Saturday, November 29, 2014

Practicing Thankfulness

Yesterday we celebrated "2nd Thanksgiving".  The only problem with going to someone else's house on Thanksgiving is you don't get all the left-overs!  So we do it all again on Friday.  I made enough sweet potato casserole (15 cups of mashed sweet potatoes!) and cran-apple-pear sauce on Wednesday, but even though I made 15 pounds of mashed potatoes, there weren't enough left-over from Thursday to have Friday.  So I made 10 more pounds of mashed potatoes, dressing, gravy, asparagus, and a 24 pound turkey!  Once again I used a rub on it Thursday night, then roasted it at a low temperature all day Friday. It was soooo good.  Next year I'm going to try "spatchcocking" the bird.  That should help even a big one cook more quickly.

The only flaw in the day was discovering that our poor dishwasher is no longer pumping water up onto the dishes.  Water still goes in and out, but it just sloshes around the bottom, so nothing actually gets clean.  We googled for help, but nothing worked.  SO it looks like once again it is time for a new dishwasher.  We are really, really hard on dishwashers, it seems.  Bob and I went to Lowe today to attempt to get one, along with everyone else in Northern VA, it seems.  They are out of most dishwashers, and can get one to us in 2-3 weeks!  Whee!  I forsee lots of paper plates in our future.  First world problems, I know, I know.  I am definitely trying to be thankful and not getting frustrated with my little problems.

Sometimes the little problems just stack up in a way that is kind of paralyzing, though.  We got our Honda minivan inspected last Sunday, and it failed royally.  It needs at least $2000 of work on it--a 2000 Odyssey with 199,900 miles on it.  It seems like pouring that much money into it would be pouring money down a drain, but then, we don't know what we should do instead.  With Nathan driving to community college classes 3 times a week, we really do need a 3rd car, but looking for one seems so overwhelming with such limited time.  We don't usually move on things like this very quickly . . .

We're also trying to figure out cell phone plans.  Currently we have Verizon, with 1 smartphone (my iphone, which I love) and 3 dumb phones.  We're done with our 2 year contract, so we could go with another carrier, but my phone won't work then.  What we know for sure is that Verizon is the most expensive for multiple smart phones!  So should we all switch to Sprint, buying each of us a new (but not all that expensive with another 2 year contract) phone?  Or buy phones for Nathan and Luke to use with Straight Talk or something like that--but do the monthly savings add up to more than the cost of the phones?  There's so much information out there--it's paralyzing!  I want to just bury my head in the sand and not make any decisions.  Could I please go back to the 1800's?

But I am thankful we have options.  I'm thankful for all these fun kids.  I'm so thankful we don't have to worry about basic necessities.  I'm thankful for all our family and friends who are so supportive and loving.  I'm thankful for sweet little baby girls, with sweet little smiles, and for bigger girls to take cute pictures!
Verity is thankful for a thumb that is magically attached to the end of her arm so it is there when she needs it.  Happy baby!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving Break

Happy Thanksgiving!  I'm thankful for . . . a working internet connection!  I sat down to blog last night and discovered our internet had just gone out.  It was supposed to come back on by 4:00 this afternoon, but it didn't, and I had to call to get instructions for resetting our router.  But it was actually nice without the internet--people played board games last night and this morning, with no distraction from computers!  Then we went over to the L's house for our usual Thanksgiving dinner.  There were 41 of us this year!

Before we prayed, we all went around and said what we were thankful for.  I said I was thankful for Thanksgiving break.  I am *really* enjoying this week of break, which is pretty pathetic considering I taught for 4 weeks in September, had a baby and then 5 weeks of maternity leave, and then taught for all of 3 more weeks before this much-needed break.  Whew!  I just have to make it 2 more weeks, and we'll be on Christmas break!

So what have we been doing on this break?  Not really relaxing, that's for sure.  But it's not school!

*Jonathan, Grace, and I went to the commissary Thursday afternoon, our first time back since the beginning of September.  We couldn't park in the "stork parking" space, but on the other hand--hey, I'm not pregnant!  Ha!
*Caleb baked birthday cakes to celebrate his and Drew's November birthdays for Bible study last Friday.  Unfortunately we had found out last Tuesday that his first basketball practice was Friday, so he missed his own party!  He also frosted the cakes, although I helped with the shaping of them and some of the detail frosting.  They were delicious!  We saved him some "hockey rink".  As you can see, Drew helped with quality control, especially for the blue frosting.
*Friday I got to visit with my friend Lynnea.  It seems that with the busy-ness of teaching at Rivendell, plus just normal homeschooling, chatting with friends is the first thing to go, so it was so nice to just relax and catch up.
*I started doing some organizing.  I boxed up books in the study to make more room for high school science books on the shelves.  I still can't bring myself to actually get rid of the books though!  I also worked down in the basement storage room, going through little boys clothes.  I donated a bunch of 12-18 month clothes, but . . . I still couldn't get rid of the newborn boy clothes!  Maybe in a while . . .  I'm hoping to do more organizing/decluttering during Christmas break.  Goodness knows there's still tons more to be done!
*It ended up being good that I cleared some room in the storage room.  Monday night Bob and I bought a used bowflex from someone on our homeschool email loop!  It took the place of our weight bench, which took up a ton of room.  This thing is really neat--you can really do a lot of different things with it, and there aren't all those weight disc-things that go on the end of bar bells all over the floor.  Here Faith is demonstrating using it as a rowing machine.

*I got to visit with another friend, Kimberly, Monday afternoon.  We used to meet every week for a Bible study, but now we are trying to see each other at least once a month.  It was so nice to catch up with her too!  I have really enjoyed these times to just chat this break!
*Verity had her 2 month well-baby appointment Tuesday.  It was a horrendous drive to Bethesda, filled with construction and traffic, but Verity is all the way up to 10 pounds, 14 ounces, which is the 50th percentile!  So no more worries there, and everything else looked fine, praise the Lord.  Verity also got her first shots.  She was not a fan, but she's over it now.  There were 2 female techs giving her the shots, and they couldn't believe Verity was #10.  We had a nice conversation, and one of the techs said that Verity was so lucky that she had so many people to love her!  That is definitely true!  Verity has found her thumb now too, and she looks so cute sucking it.
*My parents drove in Monday night!  They wanted to avoid the bad weather forecast for yesterday.  My dad left today to fly to South Africa for a world conference for military Christian fellowships.  My mom will be here while he's gone.  At least he got to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner at the L's house before heading to the airport!  The past 2 days he started reading the third "Rush Revere" book to the kids:  Rush Revere and the American Revolution.  He read the first 2 books while they were here for Verity's birth, and the kids really enjoyed them.  This latest book is particularly good, since we just visited Boston this summer!  It's nice to be able to picture where the book is describing.
*Lots of board games have been played--starting even before the internet outage!  The boys played Settlers of Catan yesterday while I cooked up mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, cran-apple-pear sauce, chocolate pecan pie, and chocolate peppermint cookies for the meal today.  Then they played Puerto Rico this morning, which is complicated but fun.

Today felt like a Saturday, but hooray!  It's only Thursday!  There's still a few more days of break!  And only 2 more weeks until Christmas.  I can do this . . .  Happy Thanksgiving!!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Verity Update

Verity was 7 weeks old on Wednesday, and by our bathroom scale she now weighs about 10 1/2 pounds with her clothes on . . . or in other words, she now weighs what Micah weighed at birth.  No wonder my poor pelvis was so sore with him!  But anyhow, Verity is gaining nicely now, and she's gotten much, much faster at nursing.  Yay!  She's also smiling a lot more, and doing some cooing, to the great delight of whoever is lucky enough to be holding her.  She is still a great sleeper at night, much to the great delight of her mother, LOL.
She's had some special visitors lately!  Bob's sister Rose came down from PA to visit as part of a work trip to D.C.  She brought some things her girls (who are high school and junior high-age) were done with, so it was like Christmas!  Anna, Grace, and Faith were busily occupied putting together a new puzzle, making lip gloss, and playing with these 2 little rolling hamster things.
And Bob's sister Ann and her husband Wally came up from Richmond to visit with Rose, visit the Capitol and  botanical garden, and take a tour of the Pentagon with Bob.  They spent Thursday night with us, which made the kids very happy, since originally they hadn't planned on staying another night!  Ann brought the girls some supplies to learn how to decorate cakes.  Ann has taught classes for years, so she is a real pro!  The girls can't wait to try some things, and fortunately Drew has a birthday coming up, so they'll have some cake and frosting to practice with!

Everyone else is doing well too.  Bob spent Veterans Day taking out our old french doors and installing a new sliding glass door out to our deck.  Our old one was letting water in under it (requiring Bob to switch out some wood as well), and it was pulling away from the wall, so it was definitely time for a new one.  We decided to go with a sliding door instead of another french one because we don't have any extra room in the eating area, and getting rid of a door that swings in sounded wonderful to me!  The new door has a lot more glass--when I walk by it, I keep thinking the door is open because you can see so much more out of it!  We had contemplated getting a door with blinds built into it, but we ended up deciding that there was no way on God's green earth that those blinds would not break with all these kids trying to open and close them.  So no built in blinds.  But hopefully this new door will last another 22 years, like the last one!

Tuesday was a busy day--Bob was home, installing the new door (and it was a gorgeous day, weather-wise--a perfect day to have a gaping hole in the side of your house), we still had our co-ops, and Caleb got his first promotion that night at Civil Air Patrol!

Not everything is rainbows and roses around here, of course.  I've been so distracted the past 2 months, and I am just now feeling like my brain is coming back online.  But in the meantime, we are reaping some fruits from me being so distracted, as far as attitudes and actions.  We started a new book for character time this year called Character Building For Families.  We worked on the character trait "obedience" for a little while, but now we have moved on to "honesty", since that seems to be the problem for several people lately.  Drew has started acting like an almost 2 year old, with liberal use of the word "no" and some tantrums to boot (although not like Micah, the king of tantrums, thankfully).  Faith and Micah are experts at pushing each other's buttons, leading to loud wails (Faith) and angry shrieks (Micah).  Plenty of character issues to work on, and there is never a dull moment, especially when I am nursing or otherwise occupied!  We're all looking forward to a short Thanksgiving break and a longer Christmas break.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Back in the (Co-op) Saddle Again

Yesterday I taught at Rivendell for the first time since the day before I had Verity.  I was worried about a lot of things, the main one being that my brain would simply not function, but everything went really well.
It helped that for life science, we are starting the unit on genetics, which is probably my favorite one, thanks to great genetics teachers in high school and college (thanks, Mr. Norvell and Dr. Phipps!).  We covered mitosis, modeling the phases with yarn "chromosomes", and then the boys modeling DNA with Twizzlers and gummi bears (since I couldn't find gum drops, even though I looked at 2 different stores!).

Amazingly, Verity was incredibly cooperative.  She woke up at 7:15 to nurse, and then I fed her again while the boys were making their DNA, a little before 11:00, which was about as ideal as I could have imagined.  Maybe she won't be as difficult a child as I was imagining, after the way she started out the first 2 weeks!

Next was anatomy, and since I wasn't finished nursing when class was to start, I had them go around and share about the disease they had written a paper on over the maternity break.  They had to pick a disease that affects either tissues, the integumentary system, or the skeletal system.  It is always interesting to hear about rare diseases that are out there.  I was reminded that I used to follow a blog by a mom whose son had one of these rare diseases, the one Celia researched, a skin disorder called junctional epidermolysis bullosa--"EB"ing a Mommy.  The mom's faith during a tremendous trial was so inspirational.  It is mind-boggling the small things that genetically can go wrong, and wow, the pain and suffering that can ensue.  Heart-breaking.
Next we talked about the skeletal system.  Over the summer I researched small skeletons to buy, but they were really pretty expensive and no one got really great reviews.  But then I found this "bag of bones" on amazon that were rejects from all sizes of skeletons.  I thought that might actually be better, as far as bone identification.  It was actually kind of fun to go through them all and see what we'd gotten!  Plus, it was easier to see the fossa, tubercles, etc. on bones that were not attached to a skeleton.  It was definitely a random assortment though, and we got things like the left femur, but the right side of the pelvis.  Oh well.
Here is a picture of the assortment we got (and note the varied sizes!), but you could never assume to get the same ones.  I think they do include a skull in every bag, and it is pretty nice--the mandible opens with springs, and the top of the skull comes off.  There were several duplicates of bones though.  We got several tibia/fibula sets, for example.

The day went well, anyhow.  In the afternoon was memory work, but Michele, another mom whose oldest child is in life science, has been helping lead that in the afternoon.  That has really been so nice for me.  I stay around and help, but if I have to nurse or whatever, she can lead.  I think once Verity gets onto a more predictable schedule, then we will take turns or something.

Today was Latin class, but we had that last week as well, so I had already gotten back in gear there, sort of.  Fortunately we are just starting the 3rd declension, and I am still pretty confidant about those, so I can kind of coast.  It's moving into the 4th and 5th declensions that I become much less familiar.  Also verb tenses that aren't present, future, or imperfect.  I don't look forward to getting into those again--nothing new sticks well in my brain anymore!  Maybe by the time I'm teaching this class for Verity, I'll really have the pluperfect and all those other weird tenses down.
Before Latin class, Caleb whipped up some frosted banana cookies, his favorite.  And he should have been able to make his favorites, because today was his 13th birthday!  He felt like he should not have had to do any school, but such is the life of a junior-higher, LOL.  At least he got to celebrate with his friends who come over for Latin.  Latin class is just like a party, right?!  We all enjoyed the banana cookies, as well as the chicken packets, brussel sprouts, and cabbage salad that he picked for his birthday dinner tonight.  And ice cream of course for dessert!  We'll celebrate both his and Drew's birthday at Bible study later on this month--no word on what the dessert choices will be yet, however.  Caleb did open his presents before ice cream, and he got a Lego set, a new book, some Swedish fish, and a remote-controlled flying helicopter thing, which is charging right now.  Fun stuff!  And now we have 3 teenage boys in the house, plus one 12 year old.  I can't believe how old everyone is getting!

Caleb has been thinking a lot recently about what he'll be when he grows up, even though I've assured him he has *plenty* of time to figure things out!  He was really shocked to realize a few weeks ago that he most likely will be unable to go to the Air Force Academy, with his asthma and nut allergies.  I had no idea he ever even was thinking he might like to do that, since I had never heard him mention it, but apparently he just sort of assumed that's what he would do.  So now he's sort of recalibrating.  He is really a hands-on person, whose love language is definitely touch, so I suggested considering something like becoming a chiropractor or physical therapist.  I think he'd be great (and how wonderful would it be to have a chiropractor in the family?!  Maybe I can steer one of the kids to be a massage therapist as well--they could go into business together!  I'd be there all the time!)  Yesterday he mentioned that maybe he'd like to go to culinary school.  I can see that too, as he's always been interested in cooking.  He and Jonathan especially love watching the Food Network, and all the cooking shows on there, like Chopped.  So he's got plenty of good options!  I told him that as he goes through high school, hopefully he'll start being able to figure out where his interests lie, and what he feels the Lord is leading him to do.  I can't wait to see how God uses him!