Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

One thing I am always very thankful for is very good friends who are like family!  Once again we headed over to the Ls house for our Thanksgiving dinner, along with 5 other families including the L's son Zachary and his wife Karynn, and also 2 college students.  Quite a crowd!  There were a zillion children!  We had tons and tons of delicious food, and I ate way too much (I can't stop nibbling on my butter toffee crunch--it's my big weakness, LOL).  As you can see from the picture, Drew got to be a really big boy and sit at an actual table to eat!  I was a bit concerned that he wouldn't stay in the chair, or that he would fall off or something, but he did great, until he decided he didn't want anymore to eat, and he started trying to take stuff from Theodore.  Then Caleb brought him to me!
This day was quite a change from last year, when I was heavily pregnant and had gestational diabetes!  Then I ate very small servings, with very few carbs (no butter toffee crunch!), and Bob and I went on a walk after the meal with Zachary and Karynn--in our short sleeves, because it was so warm!  This year, Bob and I did not walk (Zachary and Karynn did, though, setting a good example that we ignored, LOL), and if we had, it certainly would not have been in short sleeves, because it is freezing today!  So I enjoyed the day much more, being able to eat whatever I wanted to, but now I am tired and full-feeling.  Blah.  I always regret eating too many carbs!  But hey--it's always a good Thanksgiving when I'm not pregnant, because, let's face it, those are fairly rare, LOL. 
We had such a  fun time though.  There was much discussion of music, especially bluegrass, of all genres, and Ed even pulled up some samples for us, along with a brief "history of bluegrass" to help us be more well-rounded.  The teens played an enthusiastic game of Pit, as well as Skip-Bo, before they went outside to play volleyball.  The younger kids played downstairs and watched the movie "Planes". 
Eventually Drew got really crabby, so Bob drove him and me home.  He napped for a little while I cleaned up the kitchen and prepared our turkey.  The only problem with going to the L's house is that we don't have too many left-overs, so basically I am making Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow too!  I have a little bit of sweet potato casserole left over from today, and yesterday I made lots of extra cran-apple-pear sauce so that I would have enough of that tomorrow too.  I will have to make some more sweet potato casserole, but I already have the sweet potatoes cooked and mashed.  I also will make mashed potatoes, dressing, and gravy.  For the turkey, I am dry-rubbing it with a rub I got several years ago in a cookbook called Dining on a Dime.  It's really good--putting it on a chicken make it taste like a rotisserie chicken.  I used to wet-brine, but this is kind of like dry-brining, which I had never even really heard of until I was reading a thread on the Well Trained Mind board a few days ago.  There I discovered a link to this article about wet-vs.-dry-brining, which was really interesting!  It's a lot easier to do a rub than the wet-brining, especially for the really big birds, like we need.  It's hard to fit them and all the liquid you need somewhere and keep it all cold!  Now I rub this salt/spice mixture all over the turkey, put it in my giant roasting pan, cover it in foil, and stick it in the outside fridge.  Easy peasy!
So I hope all of you had as wonderful a day as we did!  Right now I am thoroughly enjoying the quiet of just Drew and me in the house, before the hordes descend again, and it's time to give baths and get people to bed.  What a wonderful life we have.  I have been so truly blessed!  Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Commissary Shopping

Nathan, Anna, and I went to the commissary Thursday.  We haven't been since August, which is probably the longest time between trips ever for me!  I was going to go in October, but the shutdown happened, and well, there were just no afternoons where I had 4 hours free after that whole thing finished up.  I usually keep a really well-stocked pantry, but it got to the point where I realized I could no longer count on there being a can or 2 of chopped green chilies, or another bag of brown sugar or whatever in the pantry, and our 20 pound bag of jasmine rice was almost empty.  I knew I absolutely needed to go.  Usually I just take 1 helper, but this time I took Anna as a "bonus" helper in training, LOL.  She still can't come by herself though, because these carts are incredibly heavy, and there is no way she could actually push one by herself.  Jonathan still struggles around corners with these monsters!
Shopping in the commissary is different, for me at least, than shopping in other stores.  I start in the produce area, and then I proceed slowly up and down every single aisle.  Most people do this, so you sort of move with the same group of shoppers all throughout the store.  Awhile back I typed up a master shopping list for me, in the order of the aisles.  It's a 3 column list, and the night before I go, I circle everything I need, writing stuff in the margins that I need that isn't typed on the list.  Even with all this organization, it still takes about an hour and a half to actually get everything!  Now I photocopy my circled list and give the copy to my designated helper.  Then he starts in the cereal aisle, which is about halfway through the store, getting that stuff on the list, and he goes through the second half of the store up to the freezer area for me.  That helps tremendously!  What a change from when I had to bring 7 kids, with 2 riding the cart seats of the 2 carts, another one in either a frontpack or a stroller, 2 pushing the second cart and the stroller, and 2 more sort of orbiting the caravan, trying not to get run over by other people's carts.  Then the actual shopping would take more than 2 hours!  Nathan was remarking about how it was sad that the girls, Micah, and Drew would never remember or even know of those days.  Hmmm . . . well, I'm not sad about it, that's for sure!
There are some benefits to being the designated helper.  One (and maybe this is just a benefit for me!), I get to spend quality driving time with whoever it is.  I love the discussions in the car!  Also, after everything is unloaded onto the conveyer belt (which takes a good 15-20 minutes in and of itself), the helper gets to pick out a candy bar from the checkout display.  This is a *very* special treat, and it's always fun to see what the different kids choose.  Luke has to be really careful with his braces, since he seems to chew in ways that even soft things knock off brackets.  Caleb has to watch out for nuts, and he doesn't really like chocolate, so he always picks skittles or something.  I was so surprised when Anna picked gummy bears on Thursday!  Me, I always pick a snickers.  Hey, I need a reward too, LOL.
I've been shopping in commissaries my entire life!  I have actual memories of being in the cart at the Long Beach Naval Base commissary, back when I was 2 or 3ish.  I remember the freezer section, and how much I hated going through there.  My mom says that I used to sing "Jesus Loves Me" at the top of my lungs during commissary trips, but I have no memory of that, LOL.  Clearly I repressed such events!  There were lots of other commissaries along the way as well.  All commissaries sort of have the same look and feel to them, LOL.  If you've been in one, you've been in them all!
I was very disturbed to read this article yesterday about talk of a plan to shut down commissaries.  Sigh.  Pretty soon there will be absolutely no benefits to being in the military, while active duty folks are deploying more and more, there is more and more "political correctness" to tiptoe around, and the general morale is sinking.  What happens when no one wants to be in the military anymore?  For us, we'll be okay if we have to do all our shopping offbase, even though it will be quite a bit more expensive, especially for meat.  Bob has his retirement pay, and he has a good job that the Lord has graciously allowed him to keep for these past 3 years.  But for the low-ranking enlisted guys and the elderly retirees, especially those who had the misfortune of retiring in places like D.C. and shop in the Ft. Myer commissary?  They will really suffer.  And at some bases, people don't just live 3 minutes away from a convenient grocery store.  Even at places like the Air Force Academy, it takes a little while to actually get offbase and over to shopping.  The commissary there is really important, especially in bad weather, since it is right by the housing areas.  I feel like the powers-that-be like to make a big show of "supporting the troops!" but in reality--there's not so much support there.  Otherwise I think they'd be looking at other less hurtful ways to trim costs, because there certainly are plenty of areas where the military wastes money, not to mention Congress.  Seems like this administration is constantly looking for ways to make it hurt, like shutting down the free open-air monuments like the World War II one during the government shutdown, instead of ways to cut back that are just wasteful.  Sigh.  So sad, really.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Eyes, Fish, and Muffins

It always takes us a day to recover from Tuesdays, and today was no exception.  In the mornings, we do about an hour of "couch stuff"--we read Leading Little Ones to God, as well as some character book.  We've finished the Bob Shultz ones I so highly recommend, and we're back to Wisdom and the Millers, which is especially great for the younger ones.  We pray for a country in Operation World, we read a chapter in Story of the World (which is history--we're in book 4 right now), and we practice all our memory work.  Today I had to get up in the middle of it all to do something (change a diaper maybe?), and Jonathan and Faith were wrestling around on the couch for absolutely no good reason.  Faith managed to poke Jonathan in the eye, and he has been a weepy, miserable mess ever since. 

I really feel for him--when Caleb was about Drew's age, and we were still stationed back in Ohio, he was sitting in my lap on the floor when all of a sudden he jammed the end of a wooden tomahawk up into my eye!  I was totally not expecting it, and oh, man, did that hurt!  I had a book club meeting at our house that night, and I remember sitting there, with tears streaming down my face, trying to explain to everyone that actually it wasn't that the book was that moving, it was that I had gotten stabbed in the eye by a tomahawk!  It was literally at least a year later before I could reliably drive at night, with headlights coming at me, without my eyes watering away.  So I sympathize!!

But there's really not too much one can really do for a corneal abrasion, so I don't know that it will accomplish anything to take him in tomorrow.  They could give him some numbing drops, I guess.  We'll see how he is doing in the morning.  He went to bed early, although I did go in and get him up early to give him some bad news, which is that another one of his fish that he got back in June is not long for this life.  Poor "Skinny Pete" is swimming erratically, up and down all over the place, and occasionally floating belly-up until he can struggle to right himself.  It's not looking well.  I didn't want him to be shocked tomorrow morning to find him gone.  This is really tough because one of his bottom-dwellers died last Friday.  Then all of a sudden, the other bottom-dweller died on Saturday.  We read up on this particular breed of fish ("loaches"), and we were surprised to find out that they are very social fish, and if one dies, it really affects the others, such that the experts recommend getting 5 or more of these fish.  Well!  Learn something new everyday!  The 2 fish did seem to be big buddies, and they were cute together, but I had no idea they got so attached!  So we chalked that death up to a broken heart, but now that Skinny Pete is also doing poorly, and only a few days since the passing of the other 2--well, that doesn't look so good.  Jonathan's pretty upset about the whole thing, and actually, so am I now!  We've all gotten pretty attached to these little guys, and it is really hard to see Skinny Pete struggling in the tank, knowing there's nothing we can do to help.  His passing will leave 3 little fish, and one big one, "David".  If David dies, Jonathan will be really upset.  He is named after their swim coach, and he's just been such a nice, solid presence in the tank, swimming calmly around.  If only we knew what was wrong!

Well, before the day went so wrong, I did do something right--I made chocolate banana muffins!  If you remember, the flavor of the day last Thursday at Georgetown Cupcake was chocolate banana hazelnut.  The cupcakes were good, but still--they're cupcakes!  I had 3 bananas sitting on the counter, and I knew I could produce something good for a lot less than $2.95 a piece!  So I searched around and found a good muffin recipe here.  I'll just warn you though--the list of ingredients is not in the order of use in the actual recipe, which bugs me, so I'm going to copy the recipe here, in the right order.  But I don't have one of those nice "print" buttons, where you can just get the recipe and not all the writing!  Also, the recipe says it makes 12-16 muffins.  I made 18, but I think I could have easily stretched it out to 24.   These are not quite as sweet as an actual cupcake (and there's no frosting), but still, I don't think I'd just start the day off with just these!  Definitely more a dessert, LOL.  We had them as a mid-morning snack, although before the eye incident.  Yummy!!  Definitely a great way to use up brown bananas!

Double Chocolate Banana Muffins

  • 1 ½ cups All Purpose Flour
  • ½ cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder (I use Droste – It’s divine.)[Okay, that wasn't my note.  I use Hershey's--it's perfectly adequate]
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 c packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 c white sugar
  • 1/2 c canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 c milk
  • 1 egg, well-beaten
  • 1 ¼ cups mashed, ripened bananas (~3 large bananas)
  • ½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips [I used more than that, and Luke still said there should have been more, LOL]

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350° F.
  2. Butter and dust 12-16 muffin tins with cocoa powder or use liners. I made 12 muffins and one tiny loaf for the freezer.
  3. Sift the first five ingredients together in a medium bowl and set aside. I measure my flour by spooning flour into my baking cup directly from the bag until it is slightly mounded. Level with a sharp knife. Do not tap cup or in any way compact your flour.
  4. Mix sugars, egg and oil well with a wooden spoon.
  5. Add milk and vanilla and mix until completely incorporated.
  6. Add dry ingredients and gently mix with wooden spoon until mostly incorporated but some lumps remain.
  7. Add bananas and chips and lightly mix only until banana is distributed throughout batter. You should still have lumps.
  8. Scoop batter into tins until ¾ full.
  9. Bake at 350° F for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with only some crumbs attached. Make sure that you didn’t just hit a chocolate chip because melted chocolate can make your muffins appear underdone. We don’t want that!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Day of . . . Excuses?

If you had asked me yesterday about my plans for today, it would have sounded like I was trying to get out of a bad date.  I:

  • Did 3 loads of laundry.  Well, that actually isn't anything surprising.  The amount of laundry that 11 people produce on a daily basis in mind-boggling, so pretty much anytime you would ask me what my plans are, I could answer "laundry".  It is the great constant in my life!  Today I had the dubious honor of washing all of Luke's football stuff, so he can return it on Wednesday.  Potent stuff there!
  • Matched up the socks in the "lone sock basket".  I used to put single socks in different rooms, but then they never got matched up, so finally I got a wicker basket in the hallway, and all lone socks get tossed in there after washing.  Eventually it piles up (and boys start saying things like, "I did laundry, but I can't find ANY pairs of socks"), and so I must schedule time to match up all the lonely socks into relationships.  It's . . . beautiful.  Also time-consuming.  I look forward to the day when all the boys are wearing the same size socks. 
  • Defrosted the garage freezer.  I am hoping to go to the commissary sometime this week, and I knew I needed to have this unpleasant chore done before then, so there is actually room in the freezer to store all the meat I will buy.  The girls left the door cracked open for a few hours one night not too long ago, and we had a tremendous frost build-up from that, as well as undoubtedly shortening the life of our poor freezer even more, LOL.  It has been a workhorse for us!  My grandparents gave it to us when they moved out of their house and into a retirement village the summer Nathan was born, so it is over 16 years old.  May it last many more years!!
  • Cleaned and vacuumed the upstairs hallway.  Mysteriously, a pile of clothes and other detritus has built up down at the end of the hallway opposite my and Bob's bedroom.  The end, coincidentally, of both the boys rooms.  It has not made my list of priorities until today, and I happily threw away stuff with abandon!  Now--to get the boys to clean their actual rooms . . .
This doesn't actually seem like all that much, yet somehow it took the entire day, what with the nursing breaks, the diaper changes, and all the people constantly clamoring for food around here.  But I think the reason I was able to get so much accomplished was because Nathan and Luke weren't around!  The past few months have involved a ton of driving around for them on Saturdays, so pretty much nothing extra got done.  But this weekend they are at a bivouac with Civil Air Patrol.  I dropped them off yesterday, and I'll pick them up tomorrow!  It was so weird to realize we didn't have to pick them up or take them anywhere today! We missed having them around though.  There were a couple of times where I thought, "Ha, I have to tell the boys that" only to remember they weren't around!  And then it was sad to realize that is how it will be in just a few years . . . good thing we will have all these younger kids around to keep us laughing and to share things with! 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Special Visitors!

Well, we have still not made it to the post office to apply for our passports.  Bob had been planning on taking today off, but he ended up needing to go to work today.  It's just as well it will have to wait a few more days, since we still need Drew and Bob's birth certificates, and since it would undoubtedly have taken much longer than I was expecting (that relentless optimism again, LOL).  And we had other plans today! Bob's sister Ann drove up this morning from Richmond, bringing with her Jasmine, her almost 3 year old granddaughter!

 Ann, I, and the 4 girls headed into D.C. to visit Georgetown Cupcakes, armed with the secret to get a free cupcake today:  "chocolate banana hazelnut".  That was the secret flavor of the day for today, and if you were one of the first 100 people to say those words, then you got one of those cupcakes free!  We got there later than I had expected, due to traffic and difficulties finding parking (thank GOD I was only driving the Sienna--we would have given up, had I been in the big van!).  But they still had chocolate banana hazelnut cupcakes left, so we each got a free one!  I also bought a caramel apple one and a chocolate one to take back for the boys at home to share.  Grace and I loved the cupcakes, but Anna and Faith were not as impressed, so we brought most of their cupcakes home as well for the boys to taste. 

I for one also really enjoyed walking up and down the little Georgetown sidestreets, looking at the neat old houses.  So much character!  I would love to see inside some of them!

After getting the van safely extricated from the tight parking spot, we headed over to Ft. Myer for an unplanned stop at the bustling tourist attraction that is their gas station.  We also looked at Arlington Cemetery, which you can see from the post, so it was a good opportunity.  For me it felt really weird to be at Ft. Myer but not going to the commissary!
 We drove home (lots more traffic), ate a late lunch, and then the girls and Micah did some crafts that Aunt Ann had brought.  I had thought Micah would really want to go with us this morning, and I didn't really want him to, since without him, Jasmine could just use his carseat.  But right before we were ready to leave, he and Jasmine got into a squabble about a Duplo figure.  I asked him if he wanted to go bye-bye with us, or stay and play with the Duplos, and he clutched the Duplo to himself, frowning ferociously, LOL.  But once we returned, he was happy to see us.  He and Jasmine continued to have a few issues, since as soon as either one started playing with any one thing, that immediately became the one thing the other person *had* to have, but they sorted things out!
 After 4:00 we headed over to Udvar-Hazy, since parking is free after 4:00.  We really wanted to go up to the observation tower to see the planes take off and land, but I didn't realize the tower closed at 4:30 (since the museum itself doesn't close until 5:30), and by the time we got ourselves inside and figured out where we needed to go, the tower had just closed.  Oh well--next time.  We had a fun time looking at the space shuttle and the airplanes.  Micah had so much fun he did not want to leave, and he threw a raging temper tantrum when he was forced to leave, which continued unabated when he was strapped into his carseat.  At that point, Faith joined the cacophony of crying, since she was not able to sit in the same row as Jasmine.  Oh, the humanity!!  So we had a very loud car ride home, until Micah eventually settled down and Faith fell asleep. 
After dinner, the kids zoned out in front of a movie with popcorn in these adorable little plastic popcorn holders that Ann and Wally got us for Christmas.  There are 12--enough for all of us!  Everyone was very tired, so I am sure we will all sleep well tonight!  Ann and Jasmine are headed back home tomorrow.  We had such a great time with them here! 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

This Year's Big Family Christmas Present . .

 . . . Passports!
We look like some defiant mafia members, eh?  We all trooped to Costco on Monday to get these lovely gems taken.  These are definitely some "neutral" faces!
We are planning on all going over to the post office tomorrow morning to apply, so I spent a good deal of time today gathering documents, filling out and printing online forms, and making copies of our driver's licenses.  When gathering documents, I realized that I never got around to ordering a birth certificate for Drew.  Oops!  I did that today too.  Also, it appears Bob's birth certificate and old (expired) passport have run off together, as neither one is anywhere to be found. So we need to order a new copy of his birth certificate, and I guess we can go in again for Drew and him. 
We've talked about getting passports for awhile now, but we just couldn't stomach the idea of spending over $1,000 at one shot.  But we're still hoping and praying we'll be able to take a space-a military hop over to Hawaii in February or so, and it is really prudent to have a passport when hopping OCONUS, since you never know when a flight might be diverted, or whatever.  So, what better time that now to get passports?!   Merry Christmas to us!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Chemistry Lab

This week's chemistry lab involved a series of reactions, and creating balanced equations from those reactions.  My preparation started last week, when I started looking around for the "copper wool" that was needed for the lab.  I didn't think it would be hard to find--just like steel wool, right?  It turns out that it was NOT that easy to find, however.  After running around to several stores like Home Depot and WalMart, where I expected to find this elusive product yet had no luck, I went home and googled.  It turns out that, should you ever need copper scrubbers, you can buy them at Walgreens.  Not other drugstores, like CVS.  Don't be ridiculous!  Only Walgreens.  So that problem was solved.

The next issue was a broken crucible lid.  Last week we had lab on Monday, since I was helping at the other co-op on Tuesday morning.  As soon as lab was over, I had to leave to take Anna and Grace to gymnastics, so I just left everything on the counter to cool.  When I got back, it was apparent that someone had climbed the step-stool and clapped the crucible lid on the granite counter a few times, shattering it.  (We all suspected Nathan or Luke immediately--ha ha!)  I ordered another crucible set right away (2 actually, LOL), but I forgot that yesterday was a holiday.  When I checked the tracking over the weekend, I found out the new crucibles were not scheduled to be delivered until this (Tuesday) afternoon.  Oh no!   Panic ensued, as I scrambled around to find another lab.  Then I more carefully looked at the lab--and discovered that although we needed to heat the copper wool in the crucible, we didn't need to cover it.  So, that problem solved too.  Whew!

Last night I stayed up WAY too late making sure I could accurately make a 6M solution of sulfuric acid, and a 6M solution of sodium hydroxide.  I had done the calculations, but they weren't agreeing with what the guy on the DIVE cd was saying, and besides, I did not need to make a liter of the stuff--I only needed around 25 mls of NaOH, and only 5 mls of the H2SO4.  So I was stressing out about being accurate with making such small amounts.  Finally, at around 1:00, I decided this really was a qualitative lab, as opposed to a quantitative lab, and I could probably just wing it without worrying so much about solution accuracy.

But I still didn't sleep that well, because I was really quite worried about actually MAKING the solutions.  What happens on Tuesday mornings is I take only Caleb, Jonathan, and the 3 girls to TNT, then pick up the McC boys and head back home, where we immediately start chemistry class (well, as soon as I change the poopy diapers and clean up other random messes that have ensued since I left the house not that long ago).  This doesn't leave any time to make solutions up, and I certainly was not about to make the solutions up in the morning before Micah and Drew got up, and then leave these strong acids and bases on the counters where Micah might cause any number of problems with them while I was gone!  But making them up as soon as I got back home was not a great option either. Who makes up strong solutions with a crawling infant and a toddler hanging onto one's legs?!  This sort of situation just doesn't seem like it would happen in any other lab, LOL.  I gave the Rivendell boys a quiz over polyatomic ions while I worked, and I put Drew down for a nap before I started, so that at least got one little out of the way.  Fortunately Micah chose to play very nicely by himself in the playroom right then, so that was nice, although he did come back in the kitchen later to watch the proceedings.  I guess I should get him his own set of little goggles, LOL.  Still, it is a somewhat stressful situation for me.  Again, just not something most chemists have to deal with!

But the lab was a lot of fun, and we didn't have any spills or accidents!  All that worry for 1 1/2 hours of chemistry!  They are such a fun group of boys.  Today was "Tie Day", just because, LOL.  Such trend-setters!  Definitely on the cutting-edge of lab fashion, for sure! 

Sunday, November 10, 2013


Drew had a big day on Friday--he took his first steps!  He has been standing well for quite some time, but his feet have remained firmly planted on the ground.  If he had to go even the slightest distance, he would immediately drop down to his hands and knees and start crawling.  But at Bible study on Friday, during snack time, he had a cookie in his hand, and he took a step toward me!  I was so surprised, and I think he was a little surprised too, LOL.  He immediately fell down to his hands and knees.  But then he got back up and tried again.  After we got home and I nursed him, he took 6 or 7 steps in a row!  Unfortunately, Nathan and Bob missed these first steps, because they were off at a mens retreat for our church.  Drew walked a few steps for them today, but not quite as many in a row as Friday night.  I think Grace is the only one who hasn't seen any steps. 

I am also pleased to announce that Drew has finally figured out the magic of a straw!  The kids all use "straw bowls" from WalMart for cereal in the mornings (they really cut down on wasted milk!), and now Drew can use one too!  He's still working on spoon and fork use, but it is so worth any mess he might make for me not to have to feed him.  I'm still watching to see what hand he is favoring, but so far it doesn't seem like it is the left.  I guess it will still just be Jonathan and me as the lone lefties!

With all these accomplishments has come some poor sleeping, all of a sudden, though.  Drew had a terrible night Friday night!  He woke up at 12:30, and I nursed him.  He fell asleep as he was finishing up, so I thought he was good to go, but instead, as soon as I laid him down in his pack-n-play, he immediately sat up and started crying.  I thought he would settle down and stop crying pretty quickly . .  but alas, no.  After another half an hour of him just sort of fussing around, I went in and held him for awhile.  He was laughing and kicking around, like it was the middle of the day!  I, however, was tired, so eventually I put him down and resolved to just leave him there.  He fussed around off and on for a good 30 or 40 more minutes while I dozed.  Eventually we both did fall asleep--only for him to wake up crying again at 4:15!  What on earth!  So I nursed him again, and then we both fell asleep.  I woke up at 5:30 with my arms asleep, realizing I was still sitting up, with my neck in an awkward position, LOL.  I put him down again, and this time he did stay down and sleep for while.  I was so tired yesterday, though!

And again last night, he was up at 12:30 to nurse!  I was worried, but this time, he did go back down and stay asleep.  Still, hopefully just a growth spurt that will pass quickly.  I am NOT a fan of these midnight feedings he has reinstituted!

Thursday, November 07, 2013


So yesterday I finally got pictures taken of the kids.  The last time I had a group picture of them all was when Faith was right before she turned 2--before Micah was born, for sure.  Then sometime around Micah's first birthday, I got pictures of the 3 girls and him.  I wanted to get these pictures taken this summer, but (and this is totally silly . . .) I could not figure out what all of them could wear.  We just do not have many coordinating clothes for 9.  Not even similar color schemes!  Eventually I thought of flag shirts, because my friend Lynnea has some cute pictures of her girls in matching flag shirts.  But then I was stymied by the fact that Anna outgrew her shirt and passed it on down to Grace, and well . . . pictures never happened. 

A week ago Tuesday, however, something happened.  Neissy's daughter, who is Anna's age, wore a RED FLAG SHIRT to co-op!  After Rivendell was over last week, it dawned on me that I could ask Neissy to borrow it!  Ha!  So I looked up Portrait Innovations, where we've gone for pictures the last several times, and tried to make an appointment . . .  except, come to find out, it had closed.  Really?!  That was not supposed to be the sticking point!  Coordinating outfits were the problem! 

So I stewed on that a few days, and then I went back on their website and found a different location.  It's a little farther, and more of a hassle to get to, but we went ahead with a Wednesday afternoon appointment.  Nathan and Luke have their online history class Wednesday morning, and then they are not really all that productive the rest of Wednesday, so I figured it was a good day to waste!  No one was very thrilled with the idea of getting pictures, especially Luke, but I told them they were doing it for me, since I was the one who would be all alone eventually (*cough* only 17 more years), with only pictures left . . . (cue sad music). 

Our photographer was really nice, and most people were relatively cooperative.  Micah did not have a full-out tantrum, my big fear, even though he wasn't all that into big smiles.  Drew was absolutely not smiling.  Everything the poor girl did was met with a studious, concerned look.  He did eventually smile at this big red ball--but only if he was holding it up to his face, LOL.  So the pictures of the 2 of them aren't the best, but they both have at least neutral expressions! 

I also found out that the location we used to go to only closed a few weeks ago!!  If only I had been more on the ball!  Oh well.

I am really hoping to get family pictures (including Bob and me) outside, like I see my friends getting on Facebook, next summer, along with some senior pictures of Nathan.  The last formal picture of us as a family was over 10 years ago when Jonathan was a 3 month-old baby!  It's probably time, LOL.  So I have 9 months to start thinking of coordinating outfits.  Knowing me, it will take that long, at least!

Finally, A Real Celebration!

After school in the morning, Caleb baked his own cake.  I'm not actually a cruel slavedriver--Caleb is my child most interested in cooking/baking, and he really wanted to make it himself!  While it cooled, we rushed off to get pictures of the kids taken.  That ended up taking longer than I expected (because I am a starry-eyed optimist, LOL), so when we got home, Caleb and I quickly mixed up a batch of Mrs. Harner's yummy frosting.  We had talked in the van on the way home that he wanted to make a fall-themed cake.  While we were waiting at the picture place for our pictures to be printed, we walked around outside.  It was an absolutely gorgeous fall day, with a blue "Colorado" sky and trees with fall-colored leaves, so that was his inspiration for his cake. 

It is so wonderful that he wanted to decorate his own cake, because that freed me up to make dinner!  Caleb requested "chicken packets", and they are a bit of a pain to make because you have to make these filled packets out of crescent rolls, dip them in butter, then cover them in breadcrumbs.  It's not too bad if you are just making 8, which is what the recipe calls for, but I made 24, so it definitely took a while.  That is why it had to be a birthday dinner request, as opposed to something just on the regular dinner rotation, LOL.

As soon as we ate, we cleaned up quickly, downed some cake and ice cream, and opened presents.  We were in a hurry because Nathan and Luke were headed over to the McC's to watch "To Kill a Mockingbird" with their literature teacher.  There's always something else going on!

Anyway, Caleb got a Lord of the Rings lego set from Bob and me, as well as a small one from Jonathan, which was really sweet.  He also got this cool lab set from Grandma and Grandpa B.  He and Jonathan made a glow-in-the-dark bouncy ball last night after the girls went down.  Oh, we also got him a double set of cards, since he is always complaining that when they want to play a card game, the only decks we can find are missing tons of various cards, thanks to the girls and Micah also playing "games" with them.  He is keeping these new decks up in his room! 

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Happy Birthday, Caleb!!

Caleb is 12 years old today!!  We are so thankful for him, and all that he adds to our family.  He really loves little kids, and he can't wait to be able to help in the nursery at church.  He's a huge help with Drew.  He also loves to give back rubs, and hey, I will always take a back rub!  We love forward to what the Lord has in store for this year for Caleb!

He was fortunate to have his birthday on a Tuesday, and a Tuesday where I was helping at TNT!  I was assigned to lead his tier (grades 5 and 6, Caleb and Jonathan) around to 4 different stations for the 4th of 5 weeks in the South America unit.  Neissy truly has outdone herself with this unit.  Each week has been so amazing!  I was glad to spend a day over there--I learned so much myself!

For opening ceremony, Neissy invited our assistant pastor over to speak about his visit about 16 years ago to Angel Falls, the highest waterfall in the world (3,212 feet), located in Venezuela.  Hunter is a really engaging speaker, so his tale of the trip first by 737 zooming around tepuys to land on a dirt strip,then by canoe 30 miles, and then hiking the last bit, swinging on vines over ravines and whatnot, all guided by Indians, certainly kept everyone's attention.  The kids had a million questions.

Then we started off on the 4 different rooms.  My tier went first to the "movie" room, where they watched several short youtube videos on different aspects of South American culture, such as the history of piñatas, some different kinds of South American music, and a fascinating clip on the making of semana santa carpets for Holy Week processions.  Wow--I had no idea these even existed, and they are simply amazing!  And we watched this totally great video of the Venezuelan Youth Orchestra playing Bernstein's Mambo--these guys know how to totally have a fun time! 

Before we started watching the videos, we all sang "Happy Birthday" to Caleb, and then we passed out rice krispie treats that Caleb had made for everyone.  Yum!  (We also sang at Rivendell, but we will have our *actual* celebration tomorrow, with Caleb's birthday dinner, cake, and presents.  Prolong the celebration!)

Next we went to the "craft" room, where the kids decorated piñatas that the ladies in charge had painstakingly made out of paper bags!  You can see Caleb's on top, although he was not really enthused about how his final product turned out, LOL.  The kids had fun--lots of glue spread around!

Then they went to the "teaching" room, where a mom talked about different areas of South American culture, such as music, celebrations, language, and so on.  Again, it was so interesting!
We finished up in the "games" room with Neissy, where she taught the kids several games, including one where the "it" kid dressed up with another item of clothing each time after the other kids chanted something, and then after he put the sombrero on, he was ready, so he chased them around!  Here is Jonathan, all gussied up.
Then we all went back into the big room, where we had a special presentation by Neissy's brother.  He is a musician, and he has a big collection of instruments from South America.  After he introduced and demonstrated a ton of instruments, he let some of the kids come up and play in a little orchestra!  Anna and Jonathan both got to go up the first time.  Anna is playing a little guitar-like instrument that used to be made out of armadillo shells, and Jonathan is playing a pipe drum thing with 2 holes made from bamboo.  So fun, and such neat sounds!  It was a great morning!

Then it was on to Rivendell at our new church building.  We all ate lunch and got set up for classes there before I ran over to vote (grrrr).  It was a good thing I stuck around, because we set up in one room we have been using, only to have it be taken over!  We had to scramble to find another room with good enough internet.  Everything is still in a state of flux over at the building, so we are hopeful that in a few weeks, we'll be able to sort of "claim" a few rooms and use them every week.  It is already a hassle to have to set everything up by moving tables and chairs, getting the computers going, etc., and then to have to move everything again is stressful!  There is plenty of room, but unfortunately the building was built with good old 1960's cinder block construction in the children's wing, and steel studs in the adult wing, making good internet connections practically impossible in the vast majority of rooms!  The day was especially stressful because Micah and Drew had also spent the whole morning at TNT with me, and they were absolutely fried.  Micah had several loud tantrums, and Drew didn't melt down, but he was soooo tired and crabby.  Fortunately I only have 1 more morning at TNT, and that isn't until March.  I'm glad another Tuesday is over!

Saturday, November 02, 2013

SAT Essay-Writing

Nathan took the SAT for the second time this morning.  He was predictably not thrilled about an early and long morning, but he is glad to have it over!  His least favorite part is the dreaded essay.  I am so glad I didn't have to do an essay back in the day when I was taking the SAT.  Our literature teacher, Megan, has been diligently working with the boys on how to produce an SAT essay.  It turns out that the graders (who only have 90 second per essay) are not looking for brilliant, creative writing.  They want a "fast-food essay", where you churn out something that meets their expectations.

Someone on the Well Trained Mind board posted a link to an interesting Slate article on the problems with the SAT essay called, "We are Teaching Our High School Children to Write Terribly". 

Les Perelman, a retired director of an MIT writing program says, "“What they are actually testing,” he says, “is the ability to b--s-- on demand. There is no other writing situation in the world where people have to write on a topic that they’ve never thought about, on demand, in 25 minutes. Lots of times we have to write on demand very quickly, but it’s about things we’ve thought about. What they are really measuring is the ability to spew forth as many words as possible in as short a time as possible. It seems like it is training students to become politicians.”

Great!  More politicians!  And accuracy does not matter in the least.  In fact, as the article points out, if you spend time trying to remember a pertinent event either in your life or in history or literature, you are at a disadvantage!  Better to just make something up on the fly, use lots of big words and varied sentence structure, and *voila*!  A "12" essay!  One SAT tutor did exactly that, and he writes about it here.  Here's his masterpiece essay--one that indeed scored a 12! 

Should we look to our elders for wisdom?
With age comes experience. As we navigate the vicissitudes of life, embracing its challenges of quotidian living, our naivete is replaced with sagacity, our illusions replaced with truth. One who is younger and less experienced would be wise to learn from the older and more experienced.
Throughout history young leaders have taken their cues from older, more experienced mentors. For wisdom does not magically appear; it is transferred from one generation to the next. In the 17th century a young man by the name of Martin Luther King Jr., a young pastor from Cincinnati, took his cues from the venerable Abraham James Lincoln, a seasoned lawyer from Ontario. Young King learned from Lincoln’s personal trials and tribulations, absorbing gems of wisdom from his enlightened teacher. The young acolyte molded his style after that of his mentor and eventually went on to embrace the mantle of civic leadership, typifying the qualities of his older, more experienced teacher.
At our peril do we ignore the lessons of our elders. Who can forget the tragic case of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, failed leader of the Saxons of New Brittany? In the height of the Ostrogoth revolution, young Kennedy rejected the advice of his elder council and impetuously invaded the fortified stronghold of the neighboring Lilliputians. The elder council convened and vehemently protested the ill-designed strategy, but Kennedy was obstinate and would not be moved. The elders were powerless to influence the young Saxon leader. Kennedy invaded Lilliput and the whole of the Ostrogoth army was annihilated, leaving the nation vulnerable to the waves of marauding invaders from the east. This clearly illustrates that we ignore the counsel of the older and more experienced at our peril.
One example of a man who embraced the wisdom of his elders was Barack Hussein Obama, famed revolutionary of the Basque region. Young Obama unified the Basque populous, seeking to overthrow the tyranny of Franco, nationalist, totalitarian demagogue. Obama, during his 6 months he spent in jail after this first failed coup attempt, came in contact with a seasoned revolutionary, Winston Churchill. Churchill had seen decades of failed revolutionary attempts and offered his insights to Obama, his willing disciple. With Churchill’s support young Obama was able to unify the masses, instigate a popular revolution and liberate the Basque nation from Franco’s control.
The clearest path to success lies in following the well-laid tracks of our wiser, more experienced elders. We must learn from our elders, embracing their insights and teachings if we are to achieve the greatest successes in life.

Ah, yes, that tragic Saxon leader, John Fitzgerald Kennedy.  We've learned so many lessons from his folly!  Ha!

So I don't think Nathan actually made anything up this time.  He told me he used examples from The Christmas Carol, and Steinbeck's The Pearl.   He was confidant on the rest of the test, only leaving one math problem blank.  I guess we'll see how it all turned out for him in a few weeks.

In the afternoon, we went to Luke's football game.  His team lost, although the quarterback (who got carted off to the ER a few weeks ago and ended up hurting his shoulder significantly, if not breaking it) was actually back today.  Luke was glad to not have to be quarterback, but having so much change probably was unsettling for the team.  Who knows?  Luke was actually glad that the season was over.  He's tired of all the practices and hitting!  He hurt his lower back several weeks ago.  He's been icing it and taking a lot of motrin, but he really needs some time with no one hitting him for it to actually heal.   And then basketball will start up!

After dinner, we had ice cream anyway, to celebrate the end of a good season!  Drew gobbled down an ice cream sandwich in no time at all and really wanted more.  Look at that pleading face!  Alas, he got no more, and instead had to be cleaned up, leading to more tears.  Poor baby!

Friday, November 01, 2013

Starting the Celebration

Caleb doesn't actually turn 12 until Tuesday, but hey, it's November now, and it's never to early too start celebrating!  We brought dessert to Bible study tonight and sang Happy Birthday to him.  Caleb picked the desserts, and he decided not to have cake (yay!).  He picked mint-frosted brownies and frosted banana cookies (which you can't see in the picture).  He made the cookies all by himself, and they were delicious!
The other exciting part of our day was when our next door neighbor, Dr. Joe, rang the doorbell this morning.  He brought over a gallon Ziploc bag with their leftover Halloween candy that they didn't pass out, along with some peppers and tomatoes he had rescued from our garden before the last freeze.  So for anyone who was worried that our kids missed out on candy by not trick-or-treating:  fear no more!