Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Year of the Bunny

Hard to believe it's been a whole year since we brought Bruno home on Easter from our friends Zachary and Karynn!  He has been such a fun pet.  He's super soft, he is so cute, and best of all, he is so quiet!
We used to have his pen in the study, but when Verity was born, we needed to put the little playpen in there so she could nap downstairs as a newborn with the study doors shut.  So we moved Bruno into the schoolroom, where he reigns as the Rivendell mascot.  ("Go, Fighting Bunnies!"  Ha!)  When someone is in there working, we let him run around the entire schoolroom, although we have to make sure all the computer charging cords are up, or else he will nibble on them.  We now have quite a few books that have little nibbles taken out of the edges as well!  Bruno also loves to chew up paper left on the floor, so "my bunny ate my homework" could be an excuse, except that you shouldn't have left your paper on the floor in the first place . . .  The entryway is hard wood, and for awhile, Bruno was very scared of the hard wood, so he always stayed in the schoolroom.  But eventually he got over his fears and started venturing out into the entryway, so we now put our whiteboard across the entrance to the schoolroom.  It fits perfectly!  Bruno loves running laps around the room and kicking up his heels.  He's so cute!

We bought him a little cat tunnel/scratching thing with little balls hanging down to bat around.  Sometimes he's more into it than other times, LOL.  What can I say--he's a spoiled little bunny!  We had to put the cardboard on top of the cage in back because he figured out he could jump on top of the cage and then out back in June last year.  We were going to make something more permanent, but you know, once the cardboard worked, pretty much everything else was a higher priority, so we never got around to it.   The clear plastic in the front of his cage is part of a mat that goes under an office chair.  When he was in the study, Bruno used to push out his cage with his nose so that he could lay on the plastic chair mat.  It must feel nice and cool!  So when we moved him into the schoolroom, we cut off part of another mat and put it in his cage for his napping enjoyment.  He usually flops down there after he's been running around for awhile.

Sometimes the kids will let him run around the playroom (on the other side of the entryway from the schoolroom), which has the added benefit of having doors AND no cords.  We also take him outside when the weather is nice, and he loves to hop around the yard and dig in the mulch.  He's been hiding under the minivan in the driveway the past few times we took him out, though.  I think he feels vulnerable in the yard without our big oak tree having really any leaves yet!  We see a hawk circling around up high, and I'm guessing Bruno sees him too.
Bruno would make a tasty meal for a hawk!  He's been living the good life here, and he's become a bit chubby, shall we say, in the past year.  "Less carrots and more exercise" was our New Year's resolution for him.  You would think it would be impossible to gain much weight at all on a diet consisting primarily of kale and timothy hay, but apparently that is not true, at least for bunny metabolism.  Bruno loves his kale, but he is not such a huge fan of spinach.  Romaine is okay, and he loves eating pieces of banana for a treat.  Surely he is not gaining too much weight from eating toilet paper tubes!  He loves to nibble on them, and fortunately for him, we have a constant supply of them, LOL.

I'm so glad we went ahead and got Bruno!  He is such a sweetheart, and the perfect pet for us right now!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Verity Update

Today was another weight check, this time with a completely different doctor.  I was prepared today, however.  For one thing, I brought Grace and Faith with me, as evidence of skinny, healthy children.  Also I printed off 0-36 month growth charts and filled them in for Luke, Anna, Grace, and Faith.  They all showed that between 3 and 6 months, my kids drop down to a (much) lower growth percentile line.  Grace's was the worst--she went from the 60th percentile at 2 months down to below the 5th percentile at 7 months, and she continued on that line until at least 20 months.

You may wonder how I have weight data for all these kids for their first years.  I had the good fortune to start keeping a "baby's first year" calendar with Nathan.  These are blank calendars where you fill in the date blocks for each month, and you can write on the days or put stickers on or whatever.  These calendars come with some "first year" stickers like first bath, first tooth, starts crawling, etc.  There are so much easier than a traditional baby book--just jot down the weight when you come back from a doctor appointment, or write down some special thing in a square.  Easy peasy!  You used to be able to buy these in stores, but for the last several (4 maybe?) I've just had to order them from Amazon.  I don't know why they aren't more popular!  I now have a little keepsake for each baby that they can look back at if they are curious when they got their first tooth or started walking or whatever.  Or I can look back at when I need to chart their weight gain, LOL.

So anyhow, I was totally prepared for the doctor.  Verity is up to 14 pounds, 3 ounces, which is the 9th percentile, up from the 7th percentile.  The doctor thought that was great and told me to keep doing what I was doing.  I told her that I had been forcing food on Verity, and now she has even started spitting up some, and I was actually quite uncomfortable making her eat when she obviously wasn't hungry.  The doctor said I should just let her eat until she's done, but not worry about getting anything extra in her, which is good because that is what I have been doing.  Good grief!  Then the doctor said it was obvious that our family growth pattern was big babies who thin down between 3 and 6 months.  Well, yes, obviously--or maybe it's a metabolic disease?!    Actually, it's just like I've been saying--my babies are very active at an early age, and they have high metabolisms.  Once they start moving around, they lose weight for a little while until everything evens out.  It's really not such a bad thing to have a high metabolism!

So this doctor was totally unconcerned, and I could tell she was actually a little puzzled as to why we were in there, since Verity was such an obviously healthy baby, LOL.  We don't go back until 9 months.  Hopefully I can get the same doctor then (*making a note of her name on the calendar*) . . .
Verity has been really getting strong!  Last night she got herself up to sitting, which made her so proud of herself!  She's also now able to roll from back to front at will.  She has done it before, but it was more of a lucky accident, where everything just happened to come together at the right now.  This afternoon she was playing with this crib toy that used to be my cousin's back in the day--a certifiable antique, LOL!  We have it attached to the posts in our upper hallway railing.
After playing with everything for a little while, she pulled herself to standing!  Big girl!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Twists and Turns

"In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps."  Prov. 16:9

The school year is winding down, but I haven't said much lately about Nathan's plans for next year.  Going back to the end of 2014, Nathan finished up a zillion applications and interviews.  He was notified in December that he received a 4 year type-1 Air Force ROTC scholarship.  This pays for all his tuition for 4 years at any school, plus a book and fee allowance of a little less than $1000 a year, and a monthly untaxed stipend during the school year that for freshman is about $300 a month.  Only 5% of scholarships are type 1.  How exciting!  He also was pleased to find out he received a nomination from our representative.  You should apply for all the nominations you are eligible for, so although he had Presidential nominations to all 3 academies because of Bob's service, he also had applied to all 3 of our congressmen.  The unofficial word here in VA is that the congressmen talk, and they do not duplicate nominations because there are so many qualified applicants, especially in our district in northern VA.  So we were astounded when Nathan received word that he had also been awarded a nomination from one of our senators!  He even called to make sure it wasn't a mistake.  It wasn't--it just apparently is extremely rare!  So that was very exciting too.

On Feb. 5, Nathan was surprised to receive a "big fat envelope" containing an appointment to West Point!  This was a huge surprise as well, since he had only a Presidential nomination for there, and he certainly wasn't expecting an appointment there, especially not one sent out in the "first wave" of only 500 appointments offered.  He had not really seriously considered going there, although we have several Army friends who we respect so very much, so he and Bob made an appointee visit up there in March.  He spent the night there and had a wonderful time.  He and Bob both were very impressed by the caliber of cadets they ran into.  The only drawback he could see was that when you graduate, you're in the Army, and Nathan really would like to fly.  February was really an "Army" month, because he also received word that he was awarded a 4 year Army ROTC scholarship!

March also brought word that Nathan had been accepted into Virginia Tech's College of Engineering.  He really enjoyed his visit there in the fall, so that was very exciting to hear.  Our friends who had been involved in Cru ministry with the Corps, however, said in their monthly ministry letter that they were being called in a new direction--out to Colorado Springs to work with Academy cadets!  So we were thinking that the Lord was definitely moving for Nathan to go out to Colorado next year.  But we received word in April that he had not been offered an appointment this year.  Since it seemed like everything was lining up for that, it kind of felt like the rug was pulled out from under us, but we can definitely say that the Lord slammed that door shut.  So the decision really was between West Point and VT.  In the end, Nathan decided he wanted to stay with the Air Force, so he will be using the AFROTC scholarship.  If he decided to reapply to the academy for next year, he could do that as well.  We'll see how the Lord leads.  In the meantime, other friends are also going to VT, so he is looking forward to a fun year next year.  And he will be closer to home, for sure, so that is a nice advantage.  We are really proud of him, and are so thankful for how the Lord has blessed his hard work!  We are trusting that the Lord has good reasons for shutting the door he did, even though it was hard to hear.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Happy Birthday, Micah!

Micah turned 4 today!  Hard to believe it has already been 4 years since I pushed out that huge 10 pound, 8 ounce boy!  And he's stayed big too.  He didn't have any of Verity's weight gain issues!  I think he's going to catch up to Faith soon, and after that it won't be long til he passes up our waif Grace as well.

We started the day with pancakes and eggs that we ate in honor of Micah, since he picked today to sleep really, really late.  Eventually he did get up!

Bob's sister Rose visited last night, and she swept in like Santa, bearing all sorts of wonderful gifts for everyone!  So not much school got done today, especially for the younger crowd, but they had an absolute ball playing with Model Magic, making scrapbook pages and bracelets, and (for the girls), playing with make-up.  Arts and crafts day!

Micah picked quite the birthday meal:  fish sticks and pierogies, with broccoli thrown in by me because well, vegetables.  Thursdays are busy, with Faith's co-op, rugby practice for the older 2 boys, and gymnastics for all 3 girls, so hey, I wasn't complaining about an easy meal!

After dinner, Micah opened his presents.  He got a Transformer and a game from Grandma and Grandpa, a penguin "Pillow Pet" , a foam sword and shield, a Lego Star Wars t-shirt (*cough* that I found on the top shelf of our closet recently--I had meant to give it to Jonathan many years ago but evidently forgot all about . . .) AND a box of Skittles and a small bag of Gummi Bears.  I think you can see what he was the most excited about . . .
He did have a really fun time playing his new game with Grace and Drew later on, so I guess the Skittles weren't the *only* thing he was excited about!
Don't tell Micah because he didn't notice, but I didn't actually bake him a cake today.  We actually celebrated both his and Anna's birthday last Friday, April 3, at Bible study.  Anna wanted angel food cake with strawberries and whipped cream again, and Micah picked funfetti cupcakes with orange, green, and blue frosting.  The girls and Micah did all the decorating, and the results actually reminded me of the cake in the classic children's book Spot Bakes a Cake.  You'll have to check it out!  We did have ice cream tonight to celebrate, as well as leftover chocolate banana "muffins" for anyone who wanted one.  (They are technically called muffins by the recipe, but really are cupcakes!)
A year ago, I felt like we had made strides with Micah--he wasn't having nearly as many huge temper tantrums as he had been, he decided he wanted to be potty-trained, and we had even made a huge trip to Hawaii, with very unpredictable travel arrangements!  But there were still issues.  Every Sunday, dropping him off to nursery was a huge melt-down, and a ginormous cause of stress to me.  He still did have temper tantrums over little things.  But I could definitely see progress.

I see even more progress looking back over this year.  His tantrums are much rarer, and often they are exacerbated by him needing to go potty, so that is one of the things I always do when he starts getting wound up--try to get him to pee.  But sometimes he still will take some minor thing in the day and choose to melt down over it for no good reason at all, usually at a highly inconvenient time for me, LOL, like right at the start of Latin class, for example.  I usually just hold him tight and even sing to him for awhile.  Eventually he stops struggling and screaming angrily, although it can take forever.  Then he settles down and goes back to being his normal sweet self, because really he IS quite sweet most of the time now (I have not been able to say that before!).  He and Drew get along well for the most part.  I can tell they are going to be very close, like Nathan and Luke, or Caleb and Jonathan.  God has been very gracious in giving our kids to us in "sets", except for Verity!  Micah absolutely adores Verity, and he's very sweet with her.  Next year Micah gets to start gong to our elementary co-op, so I am really praying he will do well with that, and not go into his "recalcitrant mule" mode, where he is totally and completely uncooperative.  He's doing better with his children's church class, but there are still some days he doesn't want to go there and pitches a loud fit.  We have saints working in children's ministry for sure!

So I'm looking forward to seeing what this next year holds with Micah!  Hopefully he will continue to make progress in controlling his impulses and his anger--and I pray he will come to know the Lord at an early age so he will have the help of the Holy Spirit in him!

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Happy 6 Month Old

"You talking about me?"

Yes!  This happy little pumpkin was 6 months old back on March 24!  She's been busy doing all sorts of things like crawling, which has enabled her to get pretty much whatever she sees, albeit slowly and jerkily.  She's also started solid food.  She thinks rice cereal and bananas are okay, but she really loves gnawing on frozen bagel pieces.  Gotta get those teeth in!  She's definitely working on teeth, but none have appeared so far, making her one of our later teethers.

Astoundingly, she has not packed on a ton of pounds.  (I'm shocked.  SHOCKED, I tell you!)  Verity had her 6 month well-baby appointment this morning.  She's up to 13 pounds, 7 ounces, but that's only the 7th percentile.  She had climbed all the way up to the 13th percentile the last time we were in for a weight check a month ago, but that was with much emphasis on feeding tons extra.  So after we stopped having to go back every week, I started getting more casual about force-feeding Verity, and just letting her be done when she was done.  We were still supplementing with about 3 oz. of formula after each nursing session.  Honestly, she is happy, sleeping well, actively moving around, and so on, so I once again was not remotely concerned.  I mean, I kept weighing her, and she was gaining weight, so everything is good, right?

Wrong.  Apparently Verity missed the memo, but she was supposed to be gaining 15-20 g a day from 3-6 months.  Unfortunately, over the past month she only averaged 8 g a day.  That is an acceptable weight gain per day for babies over 6 months, but not under.  I don't know who comes up with these random statistics, but the doctor today was concerned about that.  She kept saying how we needed to "make sure she can gain weight".  Well, duh, obviously she can, as long as I am really forcing the food on her.  But when I stop doing that, it seems that she trends back down to the lower percentiles, where I suspect her body is designed to be.  The doctor actually told me she could not rule out a metabolic disorder, and I just stared at her and then laughed.  REALLY?!?  She also said something about Verity "not meeting her milestones" and I immediately countered, "You mean mileSTONE", because obviously every other thing about Verity's development is on track or ahead.  Even her head circumference and growth are right on track!  I kept saying that she was following the exact pattern of several of my other kids, but the doctor wasn't buying it.  "I can't stand in a court of law and say, 'Well, I was concerned, but she said all her other kids were skinny'".

She threw out some potential solutions, including giving Verity the bottle first.  I immediately shot that one down, going into great detail about how difficult it was to get Verity to start nursing again once I had given her the bottle back in her first week of life, and I certainly was not going to have my milk supply drop off for this.  I told her about Luke, and about how I did stop nursing him at 6 months, since the doctors told me that starting him on formula and solid food would make him start gaining more weight (it didn't help).  I know a whole lot more now, and I am not weaning so my child can meet some arbitrary weight standard!  I'm really quite a pretty calm and laid-back, non-confrontational person, but I was highly irritated at this point.

We finally agreed that I will give Verity 5 oz. of formula after each nursing session, and I'll try to fit in an extra bottle somewhere during the day, although I'm still not sure how that will work.  And I'll bring her back in 2 weeks for yet another weight check.  She'll probably have gained, since I'll be forcing food down her, but as soon as I relax a little, she'll drop back down again.  Grrrrr.  You know, breast-fed babies are supposed to be less inclined toward obesity because they stop feeding when full, instead of just mindlessly draining however much is in a bottle.  Well, what is poor Verity learning but that you keep eating until your stomach is full to bursting, even when you have no interest in eating?!  How on earth is THAT a good thing??  Se'll definitely be ignoring any "full" sensations!  Good grief.

This really is going to be the last weight check.  I am toying with the idea of bringing in the younger 7 kids (max that will fit in the minivan, LOL), so the doctor next time can see all our skinny but healthy kids.  (I did not choose to make the next appointment with this same doctor I saw today, LOL.)  It just seem pointless to me to keep bringing in an obviously healthy baby for weight checks, and it certainly is a huge waste of my time.  So this is it!  I have had it!

Bonus picture of Micah and Drew, who wanted their picture taken too.