Monday, August 26, 2013

A Monday Mystery

Let's all put on our Sherlock Holmes get-up, because I have a mystery to solve!  It all began back in July, when Siri asked to borrow an extra pair of khaki pants and church shoes for Eric when they traveled to France for 6 weeks.  See, in Hawaii everything is super-casual, so no one needs dressy stuff, but Siri was afraid France would be a little more uptight.  But she didn't want to buy stuff for only 6 weeks, and we practically run a store of boys clothes and shoes out of our basement, so it is no problem to find extra stuff! 

Except this time I couldn't find a size 8 1/2 pair of dress shoes.  I looked around in all the usual places, but I couldn't find them.  So I ran around to a few thrift stores where I discovered no one in Northern VA donates mens size 8 1/2 shoes.  Not 8s or 9s either.  In fact, men don't really donate many shoes at all, especially compared to the vast number of pairs of womens' shoes lining shelf after shelf! 

So I came back home, looked in a tub in the closet one more time, and lo and behold, there was the pair Eric borrowed last year, right in front of my eyes!  I have no idea why I didn't see them before!  So I grabbed them and put them in the bag with 2 pairs of pants (so Eric would have options!).  I gave the bag over to Siri at a Rivendell picnic we had on Aug. 14, when they briefly stopped through here on their way to France. 

I didn't think anything more of it until I was waiting for Nathan last Thursday evening, and I was productively deleting voicemail messages off my phone.  Then I noticed one from Siri on Aug. 15 that I had never even noticed, much less listened to.  It said that I had given them 2 left shoes, and did I have the right one somewhere?  What in the world?!?  How on earth did it escape my attention that I had given 2 left shoes?  I went back home and looked in the same tub, and sure enough--there was the right shoe, along with yet another left shoe--who knows where the other 2 right shoes are! 

So I emailed Siri to apologize profusely and to tell her that I could send the other shoe over with Isaac McC, who was traveling over to visit them in France in a few days.  Siri said not to worry about it, as Eric is quite enjoying just wearing his tennis shoes to church!

I them called Christine to tell her she didn't need to send church shoes along with Isaac, and she said she had known all along that I had sent the wrong shoe!  In fact, she gave me a brown paper sack at church the Sunday after Siri left, and it contained the pair of pants that didn't fit, as well as the 2 left shoes!!  When she said that, it did jog my memory enough to recall that she did once hand me a brown paper sack in the foyer of our church, which I then put in the van.  But that's it.  I can't remember anything else, such as which van I put it in, and I CAN'T FIND THE BAG ANYWHERE!!  Clearly something mysterious is going on in our house! 

Originally I thought this was a mystery about shoes--but now I am convinced something deeper and more sinister is going on . . . I am actually losing my mind!  LOL!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Summer Reading

One thing I have enjoyed this summer is the chance to read a few books on my own.  I thought if I didn't at least mention them here on the blog, they would disappear in the unreliable sands of my memory sooner rather than later!

1.  Boys Adrift and Girls on the Edge, both by Leonard Sax.  I technically read these around spring break and during testing, but I wanted to let people know about them.  Both are excellent, enlightening books that I am recommending everyone with kids read, just so you can understand why it seems that a good deal of boys currently are unmotivated and refusing to grow up, while many girls today are confidant on the outside, but are struggling inside with eating disorders, cyberbullying, and other issues.  He offers a lot of concrete, practical suggestions in both books.  The books did make me glad to be homeschooling, but these factors are not limited only to kids in brick and mortar schools, and regardless of whether our children actually suffer from any or all of what he addresses, we need to know what is going on in the world around us so we can be positive witnesses.

2.  The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge.  This was probably my absolute favorite book this summer because I have always been interested in neuroscience, and this book is incredibly fascinating!   It deals with neuroplasticity, the idea that the brain can "re-map" itself when one area is damaged.  Doidge sets up a bit of a straw man argument by repeatedly saying that neurologists don't believe that the brain can ever change.  I don't think that is true now, although the case studies he details are certainly more than I ever thought was possible.  I will caveat this recommendation by saying that the chapter on sexual attraction and love was uncomfortable to read, but one thing it does clearly is delineate what happens when someone gets hooked on pornography.  Definitely a cautionary tale.  It was not a horridly graphic chapter or anything--Nathan and Luke both read the book--but hard to read.  The other chapters were just so inspiring and hopeful!  I actually bought a used copy of this book so I could go back and reread it sometime, so that says a lot about how interesting I thought it was!

3.  The Violinist's Thumb by Sam Kean.  I read The Disappearing Spoon, by the same author, last summer (about the periodic table).  I really enjoyed that book, and I'm having my chemistry students read it this summer.  I think I will probably have my AP biology students read this book next summer.  It really connects DNA and genetics to a lot of different areas, with fascinating anecdotes that hopefully will help the kids remember the concepts.  The new AP bio exam is all about connections, and so is this book!  Another caveat--this book is incredibly evolutionary, although every time it assumed evolution, I thought, "Wow, that is so easily explained by a Common Designer!"  The thing that drives me batty about macroevolutionists is their assumption that evolution is the only possible explanation for similar genetic patterns and a host of other similarities.  But other than that, I really enjoyed reading this book!

4.  The Forever Fix by Ricki Lewis.  First of all, get the idea that this book was written by a talk show host right out of your head!  That's Ricki Lake.  This lady has a PhD in genetics, and is a researcher and professor as well as the author of a really commonly used genetics textbook for college.  Although the book started out a bit slow, it does pick up.  Gene therapy, or fixing genetic problems at the root genetic level, seems like a no-brainer idea--just change the genetic code to fix the defect--but in fact it has had a long, difficult road.  I didn't realize researchers have been trying gene therapy for so long, but with very limited success until just a few years ago, when a boy named Corey, who had a genetic problem leading to blindness, received gene therapy which cured him almost immediately.  Of course, his problem was an error in a small part of a gene, not many genes all working together, but it was still a huge success.   The book talked about some of the smaller successes of past gene therapy, as well as some of the failures.  Books like these do make me so sad that there are just so many tiny genetic mutations that can cause so many rare and uncurable diseases.   The chapter on fundraising to get more gene therapy research for a particular rare disease was eye-opening. 

I guess I was on a bit of a non-fiction kick this summer!  If you are looking for something interesting to read, I recommend all of these books! 

Friday, August 23, 2013

Swimming Hangups

So we've been swimming quite a bit this summer.  It is quite a chore, finding a place to hang up 11 swimsuits, plus towels.  Last summer we were struggling with this issue, and Bob came up with a wonderful solution--the Brabantia Wall Mount Pull-Out Clothesline, which we got from (where else?) Amazon. 
Here's what it looks like on the wall of our master bathroom.  We picked that room to hang it because it has a tile floor, so dripping swimsuits aren't warping hardwood or anything.  You pull the black part, and there are 5 lines that come out.  It hooks into a thing on the opposite wall.
The best part is that it isn't just for swim stuff!  We have this same trouble in the winter with snow suits, and they can hang on these same lines!  Then we just have boots drying on the plastic tablecloth on the entryway floor.  It does have the effect of making our bathroom look like a Chinese laundry or something, but it is so nice to have everything actually dry, without me having to remember to run outside and grab stuff off the deck railings if it looks like rain!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Harpers Ferry Hike

Yesterday I took the kids, plus Maddie and Amanda, to Harpers Ferry.  We've never actually been there, so I wasn't exactly sure what we should do.  We wanted to hike, and I found some shorter hikes on the website, so that seemed like a good plan.

When we got there, we went straight to the visitors center, where I talked to a nice ranger.  He showed me some hikes, including a shady path by the river, down by the old town part, but he recommended a hike through what used to be a farm.  It started right behind the visitors center, so you didn't have to take the shuttle bus down to the town or anything.  It was only 2.2 miles, and there were some cannons, an overlook to the river, and some Civil War-era trenches, so it seemed like a good bet.

Before embarking on the hike, we ate lunch at the nice picnic area at the end of the parking lot.  it was shady, with a lot of picnic tables, so it was nice!
Then we started off on our hike.  The first part was through some woods, by a stream, and it was pretty. 
The next part was well, through what used to be a farm!  It was not so much a hike as a stroll down a gravel road running through fields, though, and it was soooo hot and sunny!  We were looking for shade wherever we could find it!  We did go look at the cannons, which were replicas, the ranger said.
After the cannons, Faith and Micah really lagged behind.  I had Drew in the backpack, but I was thinking I should have put him in the front pack on someone else and put Micah in the backpack, LOL.  Maybe Micah will be an entymologist or something--he is fascinated with bugs!  When he gets tired, he stops and points out every. single. bug. he sees on the ground.  With the field next to us, there were TONS of butterflies, grasshoppers, dragonfly-type bugs, huge ants, etc. on the path, and I thought we would never get to the shade, which was where the overlook was.  But eventually even Micah and Faith made it!  It was a beautiful view!
I was a bit worried that Micah would scamper off a rock and tumble down the side of the mountain, but there were actually paths down--it wasn't quite as dangerous as it looks--and Micah was uncharacteristically cautious, LOL. 

After spending some time in the lovely shade of the overlook, we headed backwards just a bit to see the "earthenworks", which were some trenches and redoubts built by Gen. Sheridan to protect Harpers Ferry from Confederates coming down the Shenandoah.  They were built after Harpers Ferry had already switched sides 8 times during the war, so it was a case of too little too late, unfortunately.  The position was never attacked!

Then we moved on.  The next part of the trail had the rebuilt foundation of the building where John Brown hid during his crazy raid on the armory down in the town.  The building was moved to this farm in the early 1900s, and now it is back down in the town again, so these foundations really have no historic merit or anything.  But they are filled with gravel. Micah wanted to stay the whole day and throw rocks around.  When we decided it was time to move on, he pitched the loudest and longest temper tantrum you can imagine.  I was so glad the trail was not crowded with people, because it honestly sounded like we were trying to butcher a hog or something!  Nathan, Luke, and I took turns carrying/dragging him the remaining mile while he shrieked and carried on.  He probably permanently scared Maddie and Amanda from ever having kids, LOL.  He put on quite a show! 
Eventually we made it back to the farmhouse, and I set him down under a tree.  I told everyone we would just let him cry himself out here before attempting to make it back to the more populated areas of the visitors center and parking lot!  Of course, he chose that moment to decide he was making a fuss about nothing, stick his thumb in his mouth, and ask to be carried.  Toddlers . . .  At that point, I honestly think he had no idea what he had even been fussing about!  He certainly wore himself out though.  He fell asleep after about 5 minutes in the van, and he slept until we got home, an hour later!
Since I carried Micah the rest of the way, Luke volunteered to take the backpack with Drew.  This is the first time I used this backpack, and Drew really liked it.  Unfortunately, he has not really liked the Ergo, but I'm wondering if it is because he is still so small.  His legs really have to stretch far apart, and he just fusses in it.  Too bad, because it is a lot easier on my back.  Hopefully he'll like it more when he grows a bit more. 

I am hoping to make another trip over to Harpers Ferry so we can visit the actual town.  In retrospect, we probably should have gone down there and walked along the river, which would have been cooler and shadier.  Although it would have been more crowded, and I'm sure Micah would have found something else to throw a tantrum about, so maybe it's just as well we were so isolated, LOL.  Still, it was a fun day!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Special Company

 Friday we had very special company come!  Bob's sister Rose came down from PA with her girls, Maddie and Amanda, and Bob's sister Ann came with her grown daughter Christi, and Christi's kids Jasmine and Joshua!  It was so fun to have everyone visit!
 The 4 little girls had such a ball together!  They played in the play room, out on the trampoline, in the yard . . . lots of things for girls to play with!  They even had a little tea party with tea cups that Ann brought.  Having their big cousins Maddie and Amanda just made it all the more fun!  Anna, Grace, and Faith have been the recipients of lots of handed down clothes, swimsuits, snow stuff, and toys from Maddie and Amanda, so the girls think they are pretty special! 
We were so excited to get to meet Joshua for the first time!  He was born on March 1, so he and Drew are just a few months apart.  They weren't sure what to think of each other, but I know they will get along great when they get a little bit older!

Yesterday Ann and Christi had to get back to Richmond, so they left around noon.  Bob and Rose took most of the kids to the National Zoo (Nathan was gone all day to Richmond for a CAP cyberpatriot training day).  It was just Drew and me at home, which was so nice and quiet!  They had a good time at the zoo, although they did NOT get to see a giraffe (I heard about this travesty from all 3 girls).  The panda exhibit was closed, because the girl might be pregnant, but the boy panda came outside and pooped in front of them (which also made a big impression on all the girls).  I thought Micah would really like the animals, but he was a pill, even lying down and pitching a temper tantrum on a path at one point because he didn't want to ride in the stroller, walk, or be held.  Ahh, the joys of a stubborn, tired 2-year old.  The animals were probably watching him, LOL. 

So we are really enjoying our company!  Tomorrow the plan is to attempt Harper's Ferry . . .

Six Flags!

On Thursday we went to Six Flags America, which is on the other side of the Beltway from us.  I didn't actually know it was so close!  I thought it was up in Baltimore somewhere!  Anyhow, Caleb, Jonathan, Anna, and Grace each got a free ticket with the "Read to Succeed" program, and I got a free ticket as their educator, so that meant we just needed tickets for Bob, Nathan, Luke, and Faith.  That was still expensive (tickets for a day are $29 at the Pentagon, which is the cheapest we could find anywhere--AND you need a parking pass, which was $11 at the Pentagon), but still doable.  We went with the McCs, who had also done the program (and without Christine, we wouldn't have gotten our tickets, because in the beginning of March, when you had to submit everything, I was so swamped, and she did it all for me!!)  Another family who used to be in Rivendell was going to go, but they ended up not coming because they were just really busy that day, and they had season's passes, so it wasn't a big deal to come that particular day.  We missed having the C's with us too, like they were last year at Hershey Park!

It was sooooo hot and humid.  I thought I was going to melt, and I was so glad I wasn't pregnant!  (I was also so glad I'm not Muslim.  I saw countless ladies covered, many in these heavy coat-like outfits, and I saw 3 in full black burkas.  What really got me was their men, walking around in swimsuits, t-shirts, and flip-flops, while their wives roasted in a winter outfit.  Ridiculous.  Just thinking about it still gets me riled up!)

The 4 older boys went off on their own, with Craig, Joel, and Jonathan and Bob (for a time) with them.  Christine and I took the 4 girls, plus Micah and Drew, as well as Caleb, who is not a fan of  rides, or even of amusement parks in general (huh--wonder where he gets that from?!).  The girls had a good time in the kiddie area, and it is so perfect that there are 4 of them to ride together! 
Micah had absolutely no desire to ride on any rides at all, not even the merry-go-round, even after copious amounts of coaxing and cajoling.  Sometimes he did walk, and then Drew got to ride in the front, which he preferred.  Poor Drew was mainly just hot and sticky!
After melting around the kiddie part for the morning, we all met back at the vans for a picnic lunch around 1:30.  I really wasn't hungry because I was so hot, but the boys were, and most of the food was devoured.  We even had cupcakes to celebrate Caleb McC's birthday, which was that very day! 
After lunch the older boys plus Joel went off to ride more rides, while the rest of us decided to go to the waterpark.  We put on our swimsuits (and if you know me, you know how out of character that is for me, so you KNOW it was hot!), and the water in the wave pool indeed was so refreshing.  Even Drew got on his swim diaper and splashed around!  When the lifeguards whistled for break at 4:45, we noticed that clouds were rolling in and the sky was looking threatening.  Sure enough, the heavens opened, and rain poured down.  After several claps of thunder (!) eventually the lifeguards closed the pool, but we were all standing under this shade thing, where rain was blowing in and soaking us!  I had already changed Grace, Faith, Micah, and Drew, but Anna and I were still in our swim suits.  It got a little chilly--what a change from the morning!  Eventually the rain stopped, but we all looked a bit bedraggled.
After the rain, we went back into the park, to an area in the back called Whistlestop Park.  It was another place with kiddie rides, plus a little play area.  We wished we had gone here first, rather than fighting the crowds at the other kiddie area, right inside the gates, all morning!  The girls had a ball here, and Micah even loved playing on the play ground. 
The older boys were so thankful for the rain because it cleared out the park, leaving them free to ride to their hearts' content!  They got to ride all the big rides multiple times and had a tremendously fun day.  It's so nice to just be able to let them go do what they want them to do, but we hardly saw them all day!  It was fun to run into them by the Apocalypse--what a nice-looking clean-cut group of young men! 

We closed out the park, finally leaving the parking lot at 8:30.  Nathan drove us back home--in the big van, in the rain, in the dark, on the Beltway.  Advanced driver's ed!  We were so tired--I think the kids are still recovering, LOL. 

Thursday, August 01, 2013


I've been working on memory work for next year.  Usually everything just slips into place nicely, but not so this year.  I still have a ton of work left to do, and I'm just having a hard time getting everything to work out.  One reason I am having such an unenthusiastic response to something I usually really enjoy doing relates to the Bible portion.

We're memorizing Philippians 2, as well as some of Philippians 4 this year.  So I went to to print off those passages, and I realized that the "1984 NIV" version was no longer an option.

When I was little, and we were stationed in Okinawa, I did all my Bible memorizing in the KJV.  But then we moved back to the States, and the NIV Bible started becoming popular.  I had to memorize Bible verses each week for Dayton Christian, and eventually I started memorizing those in the NIV.  My NIV student Bible was what I read for my quiet times all the way through college, and when I graduated from college, Bob got me a new NIV study Bible.  So I pretty much "grew up" with the NIV.

Now I have never been an "NIV only" kind of person.  I enjoy hearing other translations, and I even read different ones on my own for a fresh perspective.  Our church uses the ESV, which is good, but it is very clunky.  I do not prefer memorizing out of it, for sure.

Anyhow, all that to say, I was very surprised to discover the 1984 NIV was no longer on biblegateway.  I knew a new version of the NIV had come out in 2011 (I remember reading about the gender-neutral language controversy), so the old version wasn't being sold in stores any more, but I just figured the powers that be would always leave the old version up online so it would be searchable.  I wrote a quick email to the website and got this reply:

Thank you for contacting us. We appreciate hearing from you.
Our publishing partner, Biblica, who generously provides the NIV text to Bible Gateway, has requested the removal of the older NIV (1984 edition) and the TNIV resources on February 28th, 2013.
During the transition to the most recent edition of the NIV (first published in 2010), the older 1984 edition and the TNIV were made available for more than two years on Bible Gateway to make it easy for people to compare the upgrades in the text as they transitioned to the current edition. Now that this transition period is over, the NIV’s worldwide publisher, Biblica, has requested that we remove the older 1984 and TNIV editions from Bible Gateway.
Bible Gateway is a distributor of Biblical content and does not have control over the sale nor free distribution of Bible texts. We have abided by legal licensing restrictions and have complied with Biblica’s request.
Older editions of the NIV will no longer be available on Bible Gateway or any website. We’ve provided further information on the transition of the NIV through:
If you wish to contact Biblica directly concerning the removal of the NIV 1984, you can reach them through:
Again, thank you so much for contacting us. We appreciate the opportunity to serve you online.

I did contact Biblica (which used to be known as the International Bible Society, back when they weren't so politically motivated), and the guy wrote me back there as well.  He said:

Thank you for taking the time to share your concerns about the status of the NIV.
We understand your dismay over the discontinuation of the 1984 copyright of the NIV. To explain why this process was done, when the new edition of the NIV was announced several years ago we said there would be a gradual two-year transition from the old to the new. As part of this plan we temporarily kept the old (1984) edition of the NIV available online, primarily so people could compare it with the newer edition. The transitional phase came to an end on February 2013. As a result, there are no plans to restore the 1984 NIV in print or online.
Typically, when a new edition is published, the old one is discontinued. That was true for previous versions of the NIV, and it’s true for other translations like the NASB, NLT, and ESV. This is typically the case because the newest edition reflects the translators’ latest and best work. 
In fact, we believe the NIV is the very best translation we can offer. We know good people will disagree on Bible translation, and that not everyone will share our enthusiasm for the updated NIV. But we stand behind the translators and their sacrificial work. We want to honor their commitment by giving people the very best edition of Scripture possible. This is the core reason behind the change from the 1984 to 2011 edition of the NIV.
He went on to say that at some point the old NIV would be housed in an online archive at Wheaton College.   That doesn't sound like something that is going to be easily accessible to the average joe!   Also, he told me I should investigate the new NIV further, since it is "95%" the same.  I had actually done some research on that fact earlier, and while the text may in fact be 95% the same, a much smaller percentage of verses are actually the same.  They changed words in most verses, so if you are trying to remember a verse where you can only think of a fragment of it, and you try searching for it online, well, you will be out of luck, because often the key words in verses were changed. 
I don't even think the guy understood my concern.  We're not talking about an old translation of War and Peace or something.  This is the version of the Bible that a grand majority of believers used for 25 years just *poof* disappearing, as if it never existed!  When I wrote back, I told the guy the only reasons I could think of to not make the old version available online were political (supporting the gender-neutral wording that caused controversy) or financial (hey, we'll force everyone to buy new Bibles!).  Obviously I don't support either of those motives. 
But more importantly, why on earth would I ever invest a minute in a translation that I know will disappear on a moment's notice, as soon as those translators as Biblica get a wild hair and decide to do another translation.  Maybe this one will only be around 10 years!  Who knows?
So I have resolved not to ever knowingly buy a new version of the NIV Bible (one published in 2011 or later).  I've searched online, and I have already bought 3 old NIV Bibles for the girls, and I just need to buy a few more student Bibles so the younger boys can each have one.  That way when they are thinking back on the passages that we have memorized and they can't remember the wording, at least they will have a Bible to refer back to.  Just look for used Bibles with the old publishing dates.  I wanted to buy them before they get really valuable! 
I told the guy at Biblica that his email made me certain that the new NIV was not the Bible for me.  I will stick with the ESV for any new Bibles I buy.  I just don't like memorizing from it.  It really doesn't flow well, no matter how accurate it might be.  Maybe we'll go back to memory work from the KJV--I don't think that version is going anywhere!