Monday, May 29, 2017

Damp Camping Fun

This weekend we went on our annual camping trip with our homeschooling friends.  It was considerably wetter than any other year we've gone, so that made things a little bit more interesting, but we still had a grand time!
 Fortunately we knew the forecast going into the weekend, so we were somewhat prepared.  We dug up this "shade tent" from the recesses of our garage (I'm not sure we've ever even used it before?), and we set it up over the picnic table.  It was a little crowded back there, which caused me to ponder how we might better set things up next year (I've got big plans . . .), but it did help keep things a bit drier.  I don't think it rained Friday at all, but Saturday it rained off and on pretty much the whole day.  We even canceled out hike to the falls because of it!  Fortunately it was nice in the evening, and so we were still able to have our taco bar potluck, which was fun.  Sunday we still had our church service (it sprinkled a time or two, but really we hardly got wet), and then 2 groups hiked up to the falls two different times.  We had a dry spell Sunday afternoon, and so we gambled and left the tents up, hoping they would dry out before we put them away.  We lost that bet, however, as it started raining pretty solidly, and we ended up taking the tents down in a rush, and stuffing everything in the back of the 2 minivans as quickly as possible (also as unorganized as possible, lol).  That meant we got to put up the tents this morning in our front yard to dry them out, along with the tarps, camp chairs, sleeping pads, etc.  Not quite as much fun as setting up at the campsite!
 The kids still had fun.  Along with our usual construction toys, they added in a waterfront! Water and dirt--how can any kid be happier?!
 One of the older girls helped our girls make these leaf crowns, which they thought were pretty fantastic.

 Nathan got to use his hammock a bit on Friday, since it wasn't rainy.  Verity thought it was nice too!
 Nathan and Luke had their work cut out for them, keeping a fire going with all the rain and general dampness.  They persevered, however, and they also split a ton of wood from this big round section that Bob and Anna rolled down to our campsite from the entrance to our loop.
 Verity thought she owned the place, of course, and she wandered happily around to the other campsites, visiting.  She did take a wonderful nap Saturday afternoon.  This year she slept in our "toddler travel bed" instead of a pack-n-play, marking the first time since Nathan was born that we have camped without a pack-n-play.  She thought she was pretty big stuff, with her Winnie-the-Pooh sleeping bag!
The funnest part was that this year the L's came too.  We've been camping with them since Nathan was 8 weeks old, and Elizabeth was pregnant with Amanda, back in Colorado!  Now here we re al20 years later!
Here is a picture of us from a camping trip to Molly Gulch, I believe, back in 1998.  Obviously we haven't changed at all!  Ed is cooking on their Coleman camp stove that we shared during all those camping trips.  When we started going on this camping trip 4 years ago, we just borrowed theirs!  With them coming this year as well, we finally had to bite the bullet and buy our own camp stove.  We bought the exact same Coleman camp stove.  We figured after trying it out for 20 years, we were finally ready to commit, lol.  It worked great for us!

We did have some unusual medical issues this trip.  Two weeks ago, Nathan had a really sore throat and just wasn't feeling well.  Eventually Grace and Jonathan did as well, with the added bonus of a nice rash all over their bodies.  I took them in to the doctor on Thursday, May 18, before we went to WSS, and no surprise there, they all had strep throat (scarlet fever for Grace and Jonathan).  Nathan got penicillin, Jonathan got amoxicillin, but I asked for Grace to have something different, since she had massive hives the last time she had amoxicillin, so she got a Z-pack.  Well, Friday morning, as we were packing up to leave, Jonathan showed me what looked like bug bites all over his arms.  We couldn't figure out when he would have been bitten, but I gave him some benedryl. He and the older boys came later than the rest of us did, and as they were driving, he texted to say he looked like he had chicken pox!  As we watched this rash spread all over his body, it struck me--he's probably having a reaction to the amoxicillin, just like Grace (and Drew and Verity)!  So he didn't take any more pills, and the rash seemed like it was starting to go away--although it is back now, so I'm going to take him back in tomorrow.  Crazy!

The other medical issue was Drew's finger.  When he was doing his dishwasher job (unloading the silverware) last Monday, the day after we got home from WSS, I was startled to see what looked like a blister at the top of his right pointer finger!  I asked him what had happened, but he kept saying he didn't know.  It looked a little like the blister you would get after a burn, so I asked him if he had touched the hot metal when he was roasting marshmallows on Saturday night.  He looked clueless and said he didn't know.  He certainly never complained at all at WSS or any other time about getting his finger burned or hurt in any way, so I filed it away as a mystery and proceeded to literally never think about it again.

Until we got up to camping on Friday.  He went potty, and I was lifting him up to wash his hands, since he couldn't reach.  I noticed that his finger was swollen, tight, and red all the way down to the second joint of his finger!  What in the world?!  It looked still like the blister you might get after a burn, but now it was much huger than it had been, and it looked terrible.  But he had never complained about it once during the whole week!  If I hadn't happened to notice it on Monday, I would never have even know when it started (well, as close as I could know, anyway, since Drew himself could give no clues)!  We showed it to all our friends, and one friend offered some essential oils she had brought with her.  We put meleleuca and oregano on it, which really stung, and THEN Drew complained and cried about it!  He actually cried out in the middle of the night a few times too.  But in the morning, the blister had split down the middle, so we thought that was a good sign.  We put antibiotic ointment on it and a bandaid.  Sunday the bandaid was off, but the finger still looked pretty awful.  Now that we're home, we've been soaking it, but obviously there is still infection in there.  We can't figure out what happened, but we're wondering if it wasn't some kind of bite or something--something he wouldn't have felt.  There is no way it was a burn, because those throb, and he would definitely have cried and let us know!  He fussed enough with the oils on it!  So I'm planning on taking him in tomorrow as well.  Hopefully I can get 2 appointments!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Lessons From Testing

Today we finished another year of standardized testing for our homeschool co-op, and I for one am quite happy to be done!  As the coordinator, it's like running around like a crazy person for the actual 3 days of testing, plus all the legwork beforehand.  I got to see the Lord work in a very special way this year, though, and that really made it memorable!

Last year we used the Iowa test for the first time, since BJUPress said that Pearson, the publisher, was going to stop supporting the Stanford test after June 2016.  It took a lot of time, but I finally worked out a schedule for all the grades, and I figured we were set.

But then sometime in the fall or winter, I was reading a thread on the Well Trained Mind forums where a lady said that she would be using the Stanford test for her kids this spring.  I asked how that could be, and she replied that Pearson had decided *not* to stop supporting the test after all, although it wouldn't be updated (read "bought into compliance with Common Core", which I don't think anyone in my circle cares about), and Pearson still might stop supporting it "at any time".  Hmmm.  The benefit with the Stanford is that it is untimed, as long as the student is progressing, and that takes a lot of pressure off the kids, especially in the math sections.  I decided we would go back to using Stanford for as long as we can.

But with all my playing around with the schedule last year, I decided to tinker with the Stanford schedule that we had always used as well.  The lady who had been the coordinator at our co-op for years and years before me had set it up for 3 days of testing, but I wanted to see if we could do the required math and language sections in just 2 days for all the grades, and then just have the optional science and social studies sections for those who wanted them on the third day.  I worked it out, but it highlighted the discrepancy in testing times for the various grades.  First grade needed so much more time than any other grade!  Plus, they only had one extra section, and "environment" one, that was suggested to be 30 minutes long, so a third day just for that seemed silly and should have been my first clue that maybe this grand plan would not work so well, lol.

In the meantime, I received the "big box o' tests" for BJUPress almost 2 weeks ago.  I opened it weekend before last to make sure I had all the tests people had ordered.  I realized, as my heart sank to my toes, that I was missing a first grade test and a seventh grade test.  I  compared my sign-up list with the student roster in the box, and I realized that Christine's tests were the ones missing.  What on earth happened?! I printed off her confirmation email and called BJU last Monday.  They were apologetic but said that there was a problem with her credit card, so her order didn't ship.  They had tried to contact her, but not very hard apparently, not leaving messages and not trying email!  I immediately called her, and she called them. It turns out her card had been compromised after she had ordered the tests, so she had to get a new card, but BJU doesn't charge your credit card until the tests ship, which was several weeks later.  Who knew?  Anyhow, BJU express-shipped her tests, and I got them, along with a set of directions for both grades, last Thursday, in plenty of time for this week's testing.  Whew!

For some reason, we had a much bigger than usual number of first graders--11.  First grade is the hardest grade to do a standardized test for, since there is such a wide range of perfectly normal.  On the one hand, you have the (primarily older) kids who have been reading for awhile, and then you have the ones who are technically reading words and sentences, but for whom paragraphs are way too much.  I think the Stanford 1st grade test is actually pretty hard--there are 7 paragraphs at the end of the reading comprehension section, with questions after each paragraph.  Some of the kids breezed right through--and others didn't.  There were tears and frustration, and the class ended up over an hour behind my "schedule".  In fact, by the end of Monday, they hadn't finished 2 of the sections I had scheduled for that day, and obviously my plan of only leaving the optional part for Wednesday was not going to work!

I called Christine to vent my frustration, and she wondered if it would be possible to split the 11 first-graders into 2 groups.  She was a qualified test administrator who wasn't scheduled to test on Tuesday, so she was willing to help out--but we would need a second book of test directions, since they are so scripted, especially for first grade.

But wait!  We HAD a second set of directions . . . because her order, which included a first grade test, hadn't gone through the first time, and so it had to be sent out separately, with its own set of administration directions for each test.  Isn't that amazing how the Lord worked out what we needed, even before we knew we needed it??  So we split the first grade up into 2 groups for Tuesday and today, and it worked much better.  Some kids did have to come back today that weren't planning on it, but everything worked out fine.

Next year I am definitely going back to the original 3 day schedule for both the first and the second grades.  The second grade tester said she thought the days were too long for the second graders too.  For everyone else, doing the required sections in just 2 days worked out just fine, and it was a nice option that they didn't have to come back on Wednesday if they didn't want to.

Now, I am just so glad to be done.  This stress and responsibility really takes it out of me!  I will be very glad to mail that big box right back to BJU Press tomorrow.  Good riddance!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Restful Weekend Retreat

 We spent the weekend at one of my favorite places--Harrison House at White Sulphur Springs.  Our OCF group had a retreat there, and it was so nice and relaxing.  The old hotel was looking very fine indeed, having been freshly painted and spruced up on the outside!

We got there Friday night.  One family that retired last year and moved to the Midwest drove back for the retreat, and it was really wonderful to see them again.  Another family, who PCSed 2 years ago, also drove down for the retreat, so it was a weekend with old friends!  Ed L. did a great job leading 3 sessions on discipleship, which were very practical and helpful.
 Once again, Amanda L. got up at 6:30 and organized the crowd of teens to make breakfast both days, and Nathan was our griller for lunch on Saturday up at the picnic pond.  The weather was very cool the whole time, which was a nice change of pace from the sweltering weather we left behind in VA!  Also, it never rained, so that was also very nice.
 Caleb drove me to the library Friday morning before we left so he could pick out some books.  This was our view of him during much of the weekend.
 Verity was happy to be eating a banana cookie here.  We made 5 dozen banana cookies, and 5 dozen chocolate chip cookies, and they were all eaten at lunch on Saturday, which is rather impressive.
 The grownups spent a lot of time talking and laughing.
 Verity and Drew were a little too close to the pond for my liking!
 The younger teens/preteens had a great time together too.
 This was my view from the porch swing on Saturday afternoon.  I read a really good book, The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper.  I just randomly picked it up at the library last week, but I really enjoyed it.  An elderly widower discovered a charm bracelet of his wife's a year after she died, and he ended up tracing the story of the charms, discovering she had a rather exciting life before she married him.  As he discovers her story, he really came out of his shell and started living again.  It was a nice, quick read, perfect for a relaxing weekend!
 There were quite a few older teens as well, and they played a lot of games and had fun too.
 We didn't get a family wagon shot, but that is not to say kids were not up on the wagon, however.
 Saturday night we had a hay ride up to Heritage House for dinner.  Verity was a little unsure at first, as you can see by her tentative smile, but she sat with Jonathan and Stephanie, and ended up being just fine.
 There were a lot of kids between our 5 families!
 Up at the new hotel, Tim and Amy P got special carrot cake slices to celebrate their 25th anniversary, and everyone sang to them!
 After dinner we went over to Ft. Cochran, where the A. family had organized some games.  First we played a rousing game of "What's my name", where we all had animal names on our back (ant-eater for me, platypus for Bob).  Then we played several rounds of charades.  Here is Luke acting out . . . something . . . oh yes, "bunk bed".  There was a lot of laughter!
 Then it was time for smores.  My kids mostly like making smores, as opposed to eating them.  Verity doesn't even like toasted marshmallows, much less smores!  She only likes raw marshmallows, the stinker, and she definitely doesn't like having sticky hands!  Micah loves roasting marshmallows, and he was quite proud of this specimen in particular.  It did have a nice brown cap, which you can't see because my phone camera is really old and not very good, lol.
Sunday morning we had another delicious breakfast, and then a brief church service.  Before that, we took this lovely picture of us all squished on a very uncomfortable couch.  This picture will not be our Christmas card picture, lol.  Then Ed finished his 3rd session, we packed up, and we all headed back home, along with everyone else who had managed to escape Northern VA for the weekend.  Sigh.  Traffic is not a good way to come down off the mountaintop, and back into the real world!  But here we are, getting ready to start 3 days of testing bright and early tomorrow morning.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

New Fridge, Same as the Old Fridge

Here is our old fridge, minus all the magnets and pictures we normally have cluttering it (but with the residue of unauthorized stickers).  We got this beauty Mar. 1, 2006, when I was 8 months pregnant with Anna, so it just turned 11 years old.  (I only know this because I happened to blog about the momentous occasion.  Otherwise, I just knew I was pregnant with someone, but that doesn't really narrow it down much, lol.)

It turns out that being 11 years old in refrigerator years is really geriatric, nowdays.  And our fridge was feeling its age.  I started noticing that ice cream didn't really stay frozen very well, so we just didn't keep it inside, but rather always put it in the garage freezer.  Then during basketball season, it seemed it could never keep up with the ice after people would fill up water bottles.  Gradually there was less and less ice.  Finally Bob put a thermometer in there are realized the temperature was fluctuating between 28 and 37 degrees.  No wonder it wasn't making ice or keeping ice cream cold!  I started buying a 20 pound bag of ice a week and pouring it into the reservoir.

I had it stuffed pretty full, so all my cooked chicken and ground beef were fine, because I guess they were keeping each other frozen, but we didn't think it would last too much longer.  Bob googled the problem and tried a number of different things (cleaning coils, turning it off and letting any possibly frozen tubes thaw, etc.) that were suggested, but nothing helped.

We wanted to find a new one before it was an emergency, so we started doing research.  I was excited--a chance to update and get a convenient french door one or something!  But as I researched, it seemed that pretty much every brand and model were "the worst on earth--never buy this one!"  Hmmm . . . that was not encouraging.  It also sounded like fridges were only really lasting 5-6 years, which was also alarming.

Eventually we narrowed down our options:  either a GE french door model that didn't have a water/ice dispenser in the door (because that seemed to be what frequently malfunctioned), or a Samsung one that did (that the McC's have and are happy with).  Bob and Christine pointed out that not having water and ice on the door would be quite inconvenient for us, since we still have so many young kids, and they are right, I'm sure.  The other one was more expensive, but we were looking at one that only Lowes sells, which had an ice maker in the door AND one in the bottom freezer part.  That seemed like the best of both worlds to me--but the drawback was that it was this weird slate color that seemed to be a top coating only.  It scratched super easy, and that didn't seem like it would work in our house, lol.  Verity would make short work of that!

So we were hemming and hawing around, having spent time at both Lowes and Home Depot (this was last Thursday night, the night before we left at 6:30 AM to drive up to CT).  Then Bob's eye was caught by a fridge in the clearance section.  It looked like the exact same refrigerator--Frigidaire side-by-side--that we have now, just 10 years newer, and with a few trim differences and no meat drawer.  The main attractive trait was the price--we could walk out the door paying around $650, instead of over $2000.  So that's waht we did.
You can compare for yourselves!  We got it delivered Monday afternoon, and I am happy to report that it is making ice, and keeping food frozen in the freezer side.  It is ugly and not well-designed, but it does work.  I like to think of it as like buying our big van--nothing had changed in the Ford Econoline vans since the 1970s, except for maybe a few extra cupholders.  And there have certainly been no improvements in this model in the past 10 years either.
In fact, the lack of a meat drawer was really a problem, and a definite deprovement, if that is even a word.  What we ended up doing was keeping all the shelves and drawers from the doors (because we've probably replaced each of them at least once, and repaired them all again with super glue, duct tape, and popsicle sticks, since they are apparently made of the cheapest plastic in the world).  We put the old meat drawer on the second shelf from the bottom, and then put one of our shelves from our old fridge right on top of it, so we didn't lose an entire shelf to the meat drawer.  It slides out, but it doesn't hang down on anything.  (It wasn't hanging down very well in our old fridge, since the tracks were broken . . .)  Now we have a skinny shelf for eggs and my box of spinach that I always have in there. 

I am not excited about this fridge, but I definitely felt like it was the best decision we could have made--the "adult" decision, lol.  Hopefully it will last 11 more years, and then *maybe* some brand of fridge will have distinguished themselves with exceptional reliability, like Toyota and Honda have done for cars.  I'm not holding my breath, though.  It seems like reliability is going in the wrong direction!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Mock Trial Weekend

On Wednesday, Luke drove the big van over to meet the rest of his mock trial team.  They loaded up, and one of the other dads drove the team up to the mock trial national championship tournament, which was held this year in Hartford, CT.

About an hour after he left, Nathan arrived home from his second year of college.  We were so glad to see him!  We were so glad, in fact, that Bob and I left him with the other 8 kids for the weekend!  Welcome home, Nathan, away from your peaceful life of only being responsible for yourself!

Craig and Christine drove over here early Friday morning, and we left to drive up at 6:30 AM.  We made incredible time, getting to Hartford a little after 1:00.  It helped tremendously that Christine is from Boston, and so has made this drive tons and tons of times, so she could help us ignore the GPS, which insisted that we wanted to cross the George Washington Bridge instead of the Tappan Zee Bridge.
 When we got there, we drove around a park where the team was eating, but we didn't see them among the throngs of teenagers in suits, lol.  So we checked into our hotel and then started walking over in the direction of the court buildings.  We stopped for lunch at a restaurant that promised an "express lunch".  After we ordered, we decided we should enter the address of the building where round 2 was going to take place for our team--and it turned out it was a mile away!  We thought it was just around the corner or so!  Since it was 10 after 2:00, and the next round started at 2:30 . . . that meant we really should be leaving right then.  We waited impatiently a few more minutes for our food, and when it came, we literally inhaled it.  Then we raced out the door, leaving cash to pay.  We alternately walked and ran the mile, completely unprepared for such exercise, lol.  In fact, I seem to have pulled a muscle in the top of my foot from running in shoes definitely not designed for such things!

We arrived, huffing and puffing, to the court building at 2:35, and we were worried we wouldn't be let in.  Ha!  We waited and waited, while our heart rates went back to normal, and we stopped sweating, until after 3:00 for the judge and the panel of 3 people who were the actual scoring judges for the competition.  We could have taken much more time, both at the restaurant and on the mad dash over!

Our team was defense this round, and they looked really good.  The case was actually a murder case, which is rare for mock trial.  The story was that in 2014 a teen girl had gone to a Halloween party with several friends, and then on to an "after party", where the teens were unchaperoned.  There was drinking, etc., and one boy, the defendant, was hitting on this girl.  (There was some question as to whether it was wanted or not.) The girl didn't come home, and her body was found the next morning.  She had been hit on the head with a hockey stick, which was found nearby.  Three kids had been dressed as these hockey players, and various fingerprints were found.  A wine bottle was found with fingerprints as well, and there was DNA evidence under the girl's fingernails.  After interviews and forensic analysis, the results were inconclusive, and so the investigator couldn't make an arrest.

Then 2 years later, in 2016, the defendant, "Wilbur Merritt IV", was trying to be initiated into a secret society at his college.  There were physical and mental challenges which culminated in "confession week" where the initiates were taken into an intimidating room called "The Tomb".  They had to "confess" the worst thing they had ever done, and Wilbur confessed to killing Sigourney Porter.  But maybe he was coerced, and under psychological pressure to make something up?  There was another boy at the party who had been in a relationship with Sigourney, and a few days after the party, he committed suicide, before the detective could interview him.

Here is an article in a local paper about the tournament, and it gives a little bit more information about how they came up with the case.  We got to see our team on defense twice and offense once, and it was so fascinating how different each trial was, as each opposing team brought up and emphasized different points.  I had never seen any rounds of mock trial before, and I really enjoyed watching.  Fascinating and exciting!
 The kids were glad when round 2 was over, because that meant they could go back to the hotel and change!  We all walked back to the hotel together, but the competition provided their dinner, and then they hit the pool.
 We parents went to a little pizza place with their amazing coach.  It had thin crust, which I like, but no water except bottled, which I didn't like.  We had several interactions with homeless people, of which Hartford seems to have a lot.  Bob bought one man a deli sandwich, and another man a pizza.

After our early morning and all our exercise, we were so tired!  We went back to the hotel, read for a bit, and went to bed super early--9:30 maybe?? We're getting old!

The next day the first round was at 9:00.  We got there in plenty of time this time, and we still had to wait for awhile for the judges.  That round was great--very fast-paced.  I think it was my favorite one, although we were the prosecution, which seemed harder to argue.  Afterwards, the team went across to a Subway (which was playing Christian music!), and we parents went to a different deli, which made delicious sandwiches.  The guy for whom we had bought the pizza came in and walked around to the different tables, holding up a torn $20 and telling us the laundromat machine had eaten it.  We pointed out that we had helped him the night before, and he got very indignant.  "No, you didn't!"  Umm, yes, we bought you a pizza . . . So then he went away and left us alone.  Lots of sketchy characters, and it is hard to know how to really help them.

Then we hiked over to the convention center to wait for the tournament to release pairings for the 2:00 round.  They use "dynamic pairing".  The first round is completely random--we went up against the eventual champions--, and then depending on how many of the 3 ballots from the scoring judges a team wins, then that determines who the team goes up against next.  So even if the team loses all 3 ballots by just 1 point each, then they would be paired with a worse team.  It's an interesting system, and definitely not "fair", because in the end, the teams are ranked, but each team has only competed against 4 teams in the whole competition, and it really all depends on who you went up against in the first round!    
 While the team got some last-minute coaching by their amazing coach, who is just now graduating from law school this year, Bob and I read our books and relaxed.  It was nice and peaceful!  Then we hiked back to where the morning round had been held for the 4th round.
 Luke was practicing examining his witness, "Dr. Jamie Hale", a social psychologist who expounds upon the adolescent brain.  Each side gets 3 witnesses to call, and 3 attorneys, who both examine their own witnesses and cross examine the opposing witnesses.  One attorney for each side makes the opening arguments, and another one makes the closing arguments at the end.
 One last group picture after the end of the final round!

We walked back over to the convention center, where we waited forever for them to announce that the top 2 teams were North Carolina and Michigan.  Those 2 teams got a quick sandwich dinner, and then they went over to the state supreme court building, where they argued the case after flipping a coin to see which side they would each be.  We got to go out to a nice restaurant with the team and relax!
After dinner, we walked back to the hotel (in the rain).  We put on our pajamas and either read or watched hockey while the team changed and went back to the convention center for the closing "gala", where the top 10 were announced.  We were all rooting for North Carolina, because they were another homeschooling team, and yay, they won!  The kids had a good time, and fortunately, the competition provided buses back to the hotel.  I was thinking it would be very ironic for a competition where the case was about the consequences of teens partying unwisely at night to let a bunch of teens (who had been partying under chaperones' eyes) to then walk about a mile back to their hotel after midnight, especially with all these shady homeless characters wandering around!  But not to worry.  The buses delivered them safely back after a late night of dancing.

The 4 of us left the hotel this morning at 8:30 to drive back home, and we made it back at about 2:30.  The team left at 10:00 and got back after 6:00.  Finally Nathan and Luke could see each other--first time since spring break!  Nathan did a fantastic job of holding down the fort back at home.  He got everyone to Bible study and to church (early!).  He even took Caleb driving a little!  (Caleb got his permit on Monday, and I had already taken him driving a few times so he knew what he was doing.  He's a very eager learner, and he is doing great so far!)  People were glad to see us, but no one missed us *too* greatly while we were gone.  This weekend was the best Mother's Day present ever!

Luke's glad it is all over, since that means his year, and his high school career, is pretty much done.  He just has to take the make-up AP psychology exam on Friday, and then he is finished completely with high school!

Monday, May 01, 2017

Happy Birthday, Grace

Grace turned 10 today!  It was a hard day, with Pikachu being put down, but in some ways it was good to have the distraction of a birthday celebration to pull everyone out of the doldrums.

We got home from the vet at 1:30, a plumber came by to check out something they had done last week, and then Anna, Grace, and I did our weekly shopping at Walmart and Sams, which was a fun distraction for them.  We had Grace's birthday dinner tonight, which was chili, baked potatoes, and spinach strawberry salad.  But we weren't totally thinking straight, because we completely forgot about the pop we had just bought at Sams for the celebration!
Bob brought home some balloons, and Grace tied the "You're #1" balloon onto Pikachu's cage.  This brought about a fresh round of grief, and I wasn't sure we were going to make it through the rest of the evening.
Grace started out pretty glum, opening her presents.
Fortunately, it didn't take too long before she had perked up.  She is a hard one to buy for, because she's so quiet, but Anna really came through.  Every time Grace mentioned wishing for something or liking something, Anna made a little note of it (and, more importantly, told me, lol).  So Grace got a thermos, some new athletic shirts, the always popular candy selection (that's what Grace is opening here, which is why Verity is starting to move over to her chair . . . ), a watch, some earbuds, a purse for church, and, from Grandma and Grandpa, a new Bop-It game, which has already been very popular with everyone, not just her!
Obviously the evening ended up on a happier note than it began!  We didn't have her cake tonight, but we did have ice cream.  She wants a strawberry cake, and she and Anna will probably make it and decorate it this weekend, and she wants to have corn dogs for lunch one day, which will probably be Wednesday.  I think it will be good to spread out the celebration a bit, so that her whole birthday won't be overshadowed by Pikachu's untimely death.  I guess it will definitely be a birthday to remember, for better or for worse.  Now that she's 10, we need to find a time to get Grace her military ID card, the milestone for any military child!

Goodbye, Pikachu

When we got up this morning, Pikachu was still huddled in the back of his travel cage.  He looked miserable, not like our bright, inquisitive little bunny.  Now that the vet's office where we got him neutered was open, we decided to get an appointment there after all.  I could tell something was wrong with his hind legs, because he had a hard time keeping them under him.  They just kind of splayed out.  I was worried that if he had dislocated a leg joint or something, he would really be in a lot of pain, and waiting until Wednesday just wasn't a good option.  And if his back was broken, well, waiting until Wednesday seemed cruel as well.  So Caleb and I took him at 12:45.
Poor little guy was terrified.  He peed a ton as we lifted him out of the carrier to weight him, and when we set him on the floor so the vet could observe him dragging his hind legs along.  I knew that was a bad sign from my reading--he couldn't pee by himself, only as a reflex when being lifted, so nerve damage was likely.  The vet looked sad and said from his movement, things didn't look good.  He recommended x-rays so we could know exactly what we were dealing with, which was what we wanted as well.
We waited as the tech set up the x-ray and the anesthesia.  If you look closely, in the picture you can see how he had scraped off the fur around his eye while his head was trapped.  Later, when he was sedated and we could really look at his eye, we could see a big corneal laceration as well.  Poor, scared little bunny.
When the vet called us in to look at the x-ray, we could tell by his tone that things weren't good.  Pikachu had broken the vertebrae right between the tops of the pelvic bones.  Instead of being separated, they were crushed into each other.  The vet had tested his reactions by pinching between the toes of his hind legs.  There should have been a kicking reflex, but there was nothing, so that confirmed nerve damage.  At that point, we knew what we had to do.  Since he was already sedated, it made sense to go ahead and put him to sleep at that point.  We called home to deliver the bad news to everyone there.  
While the tech set that up, we just petted Pikachu and talked to him.  Finally he was relaxed and not in pain.  It would have been cruel to allow him to wake up, back into fear and pain, just to avoid him dying on Grace's birthday.  Still--it's hard being the adult and making these decisions.  Gah--what a sad, weird set of circumstances.  

So now we're cleaning out the rabbit cage again.  I told the kids I didn't know if we could do another bunny for awhile.  These delicate creatures are emotionally tough.    The kids are all hoping for a dog next.  Maybe after Verity is potty-trained . . .