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 weer 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 didn't 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 . . .

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Introducing Mocha!

This past year was such a hard year, bunny-wise.  Bruno died suddenly at the very beginning of the school year, in September (although looking back, he had not been himself for a few weeks before that), and then Pikachu had his terrible fluke accident, and we had to put him to sleep the beginning of May to end up the school year.  After Pikachu's death, I said to the kids, "No more fragile pets like bunnies!"

And I was completely serious about that . . . until my friend Nicole messaged me while we were in Ohio back in June.  Her family was moving, and they didn't really want to take their bunny with them, so would we be interested in having him??  I remembered pictures of their bunny being carried around by their youngest, and I knew he was a really sweet, good-natured bunny, so after talking it over with Bob, we said yes!
We picked up Mocha on Monday, June 26.  He is indeed such a sweetheart  He's a little smaller than Bruno, and a little bigger than Pikachu, so a really nice size.  He is just friendlier than Pikachu was, so that is so nice. Pikachu was always just a little aloof.  Mocha is quite happy to have company, and he will climb into your lap if you sit on the floor to snuggle (albeit briefly, lol).
He's got this neat white "saddle" around him.
The family gave us their hutch, and let me tell you, it is quite posh--a 2 level townhome!  We hooked the door open so he can always go and in and out of hutch into the run, and he's  really been liking that. We let him out into the schoolroom as well, and so far we haven't left any cords down for him to chew through, so that's a plus!
This is one bunny who *loves* his hay.  He loves it!  The other 2 bunnies ate some of it, and then they would play around with some.  There was always some hay left around in the cage bottom.  Not so with Mocha.  He gobbles down every bit of hay I give him, and it's the pellets that he can take or leave!  He also adores kale, romaine, and any other greens.  After my morning walk while the kids were at swim team, I would pick a bouquet of dandelion leaves and flower, plus clover, to give to him when we got back him, and he would bound out of his hutch when he saw me come through the front door!
Today Mocha had company--a dog named Denver!  He is the dog of some other friends of ours, who are out of town right now.  The Mc's were dogsitting, but they were also away today, so we filled in.  We've been discussing the possibility of getting a dog sometime in the nearer future, now that Verity is pottytrained, so we figured this would be a good test run.  Denver is such an easy dog--so mellow!--and it was really fun to have him for the day.  Everyone thoroughly enjoyed walking him and playing with him!  

Mocha was a little afraid at first, and he spent most of the morning on the 2nd story of his hutch, peering out of the mesh window up there, but he gradually warmed up to Denver.  Denver would just lay by the cage and watch Mocha, until Mocha hopped around a bit.  Then Denver would get up and sniff the cage, and Mocha would run back into his hutch.  So it was a good test run for us--but only if we can get a dog as chill as Denver, lol.

In the meantime, Mocha has firmly established himself as part of our family, and I am really glad that we took the plunge and got another little bunny, especially one as cute and sweet as this one! 

Sunday, July 23, 2017

The End of Swim Season

I am terribly behind on this blog (for example, we got a new rabbit a month ago . . .), and mainly it's because of summer swim team.  I have a love/hate relationship with swim team.  It's great exercise!  It gets everyone up and going early in the morning!  The other kids and parents are so nice!

But . . . it takes up the entire morning!  Plus Wednesday nights and Saturdays!  And we lose (or break, for variety) goggles like you wouldn't believe!

I must say I am looking forward to not hearing, "I can't find any goggles!!" another time this summer.

So here's our morning swim team routine:  The 3 girls and Micah and I leave at 7:20.  Micah's practice is from 7:30-8:00.  Faith's practice is from 8:00-8:30, so I take this hour to walk on the really lovely, shady path behind the pool.  Even though it's shady, the past 2 weeks have been miserably hot and humid, so even shade leaves me absolutely dripping with sweat when I'm done.  

I spend a few minutes picking dandelion leaves and clover for Mocha, our new bunny (who I will introduce in a later post, I promise), and then I take Micah home, and sometimes Faith, as long as she doesn't want to take a long shower.  If she does, I leave her there while Anna and Grace practice from 8:30-9:15.

I rush home and take the world's quickest shower, making sure Caleb and Jonathan are getting ready to go before I get in.  Then we leave to be at the pool at 9:15, which is when their practice starts.  As long as either Nathan or Luke are home, then I don't have to take Drew and Verity, which is lovely.  There have been weeks when no one else is home though, alas.

Then I pick up Anna and Grace (possibly Faith too) and run them back home because they are starving by now (me too!), and we eat a quick bite before I rush back to pick up the boys at 10:00.  

And by then I'm exhausted and ready for a nap, completely unmotivated to start any huge project, or even little one, for that matter!  Sigh.

The season was great though.  Micah won almost all his races, even though he has the craziest way to take a breath for freestyle--he practically rolls over on his back, the move is so exaggerated!  He's a strong boy.  Grace was also at the top of her game.  At the invitation-only meet pictured up top, she won a medal in all 4 of her races.  Anna was not the oldest in her age bracket, but she is still a very strong swimmer.  In that same meet, she came out of the 2nd heat to win a medal, which was impressive.  Faith is also a good swimmer, and she won second place for her relay.  Caleb and Jonathan didn't swim in any meets because they both missed several (different) weeks of the season for various things, like being in Ohio, working at WSS, and going to encampment.  Still good exercise though!

The kids have only been swimming the 2 months of summer swim team, and they've been a little frustrated at things like their start dives, flip turns, and some other technique issues--things that if they just worked on them a little more, their times would probably really drop.  So we've toyed with the idea of having them (the 3 girls, mainly, but possibly Micah) do some swim team during the year.  The only problems are 1, that is pretty expensive, and 2, how on earth are we going to logistically do something like that?!  So we're looking around at different teams and ideas.  

I don't really want this to take over our lives, because we know no one is Olympic-bound (we're just too short!), and we still want them to be able to do other things like run cross country and play basketball.  I guess I'd say "strong kids, not specialized kids" is our goal.  

I just don't see me getting any more energized or motivated throughout the school year, though!

Friday, July 07, 2017

Potty-Training for the Tenth Time, Plus Some Advice at the End

Nathan turned 20 on June 24, which means that I have now been changing diapers for over 20 years straight.  There was never a time where everyone was potty-trained before the next baby came along.  We've had 2 in diapers quite a few times, but never 3, so that was nice.  Still--that's a lot of diapers, and frankly, I am ready to retire.

All that required was for me to convince Verity, and she has not been very interested in the potty!  She has sat on it several times over the past 6 months, but she rarely produced anything at all.  I knew she was ready, however, because when we drove back from Ohio on June 22, she was dry in the car.  I changed her diaper before we left, but she was dry at our lunch stop, so I didn't change her.  At 3:00, we stopped at a gas station, and she was still dry as a bone.  I told her she needed to pee so I could change her then, because we weren't making another stop, and then I went inside with the other girls to use the rest room.  When I came back out, Verity told me she had peed, and she had!  So obviously anyone with that kind of awareness and holding capability should be ready to be potty-trained!

 She's also been dry in the mornings pretty consistently, so we did a "soft start" to potty-training on Nathan's birthday.  And lo and behold, she peed in the potty right off the bat!  The older girls got her excited about wearing panties, so she picked out a pair (we have approximately a million 2T/3T pairs of varying designs) and wore them happily.  She did have an accident later on, but she did pretty well for the first day.  She wore a diaper for church and for anywhere else we were out the next few days, but she again did really well, with really only one or two other pee accidents.

The only problem was that she wouldn't poop on the potty.  She had one poopy accident in her panties (bye-bye Princess Tiana panties--I never liked your movie very much anyway, and I am DONE swishing out poopy panties in the potty, now that no one is following behind . . .), and then she just pooped at night in her diaper (or at the pool in her swim diaper once--oops).
 We tried to encourage longer sitting sessions on the potty, with Luke watching many animal videos on his phone with her, and Grace reading her books, but no dice.  Verity also was never interested in trying the actual big toilet, either.
Then we went to Aunt Rose's house for the weekend.  I didn't pack her little potty, and since she had never peed, much less pooped in a big toilet, I kept her in diapers (or swim diapers) all weekend long. But this big girl was dry as a bone!  And she peed like a champ on the big toilet the whole time!  But she pooped in her diaper, instead of going on the toilet.  Ah well.

Then, on the Fourth of July, we had a breakthrough!  She pooped on the little potty not once, but twice!  Glory, glory, hallelujah!  

It was not all sunshine and roses, however.  While we were at the L's house, watching fireworks, she pooped on their toilet-and then decided to take matters into her own hand, as far as getting off and then wiping herself.  It was not pretty.  Thankfully Linda caught her before she came out to look for me, so the damage was contained!  

Since then, she has had no more accidents, and she is wearing panties full time.  We're still not out of the woods entirely with the whole poop thing, though.  She didn't go at all yesterday or today, and she'll just complain that her tummy hurts. I'm sure she's got some backlog from the stress of it all, so we're hitting that hard with extra fiber and water!  And I'm still putting her in a diaper at night and even sometimes when we go places (like to Bible study tonight) until everything works its way through.  And Verity is still enamoured with our panty selection, so she changes them frequently, even without needing to.  She also must like the look of them on her, because she's taken to not wearing anything else BUT panties around the house.  If you stop by to visit, don't be surprised if a cherub wearing only princess panties greets you at the door!

But I think I can pretty much say I am finished with diapers!  Wow!  I never dreamed that diaper-changing would be what I would become a world-class expert in, but there it is.  I wonder how long it will take for my skills to become rusty?

So what are some final potty training tips from someone who has done it more times than most?
1.  Wait until they are closer to 3.  
2. But make sure that they are really owning it mentally, because like pretty much everything else, if the child doesn't really want to be potty-trained, then you are fighting a losing battle.  One way to motivate them, especially if a younger baby is in your family, is to really play up the differences between "big kids" and babies.  Constantly reiterate what the bigger kid can do that the baby doesn't get to do, but always point out that as long as the kid wears a diapers/he is technically a baby, since that's what little baby sibling or friend baby wears.  In conjunction with that, figure out what motivates the kid, and tell him/her that is only for big kids who wear underwear.  Chewing gum, getting toenails painted--that sort of thing.  Whatever really lights their fire and might make them think it is worth it to wear underwear and interrupt what they are doing to go sit on a cold toilet to eliminate waste.  This kind of psychological reasoning can be why it works to wait until the kid is a little closer to 3 than 2, often.
3.  Try to make it low stress on you and them, as if you don't really care if this happens or not, it just might be nice for them to be a big kid so they get all these big kid privileges, you know?  This is probably easier to do when you are NOT dealing with kid #1, and all the attention is on him.  But like I did with Verity, set him on a potty, reward with M&Ms or whatever liberally, and then put the diaper back on if he's not real interested.  Then after a while of that, then work on wearing underwear, knowing that there will be a few accidents at first. But don't set up expectations for yourself that it will only take a day!  or whatever.  Because it might not (or maybe you'll get lucky), and if you are expecting that, then it's very easy to get totally discouraged.  Expect a month!  
4.  Potty-training is easier in summer simply because there are less clothes to take off or put on, and no one gets cold if they run around naked or just with underwear on.
5.  Like all kid phases, this one doesn't usually last all that long either, even though it seems like you will be dealing with accidents for the rest of your life while you are in the thick of it.  Even if it is tricky for an entire month, that's really not that long in the whole scheme of things (and obviously with special needs, this doesn't apply!).  Like one friend said, no one's kid goes off to college wearing diapers.  They'll get it!
6.  Oh!  My trick for boys, which came from Elizabeth L., who got it from her mother-in-law, who raised 4 boys:  sit little boys on the potty facing backwards!  Then their legs are spread wide enough that everything points down and goes into the toilet, plus they can hold onto the tank for support, so they don't feel like they are going to fall in!  This is a LIFESAVER if you don't want to be dealing with puddles of pee in the front of your toilet and in your little boy's underwear and pants because he didn't sit far enough back/legs far enough apart. 

That's all I can think of right off the bat.  I've always said I would rather go through labor and delivery than potty-training, so I must say I am thrilled to have this basically behind me!  Yay!  I should go out and celebrate with all the extra money we will now have in our budget without diapers and wipes!  Woo-hoo!

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Weekend at the Lake!

The kids had a swim meet Saturday morning, which took approximately forever, as swim meets do, but afterwards, we drove up to visit Bob's sister and her 2 daughters at their beautiful house on the lake! We got there in time for a late dinner, and then bed, because Sunday was a busy day!
 Rose was having a graduation party for her daughter Maddie Sunday afternoon, so we spent the morning helping decorate (which involved fighting over big balloons, if you were in the younger set) and get food ready.
 After most things were ready, Maddie took the kids out on the boat.  Their dog Tucker went along too.  Spending time with Tucker is another thing the kids really look forward to doing at Aunt Rose's house!  You can also see what a gorgeous day it was, weather-wise.  Just beautiful!
 The kids are eating some "walking tacos", except theirs got dumped out on a plate for (hopefully) less mess.  You take a small bag of Doritoes, crush them up a bit in the bag, open the top, spoon in some meat and other taco toppings, and then eat.  Yum!  There were lots of other dips, fruit, chicken, potato and macaroni salads, etc., and a nice cake.  All delicious!
 Here are the 2 cousin graduates, born just a month apart!
 The kids did some paddle-boating during the party.
 Verity and Aunt Rose
 Two boys, happy to be at the lake!
Even Bob and I went paddle-boating!  That's more my speed, lol.
I was able to get in a lot of reading as well, finishing 2 murder mysteries this weekend, both by Jeanne Dams, in her Dorothy Martin series.  Perfect for a relaxing weekend!
 By 7:00 there were really a lot of people there because the lake association was putting on fireworks over the lake when it got dark.  We watched in amazement as the highway sides filled with pickup trucks, and people came from everywhere to line the lake.  We had the best seats though, because they shot the fireworks off literally across the street from Rose's house, just a hundred yards away.  We all just sat on a blanket in the front yard and watched the show!  And it was an amazing show, really.  Thirty minutes long!  We thought a few times that they were having the big finale, but no, it just kept on going!  Verity was scared at first, but then she sat in Bob's lap, and gradually she relaxed and enjoyed them.  If you ask her about them, she'll tell you they were "pitty".  It was really neat to be practically underneath them.  When they actually were done--we just turned around, went into Rose's house, and put the kids to bed!  How great is that!  We will never watch more convenient fireworks ever!

Monday morning, Bob and I took a very long walk around the lake.  We walked for over an hour, and we only got about halfway around!  I love looking at the various houses and cottages.  Some of them are so neat!
 When we got back, everyone played a rousing game of slip-n-slide kickball (well, I documented it from a comfortable shady perch on the trampoline with Verity, along with Micah and Drew at various times).

 Jonathan took this picture.  Note the artsy slant, lol.
 This was our view off the other side of the trampoline.  Very relaxing!  Micah and I played "shapes in the clouds" for awhile.
 After the game was done, everyone swam in the lake for a bit before we had to pack up and leave for home.
But not without taking a picture, of course!  We had such a nice weekend, and it was really special to be there to celebrate Maddie graduating.  The kids are ready to go back up there this next weekend.  Drew especially was *quite* disappointed that we weren't going to be there for the fireman's parade (which is next weekend, along with the 5k), like we were last year.  I think the candy they threw was the biggest draw though . . . maybe next year!