Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A Morning Adventure

So yesterday we got up really early and decided to drive to New Jersey!  Actually, we did have a plan--we were trying to catch a space-a flight to Hawaii. It was a total long-shot, because the flight was on a smaller airplane, and they were only tentatively releasing 15 seats, but we thought, hey, let's give it a shot.  So we did!

And I have to say, the execution was pretty flawless.  We got up and out the door (all of us!) at 3:20 AM with all our stuff!  That is a definite record, probably never again to be repeated.  Also, Micah and Drew did not have any meltdowns, which was a miracle in and of itself, especially since they got up so early.  We got to the terminal at McGuire even a little before we wanted to, which was good because it took forever to get all of us checked in.  But we had all the documentation they needed, so yay, everything worked!  We met some really nice fellow "spats" (space-a travelers), including one who was the oldest of 6 kids.  She and her husband had driven up from Charlotte, NC--a 10 hour drive!  Another couple was there from Kentucky.  Then there was another lady who was checking in with the other airman, who sniffed loudly, "All those kids on a space-a flight!  What a catastrophe!"  Oh well, you can't win them all.  And at that point, the kids were all just sitting in chairs, eating these bisquick sausage, egg, and cheese muffins I had made the night before, so I guess if she wasn't okay with that, then she was probably just not a fan of lots of kids in general, not just not on space-a flights, LOL.  

Anyhow, at some point we heard that the final number of seats going to be available was only 10, which eliminated us right away.  I don't know that it was all bad however--the plane didn't have any actual airline-style seats in it.  We would just have been sitting on the webbed jumpseats that pull down from the wall.  We space-a'd around the Pacific when I was a girl, and I definitely remember sitting on those seats!  They are not too terribly comfortable, especially for flying across our country, and halfway across an ocean!

So after grabbing a bagel at the USO there in the terminal, we got back in the van and headed home.  The kids were great about napping both on the way there and the way back, but Bob and I didn't get much napping in.  Bob drove the whole way up, while I helped navigate and keep him awake, although I did doze off a few times.  On the way back, we stopped at Denny's (Grand Slams all around!), which we don't have near us, so that was a special treat.  I drove after that, because Bob was really tired, but frankly a heavy meal including 2 big pancakes is not exactly the thing when you are already really tired!  What I should have had was coffee, or at least a coke or something.  I drive long distances by myself frequently (well, before I had Nathan as a second driver when Bob can't come on a long trip with us!), but I have never ever felt this tired.  I had such a hard time staying alert, and I scared myself a few times by realizing I had just closed my eyes for a split second.  Needless to say, after I drove an hour or so, we traded drivers once again!  I really felt like God was protecting us, to get us home safely, because we were both so tired!

Our plan was to go straight over to the afternoon classes at Rivendell, but instead we just dropped off Caleb and Jonathan for their lit classes, and the girls so they could play with Elena.  Christine had already said she would teach economics today, so that was so nice that they didn't have to miss that at least!  Bob and I went home and crashed.  Napping for a few hours was wonderful!  Then Nathan, Luke, and Caleb all went off to Civil Air Patrol--the end of a very long and busy day!

So today we were back to our normal routine, but hey, driving to New Jersey on a lark is the stuff family memories are made of!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Caleb and Drew

Caleb and I braved the frigid cold on Wednesday to drive to Bethesda, so he could have a physical.  Since he has asthma and allergies, he has to get a doctor's okay to join Civil Air Patrol.  His asthma has been pretty well-controlled lately, since he started using his flovent puffer on a daily basis after an appointment a year ago.  Exercise and cold still have the potential to cause problems, but overall, he has not had to use his albuterol puffer (the rescue one) very much at all.  And he hasn't had any allergic reactions in a while either!  The doctor didn't even do a real physical exam of Caleb--just asked a lot of questions about his asthma and allergies, so he could sign off on the form.  But before we went into the examining room, the tech went ahead and did an eye exam, like he would do for any regular physical.  It turns out Caleb has really good vision!  20/13!  So Caleb may have hit the allergy and asthma jackpot in our family, but he also hit the good eyes and teeth jackpot!

Drew is smiling in this picture because he loves his big brother Caleb (and because Caleb is tickling him behind the knee, LOL).  However, Drew has not been doing a ton of smiling the past few days.  I thought he was teething, but I kept checking the front of his mouth, where he is missing one of the 8 front teeth that babies usually get first.  None of my other ones got 7 teeth in, and then stayed at 7 for months!  But that tooth doesn't look like it is anywhere near ready to pop out, so I wasn't sure what to think.  But a few days ago, Drew was crying one of those loud, mouth-wide-open cries, and I happened to notice that the back of his gums were extremely swollen!  Ahhh . . . . it's the molars!  One top molar is through already, and 3 more are really close, poor guy.  Last night he slept terribly, and he has been pretty crabby during the day.  I've been dosing him up on Motrin, and hopefully this will pass quickly!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Snowy Day

So today Bob and I were both up and out of here early, before 7:00.  He was off to work, of course, and I was off to vote in a special election.  As I pulled out of our subdivision, I heard the radio announcers mention that the government was closed today, due to the impending snow.  I called Bob right away and fortunately caught him before he had paid for the bus!  He said that made sense, since the parking lot was practically empty, and there were only 2 other people on the bus!  So he got back in his car and drove home. 

I continued on to my polling place, and when I got there, the parking lot was completely empty!  Hmmm . . . I looked closer at the tiny map on my phone and finally determined that we actually were just outside the boundary.  So Bob and I struck out this morning!

We couldn't just go back to bed, however, since today is our co-op day.  The elementary co-op was cancelled, but Rivendell meets pretty much regardless of weather, and this morning it wasn't even a question, since there wasn't a flake to be seen until around 10:00!  We did have to switch around the class order so that Megan didn't have to be out driving out before lunch with all her little ones.  So she taught lit first, and then we had chemistry.  By lunchtime the snow had picked up and was accumulating. 

After Rivendell finished up, the kids wanted to go play in the snow.  Drew stood at the door and fussed so much (and tried to escape out any time the door was opened), so I finally took pity on him and got him all dressed up for his first time out in the snow.  He had a pretty good time, although he had a hard time staying upright, LOL.  Me, I was only out there for the picture to be taken!  The boys stayed out forever, along with Bob, sledding down the hill at the end of our cul-de-sac.  We never get dry, powdery, Colorado snow!  It was so nice!

Inside, we fired up the hot chocolate maker that I won in the orthodontist's drawing back when I was pregnant with Faith.  For an appliance I was sure I would never use, we certainly have gotten a ton out use out of this thing!  It is really so nice to be able to make 32 ounces of hot chocolate at a time, and this thing stirs it up, heats it,  and keeps it heated.  I just keep adding milk/water and hot chocolate mix.  We must have made a gallon of hot chocolate today, LOL.  It was freezing outside!

After dinner, Bob and the boys played a new game called "Puerto Rico" that friends in our Bible study recommended.  It was complicated, I think, and so the first run-through was not all that smooth, but it sounded like it had the potential to be good.  It's a little like Settlers, but our friends liked it a lot better, and it gets really great reviews on Amazon. 

Nathan and Luke should have been at Civil Air Patrol, but alas, it was cancelled tonight, with all the snow.  Nathan was particularly disappointed because he was supposed to pin on his first rank as an officer tonight.  They have to bring in the group commander to their squadron for a pin-on like this, so it's not a small thing to have to reschedule.  It won't be next week, because that is their PT night.  Hopefully soon though!  At least the promotion is officially in the books, which is what matters for things like applications to Academy summer seminars.  Nathan has completed the application for USAFA's summer seminar, and Navy and West Point's just opened up last week, so he is working on those. 

The kids are all excited that tomorrow the snow will still be there, since it's supposed to be frigidly cold!  More snow fun tomorrow--and their cheeks are going to be red as cherries!  Finally--a decent amount of snow.  It's been a few years! 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Driver's Ed

I'm writing this down in the basement, as we attempt to stay awake while watching a 90 minute series of driving modules with Nathan.  We're in a "special planning district", so we have this special requirement, which cover pretty much everything already covered in the 30 hours of classroom (online) instruction Nathan has already done.  This is basically a powerpoint presentation, with a t/f quiz before each module that splits hairs on questions like "When using a cell phone, your risk of an accident is doubled."  FALSE!  It's actually 4 times the risk!  But not to fear--after you watch all the slides, then you take the same quiz again.  Also, the slides are rife with mis-spellings ("licenensing" anyone?).  I told Nathan he was lucky because he only had to watch this presentation once--Bob and I have to watch it 8 more times!

We are (finally) winding down all the requirements for Nathan to get his license.  He has to have 45 hours of driving with us, of which 15 hours are at night.  We only have a few more night time hours to get in, and we're hoping to knock that out this weekend.  He has finished his 30 hours of online classroom training, after doing yeoman's work of watching a ton of extra videos to get up to the magical "30 hour" number the past few days.  These are all the depressing "all teens drink and die in gory accidents" videos that I'm sure everyone remembers from their own driver's ed.  Watching them all day is definitely a downer, LOL.  Nathan did say he thought they actually had the wrong effect on him, making him think he is actually more invincible, since he's "not stupid".  Well, we'll see.  You do get a bit jaded and unsympathetic after watching so many tear-jerkers about careless drunk teen drivers drag-racing. 

Here in VA, you can't take the in-car driving instruction part until you have finished all the 45 hours of driving with a parent, as well as all the classroom instruction.  Hopefully Nathan can do the in-car stuff in the next few weeks to knock that out, and then he'll be done!  It does lead one to wonder what exactly the point of the in-car instruction is, since you have already done 45 hours of scripted practice with your parents.  I mean, they're not exactly teaching you how to drive!  But the good thing is, here in VA if you do the in-car instruction with an actual driving school (instead of jumping through the hoops for a parent to be able to do the in-car instruction), then the instructor issues a 6 month temporary license, so you don't actually have to take the driving test at the DMV. 

On the one hand, I am certainly looking forward to Nathan being able to drive himself to the games he referees, to his Civil Air Patrol activities, and to his sports activities.  We just found out about a local high school rugby club that a friend plays on in the spring, and Nathan is really interested, especially since football is no longer an option.  It would be lovely for him to drive himself there!  But then again, Northern VA drivers are rude and constantly in a huge rush, the roads are all big ones, and there are just so many cars on the road.  I don't even like driving a lot of the time!  I'm not worried about Nathan drinking or drag-racing, but I do worry about him not being in the right lane to get off at the right exit and missing it, thus getting lost, or trying to get over, and no one letting him over, and him getting flustered, or whatever.  It's just a busy place here, with so much traffic all the time.  I know I'll be spending a lot of time in prayer!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Back At It Again

Well, we made it through our first week back after break!  I will admit I was not thrilled with the idea of starting back again, but regardless, here we are!
Tuesday was an interesting day.  About 5 minutes before Rivendell was to start, and I was to start doing chemistry lab with the boys, Faith started crying about how the potty upstairs was clogged.  I went up to check it out and discovered that the potty was not clogged; rather the pipe was frozen.  Whee!  The pipe that froze was the only one we've ever had problems with in this house-it froze last when Dan and Melinda were out visiting us for Christmas back in 2004, the first Christmas we lived here!  I did have the passing thought when I realized how cold it was going to get that we should leave water trickling or something.  But alas, that thought passed right through my head, and I never thought about it again!

So I put a heater in the bathroom, left a message for Bob, and came down to teach!  Ironically, we were doing a lab about the relationship between volume and temperature in liquids, and it involved measuring the volume of water in a graduated cylinder at man different temperatures, so we started by immersing the graduated cylinder in an ice bath.  Perfect, for a freezing day, with a frozen pipe!

I pretty much put the pipe out of my mind, and since Tuesdays are incredibly busy (and the potty in question wasn't on the main floor), that wasn't too hard to do, LOL.  When Bob got home, he opened the door between the house and the garage, and put 2 space heaters in the garage (duh--should have thought of that myself).  He tried various other things and arrangements, but nothing happened until early Wednesday morning.  What a relief that the pipe didn't burst!  Thank you, Lord!!  I think we will remember to leave the water dribbling in that bathroom the next time it drops into the teens!

I started "formally" doing school with Faith this week.  I really want to get her reading, and I don't think it will take too long.  She is very motivated!  She is also already a whiz at math, which is what happens when you have been listening to your older siblings do math for your entire life.

For some reason, we also decided it was time to kick Drew out of the pack-n-play in our closet, and into the crib in Micah's room.  We've never ever had anyone stay in our closet for anywhere near this amount of time!  Usually we have the toddler move up into someone else's room, but we're at capacity in the other rooms right now.  Drew was not at all pleased with the idea of sleeping in the crib, and he left that fact be known quite loudly for quite a while Wednesday night.  Eventually he fell asleep, but it was pretty late.  Micah slept really restlessly--he kept crying out, like he was having a bad dream, every so often.  I would rush in so he wouldn't wake up Drew.  He started crying again at 7:15 Thursday morning, and this time Drew did wake up.  After nursing, he fell back to sleep, but Micah was up for good.  Since they were both more tired, Drew fell asleep a little more quickly Thursday night, but he still did protest loudly for a little while.  I've been putting him down in the pack-n-play for naps, since I want him to have good naps and at least be somewhat pleasant during the day.  I decided to put him down in the pack-n-play last night, since he went to bed really late (we were at Bible study).  He slept really well and really late--I woke him up at 9:30!  But tonight he goes back into the crib in Micah's room.  We will overcome!  He obviously needs more practice at sleeping places other than his pack-n-play in a pitch-dark closet, LOL.

The week ended well because the girls had a playdate with Lynnea's girls, and Lynnea and I got to visit for several hours yesterday!  Social time for me always ends a week on a high note!  And today, as soon as Anna's basketball game is over, we're heading over to visit with some friends we haven't seen for awhile in Maryland.  Fun!!

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Special Company!

We were so excited to have Amy and Jason, along with their sons Zachary and Jacob, come stay with us last week!  They were coming to DC to sight-see, and they definitely saw a ton of things!  They drove in Wednesday afternoon, straight downtown, since the weather was pretty nice.  We met them at the Jefferson Memorial, and then we proceeded to tour all the memorials in one afternoon--hard-core tourism right there, especially with little kids, LOL.  Our first stop after the Jefferson Memorial was the FDR Monument.
 I will be perfectly honest and admit that I actually had no idea this existed.  Clearly I have not wandered around the Tidal Basin enough, because this thing is absolutely huge--7.5 acres!  It is between the Jefferson and the MLK Memorial.  It is divided into 4 outdoor "rooms", to represent FDR's 4 tours, and it was built in 1997.  Clueless as we were, since we were coming from the Jefferson Memorial, we entered the maze from the end, seeing the statue of Eleanor Roosevelt first. Better to come at it from the Lincoln Memorial side.

Anyhow, this statue of him above is in the 3rd "room", and he is posing with his dog Fala, who is really cute.  Also, her (his?) ears are golden where everyone has rubbed them.  Awww . . . The actual statue of FDR, however, was literally ghastly.  He was a bilious drippy green color, especially on his face--he really doesn't appear to be weathering well!

We continued wandering through the different rooms.  The symbolism probably would have been a bit more clearer had we been going in chronological order by starting on the other side.  Also, it would have been clearer had it been summer, because water is supposedly a great symbol throughout the memorial, with different waterfalls representing different things.  The first one (chronologically) was a smooth drop, representing the stock market crash leading to the Great Depression, then there was a waterfall with steps, representing the Tennessee Valley Authority's damn-building projects.  There there was a really choppy chaotic waterfall representing WWII, and lastly a still reflecting pool representing his death.  Unfortunately, the water was all turned off and drained, so we got none of that symbolism either.  
 The part that really stumped us was the room that included this large mural and 5 big pillars.  Each panel of this mural had been sort of like pressed into the pillars, so these pillars have the inverted images of all these random things on them--initial, hands, braille, weird shrunken heads . . . it was very odd.  I googled, but all I could find was that this part represented the New Deal, and that it was just a "collage of various scenes and objects".  Well, yes, but how on earth do shrunken heads represent the New Deal?  Totally weird.

Anyhow, a boatload of money was spent to make this monument, I am sure, since it is so sprawling.  From the reviews online, everyone loves it because it is shady (not a plus during winter, but I can appreciate that for summer!) and also not crowded because not that many people know about it (again, not an issue during winter!), and finally it has lots of places for good pictures with all the water features.  There you have it.
 Next we moved on to the MLK Jr. Memorial, and I must say I really liked this one!  The symbolism made perfect sense, the quotes were moving and appropriate, and it really seemed to honor his legacy.  The quote on the actual statue is "Out of a mountain of despair, a stone of hope", and the part with MLK carved on it looks like it has just come out of the "mountain" of granite behind it.  I was glad to see this memorial in person.

Then we moved on to the Korean War Memorial.  I hadn't seen that one before in person either.  It is moving to see the statues of the soldiers, looking like they are on patrol, and the wall with all the pictures sandblasted onto it.  If the kids hadn't been getting grumpy, I would have liked to spend more time here.
Then it was on to the Lincoln Memorial!  Drew was in a stroller, and I didn't feel like finding a handicap way to get up all those steps with him, so he and I just hung out on the big flat part, doing endless loops.  He almost fell asleep, but not quite.

By the time everyone finished up, Micah and Faith were getting quite crabby, Anna was really cold, and Drew was unhappy too.  We quickly saw the Vietnam Wall and the World War II Memorial (which is another one of my favorites, but lacks something with all the water off and rained!), and we walked past the Washington Monument on the way back to the van.  Whew!  Good thing spaghetti sauce was in the crockpot waiting for us when we got home!

Amy and her family went back in to DC Thursday and Friday.  They toured the Capital and the White House, as well as the National Archives, Ford's Theater, and the Museum of Natural History and possibly more than I'm not remembering, LOL.  Now Bob, Nathan, Luke, and the McC's toured the White House several years ago (but alas, I can't find my blog post about it).  It was a lengthy tour, and Nathan came back with a ton of random interesting information he had learned from the knowledgeable tour guide.  For Amy's tour, however, there was no actual guide.  They just wandered through 5 or 6 rooms, where there was a person seated in each room to answer any questions you might have.  Of course, how do you know what questions to even ask??  So it was only about 35 minutes long.  It's too bad, because, as Christine says, once you lose those things, they will never come back.
 In the evenings, we really enjoyed having them around!  Many games were played, including Settlers and a hilarious game of Balderdash.  Friday night Nathan and Luke had a bowling party with their Civil Air Patrol squadron, so Zach got to go to that with them.  (Nathan had the highest score among the cadets!  Good to see that the bowling part of our curriculum has been so successful, LOL.)  Amy and I stayed up late talking, of course.  It was such a treat!!  We were so sad when they left to drive back to Ohio Saturday morning.  I am so thankful for such a faithful friend as Amy!  It's hard to believe we've known each other for close to 30 years!  She is definitely like a sister to me!