Saturday, December 12, 2015

It's Beginning to Feel a Lot Like Christmas

Well, at least the tree's been up for awhile!  This may be the last year for the poor thing.  It has several strands that don't light up anymore, leaving vast dark swaths at the top and at the bottom.  Fortunately we have tons of ornaments.  Unfortunately, we have Verity trying to make that number less . . .
First Verity was cracking like eggs on the coffee table the few remaining shiny ball ornaments we had left from before we had kids, so she made short work of those.  Several years ago Caleb made us each ornaments out of model magic--a stocking, a few Christmas trees, a wreath, an angel . . . Verity has managed to bite a chunk out of everyone of them!  She'll chew away, with the washable paint running down her mouth.  Blech!  I really am not going to miss this phase!

It also feels like Christmas because we've been super busy lately.  It's been all parties, and not even shopping or baking!
Firs we had our elementary co-op skating party Friday.  It was weird to have it be warmer outside than inside, but that's how it was.  Bob was able to come too, so I broke my rule of only letting kids old enough to be in TNT skate.  Drew was so cute out there in his Minion hat he got from Nathan!  Christine brought double-runner skates for him to borrow, so that helped, but he needed a tremendous amount of assistance out there.  It was a good thing Bob was there, as well as our older boys and the McC boys to help him and Micah!  Micah was a little more independent, and he had a great time.  Verity was mad that she couldn't be out there on the ice, and she kept trying to dart out there.
Our next big party was Friday night at Bible study.  We had our annual baked potato bar, re-enactment of the Christmas story, and ice cream sundae bar.  It was so much fun!
There's a part for everyone during the re-enactment, and plenty of random costume pieces to assemble however you can figure out!  Faith had a ton of lines, as the Angel Gabriel, and Jonathan got to be Joseph.
There was a gang of enthusiastic large angels as well.  It looks like we need some bigger costumes, LOL.
Here's Joseph and Mary.  Mary was the lovely Stephanie.  As Jonathan has said, they are "more than friends but not married."  Well!  Plenty of distance between those 2 points, LOL.  She's a very sweet girl!
Drew was an unpredictable shepherd with a crook/gun.  I felt like I was refereeing a hockey game the whole time:  "Keep your stick down!"
Micah was a fierce Roman soldier, but I don't think he had a sword, so I didn't have to constantly be watching him to make sure he wasn't about to poke someone's eye out or conk anyone on the head.

This is such a fun tradition, and we all laughed a lot last night!  Plus the food was yummy, and so was the company.  Good times!  I think an ice cream sundae with all sorts of toppings is my absolute favorite dessert.  Strawberries, nuts, crushed up Oreos, M&Ms, chocolate sauce . . . YUM!

Now we have Bob's company Christmas party, which we've heard good things about, as well as our Rivendell Christmas party.  I think we're all looking forward to that one most of all, because having it means we'll be on break, and I think I can speak for all of us when I say we are really ready for a break!

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Happy Birthday, Drew!

Drew turned 3 yesterday, but we actually celebrated on Saturday so that Nathan could be here with us.  Drew was perfectly happy to celebrate early, although he kept saying he wasn't *really* 3 yet.  Yesterday he and Micah were bickering about something, and he said that it was his birthday, and Micah said, "No, Drew, we just CELEBRATED early.  You're still not 3 yet."  Micah did not really believe us that it actually was in fact Drew's real birthday, and he was in fact 3.
Drew was happy to get some fun books and a plastic motorcycle with guys to go on it.  He's a big fan of motorcycles, which he calls "noisemakers" for some unknown reason.
I didn't ask Drew what kind of cake he wanted.  I was up last Friday after Thanksgiving, and I realized that if we were going to have a cake the next day, I'd better bake one then so it could cool.  I needed an idea that could be made really quickly, and a "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle" came to mind. So I only used one box of cake mix, and I baked an 8" round plus a ovalish casserole dish.  Then early Saturday morning, before everyone else was up, I cut off the bottom on the round cake to fit on top of the oval cake, and I cut the part from the bottom in half to make the bandana.  It didn't take very long, and Drew was happy with it, even though he's not a super-big fan of TMNT.  He might be, but he's never seen a show or anything really, LOL.  Micah went to a ninja turtle-themed birthday party a few weeks ago, and Theodore L. is a huge fan, so that's pretty much been his only exposure.  Since the girls have preferred cupcakes or some other dessert, I've had a nice break from making cakes!
Verity was a big fan of the cake, obviously.
Drew loves playing with this bulldozer from Grandma and Grandpa G.  Bob suggested leaving the little driver guy tied into the seat, like it came, but so far amazingly the guy hasn't been lost.  Let's give it a few more days . . . Drew actually lost his favorite Batman pajamas about a week ago, and we are all scratching our heads as to where they could possibly have disappeared to.  He has a gift!  

I am happy to report that Drew's potty woes seem to be over.  It's as if August and September never even happened!  Who can fathom the mind of a 2 year old.  Now that he is 3, though, hopefully he has put childish things, like peeing all over the floor, behind him.  Drew really talks a lot now too.  I love to see his little brain work to describe things and to communicate.  He is so much fun!  He definitely doesn't have the temper that Micah did, so that's a blessing.  I no longer take that for granted!  He's sweet little boy who loves all his older siblings, and his one little baby sister.  We thank the Lord for putting Drew in our family!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Random Things I'm Thankful For Right Now

*Nathan is home!  He came home Friday, and it's been wonderful having him around again.  He told my mom he wanted to "sleep in and eat Mom's cooking", as well as play board games.  I think we've met all his goals!  So far games of skip-bo, Scrabble, Pandemic, and Monopoly have been played.  The McC's came over this afternoon to play street hockey too.

Nathan is doing really well in all areas at school.  It's nice to see that he is where he is supposed to be!  He's also going to a good church that a friend recommended.  He had 2 really great roommates for the first few months--their room was one of only 2 in their company that didn't have to have a sign saying no one could enter except for official corps business or academic reasons, since all 3 of them had good GPAs at mid-terms.  Now he's with a new roommate, so hopefully that will go well too.  It's good to see him so settled in and thriving down there!
Last week we were trying to figure out how we were going to get him home when a friend of ours in our Friday night Bible study asked if he could fly down there and pick Nathan up.  We were so happy the weather held and everything worked out!  Nathan got to fly home in this cute little plane, avoiding all the traffic on I-81.  It's only a 1 and a half hour by airplane!
*We have orthodontia!  Grace got her expander in on Monday.  She is having a hard time learning how to eat with it in, and it is definitely hurting her, but the results will be worth it.  You can see the 2 teeth that are so much higher in her mouth--just like Luke and Jonathan had.  She has gotten a lot more self-conscious about her smile lately, so I'm glad she has options to open up the traffic wreck that is her mouth!  There are other teeth backed up in the gums that have no place to go.  It's always neat to see teeth shift around, and others come in, once the expander has widened the jaw.  A miracle of modern orthodontics!
*Verity is learning tons of new things!  Most importantly, she finally learned how to turn herself around and slide down the stairs on her tummy.  She actually started doing this the beginning of November, but it's still such a nice relief not to worry about her if she goes upstairs!  She's super fast both at climbing stairs, and at sliding back down them.  Instead of going down on step at a time, she now knows she can lift her feet up and just slide down.  Much faster!  She is also super-fast at scrambling up onto a chair and then onto the table, where she wreaks havoc like Godzilla.  If you turn your back for one second, she's up there!

Her other important new skill is finally(!!) being able to drink out of a regular hard-spout sippy cup.  Yay!  We can now use all the sippy cups we've accumulated over the years!  I'm trying to have her drink more milk and less bottle, so this helps.  She is still her happy, smiley self, so I'm so thankful for that!
*We have a new dresser on the main floor!  This is minor, but wow!  The drawers slide in and out!  It's so nice-looking!  Our old dresser was anciently old--Bob picked it up off the side of the road when he was stationed in Alabama before we even met, which was in 1991.  It had a cushy life in the room with the crib until Elizabeth L started putting Theodore's clothes in a (nice) dresser on their main floor several years ago.  It was so convenient!  Why had I never thought of that before?!  So we moved the old dresser into our family room and put Micah's clothes, and then Drew's clothes too, in it (and eventually the fish tank on it).  It was really nice, except that drawer tracts were all broken, so it was a constant struggle to get the drawers in and out.  But then a few weeks ago Bob and I made a trip to that wonderful store, Ikea, and voila!  A lovely new dresser that will hopefully last at least as many years as our old one!  Did I mention the drawers slide in and out so smoothly?!  I could stand there all day and slide them!
I am of course thankful for many more things, such as my wonderful family, my supportive friends, and most of all salvation through Christ, but these are some of the other lesser-known things I'm thankful for!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Library of Congress Field Trip

We took a Rivendell field trip to the Library of Congress this morning.  This is a place we had never been before, and I wasn't really sure what to expect.  Emily, our field-trip coodinator extraordinaire, set up a tour for us.  We divided into 2 groups:  junior high and high schoolers were one, and everyone under 6th grade were another.  All together, we had 24 kids, 6 kids, and 1 grandma.  The tours each did a part for 45 minutes, and then we switched, so we each got a complete tour.  I went with the younger kids, and I had a fantastic time--mainly because Luke stayed home and watched my 4 youngest, plus Christine's youngest.  So we could have had 6 more kids along!  I was thrilled to not be carrying a diaper bag, pushing a stroller, and trying to keep hungry, tired, crabby toddlers from being loud and running around.
We started out in the great hall, which was amazing, architecturally.  I LOVED all the intricate details and all the light.  I could have stayed for a lot longer, reading the names of all the great thinkers and writers up on the (extremely high) ceiling. The room was just so stunning.

There were just so many details to notice!  All these little carved cherubs (called some other word--possibly Italian?--I should look that up, but who has time?--something like "putti") have little details concerning their occupations carved up there with them.
Behind this staircase there was a little display of some actual medieval illuminated, hand-copied books.  So amazing!  The colors were so vivid!  They had some Bibles in another case.  They didn't have the beautiful illustrations, but whoa, was the print small.  It gave me a hand cramp to look at it and imagine copying it by hand!
Then we got to see the actual Guttenburg Bible, one of only 3 that survive which are printed on vellum rather than paper.  We had just listened to a Peace Hill Press book about Johannes Guttenburg on CD on our trip down to visit Nathan, so we were all up on his life, and all his financial difficulties.
Next we peeked into the main reading room.  There is a huge and glorious dome for the ceiling, so the room is flooded with natural light.  What a wonderful place to do research!
They have all these statues of wise men ringing the upper balcony.  Right next to our viewing area were Isaac Newton and Moses himself.  I'm sure it looked just like him!
After a quick walk-through of Thomas Jefferson's library, of which 1/3 are the original books he himself owned, we traded guides with the older kids.  The new guide did a hands-on demonstration of early American printing tools and the process they used.  It was really interesting, and I think it wasn't too terribly much different from what Guttenburg himself used.  Jonathan thought that was the most interesting part of the tour, followed closely by the Jefferson library.
Then we met back up in the great hall to take some group pictures.
Here are the Rivendell teachers, except for Christine (and Siri).  We're under a mosaic of "Minerva", the Roman goddess of wisdom, which we thought was appropriate, lol.
  And here is some of us with some of the McC kids.  After much consternation on my part about how to get downtown, where to park, etc., Bob came up with a genius plan.  He went in to work late after driving us downtown and dropping us off.  Then he drove on to work and worked a few hours.  When we were done, he drove back over and picked us up, and then we dropped him back off, so he can take the bus home tonight.  Yay--no maneuvering the big van around downtown for me, and (most importantly), no need to park!  It worked out really nicely.  The weather was perfect, the tour guides were interesting and nice, and it was a lovely time!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

A Visit With Nathan

 A week ago we were visiting with Nathan!  Bob took Friday off from work, so we were able to get there in the afternoon.  It was so great to see him (and his bag of laundry)!  We were all milling around outside his dorm, waiting for him to sign out and come down, when 3 upperclass cadets came out the door.  One saw us and came over to ask us if we were Nathan's family.  Haha--I wonder how on earth he guessed?  It turned out to be Nathan's first sergeant.

We went back to the hotel, and it was so nice just to relax with ALL of us.  Bob took the little kids swimming, and the rest of us just caught up.  Nathan is doing great in all areas, which is wonderful news.  It is especially heartening for me to hear that he is doing really well academically, since, well, that was what I spent the last 18 years preparing him for.  Whew!

We talked about where to go out to eat, but a table for 12 in a college town on a Friday night seemed like a bridge too far, especially when the youngest ones were pretty crabby from the car ride and lots of snacks.  So Bob and I went to Little Caesar's and brought back 6 pizzas.  While we were waiting for them all to be ready, we were reminded again how different it is down there, compared to in Northern VA.  People were so friendly, chatting with us as we waited!  Way different.

 We of course had 2 hotel rooms.  The older 4 boys were in one, and the rest of us were in the other.  That meant the boys could really sleep in, although the little kids were pretty tired and slept fairly late as well.  After breakfast, more swimming, college football, and leftover pizza for lunch, our big outing was to a rugby game.  It was raining at this point, but everyone was still game to watch.  Verity had fallen asleep in the van, so I stayed with her while everyone braved the damp and cold--for awhile anyway.  Kids kept drifting back to the van, and then back out to the sidelines.  Fortunately it stopped raining at halftime, and Verity woke up, so we could all go out to watch.  The was another man there, and he was letting his 2 kids just splash around in these huge big puddles.  They were maybe a little younger than Micah and Drew, who were eyeing them *very* enviously.  The kids were absolutely sopping wet, and I made sure Micah and Drew stayed far away, since we didn't have a ton of extra clothes--plus it was freezing!
 Once again, Saturday evening we knew we'd be in trouble if we had to wait in a crowded place for a table, so we chose the path of least resistance and went to the nearest Chick-Fil-A.
 I'm not sure why Micah is flashing a gang sign here, because he actually loves Chick-Fil-A, lol. It was good for the kids to have the playground to run around in, especially with all the rain.

Sunday we got up and ate breakfast.  Bob took the younger kids swimming again so I could get the room packed up.  We had the best of intentions of getting to Nathan's church early, but . . . yeah.  As so often happens here at home, it was like herding cats (with luggage) to get everyone out the door, so we were late.  I know--shocking surprise!  Sigh.  We talked about how easy it will be when Bob and I go to visit Verity at college . . . of course, she also won't have the cheering crowd greeting her!
 After church we ate at a little Chinese restaurant before heading back to campus.  We got to see Nathan's (incredibly crowded) room, and then we walked around some with him.  Everyone agreed it is a beautiful campus, and Anna is ready to go there herself!
 It was really good for Micah, Drew, and Verity to see Nathan again.  On Thursday before we left, Micah said, "We're going to pick up Nathan and bring him back home to live with us?"  Nooo . . . I think it was good for Micah to actually see Nathan's room, and that he is really *living* there.  Everyone really misses their oldest brother!  I also think maybe it wasn't bad that it worked out for this to be the first weekend we could get down there.  Nathan's settled in now, and so it wasn't anywhere near as hard to say goodbye as it was when we left him in August, and he was not looking forward at all to going back! As he said in a letter to the girls, "Each day is a little better than the one before."  
We were able to get a picture with ALL the kids before we left, which made me really happy!  I can't take those for granted anymore.  And now we look forward to having Nathan home for Thanksgiving in a week!  Hooray!

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Happy Birthday, Caleb!

Caleb turned 14 today!  We baked cookies and mini apple pies today, but we didn't bake a cake, so we just celebrated with ice cream!  We've been having the "week of Caleb" as far as meals go--he couldn't figure out one favorite for his birthday dinner, so he picked all the dinners this week.  He got a WSS t-shirt as well as a fleece vest.  We were going to get him a WSS water bottle to replace the one he dropped and shattered on his way to cross-country practice, but sadly they were out, and they said they weren't going to order any more until next summer.  So we just had to get a regular nalgene from amazon to get him through basketball and rugby seasons.  We also gave him a Lego Star Wars set I found at Costco (it's so convenient to shop for a birthday right after everyone rolls out all the new Christmas toys!).

I've discovered that Caleb is my least-photographed child.  I searched back to find another picture, but he has managed to slip out of most other kid ones.  I'm making it my mission to take more pictures of him this year!  He is thrilled to have grown several inches, as well as developed a deeper voice this past year, so I need to document that!
I did find this picture of him at a cross-country meet.  He and Jonathan both ran cross-country for the first time this fall.  We had heard several other people with asthma say that running had helped them not be so reactive.  Caleb's asthma has been pretty well-controlled the past few years, but it does seem to have a bit of an exercise trigger.  He was pretty wheezy at the beginning of the season, so he was using his puffers a lot, but we were sort of stumbling along in the dark as far as how to use them effectively, since they had always just been rescue inhalers that he didn't need too often.  Eventually his flovent one ran out, and I had to make an appointment to get a new prescription.  I'm so glad we went in!  The doctor was very helpful, as far as what he should be doing during seasons with lots of running.  He's supposed to use albuterol 20 minutes before running, since that helps open up the airway.  Then he take flovent daily--2 puffs, twice a day, actually--, which works more long-term to protect the airway so it's not so reactive.  It was good to have a definitive plan laid out for him!  I don't think running is Caleb's absolute favorite thing to do by a long shot, but he had a good season.  He improved a lot, and he had a good time.  Now it's on to basketball!

Friday, October 30, 2015

11 Year Anniversary

I was reminded by Timehop on my phone this morning that today is my 11th anniversary of blogging!  I started on Oct. 30, 2004.  I didn't know how to link articles, post pictures, or really do anything other than type words (not that I do anything all that exciting now, LOL).  

We had 4 boys at the time.  Nathan had just turned 7 a week before we moved to DC the July 4th weekend, and Jonathan had just turned 1.  I was so overwhelmed and busy!  How could I ever consider having any more kids?!  This picture is technically from 2005, but the faces look pretty familiar.  Cute boys!  Hard to believe Nathan is in college now.  Where does the time go?!

I have to laugh when I think that I had 4 kids 7 and under at that point--and now, 11 years later, I still have 4 kids 7 and under--plus 6 older ones.  Ay yi yi.  I didn't even have an inkling about what being busy really was!  Sure I dealt with messes, and it was hard to homeschool with toddlers around.  But they all went to bed around 8:00, and then I was done.  I wasn't staying up for hours trying to dredge my memory for how to use the chi square test to check results of a fruit fly genetic experiment or making up Latin practice sentences using 3rd conjugation verbs (present tense only!) plus selected prepositions and nouns from the vocab lists.  I didn't have to write exams and practice worksheets or search around the internet for alternative labs since I can't get the supplies for many AP labs as written.  Compared to now, there was no mental strain, and I know I got more sleep and exercise than I do now!  I never really dreamed that any stage could be harder than the toddler stage, but it turns out the "high schoolers plus toddlers" stage is 1000x more exhausting.

I'm so glad I started blogging.  It has always mainly been to keep in touch with family and friends, especially in the "pre-Facebook" world (remember that dim, dark epoch of time?).  I didn't realize that a few short years after I started blogging I would become way too busy to keep up with scrapbooking, and this blog has become a scrapbook, especially once I figured out how to post pictures (and got a digital camera in 2006, which was the first step--we are not early adopters of new technology, LOL).  It's really fun for me to look back and reread old posts from way back when.  I only regret now not having enough time to blog, so a lot of the fun little day-to-day things are getting forgotten.  Poor Drew is only going to be remembered for his "Autumn of Accidents", LOL. I need to do another month of everyday blogging, like I did in October 2013.  Maybe when things get easier . . . haha!  I crack myself up!  It is somewhat encouraging to think that in 11 more years, I should NOT have 4 kids 7 and under.  It is incredibly weird, however, to think that I could potentially be a grandma by then.  Well, I'll keep on blogging, and we'll see where we are then!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

"Making Time"

The book I read while Bob and I were on our lovely Colorado trip (was that a month ago?  or just a dream, perhaps?!) was Making Time:  Lillian Moller Gilbreth--A Life Beyond Cheaper by the Dozen" by Jane Lancaster.  I read Cheaper by the Dozen as well as the sequel, Belles on Their Toes, for the first time back when I was in junior high, and I loved the books.  They were so funny!  They definitely made life with a big family seem so totally fun, and I would have told you I wanted 12 kids for sure had you asked me then (although when I was a much more mature high schooler, I realized it would be crazy to have more than say 4, which to me WAS a big family . . .)  Somehow I read about this book a few years ago (amazon reviews, maybe?), and I requested it for a present.  I did receive it, and then it sat on the shelf because I just didn't have time to read it.  The trip to Colorado was a perfect time for some pleasure reading, however, so I took it along and started reading it on the plane.

I was fascinated by it.  I finished it a few weeks back, but I've kept thinking about it, and about Lillian Moller Gilbreth, who is the mom in Cheaper by the Dozen.   We really have a lot in common, and I felt a real kinship with her.  I wish I could have met her!

First, some details about her that most people, even ones who read the books, don't know about her.  In the books she was mentioned as part of the "motion study" team, always trying to figure out the most efficient way of doing things, and they talked about her visiting factories, but that part of her life was definitely glossed over.  I had no idea that she was such a well-respected academic herself!  She received a master's in literature from UC-Berkeley before she even met her future husband, Frank.  She met him in Boston.  He had never gone to college, but he was interested in workplace efficiency, and Lillian became interested in that as well.  She got her first PhD from Brown in 1915 in industrial psychology (first one ever granted because it was a totally new field), already having 4 children.  She and Frank started a "scientific management principles" consulting business, where they worked on "time and motion studies" to make factories and businesses run most efficiently, and she worked right alongside him.  Because of her psychology background, she was able to help convince workers that these new ways were better for them, and she really pushed for better working conditions and incentives, since she was more interested in the "human element", rather than just the technical benefits of efficiency.  They developed the concept of "ergonomics", really, as well as the discipline of industrial engineering, a subject dear to my heart, since my sister-in-law and niece are both industrial engineers.

Lillian always deflected any praise away from herself and towards her husband, so it wasn't until after Frank died on June 14, 1924, that people started realizing that she was actually the one who had written most of the many books they had published.  She was able to keep running by herself the business they had started, and she also became a professor of industrial engineering at a bunch of prestigious universities.  She was awarded a boatload of awards and impacted our lives in dozens of ways that I don't think anyone really realizes anymore.  For example, she conducted a ton of research to help determine the most efficient way to set up a kitchen (the whole "work triangle concept" came from her), as well as the best standard height for stoves and sinks.  She came up with the idea for shelves in the refrigerator door and the foot-pedal trash can (something I appreciate very much!), and dozens of other things we just accept as common-place now.  She also worked to develop methods for physically-handicapped people to do common tasks.  She kept teaching and consulting until she was 90 years old, and she died when she was 93.

So . . . wow!  All that is amazing, but what I was really interested in was her family life.  She actually bore 13 children--her second child, Mary, died of diphtheria when she was 5, and Lillian also delivered a stillborn child for her 8th child--but there were only really 11 kids, although Frank and Lillian always referred to them as their "dozen".  Now here is where the bias of the author really shines through.  I have no idea about the author at all, except after reading the book, I have the mental image of a feminist spinster who definitely doesn't have any children of her own.  Through the whole book, the author is clearly astounded that anyone would ever *really* choose to have so many kids, even though Lillian herself says in many of her own writings that from a young age, she wanted a "strenuous life", rather than the life of ease she had grown up with.  Lillian was the oldest of 9, so she was used to a big family and for being responsible for a lot of younger kids.  From the get-go, Frank had wanted "6 boys and 6 girls", although Lillian later wrote, "This seemed an easy undertaking to a person who had practically been an only child, but was a little appalling to the oldest of nine".  It seems from her later writings that having a big family was definitely a part of their scientific management experimentation, as they wanted to see if there could possibly be "one best way" to manage a big household and raise a lot of kids.  After Frank died, though, a lot of his more regimented ideas went by the wayside.

Lillian was pregnant within 6 weeks of their marriage, and she continued to have babies pretty much every 15 months.  Now the author gives a few other reasons for Lillian continuing to produce these children, the last of which is "a sheer love of children".  The most insulting reason given is basically, Lillian was just too prudish to ever discuss birth control.  I find it hard to believe that such a strong, intelligent woman working in a man's field, in such an equal partnership with her husband, was just too delicate to ever bring up the subject!   More likely, as the author grudgingly alludes to, she just didn't like birth control and didn't want to use it.  I can relate!  I think that even for someone who was used to a lot of children, and knew what a lot of work they were, Lillian had children because she really did love each and every one of them.  There were several quotes throughout the book that show how much enjoyment Lillian got from her kids, and how much she enjoyed having them around her.  Plus, Lillian said herself that all the children were "planned", and the timing was so that during her "unavoidable delay" of post-partum recovery, which back then meant several weeks of lying in bed, she could proof galleys for whatever book was getting ready to be published, since that was a job she could do in bed.  The weirdest reason given for why Lillian and Frank had so many kids was that they were into "positive eugenics".  The book says, "Rather than calling for forcible sterilization of the less 'fit', they applied their theories to themselves and produced their own large family.  They also wanted to demonstrate by means of their family system that is was possible to rear and educate many healthy children, and do it economically and efficiently, while leaving time for the mother to be professionally active."  I can tell you very honestly that we did not have 10 kids because we thought our genes were somehow superior and because we wanted to demonstrate the superiority of our system of raising them!  Haha!  We were much less deliberate about the whole thing, and here is where we differ greatly--we have all our children because we believe God blessed us with them, in His perfect timing.  And believe me, we are very thankful for His grace as we raise them, since we know for a fact there is nothing remotely superior about any set of 2 sinful parents raising a bunch of little sinners!

It was also very interesting to consider Lillian's daily schedule and how she could accomplish so much.  She had help!  Live-in help!  (And I don't mean her kids, LOL.)  As the book says, "She neither cooked nor cleaned, and although she scheduled much more time with her children than most women who work outside the home usually manage, she had assistance with the children during the hours she spent on her professional work."  I can't imagine not cooking and cleaning.  Just not cleaning would be great!  I actually enjoy cooking, even in the vast quantities I must produce right now.  But I am constantly behind on cleaning, and one of my biggest frustrations is that I can't even get all areas of the house clean enough at once to get an estimate for a cleaning lady to come once a month.  If one just happened to walk in, she would run the other way screaming, or even worse, charge us a fortune, since at least some parts always look like a disaster area!

Ha, that reminded me of another part of the book.  In Cheaper by the Dozen, they describe this great big house in New Jersey that Frank bought for them, and that was where they had the foreign language victrolas in the bathroom, and all the charts, and so on.  I was hoping to see a picture of the house or something, but after all the kids were on their own, Lillian moved to a little apartment--and she had the house torn down!!  She said it was in too bad of a shape to ever be sold.  Well--I guess I can identify with that sentiment too, LOL, although I'm sure that was a drastic step.  Too bad!

As Lillian got older, she did more with simplifying household management.  She started to sound like me though, cautioning against using "sterling silver standards where stainless steel would be more appropriate".  She was not a fan of silver flatware as a wedding gift, because then the bride would feel obligated to get nice china, linen, etc. to go with it.  Her conclusion:  "The homemaker who holds a job has to be especially careful not to cling too hard to a set of standards that dates back to the time when the lady of the house was always at home and moreover had servants to help her."  Amen!  I would consider homeschooling to be a full time job, especially at the high school level!

The last thing that I found particularly interesting was the her kids were never interested in dishing out dirt on their mom (much to the disappointment of the author of this book, I think).  All she could get was that eventually Jane, the youngest, who was only 2 when her dad died, lamented her mom's "physical and emotional distance".  The author of the book says, "Most of the Gilbreth children, however, seem determined to put a positive spin on their upbringing."  I don't think she could ever believe that kids might possibly have enjoyed growing up in a big family.  It is telling, however, that none of her kids had very big families--Martha, who married last because she stayed around and helped raise the youngest kids for her mom, had the biggest family, 4 kids.  Lillian ended up with 30 grandchildren and 22 great-grandchildren when she died in 1972.  Their family system was more along the lines of the Duggars, with the older kids each being responsible for a younger kid, and it was a big responsibility since the older kid had to get the younger kid all ready for school each day.  I don't think we have as much of a reliance on the older kids to help parent the younger ones.  The older kids are pretty busy with school and extra-curricular stuff at this point anyway.  Honestly, the biggest thing I took away from the book is that I need a cleaning lady!

I really enjoyed reading about her and her family though.  It was all just so interesting, and like I said, I really related to her.  There's a story in this book about a train trip she took to California from Rhode Island to visit her family.  She had 7 kids, ages 11 down to 11 months, and it was a nightmare.  Kids were sick, she was 7 months pregnant, and it was a long trip.  She had planned to get the kids all cleaned up before meeting her parents in Oakland, but her brother met them on the train in Sacramento, and found diapers everywhere, crying children, and just a scene of general chaos.  Lillian was mortified because she was trying to convince her family that "she had made the right choice in marrying her 'strenuous' husband, that she could cope with the children, and that Gilbreth, Inc. was prospering."  That was not the impression she gave, and boy, could I feel for her there, having been in  situations like that before myself!  The book also quotes a letter she wrote to Frank during one of his many business trips, saying, "I know I have made a million mistakes, but anyone would who typed against the clatter I do."  Ha!  I'm right there!  And another time she forgot to enclose something, so she wrote later, "It isn't any wonder I do strange things for I work in the midst of confusion all the time . . . and the children rampaging all over the place and asking a hundred questions a minute."  Good to know my kids aren't unique, and really it did encourage me that such an accomplished and brilliant woman could struggle with the same day-to-day issues that I do!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

A Brief Breath

When I think about the school year, the mental image I get is of being underwater.  Every August I take a deep breath and dive in.  Now that it's October, I think we're finally getting in somewhat of a routine.  It's not easy, but I'm enjoying everything more than I thought I would back in August, when I was pretty much having panic attacks about starting Rivendell again. The 3 new moms we have this year have been *such* blessings.  It's actually 4 new teachers, because the mom of one mom just moved out here, and she is teaching for us too.  Having this much more coverage has meant Christine and I haven't been so stretched by our teaching responsibilities this year.

I am SO enjoying not having to teach both junior high and high school science. That has been such a burden lifted.  AP biology has still consumed a ton of my time--but I don't feel quite as much like I am fumbling around in the dark as I was the first time I taught it.  I am having to rework all the labs, and I didn't start giving the boys reading questions to help them get through the chapters until later in the year last time, so I've had to come up with those.  I usually work on these things late at night, since it's hard to get anything accomplished when all the littles are still up.  But there is a trade-off, because I'm really tired late at night.  For the last set of reading questions, here is how I numbered them:  1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 7, 7, 8, 9, 10 . . .  When he started working on them, Luke came downstairs to ask me if Micah or Drew had numbered them!  Ha!  I spaced them really weirdly too.  Maybe I was sleep-typing.  I am really enjoying the group of 3 boys I have.  They're a lot of fun, and they all have similar personalities.  It's an intense class, and we cover a ton of material each week though.  I think we are all looking forward to January, once we get through all the genetics/virus/new technology chapters and start on more population biology and ecology, which is just easier.

Latin is going well too.  It has taken me a ton of time to make up all the extra practice sheets for the kids, because I have to come up with sentences to translate that only use the vocab they have learned so far, and that emphasizes the new concepts they are learning with each new lesson, but I think the sheets are helping.  The kids seem much more confidant than they were last year.  I'm only a week or 2 ahead for making up the practice sheets, so anytime I have to go anywhere to wait (like the orthodontist's office), I bring Latin along and try to come up with more sentences.  Staving off Alzheimer's, I always say. My mental capacities have really been stretched this year though, with Latin and biology.  My poor brain is always so tired--no wonder I can't even count any more!

I'm always thankful when we get through another Tuesday.  It used to be that I could really relax Tuesday nights, but this year not only do Luke and Caleb have CAP Tuesday nights, Jonathan has cross-country practice, and Anna and Grace have gymnastics, so instead I'm driving a bunch of places.  Wednesday night is my relaxing "weekend" night, and I try not to do any school work that night.  Thursday night I'm prepping for lab on Friday, and then the weekend I try to get caught up (ha! never!) on laundry and everything else around the house that has gone to pot during the week, as well as prepare for Latin on Monday and Rivendell on Tuesday.   I guess that's why it feels like being underwater, with no time to come up for air.

Bob and I keep telling ourselves that it's going to get easier.  In 6 more years, Verity will be 7!  Surely there will be less messes then!  Her new trick is unrolling all the toilet paper in the bathroom, so that's super helpful.  She also likes climbing the stool and knocking everything within reach off the counter.  Bonus points if there's liquid in the cup!  I will say Drew has stopped making so many pee messes, so that is a relief.  I guess he's handed off liquid mess-making to Verity.  In fact, I had to actually make a point of cleaning the toilet today, because I didn't have to clean it the past few days while cleaning up a mess.  Yay!  In 6 more years, we will have graduated 3 more boys, so that will be weird.  I'll only be cooking for 8, and the oldest 3 will be girls!  Hopefully I won't be teaching any more new classes at that point either.  I think that is what really is wearing me out.  Six more years--surely I can make it that long!

Friday, October 02, 2015

A Good Day For Drew

Today was a good day for Drew.  No accidents, and not even a pair of damp underwear.  That is really good news because the rest of the week has NOT been a good one.  At all.

The whole week was one characterized by accidents.  Lots of pee. In pull-ups, on underwear, on the floor.

 Wednesday I had a dentist appointment first thing in the morning, and then I went to both Wegmans and Costco.  When I got home, I discovered that Drew had both peed and pooped in the pull-up, and in fact that pull-up was the same one he had worn to bed the night before. He had never even put on a pair of underwear, and what's more, he wasn't even bothered by it.  He was laughing when I wiped him up, and I was *highly* irritated.  He hadn't eaten lunch yet, so I put him straight in the high chair and put a bib on him.  He was not liking that, and kept saying that he was a "big boy", but I wowed him with my impeccable logic: "Does Micah poop in his pants?  No?  Does Verity?  Yes?  And is Verity a baby?  Yes?  Aaaand . . . you must be a baby too, because you are pooping in your pants."  

So I made him his sandwich and tore it up into little pieces, like I do for Verity (who was fortunately napping right then).  Oh, Drew cried and wailed.  He took off the bib.  Eventually he did settle down and eat a little bit, but he was not happy.  When I got him down, I told him he was going to take a nap soon, as babies do.  He wasn't happy about that either.  I got wrapped up in trying to get our ancient desktop computer to cooperate with me, so I didn't put him down right away . . . but soon Anna realized that Drew had peed on her arm as she was by the counter, and he was on a stool next to her!  What in the world?!?  Not puddles of pee, but enough to get his underwear wet, as well as the sister on whom he was leaning.  So after taking him to the potty, and having him clean the stool, he was indeed hustled off to a nap.  Good grief!

Thursday was not much better.  I was getting so frustrated!  I was reminding him to go to the potty frequently, but even so, he peed all over the bathroom floor once, and then, right before bed, Faith realized that he had peed on 2 couch cushions.  He was put to bed immediately, after going potty and getting rinsed off in the tub.  I was so irritated!

When I got up this morning and looked at my TimeHop, this popped up from 6 years ago, when Grace was potty-training:

It's almost 2:30, and I still haven't taken a shower.  I have, however, cleaned up 2 poopy accidents, and 1 pee accident.  Not sure what is to blame for this day of bad pottying!

It was very depressing to realize that could potentially be the description of my day today, 6 years later.  How much things stay the same!  The different thing is that today I had AP bio lab, so I needed to prepare some solutions and generally think about things, not be constantly worried about reminding Drew to go potty.   It didn't help that today was the same miserable, cold, rainy weather that we've had for the past few days.  Certainly a day for lots of accidents!

But no.  Drew didn't have one accident at all!  He went on his own to the potty the entire day with no problems.  It was as if I dreamed the whole week.  He had asked for gum throughout the week, which I had refused ("Babies can't chew gum"), so I offered him a piece this afternoon, which he accepted happily.  "I'm a BIG boy!"  I still have no idea what caused this sea change, and it may or may not last.  It was a good breather for me, though.  I had to "go back to Colorado" in my mind quite a few times earlier this week!

I'm hoping I can look back on this week a year from now and laugh at this funny memory of all these accidents, since the memory had faded from my mind . . .

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Some Interesting Random Conversations

*Thursday mornings Jonathan has a math class (because I realized my limitations last year, LOL).  I take him over to my friend Jenny's house at 8:05, and she drives him (such a blessing!), her 2 kids, and 2 other kids, over to Sara's house for the class (which Jonathan absolutely loves).  This morning Jonathan came downstairs complaining of having had a terrible night sleep and saying he would definitely take a nap later on today, if he could just stay awake through math class.  After the class he stays at Sara's house for 2 more hours while Jenny's daughter has his class, and then Jenny brings him back to her house around 1:00, which means I can get an uninterrupted morning of school done with the girls (well, as uninterrupted as a morning can be with Micah, Drew, and Verity still around).  So Jonathan and I were discussing what work he would take, and he said something about finishing reading "Beowulf", among other things.  After I dropped him off and came back home, I noticed that Caleb was reading what I assumed was our copy of "Beowulf", so then I wondered if someone else in Rivendell might have left their copy here.  When I picked up Jonathan, and we got home, he said he had indeed finished "Beowulf".  I asked him who might have left their copy here, since we had this other copy.  He looked at it with a very puzzled look--"That looks like our copy" [which I had bought used off amazon and definitely has some distinctive markings].  So then he started hunting through his backpack, but he couldn't find the book.  He looked out in the van, but it wasn't there either.  We were both really stumped.  Then Jonathan eventually came over to me, all excited, and said, "OH!  I remember what happened now!  I actually finished reading it really early in the morning when I couldn't sleep, but I forgot about that this morning.  And I fell asleep on the couch at Mrs. J's house, and I dreamed about reading the ending, where Beowulf kills this dragon with bees, but I thought I was really reading it!"  Ooookay.  Hopefully he'll get a good night's sleep tonight, LOL.

*Yesterday I had my teeth cleaned.  The hygienist is a really sweet girl, and we usually talk about the kids, homeschooling, etc.  Yesterday she mentioned she had gotten married 2 months ago, so I asked how they had met.  It was an arranged marriage!  She had gone back to Bangladesh with her family this summer to visit relatives there.  Her uncle owns a business that is in the same building as this guy who is a good friend of his.  The uncle mentioned to the friend that his family was visiting, and that they were looking for a groom.  The man said his younger brother happened to be visiting as well and would be a good groom for her (a girl he had never met)!  So the next night, the friend's family came over with the younger brother, and the hygienist was asked to say hi, which she did for about 3 minutes.  The next night the 2 sets of parents met for dinner and settled on a wedding date.  Wedding invitations went out starting the next day, and the wedding shopping began.  Two weeks later, they were married.  The first time they actually spoke to each other was on their wedding night!  Wow!  I asked her how it had turned out, and she said great!  She said she couldn't have picked a better match for herself if she had tried.  The only problem is that her husband, who is a computer engineer from New York, had already agreed to go on a 2-year assignment with his company to Australia, seeing as how he had no plans for you know, getting married or anything in the near future, LOL.  So he left a few weeks ago, but he's only going to stay a few months.   Still--what a fascinating story!

*Several days ago, I was doing stuff on the computer with our pictures from Colorado when Faith came up and launched into a completely random conversation.

Faith:  "So you're telling me that Nathan is going to college to learn how to be a dad?"

Me:  "Ummm, no??  What in the world?  He's going to college to be able to get a job later and support himself, and then hopefully support a wife and family."

Faith:  "Oh.  So where do you learn how to be a mom or dad?"

Me:  "Well, not in college.  You pray and ask God to lead you.  You watch other people and ask them questions, like we asked Grandma and Grandpa, and the L's.  You aren't taught it anywhere." (Although that is a shame, LOL.)

Faith:  "Oh.  Well, then--where do you learn how to do THIS?" [big dramatic finger-point to the computer screen]

Me:  "Umm . . . do what?"

Faith:  "Learn to put PICTURES from your PHONE to the COMPUTER."

I think Faith might be disappointed when she discovers college is not quite as practical as she is thinking it is.    

Friday, September 25, 2015

Happy Birthday, Verity!

Verity turned 1 yesterday!  I can't believe it was a year ago that she was born, one of my less eventful labors to be sure.  That was a gift from God, because having a baby the end of September for a homeschooling mother who also has a high school senior is the recipe for a mental breakdown right there, and a long, drawn-out, pitocin-induced labor with a hard recovery would have sent me over the edge for sure!  As it was, all her nursing troubles about did that anyway.  Bob and I thought for less than a nano-second about taking Verity with us to Colorado.  Hey, that's what happens when you decide to wean yourself back in August, way before Mom was ready to stop nursing!  So sorry (not really)!

Other than her nursing issues, Verity has been the most cooperative and happy baby ever.  She is so happy!  Her new thing she's started doing is nodding her head yes when you ask her something.  It is so cute!  While other unnamed kids have had "NO!" as their default response, Verity nods yes!  She's also started turning herself around to go down the stairs, which always makes me happy and relieved.  So mainly she just toddles around the house, babbling happily, totally content and secure that everyone who surrounds her adores her and dotes on her.  What a life.  Who wouldn't be happy?!  We're really thankful for her.  She is such a blessing!
We took dessert to Bible study tonight to celebrate.  Anna made cupcakes in her little cupcake maker, and she and Grace did the decorating while I was in biology lab this afternoon.  We also brought cookie dough brownies and sweet chex mix, since we only had 28 small cupcakes, and we knew that would never ever be enough.  Sure enough, there were 34 kids at Bible study tonight--along with 19 adults!  We're a fertile bunch.
Verity was not sure what to think about the singing and the candle.  Big siblings had to assist with blowing out the candle.
Afterward, though, she turned into a real party animal, dancing on the table!  We're going to have to watch this one!  She also thoroughly enjoyed her cupcake and some brownie.  Yum!  She didn't get any real presents though.  We have "1 year" baby toys out the wazoo, and I wasn't about to get something else just so she could unwrap something that she won't even remember. We did get passport pictures taken of her last night, as a special way to celebrate, LOL.  We're hoping to take another space-a adventure sometime, and she'll need her own passport for that!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

One last Colorado Post--Aspens and Views

Since I blog mainly as a scrapbook, and since I am quite anal-retentive in this area, I can't go on to anything else without posting about the last few days of our Colorado trip.  Then things would be out of order, you see, and that would be terribly bothersome.  Also, if I never blog about it, then I'll probably forget what happened, and 12 years later, when we go on another getaway and I'm trying to remember the last one, there will be nothing recorded, and that would be terribly sad, because it was such a great trip.  So here is one last Colorado post to wrap it all up.

Friday Bob had meetings in the morning again, but they got out before lunch.  I had been walking around the little shops looking for some souveniers, so Bob came back with me to help me make some final decisions.   We had a picnic by the stream while we talked about what to do with the afternoon.  We had to be back at 6:30 for a company dinner, so we didn't want to go far away.  We ended up buying tickets to ride the gondolas.  They were $30/person, but we got unlimited trips up and down both gondolas, and it was another beautifully gorgeous day.  I was a little nervous about the gondolas, but they were so smooth and quiet, and I ended up really enjoying the trips.  Saturday night, while we were watching that Vail documentary, it mentioned 1976 where 2 gondolas go caught up on a frayed wire and plummeted hundreds of feet to the ground, killing 4 people and injuring many others. Yeah . . . I was glad I watched that AFTER our fun afternoon, LOL.  I'm sure everything is much, much safer now . . .
It was neat to watch the village fall away.  Our hotel is the white one in the middle of the screen, by the base of the gondola.
The aspens were so beautiful.  We were there at the perfect time!
This is at the top of the Eagle Bahn gondola.  It had a stunning view of the Sawatch range that just went on and on.  We actually went up and down both gondolas a couple times, and the second time we came up here, there was a wedding getting ready to happen!  I can't imagine a more stunning place.
We hiked a mile across the mountain to the other gondola.  It was lovely--through meadows and forests.  The scope of Vail is so huge.  It has 5500 acres of ski-able terrain, which is pretty unfathomable.
As we walked back through Vail Village to the other gondola again, we went through Oktoberfest, where we listened to some rousing polka music.
Saturday the entire day was free, and so we went back over to Leadville.  I had made reservations for us on the Leadville Colorado and Southern Railroad for their special aspen-viewing train ride, which was 3 hours long.  Again, it was a beautiful day, and the aspens were stunning.  We sat in an outside car, which made it a little chilly in the shade (it was only about 40 degrees and a bit breezy), but we had unhampered views of the mountains and the gloriously clear blue sky, so it was okay to be a little cold.  Bob got us hot chocolate from the little concession stand in the middle of the train halfway through the ride.

We had a little break at this adorable water tower where we could all get off the train and stretch our legs.  Drew loves water towers, so we had to make sure we got a picture of it.  A couple actually got engaged during the stop, so that was really fun and sweet to watch.
After the train ride, we ate a quick lunch at Subway and then headed over to the Healy House and Dexter Cabin Museum.  I had thought about going to the National Mining Museum, which I'm sure would also have been great, but when I was reading reviews, this one sounded really interesting in a more personal way.  The Dexter cabin was built by one of those men who struck it rich in Leadville's glory days.  He had several other cabins in other towns, so he could check up on all his operations, as well as a nice house in Denver for his wife and daughters.
The cabin looks rough on the outside, but on the inside it was really fancy!
I loved this lockable pantry.  This would have actually been for mining camps.  It had all these little compartments for various staples, and they could be locked so that the supplies didn't walk off.
Next was the Healy house, which was built for a man who never really lived in it.  His cousin (?) ended up living there and managing it for him, and she ran it as a boarding house.  As many as 22 people lived here in one time, and it went back quite a ways.  The house was furnished in all period pieces, but it wasn't one of those stuffy museums where you have to stay behind a rope and peer into each room.  No, you could really walk around and see everything, and our guide would just pick up random things, like a pipe, off the side tables or whatever to talk about.  It had a really approachable feel, and it gave a really great sense of what it was to live back in the late 1800s/early 1900s.
They had a room decorated for children with all these neat toys and dolls in there, even though any children living in there would have been in with their parents.
There were lots of pairs of boots around, and they were the skinniest things ever!  I could not see any of our family's blocky feet ever fitting into anything like there, LOL.
They also had a ton of dresses and hats displayed everywhere.  This was a wedding dress in the late 180s.  Next door was one from the early 1900s, and it was a lot more elaborate.   Interesting to see how styles changed so quickly.  In one room you could even try on several different hats.  I am glad I didn't grow up in an era when ladies had to wear hats--they just don't do much for me, LOL.
The house eventually had one bathroom, with one of those nest gravity flush toilets, with the big rectangular chamber above for water to flush.  Only the women and children were allowed to use the inside toilet though--the menfolk had to use the outhouse "unless the snow was at lest 3 feet high".  This bathtub actually is like a "murphy" bathtub, in that the tub part folds up against the wall so it doesn't take up so much space.  Interesting!
I loved the kitchen.  It's hard to imagine cooking for 22 people on a stove like that, and with just a small icebox.  The stove looks neat though!

Then we drove back across the mountains to Vail, where we ate dinner and packed up.  We flew back Sunday, and I can definitely say we both felt rested and refreshed.  It was such a fun vacation!  It was really hard to leave Colorado though.  I had forgotten how much I really love it out west!  The big spaces and sky are so soothing to my soul.  Maybe someday we'll be back to stay . . .