Monday, June 30, 2008


Here is Ladybug in all her full genetic ancestral glory...ok, well half of it, anyway.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Updates and all that.

Chowder did a lovely job with my cousin's funeral. It's always amazing to see the "man/husband" when he is in his element. At those moments, it's as if you can see the Holy Spirit just whirling around him and bringing God's grace and peace to those around him. I didn't even care at that moment that that morning I had to pick up all of his dirty clothes that he had piled behind the bathroom door.

This afternoon my cousin's ashes will be dispersed by his skydiving team. My brother wants to jump with them (he's qualified) but it's giving my mother a fit.


Humphrey is doing marvelously! I couldn't be more pleased with him and how easily he is learning. His disposition is so wonderful with the kids and with everyone we run into. He can be a bit too rambunctious in the morning when he plays with Porkchop. We're trying to break him of that, but he might just have to outgrow it.


My summer reading is coming along nicely. Here's what I've read so far.
  • Room With a View by EM Forster perfect. light and breezy and romantic.
  • A Member of the Wedding by Carson McCullers 163 pages of the best description of the jump from childhood to adolescence.
  • The Street by Ann Petry Harlem in the 40's. A heavier read but absolutely amazing.
  • House of Mirth by Edith Wharton loved it!
  • The Twilight Saga books by Stephenie Meyer First book (Twilight) was such a great read, I actually read it again (and enjoyed it just as much) after I read the other two. I wasn't so fond of the second book (New Moon), the third book (Eclipse) was better but I'm still driven crazy by the way the main character allows two boys to play the mind games they do with her and her father just uses her as a housekeeper. I'll read the fourth book when it comes out because if someone doesn't bite that girl, I will. But, I'm more excited about the book she is still writing (Midnight Sun) which is basically Twilight narrated by Edward instead of Bella
  • A Passage to India by EM Forster I started this, and it was good (great characters and interesting setting) but I wasn't in the right mindset. I had just read two other books about privileged young women at the turn of the century. I'll return to it later.
  • Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote Not impressed. At least it was short (111 pages). Only the second book I can say that the movie was better.
  • Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen Picking this up today to start.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

My family is stunned at the moment.

As many who have been reading this blog may have noticed, I have a very tight knit family. I am extremely close with my cousins and aunts and uncles. My St. Louis cousins and my siblings and I practically grew up together. This weekend we lost one of ours...

Chowder will be doing the service so, I'll be out for a few days.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Where's the Beef?

Well, it's all the rage these days and God knows I love to be up on the latest trends! Yesterday, about 170 lbs of prime (USDA's highest grade) beef showed up at my house. I shared a cow with 3 other families. I know that 170 lbs of meat (1/4 cow) sounds daunting so I thought I'd break it down for you and show you what you're getting.

First step is finding a farmer. I had conversations with several vendors at our local farmer's market. (You can also check out Local Harvest) All of them sold there beef by the side or half side as well as what they were offering at the market. Now, a farmer cannot legally sell you the meat from 1/2 a cow so you end up buying a part of the cow from the farmer and then buying the processing from the packing house. We ended up getting our 1/4 cow from a farmer in Iowa (father of a woman in the neighborhood) who sells his prime grade, grass fed, anti-biotic free, hormone free beef to a couple of the high end steakhouses in Kansas City (not the city I live in.)

Different farmers sell their beef differently. If you only want a 1/4 cow, some farmers make you choose the front quarter or the back quarter. Well, one has all the steaks and the other all the roasts. So I wanted a deal where I could just evenly split up all the cuts.

My 1/4 share of the cow had a hanging weight of 228 lbs. That's the weight of the 1/4 hanging on the hook waiting to be processed. I paid the farmer $1.49lb and the meat locker 43 cents a lb. My bill to the farmer was $339 and my bill to the locker including processing was $120. Making my total bill $460. That would make my beef $2.70 lb. I can barely find hamburger or stew meat for that price, much less prime anti-biotic free, hormone-free, grass fed beef. Have you seen the prices for that stuff?!

So, how much meat is that? you ask. Here's how it showed up.

Inside each box the meat was frozen and packed in coolers.

Here's the breakdown.

(All these weights are approximate)
19 x 2lbs ground beef
8 x 2lbs of ground beef patties
4 x 1lb of liver (for Humphrey)
2 x 5lbs of sirloin steaks
2 x 5 lbs of T bone steaks
6 x 4lb roasts
2 x 5 lbs of short ribs
4 x 5 lbs of rib steak
10 lbs of stew meat
3 x 5 lbs of round steak
3 x large package of soup bones

This filled one small chest freezer we have in the basement.

A little tip about grass fed beef. It comes out a lot leaner than corn fed beef. So, you don't want to cook it as long or else it can come out dry. I also use marinades that have some extra fat in them to help keep the meat moist. And with hamburgers I add a little really really soft butter into the mix before I make patties, again to add a little fat to the meat to keep it moist. But, if you get used to cooking it right, it is absolutely deeeeeelicious. Yummy.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Large dog for a large family...

So, when we started thinking about breeds to replace our beloved collies I knew only one thing, we wanted a big dog. Chowder grew up with no pets. (Ok, once he had a hamster for like 2 weeks but it bit his 4 year old nephew who then hit it over the head with a souvenir baseball bat.) I had Beaner and Fargo when we got married and we actually almost didn't get married when he suggested that we not get new dogs after they passed. For me, it was a quality of life issue and knew that I would not be happy if I had to live my entire life without a dog and I didn't want my children to grow up that way either. So, I told him he could pick the breed of the next dog.

He said he wanted a BIG dog.

My criteria:

  • Shedding: I know most people think after two collies that I would want a short haired dog, but actually collies only shed twice a year. Profusely, yes. But, twice a year I would haul them off to the groomer and they would get rid of the undercoat and we were good to go. Unlike my mother's golden retrievers who are in a perpetual shed. I did not want any dog that is always shedding. That eliminated among others:
    • Retrievers
  • Bolting: I grew up with Setters. They were great dogs, but they were runners. They would literally knock us down when we opened the door to get out and run and run. Could they have been trained to not do that? Yes, to a certain extent, but I did not want it to be in the dog's instinct. My kids love to walk the dogs and I didn't want to have to worry about a dog that spotted a squirrel or another dog and suddenly bolted on them. That eliminated:
    • Sight Hounds
      • Irish Wolfhound
      • Great Dane
      • Greyhound
    • Many hunting breeds
  • Barking: Our only con with owning another collie was the barking. They are very "talkative" dogs. They bark when you throw a ball or when they are playing with you or when you are running with them. They just like to let you know what is going on and tell everyone how excited they are. So, if we weren't going to get another collie, (because that was really the only con, but it was a big one for us living in the city.) then we wanted to be sure that we didn't end up with another "talkative" breed. Much to our disappointment this eliminated:
    • Great Pyreneese (who are also prone to bolting)
  • Good with Children (of course): While many large breeds are known to be gentle and docile, there are some nuances that I wanted to be sure of. Like, I wanted a dog who would not just be good with my children but with any children that came to my house. I knew that for us that meant saying no to German Shepherds, though two of my friends have excellent Shepherds as family dogs, and surprisingly Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs who I read several places can be sensitive to children wrestling and misunderstand the situation and take action. Well, my house is like a freakin WWF without the soap opera and the monster trucks. So, we crossed off:
    • German Shepherd
    • Rottweiler
    • Greater Swiss Mountain Dog
  • Energy Level: I needed a dog that would have a moderate to low exercise requirement. While we go lots of outings and take our dogs with everywhere, I couldn't in good conscience get a dog that needed daily runs. We have a smallish city lot, so not much room to run. The dog would have gotten frustrated and bored and my house would have been destroyed.
  • Trainability: I know that is not a word. But, again I was looking for a smart, quickly trained breed. My collies were extremely good and well-behaved but Beaner was a stubborn thing. I was glad I read that Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs frequently take longer to housebreak and their "childhood" lasts a lot longer than other breeds taking up to 2 years to mature. I didn't want a stubborn or aloof breed.
  • Cost: Though we were prepared to spend several hundred dollars on a well bred dog, we did not want to have to spend thousands because we were picking the latest fad dog. That eliminated:
    • Bernese Mountain Dogs
  • Cleanliness: While dogs have a certain amount of dirt associated with it, I did not want a dog who was drawn to messy situations or were inherently messy. So, dogs who needed to be wet to be happy were off my list. And droolers. (Ah, you would think this would eliminate my St. Bernard! But, yes Humphrey is the much forbidden dry mouth St. Bernard. Many show breeders get their panties in a bunch about this saying that if you have a dry mouth St. Bernard than you don't have a "real" St. Bernard because they haven't been bred to standard. Well, this "standard" is a fairly recent development and if look at historical pictures of the breed they do not have the smoosh faced droopy mouth almost bull-dog appearance that they are being show bred for now. This may be great in the show ring but for my family we were looking for more of this or this.) So this eliminated:
    • Newfoundlands
    • Mastiffs
Our end list was very short. It had two breeds. Collies (with the barking caveat) and St. Bernards.

Now, many people are wondering why not go to the shelter and adopt a mutt or rescued dog. And if we didn't have small children, I would do that in a second. But, the reality is when you adopt a shelter dog you don't know its previous history and you never know when a behavior by your child might trigger some aggressive response. (Like my uncle trying to scoot the Cocker Spaniel they had just adopted, who was supposed to be a perfect family pet, off the chair he had been sitting on and the dog turned and bit him in the crotch. No lie. He needed stitches.) Yes, there are many great family pets adopted everyday and I know that not all come from abused homes. I really really do know this. And I know that there is no guarantee with a perfectly bred pure bred dog. For me the key is raising a puppy with my children and selecting a breed who's instincts don't clash with what I'm looking for in a family companion.

After all my research we found a breeder who was breeding exactly the type of dog I was looking for. She has another litter coming July 30th if you are in the Midwest and interested. And another breeder I was really interested in has a litter also due July 30th and he is Kentucky.

So, that sums up how we reached the decision of the type of dog we were looking for. By biggest advice is to research, research, research a breed before you decide on it. Many of the breeds that we eliminated were in our top 5 breeds, but I was glad to uncover some of the breed specific temperaments so I could compare that to my list of criteria. And then look around a bit for the breeder who is breeding what you want. We did not want a show dog, we wanted a companion. And I don't mean pet quality of a show breeder, I mean a dog that was bred strictly for companionship. There is a difference in the mission of the various breeders.

And we couldn't be happier with the outcome!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Well, we decided on Humphrey (I think.)
He is still so freaked out by so many new things that whenever I ask him to do something that scares him he hits the floor and gives me his "Hrumph!" look. He's doing so much better already and is really warming up. Perhaps tomorrow will be bath day!

Here's his Hrumph.

We're going to need a lot of cheese...

I had never planned to get another dog so soon after losing Fargo. But things just conspire sometimes. For one, I knew for sure that I did not want to be dealing with a new puppy and a new baby at the same time. For two, I had done lots of research and decided the breed of dog we wanted for a family with lots of little kids. (I'll post more about what I found and what the factors were.) For three, I decided even though the little puppy phase is so cute and fluffy, it is also a big pain in the rear. So, I knew we wanted an older puppy. One that I could have the training fairly underway by the time the baby came along. And all of these things fell into place...

He is a 4 1/2 month old St Bernard and a complete sweetheart. We went with a breeder who is breeding a more athletic build with the longer face. I'm not a big fan of the gigantic, over-sized, smoosh-faced St. Bernard. The only drawback has been that he has never been indoors or around steps before. Every time we try to get him to go up the stairs or past the kitchen he drops to the floor like a sack of potatoes. A very large sack of potatoes. He probably weighs 50lbs easy. We enticed him this morning up the stairs from the back yard with cheese. And finally back into his crate. Again with cheese. I can't even begin housebreaking until we can get him to walk up and down the stairs easily on his own. You know, without cheese.

and he snores.

At this point the list of names:

Andre (the Giant)
Humphrey (means Peaceful Giant)

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Indulge me...

These are some of my favorite pictures of my favorite daddy. Is it any wonder my life is so much fun? It's not because of me I can guarantee that. He is such a wonderful balance to me. Look at this guy! *sigh* My kids are so damn lucky.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

What else happened this week...

time busted out of its bottle and flew on...

Friday, June 13, 2008

A Note to Publishers of the "Classics" libraries

I don't know why I fall for it every single time, but for some reason I do. I read the introduction and the commentaries at the beginning of the book. And every time they reveal some very key aspect of the plot (if not the climax itself) and I'm left devastated. Yes, yes, you can argue that I should have learned my lesson by now. But, for some reason I can't help but open the front cover of a book and read through to the back cover of the book. Why oh why can't we put the commentaries at the end of the book?

love loved House of Mirth.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

goodbye old friend...

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Cakes' Summer Reading List...

I'm a pretty heavy reader. I love books. I love writing. I love fiction. I love non-fiction. I love short stories. I love memoirs. I love poetry. Many people can't seem to believe that I have time to read 4-6 books a month, but I can't for the life of me figure out why. I don't know if people think that having 5+ kids means I am chained to the washing machine or I spend every waking moment tending to a child's need, but the reality is quite different. I would describe my day as several periods of very intense busyness (like dinner time or bath time) and then long stretches of relative calm. Yes, I could be scrubbing my floors on a regular basis, but why? Instead I take the kids to the park or the creek or even the backyard, and then I do a lot of this.

And then I might do some of this.

And when I get tired of that, I might do this.

So, as you can see, I have a lot of time for reading. And I'm good at it, so I read (according to Chowder) pretty quickly.

For my summer reads, I like to get a good mix of meaty classics I should have read already, but the lighter ones not the hefty thick lyricky ones. I like efficiency in my summer reads and not a lot of material that weighs me down like a thick quilt, that's what my winter reading list is for. I want my summer reads to be refreshing yet juicy and clean tasting, like a good peach.

So here is what my list consists of so far. I perused various summer reading lists and came up with what looked good to me. I have already read 3 from the list since Memorial Day (I know, I know, my nerdy friends. It's not Summer, yet.) And have been very happy with my choices. I'm too lazy to add links and reviews of all these books. You'll have to look them up yourself. Nah!

  • Room With a View by EM Forster perfect. light and breezy and romantic.
  • A Member of the Wedding by Carson McCullers 163 pages of the best description of the jump from childhood to adolescence.
  • The Street by Ann Petry Harlem in the 40's. A heavier read but absolutely amazing.
  • House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
  • The Twilight Saga books by Stephenie Meyer young adult fiction series that has come highly recommended to me. (4 books)
  • The Lottery by Patricia Wood
  • A Passage to India by EM Forster
  • Dragonwyck by Anya Seton Put down that Phillipa Gregory and go read Katherine by Anya Seton. Yes, I enjoyed The Other Boleyn Girl, but Katherine is the original standard. Dragonwyck is an American Gothic tale.
  • Belong to Me by Marisa De Los Santos
  • Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri
  • Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen
  • In the Heart of the Sea- The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathanial Philbrick
  • So Young, Brave and Handsome by Leif Enger so, so excited about this book. His first novel Peace Like a River is in my Top 5 favorite books of all time.
  • Take This Bread-A Radical Conversion by Sara Miles
  • Divisadero by Michael Ondaatje
  • Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote
  • Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

So, there you have it. That's what I have lined up so far. I don't know if it will last me through the whole summer, so if you have suggestions (or if you have read any on the list) PLEASE add them to the comments. And to my Muslim readers, could you please suggest a book for me. I have read several (especially the new ones) and everything is so violent and political in them. Islam covers so many beautiful cultures and they must be full of beautiful stories...I'd love to read some.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Happy Anniversary, Baby...

Darling Chowder~ from dumb kids 20 years ago...

to dumb kids 9 years ago...

From what I hear, marriage is supposed to make us miserable and resentful. Thank God ignorance is bliss.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

One of our favorite spots...

In the middle of my city is our own "Central Park" though it is over 500 acres larger than it's New York version. (Yay us!) We spend a lot of time here. It is a hop skip and a jump from our house and it houses the zoo, the art museum, the science museum, the history museum, the Municipal Opera, the Shakespeare festival, the Great Balloon Race, etc. etc, etc. And one of our favorite spots to while the summer afternoons away. We just call it "The Rocks."

You have a spot like The Rocks around you, too. If you have not found it or you don't spend a lot of lazy days there, you need to fix that. Children and nature are an amazing combination. They will literally spend hours exploring creeks and the habitats around them. They will find crawdad carcasses that an egret has cleaned out, they will find ducks and water bugs and they will be completely entranced. They will learn physics as they create dams and bridges. If they aren't used to exploring or are used to being entertained by people and activities, it may take them a little time to adjust to this new mindset, but time spent poking around in the creek is very very valuable time. If you haven't read Last Child in the Woods yet, it really is worth the read.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Proud Mommy Moment brought to you by the U.S. Treasury

When people ask me to describe Porkchop, I usually tell them that he will be my ticket to heaven or prison depending on which one of us survives his childhood.

Yesterday he swallowed a penny. He kind of panicked and I told him to relax he'd poop it out. Well, that somehow didn't help him relax and he spent the rest of the day obsessing about his poop and the possible pain that will accompany it.

This morning Porkchop woke up at 6am and was an absolute whiny pain-in-everyone's-butt terror. Finally, at one point I actually snarled at him, "I can't wait til you have to poop out that penny!"

Monday, June 02, 2008


A little peek into the world of the guitar hero. I, of course, wish the music choice were a little different but hey! I'm a mother I'm supposed to think that. Otherwise what fun would it be for him!

He asked me if I like this song, I said, "No. But wouldn't you be disappointed if I did?" He kind of laughed and said, "Yeah."

I don't know what happened to the sound on this clip. It's fine on my computer...

Sunday, June 01, 2008

My Double Lives...

I've been feeling the duplicity of my life rather strongly lately. For one, is the relative anonymity of this blog. I keep it relatively anonymous mostly because of Chowder's job. He has one of those jobs that can actually be affected by the opinions and rantings of his wife. He has never tried to hush me, nor would he (he respects my opinions and work too much), but that doesn't mean that what I write couldn't make things uncomfortable or even difficult for him. Plus, when he applies now and again to other positions, I don't want them to google his name or church and find this place. I really shouldn't be a future employer's first impression of my husband. Plus, I share some things here that I think would go beyond the healthy boundaries of what parishoners should know about my inner workings and those of my family. Every church has it's batch of "mean old ladies" that can use such information poisonously against Chowder and I. But, there is so much about the city and neighborhood that I live in that I want to share with you and show you.

But beyond that, my family and friends (other than a couple I have slipped to) don't know about this place. My mom was telling me last night about my cousin's blog and I was so close to revealing this one but thankfully thought the better of it. I have voiced concerns about relationships I have with family members that could be taken to closely. I would have to go back and edit a lot of what I have written. And then edit myself in the future. It is tempting to want to share some of the things about my family with them, but then I'd have to share everything. (Perhaps I need to start a family-friendly blog)

And for two, I have the fortunate position of being a part of two very wonderful but distinctly opposite (in many ways) online communities. One of them is an IVF community I have been a part of for almost 7 years. The parenting after IVF board is a place that I go to several times a day and I have know many of these women for years. I love them and respect them and they can make me think or laugh so hard that I consider them a very important part of my life. But, I have never told them about Sweeting. Many know from reading my blog, but many more don't know. And the reality is I don't know how to tell them. Infertility leaves deep deep scars that can easily be popped back open, even by news that someone you care about is pregnant again. Especially when it's baby number 6. Yes, I have my own battle scars, but I was extremely fortunate. I was able to have a baby. have 6 babies. There are many women I love and care about who never even had that opportunity, or who have been blessed with one child and want desperately to have another. I am fully aware of my luck. And yes, I think it's luck. This board is a community that is safe from the real world of scar opening pregnancy announcements. But, it's also a sad feeling to be keeping a secret.

The other online community I belong to is for families with 4 or more children. Again, I love this community because people can safely announce pregnancy number 6 or number 12 and not have to listen to all of the negative comments and judgments that usually come along with these joyous announcements. Here families are celebrated no matter what their size. But even there, there is a group of women who are struggling to conceive and find it difficult for woman after woman announcing their pregnancies while they seek medical intervention to conceive (yes, even baby #10). Sometimes the rest of the community cannot begin to understand (I know I didn't until I went through it), but they are so supportive and loving and sure sometimes inadvertently they say something that turns a knife but they try. And sometimes I have to try and explain why their sister-in-law with only one child might be responding to their pregnancy announcement with a certain amount of bitterness or why infertility treatments are only morally black and white when you don't have to face them yourself.

I don't know that there is an answer to these double lives, this blogging world is such a strange place to be. But, I am so thankful to the internets. It has opened my world to people and experiences from around the world. I have mothers in South Africa telling about the troubles they are having there with the bigotry. And mothers in Israel telling me about there troubles there. And mothers in Gaza. and mothers in Canada. and mothers in Ireland. and Australia. even mothers in the U.S. living totally different lives with totally different beliefs from my own etc. etc. What can I say, maybe there is just too much of me for any one place.