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What Makes a Handful?

"You sure have your hands full!" said the older woman in Target, watching me try to corral four independent-thinking and adventur...

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Snow of December 2009

Deep snow on the deck railing, 8:00pm Friday night.

Deeper snow, just 20 minutes later.

The numbers:
12 inches of snow.
22 hours without power.
12 kids playing and eating Popsicles in the front yard.
1 lost white glove.
29.6 degrees--the max temp reached in my freezer before the power came back on.
55 degrees--the average temp in the house for most of the day.
8 potatoes baked on the hot stones of the hearth, pioneer style, for dinner.
27 soggy mittens or gloves to wash.

Happy Jill in the snow.

Emma, Jill, and Pilot.

Closeup of Jane as she zips past me on the sled.

Miriam sledding--pure joy for our little wild child.

Christmas Play 2009

Once again, our three older girls participated in the CRPC Christmas play. Miriam reprised her angel role. Emma was a townsperson who was also well-versed in biblical prophecy regarding the coming of the Messiah, called before Herod to testify. And Jane was also a townsperson with a solo to sing: Thou Who Wast Rich Beyond All Splendor. Another good show, somehow pulled together by the combined gifts of the George family, for whom we are so grateful.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

An Update about Jane

Jane saw her pediatric endocrinologist today, and even though there was nothing in particular that shouted out to us a new revelation, I did come away feeling encouraged that we're on the right track.

It had been four months since her last endo appt. Six and a half weeks ago, we had an overnight sleep study done. We still haven't gotten the official report on the sleep study--the doctor who ordered it at our request, and who said up front that we weren't going to see anything out of the ordinary on it, found exactly what he had predetermined to find: nothing out of the ordinary. However, he has been unwilling to sign his name to that report and release it to me or to the other doctors at this time. So, the pediatric endocrinologist went next door and asked to see his notes and the reader's summary prior to our appointment.

Her interpretation was really valuable. While nothing on the study was outside of the broad range of what's called normal, it was clear that Jane has more frequent periods of light sleep than the average child. Not enough to signal an alarm, but enough to put together with her other issues to suggest that deeper, more consistent sleep could improve her other issues.

We've been addressing the suspected sleep problem since July 24 with bedtime doses of melatonin and Benadryl. And since that time, she has had no headaches, no vomiting, and only one difficult school day. Additionally, she has grown 1.9 cm. If that rate of growth were to keep up for a year, then she would actually achieve a growth rate that falls in the "normal" range for the first time in three years.

All this seems to fit together well enough to suggest we're on the right track. So the recommendation now is to just keep doing what we're doing for the next four months and then check back again. If she is still growing and having no headaches or vomiting, then we are to try a placebo for the bedtime meds for one month. If any symptoms return, the endocrinologist says she would accept that as proof that her problems are sleep related.

Additionally, Jane had her second bone-age evaluation done this summer, and the results this time did suggest a small growth delay in bone development. Though that sounds bad, it's actually very good news. It means that it is very likely that there will be a growth spurt later in life, so she may be able to catch up an inch or so, but it will most likely happen a year or more later than her peers. Again, very encouraging news.

She'll always be petite, and there is nothing in the world wrong with that. For now we are just so very thankful to be managing her headaches and other sickness and to see her doing so well in her schoolwork. We are thankful for all of you who have prayed for her and expressed concern, given encouragement and resources, and helped me to stay focused on what's best for her. In particular, I am thankful for concerned doctor/nurse friends (Rob and Bonnie--where would we be without your input and medical sleuthing skills?) who gave me the courage to take additional information and theories to our pediatrician and specialist to give them a nudge in what seems to be the right direction!

Good news all around. We are blessed!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Best Field Trip Yet

Friday afternoon. Forty-one students--40 5th graders and one 3rd-grader--met in a dewy, damp, and recently manured field to warm themselves by the fire, receive instructions, and then pack in to the nearby woods for a day of camping and team agility trials.

Mrs. Cate gave the team assignments.

Mr. Goffin gave the rules, schedule, and instructions.

Each of the nine teams packed in their own tents, sleeping bags, tarps, and ropes. Their assignment included setting up their sleeping area, campfire area, covered cooking area, lashing projects, and a latrine.

Our girls' team, Team 7, consisted of Emma, Jane (by special arrangement), Rebecca, Aven, Isabella, and Rachel. They surveyed their assigned campsite and began to make plans. This group has a lot of good planners and strong personalities in it.

Spreading the tent.

Working as a team.

The whole team around the campfire site.

They ended up with a very nice campsite, and the judges seemed to agree. Team 7 tied for first place with one of the boys' teams, Team 5.

Under the kitchen tarp.

Our girls got extra points for some of the special attention to detail they gave to their site, like this campfire. The artistic element of using yellow leaves to replicate flames in their fire got special accolades.

Giving credit where credit is due, the boys' team did think of a few extras our girls somehow forgot, like this handy contraption. But they completely left out any consideration of modesty. They put their latrine--well equipped though it may have been--out in the open, in full view of the big house, barn, and all other campsites. The girls were quite a bit more discreet, even if primitive.

Next it was on to the teamwork and agility trials. The students were split into four bigger groups to attack four activities. The goal: every person on each team had to complete the assignment, or else no one succeeded. Never leave a man behind! Here they are on the "launching pad"--a square approximately 2' x 2' onto which all 10-11 children must stand for 3 seconds before they launch into the activity. The White team (ours) made it on the 3rd try.

The first challenge was Shelob's Lair. A giant spiderweb was woven between trees. Bells hung from the web, and a hungry Shelob waited above. The assignment: each team member must cross the web to escape from Mordor--but he must do it without ringing a bell, or else Shelob would hear and descend upon them, devouring them all. To make it an even greater challenge, each passage through the web could be used only once.

We parents were not allowed to offer advice in any way. We could only watch silently while the kids tried to figure out how to get every team member across. After several tries of the most athletic or assertive kids rushing through the easier spots, it finally began to dawn on a few: save the easy spots for last; get the smaller or weaker members across first. They began to see how to develop a plan, work out a process, and help each other in order to achieve success. Had they had just 5 more minutes on this trial, I am confident they would have been able to achieve the objective.

Agile Hank was the first to realize that the plan should include leaving the easier passages for the end, and taking on the more difficult one himself.

It wasn't always easy to stand by silently as the mom of two of the smallest kids on the team. Here Jane is hoisted through one of the higher openings in the web. They got her through without ringing a bell!

Next was a rope swing challenge over a pit filled with man-eating aliens. Again, the entire team had to make it across in order to succeed. One foot down meant you were immediately eaten, and everyone had to start over. Here Jane makes her leap.

And Emma follows suit.

This time, Hank would not go until all his teammates, even the most reluctant ones, had made it safely across. And then, sweet success!

The next challenge stumped them all (and even this grownup). Standing outside a rope boundary, the students were charged with using ropes to remove a bucket filled with toxic nuclear waste, without spilling it. The top was only placed on, not secured. Any tip of the bucket would spill the deadly substance.

They tried hooking the handle and lassoing the bucket, but to no avail. The key was in getting multiple ropes alongside it, then tightening them to lift it out.

The final activity involved navigating an electrified grid. All kids must cross to the other side while in contact with another on the team. If one tweaks the grid, the "electrical current" zaps them all and they must start over. It requires patience with each other, the ability to look ahead and plan for everyone to meet what's upcoming, and excellent communication.

The day ended with a team discussion of 1 Corinthians 12 and restoring their campsites to show no sign of their presence there. I think many of these students will remember lessons from this field trip for the rest of their lives. I know I will.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Fall Fun

Some images from our fall 2009 so far: a visit from cousin Leslie, lots of apples, time with friends, a new puppy, and fall school days.

Cool weather brings out the inner Teletubby in all of us. We love footy 'jamas!

Growing up: baby Jill is big enough for pigtails.

First cousins: the girls with Hunter in SC.

Found in our backyard: a luna moth caterpillar ready to pupate. (Normally green, they turn reddish brown just before entering the cocoon.)

Just in off the trail: Meet Slim, Curly, and Dusty.

Meet Pilot, our Boykin Spaniel puppy.

Pleasant Sunday afternoon with the O'Briens: Colin and most of the girls.

Colin and his boy, Jack. Cathy and Nell are around here someplace.

Cousin Leslie made it to the Smokies. A pic from our drive up the parkway on our way to Mt. Mitchell for a great view and a Porsche convention. (I've still never been to Spain.)

One idea for occupying busy toddler and preschooler while Jane and I do math: Puzzle Day!

Emma on picture day at school.

Navigating a soybean maze.

Jane identifies the perfect apple--a lovely red Johnagold, way out of reach at the top of the tree.

She reaches, stretches, climbs, until her fingertips can just barely brush against it...

...and finally takes home the prize! Never, ever, ever give up!

Munchin' Miriam.

A real beauty!

Miriam made itty-bitty apple pies.

Wrapping apples.

We have to wait five whole minutes?!

Enjoying the fruits of their labors.

Night-night all!