Monday, May 26, 2014


This weekend we went camping with a big group of homeschooling friends.  Last year, the weather was unseasonably cold, and we all froze.  This year, the weather was absolutely *perfect*--lows 70s during the day, and 50s at night.  I hope that doesn't mean next year is slated to be unbearably hot!

Packing for a camping trip involving 11 people is quite a logistical challenge, to say the least.  This year I actually typed up a list, which really helped.  There were only a few items we needed to add to list once we got back home.  The food is definitely the biggest challenge.  Our family eats so much, especially when all those growing boys are outside all day long exercising! 
We had the same 2 tent set-up as last year, with the 4 boys in the red tent that has served us so well since Colorado days, and the other 7 of us in the brown tent we got last year from Costco.
 With the new baby coming, next year I am planning to move Micah on up to the tent with the other big boys.  I always have trouble with little kids in sleeping bags--they wiggle around during the night, ending up sideways and completely uncovered.  At a consignment sale in March, I found this "toddler travel bed".  It comes with 6 styrofoam strips of equal length--2 for each side, and one for each end.  You slide them in the sleeves, then velcro the corners together, making a little frame for the flat little mattress.  I put Micah's sleeping bag in there, and it worked perfectly!  He didn't move sideways at all, and he stayed perfectly covered, sleeping like a rock each night!

Drew wasn't quite so cooperative.  He was cold the first night, and woke up a few times, but the second night was warmer (and he was so exhausted), so you would think he would have slept great.  But alas, it rained a little bit, and I guess that woke him up, and he ended up crying several times, making a restless night for me.  At least it didn't bother anyone else!  
 Once again, we brought construction toys for the littles to play with.  When we were getting organized, I could not find the brown paper sack in the garage, but I did find a set of 5 little trucks at Target.  But as we were loading up, I did find the bag, so we ended up with 3 bigger vehicles and 5 smaller ones.  Since there were mainly girls leading the playing, the big trucks became the "mommies", and the little ones were the babies.  Lots of happy little construction families, building themselves houses!  It was really cute--until Godzilla Micah or Drew would destroy all the houses and roads, leading to great frustration all around, especially the more tired everyone got.
 Christine gave the boys some camping cooking lessons Saturday morning on their lovely big Costco cooking stove.  We once again borrowed the L's stove--just as we have been for the past 16 years of camping!  Maybe one of these days we'll invest in our own . . .
 Saturday after breakfast we all hiked to the waterfall.  The older kids all went up to the top of the falls with Bob (most of them ending up wet, at least their shoes, if not more), but I was not sure it was a good idea for Micah, Drew, and me to attempt that.  So we stayed at the bottom, and Micah and Drew climbed all over the little rocks there.  Thankfully they both stayed dry, LOL.  Micah was very proud of himself for climbing up on top of this stump all by himself!

This was the same hike we did last year, where on the way back Micah pitched a huge temper tantrum after lagging farther and farther behind.  So I had to carry him, and in the midst of all the drama, I totally missed a trail intersection, and I marched off down a different trail.  This is now known in family lore as "the time when Mom got lost", although I always point out I was not technically "lost".  Once I realized I was on the wrong trail, I turned around and retraced my steps!  Anyhow, nothing like that happened this time.
 The only drama was that Faith somehow acquired a splinter on the hike (she is some sort of splinter magnet?  At least she didn't shriek and scream bloody murder like she did in Sacramento!)  So Nathan had to get part of it out on the hike, and then both he and I worked on the last part once we got back to the campsite.  She looks like she is even laughing a bit here, but don't be fooled--Faith is not our "stoic" one, LOL.  Ah, the drama of girls.
 Saturday night we started a new tradition--a Mexican night with friends!  I made 10 pounds of Amy's nacho meat and beans Thursday so we could just heat that up, along with 2 huge bags of tortilla chips and sour cream.  Christine brought taco shells,cheese, homemade guacamole, tomatoes, salsa, and lettuce, and Shannon brought more chips and salsa, plus brownies and cookies for dessert.  And of course we had s'mores!  It was so yummy and easy!
 Here Nathan is demonstrating a card trick to an interested audience.
 Isaac took Drew on some ripstick rides, which Drew loved.  Drew does not live the life of an average 18 month old, LOL.  He looked so cute in the helmet!
 Sunday we had church in the morning, and then after lunch, we mustered up the energy to go for another hike, this time to a lake.  Drew was absolutely and completely exhausted after his restless night, and he zonked out in the backpack, much to our great relief.  The hike was mostly downhill on the way there, and the last section was pretty steep, so we were wondering how the girls and Micah would do on the way back.  There is a little beach at the lake, and the girls all wore their swimsuits.  Faith had the most fun, I think.  Grace dipped one toe in, got it muddy, and decided she would rather play on the playground with Micah and Drew.  Anna went in but was also grossed out by the slimy gook on the bottom, and she told us she was definitely NOT going in the lake next year!  As we were getting ready to head back up the trail, another family who was camping with us drove by.  They offered to take back as many kids as would fit, so we very happily sent back the 3 girls and Micah.  Shannon also went back with her little girl, as well as Elena.  That made the hike back much more pleasant for all of us!  It was definitely a steep climb at the beginning, and I'm sure Micah and the girls would have complained vigorously, LOL.  Luke wore the backback with Drew for the way back, so he gets lots of bonus points there.  Halfway back, Craig McC took his older 3 boys on a different trail to do some rock climbing.  Nathan was quite excited about that, so he went too.

When we got back, we began the laborious process of tearing everything down.  We had a bit of a time crunch--there was a potluck dinner at 6:00, and we wanted to be done before then!  We got one tent down by 6:00.  They go up faster than they go down!  After the potluck (we brought teriyaki chicken strips that I cooked at home and just reheated there), I continued tearing down.  Nathan went to work on 2 "pie iron contest" recipes.  A pie iron is a square metal thing that opens up and is on 2 long poles, so you can stick something in there and cook it in the coals of a fire.  They've had this contest for several years, but we didn't even have a pie iron before last weekend, when Bob ordered 2 from Amazon!  They are fun little things for camping, and you can definitely make yummy things in them.  Nathan made a caramel apple pie one in a crescent roll crust, and another one with hot fudge topping and coconut (I didn't try that one, if you can believe it).
Everyone had lots of input for the chef.  It was like an episode of "Chopped"!  So much fun!

So after the contest, we were able to finish getting loaded up, and we finally got home around 10:15--exhausted and filthy!  Everyone except Nathan, Luke, Caleb, Bob and me were fast asleep, so we just brought them all in and put them straight to bed.  We unloaded the bare minimun, some of us took showers, and then we fell asleep into bed.  It is so lovely to be in one's own bed, especially after camping!  Baths, showers, and laundry were the first things on the agenda after breakfast, though.  I'm still tired. I think it will take a few days to recover from all the fun, but we are all looking forward to next year!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Testing's Done Too!

I'm in charge of standardized testing for our co-op, and that is the last big thing for me each school year, so it is always such a huge relief to have it over and done!

We tested Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, but one boy was sick yesterday and couldn't come, so I had to go to his house and finish testing him this afternoon.  It didn't take long, and I was able to tape up the big box o' tests at his house and take it straight to the UPS store to ship it off.  Yay--gone!

We had a much smaller group testing this year.  We only had 15 families (29 students), down from 21 families and around 40 students last year, which was down from the year before.  I think the main difference is that now you can administer both Iowa and Stanford tests at home (used to be just Iowa) to just your own kids, and a lot of the younger families are choosing that option.  If I only had a few kids, then maybe I would do that as well, but for me, it would take forever, and our house is not really the nice, quiet testing environment one would hope for, LOL.  So it is better to do it in a group.  Plus, as my kids get into 4th or 5th grade, I would want them to be used to testing in a group setting anyway, so I'm sure I would choose a group testing option at that point.  Unfortunately, in today's society, knowing *how* to test is a really important skill.  Might as well practice for a few years while it doesn't mean anything.

On that note, it was Grace's first year testing, and she loved it, as does Anna, the old pro.  Anna said on Wednesday morning, "I wish testing was 5 days, not 3!"  They think it is easy, and they love having special snacks like M&Ms with raisins to eat on their breaks, when they get to play outside on the playground (praise the Lord for 3 beautiful days of weather!).  The younger 3 kids had an absolute ball in the nursery with a few other kids and the wonderful volunteer moms who watched them.  I thought Micah especially might have issues, since he is so resistant to the church nursery now (and because by Wednesday, he was absolutely fried and needed to sleep longer), but he was fine with it too.  I'm sure it helped that Faith was in there too, as well as some other "big" kids.

With such a small number of families, it was a challenge to be able to have enough people to administer the tests.  The high school parents were fantastic about volunteering to test, but their kids are only there Monday and Tuesday, so I had to scramble to fill all the holes on Wednesday!  But it all worked out.  Whew!

Nathan and Luke didn't test this year, since they had both just taken the ACT in April.  I'm going to send those scores in to the county in July.  Tuesday they greeted an honor flight (so nice that Nathan can drive now!!), and Wednesday they had their last online history class.  So now they are done too, except for studying for the SAT II tests for US history and chemistry.

As for me, I am so tired!  For some reason, testing really wears me out.  I guess it's just being responsible for everything.  I'm glad it's over, and I'm looking forward to a relaxing weekend, remembering all our brave soldiers who gave their lives for our freedom.  I do not take our freedoms lightly, and I know they have come at a very high price.  I see some of that price every time I go to Bethesda, and also when I go to the commissary and drive by Arlington Cemetery.  And it reminds me to pray for those in other countries who don't have these freedoms, like Meriam, the pregnant Christian Sudanese woman who has been sentenced to death for her faith, and for Pastor Saeed in Iran, who actually in an American, but is being held and tortured over there for his faith.  I encourage you to pray for them, and other persecuted believers around the world, as well this Memorial Day weekend and then keep on praying!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Finishing Up!

Ahhh, it's my favorite time of the year--the time when everything is finishing up and winding down.  The elementary co-op finished up the first week in May with a fun graduation picnic.  Now Caleb is in Rivendell full-time too!

We had our last Rivendell meeting Tuesday afternoon.  First Christine made a fun Jeopardy game for the younger kids to review their memory work, which was a huge hit.  Then we had our traditional ice cream party, complete with loads of toppings--sliced strawberries and bananas, walnuts, M&Ms, 3 different kinds of cookie crumbs, sprinkles, whipped cream, and chocolate, hot fudge, and caramel sauces.  Yummy!!
On Tuesday Nathan took the AP US Government exam.  He self-studied for that class, so we'll see how it ends up.  He felt pretty good about it--he was studying pretty diligently there at the end!  This afternoon he and Luke both took the AP microeconomics exam.  Christine prepared them really well for that exam, so they were fairly confident about it, unlike most of the other students in the room!  Those are the only APs they are taking, so now they are done, which is a huge relief!  We are currently all enjoying those little Dove chocolate-covered cranberries, as well as apple slices and caramel dip, for a special after-testing treat.  Not all their testing is done, though--they still will take SAT subject tests for US history and chemistry on June 7.  But for today--we celebrate!

Testing through our co-op is Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, so Caleb, Jonathan, Anna, and Grace are gearing up for that next week.  I'm just sending in Nathan and Luke's ACT scores from April for them, so they don't need to take the Stanford tests.  We have a much smaller group this year--only 15 families are testing with us.  That made it a little tricky for me (I'm the one in charge of it for the co-op) to find enough testers for the grade levels, but I think we're okay.  If we go down much lower, though, something might have to change. I'm still thinking through all that.  I think more people are just testing their own kids at home, since now you can do that with both Iowa Basic and Stanford.  That probably works great if you only have a few kids, but it would take a really long time for me, and what would I do with everyone else for all that time?  So we'll see.  But anyway, after testing is done next week, I'll be well and truly done, which will be wonderful!  Then we will just have to work through the summer to finish math books (we're behind where I want people to be) and Latin for Caleb and Jonathan.  And my big school-related priority for the summer is getting Faith reading fluently.  She's really close! 

And on that note, I'm off to exercise.  Some of us have to pay dearly for "celebrations"!

Wednesday, May 07, 2014


This afternoon I had my 20 week ultrasound at Bethesda.  I drove there, and Bob metro-ed in from the Pentagon.  Once again (like the other ultrasounds I've had at Bethesda only), the tech took me back and conducted the first part of the ultrasound, with all the measurements and images for the doctor to look at, in complete silence.  I took a nice nap, since I couldn't see the screen at all, while Bob just waited in the waiting room and read.

Eventually I realized it seemed to be taking a long time, and the tech was really pressing around.  I must have looked questioningly, because then she told me that the baby was facing away from her, and she was trying to get a picture of the face!  Eventually she told me to get up, use the restroom, and try to get the baby to change positions, while she showed the pictures to the radiologist.  I did all that, she came back with the radiologist, and when I laid back down and she tried again, the baby had turned, so the tech could get the pictures she wanted, and the doctor was happy with that.  While the tech went out to get Bob, the doctor did sit down and scan around himself, but he never said anything, so I don't know what that was about.

After Bob got there, and the doctor left, the tech spent about 3 minutes showing us the baby (everything looked good to me, for what it's worth, LOL), told me the due date from her measurements was Sept. 25, which is exactly the date from my LMP, and said she thought everything looked good, but that the radiologist would look at all the pictures and give a final report to the OB.  Then she tried to get a shot between the legs, and the baby was not really very cooperative!  The baby kept turning away from the screen, and one leg was raised.  I guess the tech hadn't looked at that area before . . .?  Anyhow, eventually the baby deigned to turn and move the one leg, so we could get a brief glance, and it *appears* that this baby is a girl!  The glance was brief, but the tech immediately started calling the baby "her", so maybe the tech actually had looked earlier and gotten a better view?  She didn't seem to be that concerned about the uncertainty!

So we're thinking it is a girl, which is what I had sort of thought it might be.  I have been more tired this pregnancy, and I was very tired in my pregnancy with Anna, who was also the first girl after boys.  Also, I had a terrible time with itching with Anna, and my left hand has had the same sort of rash I had with her off and on since I found out I was pregnant.  These aren't very scientific clues, obviously, but they led me toward thinking this baby might possibly be a girl!  Maybe some sort of hormonal difference?  My boy pregnancies are basically symptom-less.  I don't have many issues with girl pregnancies either, so any difference is bound to be a little thing!  Luke has been thinking it's a girl too--because a girl would complete the pyramid of first 4 boys, then 3 girls, then 2 boys, and finally 1 girl on top.  As a math major, I am all about the patterns, LOL.

Now we move on to considering names (I guess we will still have to come up with a boys name, just in case, but there we are really scraping the bottom of the barrel!), and to where this new little one will eventually fit, bedroom-wise.  It's a good thing we have a big walk-in closet, with a window, even!  Drew had the closet as a bedroom for over a year, and this one will follow in his footsteps.  I will say it is hard to believe that even as we think about where to put another kid, we have to also start thinking about kids moving out.  : (  That is so sad!  But we will have about a year together before Nathan graduates, so right now we will just think happy thoughts about that, and not weepy, hormonal, pregnant thoughts about him leaving . . .

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Rugby Tutorial

Today I spent 4 hours watching rugby.  Nathan had a game in downtown DC, at Gonzaga High School.  It was a bit tricky to find, since our GPS decided we should take the scenic route, and we meandered through the monuments and the tunnels by the Capitol for awhile, but we did indeed make it.  I watched the last half of a game that was in progress, all of the "A side" game, and then all of the "B side" game, which was the one Nathan played in.  That's a lot of rugby (and sun) for one day!  Now that I have all the experience from this season, I am taking it upon myself to explain the basics of the game for those of you who are as in the dark about this sport as I used to be.

Rugby starts off with a kickoff, like a lot of sports.  When the other team gets the ball, they run, and even when they get tackled, they just keep handing the ball off, without stopping play. The ref hardly blows his whistle!  Sometimes the play gets stopped with no penalty, and then a "scrum" happens.  Nathan is the "scrum half" for his team.  The 2 teams meet in this complicated hug sort of thing, and (if they have the ball), Nathan rolls the ball down the middle (but more to his team's side).  There is lots of grunting and pushing of the whole pile, while the players kick around at the ball with their feet (still with their arms locked together).
Nathan runs around to the back of his side, and eventually the ball squirts out (that's the plan anyhow--sometimes the other team kicks it out their side).  He grabs it, if possible, and then he laterals it slightly behind him to the backs that are waiting.  Then they start running, and the play starts again.
There is a lot of tackling, but amazingly, not too many injuries.  And none of the bone-jarring crunching you hear in football either!  Nathan says when you aren't wearing a helmet and pads, you are a lot more careful about tackling, and you definitely don't use your head as a weapon!
When someone gets tackled, the team forms a "wall" (or, if you want to be technical, a "ruck"), and the guy on the ground tries to get the ball out behind him to his teammates, who then continue the play.  No whistles!  The ideal plan is to pitch the ball to one back, who then pitches it just slightly behind himself to another waiting guy when it looks like the first guy is going to get tackled, and then on to a 3rd or even 4th guy, as they try to make the turn up field.
When the ball goes out of bounds, there is a throw-in, but unlike in soccer, the 2 teams have these "flyer" people who get hoisted up in the air by the waistbands of their shorts and try to bat the ball towards their waiting teammates.  Like a cheerleading stunt or something!
Also the above picture shows something a bit unusual about rugby--shirtless guys everywhere.  Each rugby team can only have like 15 jersey numbers, and the number you are is dependent on your position.  So when Nathan is scrum half, he is always #9, as is the scrum half on the other side.  If someone goes in as a sub, then the guy he is replacing has to peel off his sweaty jersey, and the sub puts it on.  Nice!  So waiting subs just stand around with no shirt on half the time.  I had really wondered about this whole jersey thing--I couldn't understand why the teams couldn't afford to get shirts for everyone!  Nathan had to explain it to me on the ride home today, LOL.

When someone eventually crosses the goal line (which is called a "try"--the actual score is, I mean), the team gets 5 points and a kick for 2 extra points if it goes through the goal posts.  But the kicker has to kick the ball (always just a drop kick, never with a tee or anything) from the spot where the guy who scored crossed the goal line, so if he was way off to one sideline, then the kicker has a crazy angle.  The ideal case, obviously, is to run it in right down the middle of the field!
So those are the basics of play.  It is really a fun and exciting game, especially because there is always something happening!  If one team feels like they are too close to their own goal line, then they just up and kick it away--and then the other team might catch the ball and kick it right back!  Or run with it or whatever.  Plenty of options, and the game just keeps on going.  I can't believe more people don't play/watch this game!  My friend Johanna said on facebook that she thinks it is because people don't think it is a "safe" game, since everyone isn't covered in pads from head to toe.  All I can say to that is that I've seen several very serious injuries in our years of football, but the worst I've seen this season of rugby is a guy with a bloody nose!  Not that injuries don't happen in rugby of course--Bob played intramural rugby at USAFA and crawled off the field on his elbows, needing both ACLS replaced--but I'm not seeing the concussions and other things that are making the news in football right now.  You should definitely try to watch a game!  You might get hooked!

Friday, May 02, 2014

Celebrations at CiCi's

Last night we had dinner at CiCi's, which is a great place to take a big family with lots of growing boys.  We went there for 2 reasons.  One, it was Grace's actual birthday, she likes pizza, pasta, salad, and dessert, and I was happy to not cook.
Two, it was an awards ceremony for Nathan's CAP drill team that participated in the National Cadet Competition the end of March.  Well, technically it was just a "regional" competition, since, due to the sequestration, they didn't have enough money to actually have the national competition this year.  Still this was the first year Nathan's squadron had entered a team, and most of the team was really, really young and low in rank.  It was a good building year.

They started practicing in January, and it was a huge time commitment!  I was so thankful for Lynnea, who shared the carpooling duties, since her daughter Helena was also on the team.  Practices on Tuesdays were especially crazy once Nathan started rugby.  He would get home around 5:43, Lynnea would pull into the driveway, he would leap out of the car and take a 1 minute shower, throw on his uniform pants and shirt, grab his shoes and whatever else he needed, then race out the door again so they could get to CAP at 6:15 to practice before the meeting.  Whew!

There were several aspects to the competition:  a volleyball tournament (they placed first), a mile run (they placed second), a written exam (2nd), standard drill, innovative drill (2nd), panel quiz (first), and a uniform inspection.  Overall, they placed second.   Last night Nathan was awarded the "most valuable cadet" trophy, voted on by the team!  He was their second place runner for the team, and he answered most of the questions for the panel quiz, leading the team to their victory there!
So it was a really fun night!  Drew approved of the food, for sure!