Saturday, December 17, 2011

Rivendell Goes to Great Wolf Lodge

We just got back yesterday from 3 days at Great Wolf Lodge! We all really needed the break, and we had such a good time! Our homeschooling group got the same great deal we got last year, so we were able to stay in the 2 bedroom Grizzly suite again. Woo-hoo!

Micah really enjoyed the water! As it turns out, however, he doesn't like his bare knees to touch anything like water or even carpet, so he spent a good deal of the time doing this gorilla walk. I guess he hasn't been in any shorts since he learned to crawl! He really liked the wave pool, and he would sit in the shallow part and splash, or crawl around like in the picture, when it was still. But as soon as he heard the wolf "howling", signaling when the waves were starting, he would crawl over and sit in my lap!

Grace had a really good time as well--much more fun than last year. She also LOVED the wave pool, and she, Faith, and Anna would all bob around in these rings forever, during the still times as well as when the waves were going. She was so much braver! She went on one of the big water slides (River Canyon Run) with Bob and the other girls several times! Yes, Faith went on that slide too, as well as the ones from the center fort thing! She was absolutely unafraid. What a pill!

I love how the skillful photographer was able to make it appear like Caleb was peeing with wild abandon--LOL. I didn't get too many pictures of the boys, since they were running around and I hardly ever even saw them. Fun was had by all, though.

We all (3 Rivendell families plus one other homeschooling family in our bigger group) went out to Golden Corral Wednesday night. Micah was a total pig (well, everyone else was too!). Carrots, green beans, rolls, tons of fruit--he kept stuffing it in. The kids were quite excited by the chocolate fountain Golden Corral now offers, even though the strawberries weren't really in season. After we got back, the boys all watched "National Treasure" in the room of the other family.

Thursday we went to Cici's for dinner, and then the boys came to our room and played cards for awhile. We brought Skip-Bo, Monopoly Deal, and Uno. While the boys were playing cards, the girls, Micah, and I went down to the lobby for their little "show", and to hear "storytime with Rowdy the Reindeer". Rowdy was one of those costumed actors with the gigantic heads--the kind that used to terrify Anna at Chik-Fil-A and cause her to scream hysterically. We have come a long way, however, since now Anna, as well as Grace and Faith, all lined up to shake Rowdy's hand when the story was done. They all drew the line at giving him a hug though.

We left Friday right after lunch. This was a little earlier than we had planned, but the girls and Micah were just done. Since we were on the road so early, we decided to stop at Ikea for the first time. Wow--so much stuff! Bob and I had a great time looking at everything. There was some complaining, although not from any of the younger 7 kids . . .

We got back home, unloaded, and immediately got ready to go to Bible study for our annual Christmas story play,. The nicest part was that we had a baked potato bar, so I brought shredded cheese and sour cream, but I didn't have to cook! Woo-hoo! Elizabeth cooked 15 pounds of potatoes, and we had exactly 2 potatoes left over. The kids said they didn't want them because "there weren't any toppings left". And they were right! Chili, taco meat, ham. broccoli, bacon bits--all gone. There was just a bit of cheese left. Locusts, they are!

Then after the grand performance (parts for all kids who wanted one--and there were 25 kids!), we had an absolutely delicious ice cream sundae bar. I brought M&Ms for that, but there were also brownies, oreo crumbs, pineapple, and lots of sauces including Amy's homemade chocolate marshmallow one. Mmmmm.

Our Christmas break is off to a good start!! (And I just want to point out for the benefit of other homeschooled readers who might be envious of our Christmas break, that this is a break for ME, LOL. The boys will still be doing some school next week, especially math and English . . . so don't be too envious!)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Fall Stresses

So that was just a big vent chock full o' complaining there in the last post. What has me so stressed that book exchanges and etiquette teas are pushing me over the edge?!

Well, homeschooling is more difficult, for starters. Rivendell is amazingly awesome. I could not even attempt to do high school without these other ladies. Nathan would just have to take a bunch of online classes or something. So I know how much easier my load is because I have Rivendell, but at the same time, physical science has been a ton more difficult to prepare for than last year's life science. The BJU book is definitely at least 9th grade course--integrated physics and chemistry. I feel like sometimes the text is written in a way that is more confusing than enlightening, like they go out of their way to make concepts more difficult. I've spent a lot of time with a jr. high physical science book (Prentice Hall Science Explorer) that I got used off for a dollar. It has been SO helpful. I'll probably use it for the whole course next time (when I don't have a high schooler in the class!), except I don't think it's possible to get a teacher's manual or any tests for it, so I'll have to make my own.

Also it's been hard to figure out how to best use the class time. We really need more than one hour and a half class period to cover a chapter and do labs! Fortunately the book has 21 chapters, and we have 33 weeks, so I can take 2 weeks on a good deal of the chapters. What has ended up working the best is for me to take one class period to go over the entire chapter, and then use the second class period to do labs. I'm thinking about next year already, which will be biology for the high schoolers, and life science for the jr. highers. For biology, maybe the boys will watch the DIVE dvds at home, and then use the class time just for labs. We are going to prepare for the bio SAT II test, so I am thinking that maybe we'll have another afternoon (not Tuesdays) where we just go over the dvd stuff, plus anything extra I think will be important for test prep. I don't know. No matter what, I am definitely looking forward to getting back into biology stuff again! Physics was never my favorite!

Prepping for the Latin class has been another thing that has taken more time than I expected. The first part of Henle pretty much reviews all the stuff Latina Christina I and II teach, just covering it a LOT more quickly, and with tons of translation. But still--it wasn't difficult because all my years of teaching Latin to younger kids has finally cemented in my brain all the declension endings and basic verb conjugations (first and second conjugation, present, future, and imperfect tenses). BUT September rolled around, and now we're not reviewing anymore! Finally we learned the past tense (or the "perfect indicative active" as it is technically called), which has different endings on a whole different principal part, and now we're working on the passive voice. Gah. I am NOT remembering these things very well, so it takes me a long time to work through all the exercises! I am just trying to think ahead and think positively about how easy this will all be when it's time to teach Caleb and Jonathan! The boys will take the National Latin I Exam the second week of March, and that is as far as I will go in Latin. I really do enjoy Latin, but right now--it's just one more thing I really don't have time for. One day I'll be retired from homeschooling (that day is a minimum of 18 years away, LOL), and then think of how much time I will have! I'll become a Latin expert! I'll write my Christmas letters and blog in Latin! Well, maybe not, LOL. But it won't be a stresser like it is now!

All this prep work, plus the regular grind of homeschooling at home, has really taken a toll on the house. Here's a warning--don't just drop in to visit us, LOL. Or if you do, walk around with your eyes half closed. I have big plans for this break. Big organizing plans. One example--we took down Faith's crib back in oh, September some time. We propped it in the hallway until I could organize the basement storage room to fit it in. It is still propped up in the hallway. Drives me crazy! Another area of disorganization is Micah's clothes. He is now out of 12 month clothes mainly, so I brought up the 18 month tub of clothes. Now both tubs are in the hallway with clothes piled haphazardly in and around them. I think it is high time that boy has clothes in his actual closet and dresser! These are not the only areas, of course. And we need to clean too, not just pick up and straighten. I am actually so overwhelmed with how dirty the house has gotten these past few months that I can hardly even think of where to start and what to do. Hopefully I'll be able to make some inroads into the chaos in the next week. I'll keep you posted on my progress, or lack thereof. Unfortunately, the 3 big messmakers will be around . . .

Christmas Break!!!

We're on Christmas Break! We're on Christmas Break! I am practically dancing, LOL. This fall has been a rough one. I knew back in August that once we started, I'd just have to hang on, and that is indeed how it's been. Now I am so ready for a break!

The last week was hard to get through. The elementary co-op had a few things going on, and I was just NOT in the mood to deal with them! For instance, we had our Christmas party last Friday. It's always a skating party, which the kids really enjoy, and this time it was really nice because the organizer had the brilliant idea to have a little area with some simple crafts for the younger kids who weren't going to skate. Grace and Faith had a great time there! The thing that was so (unreasonably) stressful about the party is that a few years ago, a lady had the bright idea that we should do a book exchange there. So each year all the kids bring a wrapped gift of a book they are done with, and they get to pick out a new book. Sounds great! Except we're never "done" with books, LOL, and I have 4 people in different grades! This year, finding books for everyone was very stressful for me. No more book exchange! Once again you can tell gifts aren't my love language.

Then on Tuesday the co-op had an "etiquette tea" as a special 5th week activity to wrap up the etiquette unit. They did this several years ago as well, and it was definitely a highlight for Nathan. The organizers bought these cute little plastic Christmas-themed teacups from Oriental Trading Co., the leaders of the unit were the "servers", complete with towels over their arms, and it was just fun. I think we each had to contribute a plate of cookies, and the kids got to pick either tea or hot chocolate. Nathan came home talking all about tea and asking me to buy some for him the next time we went to the commissary!

This time, the organizers sent out a big list of what foods the moms in each grade were supposed to contribute--cheese and crackers, fruit, tea sandwiches, cookies. I about died, since I have 4 different grades represented, but thankfully I reread the email and realized I only had to bring something for class which was the smallest. That meant Grace's class, and they were assigned cheese and crackers, so that wasn't bad at all. But they didn't buy any sort of cups--we had to send a tea cup along for each child. They said in the email that if we didn't have cups and saucers and didn't want to buy any at the thrift store, then mugs would be alright. Well good, because I'm not sending in 4 breakable cups and saucers, even if we did have any, and I'm certainly not making a run to the thrift store! Yes, I was getting annoyed by petty things, I'll admit, LOL. Fortunately Amy has sent each of my kids a lovely plastic dishwasher safe mug with their names on them, so those were called into service. Whew! Thanks again, Amy!!

I was assigned to help out with this activity, so I had to be there early to supervise the "craft" for Grace's class, which turned out to be coloring. Then someone did a chalk talk, which was really neat. I love seeing those pictures come alive, with all the different lights! After Christine was done teaching history, she drove over and took over for me, so I could rush to Rivendell and teach physical science. Fortunately we were only doing a lab, but still, I felt very rushed and unorganized, since I had not had any time to set anything up. Oh well. We finished it, and we made it through the day--and now we are on break!!!!! I can always tell when I need a break because minor things become very stressful and highly annoying to me! I'm really quite thankful for the elementary co-op. It is very well-run, the kids enjoy it and get a lot out of it, and I really don't have to do all that much for it! But there are definitely times--like last week--when I was not in the mood to deal with it at all!

Friday, December 09, 2011

A Painful Gift

Yesterday we all attended the memorial service for our friend Jennifer. It was an amazing service, absolutely filled with the hope of the gospel. Three friends of Jennifer's gave beautiful tributes to her, and then her husband Joe spoke. I couldn't believe he was able to get through the whole thing--I was praying for strength for him!--but he did. What a powerful testimony he gave. He was able to give thanks not only for Jennifer's life, but also for her death. In all the tributes, it was very evident that Jennifer lived her life for Christ, and she sought to know Him more and more deeply. That is also her desire for each of us. He shared a poem written by Martha Snell Nicholson called "The Thorn".

I stood a mendicant of God before His royal throne
And begged him for one priceless gift, which I could call my own.
I took the gift from out His hand, but as I would depart
I cried, “But Lord this is a thorn and it has pierced my heart.
This is a strange, a hurtful gift, which Thou hast given me.”
He said, “My child, I give good gifts and gave My best to thee.”
I took it home and though at first the cruel thorn hurt sore,
As long years passed I learned at last to love it more and more.
I learned He never gives a thorn without this added grace,
He takes the thorn to pin aside the veil which hides His face.

Wow--what a perspective on this terrible tragedy, which Joe himself said was the hardest thing he ever has had to face. But truly for a Christian, death is not the end. There is hope, and for right now, peace and even joy. Joe said that he has already come to know God in a deeper way through this, and it was evident that he was trusting God's plan for his children as well. What faith! I am praying that Jennifer's faith will have a tremendous impact on many through her death. I was so glad we brought all our kids so that they could see how Christians deal with tremendous pain. Hopefully Joe's testimony will bear fruit in their lives as well.

But this family is in a long marathon, not a sprint. Please keep praying for them, as they work out the realities of life without Mom.

Friday, December 02, 2011

No More Time

Well, I've been busy, lately, as usual. There's really never enough time to get everything done, and I constantly feel behind and not as productive as I should be. On the other hand, though, I still feel like I have unlimited time--many more Christmases, afternoons with family, special memories, etc., and so I don't really use my time very effectively or intentionally. But none of us may have all that extra time.

Friends of ours from our church left in January for a 2 year assigment in a remote country that was a part of the former Soviet Union. Joe is in the Army, but he was serving with the US embassy there. Joe and Jennifer had 7 kids, and the whole family went along for the assignment. Their kids are all almost exactly 1 year older than the matching kid in our line-up, except for their last 2, who were the same ages as our #6 and #7. Jennifer had her 8th baby at home on Saturday, Nov. 26, with Joe and their oldest daughter helping. The baby boy was just fine, but Jennifer ended up having complications. She died on Wednesday, leaving 8 kids including a 4 day old newborn.

This has really hit close to home. I just can't stop thinking about Joe and the kids. The oldest 2 are daughters, and they are such competent and loving sisters. A lot of hard decisions have to be made right now. Please pray for this family, that God will clearly lead them and comfort them. As Christine said, Jennifer is completely enjoying Jesus right now, and she fully understands His plan. But for those who are left--what crushing sorrow.

For me, my heart is just so heavy. I am so not excited about Christmas or any celebrations. But now more than ever I realize we have no guarantee of time left with our kids, so I really need to make lots of memories, and spend time deliberately. I want to catch up on the kids' scrapbooks. Who cares about housework and schoolwork? But that doesn't work either. So I continue on prepping for the physical science lesson on Tuesday and wrapping presents for Bob's family, with tears constantly threatening.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Catching Up

I've had a bit of a chance to take a breath here this Thanksgiving break, and it has been so wonderful. I am REALLY looking forward to the Christmas break, where we'll have 3 weeks off from our co-ops. Anyhow, I realized I haven't been blogging very much, so I thought I'd go back and catch up on a few things I missed.

1. Nathan got his expander put in a week ago. Now we can once again experience the lovely sucking noise that we used to hear from Luke, as Nathan tries to clear food out from on top of it! Ah, how we've missed that noise . . . LOL. We are faithfully turning the key each night. Nathan's mouth doesn't have the obvious things wrong that Luke's did, where teeth were popping through really high up because there was no room, so we're not going to have the dramatic results. But his bite will be aligned! Now Jonathan on the other hand--he is another one with the really narrow jaw, and teeth popping out in weird places. I foresee an orthodontic visit for him sometime in this upcoming year. Whee!

2. We are getting ready for the basketball season to start. Caleb and Jonathan are going to be on the same Upward team, practicing on Thursday nights, and Bob is going to be the assistent coach. Fun! Nathan and Luke are playing in the house league where they played football this fall. Luke's team is all set, but for Nathan's group, they had more boys than they had anticipated, and they didn't have enough coaches. Sooo . . . after the commissioner kept calling and asking parents for help, Bob, who has never played or coached basketball at all, is going to coach Nathan's team. Should be interesting! And once again we are running out of nights of the week, with Civil Air Patrol, Bible study, church small group, etc. I keep telling myself, this is just a season of our lives! At least for basketball, once the games start everyone will only have practice one night a week, as opposed to 3 for football.

3. Micah has become much more confidant in his crawling. Now he crawls around the house looking for me. He's really not that much of an explorer though, unlike Faith. He is also pulling up on whatever he can, giving him many more opportunities to knock stuff off higher surfaces and generally wreak havoc. He has a terrible diaper rash right now, so he is not a happy camper. Bring on the Desitin! I'm hoping it's not as a result of the cranberry sauce I've been letting him have. He just seems to have sensitive skin like his brother Caleb. Will he also have the food allergies? We shall see!

4. We just spent a fun evening with the L's son Zachary, and his fiance Karybeth, talking about marriage. Ed and ELizabeth are doing some premarital counseling with them, so they had prepared a list of questions for us to talk about. It was fun and rewarding for Bob and me to think back over our 18 years of marriage as we answered questions like, "What did we not find out in our pre-marital counseling that would have been good to know ahead of time?" or "How would you describe your first year of marriage?" It was good to see how we've grown as a couple, and how the Lord has used hard times and conflicts to bring us closer together.

Now the break is just about done, and it's back to reality. I've been working on Latin and science, getting ready for Tuesday and Wednesday. I had some time over the break to go through some papers (we bought a new shredder!), and I am quite happy to say that the main level of the house looks cleaner than it has in a while. Yay! That is a good way to start off, although I anticipate falling behind quickly, LOL. Just 3 more weeks until Christmas break . . . I can do this . . .

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! I know I have so much to be thankful for. We only have 3 more Thanksgivings with everyone all still living at home, most likely, so I've been reflecting lately on how thankful I am for these busy years, and for how much fun we have at home with everyone here.

This picture was taken as Bob was still carving the turkey, so it looks like we had an uneventful meal of delicious food. In reality, we had a more exciting afternoon. It actually started last night when we went to a Thanksgiving dinner at our church. The meal was part of a weekly outreach that our church has to Hispanic students at a local high school, a taste of a traditional American Thanksgiving meal. Church members brought various dishes. We brought dressing, cranberry salad, and apple pie squares for 25. It was fun! Nathan reported that he could understand a lot of the Spanish.

There was a lot of food left over, and our pastor's family was going out of town, so we were all encouraged to take some of the left-overs. There was a little bit of my dressing left over, but not enough for us all to eat today, so I decided to take some of this other dressing. I didn't eat any of this dressing, but it looked pretty similar to mine, and I didn't think another thing about it, which turned out to be a colossal mistake.

I had a not-too-stressed morning cooking, since I had already made the cranberry salad (I saved enough for us out of what I made for the potluck), the mashed potatoes, and the dressing. We had brined the turkey Wednesday night, and we decided to try cooking it with the convection oven. It was WONDERFUL! We cooked it with the breast down, and it was so moist and juicy--delicious! And even though it was a 25 pound bird, it only took 3 hours to cook. I also made sweet potato casserole, rolls, and garlic green beans. It all came together, and we were ready to eat around 2:00.

As I was dishing out plates, and we were all getting ready to pray, Caleb started holding his throat and saying he didn't feel well, like he had eaten something he was allergic to. I asked him what he had eaten, and he said nothing, so I started thinking about what else could be irritating his throat. I gave him a Benedryl when it became obvious he was getting more uncomfortable, but I still couldn't figure out what had happened. After a few more minutes of complaining, I went upstairs to get his Albuterol and Flovent for his puffer. As I was getting it, I heard Nathan ask Caleb if he had eaten any dressing. It turned out he had nibbled on some. It also turned out to have chopped walnuts in it, which was what Nathan had discovered when he looked at it carefully. Argh!! Walnuts are Caleb's biggest allergen on his prick tests! His throat was feeling more swollen, so I got out the Epi-pen, but Caleb got all agitated and didn't want me to give it. I felt like his panicking was making everything worse, so I told him to just calm down, and I wouldn't inject him. Bob took him off to the ER, which is only a few miles away, where they gave him a shot of epinepherine, LOL.

So Thanksgiving dinner ended up being a bit of a let-down for us all. Jonathan and the girls really didn't eat much at all, I think because it's hard to see someone else have an allergic reaction like that. I finally did eat after Bob and Caleb left, but my plate was pretty cold, and it was hard to enjoy it, since I was feeling so incredibly guilty for not thoroughly checking the dressing. And poor Bob and Caleb--they didn't get to eat until they got back, hours later!

We did have the McCs come over for dessert, and they were still here when Bob and Caleb came back. The kids all watched "Cars 2" while the adults visited, so that was a nice quiet activity for Caleb, poor guy. I was very glad to have them over, because I think otherwise I really would have obsessed about being careless.

And obviously I have gotten complacent. Ironically, at the dinner and at most potlucks, Caleb only eats my stuff, or things he is sure are safe. But since I was the one bringing home the other dressing, and serving both dressings in the same bowl, he didn't think about being careful here in his own house! We actually have quite a few people with nut allergies in our church, so it really didn't occur to me that there would be chopped walnuts hiding in anything. I guess I figured that nuts would either be really obvious, like in the pecan pies, or that there would be a sign, like at other church potlucks where people have brought dishes with nuts. To be honest, I just really didn't think about allergens at all, which was a huge mistake. Since Caleb outgrew his milk allergy last year, I've gotten careless because nuts are in general so much easier to avoid, and have so much more publicity than milk allergies. But clearly I still need to be really conscious, so today I am really, really thankful for ER doctors.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Here Comes Captain Washington . . .

Today was a "5th week activity" for the elementary co-op we're involved in. This time the theme was "Colonial Times", which the kids have been studying the past 4 weeks. The challenge was to dress the kids up, so we spent yesterday working at this. Caleb and Jonathan were adament that they wanted ("needed" even) wigs. I still have several boxes of unused pantyhose from my years at Cedarville (back when we wore skirts to class unless the wind chill was less than 0 degrees!), so I cut the legs off 2 pairs. I'm not sure how those boxes escaped the axe and moved with us across the country, but they came in handy, LOL. After tying off the leg holes, we put the pantyhose over a balloon in a bowl for our wig stand. Then we glued some fiber-fill stuffing, like you would use to stuff a pillow, all over. I had that bag of fiberfill under the crib in Anna and Grace's room for forever as well. I'm really not at all sure why I ever bought it, and when we took down the crib a few months ago, I almost tossed it, but instead I stuck it in the closet. Again, it came in handy!

I don't really recommend fiberfill as a wig-making material, LOL. It was very . . . fluffy. And hard to stick on. Oh well--it lasted for one day! I put one longer part on the back for a ponytail part, which we tied with some blue ribbon (that I actually appropriated from a leotard thing, because I couldn't find any other ribbon). Alas, I never took a picture of the back view.

A few years ago, when the L's were cleaning out their storage room, Ed gave us his old mess dresses from his Academy years. We were able to use the jackets to complete our colonial attire. We had quite the unique look!

We also spent some time making mobcaps for Anna and Grace. I found a website for making a paper cap, so instead I used some fabric from previous 5th weeks. No sewing involved, though! I should have done something about aprons though--that was what the girls were lacking! Here they all are with Joel McC. Most of the kids dressed up, and they all looked so cute! We were the only ones to attempt wigs though, LOL.

The kids did some presentations about the different colonies at first, then they took turns going to 4 different rooms. One room was about toys, and the kids made 4 toys, like a top, clay marbles, little dolls, and a game where you try to get a pencil into a cup. Another room was all about games, and the kids played with a big wooden hoop, which you had to roll with a stick, and marbles, bowling with a hard bouncy ball, a game like horseshoes, except with rope circles, and "flying hoops". There was also a household room, where the kids decorated bags with cookie cutters and made cards and hornbooks. Last was a kitchen room, where the kids got to taste some colonial foods. They made lemonade and ground corn, and they also sampled hasty pudding (not a favorite), corn bread, ginger snaps, pumpkin pie (Anna's favorite), popcorn, and beef jerky, which happened to be made by none other than Nuclear Nate! Nathan was commissioned to make the jerky, which he worked on this weekend. Yum! So the kids had a really fun day today!

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Happy Birthday, Caleb!!

Caleb is 10 years old--ready for his very own ID card! His birthday was yesterday, but we started the celebration Friday night at Bible study. He picked a sports theme cake, with lots of little cakes. Although the cake was difficult to make, it took a ton of time because I had to make up a lot of different icing colors and pipe a bunch of little lines! All that time spent drawing soccer balls in high school came in handy finally.

Friday was a very busy day already because we took a field trip with Rivendell downtown to the National Gallery of Art. The older boys had a tour of Renaissance art. The docent who led it did a good job--my boys enjoyed it more than the one last year. They looked at a lot of religious art, and it was very interesting to see the style and the colors change over the years. The younger kids had a tour about how to look at pieces of art. This tour was led by the wife of Nathan's football coach from last year, so it was a surprise to see her again! Caleb and Jonathan had a good time.

Here are the older boys looking appropriately contemplative and wise.

We continued the celebration of Caleb last night. He chose sausage roll for his birthday dinner (I quadrupled the recipe, and we finally had a little bit left over!), along with sweet potatoes, wild rice, and stir-fried green beans (3 pounds!). Then we had some leftover cake and more ice cream. Bob was at a men's retreat with our church Friday night, so we wanted him to try some cake too! Then Caleb opened presents. He has wanted a watch and some slippers, so we got him those, along with 2 UnderArmor-knock-off long-sleeve t-shirts that he has also been wanting. He loves them and says they are "so comfortable". My parents got him the Narnia DVD "Voyage of the Dawn Treader", and Bob's folks gave him a Bionicle thing--oops, I stand corrected-- a "Hero Factory villian". Apparently there are no more Bionicles, just these Bionicle-like creatures who coincidentally are made by the (former) makers of Bionicles.

So all in all, it was a fun birthday for Caleb, who is glad to now be in double digits! We are so thankful for Caleb, and for all he adds to our family!

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Micah Update

Micah had his "6 month" well-baby appointment on Monday, just a little over a week before he turns 7 months, but who's counting. Micah is 18 pounds, 12 ounces, and right about 27 inches long, which puts him about in the 50th percentile for both. The doctor said he is "finding his own growth curve", which is true. I told her the genetics just wouldn't support him staying soooo big! To be honest, for our babies, 50th percentile is ginormous!

Micah is finally crawling, albeit tentatively, and he is also pulling up to standing. This is a big change from my lightweight girls, who were all crawling by 6 months. Micah has been channeling all his energy into teething--numbers 7 and 8 have just popped through! They are the other 2 on the bottom, so now he has a matching set of 4 on top and 4 on bottom. He has been very crabby lately, and he's been waking up at odd times during the night again, so I suspected teething. I kept feeling his gums, but they never felt swollen or anything. But today I checked again, and there was a big tooth on either side of the ones already there! Hopefully now he'll go back to sleeping well again!

It was fun at his appointment on Monday--all the doctors and techs at the peds clinic were dressed in Halloween costumes. There was the Cat in the Hat, Thing 1, a Transformer, a cowgirl, and several Sesame Street characters--Oscar the Grouch, Bert, Cookie Monster, and the Count. I took Anna along with us as my special helper, and I was glad she is past her terrible fear of anyone in costumes, especially ones with big heads! That would not have been a pleasant appointment! Our doctor was a ladybug. Micah was particularly fascinated by her bouncy anntenae!

The not-so-fun part of the appointment was waiting approximately forever at the shot clinic. I don't why they were so slow, but we waited well over an hour. Anna was a good sport, and it helped that there were cartoons on the TV, which she was enthralled by. Now that NNMC has merged with Walter Reed, I think the level of crowding is going to be the new normal, unfortunately. There were a lot of wounded warriors around as well, which is a good reminder to pray for all our soldiers and sailors, but especially the ones who have been so wounded.

After we finally got home, we went to Chuck E. Cheese for our annual Halloween dinner, which the kids look forward to all year long (they call it "Chuck E. Cheese Day"). There were 4 other families there from our Friday night Bible study, as well as a new family. The kids had such a great time, and I enjoyed visiting with the other parents! I look forward to the day when all the kids are old enough to walk around and play games all by themselves, and I'll just be able to visit the whole evening!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Some People

I went to Office Depot on Monday afternoon to make copies, and while I was there, I bought a 3 pack of HP refill printer cartridges for our printer that we now use only as a copier. Today I was copying a few things, and I changed out the black cartridge. My first clue something was wrong was when I opened the box and took out the first cartridge--and noticed that the HP plastic bag thing around it was all ripped. And upon closer examination of the cartridge, it had a Costco sticker on the side, where someone had written in pen "foiled". But, I gamely stuck it in the printer, where of course it was dry as a bone. So I took out the other 2 cartridges, which were also used ones. One of them wasn't even for my printer! So someone had bought new cartridges, put their 3 old cartridges back in the packaging, carefully glued the box back up, and returned the used ones to Office Depot, where they got a nice $85 refund.

I was so upset. I knew there was no way to prove that I hadn't done that myself, but I wanted Office Depot to know what had happened, so I called them up. I told my tale of woe to the clerk, and then to the manager. He was very nice and told me to come in so they could replace it. I leaped up and drove over right then! When I got there, the manager was talking with a man by the checkout counter. After the box was exchanged, he came over to talk to me. He said he had been talking with the HP sales rep, and he had told the guy what had happened. The HP guy said they were thinking about redesigning the box so that there was some kind of cardboard pull-thing, where it would be really obvious if it had been opened. Brilliant idea! In the meantime, you should open the packaging for printer cartridges while in the parking lot, just to make sure you are getting new ones!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Cavity Filled!

You may recall that back in September we discovered that Faith had a cavity. Well, this morning was her big day to get that taken care of. I was nervous, but she was excited to go back to the dentist, so she went back with the nice hygenist with no problems.

I productively used my waiting time to calculate grades for the physical science class, as well as keep an ear on the DVD playing on the screen in the waiting room--"Diary of a Wimpy Kid". I thought it was annoying as could be, and I was delighted when it was finally over. If that is really how schools are these days, then that would be the strongest argument ever for homeschooling. How miserable! And don't get me started on the teen brother. Gah. Not a movie we'll ever be watching here, that's for sure.

It wasn't actually too long, maybe 30 minutes, before the hygenist appeared, carrying Faith. "Can we keep her? She was AMAZING?!" is what she said, which was a huge relief to me! She again said how cooperative Faith was, sitting there with her mouth open, not moving at all. So funny, since "cooperative" is really not the first word that comes to mind when I think of Faith, LOL. When I went back to pay, the dentist herself came out to tell me that in her 10 years of practicing, she had never had a 2 year old act as well as Faith. "Best 2 year old EVER!" were her exact words. Yay, Faith! So now the cavity is gone, and hopefully no more will appear.

Since Faith did so well, she got to pick out a "special" prize, out of a different box. She came out with this big stuffed elephant, which she has carried around the rest of the day and is sleeping with tonight.

She also came out with that slightly glassy-eyed look, along with the open mouth, LOL. She was not sure what to make up that numb lip feeling! When we got home, she watched a video on the couch while everyone else was eating lunch. But when that was over, she came over and asked me to make her a burrito (we were eating leftover taco stuff), of which she ate all. I thought she'd be really tired, but she ended up not even taking a nap! I guess the laughing gas didn't affect her too much! We had ice cream after dinner to celebrate her being such a big girl, and now she's sound asleep. Whew--I am glad that is over!

Friday, October 14, 2011

There May Be Business to Discuss . . .

Nathan and Luke went to a birthday party tonight for Christopher, another boy in our Rivendell co-op. The theme was a 20's/30's Mafia one, and we had quite a good time getting costumes and props to go along!
Since we were up in PA last weekend, we checked out a thrift store near Bob's parents' house, figuring (correctly!) that things would be cheaper in PA than in northern VA. We found a suit for Nathan for $6.00! We also found a shirt, black shoes, and a red tie--all (including the suit!) for the grand price of $11.50. You can't beat a deal like that! We couldn't find another suit that remotely fit Luke, but we did get shoes and a tie for him. We then went to one thrift store near here (not a Goodwill or Salvation Army, since those seem to be more expensive), and we were able to find a suit for $10.00 for him, along with a shirt and the 2 red pocket kerchiefs (is there a special name for those?). Bob did some magic "safety pin" tailoring, and voila! A transformation!

We hit upon the idea of wrapping the present in a brown paper bag and carrying it in Bob's old hard-side briefcase. Nathan googled "money clip art", and soon we were printing off stacks of $20 bills on green cardstock! A lot of dough for the boss, LOL.

Nathan and Luke along with Isaac and Caleb--definitely a scary looking mob!

The party was great fun--lots of "bumping people off" and other games, plus pizza and cake! The gang members are heading for bed right now, but I will ask them tomorrow if they have anything else to add . . .

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Never-Ending Story

Back on July 15, 2009, my wallet was stolen at the National Zoo. That September, we were welcomed by Chase Bank as new customers--but they also mentioned that the address on the account didn't seem to match our known address, so if I hadn't opened the account, to let them know immediately. We certainly did!

Then in January, 2010, I got a letter from the Penn Credit Corporation, detailing a scam that some former employees of theirs had been involved in, using the personal information of people like me. The guys had been caught, and the Manhatten District Attorney's office was investigating the case.

Yesterday, when we got home from PA, where we celebrated Bob's mom's 85th birthday with a lovely party Sunday afternoon, I got a letter from the Manhatten District Attorney's office. They are prosecuting the guy for "criminal activity. Investigation has determined that this defendant or a co-conspirator likely opened a Chase Bank account using your name, social secutiry number, and other personal identifying information in order to conduct fraudulent bank transactions without your consent."

The letter said to contact them at my earliest convenience, so I called them this morning before my co-op science class. The lady was very nice. Apparently the account the bad guys opened in my name was the first one where the DAs could see them transfer this fraudulent money into or something. The DA people are trying to get the defense to accept witness testimony on paper, where I would just type something and sign it, but if they don't, then I might have to go testify. Ha! I'm sure it won't come to that but seriously . . . over 2 years later, and I can't put that horrible wallet-stealing episode behind me! Testifying in New York?! Gah! Who would have ever thought?!

Thursday, October 06, 2011

More Tooth Troubles

Well, so far Fall has had a rather disturbing theme of teeth issues. Right around lunchtime Caleb and Jonathan were wrestling around in the entryway, and somehow . . . Jonathan's head wacked into the door and *voila* his front tooth chipped off. He never cried, and it didn't seem like anything else got injured at all, like his lip or anything. But it was a permanent tooth, so I called the dentist and made an appointment for later in the afternoon, after Luke's orthodonic appointment at 2:00. Of course, this meant we had to postpone Latin class again until tomorrow morning, but better to get Ol' Snaggletooth fixed up, LOL.

The dentist was able to glue the tooth part back on, so $160 later, Jonathan is almost as good as new! I am totally afraid of it chipping off again, though. Jonathan--our only boy who has broken a bone, and now our only boy to chip a tooth. What a record!

As I was checking out, the receptionist told me this is why her husband thinks they should only have one kid--2 will beat up on each other! I told her we have 8, and this was the only time we've had a problem like this, so really I would chalk it up to a fluke, rather than a cautionary tale! But I do have a new anti-horseplay saying: "Stop wrestling around! I don't want anymore chipped teeth!" After all, it's all fun and games until someone loses a tooth . . .

Wednesday, October 05, 2011


Micah is almost 6 months old! He's been busy this last week or so. His 6th tooth finally poked through Sunday, so he's been fussy and nippy again, which means I am also sore and crabby again, LOL. I am looking forward to some time without teething!

He is also sitting up by himself now, and he is pushing up on all fours and rocking back and forth. Surely it won't be too much longer until he is crawling! He also can now finally roll himself from his back to his front. This means he can roll to get himself to where he wants to go, although he prefers scootching along on his tummy, or pushing up and then falling forwards.

He started solid food a couple of weeks ago, and he loves it! I've been going slowly with introducing new foods, because he just seems like he is going to have more troubles than recent kids. He gets blotchy sometimes, and he definitely has eczema spots in his elbows, knees, and neck crease. So far he eats rice cereal, sweet potato, squash, and pears. I want to be sure he isn't allergic to anything I'm giving, so I'm waiting awhile in between starting new foods.

Sometimes, after all the new food, the new skills, and the new teeth . . . a fellow just needs to take a nap. How convenient to have so many people ready and willing to snuggle!


In a huge answer to prayer, the weather held, and we were able to go on our hike yesterday morning! Hooray! It was cloudy and a bit chilly in the morning, but it didn't rain--and the day got progressively nicer. Now the bad weather seems to have moved off for awhile, and we are all so thankful to see the sun again!

I took the 3rd graders over first (Jonathan's class). There were 10 of them, and 3 other parents. I wasn't exactly sure how the timing of the hike was going to go (since Luke and I had spent a lot more time stopped, identifying trees, than we did yesterday as a group), but it was fine. We ended up going up this path, then diverging onto a second path that goes up along a ridgetop. The forest up there is different than the one down at the bottom of the trail--primarily tall oaks and hickorys, as opposed to a ton of red cedars and shrubbier-type trees down at the bottom. We walked around the trail and started down, and then turned onto a different trail that heads back and meets up with the trail we were on originally (at the point where we diverged), so we didn't have to back-track the whole way. The timing was just perfect! Luke and I probably wouldn't have paid much attention to the second trail, if we hadn't run into those wasps, so it was all good that I knew how the trails connected and could go that route.

The park has planted a stand of trees in a little meadow, next to their nature center, so we started there. American chestnuts, sweetgums, and ash are planted there, and all those leaves were in the book we made last week, so we reviewed the identifying characteristics of the leaves (simple, compound, alternate, opposite, margins, etc). We looked at all the chestnuts that were on the ground in their big spiny cases ("Why would a chestnut not be a good shade tree to plant in your yard?"), and I talked about the chestnut blight that killed over 3 billion chestnut trees in the first part of the 1900s. Sad! We talked about how you can chew the sap of the sweetgum tree (not that you should ever wound the bark of trees!) and what sorts of things are made of the strong yet elastic wood of ash trees (baseball bats, bows, etc.). Then we moved onto the trail.

I talked about the 4 layers of the forest, and what sorts of living organisms are in all the layers. We saw dogwood trees, and a blackgum tree, with its characteristic square blocky bark. It's leaves are among the first to start changing colors, so we talked about why leaves change colors, the different pigments in leaves, and why only some trees can have leaves turn red (not all trees produce the pigment anthocyanin, which helps the tree regain the nutrients in the leaves when it is stilll producing sugar in the warm sunny days of fall, but the sap can't move the sugar back down the tree during the crisp, cool nights).

As we walked up the trail, we noticed how the forest changed in appearance. We looked at the ground to see the acorns and hickory nuts, which are so important for animals in the fall and winter months. We talked about moss, lichen, mushrooms, and bracket fungi, of which there were lots of examples to be noted! Some bracket fungi even have growth rings, which I didn't know before I started reseaching exactly what I was going to say! There were a lot of downed trees, and the ones which had been chopped gave us a chance to review the inner parts of the trunk, which we talked about last week--heartwood, sapwood, cambium, and bark.

We meandered our way along, and I think all the kids were just so happy to be outside, stretching their legs in the fresh, non-rainy air! I know I was! It was wonderful to be outside. The kids really remembered a lot of what we talked about last week, about the different tree types. I was pleasantly surprised! Of the 14 leaves we talked about last week, we saw 9 of those trees. I think they enjoyed recognizing the leaves on the trees!

So the timing worked out perfectly--we got back to the church a few minutes before 11:00, when they switch to their "aide-time" class, where they eat lunch, play games, take prayer requests, and do character time. They had plenty of time to wash their hands and drink some water. Then I picked up the 4th graders, and after their bathroom break, we were good to go! We took the same route, I said the same things, and it also worked out really well! That class (Caleb's class) had 13 kids go with us, and 2 extra parents. It was really fun!

We got back to church before pick-up time, which is at 12:30. Then I took the Rivendell kids over to the other church for the afternoon. I still had memory work and science left to teach! We got home about 5:15, and we had about 20 minutes before we all had to rush off to get Nathan and Luke over to their football practices. Whew! When we got home, Bob was home, and I made a quick dinner. The I sat on the couch and didn't move, LOL. It was a good day, but a long, tiring day. I was so thankful God kept it from raining!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Tooth Troubles

Not from Micah, for a change, though! Anna and Faith had dentist appointments Monday morning. Anna had a small cavity on one of her molars where she went for her cleaning a few weeks ago, so she was getting that filled. Faith had never had a dental cleaning. To be perfectly honest, I don't usually start taking my kids until they are at least 3, if not 4. (Bad mom! And I actually have gotten better about this--Nathan and Luke were the latest to go for the first time!) But Faith has been eagerly awaiting her first visit, since Anna and Grace love the dentist and are always talking about how they can't wait to go back again. So I decided to make an appointment for her while Anna was getting her cavity filled.

Faith did really great! Anna was called back first, and when the lady came for Faith, she walked back there like a big girl, holding the lady's hand! I brought all those leaves to cut out, so I worked on those out in the waiting room while I waited. When the lady brought Faith back out, she was singing her praises about how she was so obedient and quiet (?!?). I was glad to see that Faith has this other side, LOL. But anyhow, the hygenist said the dentist needed to see me, so I went on back. It turns out Faith has a cavity between her 2 front teeth. Ack! You know, the boys have never had a cavity, none of them, and now Anna and Faith have each had one?! Hmmm. Ironically, Grace didn't have a cavity in her check-up, so she was entered into the "No Cavity Club" drawing, along with the names of al the boys--and she won! She won a ticket to a movie. Ha! I guess we'll just drop her off someday so she can use it. Kidding! Not sure what exactly we'll do with one ticket though. I guess Bob and I could go on a date and just buy one ticket, but I think the last time I actually sat in a movie theater was when "Jonah:A VeggieTales Movie" came out. I think I was chasing a toddling Caleb up and down the aisle, LOL. Meh . . . movies . . . they don't do it for me. Anyhow, I thought it was funny that Grace won.

So the dentist told me that usually they want patients under 3 to get oral sedation for fillings. That costs a TON, if you can imagine--like $300 extra, and insurance doesn't pay for it. BUT since Faith was so amazingly quiet and cooperative (?!?), they felt like they could try the laughing gas, which is only an extra $50. None of my kids have ever had laughing gas, so I have no experience with that at all. I guess she has to keep a mask on the whole time? So now my fervent prayer is that this obedient, cooperative Faith will again be the one who shows up at the dentist's office on Oct. 20! And believe me, toothbrushing and flossing supervision for the girls has taken on a much higher priority!

Teaching Update

My first week of teaching at the elementary co-op went well. I think the kids enjoyed making the leaf identification books, and I think they liked that I had brought so many leaves to show them. Most of them had never really thought about what kinds of trees were in their yards or wherever, and they enjoyed learning something new. Now we just have to pray for good weather next Tuesday so we can go on our hike. The 5th and 6th graders were going on a field trip today, and they ended up postponing it because it looked so threatening all morning long. It never did rain.

I came home with all the co-op kids, and we had Rivendell at our house, since our pastor was having a luncheon at our church, where we usually have Rivendell. This was actually a blessing from the Lord! I put an exhausted Micah down in his own bed right after we got home, and Faith went down about 3:00. Normally Faith doesn't take a nap on Rivendell days, and Micah doesn't sleep as well. They were both so tired from their stimulating morning! Fortunately Micah was very co-operative, and he was ready to nurse at 11:00, which is when the 3rd and 4th graders switch classes. So the floater came and watched the 3rd graders for a few minutes while they packed up, and stayed with the 4th graders for a few minutes after they came in. It worked so well! That was a real answer to prayer!

After I ate a quick bite back at home(after 1:00-I couldn't get out of there because a bunch of people needed to talk to me!), I taught memory work, and then science. Whew! I pretty much talked from 9:30 until 4:40. I don't know how teachers do it, day in and day out! So exhausting! I think being a full-time teacher is definitely a calling from the Lord. And those women, like my friend Marianne's mom, who retired this summer after teaching 30-some years? Wonder woman! They have all my respect!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Busy Time

These next few weeks are shaping up to be totally crazy! The main source of extra stress is that it is my turn to teach for 2 weeks at our elementary co-op, so I'm busy preparing for that on top of my physical science and Latin classes (and of course all the regular homeschooling teaching and grading for 5 people, LOL). And next Saturday is a consignment sale, and the following weekend I have a ladies retreat with my church Friday and Saturday, and then we head up to PA to celebrate Bob's mom's 85th birthday Sunday and Monday! And of course football takes up every evening, plus 2 games on the weekends. I figure if I can just make it through Oct. 11--then things will settle down a little bit.

So I'm teaching 2 lessons on trees for the elementary co-op. I really like trees, and I taught a chapter on them last year in life science, so I already had some ideas. Unfortunately I did not use my summer time wisely and plan everything out then, however, so I've been busy the past week. Tuesday we're going to touch briefly on the different parts of trees, and I'll bring in my tree cross-section slice that Ed L. graciously cut for me last summer. I've gotten quite a bit of use out of that thing! Then we're going to talk about the basics of tree identification using leaves--simple, compound, opposite, alternate, pinnate, palmate, serrated margin, complete margin, lobed, --those sorts of term. I drew 14 leaves (that is what took so much time, LOL) that illustrate those terms, got them copied on to green cardstock, and now I am cutting them all out (for 26 students!) so they can glue them in the appropriate places next to descriptions on white pieces of cardstock, so they have a little tree guide for themselves.

Then, Lord willing, we will take a little field trip the next Tuesday to a local park, where we can hike around and see those 14 leaves on actual trees. Well, only 13--I used the buckeye to illustrate palmately compound leaves, and I haven't seen a buckeye anywhere around here yet! Oh well. This is actually a big prayre request because we have been having quite a bit of rain, especially on Tuesdays of late! The boys and I were laughing ont he way to Rivendell last Tuesday (in the rain). Last year we primarily had nice, sunny days on Tuesdays. The only thing that has changed is that the C family moved to Hawaii, so clearly they took the sun with them. Come back!! LOL!

Back before the co-ops started up, the kids and I went on a hike at this park so I could find a good trail and make sure I knew what trees were on it. It was hot, the girls were whiny, as were some of the boys, and somehow I lost my notes once we got home. Story of my summer! So I knew I needed to go back to make sure of my plan!

This time I was smart, and just Luke and I went on Wednesday! We had a really nice time, and it was great to spend some time with just him. He didn't whine or complain once! We headed up the trail we went on last time, and as we got to the highest point of it, right in the middle of a nice oak/hickory forest, there were several wasps flying around the trail. After evaluating the situation, we decided to turn around and go on a different trail, LOL. No need to be a hero! Luke was understandably skittish because as it turns out, when he was at WSS this summer, as he and the rest of the campers were coming back from rapelling, he stepped onto a yellow jackets' nest, and he got stung several times. The poor kid behind him got stung even more times though. So yeah . . . no need to repeat any stinging opportunities!

We identified all the trees we needed to, but the real stars were the amazing fungi fruiting bodies that had popped up all over the forest with all the rain we've had lately! So big! So many colors! So cool! Here are a couple of examples, but I'm not going to identify them because, well . . . I'm just not that into fungi. And I don't have time to look them up, LOL.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Early Teething is a Real Pain

Micah has been a real pill lately with this teething thing. He was so crabby for most of August, which was bad enough, but then he started biting me while nursing. Ouch. I flicked the cheek, pushed his face into me, etc., both of which would stop the biting, but he wasn't really learning any lessons, as far as not biting me the next time! Then early this week he bit me so hard on my right side, and I've really been struggling to nurse these past few days (although not anywhere near the struggle my friend Beverly is having with her newborn (6th child)--while her husband is deployed!). I have been in so much pain!! Wednesday and Thursday I actually stopped nursing him on the right side most of the day. I did pump a time or 2, but mainly I just gave it a rest, hopefully to heal. I also took a ton of motrin! That all has been helping, as it is a little less painful today. I still didn't nurse him all the time on that side though. Gah.

It makes me all stressed and tense to even think about nursing because it hurts so badly (and this is coming from someone who delivered a 10 1/2 pound baby naturally, LOL). Caleb was my other big biter, and he bit me so hard he drew blood a few times. Coincidentally, he was also my other early teether. Hmmmm. Anyhow, in Caleb's case, he tested positive for all these allergies when he was 7 months old (wheat, milk, eggs, peanuts). I continued nursing him for 2 more months, with me cutting out all those things from my diet as well, but I gave up the good fight then. I think the allergies were sort of a good excuse for me, since the whole nursing experience with him had been more stressed because of all the biting. I really don't want to duplicate those feelings with Micah, but it is really hard to be excited about the thought of nursing him for 14 or 16 months, that is for sure.

I am hopeful that he will settle down and learn some nursing boundaries soon--and that maybe we'll have some sort of a break from all the teething! He is so young that a lot of the tricks I usually use for teething just don't work for him. For example, I let my babies chew on frozen bagels, or suck on frozen peaches in one of those little net things with a handle. They love those things! Micah has only started rice cereal on Tuesday, and he still has trouble holding onto things really well, and actually getting them into his mouth! Poor guy! I have noticed that he seems to be nippier in the football hold, so I'm only nursing in the cradle hold, especially on the bad side. And no one can be around me, because he's nippier when he's distracted. You can imagine how easy it is to keep everyone away and quiet! Ha!

So this week has been discouraging for me. I'm hoping next week will be better.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Red Cabbage with Bacon

For physical science lab last Tuesday, I needed some red cabbage indicator, so I had to boil a cabbage. I remembered having this yummy red cabbage dish at our friends' house, so I thought that would be a good way to use the cabbage! I called Ania to find out exactly how to make it, since it had been awhile., and she gave me the scoop--just like her Polish mom makes it!

Red Cabbage with Bacon

Chop a small red cabbage finely (if you have a smaller family than ours, you could probably just chop half a cabbage--it makes a ton!). Put in water, and boil until tender, between 5 and 10 minutes. (I brought the water to a boil after I put the cabbage in, and that worked fine.) Drain in a colander, and then immediately put back in pan. Put a few tablespoons of vinegar in, to make the pink color stay. (You can always add more vinegar later if you don't get enough in for flavor.) Add a teaspoon of chicken bouillion, and a teaspoon or 2 of sugar, as well as some salt and pepper. Chop and fry 6-7 pieces of bacon. Stir the cabbage into the grease. (Or I guess if you use a small skillet, then stir the grease and bacon pieces into the cabbage! I just fried whole pieces and crumbled them after I was done, because I don't like chopping bacon.) Then taste, and if there's not enough flavor, add a little more vinegar and sugar. So delicious!

I've never made cabbage because I've always heard how terrible cabbage smells when boiling. I didn't think this smelled very bad, though, so maybe green cabbage is worse, or this just doesn't cook that long . . . or maybe my nose is going in my old age, LOL. Anyhow, it was good and easy. We were having a roast and rice with gravy, and this was a good side for that!

Friday, September 09, 2011

5 Months Already?!

Micah turned 5 months old today--and his 5th tooth also poked through today! So now he has 3 on top and 2 on bottom. Crazy! In the picture, Micah is holding court as king of the table at WSS in his bumbo. He likes to be in on all the action!

And here is a picture of Micah with his Grandma and Grandpa! It was so great to spend time with them this weekend, and Micah enjoyed it too, even though he looks a bit scowly here!

The New Hotel

This past year White Sulphur Springs built a brand new hotel in a big meadow up the hill from the old building. Now I absolutely love the old building. It has so much character, plus so many wonderful memories for me! But I must say that as a busy mom of many, I LOVED the new hotel. It was so. very. nice. A lot of the rooms connect. We had two rooms, each with a double bed, 2 twin beds, and a (twin) fold-out love seat. Can you imagine?! Beds for 10!! There was so much SPACE! Here's a picture of the room where Micah, the girls, and Bob and I all slept. Faith got the pull-out couch, and Micah was in a pack-n-play. The furniture was beautiful and so well-made--and all donated by a company in Denver! The whole hotel's worth of furniture, plus linens! Now THERE is a business man who can really say he supports the military. Everything was SO comfortable too. The mattress was really nice!
Here's a another view of our room from by the window. You can see the counter for the sink--the toilet and tub are in a little room by themselves. In the old hotel, the bathrooms were so tiny, and I always worried that a toothbrush or something was going to fall fromt he sink into the toilet! No worries here!

Here is the room where the older boys all slept. It was a little more narrow, but still very roomy.

This is a nice lounge/gathering area in the middle of the second floor. There's another area like it on the third floor. It was nice for reading or talking or playing cards. On the walls were beautiful pictures of the WSS property taken in different seasons and matted and framed beautifully. I really enjoyed looking at all the pictures. Down the hallways there were old black and white photographs of the old hotel on the walls. I love old pictures!

And finally here is a picture of the lobby area from the railing in the second floor lounge area. It's a really nice place to have conversations with friends as well! It looks out to the big porch, which stretches across the entire back of the hotel, and then out to the hills beyond the meadow. Beautiful view!

So while the old hotel had character, the new hotel feels very . . . luxurious, I guess. I really felt pampered, and it was easy to relax there! It is rare to feel like there is room enough for our family at a hotel, but here there was plenty of room! I really hope we can do a week of family camp next summer, maybe while Nathan is on staff and Caleb and Jonathan are at Camp Caleb or something. I'm looking forward to it already!!

Catching Up--First Day of Co-ops

Okay, whew! I am back in contact with the rest of the civilized world! I didn't realize how completely cut off I would feel without email. I think maybe we are thinking about getting at least one smart phone whenever we actually replace our dinosaur phones (got when I was pregnant with Faith--and they were the free ones then!). We actually got our brand-spankin'-new router delivered Wednesday afternoon, and Nathan set it all up after football practice. Bob was TDY, though, and I just haven't had time to do any blogging until now. I want to have a separate post about our weekend at White Sulphur Springs because it was so great--the new hotel is SO nice (and I took some pictures!), and I had some free time so not only was I able to finish science preparations and get a little ahead in Latin, I was also able to read the second Harry Potter book! Anyhow--another post for all that.

We started both co-ops Tuesday morning, and I don't think there could have been a gloomier day to start! It rained continuously, as it has pretty much the entire time since Tuesday. Yesterday had to have been the worst though. I had to drive to Walmart to get stuff for next week's science lab (denatured alcohol, ammonia, a fire extinguisher--that sort of stuff, LOL), and I also had to drive to my friend Kimberly's house for our weekly Bible study. I thought the car was going to float off the road! These past few days have been much more impressive than Hurricane Irene, I have to say. Finally the sun has peeked out a bit this afternoon, which is a welcome sight. Football practice was cancelled the past few nights (well, Nathan had practice Wednesday night), but that was actually a nice break for me, since Bob was gone. The kids need to be able to get outside and run around though.

So, back to the co-op . . . Rivendell went very well. Again the skype connections were great, so it wasn't a problem at all to have one student be represented by a computer screen in science class! At one point in the afternoon Nathan came down to the basement, where I was doing memory work with the little guys, to tell me that I had neglected to tell him about some literature reading he was supposed to have done, as well as some terms he was supposed to have defined. Whoops! I later found the assignment sheet in the school room (Jenny gave it to us at a meeting AT MY HOUSE!), and then as I was going through some papers piled up on the kitchen counter this afternoon, I found an envelope from Jenny that had the reading enclosed for Nathan. So (*cough*) now you know that I am really not organized at all, and things are indeed slipping! I need a better system for mail. Someday I'll organize that . . . I just need some extra time . . .

I think we are getting back into a good school routine for the other days of the week as well. We've been getting a lot done each morning, especially with Caleb, Jonathan, Anna, and Grace, so I've been very happy with that. Anna is really coming along with her blending, but she's still not really reading. I think she will benefit with more consistent work! Caleb and Jonathan are both (finally) finishing up their math books from last year. Now they'll be able to skip the first 30 or 40 lessons (well, I have them do the tests every 10 lessons), since everything is still so fresh! This summer I started them doing this Xtra Math website each day to help with their math facts. It's like doing flashcards, but since it is on the computer, it is infinitely more exciting than doing flashcards with mom, LOL. And it takes none of my time!! So they are definitely going to continue that.

Christine also sent me these lovely assignment sheets that she had made up for all her boys. I changed the categories to exactly what we needed and printed off several weeks' worth for the boys. Caleb and Jonathan just check off what they have done, but it is helpful for Nathan and Luke to be able to map out what all they need to accomplish each day to be ready for Rivendell on Tuesday and Latin on Wednesday, as well as making sure they finish their regular math and grammar. I think it's good preparation for college to be able to do that.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Off the Radar

This is a quick post to let everyone we are still around! We had a great weekend at White Sulphur Springs, but when we got back home, our internet stopped working after about an hour. After a long conversation with Verizon, it was determined that our router had failed, so they are supposed to be sending us a new one. In the meantime, we are without internet access! I checked email briefly at Rivendell, and now Nathan and I are at the library to pick up a video we had requested. But for the next few days, you had better call if you want to get in touch with us--we're back in the 90's, communication-wise, LOL.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Almost Ready

We're almost ready for co-ops to start up again on Tuesday. We did school last week, but I ran around like a crazy woman in the afternoons to finish up last-minute errands. I was able to get my 2 posterboard maps of Europe laminated (although the teacher shop moved--without consulting me, if you can imagine--and so it took much longer than I had planned), and I got Nathan and Luke's Spanish books spiral bound at Staples. It cost $9 per book, but they cut the binding off and put the spiral thing on. The books look great, and hopefully they won't fall apart like Nathan's book did last year. I got my Home Science Tools order, so we're set for labs. Christine sent me some nifty assignment sheets she made for her boys, and I changed them to fit our subjects and printed them off for my boys. Hopefully this will help keep everyone organized!

We also set up the girls' new bunk beds. I had hoped to post a picture, but I haven't gotten around to taking one yet. We still haven't completed all the furniture switching-around that will take place once we take down Faith's crib, though, so maybe I'll wait to take pictures until after that. Faith is sleeping on the trundle bed though. The first night she was up and down so many times, Bob finally put her back in the crib. The second night she was up and down again, but not as much. The third day I stopped letting her take a nap in the afternoon! She has still been up and down some (mainly to go potty), but it has definitely been greatly reduced!

Micah has not been as fussy this week, which was such a blessing. His third tooth came in last Saturday, and he worked hard for it, based on how fussy he was the week before! Now the other top tooth is SO close to poking through. You can see white, but there is still a tiny bit of gum over it. I thought we'd get a break after this tooth comes through, but there's another tooth on top the is really close as well! He's going to have a mouthful of teeth by Christmas--just in time for a big turkey dinner with us, LOL.

But first we have one last weekend, and we're spending it at White Sulphur Springs! I hope it is really relaxing and refreshing--I'm a bit nervous about the start of a new school year! I had a disturbing dream last night, where we were going to move in 24 hours, so I was trying to sort through all our clutter. But I knew it just wasn't enough time, and I woke up very flustered! I think I still feel like I'm not ready to start, and there's more to do to be ready, and so that's why I had that dream. But as my friend Kimberly said, the co-ops are starting on Tuesday, no matter how ready I am!

Monday, August 29, 2011

4 Month Well-Baby

Micah had his 4 month well-baby appointment this afternoon. At least I squeezed it in before he turned 5 months in about 2 weeks!

He weighed 17 lb, 12 oz, and was 26 1/2 inches long. That's a smaller curve than he has been on. as far as the growth chart (80th percentile as opposed to 95th!), but still WAY huge compared to any of our other kids! Micah was smiley and charming for the doctor, obviously a healthy baby. Caleb drew the short straw to be my designated helper for this appointment. It is so nice to have an extra set of arms, even though no one leaps for joy at the prospect of a trip to Bethesda! On a random side note, as we were driving in the parking garage (we had to go all the way up to the 7th floor to find a parking space at 2:00 in the afternoon--crazy!), we drove past a minivan with a Dayton Christian bumper sticker! So cool!

Here is a bonus picture of Micah. Caleb thought he looked like a gym rat/Rambo sort of dude, so he fitted him out with a "sweatband", which is actually a headband of the girls'. I'm sure Micah will be so proud of this picture when he gets older! Be sure to check out the rolls of "muscles" in his arms!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

"Twas a Dark Yet Not Too Stormy Night"

Here we are, listening to the rain and wind from the outer bands of Hurricane Irene. Once again Capital Weather Gang called it, as far as how our little area was going to be affected (or not affected) by this storm. They're amazing! Our power went out once, briefly, but other than that burst of excitement, it hasn't even seemed very windy!

I noticed that I have neglected to update my blog all week, which might lead one to believe that we had a relaxed, restful week, but of course that was not really the case! While at home, I've been trying to get ready for school starting next week, as well as the co-ops starting Sept. 6. But we've also been rushing around too, especially in the evenings, when Nathan and Luke both have football practice from 6:00 to 8:00, but not in the same place. Exciting times!

Monday: Nathan mowed my friend Lynnea's lawn. He has been gainfully employed this summer by ,mowing their large lawn once a week! And while he was doing it this week, the girls, Micah, and I visited with Lynnea and her 3 girls (and 2 bunnies). I always enjoy visiting with Lynnea! In the afternoon I had a chiropractor appointment, first one since before we went to Ohio in June. I want to start the school year off properly aligned!

Tuesday: The kids and I went off to a local park to hike on a trail. I am teaching in the "trees" unit for the elementary co-op the end of September, and I am hoping to take my classes over to this park, which is close to the church where we meet, so they can identify some trees. The kids and I walked up an easy trail, but there wasn't a lot of tree variety--mainly oaks and hickories. I think we're going to go with it though. The girls (and Nathan) were very whiny, so I am going to have to go back by myself to really prepare what I am going to say! The weather was gorgeous though--sunny, breezy, and not very humid. A perfect day for a hike!

Wednesday: I taught Latin at 12:45, and then we all headed over to our church so we could do a dry run test for Rivendell. Now that Siri is over in Hawaii, we had to make sure that we could have 2 computers in each location, and both sets of computers skyping each other. I am happy to say it was a great success! Whew! Hopefully things will go that smoothly when we are actually having classes!

Thursday: Luke had an orthodontist appointment, and then he and I went to Walmart to get school supplies. I think we got what we need for the year, and we also went to Sams to stock up before the great storm. A big afternoon of shopping! I am still hoping to make a commissary trip next week before school really gets going.

Friday: Other than taking Caleb to his book club over at the McC's house, we didn't have to go anywhere today. We spent some time putting all our plastic yard toys under the deck and policing up the yard (which should make our neighbors happy, LOL). Then the younger kids and I went to Bible study, while Bob dropped both boys off at their practices, stayed at Nathan's, and went to a parents' meeting when it was done, while one of Luke's coaches dropped him off where Nathan's team meets. Having 2 boys playing on different football teams has been quite a time so far! I don't know how other families do it!

Saturday: This morning Bob and I looked at a set of bunk beds a family on the homeschool email loop was selling. The bunk beds have a trundle bed that rolls out from underneath, and I thought that might work for the girls' room, since that is a small room, and we weren't sure how to fit everyone in once Faith is out of the crib. The set also came with a chest of drawers (we can always use more dresser space!) and 2 desks, one with a hutch. We ended up buying the set for $475, including 3 twin mattresses. It's on the older side, and not really feminine or anything, but it is very sturdy, and it should work just fine. We mde 2 trips to get all the furniture home, and on our way back we ran into Walmart to buy 3 twin sheet sets. Walmart was a zoo, as people were buying bottled water and toilet paper, LOL. We were trying to beat the heavy rain, but since that never really materialized, I guess we could have dilly-dallied a bit more! Luke had a football scrimmage this afternoon (in the rain), but after they came home and ate dinner, the boys helped Bob set everything up. Bob got the bottom bunk set up, but when he went to put the top part on, he realized that part of one post was broken, so he will need to fix that tomorrow. So for tonight, Anna is on what will be the bottom bunk (where Grace will normally sleep), Grace is on the trundle part (where Faith will normally sleep), and Faith is still in her crib. She is VERY excited about sleeping in a big girl bed, however, so hopefully it will be an easy fix tomorrow.

So that's what we've been up to. I've been busy drawing a map of Europe on a piece of posterboard for me to use for mapwork at Rivendell this year. I've finished drawing it, and now I need to outline it all with a sharpie, and draw in the lakes and rivers. Then I'm going to draw a second one for Christine to use for history, and get them both laminated at the teacher store not too far from here. That is a goal for next week!

But now, as I listen to the wind actually pick up a bit, I think it is time to go to bed!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

I Can Finally Say . . .

. . . that Faith is potty-trained! Yay! Back down to just one in diapers!! What I can NOT say definitively, however, is that girls are easier to train that boys. And that is a very valid point--if we had stopped having kids after Anna, I would have been certain that girls were a piece of cake (if you did it right, of course--just as I did it, you know . . .). Grace was more difficult than Anna, and Faith was QUITE difficult. Now watch--Micah will be really easy, just to prove some boys are really easy to train (please, please, please, Lord!! LOL).

While we were at the beach, Faith was pretty much dry. She went in every public restroom the girls went in (our first child to not be scared at all of public potties!). Now back at our little bungalow in the evenings, she proceeded to poop in her diaper. Grrr. When we got home, she continued to be dry, but not to poop in the potty, so I left her in the diaper.

Last Saturday Bob took Jonathan, Anna, Grace, and Faith to PA, to the Idlewild amusement park. Each year the company his dad retired from has their annual company picnic at the park, and pretty much all of Bob's family tries to make it. We take up a lot of tickets, so recently Bob has been just bringing a select group of kids, which has worked really well. This particular Saturday Nathan and Luke had football weigh-ins, so it was a good time for them to stay here, and Caleb is a lot like his mother in that amusement park rides just don't do anything for him, so he chose to stay home.

I decided to put Faith in a pull-up for the day, figuring she would want to go potty like Anna and Grace, and it's a real hassle putting a dry diaper back on. I did pack a diaper and an extra set of clothes just in case! But I shouldn't have worried. She was dry the whole day, and when they got back to the hotel, she sat on the potty in the room and pooped! I find it funny that both of her big pottying breakthroughs have involved Bob taking her to PA. (She peed for the first time in the potty at WSS when Bob took Caleb to camp.) Must be something about those PA potties!

So she came home Sunday, and she was accident-free this whole last week. I kept her in a pull-up until Friday, just because she seemed to prefer that, but she was in panties yesterday and did fine. And I know it really has taken because she got out of bed last night to go poop in the potty! So over a month later, Faith is finally potty-trained. Seven down, one more to go . . .

Friday, August 19, 2011

A Blast From the Past

We skipped Bible study this evening, since we are all dealing with some kind of summer cold thing, and we didn't want to share the wealth. I was sitting in my newly created "school room", and I decided it would be a good idea to clear off 2 shelves on the bookshelves in there so I can put all the TOG books for this year on them. As I was moving books around, I discovered some folded papers in my very old black KJV Bible, the one I used for high school, since my parents gave it to me as a gift on my birthday in 1987. I found a veritable treasure trove of notes and pictures that my best friend Amy and I wrote during health class during "J-term" of our sophomore year. ["J-term" is a part of the Dayton Christian school year, in January, as it happens, where you only take 2 classes--one all morning and one all afternoon.)

Health class was, as I still remember to this day, exceedingly boring. My clearest memory is of a poster that we each had to make, illustrating a "safe dating" slogan we had made up. Mine was "Treat your date like a brother, else you'll end up a mother." Very clever, eh? Amy's was more to the point--"Wait 'til you're wed to jump in bed."

I spent a good deal of time in this class writing limericks, and I am sure you all will agree I have missed my true calling in life by not following my poetic muse. Ha! Here are some samples for your reading enjoyment these 22 years later.

There once was a girl named Claire.
She had naturally curly brown hair.
She cheerleaded, ran,
Played the clarinet in band,
But sadly was just second chair.

(I know, you are all wondering why I have been hiding my light under a bushel all these years! Here is another one.)

Once we were all in health class,
Apparently having a blast.
But looks are deceiving,
A lecture we're receiving.
But yay! This day's almost our last.

One last one, this time a rather questionable one about Amy, which I am happy to report did not end up coming true, LOL.

A girl named Amy I knew,
Dozens of orchids she grew.
The flowers were great,
But she couldn't get a date,
So she died in bed with the flu.

??? I don't think Amy ever grew orchids, and she's been married now for 16 years, so I'm sure she is thanking Jason for saving her from this dire fate!

Among other pictures (featuring frogs and butterflies, Amy!!) was a picture not very skillfully drawn of me in a casket (I was the artist, unfortunately) with the inscription, "Here lies Claire, peaceful, undisturbed. It's a sad, sad story--health class killed her". What makes it quite remarkable is that on the lid of my casket Amy wrote "8 kids, lived in Okinawa, Japan". Ha--8 kids!! I'm sure we got a big kick out of that one!! It was obviously one of the most unreasonably ridiculous things we could think of to write, back in our sophomore year of high school! And yet . . . here I am. So I just want to publicly acknowledge Amy as the prophet she obviously always has been! LOL!