Sunday, May 29, 2011

A Few Random Pictures

Looks like being done with testing did not lead to lots of time to keep up with the blog, LOL. We've done some things that warrant their own post whenever we get around to it (Nathan's O-ride for CAP last weekend, for one), and otherwise we've been busy doing things that are routine and boring and do not warrant any kind of post at all. Like school. So here are a few random pictures, just to catch up a bit.

Bob put up for the weekend the big wooden horse that Aunt Ann and Uncle Wally gave Jonathan last year for his birthday. The only branch it works on is on the tree in the front yard, and with the trampoline-hating neighbors next door, you can imagine it can't stay up permanently! With the big van in the driveway, however, you can hardly see it from their house!

Grace and I were inside yesterday when all of a sudden she looked out the window and got so excited. "Daddy is getting out applesauce!!" she exclaimed as she raced outside! I was confused--applesauce outside? How messy! And unlike Bob! But it turns out the kids and Bob have named the horse Applesauce, like in the Apple Dumpling Gang, and I was just out of the loop entirely on that one. Anyhow, much fun has been had riding on Applesauce this weekend.

Speaking of riding, here is our own little cowgirl, Anna. She was invited to a western-themed birthday party for one of her little co-op friends, Amelia, yesterday afternoon. To say she was excited about it is putting it mildly! As soon as she received the invitation a few weeks ago, she was planning out her outfit and present! The kids all dressed up for the party, and Anna looked so cute! It is definitely a benefit, when dressing for a western party, to have had 4 older brothers, all of whom went through a big cowboy phase. Oh, and the oldest 2 of whom were actually born in Colorado. We probably have 10 pairs of cowboy boots, in stairstep sizes, as well as 2 complete vest and chaps sets, and numerous cowboy hats and bandanas. If you need cowboy dress, we're the place to go!

Here is a picture of Anna holding Micah, just because I thought it was cute. Micah is continuing to grow and grow. He's about 14 pounds, and he's getting so long too. I think he might actually outgrow the infant carseat before he's a year old, which will be a first for us! His skin has gotten a lot clearer, finally. He kept on waking up at 4:00 in the morning, so a few nights ago I started just giving him the binky then. He's taken it no problems and gone right back to sleep, as have I. Very nice! The he wakes up again around 6:30 or 7:00, a much more civilized time to begin the day, LOL. This makes for a much happier mama. You can't say he is lacking for food!

Faith has discovered this lovely, vibrating recliner, perfect for reading! She turns on the vibrating feature herself before climbing in and getting comfortable, LOL. Summer days are made for relaxing . . .

Here's one last picture of Micah. He is smiling more, but overall, he is a serious baby, always looking like he is pondering deep, complex thoughts!

We had a nice Memorial Day cookout with our Bible study Friday night, and we are relaxing for the rest of the weekend. Tomorrow I need to start getting ready for the trip to Ohio. It will be the first time I drive the big van out by myself, so prayers for a safe trip would be appreciated!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Testing's Over!

Now maybe I can relax a little bit! Of course, I always worry until I get the results back, LOL. Everyone assured me it was so easy, and that they all took their time and were very careful, but you never know . . . Jonathan especially took a rather cavalier attitude toward actually reading through the entire question (and all the answer choices) during our test practice time, so we'll see.

I tested the first-graders, of which the only one doing the testing with our homeschool group was Joel McC. Christine told me he had been nervous about the whole thing, but it worked out so well. Last year there was a snafu in signing up for the church building. The church built a new building and moved into in during last summer, and the lady who had taken our "reservation" retired, so we never made it onto the church's calendar. Another homeschool group signed up to use the church for testing during "our" week. When our lady in charge realized this, she ended up working out that we would share the facility. Our group was upstairs in some rooms. This was bad in that there was no nursery room, but the room that Joel and I were in was like where you might hold a small group meeting--2 comfortable couches, a coffee table, etc. It was like testing in your family room! I was worried about where I would sit while nursing, so it was so nice to have this couch! I even laid Micah down on it to nap beside me, and he was happy as a clam. And Joel felt totally comfortable in there too--definitely no nervousness. It was nice!

Since there was no real nursery, Christine watched my girls Monday and Wednesday at her house, and Lynnea took them to her house Tuesday. This was such a blessing! They had so much fun at these houses, and it was so much nicer than sitting at the church for 3 days in a row!

There was talk of combining the 2 groups next year, or at least having us test at the same time again, since that makes the church be used only for one week. I'm taking over as the testing head person for our group next year, and I really would rather not do either option. We really can't combine. The other group has an elaborate structure--moms sign up to make all these snacks (plus sub. ones with kids with milk, gluten, nut allergies, etc.), the 3-5 year olds don't have nusery, but rather a VBS-style program, and every mom has to volunteer for some job (well, I do like that). The big thing is that there is a $10 cost PER CHILD to cover all this. I can't afford to pay an extra $60 or so so to be able to test! The tests alone are fairly expensive! And I would just as soon pack my own kids' snacks. I know what they like, and it is a whole lot cheaper than $10 per child!! Too complicated and expensive.

I don't really want to share the facility either. I NEED to have a nursery next year! And we barely had enough rooms this year, so next year one group would probably have to use the youth building as well as the upstairs. That is just really not as convenient, and I don't want to have to deal with it! I think having the 2 groups test different weeks gives people as option, if one date doesn't work or whatever.

I guess I'll be figuring all that out next year, joy, joy! To be honest, in a few years, I think Christine and I will test together and not worry about the group. Stanford has changed the rules so now you can test your own children, although I think you have to test other kids as well (so just not ONLY your own children). But for right now--WE'RE DONE! And I'm not worrying about it until later, LOL.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

One Month Old Already?!

Micah is doing well, although we have said goodbye to his beautiful smooth baby face! He's broken out terribly on his face and chest, poor thing. I am sure this a combination of several things--for one, he is doing a bit more crying, since Grandma and Grandpa aren't here anymore, LOL. Since he sleeps on his tummy, he rubs his face in the dampness when he cries, which is irritating to his skin. But a bigger thing is that I had gotten lazy and was just washing his sheets (and clothes) in regular detergent, but I think it is too irritating. So I went back to the All-Free detergent a few days ago, when I had that brainstorm, and his face is actually looking a bit better.

He is definitely eating well. I think he is 13 pounds, based on me weighing myself, and then him and me. Wow--we just don't see those kinds of numbers at this age around here. I might actually have a baby that is 20 pounds by his first birthday! He's really not that chubby-looking--no big rolls of fat. Just solid!

He's finally started stretching out the night. I've been feeding him the last time around 9:30, and he's been going until 5:00 or 5:30. That has been SO nice. (Although watch--tonight he'll be up every 3 hours to prove the last 3 nights were a fluke, LOL.) He still fusses around to get off to sleep. That should make next week a challenge. He's going to be with me while I administer testing--fortunately, I'm testing 1st graders, and it's only Joel McC. I guess we'll just have to take breaks while he fusses around to get himself off to sleep, since he does that even when I am holding him! It will be a long 3 days, however, I am thinking. The days where I could just set him in his carseat and expect him to drift off peacefully have passed way too quickly!

Micah waited to really start smiling and cooing until after his grandma left, even though she was waiting eagerly for such a smile. He really smiles at the kids. He started smiling and cooing at Luke even before me! And although he does smile at me sometimes, he still mainly has a very serious demeanor with me. Obviously, eating for him is a very serious business! He's such a sweetie though. We are all thoroughly enjoying him!!

Oh, forgot to add--in the picture, Micah is sporting a space shuttle mission patch sticker, which we got at the NASA Goddard open house we went to today. It was quite crowded, but the kids got some neat little trinkets. We missed out on the tours because we weren't there as soon as the gates opened to pick up tickets (if that is indeed how you got tickets for the tours--the helpers were unhelpfully unclear about the actual process). But we made it there, and we made it back, with all 8 kids, so that was in and of itself a victory!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Ice Cream!

The end of another week! Today we were supposed to go to the National Cathedral with our co-op, but we ended up postponing. I was so thrilled, not because the tour wouldn't have been fun, but because I just really needed a day where we didn't have to go anywhere! We have been rushing around this week, and I am so tired, especially with Bob being gone.

We finished up our Rivendell year with an ice cream sundae bar on Tuesday. We had lots of ice cream and a bunch of toppings, as you can see from Caleb's multi-colored creation. Fresh strawberries, M&Ms, and chocolate sauce are all I need to make a yummy sundae, and we had all of those, so I was quite happy! Before we ate, the younger kids recited all their memory work--I was so proud! Nathan just has to finish his history final, and he'll be all done for the summer . . . except for the Spanish Siri assigned to keep them all from forgetting everything they ever learned this past year! Actually, that is a bit misleading, as we'll still do math, grammar, and Latin over the summer as well. But he'll be finished with the rest of Rivendell stuff!

Wednesday, Grace had her 4-year well-child appointment. The doctor and I were pleased to see that she has really chunked up since her month of sickness back in October. She is up to 31 pounds, which puts her in about the 20th percentile, instead of the 5th percentile or below, where she's been the rest of her life! I'm not sure what to attribute the weight gain to, but it's a good thing! Grace was so funny in the exam room. She stood at attention, like a little soldier, with her arms at her side, and a little smile on her face, but she would not answer any questions, even what her name was! Finally she did say she was 4. No, no socially awkward homeschoolers here, LOL. I made sure to point out all the socialization opportunities we are involved with! Grace had to get 4 shots as well, and absolutely miracuously she didn't cry at all! She was very excited about the lollipop and sticker she was going to get after it was over, and I guess the thought of those things was enough to get her over the edge. I took Luke along to help me with Micah, and I was so glad to have another pair of arms. How did I manage before I had all these older boys to help?!

We are also dealing with a poison ivy outbreak here. Bob and Jonathan did some yard work last weekend and touched some, because both of them are suffering. Bob is really sensitive to poison ivy, and he didn't have any benedryl or anything during his TDY, so the reaction just got worse. Hopefully we can get a handle on it this weekend. He was able to be home today, since he already got in all his hours, so that was nice. We all had a restful day at home!

So that was our week--plus other miscellaneous activities, such as a house appraisal on Monday (and all the cleaning that goes with that!), Latin class on Wednesday after Grace's appointment, and my Bible study with Kimberly and an orthodontic appointment for Luke on Thursday. Thursday night we had a treat--the McC's invited us over for dinner and to play! That was a fun time! We rushed home to take showers, and then I picked up Bob from the airport. Whew! I always think "next week will be easier", and yet--it never is! I just have to get through testing next week . . .

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Week-End Wrap-Up

Wow, Micah is 4 weeks old tonight! And life has gone on in other areas as well!

1. The Tuesday morning co-op finished up the year on Tuesday with a second week doing the Presidential Physical Fitness Test. Luke was a Presidential award winner, and Caleb and Jonathan were both National winners, just missing the Presidential mark by a bit in 1 or 2 categories. We did have a big personal victory for Caleb in the run, though. Eight-nine year olds can either run the 1/2 mile (in a blistering pace of about 3 1/2 minutes for the Presidential time) or the mile (in 8 1/2 minutes). Caleb just wanted to run the 1/2 mile, but I encouraged him to do the mile, because I knew Luke couldn't make the Presidential 1/2 mile time 2 years ago. He dithered back and forth, but eventually he decided to try the mile. And he came in under the 8:30 time! I knew he could do it, and I was so proud of him for trying, because he often likes to just do the easiest thing, not the thing which he is capable of but is more difficult.

Nathan and the other Rivendell boys ran as well. They actually ran with all the different age ranges, encouraging all their little brothers and sisters, and after the siblings were done, they also would go back and find the runners who were having a hard time finishing and run with them into the finish. It was so nice to see them being so encouraging!

Tuesday evening we had the big end-of-the-year picnic and graduation ceremony for the 6th graders. The weather forecast for Tuesday was very gloomy--lots of rain and thunderstorms--but the Lord held off the rain and bad weather until Tuesday night, so we had a lovely day! It was really special for my parents to be there to see Luke get recognized as a graduate. They usually don't get to be at these kind of occasions!

2. I've used the new oven a few times this week, and it's been mixed, at best. I baked chocolate chip cookies for Bob's birthday, and they turned out fine. But I made meatloaf Monday night, and that was dry and a bit brown on the bottom. I made a turkey on Thursday (that was actually what Bob requested for his birthday dinner, but I didn't get it out of the freezer early enough to make on Monday!), and that was also a lot drier than usual. So I'm going to have to play around a bit with temperatures and times, it looks like. But cooking is one thing I do a ton of, so I will have plenty of opportunities to practice, LOL. So far I have only really used the top oven, so I need to do more with the bottom oven and see if it has the same issues.

3. My parents left this morning, after being here for 5 weeks. We are really missing them already! They were such a tremendous help the whole time they were here. They gave the girls baths and put them down many times. Mom helped with the cooking, Dad helped with some outside work, and both helped with the general clean-up. Now we have to get back into a regular routine! Bob is going TDY to CA for the week on Monday, so I will be thrust into dealing with all the kids on my own! Good thing I have so many older helpers, especially ones who want to hold Micah! And we are getting a ton of delicious meals from friends in church or co-op, so I doubt I'll have to do too much cooking next week! Our friends are such a huge blessing to us!

4. Looking ahead to next week, we have our last meeting of Rivendell on Tuesday. I can't believe the year is over! We're having an ice cream sundae party to celebrate! The next week is the Stanford Achievement Tests, so we are mainly doing test practice and prep this week. We are starting the Latin class up again on Wednesday. We took a few weeks off after I had the baby, although the boys kept doing exercises. We were at a review point in the book, so that was perfect timing. And Friday we are taking a little field trip to the National Cathedral with the other Rivendell families. Should be fun!

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Happy Birthday, Grace!!

It's hard to believe that it's been 4 years since Grace was born! She was definitely our surprise baby, coming just 13 months after Anna! Her birth story was another more difficult one, like Micah's. Hmmm . . . something about my even-numbered children--they are harder to birth, LOL. But we are so happy that Grace came into our family! She is such a delicate little sprite. She loves to dress up and to play dolls with her sisters. Her new favorite activity is coloring. She is a very dedicated colorer, very particular and careful. She colors in the lines, and she even outlines--Aunt Claire's coloring genes have passed down to another generation!

After our exciting birthday celebration Friday night, Saturday was a more quiet day! Bob did some outside work, the rest of us cleaned the garage and the house, and then Bob took the kids to a showing of "Tangled" at our church in the evening. There was face-painting, popcorn, and cotton candy as well, so the kids had a great time!

But the most important thing that happened on Saturday is that Bob and my dad finished installing our new double oven!!! Our old top oven died on St. Patrick's Day--I could not make Irish soda bread! The bottom oven limped along, taking longer and longer to preheat, and sometimes turning off, but it kept working until the end, praise the Lord. I was able to bake Grace's cupcakes and reheat a casserole a friend from church brought us on Thursday, and then Bob and my dad took out the old oven in preparation for the new one being delivered Friday. There were a few technical difficulties--some drywall had to be cut to make it fit exactly right--but it is working now! Here is a picture of our new workhorse. Hopefully it will last close to 20 years, like the old one.

Today we had church, and then growth group at our house in the afternoon. I made Amy's nachos, which were a big hit, as well as some more chocolate-covered strawberries (also a big hit!), and we ate the rest of Grace's birthday cupcakes. After growth group, Grace opened her presents, and then we were able to Skype with my brother and his family! The kids really enjoyed seeing Emily and Elia, their cousins! So it was a good day, and a good weekend!