Thursday, December 29, 2016

Non-Buggy Christmas Memories

Fortunately, Christmas break wasn't ALL vermin and disease.  We did have tons of fun with grandparents and cousins.

*Dan and Melinda took the girls to the local children's museum not once but twice.  Bob and Jonathan took Micah, Drew, and Verity the first time.  It was those kids' first time to go, and they had such a blast!
 *We went to Young's Dairy not once, but twice.  The second time we were celebrating Emily's 10th birthday--hard to believe the girls are getting so old!
*Luke and I finished this 1500 piece puzzle (well, mainly Luke because he's really amazing at puzzles, but I did help out a lot because I really do love working on puzzles, especially with Luke).  I love this picture--mountains, snow, a castle.  It's my happy place!
 *We took some walks to the local park.  It was nice that the weather allowed us to do that, and it was nice that Drew didn't face plant off the swing into the mud this year, like he did last year!  The downside of the nice weather is that even though we packed up all the snow stuff, there was never a need for any of it.  Alas!
 *While the girls were at the children's museum a second time, Bob and I took all the boys and Verity to the Air Force museum.  This was definitely the first time Micah really got anything out of it, and he was so awed by everything!  "WOW, look at that huge propeller . . . that balloon in the air . . . that BIG airplane . . . hey, what's that guy doing? . . ."  They have all these little scenes set up like the one below, where a training pilot has crashed his plane and is getting yelled at by the instructor.  Micah was really taken in by all these scenes.  They might as well have been real!

I love the Air Force Museum.  It does such a great job of tracing the history of flight/the Air Force, especially through WW2.  It's a lot better than the DC museums--and it is *actually* free, not any of this "well, the MUSEUM is free, but you have to pay $15 a car to park" kind of ridiculousness, not that I'm bitter.  Ha!  So you should definitely make a trip to Ohio to visit!
 *We had a lovely Christ-honoring Christmas.  Here we all are at the Christmas Eve service, where again we are happy to report that no one started a fire.  This year all of our kids managed to sit through the whole service without needing to be taken out, so that was a nice new experience.  We all look very festive, and Luke is wearing a bow tie that he tied himself, which we were all very impressed with.
 We all got lots of fun and thoughtful gifts (and we were even able to fit everything back in the van--whew!).  All 5 girls got journals from Grandma and Grandpa, which was timely since we listened to Harriet the Spy on CD during the drives out and back.  As a complete aside, that book was weird, and not really how I remembered it as well.  There was not much redemption in the ending, although it provided a good opportunity for discussion on *why* it is important to build people up, think about things that are good, honorable, kind, etc., and generally treat people with love and respect.  And not leave little kids with nurses for their entire childhoods, so they don't turn into little "Lord of the Flies" people.  Like I said, interesting discussions.
 Micah and Drew were thrilled to get these storm troopers from Caleb and Jonathan.  They were a real steal too--$5.99, marked down from $40 at Best Buy!  So far one has gotten his head knocked off, and the other his gun, but both are still providing great fun (the head will stay on if you don't swing it around or anything).  I don't think these storm troopers are going to have an easy life around here . . . we'll see how long they last, lol.
 Bob got me this amazing massager from Costco.  I am not exaggerating to say I love this thing.  It is amazing!  Micah loved it too, as has everyone else who tried it.  We convinced Dan and Melinda to get one too!
 Verity just loved everything about Christmas, from the stocking candy (especially the stocking candy) to the presents.  She got some cute things, like these slippers Luke is helping her put on.  She never wants to wear socks around the house, but her feet are always cold, so when I saw these at Walmart, I thought they might be just the ticket!  They worked at grandma's house, in that she kept them on for a long time, so now we'll see if they work here at our house . . . they're adorable, though!
These are just some random pictures, but you can see that even with all the sickness and disease, we still managed to have a really fun Christmas with family!  What a blessing to all be together!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Uninvited Christmas Guests

We got to Ohio last Monday evening, just a few hours after my brother and his family.  The kids were so excited to see their cousins, and they had a grand time playing together.

Tuesday morning I decided it would be a good time to get the girls' hair trimmed, since it had been a long time (maybe since right before Verity was born??), and the ends were pretty ratty.  We headed on over to Great Clips.  We didn't have to wait long before Grace got called back.

And it was only a few more minutes before I got called back to the chair, where the lady pointed to a little black dot on her head that was moving around.  "Your daughter has lice.  See that one?  And here are the nits . . ."

Argh . . . . . . .  I felt ill.  I wished the floor could open up and swallow all of us!  How mortifying!  Could this possibly have happened at a worse time?!?  I knew Melinda's girls had dealt with lice back in October, and they had come back once, so I knew it was a pain to get rid of them.  The lady asked if I wanted her to check Anna and Faith.  I said yes, but I knew if one had it, they all had it, since they share a bed.  Of course they all did.  Ack!!!

 The 2 minute drive over to Walmart was very gloomy, lol.  Anna pointed out that she had mentioned several weeks ago that her head was itchy.  I had looked at her scalp then, though, and I didn't see a thing, so it might have been a dry scalp after all.  Or I might have completely missed an infestation, who knows??  And really, "What difference does it make at this point, anyway?", as they say.  The girls all had lice, who knows if anyone else in our family did, and we had exposed my parents, their house, and Dan, Melinda, and their girls.

I had immediately texted Melinda to find out what to get.  Since she had dealt with lice recently, she had tons of good advice and knew what didn't work.  We bought a chemical treatment (we used "Vamousse", which was a mousse, instead of a shampoo, which included nit combs), an electric "zapping" nit comb, as well as tea tree oil, and a big carton of coconut oil from Sams.  We also got a ton of disposable shower caps.

When we got home, everyone had already started washing all the bedding and laundry in hot water, and Melinda checked everyone else.  Praise the Lord, no one else had any signs of infestation, although I think all of us would agree our heads were suddenly *much* itchier, lol.  The girls had all been playing with hair the night before, as well as sleeping in the same room/beds, so Melinda decided to be really careful and check them each night for several nights to make sure they didn't get reinfested.

I put the Vamousse stuff in the girls' hair and started the laborious process of combing through all their hair with the nit comb.  Fortunately none of them have what would be called "thick" hair, so that was a blessing in this case.  It still took several hours to do all 3.  We ordered pizza that night, lol. Then, before bed, when their hair was dry, I went through their hair with the electric nit comb, which got quite a few more nits, alarmingly.  Melinda and I mixed tea tree oil with coconut oil and slathered that all over the girls' heads, covered it all in saran wrap, and then put the shower caps on them for sleeping.  That tea tree oil certainly smells strongly, and man was their hair greasy in the morning!
In the morning, we used the electric nit comb again, and it only got one thing, so that was a relief.  Progress!  We washed all the sheets again, did the nit thing again that night (nothing came up--whew), and did the coconut oil treatment again Wednesday night.  Thursday morning was another session with the nit comb, which picked up nothing, so we are thinking we are through the bad part.  We have continued to check the girls' hair regularly, and I'm sure I'll be doing that once we get home too, since we're not 100% sure where these lovely critters came from.  We're wondering if they didn't come from Faith's gymnastics class, since at some point they sent home a letter saying there had been a lice outbreak.  I checked everyone and didn't see anything, but I didn't keep on checking.  I had already told Christine to check Elena, since the girls are together so often, and they always do each others' hair.  Indeed, she also had lice--the gift that keeps on giving!

It really was the grace of God that we found out here in Ohio.  The timing seemed terrible to me, but looking back, it was a blessing.  It was the day after we arrived, so there wasn't that much time for infestation.  If we had found out before we left, I probably would have had a nervous breakdown, honestly.  I can't imagine how I would have dealt with all that, as well as trying to pack and get ready for Christmas.  Instead, we drove away cluelessly, leaving any lice in our house without a host, so hopefully they are all dead now!

Lice weren't the only uninvited guests this Christmas.  Anna dealt with a big stye, which is a staph infection in an eyelash follicle, in her left eye, her first one.  I have no idea what would trigger that, since she doesn't wear eye makeup or anything.  So random--not unlike the lice, actually, lol.  Once she started doing warm compresses faithfully (every 2 hours for 15 minutes at a time), the eye finally started looking better.
And Grace caught some little bug too.  She had a fever and a really sore throat.  I was worried about strep, but she seems to be better now.  At least she's eating again, since she really has no extra bit of fat to lose!  It was funny that she was running a fever on Christmas evening, since Drew ran a fever last year then.  I had to run out to a drug store to buy children's motrin, but fortunately Grace can swallow pills, so I didn't have to go anywhere this year.  Whew!  Again, no one else seems to have gotten this bug, which is a blessing, but it just really weird.  Why all these random problems and sicknesses this year over Christmas?!  I think I need to start intentionally praying for good health over Christmas break starting in the beginning of the school year!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Christmas Spirit

I was having a hard time getting into the Christmas spirit last week, but how can anyone not feel Christmasy with a bunny hopping around the tree, nibbling on presents?
No, seriously, it turns out that I started feeling more of the Christmas spirit once school was done.  And it finished for me last Tuesday because I canceled Thursday's lab last week. We were doing the chapter on fungi, which I usually move earlier in the quarter, but for some reason I forgot to this year.  Well, there are no fungi around on the ground right now, so I figured we could skip that lab with no big issues.  And it was so nice to be done!  What a load off me!

Also, Nathan came home Wednesday night.  He drove himself and a friend home, so it was really nice that I didn't have to drive down to pick him up (although I did miss the nice, quiet drive down with my book on CD, and then the conversation with him on the way back, lol).  I was out dropping Caleb off at basketball practice when Nathan got home, and then he turned around and headed to the McC's, where Luke and friends were watching Inception, so even though I was only gone about 20 minutes, I completely missed seeing him until late that night when he got home.  It was so good to see him!  He had another good semester.
Last Thursday morning, Anna's German teacher showed her class how to make apple strudel.  It was so delicious, with homemade whipped cream!
Then we really got into the Christmas spirit by going caroling Thursday night, which happened to be the coldest night of the year.  We had quite a good-sized group, so what we lacked in talent, we made up for in noise.  "Joy to the World" was definitely our most confidant, rousing selection.  We managed 2 different cul-de-sacs before calling it a night and coming in for hot chocolate and cookies.
The snacks were well-received, and our big 72 ounce hot cocoa maker (from Costco last year) as well as our small 32 ounce one were put to good use, both being refilled several times.  It's still hard to believe I would ever consider those appliances worthwhile to have, but they really do come in handy.
I think we were all feeling pretty festive after the caroling and party!  So festive, in fact, that everyone stayed up really, really late to play Settlers of Catan with Nathan.  Finally the girls are able to hold their own in the game, so it's more competitive.  In fact, Anna won, much to her great delight.
Friday morning Nathan left at the same time as Bob.  Bob went to work, and Nathan drove himself up to WSS, where he's working until after New Year's.  I can't imagine a funner place to celebrate Christmas than WSS, even though we are missing him!  Fortunately his college has a long winter break, so he will have 2 weeks with us in January before he has to go back.
Friday night was our annual "bar night and Christmas play" at Bible study.  We have a baked potato bar, and then kids act out the Christmas story, with parts available for all, along with whatever costumes can be scrounged up from the big bag we have accumulated over the year.  It is a ton of fun, and when the play is over, we go back upstairs for an ice cream sundae bar.  I have to say, I think that is my absolute favorite dessert option.  Yum!
Grace was a rather unwilling Mary, alongside her friend Clark as Joseph.  She pretty much stood like a smiling statue the whole time, and she never really got any closer to Clark than this picture.  I guess we can give up on any dream of being supported by a rich actress in our old ages, lol.
And here we are, in front of the tree one last time!  Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Zoonotic Pathogens Everywhere

In November I managed to read The Hot Zone, a thrilling book about filoviruses such as Marburg and Ebola.  I've always been somewhat morbidly fascinated by these terrible diseases, and I decided it was time to learn a bit more about them.  The Hot Zone is a book that often shows up on AP biology summer reading lists, so I thought I'd start there.

I started it the beginning of November, and it was certainly enthralling.  It was a bit like a horror movie, though, where the author ominously lays out the scene, including (*foreboding music playing in your head . . .*) a big cut on someone . . . and you can just feel that bad things are right around the corner (Don't turn the page!!)  It was also quite luridly descriptive of the physical symptoms of these diseases, which didn't help.  Every time another person was introduced by their initials, you knew it was curtains for them, in a bloody, virus-laden bag of oozing nastiness sort of way.  So I had to take a break until closer to Thanksgiving, when I finally finished it.

The big story line of the book is a bizarre tale of monkeys dying here in 1989 in suburban Washington D.C., in Reston, VA, in fact, of a mysterious illness that ends up being a different strain of Ebola.  The book describes the building where the monkeys were kept after being imported as a one story building in an area of offices built in the 60's across from a McDonalds, not far from Rt. 7.  The only possible McDonalds I could think of that fit that description was off of Weihle, near the Dulles Toll Road.  I did some googling, and found an article celebrating the 25th anniversary of this event which talked about the building.  Boy was I right.  In fact, the very location of the building was where we had our year of Classical Conversations back in 2009-2010!  What?!?  How crazy is that?!  Fortunately, the building was razed after a second outbreak, but still.  That was just really, really weird.  We were in a rebuilt building on the exact spot of the outbreak.  Huh.

Anyhow, the book left me with more questions than ever.  I still had no understanding of how these viruses pop up for short periods of time, then disappear.  And why did it seem like no one was making any progress in finding the reservoir for these viruses??  So I browsed amazon to find other books written since the early 90's on the subject, and then I requested all those I could from our local library.

Spillover was my first reading selection, and it was a good choice.  The author David Quammen deals not only with filoviruses, but all zoonotic diseases, including SARS, Hendra, Nipah, malaria, and AIDS.  It made me wish I had gone in more of an epidemiological route after my undergraduate.  It would have fit with my biology and math degree.  Ah well.  I would have had to do theoretical work, though, because there is NO WAY I could possibly ever work in a high level biosafety lab.  I got totally claustrophobic just reading about it!

But I digress . . . now I have a much deeper understanding of how viruses work in populations, and how epidemics start and spread.  And it looks like fruit bats are the reservoirs for ebola, although there's still more research to be done.  If you have any interest at all in the subject, or just a morbid curiosity, I would highly recommend this book to fill in gaps.  He writes a very readable and fascinating book, and there are not all the lurid, gory descriptions.  In fact, he specifically mentions The Hot Zone a few times derisively (both himself and in quoting other scientists).  Apparently people who die of ebola are not just bags of viruses, having had their insides liquified, ready to explode on unsuspecting caretakers or neighbors.  Pretty much, don't touch bodily fluids of an ebola-infected person without being suited up in a hazmat suit, breathing through a respirator, and you should be fine.  So that's some relief.

Which leads me to this last book.  Called For Life was written by Dr. Kent Brantly, who is famous for having contracted ebola while working in Liberia in 2014 for Samaritan's Purse.  He was airlifted out of there to Emory Hospital in Atlanta.  He would have died except he was given a dose of a highly experimental anti-viral drug that had ended up in Africa some time before, but hadn't been used.  I really enjoyed this book and highly recommend it.  He deals honestly with his struggles about why he survived, while so many African lives were lost, and how his faith was rocked by contracting the disease while he was trying as hard as he could to save people.  He gives obviously a much more realistic picture of what it is like to have ebola, and to care for those who have it. It was really sobering, but also very encouraging and uplifting to read about him and his wife Amber.  It was a quick read too.  I was really glad to have this more personal book to read in the middle of the more technical and clinical (but still very readable!) book, Spillover.  It really brought the focus back to the people who are suffering.

The last book I have out on the subject is called Pandemic:  Tracking Contagions, From Cholera to Ebola and Beyond, by Sonia Shah, and it's published in 2016, so hopefully with that, I'll be up to date on current research progress.  That will have to wait for Christmas break though.  I need a little break from pathogens, lol.  For awhile there, I was literally flinching every time I touched my eye, or anything like that.  Fatal disease everywhere!!  Time to dial it back down a bit . . .

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Happy Birthday, Drew!

Well, technically he turned 4 yesterday, but we're celebrating all week!  Here is his birth story, for anyone curious.  He was my only baby where I had a uterine infection afterward and had to go back into the hospital 10 days later.  Always something new, even for baby #9!
 On Tuesday, the day before his birthday, Caleb and Jonathan's lit class watched the first half of the BBC "Pride and Prejudice" miniseries, since they had read the book for their class.  We had pizza afterward, before people rushed off to gymnastics, CAP, etc., and I made some mint frosted brownies.  We sang "Happy Birthday" to Drew, which he thought was fun.  Verity is now really into the song, and she'll even sing a few bars for you if prompted.  The words are hard to decipher, but the tune is definitely there!

Wednesday was just a busy day all around, and we told Drew that we were going to be celebrating his birthday today instead.  He was not at all sure about that plan, but we (the ones of us who were home last night) did have ice cream after dinner, so he was pretty mollified by that.
  So tonight we had Drew's big birthday dinner.  He selected "corn dogs", straight from Sams.  I slaved long and hard to prepare this feast, and everyone enjoyed it, especially the birthday boy.
 Next we opened presents.  Drew has been looking forward to presents for a very long time, and this was the part he was most worried about missing out on yesterday.  But Bob wasn't around in the evening at all, and he wanted to see the presents too, so we waited, and Drew was very patient.
 He got some nice gifts, but he was most excited about this Batman cape and mask that Bob and I had happened on during an evening date to Walmart around Halloween.  He was happy to wear his Batman pajamas tonight to complete the look, and he pitched a little fit about taking off the cape and mask for bed.  Tomorrow can't come early enough for him!
 For his cake, he had specifically requested "a Christmas tree with presents" for some random reason, and the girls, including Elena who was over to play this afternoon, were happy to oblige him.  They had a ball decorating (and eating frosting . . . lots of frosting . . . lol).
Drew was happy with it, and it tasted good--we only have a smallish rectangle left over.  If Nathan had been here, we probably could have finished it!

Speaking of Nathan, last year we celebrated Drew's birthday early, on Saturday night before Nathan went back to college.  I think that is a better plan, and hopefully I'll remember that next year.  The week after Thanksgiving break is a really busy time, as it turns out, and this year there were no evenings where everyone was at home!

Sunday, November 27, 2016

A Thanksgiving Present

Actually, a Thanksgiving, Christmas, birthday, anniversary present, all in one.  It's a  . . .
Our old driveway had this . . . . special . . . little curve towards the bottom that we could never quite manage to stay on if we had 2 cars in the driveway.  Consequently we ran off onto the grass regularly, leading to lots of mud and weeds on that side.  Eventually we put some paving stones down in an attempt to cut down on the mud, but after so many years of driving over them, they sank down into the mud.
You can't really tell from this picture, but the top right side was basically falling away, such that there was a good 6 inches to get up into the garage . . . not that we've been able to fit a car into either side of the garage for years!  Ha!  For the record, when we first moved here in 2004, we were able to fit the Sienna into the left side of the garage for a few years, and the old Odyssey in the right side (turned at a weird angle so that the driver had to exit the sliding door, though) during the winter if we took out all the bikes.  But then, more kids . . . less interest in moving all bikes, etc. in and out for different seasons . . . eventually no more cars fit into the garage ever.  Oh well.

A couple years ago (5 maybe?), a bunch of other people in the neighborhood had their driveways redone, so Bob and I started considering doing that ourselves.  With all our gestational diabetes-induced marches around the neighborhood, we had plenty of opportunities to observe exactly how every single driveway in our neighborhood was situated.  (Feel free to ask--we can describe all the widenings, extra parking pads, etc.  It's been a fascinating topic of conversation for years for Bob and me!)

Two years ago we got as far as calling a few places,  and even discussing the project with our next-door neighbor on the right.  He took our recommendation, called the guys, and his driveway was done a few weeks later.  It looked great!  This strengthened our resolve to get a new driveway, but it did not increase our pace.  Eventually in March 2015 we called and the guy came out and gave us an estimate.  Time passed, we kept complaining about our old driveway (to add to its charms, it dipped a bit in places, which collected water and froze into black ice over the winter, so there was always a danger of slipping and flailing around that was entertainment for the neighbors, I'm sure), but Bob and I couldn't really come to an agreement on how we wanted our driveway to be shaped, so nothing changed.

But then--2 weeks ago, the repaving place was having a sale, and so we reopened the discussion, complete with hoses to mark out possible lines in the grass.  During one of these discussions, our other next-door neighbor came out.  After a few words with him, Bob and I both agreed on how we wanted it done, he called the place, they had a cancellation for last Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, and BOOM!  We were finally, 2 years later, about to get a new driveway!  Well, you can't say it wasn't well-anticipated, lol.
The guys came at 7:30 AM, made quick work of the old driveway (bye, Felicia), cut out the new shape, leveled off the area with dirt and whatnot, and then poured the new one.  They were finished by 12:30, while we were at iFly!
To say I am happy with the new driveway would be a vast understatement.  I am THRILLED!  I LOVE the new driveway!  Best present ever!  Do instead of going from the edges of the garage doors, it now goes from the edges of the house.  That might not seem like a huge difference, but it's a good 3 feet, and it now seems SO spacious!
And here's what we ended up doing to get rid of that nasty curve.  Several other neighbors had gotten a little sliver of asphalt next to the concrete pad, but those are all breaking off now, so we thought it would stand a better chance of lasting if it was a thicker piece.Plus, that means that when a big storm is forecast, we can fit all 4 cars onto the driveway out of the way of the snowplow, something we couldn't even dream of doing with the old one.  We could barely get 3 cars on there!
This was one of the main sticking points--what to do with our sidewalk.  We thought we might have to go all the way over the where it already had the line, but it turned out that the repaving guys just sawed through it and carted it off, so we could just have the driveway line be off the edge of the bricks.  Whew! 

So now you know what I've already gotten for Christmas!  I plan on enjoying my present the whole year through! 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016


We are enjoying our Thanksgiving break, especially having Nathan home.  This afternoon we made some fun memories as a family--we did some indoor skydiving at iFly!  Indoor skydiving is the "simulation of true freefall conditions in a vertical wind tunnel".  Bob and some of the kids had stopped by and observed some people a few weeks ago, and he really wanted to give it a shot.  It is *super* expensive, but Bob found a deal from Costco that helped a bit.  It was for a "birthday party" for 12.  Fortunately, we have a lot of birthdays, and Drew's is coming up next week, so that worked out fine, lol.  It meant that up to 12 people got a grand total of 24 minutes of flying time, and then we got a pizza party afterward in their "party room".

 First everyone went into a room for some training, where they watched a 4 minute video and did some demos of the positions.  Then everyone got all suited up.  The goggles made everyone's faces all squished, and then I realized it was going to be very hard to tell them all apart once they starting actually going into the wind tunnel.  
 Jonathan was first.  Tog o out there, you just stand at the door and lean in.  The wind just kind of picks you up, and the guy maneuvers you around.   The tunnel is really loud so you wear earplugs under your helmet.  Just like space-a aircraft!  They had learned some hand signals so the instructor could communicate with them.  He stood there and held onto handles sewn on the back on the jumpsuits so no one went flying away.  Plus, there was a guy sitting outside the tunnel controlling the wind speeds, and if someone got too high, he lowered the speed (or if someone was heavier than everyone else, he would raise the speed).  Here you can see Jonathan demonstrating how to arch your back.  Poor Grace arched her back so much (and she is so light) that she definitely floated off a bit and would have been better served to be flatter, making more wind resistance!
 I was worried that Drew would be terrified, but he was a real trooper out there!  Three is the youngest a child can be.  Next year for Verity, I guess.  Ha!  Drew did panic a bit on his second flight.  Everyone flew for 1:12 for two separate flights.  The general consensus was that it was really good to have more shorter flights so you could process what you did and maybe learn something for the next time.  Plus, it was *really* windy and hard to breathe, so you needed a break after a bit!  Apparently, a minute felt like a really long time, lol.
 And here we can see the difficulties of figuring out which face is whose when they are out there.  Is this Faith?  Micah?  Also, it was really hard to take good pictures.  The sun was reflecting off the glass walls, and the older kids especially were moving around so much that almost every picture I have of them is blurry (even harder to figure out who is who, lol).
 *This* one is Micah, for sure . . . I think.  No, it really is.  He had such a great time too!  What little boy doesn't want to be Superman?!
 During the second flight, the instructor took them each up way higher, which they thought was really fun.  They all had such big smiles on their faces!  Even Luke and Caleb, who had both been less than enthusiastic about this outing, agreed that it was really fun.
 One non-blurry picture of Caleb up high.
 Verity was transfixed by the sight of all her siblings and her daddy flying.  She was super excited when they buzzed close to her, and she would wave furiously while calling their names.  It was really cute.  She did not seem the least bit disappointed to not be out there, and it was a good thing someone stayed behind to watch her.  Everyone else was in this little closed off area behind the tunnel, sitting on a bench.  It was really loud in there, so she couldn't have been in there, and there wasn't anything else we could have done with her!  Really, I was just fine with not going.  Skydiving has never been a remote dream of mine in any way, shape, or form!  I am not adventurous, lol.
 Afterward we enjoyed 4 pizzas and some pop while watching skydiving videos of all sorts play on a big screen.  They even showed in its entirety the space jump of Felix Baumgartner from 2012.  I had watched clips of it when it happened, but it was much more impressive to see the whole thing in real time on a huge screen on the wall!  I can't even imagine over 4 1/2 minutes of freefall at almost 600 mph.  That is just nuts!  It certainly made indoor skydiving seem like a little walk in the park.

Part of our package included a free video of each person (they each got to choose which flight they wanted to keep).  They sent me the link, and now I need to actually download them.

So the overall consensus was that was a very fun activity, albeit a very expensive one.  It is significantly cheaper to go back a second time, than to go the first time.  It was a nice thing to do as a family, especially with Nathan home!  

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Egypt 5th Week Activity

Today was the culmination of the Egypt unit for our elementary co-op.  I was super happy to get the chickens that have been mummifying on my kitchen counter since the end of August out of the house!
Here I am in my lovely ancient Egyptian attire. I bought this ensemble for 20 bucks on Amazon right after Halloween.  If you didn't leap at the deal then, you missed your chance--it's up to $40 now.  I'm so sorry.  It has a crown too, with dangly gold chains, but I graciously let my helper Stephanie wear that.  My hair really looked triangular with it on.  I guess i just don't have Egyptian hair, lol.

I also spent a good deal of time trying to figure out Egyptian eyeliner, specifically that winged look.  I never really got the hang of it, alas, so hopefully it never becomes a style trend for stay at home homeschooling moms around here.  I am flanked by my painted cardboard mummies (minus the cat), and I'm holding King Cluck in his golden sarcophagus. I am definitely trying to keep these mummies, chickens, etc.  I don't want to have to repeat all this a third time in 7 years!
I gave the same little talk about the mummification process that I gave 7 years ago.  Everyone was pretty interested in touching the mummified but unwrapped chicken to see what it felt like.  It feels pretty firm, and the flesh turns a dark purplish color.  They were also quite interested in smelling it.  This time I embalmed it in just salt, baking soda, and baking powder, instead of adding spices.  You might think that would make it smell worse, but you would be wrong.  The spices just add . . . something . . . to the smell that makes it more unpleasant.  The wrapped mummy got rubbed with scented oil, and he definitely had that same weirder smell.  The unwrapped one is not as . . .  different.  It's weird.
Then the kids did the same "mummification practice" on bananas that they did 7 years ago--cut a slit in the side of a banana with a plastic knife, scoop out a few spoonfuls of "organs" and place them into the "canopic jar" (dixie cup).  Then fill the cavity with cotton balls, tape it shut with 2 pieces of waterproof tape, and wrap the whole thing up with toilet paper.  Voila--mummy!  For some reason, the whole thing didn't take as much time as it did the last time.  In 7 more years, I'll have to add to the presentation, or have some other craft.  I think the opening ceremony part was longer last time.  Ah well--it was fine.  We reviewed things they learned about Egypt during the 4 teaching weeks.
We had 3 other rooms besides the mummy room for the tiers to rotate through.  One was a pyramid building room.  They built pyramids using boxes and moved heavy things around on sledges.  We were a bit worried about this room because it seemed like teachers might not be here because of sickness, but everyone did show up, and it went really well.  The kids enjoyed it.  It is always great to have big hands-on things, especially using things like simple machine principles!
Another room had food and other stuff.  The moms in here were super prepared, and they had baked up Egyptian food for the kids to taste, as well as had things for the kids to do, like grind barely and make little jars of scented oil. Plus they got cool points for having the kids sit on the floor on big pillows and flat tables!
The last room was a craft room.  One of the food room moms had been at a VBS this past summer that had a Moses/Egyptian theme, and they did this cute "woven" basket craft.  I ordered the kits from a company I had never heard of,  They were only $1 each, which I thought was a good price  The moms in that room had to cut the yarn into 10 yd pieces, but the kids just had to weave the yarn in and out of these white posts.  There are an odd number of posts, so the basket keeps getting higher.  They were really cute!
Here's a close-up of Faith's basket.

So it went really well, and I came home to teach life science and memory work, give haircuts to Luke and Caleb, and give baths to Micah, Drew, and Verity.  Now I am really crashing.  I can't believe how tired I am!  And I can't believe that after biology on Thursday, we'll be on Thanksgiving break!!  I am SUPER thankful about that!