Monday, February 28, 2011

Weird Science and Conflict Resolution

There are some really good ideas online for reusing baby food jars.  This wasn't one of them.

I can't believe that nobody thought of creating a mad scientist's lab with Littlest Pet Shops floating in formaldehyde (water).

That is how seriously my girls take their science.  Yes, it is impressive. 

I have a situation for you to help me solve.  An ownership dispute between Bethany and Faith, but it could have been between any of the kids as this is not the first dispute of its kind.

In our house I will ask my people to pick up their "precious things", but if they are small trinkets and I continue to find them left out-- they go to the trash without comment and no one is ever the wiser.

NOTE:  No one ever misses anything I throw away.  They don't even know it's gone.  They are happier to have less things to pick up without having to make the hard choice themselves.  I provide a service, much like the city garbage man.  I am loved and appreciated for my efforts.  Okay, that last part is an exaggeration.

There are a couple of flaws in my master de-cluttering plan.  First, the children can look in to the garbage bin and see what I've put there.  If they see their "precious thing" in the trash can, they silently retrieve the item and go put it away.  But that is okay, because the end result is toys put away and not left out.

The second and real problem is when one child sees another child's "precious thing" in the trash can.  The child silently retrieves the item and at that point considers it their "precious thing" now.

We had just such an occurrence today.  A miniature bottle of bubbles Faith got at a birthday party.  She left it out one too many times, I threw it away, Bethany retrieved and claimed it, Faith saw her with it-----and sadness ensues.  What to do?  What to do?  I took the bottle back into my own pocket, and said I would decide later ,who was the rightful owner.   You can guess where the bubbles are now.

Did I do right?  I'm not sure. But nobody has asked about the bubbles since and I'm fairly certain no one ever will.  Is there a better way to deal with "precious thing" clutter?

Perhaps I sound heartless, but we can live very comfortably in this house as long as we don't get overrun by "precious things".  The kids are used to it, and like I said,  I'm pretty sure I am loved and appreciated for my efforts.  :)
Funny girls.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Another Cause for Celebration

Look.  LOOK!  This is my newest niece-- Aliyah.  Have you ever seen a more gorgeous head of hair on a baby?  On anybody?  EVER?  AHHHHH!  I was dying. 

My brother Matt and his wife Misty came to town this weekend to bless this little treasure with their family.  I hadn't seen her yet.  I was aching to hold her and she was all I hoped she would be!

So sorry, Matt and Misty, you cannot take her back to Washington. 
My siblings and I will all have babies within one year of each other this year.  Here are 3 of the 4.  The 4th isn't born yet.
I MUST HAVE ANOTHER GIRL BABY!!!!!  I know this sounds very greedy, especially to my sister-in-law, Katie, who has been blessed with five boys and no girls, but there it is. 
"What, Mom?  Don't you love us, boys?"

Well of course I do.  But can I put bows in your hair?  Can I make you wear pink dresses?  Can I doll you up? 

No, I cannot.   I should not.  But I'd better have another girl so I'm not tempted to!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

A Cause For Celebration

Elinor is eight years old!
Forget celebrating for one day-- or even for one week.  Elinor has been in celebration mode for the last week and will be for the next week as she prepares for her baptism day.  
Our wonderful Barbara took Els out to lunch on Monday and then shopping for a spring dress.
I think they made a lovely choice!
She was excited to get her scriptures on her birthday.
And she has hot hula hoop moves.  I used to have hot hula hoop skills.  I thought I still did, until I tried it in the store.  Not pretty.  I probably shouldn't try to hula hoop at all, but especially not in Walmart.
Have you ever heard of Sing-a ma Jigs?  You push on their tummies and they sing one note per push.  If you have more than one they will harmonize with each other.  They are really fun to play with, but as you might imagine they do start to grate on the nerves after a while.  The girls all got them for their birthdays.  Will I regret this decision?  Perhaps.
Allison took Elinor out to lunch last Saturday.  That started off the birthday celebrations. 
Uncle Matt loaded her up with cold, hard cash.

Now.  I'm just going to say it.  All this celebrating has gone to Elinor's head.  The gifts, the lunches, the money, the day off of any chores.  We encountered a wee bit of attitude today.  

Don't tell Elinor this, but I don't think her attitude held a candle to the sass I could produce at her age.  Sorry sweetie.  Nice try.  Happy birthday, I love you.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Orbiting Bodies

George is now six months old.  Sometimes he'll roll around on the floor for a few minutes.  He'll bounce in his super-saucer for a few minutes.  He'll let his siblings hold him for a few minutes.  But mostly he wants to be in close contact with me.  He likes the view of Abe when I'm holding him, but not so much the other way around.   I don't mind.  I quite like him, too.  His orbital path is the shortest and closest to me.
Cannon will be 3 in May.  He's constantly on the move.  He will climb up on my lap and give me giant hugs and just as soon, he's off again.  But he always knows where I am in the house.  If I'm upstairs feeding George he will burst into the room, "Mom?  Where are you?"  His orbital path is longer than George's.
Faith is almost 5.  If I start cooking in the kitchen she will instantly climb up on the chair next to the counter and ask, "Can I please help you?"  She's older, so her orbital path is slightly longer than Cannon's. 

Wherever I go in the house my three orbiting bodies are always there. 

Pretty lucky, huh?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Elinor's Eight Date

Elinor is very soon to turn eight years old, so Saturday night was our "Eight Date".   It is tradition that Abe and I take our new eight year old downtown to The Garden Restaurant.
We had such a great time with her.  She is a most fascinating little person and I enjoy her company so much!  She is very mature for her age, so in someways it seems like she should have been eight a while ago.  However, it does make me a little bit sad to see her growing up so quickly.
It is a little bit sad for me--- but it tears Abe up to see his girls growing up.  I don't think it will come as a shock to anyone that he was close to (or in) tears all evening.  
And Elinor enjoyed having her dad tell her stories from his childhood on the way home.  As you probably know, Abe is a marvelous story teller.

We really should have had George in the picture with us to pose in front of this statue,  but he was with Allison for a couple of hours so I could really enjoy the evening as well.
Elinor is a peacemaker in our family, but she loves adventure and make believe.  She recently had a girlfriend over to play--instead of her usual guy pals.  As the girls discussed what activity they should do, Elinor enthusiastically suggests, "Hey!  Do you want to go dig in the hole?"

That activity is exactly what it sounds like-- get a shovel and dig in the giant hole in the backyard.  You can't imagine the imaginative games that can come from digging a hole in the backyard!

Six Years Later

Saturday morning was rainy and snowy, but we headed up to the cemetery to remember our Tessa.  Clark is really the only one of our children who has real memories of that time in our family.  At the time, six years ago, he was very protective of me and quick to offer hugs and ask how I was doing.  Not much has changed.  Whenever we visit the cemetery he is very kind and affectionate to me as I tenderly remember my other child who isn't with us right now.  I really appreciate it.
The girls don't have much memory of the time, but they like to think about their other sister, and often wonder how old she would be and what she would look like.
And these two little sweeties--- would we even have these two in our family if we hadn't lost Tessa?  I don't know, but I love them and they are a joy to us!


Every year Jesse and Amy (Abe's brother and sister-in-law) send us lilies on Tessa's anniversary.  It is so sweet of them and I love the way they make the house smell.

Speaking of Jesse and Amy, but mostly speaking of Amy, she is the aunt who ALWAYS remembers to send cards for everyone's special occasions.  I had an aunt like that when I was growing up.  It was Aunt Marie and Uncle John.  Probably it was just Aunt Marie, but she was nice and signed Uncle John's name too.  No matter what state or country we lived in, I always got a birthday card from them.  Never missed a year.

I think that is remarkable.  I think my sister-in-law, Amy is remarkable.  She is a busy woman with six kids and yet she does this thoughtful thing that takes time, money, and organization.  I guess it is the organization factor that really wows me.  Abe's family is HUGE and I'm guessing she does this for each member.  Wow!

Twenty years from now at family reunions every niece and nephew will remember Aunt Amy as the one who thoughtfully remembered them on their birthday.  Aunt Betsy???  Who is she?   Oh that's right-- she is married to nice Uncle Abe.  

I've asked Amy about her system for being so amazingly punctual on sending out the cards.  She tried to explain it to me, but I don't think my brain was even able to understand the system, much less execute it. 

That was a long way of saying thank you, Amy.  You're kindness is very much appreciated.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Thursday Thoughts

Faith was a Valentine's making machine this year.  She had her list and she was determined to do all the writing on her valentines.  

But that is not why I posted this picture.  I would like to draw attention to the condition of the kitchen area in the background.  HAIRY SCARY!!!

You've heard of overweight people (yes, I do realize I fit into that category as well), who don't realize how large they have gotten until they see a picture of themselves.  I don't think I realized how messy my kitchen was until I saw this picture.  Cabinets open, counter filled with junk, dirty dishes, ect.  In my defense, I did proceed to straighten it up (notice I didn't say "clean it up"-- I didn't go that far) shortly after this picture was snapped. 
House cleaning would be so much more rewarding if it didn't have to be done so often, don't you think?
Abe and Clark recently attended a Winter Day Camp for 11 year-old scouts.  Clark is squished into a snow cave in this picture.  Which reminds me of the time Clark was very unhappy with Abe and I (it happens sometimes) and he hid in a neighbor's snow cave for quite some time.  I won't go into more detail than that (must respect the man-child's privacy and the story doesn't make me look very good either).   However, Clark is doing a really fantastic job of regularly and responsibly getting all his work done and using his time well.  I am so grateful.  The same cannot be said for every member of this household. 
She is an angel!  Look!--she fell asleep while praying!

Be still, my heart!  Can I get 6 more just like her?  
Clark had his first wrestling match last night and is currently UNDEFEATED!!!  
In truth, the match was canceled just as we arrived due to a power outage, so he hasn't actually wrestled yet.  But I'm sure he would have won if he had wrestled!  We were all so excited to go see him that we rushed through dinner and packed ourselves all into the minivan (we don't all go together many places except the church around the corner).  You can imagine how delighted we were at the cancellation.  Boo!  Hiss!  I was ready to see my sonny boy beat up another sonny boy.  Oh well, I guess I still have that to look forward to another day.
Ice cream cones were the consolation prize.  
I mentioned before that we've had lots of gunky sickie poos around here lately.  After a week and a half (plus), I finally realized I ought to take Cannon to the Dr.  I took him yesterday, but it truly did not occur to me that such a visit might be in order until the day before.  What was I thinking?  I don't know.  But I'm glad we went because Cannon has ear infections in both ears and George (who the appointment wasn't even for!) also has an ear infection.  

No fun.

Abe has class this evening so we're on our own.  Shall I make dinner or shall we have every man for himself ?  You know, every man for himself really only works if every man (and child) is capable of of making himself food.  Which half of my people are not, so I guess that won't make my life any easier tonight.  Making dinner it is.  


Ciao-- as in goodbye--Not to be mistaken with Chow!  Which is what I'm off to prepare.

Monday, February 14, 2011


I am not thinking about Valentine's smooching.  Rather I am thinking of the acronym KISS--

Keep It Simple, Stupid.

Albert Einstein's maxim that "everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler".

Antoine de Saint Exupéry said, "It seems that perfection is reached not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away".

And my favorite, Leonardo Da Vinci's "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication".

I was just looking at a homeschooling blog.  It gave me the heebeejeebees!  This author made it seem very complicated.  It made my stomach hurt as I thought, "Good heavens!  Am I suppose to be doing all that???"  Fortunately, just before I went into a full scale panic attack I remembered my favorite quotes on simplicity.

KISS.  I do not believe education has to be that complicated.  Is it hard work?  Yes.  Does it take a lot of time.  Oh, yes.  Is it boring sometimes?  Sadly, yes.

But today, I shall reveal to the world my educational philosophy.  Brace yourselves-- it may be quite shocking.  Shockingly simple!  Also keep in mind that this is my philosophy based in the age and stage of my people right now.  I may change my ideas as my kids get older.

I do believe there are some subjects that are necessary, but not necessarily much fun to learn.  For me and my house these include:  Spelling, grammar, handwriting, math (fun to some, but not all).  These are the "cinder blocks of education".  Imagine the cinder blocks lying side by side in a giant square on the ground. They are the base.  By themselves they are wiggly and wobbly-- not very solid.  These subjects must be done very regularly, if not every day.  It's like practicing a musical instrument-- just practice it regularly and your skill improves and you get better and better.  Not that much fun, but not that bad if you just keep at it.

The other subjects are much more fun-- history, science, social studies, literature, writing, computer skills, and art.  These subjects are like pouring sand over the cinder blocks.  The sand easily fills in all the cracks and holes and really solidifies the cinder blocks.  The sand by itself without the blocks wouldn't be very solid, but when they are put together it makes a solid education.

My preference for getting that "sand", or the fun subjects is to read real, living books.  Books written by a single author who has a passion for the subject.  I don't think you have to stress about what order to read the books in.  Who cares if this week you read all about the Aztecs and the next week you read a book about ancient Egypt?  They are both fascinating!  We like to talk about when things were happening--"before this, but after that".  I am fairly certain my brilliant kiddos will sort it all out.  Besides in our reading together I am learning SO MUCH that I had heard of, but couldn't possibly have put onto a time line myself-- and I am college graduate!  Go figure.

This cinder block and sand philosophy is put into action at our house by the three oldest each being assigned a certain amount of "cinder block subjects" each day.  I say what books and workbooks and how much.  They are tested on spelling words and I check all their work and they must make any corrections.  They don't love it, but they don't hate it.  Well, some days they might hate it, but they like seeing their skills in those areas improve. 

Then they have "sand subjects".   They have an assigned amount of time they need to read.  One and half hours for Clark and Bethany.  They can read what they want (within reason) for 45 minutes and read something a bit more academic (that I approve) for the other 45 minutes.   They must write in their journal twice a week.  They must turn in a weekly report.  The parameters for that are very broad: "Something of interest to you--as long as something of interest to you has correct spelling, grammar and punctuation".  We read history stories daily.  We always have a family read aloud going.

Here's another quote that speaks to me.
“All men who have turned out worth anything have had the chief hand in their own education.” - Sir Walter Scott

I feel very strongly that people, even children should get as much choice in their life as possible.  Why not let them choose what interests them.  Children aren't going to remember all the little details of history and social studies they learn, but they will remember that they were trusted to make good choices with their time and energy.  I require the time, but they can choose the content (sand).  Except when I choose the content and then they take the necessary time to complete it correctly (cinder blocks).  Sometimes it takes all day, but then they don't get to do the fun stuff and they have me nagging them all day.  I annoy myself on those days.

My top two influences for homeschooling methods are Charlotte Mason and Thomas Jefferson Education.  My ideas seem simple to me-- we have a basic structure in place, but I don't have to rethink things all the time.  There isn't a ton of school work for me to check and keep track of.  I don't have to think through structured unit studies. The kids are responsible to get their work done and have lots of time to do what is of interest to them.   My hope is to create a culture of learning, with the discipline necessary to jump through the necessary hoops of life--ACT tests, AP tests, preparations for college.  
There it is.  This is what we do.  I completely understand and respect that other families have wonderful ideas and systems that work for them.  I appreciate all my homeschooling and non-homeschooling friends and family over the years that have shared their ideas on education with me.  Whatever method we all choose, the most important thing is that the children feel they are loved.  It is most important that we teach them who they are and what they can do. I am so glad we have the freedom to choose what we think is the best way to do that.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Austen-tacious--The Details

There is so much to draw attention to on this fine male specimen.  But perhaps the most worthy is his stockings.  Mr. Darcy wore ladies trouser socks for the occasion.  This was a struggle for him, but my-- they are dashing and he's got great legs!
Mr. Darcy's jacket was a piece originally made for an actor in the church's movie, Legacy.  How interesting!

I mentioned a few days ago that my dress was black and I would be dressed as Elizabeth Bennett in mourning.  This is not the gown I decided to go with.  I felt so "Jane Eyre" in this dress, but it was just too somber for the occasion.
Instead, I pieced together this little number.  Bethany stayed up very late one evening helping me with every detail.  The tiara is her's, as is the shawl.  My fan is a gift from Andrea Flynn brought all the way from The Jane Austen Center in Bath, England.
Doing my hair was my favorite part.  The front.
The back.
The side.  I should mention that upon seeing my regency, up-do for the first time, Clark declared, "Uh, it just looks kind of messy, like you're having a bad day."
I'll just say, my daughters thought it was beautiful.  What does he know?
Bethany is credited with handing me bobby-pins in a timely fashion.  And there were a lot of bobby-pins needed, so I guess that was an important job.

Notes about the ball--
  •  In true regency style, dinner was not served until 9:00 pm.   We had beef ragout, Irish mash and green salad.  Delish!
  • One of the dances made us SO dizzy I actually wondered if I might faint and/or fall over.  Wouldn't that have been dramatic?
  • It was held in the Masonic Temple downtown.
  • We met up (unplanned) with Abe's second cousin, who was there, single, looking for fashionable, well-bred young ladies.  Sadly, the female company was almost entirely composed of Austen-obsessed, married women with children.  
  • It was a little disturbing to see people checking their cell phones and iPhones during the course of the evening.  But most everyone took their costuming very seriously and were very well dressed.
  • I purposefully gave very little thought to George during the evening, and upon return, he seemed quite well.
I think I will watch another Jane Austen movie today while I take care of sick babies.


"This is an evening of wonders, indeed!"
— Jane Austen (Pride and Prejudice)
I was giddy with anticipation for this evening!-- The Regency Romance Ball.  All hail Jane Austen! 
 "Yes, vanity is a weakness indeed. But pride-- where there is a real superiority of mind, pride will be always under good regulation."
— Jane Austen (Pride and Prejudice)
 Abe was nominated for the "Mr. Darcy Contest", but who is he kidding?  He is really more of a Mr. Bingley than Mr. Darcy.  My Mr. Bingley!
 "Every savage can dance."
— Jane Austen (Pride and Prejudice)
We spent the first two hours learning several dances.  It was a dream come true!  However, in my dreams my feet don't hurt, and they did hurt tonight.  Still fabulous!
"A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us."
— Jane Austen (Pride and Prejudice)
I was not nominated for the "Emma Woodhouse, elegant young lady contest", but I am just going to say it outright:  If there had been a best-hair award-- I would have won it!  I created this regency look myself and I loved it!
"It's such a happiness when good people get together."
— Jane Austen (Emma)
We enjoyed the company of our good friends, David and Andrea Flynn.  David was the winner of the Mr. Darcy contest.  And the award was well deserved!  It's hard to beat a fine pair of breeches, tall boots and a top hat!

 "I do not cough for my own amusement."
— Jane Austen (Pride and Prejudice)
We do still have some sick kiddos at home, including little George.  But everyone, including little George, survived the evening in our absence and no one seems any worse for the wear.  It was a much needed, much enjoyed break for me. 
 "There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves; it is not in my nature."
— Jane Austen (Northanger Abbey)
Andrea is the one who let us know about this event and strongly encouraged Abe to sign us up.

  "But there certainly are not so many men of large fortune in the world as there are pretty women to deserve them."
— Jane Austen (Mansfield Park)
There certainly are not so many men who will take their wives to Regency Balls for Valentine's Day, but I'm very glad that mine will-- and he loved it, too!
"I am the happiest creature in the world. Perhaps other people have said so before, but not one with such justice."
— Jane Austen (Pride and Prejudice)
 "And you are never to stir out of doors till you can prove that you have spent ten minutes of every day in a rational manner."
— Jane Austen (Pride and Prejudice)
I just like this quote.  

Thursday, February 10, 2011

I Will Not Complain

I will not complain.  I will not complain.  I will not complain.

Arrrrrgh!  I can't help myself-- Okay,  just a little. 

Holy sick kids, Batman!

We've got fevers, coughs, runny noses, crying, whining.  It seems to be passing from one person to the next.  And that full round takes just long enough that the first person catches it again. 

Kids are missing activities left and right.  I know we're not the only ones because a few of my piano students canceled their lesson this week due to sickness.  Primary was about half the normal size on Sunday with kids home sick.

When we're sick--the worst comes out for each of us:

Clark becomes "The Teaser" to everyone in the house.
Bethany becomes "The Shirker" to get out of any work.
Elinor becomes "The TV Queen"  Electronic mediaaaaa-- said in a Frankenstein Voice
Faith becomes "The Sneaky One" to get what she wants.
Cannon becomes "The Crier" crying for anything and everything.
George holds me hostage all day by demanding to be held.

And I?  I become "The Meanest Mother on the Planet".  Oh wait... that's my normal title.  I guess I become "The Meanest Person on the Planet.  Period".


Spring is going to come right?  We will all be healthy again, right?  It will be safe to stir out of doors again, someday?

Here's the funny thing-- we've been relatively healthy for the last couple of winters.  I chalked it up to homeschooling and a limited exposure to lots of germs. 
 That, and we just eat SOOO healthy. 
Well, maybe not so much the healthy eating, but nonetheless, we've been quite healthy.  I don't know what we're doing differently this year, but yick!  Stay away. 

And that's the other thing.  With this many people, and obligations and commitments, it's just not feasible to cancel everything and hunker down. If each person takes a week to cycle through the sickness, then that is EIGHT weeks of family confinement!  We'd die from cabin fever alone-- right after we'd drive each other to insanity first. 

There it is.  I have made my complaint.   I shall now slumber. 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

I Have a Secret Friend

As many you know, I do not like the month of February.  That is quite the blanket statement, and I suppose it isn't entirely true.  My Elinor was born in February and my sister's birthday is in February.  I like both of those events.  But on the whole, if I could choose to be put into a medically induced coma for the month of February, I'd probably agree to it. 
Okay, okay, that is still an overstatement, but it is the month my mom passed away and the month of Tessa's still birth.  So, it's not actually that far off. 

Someone out there knows how I feel about February and has sent me TWO very anonymous packages in the mail.  Today it was a package of Rocky Mountain Chocolate and a gift card for MORE Rocky Mountain Chocolate.  OH, YUM! 

I was thinking about cutting back on my chocolate intake, but I've reconsidered, at least until this box of chocolates is gone:)

Who is this mystery friend?  I don't know.  But this person probably knows how secrets drive me cuckoo-- and they are probably getting quite a kick out of my confusion.  That's okay-- enjoy it!  I'm certainly enjoying my chocolate. 

Thank you, secret friend!

Here is another reason to cheer up this February.  Abe is taking me to a Regency Romance Ball for Valentines.  Oooh, how romantic!  We have our costumes ready and everything.  We have some super amazing friends and she is a costume designer for period films.  She fixed us up!  Abe will definitely be in the running for the "Mr. Darcy look-a-like Contest" (if there is such a thing). 

I will more closely resemble Elizabeth Bennett in mourning.   My dress is black (not so romantic), but very authentic.  I do have a fetching hat to wear.  I was practically giddy trying on my outfit.  "This is my dream come true to dress this way!"  Many pictures will be coming.

I am very much looking forward to it.  But I am very much stressing over one aspect of it.

George LOVES his mommy.  He has started eating some baby food (sort of), but he still nurses A LOT!  No bottles for this chubby-tubby.  I have a very good friend, who is gentle and kind, and very patient, who is going to tend Georgie.  He might be very sad.  I know he won't die.  He won't starve.  But I don't like sad babies. 

Oh, and my friend might not want to be my friend anymore by evening's end either. 

But I cannot help myself.  This is as close as I'll get to living in one of Jane Austen's novels and it is Valentine's and Abe and I do need a date.  So I'll just have to try not to think of Georgie for about 4 hours.  Seems simple enough. 
Or not.

Sunday, February 6, 2011


George has started eating a bit of baby food.  This makes me happy because it gives me a bit of a nursing break and he is sleeping better.  But it makes me sad because it means Georgie is getting bigger and is halfway through his first year.  I think the baby year should last at least twice as long as the pregnancy! 
Gross.  Cannon helped himself to the cheese.  Grrr.
Thank you so for all the kind words last week about my mom.   I loved hearing other memories of her.  My brother, Matt always sends my sister and I flowers on her anniversary.  She loved yellow roses and these are about the fattest, most gorgeous ones I've ever seen!  My little ladies and I spent the afternoon working on "sticky buns".  They didn't turn out as good as my mom's, but for my first effort I was pretty pleased.  Well, I did burn the last batch, but oh well.