Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Ah, Bethesda, My Old Friend . . .

We've had an amazing streak of not having to drive to Bethesda for medical care.  After Micah's 6 month well-baby appointment in October, we only had to trek up there once this whole entire winter, when I thought Micah might have an ear infection.  Otherwise, no one has had any sickness that required the services of a doctor.  Yay!

But our streak has come to an end.  Not that anyone is sick, however.  Nathan is filling out his application for Civil Air Patrol encampment, and we realized he needed to know his blood type.  Well . . . I have no idea!  So I called the pediatric clinic, and it turns out he has never been blood-typed.  So the doctor put in the order, and Nathan and I drove all the way to Bethesda (excuse me, I should refer to it by its new catchy acronym--WRNMMCB.  LOL!) to have his blood drawn this afternoon.  There was no waiting at the lab--it's so nice, now that the second lab has opened up in the new America building.  The lady missed the first time, Nathan almost fainted, but the blood was taken, so all's well that ends well!  Just a 2 hour chunk of my day gone!

When the doctor left a message to tell me she put the order in, she also mentioned that Nathan hadn't been seen since June 2010, so it was time he had a physical as well.  So I scheduled that for the first available time--Friday, May 4 at 2:30.  This reminded me that the only reason he went to the doctor then was to get a physical to play football, and Luke didn't play football that year or in that league ever--so Luke must not have been seen since 2008.  Hmmm . . . looks like I need to make another appointment sometime!

Next week I will once again become very familiar with that drive to Bethesda because I'll be going not just once for Nathan on Friday, but actually 3 days in a row!  I have my initial OB appointment on Wednesday at 10:00, and then I have well-child appointments for Micah and Anna on Thursday at 11:00 and 11:30.  Ah, fun--I live for the parking garages.  Ha!

One good thing Nathan and I accomplished this afternoon while at Bethesda was changing Anna's primary care manager.  When I called to schedule the appointments for Anna and Micah several weeks ago now, the scheduler had a really hard time finding 2 close together for us.  This was because, as she told me, not all my kids had the same primary care doctor.  I found out today that the ONLY child of mine who had a different doctor was Anna.  What in the world?!  I had assumed it was Micah!  Why would she get put with another doctor?  And not just any other doctor--a doctor who wasn't even on the same team as the doctor for everyone else, which was why it was near impossible to get appointments back-to-back.  Government healthcare--I'm telling you, it's probably not going to be what you think it will be . . . (cue ominous music . . .)  But it's still cheap, especially for our big family, so we persevere through the idiocies.  And this idiocy was fairly painlessly corrected by filling out a raft of Tricare forms to change Anna's PCM. 

So we're back in the drive-to-Bethesda routine.  I will say that parking is a lot nicer this pregnancy than with Micah, now that the other parking garage is open.  But I did not miss the drive these past few months!!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Pregnancy Update

I'm 7 weeks along now.  I actually found out pretty early this time.  My cycles have been astonishingly regular since they came back in November, so I knew when it didn't start.  As always, the big clue for me was what DID start--having to pee in the middle of the night.  As soon as that starts, I know what that means, LOL.  So I had a positive pregnancy test on March 25, about 4 1/2 weeks along.

So far I've been feeling pretty good, which is normal for me.  I have noticed more heartburn though.  I haven't really felt much if any nausea, and I haven't been affected by any odors (boy?!).  I'm tired, but you know what--I'm tired when I'm not pregnant.  Tired is pretty much the state of my life right now.  I have so far taken exactly one nap.  I just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other!

What I am having a hard time fitting in is exercise.  With Micah, I got pregnant in the summer, and those months are always very active, healthy months for me, where exercise takes a big priority.  I kept exercising last school year until he was born, but I was never able to do as much as I did when I was pregnant with Faith and had gestational diabetes.  Then I was exercising after almost every meal.  Yeah--I really don't see that fitting in at all next year.  With Faith and Micah, I would take a break in the middle of the morning of school to exercise, but that has not been happening this year.  School is just taking so much longer, now that Anna and Grace are added in there.  And I had been letting Caleb and Jonathan work more independently on math and English, but that was not bearing good fruit, especialy with Jonathan, so I am back to pretty much having to sit right next to him and work with him on each math problem.  Getting up earlier than everyone hasn't worked either, mainly because I can't go to bed really early, since that is my time to work on science stuff without anyone else needing me.  So I'm still working on this time conundrum.  I did exercise today, at noon while everyone else was eating lunch.  That will work some days, but not all.  Oh well--I will do my best. 

I remembered to call Bethesda to register for my "OB orientation", which will be next Wednesday from 9:00-1:00.  I'm sure it will be full of new interesting tidbits about pregnancy and military OB units that I have never heard before--ha!  At least I have babysitting at home!  I'll blend in with all the other newly pregnant moms, except I already look 5 months pregnant, and they won't actually show until they are about 5 months pregnant, LOL.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Latin Exam Results

The boys took the National Latin I exam back on March 15 (I discussed our Latin program here), and we waited eagerly for the results.  The boys all thought it was "really easy", although Nathan and Luke each talked about at least one question they had gotten wrong after it was over. 

We received the results about a week or so ago, and I am pleased to report that all 4 boys did excellently!  They all medaled--2 golds, and 2 silvers!  I am just so thrilled with their results, and so proud of their efforts!  Praise the Lord for his blessing!

We had a little celebration at Rivendell on Tuesday.  After the younger kids arrived from their morning co-op, I presented the medals and the certificates, and then we all enjoyed Air Force Dessert!  It was a fun way to wrap up a lot of hard work!

Monday, April 09, 2012

Happy 1st Birthday, Micah!

It's hard to believe that one year ago today I was in labor, preparing to push out a 10 pound, 8.5 ounce boy!  We celebrated Micah's birthday by having spaghetti, which he loves.  Jonathan and I made some rice krispie treats as well.  Having just had Anna's birthday, and Easter yesterday where I made mint frosted brownies, I really was not in the mood for more cake!  Micah loved the rice krispie treat, as well as the strawberry sorbet he had (well, he thought the sorbet was a bit cold).

So Micah's come a long way in one year!  Unfortunately I was not on the ball, and I neglected to actually schedule a one year well-baby appointment until last Friday, so the appointment isn't until May 3.  We'll have official stats then, but for right now, he's a little over 21 pounds.  He is the only one of our babies to actually be 20 pounds at 1 year old!  He's walking confidently, leading with his belly and waving his arms all around.  I am still working on getting him to eat all table food, instead of mushed up food.  He likes bread, fruit, and dessert, LOL, but he is not a fan of veggies unless they are processed and smooth.  He doesn't want to eat soup or casseroles either.  The girls were all definitely eating only table food when they turned 1, so this is just another example of kids being different.  Don't assume you figured out the perfect method just because some of your previous kids all did one thing just the way you wanted it! His idea of fun is to be outside with the older kids, and he is always devastated when they go on out the door and leave him behind!  Next summer . . .  He adores all his older siblings, who in turn think he is the cutest baby ever!

But he won't be able to rest on his "cutest baby ever" laurels for long.  We're expecting #9 the end of November!  I guess I'll have to replace that stroller after all!

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Spring Break

I've really enjoyed this spring break.  Really, really, REALLY enjoyed it!  The older boys finished up some Rivendell stuff last week, but I did absolutely nothing with the younger kids the entire time, and it was heavenly.  It meant I actually had some time to do some organizing!

I started out last weekend by switching out winter/summer clothes for the younger 6 kids (Nathan and Luke can fend for themselves).  This takes a while as I try to figure out what was never worn and should be donated or consigned, what from Jonathan is in good enough shape to be held onto for 7 years until Micah is big enough, and for the girls, what clothes should go in whose drawer.  The last one is getting harder and harder.  There is less than 3 years between all 3 girls, and I think the day when they will all wear the same size will come pretty quickly.  Oh, for a big "closet room" like the Duggars have, where all the clothes are just arranged by size, and everyone can just come in and pick whatever fits.

Then we had our long-awaited house cleaning on Monday.  This was actually a bit of a surprise, in that we were technically scheduled for Tuesday morning.  But the lady called at 10:00 Monday morning to see if they could come Monday afternoon, around 12:30.  "Ummmm . . . we won't be as "ready" for you as we would be tomorrow," I stammered (while furiously whispering out the side of my mouth, "THEY'RE COMING TODAY!  CLEAN!!!!" to the boys).  I had not finished putting all the clothes tubs away, and I had several other little things I wanted to do before they came.  I jumped into the shower at about 11:35, and at about 11:40, there was a knock on my bathroom door, with Luke saying, "They're here . . . "  I was sure he was playing a late April Fool's joke, but no, they were there!  So I felt a little flustered and disorganized (what else is new in my life, LOL), but in the end, it was fine.  I was glad they came early!  Otherwise I would have just puttered around, never moving on to another project.  Instead, I went to bed Monday night in a sparkling clean house, which was such a huge blessing.

This enabled me to spend Tuesday working on my science lab supplies.  I have an armoire in our schoolroom that is for these supplies, and indeed ones from last year are in there.  Ones for this year were artfully arranged around the armoire in the the boxes they arrived in, all willy-nilly.  So I organized AND catalogued all the supplies (it took several hours!), and now I am so happy!  It should make ordering for next year a piece of cake, as I don't have to root through boxes to see exactly how many graduated cylinders or hydra slides I have currently.  And everything is grouped according to subject (electricity, magnetism, etc) so that really helps too.  I felt so accomplished Tuesday night!

Wednesday and Thursday we worked down in the pit of Legos known as our basement.  I would not call it "organized" yet, but there are a lot less empty boxes and trash down there, and it is clean  ("was" I should say--that lasted all of a few seconds.)  We have more work down there.  I still have an entire room of paperwork to go through, but for right now, I can just shut that door, LOL.

So Friday we rewarded ourselves by having a playdate with some friends.  That was a fun way to pass the time while we eagerly awaited my parents driving in from Ohio for the Easter weekend, as well as Micah's 1 year old birthday on Monday!  We are all enjoying having them here now!

It's going to be hard to get back in the groove of school on Monday . . . only 6 more weeks until summer break . . . although we still have some stuff to finish up over the summer . . . and biology memory work to plan for next year . . . It never ends!

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

"The Shallows"

I just finished reading a fascinating book right now (can you tell we're on spring break?!) called The Shallows:  What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr.  Someone on the Well-Trained Mind forums recommended it, and it finally came in for me at the library.  His basic question is "As we enjoy the Net's bounty, are we sacrificing our ability to read and think deeply?"

I have noticed that as I spend more time on the internet, I have become less likely to want to pick up a book and read, or in fact dive into any project that will take more than about 15 minutes (which is pretty much how much uninterrupted time I ever get during the day).  Instead, it is just so easy, if I have those 15 minutes, to browse on the internet, following links, checking blogs and facebook, browsing news stories (but just enough in-depth to be able to converse intelligently about them), etc.  And I have been feeling that it is more difficult to put my thoughts down in writing than it used to be (although pretty much everything about my life was easier when I didn't have 8 kids and wasn't teaching high school courses, so maybe that is just where I am right now, and not a direct correlation to my internet use!).  But anyway, I was interested to read what this author had to say.

He began by talking about neuroplasticity, and how for many centuries (until fairly recently) people assumed that once a brain matured, it could form no new pathways.  But in fact that is not the case, and brains are remarkably resilient.  But in the same way that someone who becomes blind develops new neural pathways strengthening his sense of hearing, the brain will also weaken and dissolve circuits that are neglected, whether those circuits were good or not.  "The vital paths in our brains become the paths of leaast resistance."  Well, that's kind of a scary thought!

Carr then discusses the history of the printed word, which was very interesting, since we are studying the medieval/renaissance time in history this year.  There were the dire statistics about how younger people especially weren't reading much of anything printed anymore, but more important is how reading things on the internet is actually changing how we interact with reading, since scrolling and clicking are multi-sensory.  This influences how much attention we actually pay to what we are reading, as well as how deeply we immerse ourselves in it.  "The linearity of the printed book is shattered, along with the calm attentiveness it encourages in the reader." 

And what is the result?  " . . . When we go online, we enter an environment that promotes cursory reading, hurried and distracted thinking, and superficial learning.  It's possible to think deeply while surfing the Net, just as it's possible to think shallowly while reading a book, but that's not the type of thinking the technology encourages and rewards."  The kind of stimuli that the internet provides are the exact ones that result in quick alterations in brain circuits!  And it "short-circuits both conscious and unconscious thought, preventing our minds from thinking deeply and creatively."  Our brains are cognitively overloaded by all the hyperlinks, notifications, etc. available.  Amazingly, research shows that you don't learn and remember as well when you are distracted!

The author discusses other areas, like Google's goal of digitizing and putting online all books, making it even easier to just find certain snippets completely out of context and without any deep contemplation of the entire work.  He also had an interesting chapter on memorization, especially for someone like me who pushes memory work so hard!  "What had long been viewed as a stimulus for personal insight and creativity came to be seen as a barrier to imagination and then simply as a waste of time . . . The Net quickly came to be seen as a replacement for rather than just a supplement to, personal memory."  He goes on to describe how memories are made and turned into long-term memories, along with some fascinating experiments.  It turns out that storing more and more long-term memories stregthens our mental powers, modifying the brain so that it becomes easier to learn new skills later.  Using the internet as an artificial source of memory has none of these benefits, especially since you need attentiveness for memory consolidation in the first place, and the internet does not allow for deep attentiveness!  So now many people find it hard to concentrate even when away from the computer . . .  The book's conclusion:  "As we come to rely on computers to mediate our understanding of the world, it is our own intelligence that flattens into artificial intelligence."

All in all, a fascinating book.  And I am doubly resolved to read more books, memorize more speeches and Scripture passages, work more crossword puzzles--all not online.  And I am definitely resolved to keep my kids from having a ubiquitous phone in their hands at all times, playing games or texting constantly!!  It's for the good of their brains . . .