Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Another Haircut For Anna

Back in June, when we were in Ohio, my mom and I took Anna to get her first real haircut. The lady was nice, and Anna did great, but she really just trimmed the hair. I had kind of hoped for something shorter, but I am not good at articulating what I think to hair people, so whatever . . . it was fine.

As time has passed, her hair has gotten scraggly again. It would lay okay if we used a lot of conditioner, but when she takes showers, she doesn't use any, so it just always looks scruffy. Here is a picture from when we were hiking while camping at Greentop. It doesn't actually llook too bad here, so you'll just have to trust me that it would be messy! Nevertheless, it needed to be cut again.

At church last Sunday, Anna's little friend Elya had the cutest haircut! She looked so adorable, and I asked her mom, May, where she had gotten it done. May told me that she had done it herself using a bowl! We had our small group meeting Sunday at our house, so I asked May to bring the bowl so she could give me some pointers! It turns out that Elya's head is a lot smaller than Anna's, so we hunted around and found another bowl. Before I lost my nerve, we went out on the deck, and I proceeded to give Anna her haircut with May holding the bowl!
Anna held so still! Everyone was impressed! It was a bit tricky, moving the bowl around, but it turned out just fine.

Here May is doing the final trim. Well, actually May told me that she followed Elya around for 3 days with scissors, doing little trims here and there, and I actually did that as well! Not 3 days, but definitely yesterday I was trimming away at odd moments!

Here is the finished product, although her hair is still a little bit wet, so I don't think you get a true representation of her new, shorter look.

Here is a more natural picture from yesterday. Doesn't Anna look cute?! Grace actually got a tiny trim as well, but you can't really even tell a difference, LOL.
I've always been very intimidated to cut girls' hair, but maybe now with my new bowl trick up my sleeve, I can at least cut their hair for the first few years. And with the slow rate my girls' hair grows, I shouldn't even need to do it very often!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Colonial Williamsburg

Tuesday afternoon after Nathan's writing co-op, we packed up the van and headed down to Richmond. We got to Bob's sister's house after dinner, and our niece Christi was even there to visit for a little while too! The next morning we were up and out of there by 9:00. This may not seem like very early to you, but believe me, for us it is a very good time, LOL. We got to Williamsburg by 10:30, and we picked up our tickets at the visitors' center, which was very nice. Colonial Williamsburg is having "Homeschool Days' right now, from Sept. 12-Sept. 27, and the deal is amazing. If you preregistered, which I did, the ticket prices were $5.50 for an adult and something like $3 or $4 for kids ages 6-12. I think we paid $36 for all 11 of us to go. Normally the ticket prices are almost $40 a day per adult!! The ticket included everything too--the movie at the visitors' center, which was very well-done, and a wonderful introduction to everything, the tour of the governor's palace, riding on the bus (which we never did due to all our stuff, LOL), the special activities . . . It was truly an amazing deal.

After watching the movie in the visitors' center, we walked over to the main village part, and we ate our picnic lunch. Then we took the tour of the governor's palace, since we were right by it.

When you walk in, the entry area is quite large, with a very high ceiling. The walls on all sides have weapons up and down them--swords, muskets, pistols, more swords. You can probably imagine how impressed the boys were by this. "It's like they wall-papered the walls with SWORDS!" It really was quite impressive.

By the end of the tour, Faith was getting very tired and squawky. We were in this huge ballroom, and Bob and I were at one end, juggling her around, bouncing her up and down, trying to keep her quiet, while the tour guide was at the other end giving his spiel. He was not impressed withour efforts, and when someone asked some question, he replied rather testily that he couldn't think clearly because of all the noise. Geesh! It was only Faith who was making any noise at all! Everyone else was at the other end of the ballroom, quiet as mice! We decided he didn't have much experience with real noise, LOL.

Next we headed over to the other side of the village, to one of the museums. They were having a special thing for kids called "Cracking the Code". It was about the codes used in the Revolutionary War. The boys enjoyed this, although Nathan said he had read a book called, George Washington, Spymaster, and all their information was from there, so he already knew all the codes. While they were in there, I enjoyed looked around the building where you enter the museum. It was a public hospital for the insane, begun back in the late 1700's, and they had a fascinating exhibit about how they used to treat insane people (like prisoners, really, in cells and everything) back then, and some of the equipment and practices used over time. Very interesting.

Then we headed back to the center part of the town, where most of the shops are, and we stopped at a few of them along the way. Williamsburg does this thing starting at 3:00 called "Revolutionary City", where the tourists are sort of bystanders to the drama of the time. Actors (with mics so you can hear them) do these little vignettes on the street about the hardships of the time, trying to convince people to support unification with the other colonies, introducing Benedict Arnold, etc. They also do a reading of the Declaration of Independence from the balcony of the House of Burgess, as if it had just been printed off and received here in Virginia. It was very moving!

While they were reading the declation, there were 2 patriots on horseback that rode up right next to our stroller. I didn't think Faith would mind too much, but I fully expected Anna and Grace to be terrified. After all, they are petrified of dogs and cats, and horses are so huge, right? Wrong. They were fascinated by the horse. No tears or screams of fright at all. Just when you think you have your kids figured out . . .

After the Declaration, Bob, Faith, Ann, Wally, and Grace took a tour of the House of Burgess. The boys did not want to do any more tours, especially one that was half and hour, but it was a hot day, and Bob was lured in by the promise of air conditioning. The boys, Anna, and I laid on the grass for a few minutes, and then we meandered down the street, watching ladies make baskets, and visiting the wig maker's shop. Eventually we just sat on a bench and waited. We were surprised to see Bob and Faith come down the street, but not anyone else. It turns out that Faith got them kicked out of the tour! She was squawky again, although Bob said she was not actually as loud as she had been at the governor's palace! There was a toddler who was running around all out of control, and the tour guide told the mom not to let the boy run around, but he just kicked out Bob and Faith! We decided Williamsburg is not really the most baby-friendly place around. I think these tour guides maybe take themselves just a LITTLE bit too seriously!

After we all regathered, Nathan was so ready to go. He was quite whiney--good thing he didn't try to take the tour, LOL. Here is the obligatory picture in the stocks, where he is actually just making a face. He really didn't look like this, evn when whining about how hot and tired he was! Bob and I had heard there was going to be a military review in the green behind the courthouse at 5:00, and it was about 4:45, so we were trying to stall so we could at least see a little bit of that before we left. Some people went inside the courthouse for a few minutes, and some of us watched the shoemaker, which was quite interesting. Finally the review started. Actually, the fife and drum corps, plus the militia, marched down the street from the courthouse, with all the tourists around them and following them. We were in front of them, watching it all, and it looked like the last scene in the Music Man where the whole town is marching alongside the band. It was funny.

On the green, the militia did some moving around, and then they loaded and fired off their muskets several times! The boys were not expecting them to do that, so that perked everyone up, even Nathan. Anna was not a fan of the loud noise, so she clapped her hands over her ears and tightly screwed her eyes shut for pretty much the remainder of the time, LOL. The militia then charged the flag. They charged on "Huzzah", which the boys all got a kick out of. "That would be like charging on 'Hooray'!" Then, as a grand finale, they fired the cannon off 3 times! That was very exciting! Everyone was glad we stayed for that after all. As we were walking out, a nice lady took a group picture of us all in front of the governor's palace.

Then we all had a very delicious dinner at Cracker Barrel before driving back home. It was a fun day, and we were so glad to spend it with Ann and Wally! We got back late, and I had to stay up even later to finish preparing for Classical Conversations. We were all so tired the next day!

Saturday, September 19, 2009


When I started typing the post last night, I actually had a point, but I rambled on and forgot all about it. The reason I was so tired was actually what I had MEANT to write about. We left to drive to Bethesda yesterday morning at 9:45, and we got back home after 2:00.

Let me back up a bit before I actually talk about the appointment. Caleb (almost 8) is our one child with food allergies (milk, peanuts, walnuts, and pecans) and asthma. He has been taking Singulair since he was almost 1, and he also takes Flonase and Zyrtec. He has Albuterol and Flovent for his puffer, but he only uses that when he is wheezing, and he has hardly needed that the past year. He basically has 2 bad seasons (he has a lot of seasonal and environmental allergies)--March through May, and August through the first frost. His wheezing has been very well-controlled these past few years, and he really has hardly used his puffer. He did have one incident on New Year's Day where we had to take him to the ER because he couldn't breathe, but they decided he had pneumonia and put him on antibiotics as well as doing breathing treatments.

Over the past year, however, I have noticed some alarming personality changes in Caleb. He has always been such a happy little boy, and he has just become so very whiny and emotionally fragile. Everything has become a big deal, with lots of tears and drama. Also, he has just lost some zest for life or something. Everything is "blah". He is rarely as enthusiastic about anything like he used to be. It's not that he has a bad attitude neccessarily; it's more that he's just not excited about it. He's not depressed or anything, but I would describe him as glum, more and more. Also, he ahs had some physical complaints--his tummy hurts sometimes, and some mornings he complains about how his muscles hurt and are shaky. It's weird, and it doesn't seem to be a low blood sugar thing.

My best friend Amy's son also has allergies and has taken Singulair for a long time. This past year she also had some similar concerns about her son's behavior and personality, as well as some physical problems, and after doing some research, she took him off Singulair. His symptoms have dramatically improved. I did some reading as well, and there was a thread on the Well-Trained Mind Board dealing with people whose children had problems with Singulair. So I had been thinking that I would take Caleb off it maybe in October. I made an appointment back in June I think to try to get a referral to the allergy clinic, since it's been over a year since he's been seen there, but the doctor I saw didn't think I needed one, and he blew off my concerns about the Singulair. I was going to make an appointment with another doctor, but then we got busy traveling, having company, traveling some more, etc. . . . and it never happened.

Imagine my surprise when a few weeks ago someone from Bethesda called to schedule an appointment for Caleb to be seen to check his lung function! The appointment was yesterday, and it started with him blowing into various tubes and machines, something he has never done, even though he's been diagnosed with asthma since he was maybe 2. The guy running the test told us his lung function was very good, and he also gave us a new spacer and told us that Caleb should always use it, even as an adult, because when you spray an inhaler directly into your mouth, it goes into a lot of surrounding tissues, but not as much gets breathed into your lungs. Interesting!

Then we got to see the doctor, an actual pulmonologist. She spent a very long time with us, asking a lot of detailed questions. It turns out that when Caleb went to the ER on New Year's Day, the doctor put in his records that he wasn't sure if his symptoms were all caused by pneumonia, or if his asthma had contributed, so that had gotten him red-flagged to be put on this special asthma list and be checked up on now. She said that it was unclear whether Caleb had "intermittent" asthma, or if he had "persistant" asthma that was just very well-controlled, since he has never been off his medicine. She wants me to try taking him off his meds in November, and then come back in to see her so she can test his lung function and see what is actually happening in there without anything.

I told her all my concerns about Singulair. She told me that the studies have not found any relationship between Singulair and suicide, and that most people reporting side effects like personality changes have reported them after a short period of time on the drug. But she said that there really jsut hasn't been enough studies done, and if I have noticed stuff, then it is a good idea to see what happens off the meds. Also, she said that Singulair is no longer the first-line drug recommended for persistent asthma. Most kids take an inhaled steroid like Flovent daily, which Caleb has never done. I asked her about the side effects of steroids, and she said that they were less than with Singulair, and very rare. So if he still needs something, then maybe we'll go with Flovent instead of Singulair.

So it was a very good appointment, and she was so nice and helpful. She also said that if we did move to Guam, she would make sure we have a 3-month supply of all his medicines to bridge the gap of getting over there and getting settled in before having to see a doctor there for new prescriptions. Wow, it's so amazing when the Lord just works out something like this for us! I still can't believe Bethesda called US to make this appointment! An answer to prayer--at Bible study last night, I was flipping through my little prayer request notebook, and I noticed I had asked for prayer for wisdom about what to do for Caleb on August 21, about a week before she called!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Catching My Breath . . .

We're not going anywhere this weekend! I didn't have to pack suitcases for anyone! Or find any odd, random items that are rarely used but are definitely needed for the weekend! Actually, for the trip last weekend, I let the boys pack for themselves, having told them exactly how much of everything they needed. And they all put their own stuff in their own duffle bag. Nathan and Luke are old pros at this, having packed for themselves to go to Camp Caleb for a few years now. But even Caleb and Jonathan are not novices at traveling, and usually I tell them what to bring to me, even if I do the actual packing, so they should be well familiar with the packing procedure.

Well, when all the duffle bags were brought downstairs Friday, Luke mentioned that Jonathan's bag looked awfully empty, and I made a mental note to check it. That mental note promptly flew out my other ear, and I didn't even glance at his bag again. As we were well on our way, Jonathan piped up in the back to tell us that he had not packed any underwear, but not to worry--he WAS wearing a pair. Whew! LOL He also neglected to pack a second pair of pants, which I had specifically told him about, so he was a bit chilly when his jeans got wet on Saturday. So obviously a little more supervision is needed on his end, at least. Everyone else did just fine.

One thing I have realized as we have gotten back into our school routine, is that doing 2 co-ops with everyone is definitely more tiring. Classical Conversations is going very well. I really enjoy my class, and I think all the boys are learning a lot and having a lot of fun. But it is hard to get out 2 mornings a week, and preparing for CC is another thing taking up my time, although I do enjoy it! Plus, Nathan has his writing co-op Tuesday afternoons, and Luke's is on Thursday afternoons, so that is more business. Those will both end up being only every other week, though, so I guess that will help. The point is, the weeks are flying by, and I constantly feel like I am behind on cleaning, laundry, etc. (and I constantly feel that way because in fact I AM behind, LOL). Going away every weekend has not helped that either. Even typing a blog post has just become too much most afternoons and evenings! Hopefully things will settle down into more of a rhythm.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Greentop Weekend

This weekend we went camping with a bunch of other big homeschooling families from our co-op, and from the church that hosts the co-op. It was so much fun! We were all so tired (and dirty) yesterday when we got home! We went to a place called Camp Greentop , in Maryland not too far from us. It is part of Catoctin Mountain Park, but I thought the most interesting thing is that Greentop is practically across a small road from Camp David! We passed the turn-off for Camp David ("Do not enter. Not open to the public. Violaters will be fined . . . "), which is also surrounded by a big electric fence in case you are just innocently hiking along, LOL.

Actually, that is not the only interesting thing about the camp. It has a unique history as well. Here's some of what the website says:

Camp Greentop was built in 1937 as part of the Catoctin Recreational Demonstration Area and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a Historic District. Although the original concept called for a camp almost identical to Camp Misty Mount, plans were modified to meet the needs of its first tenants, the Baltimore League for Crippled Children. Thus, Camp Greentop became one of the nation's first camps specifically constructed to meet the needs of the handicapped. The American Chestnut cabins, built by the Works Progess Administration, and the surrounding area look much as they did in 1937. The Baltimore League for Crippled Children, now known as the League for People with Disabilities, Inc., has returned to Camp Greentop for over 70 years, their tenure interrupted only by the military occupation of the camp during World War II.

Here is the dining area and conference room, which the kids used as a huge indoor playroom, especially on Saturday, when the weather was rainy off and on. Several kids had brought "rip sticks" and "wave boards", which are new-fangled skateboard-y things that the boys had a lot of fun learning to ride on. The dining room had a ton of huge tables, and a large commercial kitchen. In front of this complex, there is a big field and also a swimming pool and basketball court.
Here is our cabin, which had beds for 10. Since it was built for disabled people, there were no upper bunks, which is nice for little kids. When you walk into the cabin, you are in a entry room, and then there are 2 rooms with 4 beds each on either side, and a leader's room with 2 beds and a door straight ahead. We let Faith sleep in there, since we could close the door, but the walls did not go all the way up to the rafters, so it was still louder in there! She was so tired that she still napped and slept fairly well. Since the camp is for disabled kids in the summer, there are ramps up to all cabins, and paved walking paths connecting the buildings, which was nice for the stroller. It was so beautiful!
It poured down rain Friday night, but Saturday dawned foggy and cool and misty, but not with drenching rain. We all went on a 1.4 hike to Cunningham Falls. Bob carried Faith in the backpack, and the girls walked. We fell off the pace almost immediately, LOL, but they were real troopers and made it the whole way. People were so surprised when we showed up at the Falls after they had all been there for awhile! Obviously the boys were in the front group, so when we got there, they had climbed up on the rocks around the Falls and were having a great time. Craig McC was up there with them, so we didn't worry too much, LOL.

Here is a picture of Nathan, Luke, Jonathan, and Caleb . . . McC. Our Caleb had already headed back with another family. It's good to know that when we need a Caleb, there are others around to fill in!

Here are Christine and me. She is 35 weeks pregnant, so she was not enthusiastic about having her picture taken, but Bob appeased her by cutting us off at the tummy.

The only fly in the ointment this weekend was some mysterious stomach bug we seemed to have picked up last week. Thursday I noticed that Grace was having some diarrhea, which didn't make me wonder too much, other than making a note to bring the Desitin on the trip. When we got there Friday night and were eating dinner, she was not eating much, although she did drink a big cup of lemonade. I put a bite of lasagna in her mouth, but she never really swallowed it, so Bob picked her up and held out his hand for her to spit the bite into. She spit out the bite . . . and vomited all that lemonade out too, all over Bob's shirt! She didn't eat any more that night, but she didn't seem to have any more problems.
Saturday morning, Anna woke up at 7:00, coughed twice, and threw up in her bed. Ack! Fortunately, there were washing machines we could use, so her bunny, sleeping bag, and pillow got washed. She seemed to feel fine, so we even went on the hike. She ate fairly normally the rest of the day. Every so often she would complain that her stomach wasn't feeling well, but the feeling would pass. She did, however, throw up again at midnight Saturday night which necessitated a second use of the washers! I was glad we didn't have to take stinky things back home to deal with! Her bunny and pillow have never been so clean, LOL. She has been fine since then, however. Luke and Jonathan have had a bit of queasiness, but nothing else, and everyone seems to be fine now. Two other kids also threw up on Saturday. Both kids were also in our Tuesday co-op and Classical Conversations on Thursday, so we all probably picked up the bug from the same place. Oh well.
It was a lot of fun being there with all these big families. Since a lot of them are in TNT with us, I knew the moms, but Bob had never met the husbands. Also, a lot of these big families have 7-10 kids, but only the youngest ones are still in TNT. It was neat to see some of these theoretical "older kids" that I've heard about but never seen! So it was a great weekend, but I must say that being gone 2 weekends in a row was a bit ambitious, even for super-packing me. I am so glad we're staying here next weekend!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

We're Alive . . .

I'm sure it must seem like we have dropped off the face of the earth! I am usually so much more regular with my blogging, but we have just been crazy busy around here. We got back from the yearly Wright-Patterson AFB OCF/Chapel retreat at White Sulphur Springs Monday night. We like to go up for that to see my parents, as well as old friends from our assignment there. They had a really fun group this time--almost 80 people! We had a great time! As soon as we got back, we had to get ready for the kick-off of our other homeschool co-op, the one we usually participate in. That was Tuesday. Then I had to get ready to tutor Classical Conversations, which was today. Tomorrow we are again leaving for the weekend. We're going "cabin-camping" with 18 other families up in Maryland--130 other people! The McC's are the ones who got us in on this, and they said it is so much fun. It's with a bunch of other families from our co-op (big families--can you tell by the numbers?!), and they are a very fun bunch! We are expecting to have a ball, but again, it's more packing, followed by a ton of very dirty laundry and unpacking on Monday! Whew! I'm pooped! We won't be going anywhere for the next several weeks . . . not until Sept. 22, when we are heading down south to go to Williamsburg during thier "Homeschooling Days". Actually, that's not all that far away . . . Anyhow, here are a few pictures from WSS.

The obligatory "wagon shot". I don't know how many family pictures we have had taken here! We're taking up more and more of the wagon though, LOL.
Eating breakfast with Grandma and Grandpa. The girls especially were so thrilled to have Grandma and Grandpa there! My parents are right now flying to Seoul, Korea, for a conference and to visit friends who were here at AFIT. They'll be gone 10 days, so pray for their safety and for a good trip for them!

Nathan and Luke were huge helpers in the kitchen after the meal. Usually they like doing prewash, but this year they branched out into silverware prewash.

Jonathan was a super sweeper, and he also really liked washing down the tables.
A few more pictures in the next post . . .

More WSS Pictures

On Saturday afternoon we took a hike behind the hotel. Nathan had hiked up to "Hezekiah's Backbone" during Camp Caleb this summer, and he was eager to show us the great view. My mom stayed with Faith while she napped, and the rest of us set out. We knew Anna, Grace, and I wouldn't be able to make it the whole way because I needed to get back to nurse, but they hiked a good 35 minutes up the mountain (which took almost an hour back down, LOL).
The boys were rewarded with a great view off of both sides of the mountain! Nathan and Luke were particularly disappointed that I couldn't see it, but I assured them that there would come a time when I wasn't nursing and we didn't have so many small children!

Sunday night we had a square dance. The older boys especially had a great time. Here you can see Luke and his little partner, a cute girl named Lauren (and before you ask, I really don't know how this came about, whether he asked her or what?!), and Nathan and his partner, a friend from way back in the chapel. Luke and I were partners for the Virginia Reel, the only thing I danced. Even Jonathan danced that one! The girls were so tired during the whole thing. One of the staffers held Grace and did some of the line dances, but Anna just sat on the bench along with Caleb, who has apparently decided that square dancing is not his thing, LOL.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Classical Conversations

Yesterday was our first day of Classical Conversations, and I am happy to announce that it went very well! I think my (tutoring) kids all enjoyed it, and we'll see how much they remember from our memory work next week. I have an autistic boy in my class. His mom is my special helper, and I think it will be good for all the kids. Each class has a special needs person in it, ranging from Down's syndrome to Aspergers to the full-fledged autism of the child in my class. Peter seemed to be having a good time, and he even participated some in some of the timeline movements! He can read well, so for presentations, where we introduced each other, he read a little thing about himself. I think he will read his presentations each time. His mom is so nice, so I am glad to have her always in the class.

Anna pitched a little fit about going into the nursery--darn that CC practicum!--but she eventually settled down and had a good time. Faith even fell asleep on the floor for a little nap! My directer is teaching the art section for each class to give the tutors a break. This is wonderful for me. We do art at 10:30, and that is when I nurse Faith and give her a bit of solid food. I had been wondering how the whole nursing thing would work, and this is great!

After we were done, we all ate lunch behind the church. The church is actually in a strip mall-type thing, but behind it is a nice strip of grass, some trees, and a little stage with benches around it. It makes for a surprisingly nice picnic area! We had brought a football, so after eating the boys all played football. I took Anna back in to go potty, and when I came back, the boys were all milling around, looking up at the roof. Someone had punted, and the ball got stuck on the roof! It was a flat roof, but it was still pretty high. The boys had some suggestions, but I told them that frankly it would be easier and cheaper to just got to Walmart and buy a new ball, rather than have Daddy come back at night with a ladder to rescue the ball and possibly get arrested! After awhile, Janna, one of the other moms, an Air Force wife who is also in our other co-op, decided she would deal with situation. She found this enourmously long stick (branch, really, LOL), and she hefted it towards the roof and started trying to sweep the ball down. Her (6th grade) son moved a picnic table over for her to stand on, and with him guiding her, she managed to knock down the ball! What a hero! We all decided that THIS is what all the kids would remember from their first day at Classical Conversations!