time I had pizza since starting to check my blood sugar. I had 1 1/2 pieces of cheese pizza, a handful of chips, and a rice krispie treat. As soon as we got home, I hopped on the treadmill again (I walked 40 minutes that morning) for another 25 minutes, and when I checked my levels after 2 hours, they were 108. Yay! So far so good with the levels. I've been pleased. We'll see how Christmas goes, however . . . I forsee a lot of exercising, LOL.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Diabetes Clinic

So I had my diabetes orientation clinic this afternoon. It was long--from 12:30-3:00--and there were 7 of us there. First the nurse talked about gestational diabetes, and then she showed us how to use our new handy-dandy glucometers. This is where it's nice to be military--we all had bags from the pharmacy with the glucometer, 100 test strips, control solution, 200 lancets, and a box of alcohol wipes. All set to go! My blood sugar reading was 104 two hours after eating lunch, so that was good. It has to be under 120 2 hours after a meal, and under 95 in the mornings before eating. The nurse was nice and funny. She was pretty laid back about the whole thing, not in terms of the seriousness of it, but she definitely felt like we could all do this and it would be fine. She did say that stress raises blood glucose levels. Hmmm. No stress around here lately, LOL.

Then the dietician came in. She was one of those people with a big phony smile who talk really slowly, as if no one had ever even heard of a carbohydrate. She spent forever going over her stuff, which was not filled with anything electrifying or new, so that is what took so long. She talked to us individually and gave us each a diet plan. Mine is for 1800 calories, with 3 meals and 3 snacks. Some of the snack options are pretty gross, like "6 saltine crackers and 1 T butter". Yuck! That's not going to be a part of any snack of mine! I'm still working out what will be good things to eat, and how to count them. I knew that keeping track of a bunch of "meats, starches, fruits", etc. was going to be the hardest thing. Sometimes I feel like keeping track of just one more thing is going to make my head explode. Hopefully everything will settle into a routine. My blood sugar was 114 after dinner, which was 1 cup beef barley soup, a whole wheat biscuit with 1 T butter, and 1 cup salad. That's okay, but I guess I expected it to be lower, and I was so hungry and crabby by the time in was snack time, around 8:30! I ate 6 wheat thins, a slice of colby jack cheese, and an apple for snack, so I'm feeling better now. We'll see what my number is tomorrow morning.

When the nurse was talking, I got some more insight into how Bethesda will be as a place to give birth. I'm not planning on taking their tour, since they only offer it at weird times or in conjuction with a childbirth class. I definitely don't need the class, and who wants to make another trip all the way to Bethesda just for a tour?! So it seems like it is a pretty standard military teaching hospital, definitely leaning on the side of "rigid", as far as birthing options. Like I said before, I'm glad it's not my first, and hopefully they will just leave me alone. They have a really high epidural rate, as well as c-section rate, although the nurse kept making sure to say, "But we see a lot of high risk patients". She did say that they often induce gestational diabetic patients at 39 weeks, which is not something I want, since I had such a bad induction experience with Grace. I guess we'll see how I do at controlling my numbers. I am already praying that I just go into labor a bit early on my own, even though I haven't gone into labor myself the last 3 pregnancies, so I'm not holding my breath and expecting to.

Monday, December 08, 2008

A Good Weekend

We drove up To see Bob's family Saturday morning, and it was a good visit! We got there after lunch, and his sister Jane and her husband Terry came over soon after. We got to spend some one-on-one time with them and his parents, and it was really nice. Jane and Terry always get big gifts for the kids (as in they take up a lot of physical space), but they really try to think hard about what they get, so the kids always love the gifts. This time they got a Dora ride-on thing for Grace, a Little People house for Anna, a little Thomas "laptop" for Jonathan, a big Magna-doodle plus a golf game for Caleb, a Bionicle for Luke (they actually bought him a game they had already given to Nathan, so they took him to Toys R Us and let him pick out something himself, which he LOVED), and the game Apples to Apples for Nathan, which he had been wanting. Everyone was very happy with all this largesse, and then Bob's mom brought down presents that his sister Rose had left there the previous weekend--things like a doll high chair for Anna, and a huge carton, which contained 4 boxes, each of which had 2 Nerf guns and a ton of ammunition. So . . . 2 Nerf guns for each boy? Wow--it will be like Armageddon around here! I told the boys that we would only open 2 boxes at a time, LOL. Anyhow, by this time, the living room was getting piled high with boxes, and we were all a bit concerned that we wouldn't be able to fit everything in the van for the ride home, which is actually a pretty common concern whenever we go back there for Christmas, LOL. Amazingly, it all fit, but there were things under people's feet, and the back was totally stuffed to the top.

Later Bob's sister Ann and her family came over, including her daughter Christi and her new husband Andres (who got married back in May, with Anna being the flower girl). It was great to see them there! They drove up from Richmond because one of the ski resorts nearby had free skiing. Bob's brother Paul and his wife and son also were there, so the room was quite crowded, but it was good. Lots of people played pinochle, and Luke amazed them all with his hand of 2 straights. It's good for Bob's family to be reassured that we are teaching our kids the essentials of life, such as how to play pinochle.

Speaking of impressing, my one talent that impresses his parents got a mention as well. I try to be modest about this, but I am somewhat of an expert Etch-A-Sketcher. One year I wrote my name in cursive, and one year I drew a Christmas tree. The Christmas tree was what got mentioned on Saturday, with his dad even asking if they still had that. He was sure they had never erased such a masterpiece, but no one could find the Etch-A-Sketch, which was probably just as well, since I don't actually spend much time "etch-a-sketching" these days (we don't even own one), and I'm sure whatever I could do now would only disappoint them, LOL. It's nice to admired for something, you know?

The next day Bob's brother Dennis came over, so we got to see all of his siblings except for Rose. That rarely happens in a weekend! Dennis was fresh off the hunting success of bagging his 5th deer of the season the day before. He brought his laptop so we could all see pictures.

Diabetes-wise, I actually did pretty well over the weekend. I packed a few peanut butter sandwiches so I could have an afternoon and evening snack on Saturday, and I didn't eat much junk at his parents' house. Then on Sunday morning, I ate breakfast with the boys at the hotel, and then I exercised while they swam. This hotel has a nice glassed-in exercise room right in the pool area, so I could keep an eye on them while I was on the treadmill. Bob fed the girls breakfast, and then they came to swim as well. I joined them after my workout was done. The pool was nice and warm, like a bathtub, so everyone had a great time. Even Grace is really coming along. She let me hold her just under the arms while she kicked her legs!

We went back over to his parents' house until 3:00 of Sunday, when we left to head back. Sherry and Brandon were there too, as well as Christi and Andres, and Ann and Wally came over after they had skiied for a few hours. This was when Dennis came over too. Unfortunately, this is just too much interaction and commotion, and his parents were getting edgy by the time we left. As Bob said later, we got out of there just in time, and sure enough, Ann called this afternoon after they got home to tell me she had talked to her dad, who said they were all hogs and not welcome there anymore. Well! Glad we missed the combustion!

I did not do so well on the way home, however, and I snacked on teddy grahams and cheez-its. There is something about not sleeping in my own bed and being around a lot of people that makes me edgy too, LOL. I guess I take it out by snacking. Wednesday is when I go in for my class, so then I'll be able to see what my numbers are, and what we are actually dealing with. Should be interesting!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Swimming

Last night we all went swimming, which means that yes, I was seen in public in my maternity swimsuit. Actually, not mine, but Amy's. I borrowed all her maternity clothes a few pregnancy clothes and still have them. And now I just refer to them as "mine", LOL. Anyways, even though it is a cute suit, I am rarely seen in it--think "ivory-billed woodpecker sightings" rare.

We've been on a bit of a swimming kick lately. First, before Thanksgiving, we got a free week-long trial membership at this hoity-toity health club that has just opened up about 15 minutes away. We all went swimming there once, and Grace absolutely hated it. In fact, as soon as we opened the door from the locker room to the pool area, she started fussing, and she barely poked a toe into the water. Bob took the rest of the kids swimming there a few more times during that week, but apparently they use some super-duper chlorine there, and Nathan kept breaking out in a terrible rash. It was just as well that the pool was only okay--it was open weird hours that weren't really all that child-friendly, although that could have been because they haven't yet been able to hire enough life-guards. Bob and the boys also went rock-climbing there, and Anna tagged along to watch, but as it turned out, she couldn't even be back anywhere near the pit, so that didn't work out so well.

On Saturday, Bob was going to take the kids swimming at our local county recreation center and buy a pack of passes, but when he got there, he found out they now have monthly memberships, which are a good deal if you have a big family! So he bought one of those, and they've been swimming a few times without me, plus the one time with me yesterday. This pool is much more child-friendly, with lots of play stuff, and even a water slide. The whole pool is only 3 and a half feet at the deepest, with more shallow areas for smaller kids. There is also a "lazy river" part with a current that carries you along. Grace has gone "swimming" there twice, and by the end of last night, she was actually walking on the gradual ramp into the water up to her swimsuit! That may not seem like a big deal, but believe me--it's huge! Everyone else is enjoying it too, so we are thinking we'll get a monthly membership every other month or so, especially through the winter. It's nice to have a place to go in the evenings to get exercise, and it hasn't been crowded at all when we've gone. I can't guarantee how often I'll go, however. I'm not that big into swimming even when I'm not pregnant, and now I just feel like Shamu. Now when Bob takes all the kids and leaves me at home . . . . well, I can certainly handle that just fine!

Monday, December 01, 2008

A New Challenge

The doctor called this afternoon a little after 4:00, and I do indeed have gestational diabetes. Sigh. So I go to a class next Wednesday afternoon at the hospital to learn how to check my blood sugar, etc. She said she would order all the stuff I need so it would be there for me. I guess it's good that this happened back at a military facility so I don't have to worry about dealing with Tricare claims. The real hassle, other than worrying about what I eat and checking my blood sugar all the time, is that I will have to be seen every week or 2. Since just a routine appointment pretty much takes at least 2 hours out of a day, I can foresee that not a lot of school is going to get done the next 10 weeks. I'm not surprised, but I will say I am still adjusting to the news.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thanksgiving Weekend

Happy Thanksgiving! We had a wonderful time with our friends. I ate too much, but it was all so good! The nice thing was that the girls are old enough to not have to take afternoon naps right after lunch, so we ate a little after 1:00, and stayed until almost 5:00, but they did jsut fine! Next year we'll be back to toting a pack-n-play over.

One of our friends, Tim, is an excellent photographer, so I asked him to take a family Christmas picture of us before we ate. He took one on our camera and several on his, but I ened up not loving any of them. It's not his skill as a photographer. I finally figured it out--I look like a big, pregnant woman with a basketball prominently displayed under my shirt, which in this case was purple, so it looked like a giant blueberry. When I mentioned this to Nathan, as we were looking at the pictures on the computer, he pointed out that in fact, I AM a big, pregnant woman. But that is not how I want to be remembered by all my friends over the next year, so this year's Christmas card picture will not include a pregnant me. I got the kids all dressed up for church this morning in Christmas-y colors, and I took some pictures of them by the fireplace. Much cuter! No blueberry basketballs insight.

It was good that I asked Tim to take the pictures before we ate because afterward Grace blew out her diaper for the first time in many months, and I actually had to go home and get new clothes for her! Then she built on her success by peeing out her diaper at home while she took a late nap! I'm not sure what came over her, but obviously all the good food did something to her, LOL.

As soon as we got home on Thursday, the boys started asking about putting up the Christmas decorations. I don't know about you, but it was hard to even contemplate bring more stuff into the family room when the whole main floor looked like a tornado has swept through it, and there was already tons of toys, books, paper, etc. all around. The thought did not put me in a very festive mood. So I washed a bunch of dishes, and Caleb, bless his little heart, took over the cleaning up and moving of all the Little People, play food and kitchen, and other kid stuff out of the family room and into the play room. That night I stayed up late trying to organize and make some headway against all the clutter we have accumulated, so that we would have room for the Christmas stuff.

I really got inspired Friday and Saturday, as far as decluttering goes. I tackled the study and the kitchen. I threw away many garbage bags of stuff, and I packed up a few boxes of things I am not quite ready to give away or throw away, but that we don't need out right now. It all looks so nice now! Throwing stuff away is such a good feeling. And it DID help me feel more like decorating for Christmas, which we did Friday evening. We didn't do a ton of stuff, other than the tree and the fireplace area, since we are planning to go back to Ohio for Christmas. This year I got to just sit on the couch and hand out ornaments to the right people. Nathan and Luke helped Anna hang up her ornaments, and Grace just orbited. It was nice not to have to be up and around, helping everywhere!

Bob had a busy weekend as well. He was up in the middle of the night Thursday night, and he bought us an mp3 player from Circuit City online at 2:00 AM! We've decided that might be a staying fad, so perhaps we should jump on, LOL. He went out Friday to pick it up--a much more civilized way to shop than waiting in the cold darkness at ungodly hours of the morning! Now we just need to figure it out. We're planning on bringing it to Ohio, where we will ask questions of my computer-savy brother.

Then on Saturday Bob and the boys spent a good deal of time painting the deck. This time they were focusing on the rails. It looks so nice! After that, he took them all, plus Anna, swimming at our local rec center. They bought a one-month family membership, so they're planning on going a few more times before we leave for Christmas. The pool there is really nice, with lots of kid features, including a water slide, so they had a total ball.

So the house is as decorated as it is going to get, I've made a solid beach head against clutter, and the deck is looking great. The thing that really worked in my favor was having 2 days in a row that we didn't have school or anything else to do. I really need to get upstairs and work in closets, especially in Grace's room, but I'm not sure when that will happen. And we need another nice weekend of weather so Bob can put on another coat of stain. All in all, it was a very productive weekend!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving Eve

Well, it is now after 5:00, and I never heard anything from the doctor. I am tentatively hopeful that means I passed the 3 hour test. Or maybe everyone in the OB department at NNMC just left early for Thanksgiving, and I'll be called Monday, LOL. Anyhow, I have moved on to worrying about other things . . .

Such as where my 10x15 jelly roll pan could possibly be?! I spent a good deal of time searching for it last night, with no success. I do not think it is in the house, so that would mean that I must have left it at the church where we have our homeschool co-op, since I know I brought it there several weeks ago for the medieval feast with apple pie squares in it. But I was so sure it made it home! The platter and spatula I also brought there made it home, and I thought those items were in the (washed) pan. Alas. I shall have to search the church on Tuesday when we have co-op again, and I had to use a different pan for the apple pie squares for tomorrow. I certainly expended a lot of mental energy on where it could be though! When I am already stressed (like about the gtt), then other minor things that cause problems, especially because of my incompetance, really get to me . . .

Which leaves me really crabby. Is it just my sensitivity, or have the kids all turned on their loudest, most rowdy selves just for today?! The girls are whiny (at least Grace has an excuse--she's teething. Anna is just pitching in to help her not feel alone, LOL), and the boys are all. over. each. other. I sent them outside to run earlier today, but they didn't stay out as long as I would have liked (several hours, LOL). I have banished them to the basement several times as well. I'm just feeling very edgy and non-noise-tolerant (is that a word?).

But somehow things are still getting accomplished. Last night Bob and I wrestled the 25 pound turkey and managed to get it brining in our cooler (in several layers of garbage bags). I made a flourless chocolate cake last night too, and I did 4 loads of laundry. We did school this morning. And this afternoon I have made the apple pie squares, cran-apple-pear sauce, and started the turkey roasting. So good that Bob has been around to help with that crazy bird! After dinner (stir-fry), I'll make a second flourless chocolate cake. That just leaves the sweet potato casserole and sweet potato biscuits for tomorrow.

In case it seems like our menu is a bit unbalanced (meat, 2 sweet potato dishes, cranberry sauce, and dessert!), let me reassure you that we are eating Thanksgiving dinner over at the L's house with 2 other familes! We will also be having a ham, mashed potatoes, dressing, gravy, rolls, green bean casserole, another green vegetable, a fruit salad, a corn casserole, waldorf salad, a cranberry apple casserole, and pumpkin pie and pecan pie to round it all out. We will be getting quite a feast! I know I have so much to be thankful for--I just need to relax a bit and focus on all those things, instead of what is not going right!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Test

I made it through the 3 hour test. Yay! No problems with traffic or blood draws, either. I left here about 6:50, and I got there about 8:00, which is really good for that time of day.

They do things a bit differently at this lab. They drew blood to test my fasting blood sugar level, and they wouldn't let me drink the nasty orange sugar stuff until after that had come back. So at around 8:30, the tech called me up to the desk to tell me that my fasting levels were a bit high--"105", which of course meant nothing to me. He told me that if it was lower than 105, then they would just go ahead and give me the drink, but over 105, he had to clear it with a doctor. The doctor said fine, but still--that's not a good omen at all. And it meant I didn't start the 3 hour part until about 8:45. Grrr.

I was done about 11:45, having enjoyed a quiet time of reading, doing crossword puzzles, and starting to write our Christmas letter. I think people must not come in a lot the week of Thanksgiving, because Bethesda was really not crowded at all! When I was taking my 1-hour test last week, people were having to wait for over an hour for a blood draw, but today there was hardly any wait at all for everyone else. (Of course, I got to take my numbers from the "VIP 0-7 and above or glucose tolerance test" button and go straight to the head of the line!)

I still haven't heard anything from the hospital, but that does not necessarily mean anything at all. The tech wasn't sure the results would get to the doctor this afternoon. She will only call me if I fail, so I'll just have to wait another day and see.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Worrying . . .

So here I am, worrying about my 3 hour glucose test tomorrow. When I was pregnant with Grace and had to take it, my big worry was finding veins in my right arm. But since there was no problem last time, I can cross that worry off the list, LOL. Now my worries are more of a generalized, I don't think I can deal with one more thing, kind.

I've been having those really vivid pregnancy dreams, and a few nights ago, I dreamed that I forgot I was taking the test, so I ate a good hearty breakfast and had to reschedule. That same night, I also very clearly dreamed that I was in labor. I pushed the baby out in bright, colorful detail, and it was very disconcerting to wake up and realize that in fact, I was still pregnant. All that pain and pushing for nothing?! LOL

I ate 2 hard-boiled eggs and had a glass of milk a little while ago, and that'll be all I eat for awhile. I packed myself a peanut butter sandwich and some fruit, so I'll be able to eat before I come home without braving the Bethesda food court. I'm going to try to leave by 6:45, so that hopefully I'll be there by 8:30. Pray for no Beltway accidents on the Inner Loop tomorrow!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Decluttering

I spent yesterday decluttering. You would think that in a day I could possibly have made real, noticable progress, but alas, it is not so. Now I remember why I rarely spend a day decluttering, LOL--lack of visible reward! I tackled the coat/shoe closet in our laundry room first. Since that is how you get to our garage, it is where all the shoes and coats end up, and it was a real mess. It didn't help that apparently the last several times the boys have outgrown tennis shoes, I have not thrown the old pairs away, but rather have kept them around, in case they needed them for . . . ? Yesterday I must have tossed a good 7 pairs of ratty old shoes and consigned several pairs of sandals and church shoes that even Jonathan has outgrown back down to the dreaded shoe tubs of the basement. Bob hung up a better set of hooks on the wall of the laundry room, so hopefully the winter coats will stay up on those this year. It all looks so organized! Let's see how long it stays that way . . .

I also worked in the study. We have a set of yaffa blocks (stackable crates, basically) that have all our art supplies in them. I was ruthless over there, asking myself, "If we were moving, would I keep this?" I think that's the real problem--we haven't moved in 4 years, so the stuff has built up! Then I moved on to the top of the computer desk, which also has a big hutch on it. I was able to (drum roll please . . . ) clean off the top of the desk and the bottom shelf of the hutch. Yes! That's as far as I was able to get! So as long as you don't look up very high, the desk looks great! I will say that the amount of paper we generate and accumulate really is spectacular. We should win some sort of medal or something.

So a day of cleaning and decluttering produced one clean closet, a decluttered corner of the study, and a clean desktop and shelf. At that rate, I think it would take a year for me to get through the whole house! Maybe Monday I will be motivated to tackle more. Maybe.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Well-Older Child Visit

Today I took Nathan and Luke in for "well-child" check-ups. They haven't been in for one of those since, well, since we lived in Ohio for sure. I would say maybe 2003 or 2004. It seemed like we were always in for another younger child's well-baby appointments, and obviously both Nathan and Luke were well children, so it was certainly never a priority. But with Bob possibly retiring next year sometime, I figured I would take them in one more time and make sure they were current on shots, and that I wasn't missing anything.

As it turns out, they are both healthy. What a surprise! The doctor who saw them was so very nice. I have been nothing but impressed by the pediatrics doctors at Bethesda. She spent a long, non-rushed time with us, and she was very keen on waiting to give booster shots for stuff like chicken pox and also shots for menigitis until they go off to college, where they'll be in more danger, adn the booster will be newer. She recommended I not get any shots for either boy, but I did go ahead and get a tetanus booster for Nathan. She said he would need to come back in about 3 years for one, and I just decided to get it done now. Luke was quite happy to hear he didn't need any shots.

They did vision tests for the boys, and Nathan had some trouble. His eyes were 20/50, although it is possible that they aren't that bad. This clinic uses a chart with shapes on it, instead of letters, and some of the shapes were very non-intuitive (a coffee cup, a sailboat, etc.). It was very difficult to see what in the world it could possibly even be! Anyhow, the doctor recommended that Nathan have his eyes checked by an optometrist, which I think we will go ahead and do. I remember that I got glasses in 5th or 6th grade too, which I only ever used to see things like chalkboards or screens in class, and I pretty much never wear anymore at all. Possibly Nathan would have had more troubles already if he wasn't being homeschooled. Luke's eyes were fine. I guess he inherited Bob's good eyes!

One other thing the doctor did mention about Nathan is this weird white splotchy patch he has on his right side/back. It's been there ever since he was little, and we first noticed it because it never tans. It's just non-pigmented. The doctors at Wright-Pat looked at it and decided it was nothing to be concerned about, and we haven't given it anymore thought since then. I just make sure it gets sunscreen when he swims outside. The doctor today said mentioned vitiligo, although when I looked into that, it doesn't really seem like what Nathan has. His patch has never gotten bigger, and it doesn't look sort of pinkish, like the pictures I see on the internet--his patch is all white. Anyhow, she thought a dermatologist should maybe look at it, and she emailed a friend of hers who is a doctor at the dermatology clinic there to ask about what he thought. The doctor just called and said that dermatology would like to look at it, so the consult is in, and I'll call Monday to make that appointment. It is always good to make sure nothing is wrong, but it has never changed all htese years, so I'm not too concerned. Hopefully we can get the appointment out of the way before the baby comes!

Nathan is in the 20th percentile for both height and weight, and Luke is hanging out in the 10th percentile for both. That is actually up from the 5th percentile, where he used to be, so he is really porking up, LOL. I told the doctor we were the poster family for "anti-childhood obesity". We don't grow them large!

So although not too much happened (and it took a 3 hour chunk out of our day with the drive), I do think it is good to establish a record every so many years that they are healthy, growing, and meeting developmental standards. One can never be too cautious, especially with a new, possibly hostile administration coming into office.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Happy Birthday, Amy!!

Today is the birthday of Amy, my best friend! She has been such an invaluable support for me this past year, when things have been difficult. I can't imagine what I would have done without her! She flew out to visit us in October , and that was such a time of refreshment for me!

I was thinking about Amy last night. The boys have started a new unit in co-op, one on drama. The older 2 watched some clips of movies to demonstrate showing emotions, and some clips were from The Princess Bride. The boys had never seen the movie, but those clips certainly whetted their appetites! Since we own the movie, the boys and Bob all watched it last night. I stayed upstairs and finished a Christmas project, but I got nostalgic. Amy and I used to wake up every single morning to the first 2 songs fromthe Princess Bride sound track. It was in her CD player, and that was the absolute most gentle way to ease into wakefulness! Those songs are beautiful and dreamy! But then someone had to get up and turn it off because the 3rd song is some village festival song, and it is filled with clapping and otherwise jarring sounds--NOT a restful way to wake up, LOL. So I had to dig out my soundtrack and listen, just for old times' sakes. Fun memories! Sometimes I play the game, "If I had an iPod, what would I put on it", and those first 2 songs would definitely make the list, especially for labor!

So nayhow, Amy can know we are thinking about her today! A card is on the way too, but it will be late, since I didn't think I would have to be mailing it!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Pregnancy Update

I'm 29 weeks along today, and I have another appointment. It's been 6 weeks since my last one, and let me tell you, I am loving this hands-off, come-every-6-weeks approach Bethesda has! I know I'll have to start coming more frequently, but it's been very nice to only have a few appointments so far.

I'm feeling pretty good, I guess. I am feeling big and unwieldy already, and I already have started having a lot of pressure on my pubic bone, which is achy. But other than that I feel fine. I'm not really motivated to do anything though.

Today I also have my 1 hour glucose tolerance test, and I am not looking forward to that. I failed my one with Grace, and I have certainly not been eating better or exercising more this time around than with her. I can't wrap my mind around how I would even get to Bethesda for a 3 hour test--leave at 6:00 so I could be there around 8:00?! I don't think I want to be driving the Beltway rush hour having not eaten! So I am praying that God, in His great mercy, would allow me to pass and not have to go back for the 3 hour test.

I'll take this test today after my appointment, which is at 11:15. This will be the first time that I haven't fasted before the 1 hour test, so we'll see if that makes a difference. I have read that people say it shouldn't matter (and that's what the doctor said last time), but I have also heard other people say that fasting is better. So that's not good. At least I'll have a nice quiet hour of reading.

**Update** The appointment went well, and I did indeed fail the one hour test. Sigh. I can't say I'm surprised, though. Tomorrow I will call to schedule when I do the 3 hour one. I'm hoping for Monday, personally. The bad news is that I will have to be at the lab at 7:30. Gulp.

Friday, November 14, 2008

All's Well That Ends Well

You may remember the Presidential fitness run fiasco a few weeks ago. Basically, the lady in charge messed up on the distances, so Luke only ran 1/4 mile, instead of a half mile. He ran it again that same day, but it was really hot, and he had just eaten lunch, so he was still off on his time. He got 3:48, but he needed 3:30.

Today was the day he reran it. We went to the park where we usually do the run in the years past, where there is a half-mile circle to run on. The McCs were there, as well as a few other kids. Luke and Caleb McC ran the half mile, but both of them didn't get the time. Luke's time was 3:44, and Caleb's was 3:47. They were disappointed, but not devastated.

As we (the parents) stood around talking, we looked at the time the boys would need for presidential if they ran a whole mile. That time was 8:31, considerably more than double the half mile time they were shooting for. So Craig McC convinced Caleb to give the mile a shot, and Luke said he would run it too. Nathan also decided to run, even though he had not planned on running at all today. I think all the cheering and race-time excitement motivated him, LOL. So they all set off, and Nathan ran a mile in 7:52, which was better than his other time of 8:01, but not good enough for presidential, since he needed 7:32. But he was only national in the shuttle run too, and he was fine with that. Luke came in at 8:01, well under what he needed, and Caleb got 8:18, which was also under. So both he and Luke will win the Presidential Physical Fitness award! Everyone was very excited. That's pretty good, considering they had already run a good fast half mile! We were glad Nathan had decided to run it with them, because he was definitely a good pace-setter for them. So the fiasco has been resolved, and everyone is happy now!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Apple Pie Squares

Alright, alright, I have heard your impatient clamorings! : ) The reason I could not immediately leap to the computer and post the recipe is because a girl from church who is having her first baby in a few weeks came over for lunch and the afternoon. We talked about childbirth, especially natural childbirth. She is having a homebirth, so an epidural won't be an option, and I wanted to give her some tips and hints. I had to spend the morning getting ready for that by copying a few things and printing off some articles. (Johanna, she's the one who is using your midwife.) I think she'll do just fine. She is the second of 12 kids, and her youngest sibling is 18 months, so obviously her mom has a lot to offer on the subject as well! We had a lot of fun, and it was a very pleasant way to spend an afternoon!

But without any further ado, here is the recipe, which I got off of cooks.com.

Apple Pie Squares

2 1/2 c. flour
1 c. shortening (real butter would be fine, Melinda)
1 tsp. salt
1 egg yolk, slightly beaten
Milk (obviously I used soy milk)
1 c. crushed corn flakes
6-8 apples, peeled & sliced [I only used about 5, because that's what I had--it was fine. An apple peeler/corer/slicer sure did make it go faster!]
1 c. sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 egg white, beaten
1 c. powdered sugar
1 tbsp. water
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Mix flour and salt and cut in shortening. Put egg yolk into measuring cup. Add enough milk to make 2/3 cup. Add to flour mixture and toss lightly with fork to form dough. Roll 1/2 of dough to fill jelly roll pan (ungreased). [I had a hard time rolling out the dough--it is very sticky--maybe add more flour.] Sprinkle corn flakes over the crust. They keep the filling from being too runny.

Combine sugar and cinnamon; toss with apples. Place apples on dough. Roll remaining dough and place on top, pinching edges. Brush egg white on top of dough. Bake 40 minutes at 400 degrees. Watch time. (May be too long.)

Combine last 3 ingredients. [You will definitely need another tablespoon of water or so to make it the consistency where you can drizzle it on or really do anything with it.] Frost while still warm.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Few More Thoughts

I am so tired. Just weary. Yesterday we went to the church for a few hours to set up, and I stayed up late getting together last-minute details. Also, I cooked yesterday. I baked all that chicken, plus a pan of apple pie squares. (I baked another pan Sunday afternoon). The apple pie squares turned out really well! I'm never baking a regular apple pie again! These made so many with so much less work! One of the other moms, who has 8 children, asked me for the recipe, as she was thinking about Thanksgiving coming up.

At the feast, the other moms and I were laughing at how I always seem to get stuck in the "dress-up" units while I am quite noticably pregnant! When I was pregnant with Grace, I was part of the ancient Greek unit, where we all had to dress up for our 5th week Greek Olympics in Greek chitons. The maternity chiton was a questionable fashion choice! This time I did not have any appropriate medieval maternity dress either, if you can imagine! Oh well. Of course, last year, when I was NOT pregnant, I taught the reptile unit--no dressing up there!

The boys went over to the McC's house with 2 other boys from co-op after it was all over. They played Star Wars Risk for several hours, which means they disappeared into the basement and no one heard from them. This meant Christine could take a nap too! As soon as I got home, I uploaded the pictures from my camera, posted on my blog, put the girls down, and then I took a nap myself. My feet hurt so badly!

The nicest thing was that someone from our church brought us dinner tonight. She did it last week too, when I was teaching! That was just the absolute nicest thing that could have been done today--what a blessing! I love our church!

The final thing I was thinking is that I just want you to know that I am not a "fun mom". This is the great things about our co-op. Since it's not academic, but rather filled with 5-week-long unit studies, this is where the boys get all their messy stuff done. And I only have to be involved with one unit a year! If it were simply up to me here at home, we would never do messy stuff. It's a hassle, and I don't like to clean up, LOL. I am not crafty. So co-op leaves us the other 4 days of the week to focus on our academic stuff--the stuff I like, like Latin and math, which is all cut and dried and not messy, LOL. It's worked out well for us. I can't believe this is our fifth year with this co-op!

Medieval Day!

Today was finally the big day--the wrap-up for our medieval unit at co-op! I was in charge of the unit and the wrap-up activity, so it was a big responsibility, but I had a great group of ladies working with me. We set up the church like a castle, with a few different rooms and activities for the kids to go around to.

There was an outdoor tournament activity, where the kids got to launch tennis balls out of a catapult that Craig McC had built. This was a very popular activity! Bob was able to be there again today, so he helped Craig out with this. Also outside, the kids participated in an armor relay, where one kid was the squire and another kid the knight. The squire had to get his knight dressed up in a bunch of hockey equipment and pads so the knight could run off somewhere.

Inside, we had a monk's room, where the kids illuminated a page which had their first initial printed on it. We had paint pens and other colored markers for them to use. The best part of this room was that the ladies in charge told the kids that the monks had taken a vow of silence, and so they had to be quiet too. I had brought 2 CDs of Gregorian Latin chant music, which they played through out the day. This room was such an oasis of peace and quiet, as the kids busily and quietly worked away at decorating their letters!
I was in the armory, where the kids decorated foamboard swords that we had previously cut out. We also had paint pens to use to "etch" the blades, as well as glitter glue and lots of shiny plastic jewels.
Elizabeth and another lady were in the apothecary room,w here they talked about different herbs and spices, and what they were used for in the Middle Ages. The kids all got to take home a sachet with lavender or apple potpourri.
After all the kids had cycled through all the rooms, they marched into the main room for the actual feast part of the day.


The Feast

We ordered 20 pounds of turkey legs from a bulk food co-op, expecting to get about 120 smoked turkey legs that were a little bigger than chicken legs. Instead we got 20 turkey legs, with each one weighing a pound! They were enormous! We gave them to the fifth and sixth grade boys, who had a great time eating them! The younger kids all ate chicken legs. I bought those (84 of them!), marinated them in Italian dressing, and cooked them all yesterday. It was five pans of chicken legs, and we had none left over!
The kids ate on pita bread "trenchers". They also had cheese cubes, slices of bread, carrots, celery sticks, and cream puffs and apple pie squares for dessert. All we had left over were a few carrot and celery sticks. It worked out perfectly!

We had entertainment during the feast. First, a boy from the high school part of our co-op came and acted like a jester, doing some gymnastics and juggling. Then 2 men from the fencing club that gave the boys lessons came and did a demo. They talked about the different kinds of fencing blades, and showed some theatrical fencing. They dressed up 3 kids and let them have a go at fencing the instructors. The kids really enjoyed the demo.


Here I am with my 4 knights in shining armor!



Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Happy Birthday, Caleb!!

We celebrated Caleb's 7th birthday today! We just celebrated as a family, which was still fun. Caleb asked for a Bionicle cake in the shape of "Toa Gali", whom he had received as an early present from Grandma and Grandpa G, before they left Monday. I discovered that I am a lot less motivated when no one else besides our family is going to see a cake, LOL. It didn't help matters any that while I was making dinner, Grace took a knife to the side of the cake, knocking off whatever the round thing in front is supposed to be--some sort of eye replacement?
Here is another picture of the cake, but I could never really get a good shot of it. Obviously my graham crackers wings or whatever those gray pokey things off the helmet are supposed to be are way too short, and I only had royal blue icing gel. I needed navy blue or something. Plus, the actual mask on the left is too small for you to see what the face actually looks like! You'll just have to trust that there are these weird eye parts on the one side. I think I'm done with Bionicle cakes. They just are not that satisfying!

Here is Caleb with his presents! We got him the Veggietales Pirates movie, and we bought him another Bionicle with money from Bob's folks. He was obviously very happy! After cake and ice cream we all went downstairs wand watched the movie. It was really good! They have seen it over at the L's house during Bible study. Anna is quite the "Rock Monster" dancer!
For Caleb's birthday dinner, he again requested tuna pockets and pierogies, that easy convenience meal. He told me that next year he was going to request fish sticks! LOL! Soon he'll be asking for sandwiches, or maybe bowls of cereal! We did have a nice day though--Johanna and her kids stopped by this afternoon. She brought us their baby swing, since they are done with it. Let me tell you, it is much nicer that any swing we have ever had! This baby will be living the good life in it! The boys had a great time running around with her boys, and the girls admired her cute baby girl, Olivia. Johanna and I just relaxed and talked, which was very nice!
Last night, Caleb enjoyed hearing about how I started having contractions with him while I was making dinner (some sort of fish). I was mindful of my mom's experience with me, where she too had made fish for dinner the night she had me, and she tasted fish the whole time. I only ate a little bit of the fish, so I wasn't bothered! We went to the hospital around 9:00 or so, and Caleb was born at 1:10. He was a big baby--9 pounds, 5 ounces--almost 2 pounds heavier than Luke, my lightest! I could tell he was bigger when I was pushing, LOL. Interestingly, his birth was the last time I went into labor on my own. I was 2 weeks overdue and induced with Jonathan, I was 5 cm dilated but not in natural labor with Anna, so I was induced, and with Grace, I had that paranoid doctor who induced me a few days before my due date just because she was worried. I am hopeful this one will not have to be induced, but I'm not holding my breath!
Caleb is such a fun boy to have in our family! He has a beautiful smile and a caring heart. He is a wonderful big brother for Anna and Grace. He loves to write me notes (creatively spelled!) and draw pictures for me. We're so thankful he's been in our family for 7 years!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Happy Anniversary to me!

I just realized that today marks the 4th year anniversary of my starting this blog! Wow, a lot has happened since then! Although I went back and reread my first and second posts and realized that not everything is different--the kids still don't like Halloween, and we are going back yet again to Chuck E. Cheese's with friends instead. In fact, it is marked as a red-letter day on the calendar for the boys, and time is marked by how close an event falls to "Chuck E. Cheese Day", as in "When will our last soccer game be?" "Saturday." "Is that before or after Chuck E. Cheese Day?"

I did have a bowl of ice cream tonight in celebration. Actually, it was just because it sounded good at the time, but it could have been in celebration!

A Cryptic Message

There is a puzzling message written in my mother's handwriting on a green sticky note next to my compter. It reads "Fat buffalo eat cheese". Hmmmmmm. What could this mean? Why would my mother write such a phrase? I asked her about it. She said that it was actually Jonathan's message. One night, he kept running back and forth between the study and the family room, asking her to spell various things. Finally she told him to just tell her everything he wanted her to spell, and she would write it on one piece of paper. "Fat buffalo eat cheese" was what he wanted spelled. Why? Who can know the mind of a 5 year old?

In other funny things, for English the other day, Luke had to think of 3 questions "that you might ask an older person about long-ago days" (this is Rod and Staff grammar). Here are Luke's questions:

1. Why was Satan evil?
2. Why did he go to hell?
3. Why were bugs created?

So, Grandma or Grandpa, would you like to take any of these? Or maybe we should just hunt up Adam to ask him. LOL!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Medieval Morning

This morning I taught the 4 and 5 year-olds at our homeschool co-op. We're in the middle of a medieval unit. That happened to be a very popular theme at our house a few years ago, and so we had many medieval things at home, including this mega-bloks castle. This was a very popular item today. Even the 6th graders thought it was "cool".

This is a picture of a little Down's Syndrome boy who is in Jonathan's K-5 class. He is really sweet, and I think it's great for the kids to have him there. He's the youngest of 6, and the fmaily has been in the area for a long time, so this little boy is really popular among all the older kids in the co-op. He's a neat little guy.
During the past 2 weeks, the class talked a lot about castles, so this week we talked about all the people who DIDN'T live in castles. Everyone agreed their mud and stick houses sounded cold and smelly, and non one wanted porridge and soup all the time to eat.
We also talked about knights, and the code of chivalry. Then the kids decorated shields, which they will carry for our big medieval feast in 2 more weeks. Some kids had elaborate designs, such as the one above, and other kids scribbled a few scribbles and that was that. Those kids just wanted to play.

I brought our Little People castle, and all the knights, royal figures, horses, etc. that go along with it. It was very popular. I also brought a bag of miscellaneous knight figures that we have lying around the house. These are pretty elaborately decorated, and they have lots of detailed weapons, shields, etc. The boys liked those.
Bob got to come as well, which was a big help in keeping especially the 4 year olds on track. They were like little pieces of popcorn, jumping in and out of their seats! Now I am exhausted and ready for an early night. Next week we'll talk more about the 3 stages of becoming a knight, and we'll make helmets to go along with the shields for the feast.


Monday, October 27, 2008

Last Fencing Class

Nathan and Luke had their last fencing class today. The best thing about it was that the 2 really young, out-of-control boys were not there! The instructor brought in the equipment for electric fencing, so they could keep score while they fenced each other. They had so much fun!
Here is Luke is lunging at Caleb McC. They had a sort of tournment, with Luke starting out fencing Daniel McC. Luke won that one, then again against Johnny (not our Jonny), and again against Caleb McC. Finally he lost to Isaac McC. Nathan lost to Isaac too. It was really fun to watch! They've learned so much over the past few weeks.

Here are Nathan and Luke fencing each other. The boys all got turns to fence each other, and the instructor even let the class run longer so there was more time.

This is Caleb, all suited up. He didn't even take the class, but during the regular class times, he, Jonathan, and Joel McC would do the same stuff with foam swords that the instructor also had. This time, the instructor even let them get all dressed up, which was very thrilling for them! Obviously Caleb has been observing, as you can see from his lunge!

Here are Jonathan, Joel, and Anna playing with the foam swords. It was so nice of the man to always let them play too. It definitely helped keep everyone happy and occupied while the older boys were having their class!
We didn't sign up for the next session of classes, because they run up to Christmas. We are planning to be gone for a few weeks around the holiday time, so we didn't want to miss classes. Hopefully they'll be able to take another session in the new year, though. Fencing so is great for coordination and mental accuity! Plus, it's fun to watch!

Friday, October 24, 2008

A Stressful Time

Sorry about the lack of blogging lately. We're in the middle of a crisis that I can't really talk much about here. Suffice to say, it deals with health issues, and it will definitely impact our immediate future. My parents are here to help, and they have been absolute God-sends. I know I would not be coping even as well (?) as I am without their help. We should know more about the future in the next week or two. In the meantime, it's been very stressful. Thanks for praying with us.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A Cooking Experiment

This afternoon our church had a little shower for those of us who are pregnant with not our first child. There are actually 6 of us in this situation, due from now until me in February, and at the shower we found out about another lady who is expecting her third child the end of May! We are on a real nursery growth explosion here. There is another woman who is expecting her first in December, and we've had 2 more new babies born over the summer.

Anyhow, the church had a "neccessities" shower for all of us, where we each got little things, like some diapers and a lullaby CD. Mainly we ate, talked, and prayed. It was so nice! I had volunteered to bring dessert. One of my friends, who is also pregnant, can't eat gluten during this pregnancy because it was giving her terrible skin problems. I wanted to make a dessert she could eat, so I decided to try a flourless chocolate cake. I had printed off a recipe someone had posted a long time ago on the old Well Trained Mind boards, but as I looked closer at it, it seemed a little intimidating. Also, even though it called for I think 7 eggs, you only baked it for 15 minutes! Then you just refrigerated it over night. With all these pregnant women, I didn't think that sounded all that good, so I googled. I found several possibilities, and I decided on this recipe from allrecipes.com, mainly because it seemed easy and I had all the ingredients on hand.

I made it last night, and this morning I dipped the pan in hot water and inverted in onto the serving plate, just like the recipe said. Then I got the bright idea to drizzle white chocolate on top, which would have been a good idea, except my chocolate never really melted all that well, so it was really thick and didn't "drizzle" very well. I should have just dusted it with powdered sugar--note to self. I still wasn't sure what it would taste like, however, and I had actually made a second dessert last night to take as well, in case the cake totally flopped.

Well. It was absolutely delicious. Everyone raved about it, and people thought it was store-bought. It was like a fudgy truffle. Yummmmm. And it was so easy to make, I thought I'd share the recipe right here, in case any of you are too lazy to click on the link.

Flourless Chocolate Cake I

Submitted by: Maggie
Rated: 5 out of 5 by 213 members
Yields: 16 servings
"A dense chocolate cake for those of us who can't tolerate wheat or gluten."

INGREDIENTS:
1/2 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup white sugar
18 (1 ounce) squares bittersweet chocolate (I used Baker's semi-sweet squares because that's what I had)
1 cup unsalted butter
6 eggs

DIRECTIONS:
1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C). Grease one 10 inch round cake pan and set aside.

2. In a small saucepan over medium heat combine the water, salt and sugar. Stir until completely dissolved and set aside.

3. Either in the top half of a double boiler or in a microwave oven melt the bittersweet chocolate. Pour the chocolate into the bowl of an electric mixer.

4. Cut the butter into pieces and beat the butter into the chocolate, 1 piece at a time. Beat in the hot sugar-water. Slowly beat in the eggs, one at a time.

5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Have a pan larger than the cake pan ready, put the cake pan in the larger pan and fill the pan with boiling water halfway up the sides of the cake pan.

6. Bake cake in the water bath at 300 degrees F for 45 minutes. The center will still look wet. Chill cake overnight in the pan. To unmold, dip the bottom of the cake pan in hot water for 10 seconds and invert onto a serving plate.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Awwww, man . . .

. . . I lost one of the diamonds from my wedding band today. I have a solitaire for an engagement ring, and then the wedding band wrapped around that, with a triangular diamond on either side. I dropped off a bunch of clothes to try to sell at one of our big consignment sales around here before Bible study, and when I got to Bible study, I noticed the empty prongs. I think a prong must have caught on something there at the sale place, since I know the diamond was there earlier in the day.

I had been thinking that this might have to be the pregnancy where I get a cheap plain gold band, since I am already feeling like my rings are a bit tight. I guess that will happen sooner, rather than later, although I am not up to my 4th trip to Wal-Mart in one week, so I guess it won't be all that soon! Hopefully in the meantime no one will mistake me for a single mom, LOL.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

An Exercise in Futility

Wow, do you ever have days where you feel like everything you touch is not going to work out?! That's how I'm feeling today!

Today is our co-op day, and it was the day the kids were going to do the run for the Presidential Physical Fitness test. They would do the run during the non-teaching part of the morning for each of them, so for Nathan and Luke, that meant they ran first, then came back for teaching. So I decided the girls and I would go watch them run. They were running on a portion of a wide, nicely-paved bike trail (used to be train tracks) that's not too far from the church where we meet.

When we got there, the lady in charge was giving instructions--the fourth graders had a choice. They could either run to the first lady and then turn around and run back (making 1/2 mile total) or run to the second lady, turn around, and run back (making 1 mile). The 6th graders all ahd to run the mile. This was explained several times for emphasis, and then they started off. Luke (4th grade) and his friend Caleb were #1 and #2 in the half mile, and everything seemed great. But there was starting to be a bit of a commotion with the timing people and the lady in charge, and when the first 6th graders crossed the line, those people started shouting at them to start running again--they needed to turn around and do it again! Keep running! It was very confusing, but they started off again, losing a bunch of time though. Nathan was 4th in the 6th grade group, and his time ended up being right around 8 minutes. He needed 7:32 to be presidential, however. But it was all very confusing, and I couldn't figure out what had happened. Obviously something was very wrong, though.

Then the girls and I left to go to Wal-Mart. I needed to buy a bunch of t-shirts (80 to be exact) to make tunics with for our medieval unit. Since we're associated with the church, we are allowed to use their tax-exempt number on purchases, so armed with that info, the girls and I set off. Of course, Wal-Mart had a terrible selection of boys t-shirts. They still hadn'[t restocked the boys extra-large ones of the cheap brand, so it took me forever as I tried to figure out what other sizes could work for the different grades. Finally I took my cart full of t-shrit packages up to the front to pay. When I said I had a tax-exempt number, the cashier wanted the actual paper from the church. I said I didn't have that--they told me I just needed the number, as well as the church's address and phone number. The lady tried to enter the number several times, but it always came back as invalid, so obviously something was wrong. Very frustrating! I ended up just paying for all the t-shirts, because I knew if I left them and came back later, they would probably all disappear, and I had taken all the packages of cheap t-shirts, so there weren't anymore on the shelves to get. All this took forever, though, and so we ran home, I threw together sandwiches for the girls and me, and we leaped back into the car to eat them because it was already time to pick up the boys. Whew!

Back at co-op, I got the piece of paper from the leader, so I decided we'd head back to Wal-Mart after leaving the church. We were already out, and we didn't have other plans or schoolwork this afternoon, so it just made sense.

I also discovered that Luke was out rerunning the half mile with Caleb McC and Craig, Caleb's dad. Odd, I thought. Plus, it was really hot out there--in the 80's. He had to run a second timed half-mile in less than 3 hours in the heat, and after eating lunch? And what was the deal with making the 6th graders go back again? Well, it turned out that the lady in charge had totally hosed up the distances (duh). She had originally thought that the little guys (1st-2nd), who only have to run 1/4 mile, were also going to run on the bike path, so she had measured out 1/8 mile, so they could just go there and back. Then the second line was actually 1/4 mile out. But somehow (? She is a mom of 9, so I'll give her the benefit of the doubt, but still . . . ) she forgot she ever did that, so she basically told the 4th graders to run 1/4 mile, and the 6th graders to run 1/2 mile. When Luke and the other 4th graders started crossing over, the timers realized the times were way off, and not 1/2 mile times, so they told the 6th graders to turn around and do it again, so they would have the right distance. Of course, when you think you are coming to the end and you start printing, then pull up, only to be told you are in actuality only halfway done and you need to start running again . . . . well, that's not really right. So no one in Nathan's class was Presidential in the run, which was very disappointing for people like Nathan, who pretty much just needed the run to be Presidential overall (and he still lacks the shuttle run).

When Luke came back, we all piled in the car, and Luke immediately started crying. He was so upset. His time was 3:48, and he needed 3:30, so he didn't make it. They told him he had "done it wrong" the first time and only gone 1/4 mile, so he needed to run it again. Well, that is true, and I know they said they TOLD him wrong, because the lady in charge was very clear that it was her fault, but he was still devastated. He was hot, tired, and full from lunch, and he didn't understand what had happened--he had done exactly what they told him to do, so how could he have done it wrong?! This is the only event Luke lacked to be a Presidential award winner, and he's a good runner, so he wasn't anticipating a problem.

They are trying to work out a time for Nathan's class to rerun the mile of they want to, and I am hoping they will let Luke try it again as well. I'm going to email the lady in charge, anyways. I hope she doesn't think that should be his only chance, when it was their fault. Anyhow, it was a frustrating day at co-op for Nathan and Luke, who had both been looking forward to the run, as well as training for it.

So we went off to Wal-Mart again, discussing the run over and over again until everyone understood what had happened. When we got there, I brought all the t-shirts back in to the return counter, where I proudly displayed my correct form from the church, and asked for have the tax taken off. Well, the lady said I needed to fill out another form to put it on file, and there was no one there who could help me with that--I needed to come back some morning. Really?! No one who could help with that?! Obviously the lady I was dealing with couldn't help me. She was one of the many non-native English speakers who work at returns, and it was hard to even get her to understand what I was talking about. But there was nothing I could do except turn around and head back out to the car with everyone in tow. And now I have yet a third trip to Wal-Mart to look forward to, this time during a morning when we should be doing school. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr. So now I'm wondering what else I should attempt today, just to see if it turns out as poorly as everything else has.

Monday, October 13, 2008

A Great Weekend With Amy!

We had such a wonderful time with Amy this weekend! Of course, it flew right by and wasn't nearly long enough, but it was still great!

Amy played Little People with the girls, and read them a bunch of books, including these Princess ones that she brought to give them. They were a very popular choice indeed!
She also gave books to the boys, including this Explorer book. She also gave them a Tom and Jerry DVD, and I think they would have watched that the entire weekend if I had let them! They think it is absolutely hilarious!
We ate a lot, stayed up late talking, and we even watched the movie Bella last night. It was good but sad. It wasn't all fun and games for Amy though. She mopped the kitchen and foyer, cleaned and mopped the main floor bathroom, cleaned the boys' 2 upstairs bathrooms, gave the girls their bath, helped get people ready for bed, wiped bottoms, emptied the little potty, changed diapers--she was amazing! It was just so great to have her here. I'm very thankful to Jason, who kindly let her come!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Special Visitor!!

I am so excited--tomorrow Amy is flying here to visit! She called Tuesday to say that she didn't want to invite herself, yada, yada, but she had found a great deal out here. As soon as she got those words out of her mouth, I was saying, "Come!!" The great thing is that I know I don't have to clean for her or entertain her, so I can just relax and look forward to the visit! I did buy Oreos and Grasshoppers (you know, the Keebler cookies that are like Girl Scout Thin Mints but better and cheaper) while we were at Target today. One does need to prepare the ESSENTIAL things, you know!

So don't expect much blogging over the weekend--I'll be busy staying up late and talking (and eating Oreos)! I can't wait!!

Monday, October 06, 2008

Dysgraphia

A few weeks ago, on Sept. 10, HSLDA sent out an email that I ignored for a few days. Its title was "Some Children Have to Work Too Hard to Learn", and well, that didn't seem to apply to me, so I didn't open it right away. After all, everyone seems to learn just fine, and Nathan and Luke have always been in the 97th percentile in their standardized tests, so no problem.

For some reason I did open the email a few days later, and it was very interesting. Here's an excerpt:

Writing Gate Blocked—When Copying Doesn’t Work

God designed our left brain hemisphere to concentrate on new tasks, such as driving a car, or riding a bike. After concentrated practice, that task is then transferred over the corpus callosum (the brain midline), to the right brain, which is responsible for automaticity of processes. If we imagine the left brain hemisphere as the “thinking (concentrating) brain” and the right hemisphere as the “doing (automatic) brain,” we can see how this transfer allows us to “think and do” at the same time. Then we can think and drive at the same time, or think and ride our bike at the same time.

Generally, when we teach a child how to write, after six months of practice that writing is expected to cross over from the “concentrating brain” to the “automatic brain” so the child can now “think and write” at the same time. For many children, this transfer does not easily occur. Thus, they have to give energy, or a level of concentration, to a task that other children do not have to do. Dr. Mel Levine, in his book One Mind At A Time, calls these blocks, “energy leaks.”
This often solves the mystery of why many children learn their spelling words easily by writing them in a workbook, or writing them five times each, while other children can write words hundreds of times and still not store the spelling word in their long-term memory. Now we realize that these struggling children have to use their “batteries” just for the writing process, so that the learning process cannot occur. Thus, the method of copying to learn is totally ineffective for these children. We need to help them open up their writing gates.


These children are very commonly thought of as “lazy, sloppy or unmotivated.” We, unknowingly, make them re-copy work that is sloppy, not realizing that they have a bona fide writing block. The majority of the time, when a child who loves to listen to mom read stories, but says that he doesn’t like or even “hates” schoolwork, he is struggling with a blocked writing gate.

Hmmm. This actually sounds a lot like Nathan. I kept reading, and here are some characteristics for this "blocked writing gate":

--Frequent or occasional reversals in letters or numbers (after age 7)
--Letters made from bottom to top (vertical reversals)
--Writing is very labor intensive
--Copying takes a long time
--Math problems solved mentally to avoid writing them down
--Writing appears sloppy and child is often considered lazy
--Oral recitation of stories is excellent, but writing is minimal
--Capital and small letters mixed in writing
--In math, lining up numbers in multiplication or division is difficult


Well! Nathan doesn't reverse letters and numbers much anymore, but he used to a lot. And pretty much everything else describes him completely. In fact, the next paragraph in the article could have been written just for him:

No child has all of these characteristics, but if your child has several, you may consider this an area he or she is struggling in. If a child has many of the characteristics, or is over age 9 and still writes reversals, they may be labeled with dysgraphia. Many times these children are considered “gifted with a glitch.” They are excellent in verbal expression, but way behind in written expression. Writing paragraphs and longer papers are something that they take great pains to avoid. They give one-word answers whenever possible.

This is so Nathan. He is excellent at oral narrations, and he remembers what he reads or hears very well, reciting it back in great detail. But try to get him to write about it, and it's like nothing is there. I have Nathan and Luke write a paragraph every morning on some subject I think of (what they learned in co-op, what we talked about in history, where they'd like to vacation--any random thing). Even if it was something described in great and exciting detail (their campout with Bob, for example), I get the most simple, short paragraph possible from Nathan, and a long newsy one from Luke. Or take sermon notes, for example. If Nathan just listens to a sermon, he will remember it all in great detail, but if I make him take notes on it, he remembers next to nothing about it, because he has to concentrate so hard to write anything down.

What was especially interesting is that the next paragraph dealt with things you can to do help them compensate, and I found that we were already doing most of these already:

--Reduce the amount of writing a child needs to do during the day. Do more answers for chapter questions orally. Limit the amount of writing in workbooks.
--Reduce or eliminate copying for 3-6 months. Save the child’s “battery energy” for writing paragraphs, or a paper once a week.
--Use another method of learning spelling words that does not include writing multiple times. Resources include
Sequential Spelling or Right Brain Spelling. [We have seen amazing spelling success that I didn't think was possible since we started Sequential Spelling last year.]
--Teach the child keyboarding for some writing projects (However, most children who have dysgraphia, or a writing glitch, also find keyboarding quite labor-intensive also.)

The article also talked about how to correct this glitch, and one thing it mentioned was a book by Dianne Craft. I remembered that Christine McC had gone to a HEAV convention workshop back in June by Dianne Craft, and she had come back talking about something that had sounded very similar to this. I remembered thinking that it sounded a lot like Nathan, in fact. Christine had some exercises for her child to do, so she gave those to me. We're going to try them for awhile--I think it says 6 months--and we'll see what happens. I have occasionally worried about Nathan going off to college and not being able to easily take notes. He has started talking a lot about going to the Academy, and I know something like this would be a huge obstacle to success at a place like that, so it would be absolutely wonderful if we could blow this "writing gate" open!

And now I try to open all my HSLDA emails, LOL.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Anna's New Obsession . . .

. . . Pigtails!! You might be thinking that it must be hard to get such fine, short hair to even stay in any sort of holder. Well, you'd be exactly right. But Anna is determined.

These particular pigtails were put in by her patient and ever-loving biggest brother Nathan. He is going to be an excellent daddy, I'm telling you!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Ultrasound Results . . .

. . . It's a GIRL! It looked fairly clear, and we've never had a wrong ultrasound before, so I think we can be pretty confidant! Also, everything else looked healthy, so that's a big praise.

I could tell we were back at a military hospital again, unlike the ultrasounds I had with Anna and Grace. The policy at Bethesda is, they do the scan and take all their pictures, and no one can be with you during that time. Then they call back your (1) support person, and they will go through the ultrasound with you again quickly. The lady was nice and friendly, but the whole first part of the ultrasound (almost an hour because the baby was very active, and the girl had a hard time getting all the required shots) was done in almost complete silence. I dozed off a couple of times! Finally Bob could come back, and she talked through all the parts, starting with the gender.

So now we just need to come up with a name. You may remember our parameters: Bible name for the first name, and we don't repeat initials, so names starting with A, C, G, J, L, and N are out. We're obviously open to "virtue" names, LOL. I already know that I want the middle name to be "Amy", which is tricky for a middle name, but that's okay--this might be our last girl, and I want her to have the name of my best friend, who's been like a sister to me for many, many years!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Catching Up

1. Bob took the boys on a "father/son" campout at a local park Friday night. It was organized by a man in our local homeschool support group, and this was the fifth annual campout, although the first we've participated in. It was very drizzly and yucky Friday, so we weren't sure how things were going to go, but we gamely got everything packed up and loaded. It was just misty during the evening, and the boys all assured me they weren't even cold and didn't even need to change into jeans or put sweatshirts on. Anna, Grace, and I were glad to be warm and dry, however, LOL. Nathan summed up the experience as "eating, sleeping, and throwing stuff into the fire". Sounds like a good time for boys! They roasted hot dogs and made smores. Bob thought to bring our shade pavilion thing, so he set that up and the kids played in there, staying dry, while the parents sat around the fire.

After a dampish night of sleep and a breakfast of pancakes, the boys put their soccer things on and went straight to their games. Anna, Grace, and I met them there. The weather was no longer rainy, but instead was very hot and humid. They all played really well--you would have never known they were tired! That showed up later on though, so they all had an early night on Saturday, LOL. Meanwhile, I had the momentous task of washing all the things they took on the trip, since everything was very damp and had been crumpled up in Bob's van for a hot morning. Yuck! I did 5 loads, including pillows and some sleeping bags. It was a success though. All the boys had a wonderful time and could not have cared less that it rained (well, I think Bob cared, LOL).

2. Anna is still doing really well at pottying. She went through a little phase, after we bought some pink pull-ups at the commissary (only for nighttimes), where pull-ups were all she wanted to wear during the day as well. Well, I definitely am not planning on stopping paying for diapers, jsut to start paying for pull-ups, so I told her if she chose to wear a pull-up during the day, then she had to wear a diaper that night. After one night back in diapers, she decided underwear really were pretty good for the day, and we haven't had any more problems, LOL. She's even started going most of the time on the big potty. Yay!

3. We are the proud owners of a Little Tykes kitchen! Our good friends, Tim and Amy P, who we have been stationed with before and who are in our Bible study now, asked us last week if we were interested in their old one, since their girls have outgrown it. I knew Anna and Grace would LOVE a kitchen, so I immediately said yes! We got it Friday night after Bible study, and Anna and Grace have indeed been having such a wonderful time with it. It's just sort of sitting in the middle of the family room right now, but my plan is to clear out the playroom and put it in there. I really want to go through the toys in there and put a lot into the basement or into boxes (or into the trash/Goodwill pile--shhh!), but I just haven't had the energy or time.

4. Our "new" air conditioner--the one on the main floor--is not working! We had a cooler week last week, so we turned it off, and even had the heat on once or twice in the morning, and now that it is hot again, the AC is not working! Fortunately it hasn't been blistering, but it has been humid, so the house has been uncomfortable. Bob is calling the guys who installed it, so hopefully they'll be able to come out and put it to rights . . . but it doesn't inspire long-term confidence, that's for sure.

5. This is a big week for us--the ultrasound is Wednesday afternoon at 3:00! Everyone has been asking me if we know what this baby is for many weeks now, so hopefully I'll have a clear answer to give them after Wednesday! Stay tuned!