Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The Curse of the Suit

Nathan and Luke both made it safely back to college on Sunday.  Luke flew back on a direct flight, so we thought there would be no problems.  When we took Luke down to college back in August, he decided to leave his suit here and just take down a pair of dress pants, white shirt, and tie.  Since being there, he decided there were some occasions where it would be nice to have a suit, so on the way back, he checked a (plain gray) suitcase to bring the suit and some other stuff back down with him. 

But unfortunately, the suit did not make it onto the plane with him.  Never to fear, though--it would arrive Monday, and they would bring it out to him! On Monday, a suitcase was indeed delivered to his dorm:

 So, clearly not a plain, gray suitcase.  Instead it belonged to some guy from Sweden.  At this point, the story began to feel like de ja vu . . .
 Last January, Nathan and Luke went to a big homeschool dance.  This picture was taken right as they were leaving.  At the dance, they all had their jackets off, draped on the back of chairs, and someone walked off with Luke's.  So they waited until the very end, and Luke took home the extra suit coat, which was pin striped, so clearly not his.  After numerous emails to the evite recipients and several moms homeschool loops, someone finally came forward who had a pinstriped suit but took home a black jacket that night. 

So we made the switch--and while this new suit coat was black, it wasn't the right brand name to go with his pants, and it also wasn't the right size.  So again, not the right coat.  After more fruitless emails, it seems there is still some clueless young man out there with a suit coat that doesn't match his pants.  In fact, it is probably laying in a crumpled heap on the bottom of his closet floor because clearly he never checked it, like all my emails implored everyone to do!  I threatened to pin a huge pink boutonniere on his jacket the next time he went to any sort of dance!

But we actually had a pressing need for a matching suit.  Luke was competing in the state mock trial tournament in March, so we finally bit the bullet and bought a lovely new charcoal suit.  It served him well for both the state tournament, as well as nationals.
It looked fine and distinguished . . . and it was the suit that didn't make the plane, and didn't get delivered on Monday afternoon.  Ack!  I was seriously wondering what kind of crazy bad luck made people careless about making sure we got the right suits. 

But hallelujah, this story has a happy ending!  The airline employees were able to figure out where they went wrong, and Monday night, Luke's actual boring gray suitcase was returned to him, with his charcoal gray suit inside, looking rumpled and definitely not like we had it dry-cleaned before we left.  But hey, we aren't having to go suit shopping again, so that is a huge win in my book!

And now Luke has 2 interesting airline stories to tell, the first being our emergency landing when we went down for a college visit! 

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Thanksgiving Break

I am always so ready for Thanksgiving break, and this year was no exception!  It was a busy week, but also a lot of fun.
 Nathan came home last Friday night, and on Sunday, he and I did a joint presentation.  He is required to do a recruiting presentation, and I suggested doing it to homeschoolers, instead of finding a local school to go to.  We sent out an email to local groups, and people forwarded it to other groups.  We had a good turnout of very interested families!  My part was on applying for ROTC scholarships and the academies as a homeschooler, with helpful tips for the mom, who has to be the guidance counselor. It was very well-received!

We had been planning on having it at our house, but when more and more people said they were going to come, we couldn't figure out how to make it work, since our only TV screen is in our basement, it's not that big, and we don't have that much seating down there.  So the L's said we could use their family room, which was an excellent set-up! 
 Luke got home around 9:45 Tuesday evening.  Everyone was very glad to see him, especially Verity!  She  sat in his lap like this, even while he ate some soup and cornbread, until we put her to bed.
 For Thanksgiving, we went over to the L's house, as usual, with other families who are like family!  I made sweet potato casserole, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce, plus cookie dough brownies, ginger snaps, and a chocolate pecan pie.  We had such a lovely and relaxing time, just visiting and hanging out for hours.  Some games were played, some football was watched, and the kids all bounced on the L's new trampoline that our 4 boys had helped Amanda assemble on Wednesday!  Best of all, I made enough of my dishes to have leftovers on Friday, with another turkey.  Yay!
 Because the weekend wasn't busy enough, we decided to celebrate Drew's birthday on  Saturday, even though it's not really until Thursday. But I'll be teaching all that day, and Caleb and Jonathan have Civil Air Patrol that night, plus Nathan and Luke won't be here. . . so clearly Saturday was a better day!  We had corn dogs for lunch, since that was what Drew  has been wanting for quite some time,and we opened presents after dinner.  The only thing Drew had asked for was a "Darth Vader mask", so I found one on Amazon, and he was super happy with that, as well as with his selection of candy. 
 A lady from our church was selling some boys dress-up stuff a few months ago, and I snagged it, thinking of Drew's birthday.  We have plenty of girly dress up stuff, but our boys' selection is pretty worn or already been thrown out!  This set had a pilot, firefighter, and police outfit, and Drew and Micah have already been having a blast dressing up in them. 

After presents, we had cake.  Drew wanted a Minion cake,specifically "Kevin".  I googled him to find  a picture to use as a model, and it turned out pretty cute!  It was super easy too, since I only had to shape the top.  I had also bought a new set of frosting color gels from Amazon to use, since I was really getting  tired of my Wilton ones (hard to get out, separated easily, and my latest black one was actually dark green!).  These were a "Good Cooking Gourmet Liqua-Gel Food Coloring" set of 12 colors, and I must say I was *very* happy with them.  They come in squeeze bottles, which makes them 1000x easier to get out than Wilton.  The colors were better, and they didn't separate (although in all honesty, I made the frosting and frosted the cake Saturday afternoon, and it was completely gone by Saturday bedtime, so there wasn't much time for colors to separate, lol).  I was able to mix lemon yellow and orange to get a perfect Minion color, and I mixed the 2 blues in the kit to get a better blue for Kevin's overalls.  The colors were so easy to work with!
Drew was adamant that he would light the candles, but that ended up being a team effort with Luke helping him hold down the button.  Nonetheless, he got them all lit and quite proud of himself!  Five is such a  fun age.  He is looking forward to his "real" birthday on Thursday.  He wants pizza for his birthday dinner, and a Thursday is definitely the perfect night for that!

Nathan  left this morning, and Luke is at the airport now, so break is officially over.   We just have to make it 3 more weeks until Christmas break . . . . 

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Happy Birthday, Caleb!

Caleb turned 16 at 1:10 this morning!  We did not wake him up to celebrate, lol.  I did make cinnamon rolls with breakfast--but in full disclosure, they were the Pillsbury ones.  Then it was off to church, where Caleb was slotted to work the infant nursery!
After a busy afternoon where another friend hung out at our house for several hours, Jonathan competed in the Cyber Patriot competition, and Bob worked children's ministry the evening service at church, we finally were able to have Caleb's birthday dinner.  He picked "chicken packets", pierogies, and cabbage.  That's his Polish/Slovak blood speaking!
We have this ongoing "tradition" (joke?) where we reuse the same birthday gift bags for each birthday.  Hey, why buy new gift bags all the time??  Also, I do
We had already gotten Caleb what he really wanted, a nice knife, so he got a giant box of Frosted Flakes (because he loves that cereal, and I never buy it), some candy (Tootsie Rolls, Skittles, and Swedish Fish are his favorites!), a new wallet (one without velcro, like his old one), and a nice dressier silver watch to wear with his blues. 
He and the girls made the cake last night, while I was out celebrating a friend getting her doctorate.  We had so much fun that I stayed out way later than I was expecting, so I was glad they could mix everything up themselves!

Caleb decorated the cake this afternoon with the symbol from "Overwatch", a computer game he likes to play.  He's getting quite good at decorating his own cakes! 
Here is Caleb, helping Micah light all 16 of his candles.  Caleb loves his younger siblings, especially Verity!  Good thing for her he still has 2 1/2 more years until he heads off to college!  He has really stepped up to the challenge of being the oldest one at home this year.  He is looking forward to getting his driver's license in February, the soonest he can get it.  He's already done the computer part, and we're working on finishing up the 45 hours of driving with a parent.  Then he will just lack the 14 hours of "behind the wheel" training, and he'll be done!  

I will say, it has been hard going from 3 drivers back down to just 2!  Once he gets his license, I don't think we will have another time where we will only have 2 drivers again . . . as long as the kids are diligent about getting their licenses as soon as they can!  I am really looking forward to having 3 drivers again, even though it will be at the end of basketball season, as opposed to the beginning.  

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Weight (Non)Loss Update

So to recap, I did a Whole30 in April, 2016 (here's my starting post) and lost about 12 pounds by the end of it (here's a post from day 26).  Then I went through the summer of 2016 trying to have a really short eating window, and by the end of that summer, I had lost about 19 pounds.  Yay!

The only problem was, all that focus on what and when I was eating was simply not sustainable through the school year.  So although I tried to eat less carbs, I just pretty much slid back into regular eating habits.  Also, I exercised pretty much not at all last school year.  It just didn't happen, not even walks in the evening with Bob.  So as you can imagine, buy the end of the school year, I had regained all the 19 pounds I had lost, plus an extra 2 or 3.  Then in March I read The Secret Life of Fat, the most depressing book I've read for awhile, and I realized it would be very, very difficult for me to ever actually lose this fat permanently, so maybe a better approach would be exercising and feeling healthier, and just come to terms with my perpetually pregnant belly.

With that in mind, I contemplated asking my homeschool email loop if anyone could recommend a gym where overweight, middle-aged, frumpy women who look pregnant might possibly not be mocked.  But then!!  A homeschooling friend that we have known for years posted that her daughter, an exercise science major who had just finished her junior year of college, was looking for clients to do personal training for, at just $15 an hour!  I felt like that was a direct answer to prayer, so I emailed right away.

I met with Kaitlyn for the first time right before we left to visit my family in Ohio in June.  She had me do some exercises as an evaluation of where I was, and where my weak areas were, including running on a treadmill for a few minutes really fast.  As I was getting on the treadmill, I joked about how I've wanted to start running again, but each time I run, I end up having to go to the chiropractor 3 or 4 times to get my back and hips right again.  Haha!

Well.  Two days later we left to drive to Ohio, and by then I literally could not stand up straight.  I spent the week in Ohio on my back, stretching 6 ways to Sunday and taking motrin around the clock, but I was in so much pain.  I could not wait to get back here to see my chiropractor!  I saw him 2 times, and then I started really feeling better.  I was sooo discouraged though.  Here I am, trying to get healthy, and now I can't even move?!  I was so ready to throw in the towel already!

But Kaitlyn encouraged me to hang in there.  Best of all, she was able to really see the areas that were so weak--specifically my hips, which I had no idea were the weak link!--and tailor my workouts to strengthen those areas.  It was hard at first.  My poor legs and hips!  I hadn't realized what an exercise rut I had been in (prior to 2016/17, where I didn't even exercise at all, lol).  I would walk a ton, and do a pilates dvd I really liked.  But it turns out I wasn't even doing all those moves correctly, because that way bothered me and didn't feel "right"!  So I was great at what I did--and I never did anything different or challenged any other muscle groups.  And in the meantime, my hip muscles especially got weaker and weaker and weaker.  Kaitlyn was so very helpful, and I really enjoyed all my times with her, because she was always so encouraging.  Just what I needed!

I exercised with Kaitlyn twice a week all through the summer, and I did my regular walking in the mornings during swim team practice.  I started feeling much stronger, and I definitely noticed a difference in my back and hips.  Even during all the hours of driving down to Alabama and back to drop off Luke, my hips and back didn't hurt, like they usually would!  Progress!

But I lost no weight.  None.  I felt better, but I don't even think I looked any different.  Oh well though-that was what I had decided in the spring, right??  Focus on exercising and becoming healthier and don't worry about the scale?

I had a physical the end of August, and my numbers are pretty good.  I am "prediabetic" but holding steady there--the A1C number hasn't changed in the past 2 years.  Everything else was good, although my vitamin D level was low, which was weird.

I was able to exercise every day through September, but now the wheels have fallen off that good plan, as always seems to happen.  The things I am teaching require more prep, Micah is being a real pill (more in a different post), and I am just so tired and worn out and unmotivated.  Bob and I have been walking probably 2-3 times a week, but nothing like we were doing, and I was getting up every morning to work out as well.  I don't see me getting more motivated with the shorter, darker days either, lol.  The only thing I am really doing, diet-wise, is trying not to eat much wheat.  Eating that definitely seems to cause me to retain water.  Otherwise, I just don't have the bandwidth to figure out whole30 type meals right now, and honestly, if I lose the weight but then gain it back as soon as I eat more grains--well, that just seems silly.  I'll just hang out where I'm at, and hope I can get back to more exercising.  In my spare time!  Ha!  I'm not sure if I'll ever be brave enough to try running again . . .

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Happy Halloween/Blog Anniversary!

My blog is been sorely neglected of late, but I'm going to try to do better for November.  And what better way to start off than by remembering that I have been blogging since Oct. 30, 2004!  Here is my riveting second post, on what we were doing for Halloween that year. 

Fast forward 13 years, and we again went to Chuck E Cheese with our same friends, the L's and the P's, along with some others!  We took 2 years off and went to an indoor golf place, but this year we were back to the old familiar favorite, lol.  Drew and Micah were thrilled!  Drew especially had been asking to go to Chuck E Cheese for a very long time, since we pretty much only go there on Halloween.

But things were not exactly the same.  Caleb and Jonathan stayed home to get some work done, and Anna and Grace went to a church party with a friend.  So we only had 4 kids there, which felt weird--we were a normal sized family!  No one looked even slightly weirdly at us when we came in or when we left!  Also, the pizza was better than we remembered, which was a very welcome change, lol.

All 4 kids had planned on wearing costumes, but then they all decided it would be to much of a hassle, and they wouldn't be able to get full enjoyment of the games and the crawly-tubes in costumes, so they didn't end up dressing up.  But for the record, Faith would have been a cowboy, Micah a soldier, Drew a knight, and Verity a princess.  Fortunately they spend a good part of each day dressed up, so they didn't feel like they were missing out.
Verity did wear these amazing boots that the G family gave us.  They actually passed them on to us when Faith was little, but her feet were already to big to wear them.  So these boots have sat forlornly in our shoe tub in the basement, just waiting for Verity's feet to be big enough, and now they are!  As you can imagine, Verity loves them.  I do not give high odds for the ball things on the sides to last through the whole winter though.
Many games were played (the 4 kids were happy to have less people to split the "tokens" up with), but my favorite stops are the ones that give you pictures.  Like this great view of Drew's right ear!  Haha!  Enough tickets were earned to get everyone some airheads and a few odds and ends, like a whistle that fortunately isn't very loud, and a humongous purple ring that Verity promptly lost as soon as we walked in our front door.  I guess it will turn up eventually?  

And I went to Walmart today to buy 3 bags of half-price candy, so everyone is happy!  With Rivendell, we didn't do anything especially "Reformation Day" oriented, although we did say the timeline, and that is one of our points.  So happy Halloween/Reformation Day--and happy blog anniversary to me!

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Getting Old


Yesterday I took a big step--I bought a pair of reading glasses!  Now I can practice my stern librarian look, as I glare over the top of my glasses . . .
Every year, I have been dreading more and more opening my teacher manuals for BJU science.  The student text pages are reproduced in there, but at only about 2/3 the size, so there is a margin around the edge for some extra notes.  This makes the print extremely small . . . and I am dealing with that small print more and more poorly each year.  

A few days ago, I broke down and tried Bob's reading glasses on.  Wow!  The print was clear, and I wasn't straining!  So I bought myself this lovely purple pair at Walmart yesterday.  I'm still not exactly sure I got the right ones, but they definitely help.  Maybe this will make my prep slightly less onerous, lol.  It is definitely a clear sign of my aging though.  It looks like I stopped having babies just in time!  Ha!

Monday, September 25, 2017

Happy Birthday, Verity!

Verity officially turned 3 on Sunday, but we celebrated the entire weekend!  We started by bringing her cake to Bible study Friday night.  I made a cake that looked like her favorite "princess leotard" that a friend passed down to us several years ago.
I also made this cake for Faith's 2 year old birthday, because it was also her favorite thing to dress up at that age.  I did a better job this time with the proportions.  Last time I made the bodice way too wide.  Regardless, Verity was quite pleased with it!
She was so happy that her birthday was finally here!  Our last family birthday was Nathan's, back at the end of June, and so we've been telling her that her birthday is "next" since then.  So naturally she has been eagerly talking about her birthday since then, lol.
We opened presents Saturday night and had the last few pieces of cake.  Verity loooooves Minnie Mouse, so we got her this little Minnie Mouse headband, plus a Duplo set with a Minnie Mouse character (and a pink airplane!), and also a flower nightlight for her room.  She loved those things, but the main thing she was excited about, however, was candy.  She's picked up on the tradition of giving each kid some candy on their birthday, so for the whole month of August, she would say, in a happy, sing-song-y voice, "It gonna be my birthday soon, and I gonna get my own CAN-NY!"  So she was thrilled to have some gummi bears, M&Ms, and so on to call her own!  [Although it appears Drew ate a rather large share of it, claiming she "gave" it all to him, so now we are learning about "coercion", and he will be sharing his birthday candy with Verity . . .never a dull moment!]  But she hasn't been upset about it, lol--her bigger siblings seem to be more upset than her!
Verity is such a happy girl most of the time!  She's very confidant and independent--who wouldn't be, with all these big siblings watching your back?  And if you ask her who loves her, she will rattle off a huge long list of names of family members, friends who are like family, etc.  Don't get her started!  Being the youngest of 10 definitely means there are so many people around to love you, and she is happy to bask in the love and attention!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

If You Give a Doctor an Appointment . . .

So the end of August I took Anna and Grace in for physicals because they needed forms signed so they could run cross country.  I'm pretty good about getting babies in for well-baby checkups, but once the kids turn 3, I'm a lot less consistent if they are healthy.  (Okay, we pretty much never go in for physicals anymore because who has time for that, and I've always been running smaller kids in for well-baby appointments.  You would think that would make it easier, but it is next to impossible to keep all my kids on the same "team" of pediatricians, so the upshot of it all is that the olders never get well child appointments.)  BUT we needed paperwork, so off we went.

Bethesda is a teaching hospital, so what that means is you always are seen by a resident, then the supervising doctor, and that is what happened that day.  Both ladies were super nice, and definitely super . . . thorough.  They both spent approximately forever listening to both girls' hearts--sitting up, lying down, over and over again.  Lots of murmuring and "Did you hear that? . . . How about now?"  Eventually the older doc said that they heard a murmur in both girls, which was perfectly normal, except that Grace's had a different sound to it.  Not "like a guitar string, and also not harsh, but different."  Okay . . . They asked Grace a bunch of questions about whether she has ever felt dizzy or faint while exercising, or ever felt her heart race or anything.  (No)  But they decided we needed to see cardiology for a consult.

So this morning was our consult with the pediatric cardiologist.  Before we were even seen, Grace had an EKG done.  Then the resident came in to say that looked just fine, and he took a listen to her heart.  He listened for awhile but didn't even hear a murmur, much less one that sounded weird.  Next the supervising doctor came in, and he also listened for awhile, but couldn't hear anything wrong at all.  He was actually a little irritated that they sent her over, although he did end that sentence with the obligatory "better safe than sorry," lol.  He said that every child probably has a murmur at some appointment--a murmur is just blood flow they can hear--and that they aren't anything to worry about.  If there are actual real structural problems with the heart, then those murmurs won't be here one day, gone the next, so a problem most likely wouldn't just all of a sudden show up at a routine physical at age 10 with no symptoms of a problem.  So Grace got a clean bill of health, and her heart is cleared to keep on being as physically active as it has been, which is good because she has another cross country meet coming up on Saturday!

The second issue the original doctors found with Grace is that she is really skinny.  This is not actually a new problem for her.  Although she was 8 lbs. 13 ounces at birth, she quickly fell off that, and has spent the rest of her life hugging the 5th percentile growth line for weight. Once when she was 18 months, she got really sick with a stomach bug over Christmas, and she dropped back below 20 pounds.  At that point everyone was concerned (even me!), and we had to give her cream on her cereal, lots of butter on bread, ice cream every night, etc.  This was while I was in my third trimester of pregnancy with Faith, battling gestational diabetes, so that was a challenging period for me, lol.

Anyway, she has always been skinny.  The problem here was that she did have a doctor appointment back in May, when she had strep throat, and since that time she had grown taller but lost some weight, so she was on the day of the physical 55 inches tall but only 59 pounds.  That puts her BMI at the 0th percentile.  So now we are supposed to go back for a weight check in November so they can make sure she is not losing anymore weight.  

Grace has put herself on a strict regimen of milkshakes almost every afternoon, and I am pleased to say that it is working!  When she was measured today, she was almost 56 inches--and 66 pounds!  She's really packing it on!  That puts her in the 11th percentile for BMI, and actually it makes me wonder if the scale over at the pediatric clinic was really accurate that day?  Weird.  No one looks at Grace and thinks she is wasting away, an unhealthy "skinny".  She looks strong and fit--just skinny!  Anyhow, I don't think I'll be bringing her back in for the weight check.  It's not like we can just pop over there for 15 minutes.  A 15 minute appointment takes me the entire morning, driving there and back plus navigating the parking garage.  And beside, we have to make other trips for Anna . . . 

Which brings me to Anna's issue.  She got out of the physical appointment unscathed and pronounced healthy.  But now there is a routine lipid scan for 10-12 year olds, so both girls had to have blood draws.  I got a call from the doctor a few days later saying that Anna's LDL had been very slightly elevated, so she needed to go back in for a fasting blood draw.  We did that before our weekend at WSS, but again, I got a phone call the next week.  Her levels are *just slightly* elevated, right at the top end of normal.  SO we need to go back in 2 more months for another fasting blood draw so they can keep an eye on these levels.

Well.  I quickly researched high LDL levels in kids, and all the articles talked about were obese kids.  Parents were supposed to encourage weight loss, healthy food choices, and more exercise.    Anna is 58 inches and 80 pounds, giving her a BMI of 17, which is completely healthy.  She is super fit, strong, and active.  She swims, runs, plays basketball, and was competing in gymnastics until this past spring.  She runs a 20 minute 4K, and at this point in her life, I don't actually think it would be healthy for her to exercise more, and she certainly doesn't need to lose weight!  She eats very healthily, and rarely eats any fried, fatty food.  We don't eat tons of red meat because it's expensive to feed all these kids steak and roast all the time, and I cook pretty much all the time, with very little processed food.  She doesn't even eat cereal most mornings, which is our most processed meal--she usually makes herself a fruit smoothie!  

I did ask around, and people suggested more oats, chia seeds, and fish oil.  So now we are making big batches of steel cut oats in the instant pot with chia seeds, and she is eating a bowl of that every morning.  I also got some chewable omega 3 pills from Costco, and she's eating 2 of those a day.  We'll see if any of this makes a difference.  I have had 2 other friends tell me that their very active and healthy teen sons also have slightly elevated cholesterol levels, per this blood test, and it makes me wonder.  How did doctors get these healthy-range numbers for growing tween/teen kids?  They are wanting to help obese kids, but it seems like maybe they are pulling in healthy kids with their wide net.  I don't think Anna is at risk for heart problems right now, and neither of our families have histories of kids/young adults with high cholesterol.  Once people get older (40's, and less fit), yes, but that seems pretty normal. I wonder if once she is through puberty and in her 20's, if she will still have any cholesterol issues (well, probably not because of all the oatmeal, lol!).  Maybe this is something that works itself out in healthy, non-obese kids, especially since she's not in a range that would indicate a need for medicine or anything.  Regardless, we'll be back at Bethesda for another fasting blood draw the end of October.  

And so now you see why I don't make annual well child appointments a priority for healthy kids of mine!  If you don't report a problem, they'll find some!   

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Elementary Chemistry

Today and last Tuesday I taught chemistry to the 3rd and 4th graders ar our elementary co-op.  It was fun, although tiring.  I was having a hard time keeping all the different classes I'm teaching right now separate, since they are all sort of related to chemistry!  I'm glad this teaching is now over, and I can just focus on the other three, lol.

 Last Tuesday we talked about the periodic table.  When I was hanging up my periodic table posters (yes, plural) before we got started, one of the boys in the 3rd grade who was just walking in said, "I don't really understand what the periodic table is, or what it's good for." How about that for an introduction?  I told him I hoped he wouldn't be able to say that anymore after we finished!

I told them about Mendelev, who is credited with discovering it (although if you read other books like The Disappearing Spoon, which I highly recommend and have all my regular chemistry kids read, you'll find out that it is a complicated and very interesting story involving several other people as well . . .).  But Mendelev is a character, and he looks like the kind of person who you would find doing crazy experiments in a chemistry lab, lol.  Even though others had the general idea of how most of the elements were arranged, and what the patterns were, he gets the credit for discovering the table mainly because he was brilliant enough to leave holes where he predicted other elements would be discovered (and they were).

We spent a long time on what an element is, and more importantly, what an atom is and how it is structured.  We made these atom mobiles of a carbon atom (with 6 protons, 6 neutrons, and 6 electrons).  Although we talked a lot about the atomic number, I didn't go into atomic mass too much, which is a change from when I taught this 7 years ago to the 5th and 6th graders.  We also talked about the elements that have seemingly crazy chemical symbols that don't relate to what we call the elements (eg. Pb is lead, etc.).  They thought those were pretty interesting--well, maybe that was just me, lol.  Thank you, Latin!  And lastly we talked about each column of the periodic table, and how those elements all have similar properties.  I love the periodic table!  I even wore my "I wear this shirt periodically" t-shirt with the periodic table on it.

Here's a closer picture of Faith's paper plate carbon atom, complete with 2 outer shells for electrons.  I used pompoms for the atomic particles, which I bought from amazon.
For this Tuesday, we went a more experimental direction.  We talked about how to tell the difference between a chemical and physical change.  I gave them 4 main "clues" that a chemical reaction occurred:  it produces gas, it emits heat, light, or a new odor,  a new solid is formed, and it changes color (but this is tricky, because color change does not definitely mean a chemical reaction!).  Then we did some experiments to demonstrate those clues.

First was the classic "vinegar in a bottle, baking soda in a balloon" one.  When you put the balloon over the bottle mouth and shake the baking soda down, it reacts, forming sodium acetate, water, and carbon dioxide, which foams up, filling the balloon.  Most people had done this before, but hadn't thought of what was actually happening in the reaction or what the gas was.
 Secondly, we did a reaction with hydrogen peroxide and yeast in a beaker with a thermometer in it.  I had made up observation sheets so they could write down something about each experiment, and for this one, they had to mark the starting and ending temperatures.  It rose almost 30 degrees (F, although I made sure to tell them the C temperature too all the time), and it also foamed and bubbled, so they knew gas (oxygen in this case) was also being produced.  We talked about other exothermic reactions, like the ones used in those handwarmers, as well as endothermic ones, like the ones in those instant ice first aid ice packs.

Thirdly, we made slime, which was a big hit.  This was glue dissolved in water, with borax dissolved in water added to it.  This was definitely the big favorite as far as experiments go, because who doesn't like slime??  The 4th graders added green food coloring, which is why the slime below is tinted.  It was a good demonstration of a solid coming from 2 liquids.
 And lastly, I had 3 test tubes with water in them and a drop of green food coloring.  In the first one, I put a dropperful of vinegar, in the second a dropperful of hydrogen peroxide, and in the third (which is the first in this picture, because it's turned around, lol), I put bleach.  The bleach immediately turned the green blue, which impressed them, but it kept getting lighter until it was a very pale yellowish green.  We talked about the bleach you might put on white baseball pants actually having a chemical reaction with the green from the grass stains.
 Here was my table with a lot of my stuff on it.

After all the experiments, I gave them a handout with a ton of different chemistry lab equipment pictured, and then I showed them most of the pieces, thanks to my incredibly well-equipped science armoire here at home.  They liked seeing an erlenmeyer flask, volumetric flask, graduated cylinders, beakers, a ring stand with ring as well as the holder for burettes and thermometers, wire gauze, ceramic triangle, evaporating dish, crucible, various tongs, wire loop, 24 well reaction plate, and other stuff.  They were all pretty interested, and one girl said wistfully that she really wished she could come visit my lab, lol.  Maybe I'll inspire some future chemists!  After that, they all played with slime while I cleaned up.  It was fun, but I'm glad it's over!  

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Starting Up


A week ago, we had just gotten home from a wonderful retreat at WSS with my parents' chapel and Bible study group.  I had lots of time to visit with friends, which was so lovely.
 Bob and Anna got to try out the new high ropes course.  Bob was not a huge fan, although he completed it.  He did it with Anna, since she was younger than 13.  We may have to find someone else to go with Anna (and Grace too, since she'll be 11), as he wasn't sure he would do it again, and I am positive I'll never set foot up there!
 It was great to see my parents, of course, and the speaker, an active duty chaplain who used to be stationed there, was really good.

We left after the picnic Sunday evening and the bonfire.  Caleb drove us home so he could get in some night time driving hours, and he did a great job.  Usually we leave Monday after lunch, but we weren't all the way prepared for the start of Rivendell/TNT, and the house was a disaster area.  It was nice to have Monday to clean and finish preparing.

Tuesday was the TNT kick-off--Drew's first day!  This has been eagerly awaited for, well, as long as he has been conscious that Micah was going somewhere he wasn't, lol.  And it's definitely been awaited for since probably July, when he got his backpack out and filled up his pencil box.  He asked almost every night, "Is tomorrow TNT day?"  He is so happy to be going!  I totally should have taken a picture of everyone, but alas, taking first day pictures never became a tradition for me, and I'm not about to start now.  Maybe I'll think to take one this Tuesday--"second day of co-op"!

Usually I'll be doing chemistry lab Tuesday mornings, but the first day we had a moms' meeting, and then a picnic.  Since it was Drew's first day, it was nice that I could be there all morning, and I just worked the schedule so that we only had chem on Thursday afternoon, which is when we normally will have our chem class.

The 2 boys had some online classes on Wednesday, but Thursday was another busy day.  Last year Anna had German on Thursday morning, and I had signed her up again.  There was a conflict in that she and Jonathan both had to be different places at 9:00 (Jonathan at his math class), but I was able to work out a carpool to get Jonathan there. My morning was still going to involve a lot of running around, though, with dropping him off at 8:30, then Anna off at 9:00, then running home to try to accomplish something, then leaving at 9:45 to pick her up, coming home for another brief bit before runnign out to pick up Jonathan and his classmate, leaving at 11:45, and then coming home to teach chemistry from 1:30-3:00 followed by physical science from 3:00-4:30.  I was not looking forward to Thursdays at all.

But then we realized that Anna could take German with another friend who was going to be doing German with Joel Tuesday afternoons AT MY HOUSE!  Yay!  So that took care of some of the running around, and I have a bigger chunk of time to work with the girls on math and grammar especially Thursday morning!

Friday is AP chemistry lab in the morning.  The 2 kids who are taking this class are super self-motivated, exceptional kids, so they can pretty much run their own labs with just minimal input from me.  We're taking some time Friday mornings to go over questions they might have, but honestly, they know as much as I do.  My chemistry knowledge level is not longer AP level, so we are all working through this class together--I'm doing the chapter questions and everything too!  The upside is that will make teaching the regular chemistry class a total breeze.  I assigned the first 3 chapters of the AP book (Zumdahl, 9th Ed) for summer work--that covers the first 9 chapters of the high school book, lol (which is BJU, so pretty rigorous for high school!).  Side note:  I also assigned Alchemy of Air by Thomas Hager as summer reading, and I can absolutely recommend that book because it was so fascinating.  It detailed the development of the Haber Bosch apparatus that fixes the nitrogen in air into ammonia, which can then be turned into fertilizer--and also bad things, like poison gas.  I just tonight finished reading another book by the same man called Demon Under the Microscope, about the long road to developing sulfa drugs, the first antibiotics.  It too was absolutely fascinating!  I've decided I really like this author!

Saturday was the first cross country meet of the season for Anna and Grace, the only 2 kids of ours who are running this year.  It was down in Richmond, so the girls had a cheering section of Aunt Ann, Bob's sister!  Caleb went down with them and Bob so he could get in even more hours of driving (would that he were so diligent about the online portion, lol).  The girls ran in the middle school race, which was a 4k.  They did fine, although both of them felt like they did terribly.  But Anna ran a 20.30.5 4k, and Grace a 22:48, which is good for a 6th grader and a 5th grader in the first meet of the season!  There were only a handful of other 6th graders there, and no other 5th graders.  It was a beautiful day, weather-wise, for a cross-country meet!
Incidentally, the girls are running for the same team, different name.  The school they ran for last year folded, so the coach started her own private online homeschool academy so they could continue racing in meets against other schools and get into more competitive meets like this one.  She is a great coach, definitely going above and beyond for the team!

Now we're looking at the start of another week.  For the next 2 Tuesdays I'll be teaching chemistry at TNT.  (I am definitely all in for chemistry this year!)  I don't know that we'll totally get into a good weekly routine until that is over.  Tomorrow a few other classes start up that didn't happen last week with the Monday holiday.  Grace and Faith are taking a German class with Anna's teacher from last year, followed by an art class also with her.  Hopefully those will be fun!  The boys have some online classes tomorrow too.  This year is definitely the most complicated year yet, as far as schedules, outside classes, etc.  I'm trying to not stress about it.  One day at a time, right??  I'll be glad when the year is over and it's time for camping again, though!

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Summer Appliance Revolt

First we had to replace our fridge (with pretty much the same fridge, just newer) back in May.  That fridge has been keeping everything frozen in the freezer, and cold in the fridge, so that is good and expected, lol.  But the ice maker has been like an ice maker on steroids!  It furiously pumped out ice in these very sturdy lines of 8.  They never broke into individual pieces when they dumped in--I would have to take one line out and whack it on the side of the counter to get the cubes to break apart because they were so thickly attached together.  But hey, we had ice, right??  I was happy!

But then the excess of huge lines of ice actually broke the ice holder under the ice maker!  Well, we had kept our old drawers and shelves, so we had the container from our old fridge, which fit just fine.  So we switched them out and didn't think much more of it.  But then the ice maker really slowed down.  Eventually, it wasn't making ice any more, but it had clearly been releasing tons of water into our ice holder, because there were big frozen slabs of ice (I know--redundant, lol) on the bottom of it.  Alright, with no more ice forthcoming, it was clearly time to figure out how to call the repairman.  We just bought this crazy thing!

The repairman came on Tuesday, after 2 weeks of making ice in a single (broken) ice cube tray we dug out of the back of the cabinet that I used to freeze homemade baby food in.  To say I was glad to see the man would be a huge understatement.  I am not European--I love my ice cold water!  I told the guy about our icemaker on steroids, and he promptly replaced the icemaker.  Five minutes later, he was gone!  And I am happy to report that we are back in the ice business, hopefully for many more years this time . . .

In July our cook top decided to join in the rebellion.  When we moved into this house, there was a horrid JennAir cooktop (with big electric eyes, and a huge fan in the middle) that was original to the house.  By 2008, only 2 burners worked, so things were becoming desperate.  Sometime in the summer of 2008 we got a new flat cooktop, and I was soooo happy.  We had trouble once summer of 2012 while Siri and her family were staying with us.  The burners were coming on and not going back off again.  Bob was able to fix whatever was wrong, and we didn't have any more issues.

Until July 12.  I had spent a (hot, humid, but very fun) afternoon at Mt. Vernon with 2 of my high school friends.  I rushed home so I could take the kids to their swim meet, while Caleb heated some left-over spaghetti sauce and made some more noodles.  When I got home and walked past the cooktop, I could feel heat emanating from it, even though it was off, so I jiggled the knob to see if maybe it really hadn't turned all the way or something.  Well!  The burner started glowing bright red, and it was throwing sparks!  Ack!!  Caleb ran over to watch it while I ran downstairs to flip the circuit breaker.  Amazingly I was able to find the right switch right away, because the previous owners labelled the circuits fairly well.  Whew!

When Bob got home, he took off the knob, and we could see gray ash down under it.  He saw something that was lose, so he tightened it, and we threw the switch again, but it just started sparking again.  So--clearly a new cooktop was in order.

We spent a long time looking on the Lowes and Home Depot websites, comparing burners of all sizes.  Obviously we need big burners for our huge pots, but we were constrained by our counter cut-out.  Eventually we found one we could live with, and we ordered it--but it wasn't delivered until the end of July.  So we had to make do with my electric skillet and a really weenie plug-in electric burner we have for some reason (times like this, I suppose, but I don't remember ever buying it, lol).

Eventually the cooktop arrived.  Yay!  We got it out of the box--and discovered that there was an extra lip on the bottom that made it not fit in our counter cut-out, even though it was the same size on top.  Whoops!  We hadn't even looked at "counter cut-out size"!  Grrrrr . . . .
We talked about cutting the counter, but that seemed risky.  Then Bob did more reading and found out that this cooktop actually needed a 40 amp circuit instead of the 30 amp one we had.  Sigh.  Obviously this was not the cooktop for us, so we sent it back.

We went back to the websites.  We spent much time examining cut-out sizes as well as burner configurations.  This time we were even less excited because we already knew that we couldn't get ideal big burners in our size, and now with our electric constraints.  Our old cooktop had one big burner, one slightly smaller but still big, and 2 small ones.  We eventually settled on one that has 1 big burner and 3 small burners that are too close together to use for big pots.  The 2 burners on the left can work together, which would be great if I had any oblong pots.

Really the only saving grace for this cooktop is that it doesn't have knobs.  Normally I don't like more computer controls, but I am glad to not have bulky knobs taking up so much of the space.  But for some reason, not having knobs makes for a lot of wasted space, such that it is very hard to fit more than one big pot on at one time.  So that will be tricky to deal with, long-term. And the buttons will probably break easily . . . just like all other appliances seem to do now.

When we went to install this one, our counter hole was almost too big.  It turns out the "counter inset size" measurement on the website was off by 1/4 inch.  There is only a little bit of the cooktop that is on the edge all around, which is not ideal.  So honestly, who knows what to believe when ordering these things.
I am very ready to get a commercial kitchen!  At least the kitchenaid dishwasher is still going strong after several years.  If that had given up the ghost this summer as well, I think we would have been eating cereal and sandwiches permanently-- and on paper bowls and plates too!

Saturday, August 26, 2017

The Great Room Re-Shuffle

Here's a floor plan of our second story.  Nathan and Luke have always have bedroom #4, in the top left corner.  We've shuffled other kids around, but usually the newest baby has been in room 3.  Verity, of course, slept in our closet for her first 2 years, moving in with Micah and Drew in that room just a year ago.  The 3 girls have been in room 2 for several years, and Caleb and Jonathan have been in room 5.  

We started thinking about how to rearrange the rooms when we started thinking about Luke going off to college.  It seemed ridiculous to keep their room as an empty shrine to them when they were both gone most of the year, and we had 2 other rooms with 3 people in each of them.  Also, the 3 girls were sharing a bathroom with Caleb and Jonathan, and it was just getting crowded.  Jack-n-Jill bathrooms sound really great in theory, but in actuality, the doors into the other room were always getting mysteriously left locked, and no one wanted to claim responsibility for that, or for any messes left on the counter/by the toilet, etc.  So there was a lot of tension and quarreling from this bathroom.  Plus, as the girls move into puberty, it just seemed better to have a girls bathroom, and then a boys bathroom on the other side.

But the next question was, if Nathan and Luke give up their room, where will they stay when they're home, and where will all their stuff go?  We have a room at the foot of our basement stairs that seemed to fit the bill.  The previous owners had put a humongous built-in desk down there, and it only had a tiny window, so we weren't going to use it as a full-time bedroom.  The only problem was that the previous owners had painted it a dark shade of green.  The whole room, even the door.  It was as dark as a cave!  (Well, the other problem was that the room had accumulated a lot of junk that we had to dispose of, lol.)

When Nathan got home from his few weeks at WSS, he got right to work painting the room.  It took 2 coats of primer to cover that green.  He did a great job though, and now the room is so much brighter! If you look at the top left of the picture, you can see one of the cubbyholes in the built-in unit that is still the same dark green.  The room is really a pain because not only is there a giant desk taking up all of one wall, we have a big wooden door covering our electrical panel on another wall.  We need to get a bunk bed, probably from IKEA, and a small dresser, but that's about all that will fit in that room!

 It was sad to see Nathan and Luke pack up all their stuff and move out.  Here's what the room looked like when Nathan went back to college.
 Not long after he left, the girls were highly motivated to get everything switched around, so they encouraged Caleb and Jonathan to move their stuff.  So they did.  They pretty much just dumped it all in the middle of the floor and ignored it, with no attempt at organization or anything, and this is actually pretty much how the room still looks right now.
The girls, on the other hand, made short work of moving Faith and Verity into what used to be Caleb and Jonathan's room (so now the 4 girls will share a bathroom, as will the 4 boys on the other side).  They organized both their rooms and cleaned the bathroom as well, so their side was pretty much sparkling, lol.  
So Tuesday night was officially Verity's first night in a big girl bed.  We did dig out our bed rail, but she's been just fine.  She and Faith have actually slept really well in the same room.  Faith did not want to go to bed at the same time as Verity, so she's been sneaking in a little later, but Verity has gone off to sleep just fine by herself, and not woken up when Faith comes in, so that's a success.  And actually Verity is sleeping later than she was with the 2 little boys.  I think they all were waking each other up or something.  
 So that leaves just Anna and Grace in their room.  I don't have a picture, but Anna is on the top bunk, and Grace is sleeping on the double bed below all by herself.  She is so happy to have the bed all to herself!  For most of the past several years, all 3 girls have slept in the double bed, so to have it all to herself must indeed feel like a great luxury!  Every morning she comes down and comments on how easy it is to find a comfortable position when she's the only one in the bed, lol.
And Micah and Drew are left in their room!  We need to take down the crib, which will give some much needed space in there.  It will be so incredibly weird to not have a crib up anywhere, after having one up for over 20 years.  We need to get a "real" bunk bed for Micah and Drew, instead of the toddler bed under the junior loft bed.  Drew is getting too tall for the toddler bed!  He doesn't seem to have made the connection that Verity jumped straight to a big girl bed, and she's almost 2 years younger than him . . . hopefully that won't occur to him either, lol.  Then I guess we'll sell the loft bed and toddler bed, since we won't need them anymore.  

There you have it--5 bedrooms, each with 2 people in it!  

Monday, August 14, 2017

Another One's Flown the Nest

Bob, Luke, and I left Thursday morning for a long drive to Alabama.  There was some rain (some of it quite heavy!), but we made it down in about 12 hours, which included a nice long stop at Steak N Shake for dinner (and a long chat with the friendly waitress--I love the south!).

Friday morning we headed over to the university to start moving Luke in!
The nice thing about the housing here is that each student has his or her own room.  That was a big positive for Luke!  The rooms aren't big, but they're not tiny either.  Plenty of room!  The rooms come furnished with a bed that you can raise or lower, a desk, a bookshelf/hutch, a desk chair (that rocks, oddly), a dresser, and a closet that has a really small 3 drawer dresser attached inside on the left that is about half the width of the closet.
Luke decided he wanted his bed up a little higher, so he could fit the dresser under it.  He could have lofted it even higher--there were extra headboard things to do that with in the closet in the common area, but we could never find any pins to attach them.  But what we ended up with is probably high enough.  He also fit a big Rubbermaid tub under there, and some other stuff.
In each suite, there is a common area, and 2 rooms on either side.  This is looking down the hallway from the common area.  Luke's room is the second on the right.  He and the other guy each get their own sink, and then there is a shower and toilet for them to share.  The other side of the common area has the same set-up for 2 other guys.
Here is the common area.  The furniture (or at least the couch cushions) have seen better daysbut they are functional!
There is a little kitchen area with the world's smallest microwave and a pretty small fridge.  I think it will be fine for the 4 boys though.
It really didn't take much time to move Luke in, and we were done in time for lunch.  Before we left, Bob had solicited opinions in his office for good BBQ places down there, and he received quite a few recommendations.  He did due diligence by checking out reviews on the internet, and so for lunch, we tried "Melvin's", which had very positive reviews.  It is a not a place you would ever just come upon, for sure.  It is literally just these tents stuck next to some building, right next to the smokers.
The barbecue was good, although a bit spicy for me.  I had pulled pork, Bob had half a chicken, and Luke had ribs.  Each plate came with a cold bottle of water, and some homemade baked beans and potato salad (no other choices or anything!).  We each got a ton of meat, which was good because we were a little surprised when we went to pay and each plate was $15!  There's no menu there or anything, so we were just flying blind!  It was a fun experience though, and Melvin was very friendly.

After we finished lunch, we went to Walmart to pick up all the stuff we realized we forgot (trash can, among other things!).    There is no cleaning service for the suites, so the boys are responsible for cleaning their own bathroom/kitchen, and for supplying things like toilet paper!  We bought a big thing for that!  We also went to Sams to buy a different desk chair.  Luke didn't love the one that was provided.  We went back to the dorm and assembled it in the parking lot so we didn't have to carry the big box inside.
After that, my parents and some local friends of their's stopped by!  In a weird situation of good timing, my parents had some friends just move down to Montgomery, and they were invited down to visit them.  So they stopped first to stay the night with friends who live near Luke's school, and of course, since we were there too, they couldn't resist seeing Luke's room and visiting with us!  We all went out to eat at a delicious German restaurant, and then over to Rich and Judy's lovely home for dessert and to visit some more.  It was so fun!

Saturday we probably could have driven back, but I'm glad we didn't.  It was nice to have 2 days in between the big drives.  Instead, after breakfast, Bob and I each exercised at the hotel gym, and then I worked on some chemistry.  Then we decided to go a little further south to another BBQ place that several people had recommended--"Big Bob Gibson"!
This place was actually a physical building with air conditioning, so that was nice (less flies!).  There were a LOT of big trophies all around the room because this place has won some serious amounts of championships, including the 2017 World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest.
I liked this barbecue a bit better because the sauce wasn't as spicy.  Also, Bob had the most amazing mac and cheese for a side dish!  Even better, they had those yummy little rolls of crushed ice, which are the absolute best.  AND (this has never before happened to me) the (really, really nice) waitress asked me at the end if I wanted a "to go" cup so I could take my ice water with me!  YES!  That's the annoying thing about sit-down restaurants on trips--you usually can't refill your water bottle or take your cup with you!

So then we drove around a little more--I finally think I'm getting my bearings there--and then headed back to the hotel so I could do some more chemistry.  Luke was doing ice breaker things at the university since classes don't start for a few more days.  But then we picked him back up and headed over to our other friends' house, the ones we stayed with when we came down to visit.  We had a ball with them, as well as a delicious meal!  It's so fun to see all these friends in other places!  But we eventually had to go drop Luke off and say goodbye so we could start the long drive back Sunday.

We got back after another long 12 hour day, thanks to construction and traffic.  It was a really nice time though.  Originally we thought we'd bring everyone, but once we realized Nathan didn't have to be back at his school until later, we decided to leave everyone else at home with him.  It was a really good decision!  Although I'd like for everyone to see Luke's school at some point, it was good not to have a circus trailing us as we tried to get Luke situated, so we could just focus on him.  Plus it was really fun, just the three of us!  On the way down, we listened to an entire week of sessions from one of the WSS speakers this year, on Jonah.  It was really excellent, and we didn't have to stop it once to settle a backseat dispute or because someone was crying!

I think it was easier for me since we left 2 days after we got there.  I could see him settling in, and everyone was just so very friendly.  I think he's going to have a great 4 years there!  I did not want to come home though.  Aside from the always depressing thought of driving back into Northern VA, there is the thought that the school year is about to start again, and I really am not ready!  Oh well--onward and upward, stiff upper lip, and all that.  I can't wait for camping next year . . .