It’s been a rough summer for Ani…

When Ani applied for her mission, she was in a great place health-wise. Her medications were stable, she was totally functional, and everything seemed to be going well for her. That was in February.

In March, things started going downhill. Several of us got sick and Ani never bounced back. By the end of April she was barely able to eat. She was having abdominal pain pretty much no matter what she ate.


I took her to the doctor the beginning of May and she was sent for several tests. They didn’t show anything wrong. She had an ER visit in there, too. The end of May she saw her rheumatologist and he put her on an anti-spasmodic which did help some.

But her pain kept getting worse. It started up between her shoulder blades as well as the upper right quadrant of her abdomen. We went back to the doctor. He sent her for yet another test (which came back fine) and a medication to try (didn’t work; actually made it worse).

She started her mission the end of July. She tried really hard to complete all her duties, but more and more by the end of August she was having to back out of her commitments or leave early. She was just in way too much pain, could barely eat and not at all without pain, she was losing weight. It was bad.

Back to the doctor we went for the third time of the summer (not counting the rheumatologist or ER). This time the doctor said even though all the tests did not indicate gallbladder, her wanted to send her to a surgeon to be evaluated for gallbladder removal. Her symptoms and how she reacted to various medications really pointed to gallbladder in his opinion.


Ani comes from a long line of women who have had their gallbladders out. Me, my mother, my grandmother, and my great-grandmother. Before her I guess they just suffered because gallbladder surgery wasn’t a thing yet. My grandmother in particular had a rough time. Her local doctor though it was gallbladder, but the big time doctor in DC said the tests did not show it to be gallbladder. Twelve years passed and she eventually formed stones and had her gallbladder out which fixed all the symptoms she’d been dealing with for over a decade.

Two weeks ago tomorrow Ani saw the surgeon. He agreed that it sounded like her gallbladder needed to come out. He said he takes out 30-40 a year that don’t have the “right” test results and in over 90% of the cases, the issues are resolved through removal. For the rest, and for Ani if it didn’t work, he then refers to a GI doctor (he gave us the option of going to a GI doctor before surgery, but we opted for surgery first).


And so, a week ago Friday, Ani had her gallbladder taken out. She’s had surgical pain of course, but she felt better within hours of surgery than she had in months. She can eat anything without pain. It was clearly her gallbladder that was the culprit over this long and painful summer.

So now she’s almost all the way healed and ready to resume her missionary duties and able to do so in a way she just hasn’t been able to do since the beginning. She’s smiling and talkative again. We had forgotten just how much she usually talks. She was so quiet and miserable all summer. It’s amazing what problems a little organ like the gallbladder can cause!

Foster Babies!

Two weeks ago, two adorable little infant foster babies were placed with us. It’s so fun to watch their little personalities develop. It’s also fun to dress them in Harry Potter and Marvel superhero onesies. They love to be cuddled, but also love to be put down so they can kick and squirm and take in the world. They love to be read and sung to. The sound of thunderstorms calms them right down and Raffi makes them smile.

In the last two weeks we have gotten a crash course in bottle feeding, finally settling on a bottle we all like. We’ve learned how WIC works (all foster kids under 5 automatically get WIC) and signed tons of paperwork. We’ve relearned how to homeschool with a baby and discovered that twins just makes it so it seems like there are so many more babies than just two (seriously, a singleton placement after twins would be a breeze). We’ve been reminded about middle of the night feedings as these little ones are still getting up two or three times a night.

We’ve learned that it’s possible to fall completely in love with children who are not yours and will never be yours and are only with you for now. We’ve already started worrying about RSV season and the fact that they are too young for the flu vaccine. We’ve learned that all the worrying I did before placement about how much they would affect homeschooling was unnecessary (these are VERY good babies – as demanding as any other their age, of course, but nothing out of the ordinary). Mostly we’ve learned that, so far, we’re very glad we decided to become foster parents!

The Arts: Tall Tales


This year in school we are using Layers of Learning year 4. The second two weeks of school we did unit 2. Our arts topic was tall tales.

We talked about hyperboles and illustrated ones we made up.

We learned about Jim Bridger.

We learned about Davy Crockett. Adrian said he really understood Crockett saying “You may all go to hell, and I will go to Texas” because he lives in Texas and it really is that awesome.

We made up tall tales about all the amazing stuff we have most assuredly done.

We watched an old Paul Bunyan cartoon.

We learned about Mark Twain.

We watched two versions of John Henry.

We learned about Flatboat Annie.

We discussed folk heroes from tall tales and today’s superheroes and how they are similar and different.

We wrote our own tall tales about all the amazing things we could think of to have our characters do.

Science: Motors and Engines


This year in school we are using Layers of Learning year 4. The second two weeks of school we did unit 2. Our science topic was motors and engines.

We learned about Michael Faraday.

We tried to make a DC motor. The kit we got had horrible instructions. It was very difficult to understand them and the diagrams were useless. We eventually got it together, but it wouldn’t work.

So we watched a video on how a motor works instead.

We learned about Thomas Newcomen.

And took a virtual tour of a coal power plant in Alabama.

We dissected the motor from an old humidifier.

We learned about James Watt.

We played with gears. Fritz really got into it and had a great time setting them up.

Gears Video

We learned how a jet engine works.

And how a car engine works, too.

Geography: Pacific States


This year in school we are using Layers of Learning year 4. The second two weeks of school we did unit 2. Our geography topic was the Pacific states.

We learned about various political people who were from California (Herbert Hoover, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and Earl Warren).

We made elevation maps of California.

We made population density maps of Oregon.

We made pages with various facts about Oregon.

We made precipitation maps of Washington state.

We made an apple tree of Washington state facts.

We made a resource map for Hawaii.

We filled up a surfboard with facts about Hawaii.

We found and labeled the major cities in Alaska.

We made an Alaskan dogsled team.

We added the state flags of the five states we “visited” over the last two weeks to our passports.

History: Expanding Nation


This year in school we are using Layers of Learning year 4. The second two weeks of school we did unit 2. Our history topic was the expanding nation.

We added to our timeline. The pages weren’t quite as full as last unit’s.

We learned about Daniel Boone.

We went outside and looked for animal tracks. Adrian was very excited to find a pretty feather.

We learned about the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

We learned about several people from that time period in history and made puppets of them.

We learned about President James Monroe.

We learned about slavery and made a shadow picture of a cotton field.

We learned about Eli Whitney and the Cotton Gin.

We learned about the Trail of Tears.

We learned about John Ross.

And we learned about the Battle of the Alamo.

The Smell of My Childhood

Do you ever smell something and it jolts you back to a certain point in time? Not too long ago we were at Home Depot and I realized that home improvement stores reminds me of my childhood. My father was (is) always working on some project or another so we spent a lot of time at Hechinger’s and Home Depot and Lowe’s. Probably less time than my memory tells me we did, but it sure seemed like a lot of time when I was a kid. At any rate, my childhood smells like Home Depot.

An Adrian Funny

A couple weeks ago the boys’ assignment in Writer’s Workshop was to draw a heart and then write things they love around it. A few days ago I noticed Adrian’s heart page in his notebook.

I thought that was really sweet, but then he elaborated on why he only wrote my name. “I couldn’t think of anything else so I decided to just put Mommie.” Kids sure keep you humble and this one keeps us laughing.

(He did say later on that even if he came up with other stuff he still would’ve written Mommie because I am definitely a thing he loves. So at least there’s that.)

The Arts: Patriotic Music


This year in school we are using Layers of Learning year 4. The first two weeks of school we did unit 1. Our arts topic was patriotic music.

We watched several YouTube videos of Patriotic Music including the Battle Hymn of the Republic by the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square.

Irving Berling singing God Bless America.

Chester, our first national anthem. Named Chester because… who knows!

We learned about Francis Scott Key. Cameron remembers when we went to Fort McHenry years ago. Fritz vaguely does.

We learned about proper etiquette during the national anthem and watched a video of The Star-Spangled Banner.

We watched several videos of patriotic music including America the Beautiful, The Stars and Stripes Forever, The Washington Post March, and a kind of weird mash-up of My Country ‘Tis of Thee and God Save the Queen.


We listened to the songs for all the branches of the military and guessed which was which.

We learned about George M. Cohan and the music he wrote.

We learned a line dance to Yankee Doodle Dandy.

Science: Heat & Temperature


This year in school we are using Layers of Learning year 4. The first two weeks of school we did unit 1. Our science topic was heat and temperature.

We learned about the three temperature scales and where they came from, Fahrenheit, Celsius, and Kelvin.

We recorded the temperature of water as it boiled every 30 seconds for ten minutes. We learned that once it starts heating up it heats up rapidly and then as it gets closer to boiling it levels off. We also learned that our tap water boils at 216*F.

We measured the diameter (more or less) of a balloon at room temperature, after being submerged in ice water for a minute and a half, and after being submerged in very hot water for a minute and a half. We recorded the temperature of the air, ice water, and hot water in celsius and changed it to Kelvin. Then we figured out the volume of our sphere(ish) balloon at each temperature. We compared the volumes divided by the temperatures and found that they were close to equal no matter the temperature. The math wasn’t exactly right because measuring the diameter of the balloon wasn’t exactly right either.

We took the temperature of our hands and then rubbed them briskly together and then took their temperature again. The temperature increased because we added energy by rubbing them together.

We put a small glass of hot water dyed with red food coloring and covered in aluminum foil in a larger container of cold water. We poked a hole in the foil and then watched as the dyed hot water came up and out of the hole to mix with the cold water.

We made a convection current by heating up water mixed with food coloring and dish soap very slowly. Once it got almost to boiling we watched as the hot water on the bottom lifted up and then went back down as it cooled.

Convection Current Video

We chilled a container of water and a container of air. They were the same temperature. We touched both at one time and all agreed the water felt colder because it’s a better conductor.