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!