Monday, November 23, 2009

Peek-In-Monday

I'm not one to call someone stupid...or foolish. But some just get what they are asking for. For example, Boy Cat. Sweeting was playing on the rug in the living room, being her regular menace-self, when he comes walking in and lays down right next to her and starts rolling around on his back to get her to play with him. This same scenario plays out near daily. No lessons have been learned...or else, he actually likes it rough. Girl Cat on the other hand, runs when the Baby Monster comes stomping

video

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Picture Day

Trying to get a couple of nice pictures of the kids still fresh and clean before picture day...
at least they are adorable little monsters





Friday, November 20, 2009

New blog!

I have friends and family that are in love with my Humphrey, so I started a Doggie Blog to follow his day to day life as the family dog to our crazy family.

http://daysofgiants.blogspot.com/

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Nail Biting

Chowder is headed for the final phases of the interview process on Monday. Basically, he has been offered the position but we still have to negotiate the package and since this is an associate position, he and the head pastor have to see how they will work together. The head pastor seems very cool but we have not worked under another pastor before. All communications with Chowder have given the impression that he has great respect for Chowder and the work he has done, and frankly, Chowder has never liked all the administrative bologna that goes along with being a solo pastor. In this position he gets to focus on what he loves.

But, I have never had to be "under" another pastor's wife before, either. I'm not the most conventional of pastor's wives and that has never been a problem, but I admit I am a little intimidated by this PhD slinging, national education policy writing, successful parent of two daughters. I fear two different scenarios.

  1. I bust in as Princess Fergie to her Queen Elizabeth
  2. She is of that generation of working women who really look down on the new generation of homemakers.
Chowder has told me I'm being ridiculous, but he has never been a woman under the perfectly manicured fingernail of another woman. I sure hope this nagging worry is nothing.

Pray 'em if you got 'em.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Peek-In-Monday

We have a family song that we sing to the babies. It's basically their name followed by La La La's. It's been sung to every baby and it makes them all stop crying. The kids have loved having this simple song to sing to the babies when they are crying, and usually sing it it the car when there is nothing else to be done. It works every time. Here is Sweeting learning the song...

video

I love her tongue action! sorry about the quality. cell phone footage.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Hrumph!

You may recall from Christmases past that one of my favorite things about the Christmas season is buying the new Hallmark singing snowman. I love these things. But with great sadness I have to tell you that this year...there is no new singing, dancing plush snowman. There is a singing Snoopy, but honestly I've always associated Snoopy with my neighbor's house that had a weird smell. Not, the cozy holiday cockle warming I'm lookin for. So, I am sad.

I will try to find solace in the annoying potential of the Fridge Snowman.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Cakes's and Chowder's Two Week Wait...

Well, the boys are in and if any of them have survived the wrath of Cakes, they are waiting at the door for the girls to make an appearance. Hopefully one of each will get together and then snuggle in for the next nine months. I have to say though, I'm not feeling particularly optimistic. I have shown no signs of fertility in awhile. But! We wait.

Chowder and the other church have emailed questions back and forth to each other and they are down to two candidates, Chowder being one of them. The church has a lot going on for the next few weeks so they told him that he would hear from them again in two weeks. That was five days ago. It's been odd watching him go through the same things I have during a cycle. Convinced that yes! These are all signs that he is indeed getting the job and then no! these are all the reasons that they have picked someone else. Poor dude. Can't stop obsessing. I wish he could just pee on something and get it over with!

We are a bit frustrated because we would have like to have known by Thanksgiving. Then if we are moving we could have done it at the end of the year, between the kids' semesters. It's not looking like we will have that kind of time. But! we wait.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Lessons in Bees

Today Jellybean told me that she is a little worried about school because "Mary" is in her class. Last year "Mary" was a developing Queen Bee and Jellybean was genuinely confused by her fickleness. and her meanness.

It was incredibly apropos because I just finished confronting a Queen Bee in my own life so I was able to talk with her from a very fresh perspective. But, I'm afraid I burdened her with a curse more than alleviated her concerns. It would appear that she, like me, was born to battle these creatures. And on the one hand I felt a little proud but on the other my heart broke for all of the future heartbreak she is facing. So, I tried to arm her as best I could. Here is what I told her, from one Queen Bee Slayer to another.

I wish I could tell you that girls grew out of this phase. That somewhere hearts were softened and insecurities were wiped away and these Mean Girls turned into compassionate, open women. But that would be a lie. You will meet Mean Girls your entire life. The first lesson that you have to learn is how to recognize them. It is easier to simply avoid their reach altogether than to have to slip out from their grasp once you realize what you are tangling with.

A sure sign that you are dealing with a Mean Girl is if she tries to cozy up to you and get information from you about other people, your friends. She may sound supportive or sympathetic. She generally shows up an opportune time, like when you have just had an argument with one of your friends. Trust me. This girl has no interest in comforting you. She only wants to use you. Your best response..."You should ask her that yourself."

The second and hardest lesson you need to learn is that when you go up against a Queen Bee, you are going alone. Even if you are going to defend your friend against mean things that the Queen Bee has done. You will look at the Queen Bee and all her "friends" around her and when you turn to find comfort in seeing your friends behind you...you will hear the wind in the trees and gravel under your feet. But you will not hear the sound of someone backing you up. I've done this countless times. I wish to God that I didn't feel like I had to fight these battles. But, I truly can't help it. And the worst feeling is knowing that you are standing there completely alone. Even at my age when I know that it is the case, I still hope...and my heart still drops. But, if you choose to stick your neck out and stand up to her, (and you don't have to!) know beforehand that you will be standing alone. No matter how many people told you that this person needed to be brought down. No matter how hurt and upset the person you are defending is, in the end it is your neck. alone. And nine times out of ten, you're going to get your ass handed to you in a pretty package with a bow on top. And after all of that, they will come out of the woodwork to tell you how great it was that you stood up to the Queen Bee.

And the last lesson...nine times out of ten? It won't have changed anything. The Queen Bee will still reign. But you? You have stood up to injustice. You will hurt. But, I have to believe that somewhere in the universe this little flap of butterfly wing has brought about an act of great love.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Peek-In-Monday

The Meatball helping us clean-up the yard.

video

Saturday, November 07, 2009

This man...



I just came across this picture from when Ladybug was born and it took my breath away.

Friday, November 06, 2009

2nd Semester

I have lovely news for all of you. I am very proud of myself and thankful to everyone who has supported me and cheered me on.

Last semester I got a 3.5 grade point average! YAY ME!

I am now in my second semester at St. Mary of the Woods taking 8 hours.

  • Introduction to Theology (required) 3hrs
  • Mass Media (major) 3hrs
  • Intro to Computer Software (required) 2hrs...this one is proving to be a little tricky because the big mamma-jamma book I bought for the class is based on Office 2007. I have a Mac, so Mac's version is 2008 and a very different layout. I'm figuring it out, but the book was kind of a waste!
I'm about 3 weeks into the semester that ends in March and I'm off to a much better start than last semester. Then I will have only 46 hours left to get my Bachelor's degree! JEESH! that's like 2 1/2 years. ugh.

slow and steady, Cakes. slow and steady.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Peek-In-Monday

shoot! I'm a day late! I just bought a cheap, crappy rug (though it looks good from a distance) for our living room. The last one was toast and we have been without one (or a coffee table) for several years, maybe. Anyway, I found this one at Sam's and knew that I didn't have to worry about becoming too attached to it. That's my criteria at this point in time. I won't bring any thing into the house that I will become too upset about losing when it's inevitable demise comes. We don't have "special rooms" in our house. We live in our living room and every other room in this house. Now, I need to head down to the secondhand store to pick up a "new" coffee table.

I have plenty of time for a fancy house with expensive furnishings. Now, is not that time. And when it comes, I expect to be very lonely. On second thought, I will never have time for a fancy house with expensive furnishings. I never want to bring anything into my house that I will become too upset when my grandchildren...

After I brought the rug into the house, Ladybug announced that she needed to "Make it ours." Here is how she did that.


video

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Happy Halloween 2009!

I was actually a lot more put together this Halloween compared to Halloweens past. We even carved Jack-o-lanterns from pumpkins bigger than Chowder's head! The only last minute glitch was that Friday night Ladybug sprung on me her deepest desire to be a spider for Halloween. Not Snow White. Not the simple Snow White dress she had received for her birthday a month earlier. Not that. No. A spider. Have you perhaps gathered yet, that though I am a fierce baker, I am definitely not a crafter. Luckily, she was quite pleased with what I managed to Frankenstein together, namely Chowder's dress socks stuffed with plastic grocery bags and a too big black turtle neck paired with too big pants. Chowder on the other hand...




Thursday, October 29, 2009

It's different...

I was sitting in Parent-Teacher conferences chatting cheerily about the idiosyncrasies of my sweet, funny children. As I spoke with the teachers, my heart was so warmed by the genuine love that they had for each of my kids. Each child has two teachers (that adds up at Christmastime let me tell you!) and they play off of each other so well.

My worries about Porkchop's need to lick various surfaces? Hasn't show up.

My concerns about Jellybean's desire to please in peer relationships and the ease at which she can be emotionally manipulated? The teacher already spotted it and was on top of things. (Her incessant need to say every single farkin word that comes into that brain of hers? still working on.)

Meatball's rigidity in everything? being redirected productively.

NOTHING was a big deal. Weaknesses were met with nonchalance and strengths developed. Things were going great at the conferences. And then sheets of paper were pushed my way. The "report card," (They don't give grades in Montessori) the reading scores, the standardized test scores. They were all saying one thing. They're bright. Very, very, bright. The test that they take three times a year that is supposed to measure the child's progress as she goes through the year? Pretty much aced the first month of school.

This news filled me with the worst kind of dread. This intelligence is a curse in my family. This is what conference's with Skaterboy's teachers were like...once. Now, he is a high school drop out trying to get his act together in community college. I had these scores, too. I flunked out of college. My brother is extremely bright, barely made it through school and took 6 years to graduate from college (the only one of all of us.)

When I was pregnant with Porkchop, I used to jokingly rub my belly and say, "Mediocre intelligence, high motivation. Mediocre intelligence, high motivation." It was only half a joke. In my family, high intelligence=under achievement. It meant being saddled with every report card saying, "Not living up to potential."

But, these teachers already read the sheets, the child, and in that split second the anxiety on my face. This is Montessori. It's different. Meatball may technically be in first grade but because they have multi-age classrooms, he is working with the older kids. It's not a big deal. They aren't singled out and strapped with that stupid moniker, "Gifted." (What the hell does that mean anyway?!) They don't have to suffer through tedious lessons about things they already know and then go to hours of enrichment activities to give them a challenge. They just work at their own pace. And so does everyone else. No stigma. The kids themselves don't even know that they aren't working at "grade level" because for them, there is no grade level.

This is why the thought of moving is terrifying. This school is the perfect place for my children to grow and learn. It will be very difficult, if not impossible, to duplicate.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Update on the Moving...

As some of you may remember, we were in discussions with a church in a rural area that had some really appealing things attracting us. Namely, the thought of 10 acres for the kids to go nuts on. After continuing those discussions we came to the mutual decision that it just wasn't a good match for us. There were several issues that were holding both parties back. They have since called another pastor and I pray that they work well together.

Since then, we have entered into new discussions with another church. This one is in an urban area very similar to the one we live and love in. There are a couple of concerns, such as schooling, but I have been told that the church has an endowment to pay for the schooling of the pastor's children. I don't know if they had 5 children in mind, but that certainly will be apart of the negotiations if it gets that far...and we are praying that it does. And, I ask that you do the same.

The thing about this church is that it is alive. Even though Chowder and I have made the conscious decision to serve in under-served areas (we've done both rural and urban), this type of ministry can drain the very life of you. Especially, when there is no community to fill you back up again. When Chowder was called to the congregation we are currently serving, it was to be a short term call. He was to help this church discern whether it was time to close or merge, or whether they wanted to dig in and make an attempt at a new life. They really chose neither. The head of our region has actually encouraged Chowder to look elsewhere because he is wasting away at this church. Wasting his substantial, God-given gifts.

Skaterboy grew up with no church community. No youth group. Often the only child in a congregation. He's 18 and we can't drag him to church. It offers nothing for him. And frankly, it offers nothing for the rest of us. It only demands of us. And we are tired. I can't tell you the number of times we have tried to start a bible study only to be sitting alone. The kids have no community. The sad truth is that we need some time in a congregation that just loves all over us.

This other church has that. It has 1800 members. It has a head pastor. Chowder would be the Family Minister. It believes in faith in action. This church is doing ministry. It is serving. It is getting its hands dirty. I get giddy just at that the thought of having my family surrounded by that. upheld in that. We've been lonely for too long.

Things seem to look good. They feel good. The head pastor has expressed nothing but enthusiasm for Chowder's candidacy. So, please keep us and that in your prayers as the conversation goes on.

I mean....what's not to love?!





Saturday, October 24, 2009

Hopefully we are back in business...


I apologize for the very long vacation on my blog. I stirred up a hornet's nest on one of the message boards I was member on and sadly my little piece of the internet became a lightning rod for some of my attackers. I am hoping that they have all moved on with their lives and will do so, too. It made me really sad. Even Chowder was sad that I had to give up Sometimes. So, hopefully we don't have to.

I have ditched the other format and will be returning to Blogger. So, I don't know if anyone will even be able to find me anymore! But, I need to get back to writing. Back to chronicling. I will be filling you in on my summer and the family. (Sweeting is ONE YEAR OLD! and Skateboy started college! And we have decided to move forward with trying to bring the seventh and final Cakes family member into the clan. big stuff.) I will also be catching up with all of you and seeing how your summer went.

I hope, my friends, you are still there. I have missed you.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Bartender (transferred from other format)


Chowder's parents told him that the bartender at the country club they live on was asking about Porkchop. How was he doing? What had he been up to? Telling them what a great kid he is.

and he is.

We just can't figure out when he's been hanging out in the bar. We're wondering if maybe we should keep a closer eye on him when we are visiting the grandparents.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Happy Shoes (transferred from other format)


I found these at Payless Shoes for $11.99. I just had to have them. I wear them with absolutely everything, every day. I see how happy my daughters are when they wear sparkly shoes and decided I would give it a try, too. It works. It really does. I call these my “Magic Shoes” and I went back and bought two more pairs for when these wear out.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Common Focus (transferred from other format)

It all goes by so fast. Even these days right now where I am scrambling and exhausted. or maybe MORE these days because I am scrambling and exhausted, I feel it all just slipping through my finger tips. They really do grow up so fast and right before our very eyes. Sweeting was *just* born! Wasn’t she? Weren’t they all?


Some of it is a welcome adjustment, such as the way the kids are able to pitch in more now that they are older. This week’s chores are Jellybean and Ladybug washing and folding one load of laundry a day (I still have to do another load, but still!) and The Meatball is spraying and wiping down all the bathrooms everyday (I clean them thoroughly once a week) and Porkchop is feeding the pets and cleaning up their waste everyday. That part is really nice.


But, that also leads us to the other places. The peer relationships that can be so tricky to navigate. The popular toys that go against our values. The introduction of media that we feel is too mature for them. This is where the growing up gets sticky and the test for how well we are holding on to our family’s values and identity. This is where I find the real struggles of parenting. This is where second guessing can begin to plague me. Is it really important that we don’t watch High School Musical, yet? What are my reasons for that again? Barbie? Power Rangers? In the end will really matter? Am I making a mountain of too many little mole hills? Aren’t there more important core issues that I need to stand on? But then aren’t all these little pieces a part of holding on to the core issues? How do we decide which activities we participate in?


I read once in one of the million parenting books that I have read, that each family should write its own mission statement. This idea intrigued me because mission statements are so key to the non-profit organizations in which I participate. The mission statement should be short and to the point and then help an organization or family focus its...well, mission. An organization cannot do everything. That dilution of mission means that it will do many things poorly instead of a few things well. So, if something comes up that does not fit in our mission? then we simply don’t do it. Girl Scouts? A great organization but if it’s not a part of who are family wants to be, than great! Decision made. And not just another thing that we have to add to our list of things we are doing. It is too easy for a family to fall into the “do many things poorly” trap. and Hannah Montana? Bakugan? Does it fit with our values? no? yes? super decision made. As we start embarking on this next phase of family life, it would be good to have a common focus.


When Chowder gets home I think we will be investigating this further. It will make each individual decision easier when we have a larger lens to look

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Some clarification on Obsessive Thoughts

I have several people email me about worry and anxiety because they too sometimes get worked up about imagining a loved one dying. So, I wanted to clarify. I think a lot of us have these thoughts, but the guideline is usually how they are effecting your life.

For me the OCD part is that I feel the compulsion to focus on various horrible things happening to my family as a way of warding horrible things off. For me the obsession is making God realize that I deserve to have my children and to keep him from taking them from me. The compulsion then is to really feel the experience so that then I won't have to actually experience it. I will spend the entire night or a weeks' worth of nights experiencing say, the van going off the bridge over the Mississippi River on our way to Chowder's parents' house over and over. I panic about how to save everyone. I see their faces as they plea for my help. I watch the fear in the ones I can't get to as they drown. I swim to shore with the chosen child/ren. I plan funerals. I live with the guilt. I replay it all over and over and over. I will go a week with no sleep. I will grieve and grieve a loss that has not even happened. But, this is my way of convincing God that he doesn't need to take one of my children from me, that I can get the lessons and deserve the blessings. This compulsion keeps us safe.

Since I am on my meds, I think "this is what it would be like if Chowder dies" but I don't replay the death. I don't slip into that place of uselessness because of the obsession. Does that make sense?

So, I think the occasional worry and anxiety is just part and parcel of loving someone. But, if it is beyond that and interfering with your ability to function, than I think you should definitely talk to someone about it.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

not so good at this solo parenting thing

I need to remember that Ladybug is like a bad fart, silent but deadly.

While I was up changing Sweeting's diaper, I left Ladybug in the family room. By the time I had come back downstairs, she had downed half a bottle of Hershey's syrup. I found her sitting in the middle of the kitchen floor nursing it like a baby bottle.

I went upstairs for a few minutes while I disciplined Porkchop and came downstairs to find Ladybug had made them pretty! meaning written all over herself and Sweeting with green permanent marker.

I went upstairs during Ladybug and Sweeting's naptime to throw in some laundry and found the nursery's door open. Ladybug was in Sweeting's crib and had covered them both in Post-it notes.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Randomness...

What a week I've left behind and what a few weeks I have ahead of me. I didn't get as much done last week as I wanted, but I did turn in several homework assignments and got some Spring cleaning done. It was great for the kids to be able to be outside pretty much all week. The weather was beautiful! And I spent some time doing stuff with them that I need to do more of.

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I have been working on my new website and hope to have it up sometime in the next week. It won't be the most seamless transition because I have never done anything like this. Hopefully it will all come together.

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Chowder has gone to Iowa for 3 weeks. He is doing some sort of training thingamajig for family ministry. Today was our first full day without him. We did a good job and held it together all day. But now...it's almost midnight and I have no one to snuggle in with. I started taking my OCD medication last week anticipating the anxiety. I was taking a 1/4 dose. But last night I upped it to a 1/2 dose. I'm feeling pretty well, though my morbid thoughts still get stuck. Like when Ladybug came in this morning looking for him and she cried the most quiet, pitiful cry, would not let me hold her and she climbed back into her crib to weep softly all by herself. And I couldn't get the "What if" thoughts out of my head. The "this is what it would be like if he died" thoughts. And then I began to weep softly all by myself.

The other thing is that I really miss him. I like him quite a bit and he always makes his presence known, so there is an obvious "Chowder Vacuum." We have set up video chat on our computers and text several times a day. I know it's so hard at the beginning, but soon it will be over and he will be home. with me. where he belongs.

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Humphrey is having some sort of gastrointestinal issues, right now. Let me tell you, a 160 lb dog can really stink a place up. Plus every couple of hours he starts whining because he needs to go out. I'm hoping that will not be the case all night long.

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That possible move I was writing about a few weeks ago? It is still in the process, but look at this...



It certainly sweetens the pot. 1890's farmhouse on 12 1/2 acres 5bd 2ba 2900 sq ft. I am suddenly pining for wide open spaces.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

National Turn Off Your Screen Week April 20-26

I'll be tuned out and accomplishing things. I have spring cleaning to get sprung and rose bushes to be planted and homework to catch up on and Porkchop needs to get training wheels removed and I need to get some meals in the freezer. Chowder will be leaving me for three weeks (!) for a family ministry training program and I want to be prepared. (better stock up on the Vodka) I'll leave you with a couple Ladybug videos...


video


video

Friday, April 17, 2009

My favorite pictures from this week

These are from this morning before school. Ladybug wanted to tell Porkchop a secret. teehee.



This is my Queen Mum. Ain't she purty?


This is Humphrey. He got in the act with Photobooth! Don't you just want to give him a big hug?!


This is bath time. It took Chowder, Skaterboy, and me to get him in the bathtub. He went for the passive resistance maneuver. very effective.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Random Parenting Conundrums

Issue 1: 17 yr old ds. As I've said before, Skaterboy is a really good kid. No trouble. No drugs. No drinking that I know of, though probably an occasional drink, but nothing that has been an issue. He hangs out with his "band" and plays ear splitting metal on his guitar, but he is very good at it. Our issues with him are complete lack of motivation (other than music). He has failed yet another year of high school. He should be a senior next year but he will be a sophomore. His school sucks. The school district is the worst. And there is real danger there, though the kids really like Skaterboy and he kind of skates above it all.

I have actually encouraged him to drop out and get his GED. The high school thing isn't working and even if he suddenly decided to hunker down and do his work he would graduate just before his 21st birthday. Instead he has a new plan. It's a GOOD plan. I stand behind the plan. He will get his GED this summer and then start community college in the fall. Go for two years and then transfer to an art school to finish his degree. Good. solid. plan. He'll be ahead of the game instead of behind it and hopefully in a different learning environment he will feel some motivation. (pleasepleaseplease) But plans don't enact themselves...

oh. and when dealing with teenagery phone issues, I found pictures on his phone that were sent to him (not totally nude) but down a girl's shirt. He tells me its not his current girlfriend but puzzle pieces start to fall into place and I realize that this relationship he is in now is much more serious than others and on a whole new level. And he is either having sex already or on the verge. Even though he tells me it's not. I buy him a box of condoms and he tells me she is on the pill. I explain he has to use both. I have explained for years why he should wait, but if he hasn't, he hasn't. There's nothing I can do about it.

Issue #2: My darling son The Meatball 6 yrs old. My friend adopted a 5yr old boy from Ethiopia last summer and he has been in Meatball and Jellybean's class this year. Tilahun is the superhero of the class. All I hear all day long is how great Tilahun is and all the things that Tilahun can do. (thrills me to no end!) So, Meatball is talking with his brother about their best friends and then
Meatball: "I'm going to marry Tilahun."
Porkchop: "ummm...Evan and I are best friends but I'm not going to marry him."
Meatball: "No I'm serious. I'm going to marry him and I'm going to be his wife. But, do NOT tell anyone because they will laugh at me."

This was the day after the tragic story of the 11 yr old who hung himself after anti-gay bullying in school. So it hit me pretty hard. Of course this conversation does not mean Meatball is gay. But, there have been some other indicators, as well. who knows? But, it just hurt my heart. IF he is gay, I can't imagine a better environment for him to be in. His school is very liberal when it comes to social issues and diversity, my block has 4 gay couples on it who adore my kids and vice versa (including my next door neighbors who have been together 19 years and we will probably leave the kids with if we died) How could he still be so fearful? It makes me sad.

Issue #3: Porkchop 5 yrs old. I went to that Sensory Issues seminar and it was very informative and helped me understand some of the "quirks" about my kids. But, Porkchop drives me batty because he has to constantly lick things. I know! It's so freaky! And GROSS! I've been trying to get to the motivation, is this an oral sensory issue? or has he inherited OCD from me? or is it Pica? He licks cars, tables, doorknobs you name it. It's all very subtle, he has learned to hide it already. His teachers didn't even notice until I ask them about it, and then they started paying attention and they saw it. It's on my list of things to discuss with his doctor at his next check up. blech!

It's so hard for me because I can't control ANY of it. I love these kids so much but I can't control how the world will react to them and how it can hurt them when they are different. Only the sex thing is really weighing on me, and probably will until he is married. The rest we just try to love and laugh and pray about. Anyone with any insights?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

In him was life....

So many times when I hear about the birth, life, and death of Jesus, it always surrounded by the significance of what the Son of God's presence has meant for humankind. Don't get me wrong. I am a Christian and obviously for me, the significance is profound. But I feel like so many times we stop there. I love to set my spirit a little further out to see the bigger picture.

One of my favorite meditations to do is to "float" up and out to get a picture of all of creation. To imagine how the incarnation would have been felt and experienced by bird and beast and plant and earth. "Even the stones will cry out!" Wasn't all of creation consecrated at that moment in time? The sun, the moon, the stars? At Christmastime we tend to leave the ox and the donkey and the sheep in the background of the creche scene. Sometimes we get sentimental children's stories that have a mouse trying to come up with a gift for the baby, supposedly portraying metaphorically the child herself and how the littlest gift we have if given with our dearest heart is enough for the Messiah. But, why wouldn't the mouse give a gift. Am I really to believe that all of creation wasn't effected by their Creator God stepping down to live in the creation? that the sheep were unaffected by the heavenly host? that the first small cry of the Creator born into the presence of the ox and donkey didn't make them quake?

It is the same for me this Easter. I do not picture the moment of Resurrection as a "lightning bolt" scenario. God had already shown in another cave in Bethlehem that that wasn't his style. I picture it like the first breath of his first birth. That small intake of breath conquering fear and death. That didn't just reverberate throughout all humankind by its saving power, but also like the theoretic flap of a butterfly wing, the whole of God's creation was sent into a chaos of hope and life.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Why I haven't been posting...

guilt.
I can't justify blogging when I have not turned in an assignment in 2 weeks. That's bad guys. Not killing me dead in the water, but definitely not good. I am taking Principles of Marketing (3 hrs), News Reporting (3 hrs), and Saints and Peacemakers (2 hrs). I wrote a paper last night on St. John of the Cross and have another to write tonight on St. Catherine of Sienna. I'm thinking if I do an assignment a day (which is totally doable, you know, if I do.) I will be ok. Soooo...cracking open the books and hopefully cracking back into blogging soon, too.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

more

I was just talking to Chowder's friend's wife today. They are really putting the pressure on! LOL! Chowder and I have been trying to discern which issues are real and which are imaginary.

You guys have given me such great things to think about and explore! It turns out this town has a large arts community, the college does offer "Kids College" for ages 8 and up with lots of enrichment classes, there is a farmer's market, a community center and several new coffee house and locavore restaurants. The town's population has doubled in the last 10 years mostly with an influx of people from California. (that could be good or bad ;) )

I've been exploring how I would be able to meet household needs. There is a Walmart, Lowe's etc but the nearest Sam's and Target are 1 1/2 hours away. I could still do monthly trips if needed.

Chowder and I sat down to talk about what we loved about raising our children in the city and we talked about culture and museums etc. But then when we were honest about it, we have only been to the symphony once this year! We have seen 2 plays and taken the kids to the Art Museum twice this year. With this town being only 3hours from here and family here we could easily come up for a weekend or several days to do these things. So, this issue was imaginary. We would miss the weekly trips to the zoo and botanical gardens.

Lack of diversity is a REAL issue. But again, we could easily be up here often enough to help solve that issue. Education is a REAL issue and I have been investigating the day to day reality of homeschooling. Both Chowder and I have always wanted our children to have a classical education and there are many curricula set up to do that. We'd just follow the lesson plans. I'd have three at one level and two at another. Plus, Chowder's friend's wife would love to explore starting a Montessori charter school in that area to meet the needs of the families there. I'm not sure I am up to doing another start-up right now, the last one was exhausting! But, I could probably use a lot of the material we already compiled. But our minds are opening to possibilities.

17 yr old is both a real and an imaginary issue. He will be 18 this summer which would be the age he would be going away to college. He is not stressed by the idea of us moving because he knows he has options. He is not a typical high schooler being taken out of school his senior year. He is getting his GED this summer and starting community college in the fall. He could move with us and attend the state university there or he could live with my mom and attend school here. If he stayed, we would really miss him but not any differently than if he went away to college. Which is essentially what he would be doing.

There are some bad mammajamma things going on in my city that are making me want to scream. (Essentially, county voters rejected a 1/2 cent sales tax to help fund our public transit, city had already approved it, and now they are cutting bus service by 44%, train service by 32% and Call-a-Ride by 17%. There are members of our church that will be unable to get to work and to school etc. etc.) and crime in our neighborhood will likely increase because of the economy and the inability of people to get to work. This all makes me feel like we are REALLY needed here and at the same time burns me out and makes me want to run to the hills.

Still waiting for the formal offer and whether they can meet our needs...but again, we have always been lucky in this sense and God has always provided.

loaves and fishes, Baby. loaves and fishes. (What Chowder and I say to each other when we are trying to work out where the money is going to come from!)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The one about major life changes...

My family is extremely happy with its place right now. We love our neighborhood, we love our neighbors, we love love love the younger ones' school, we love living in the city, we love the free museums, free zoo, parks everywhere, dog park, farmer's market, diversity, restaurants etc. Our families are in town (for the most part) and we have established friendships.

My husband is VERY unhappy in his job. Granted they pay him a nice sum of money, but they ask for very little in return. Basically, show up on Sundays, visit the sick. For me, this seems perfect because he is right across the street. He is home a lot and always available should I need him. It is a great place to be working on his doctorate. BUT, he wants to be doing ministry and at this point after trying so many things and beating his head against the wall (long story about the church, but they aren't interested in doing anything.) he is just burned out. He feels useless.

This weekend we were invited to a church that is courting Chowder to check things out and guest preach at the church. It is the exact opposite atmosphere, but also one we could be very happy in. It is a small town (about 20,000) in the mountains, has a small college, a community theater, major shopping, we could get a place on 10-15 acres and have the other great childhood of chickens and ducks and woods to build tree houses in and all the great stuff that comes from growing up in nature. The church is very energetic, though still small. They have about 10 young families (3 with 5 kids) and a definite desire to do more. We liked the town. Two of Chowder's fraternity brothers live in or near the town and I like the one I know and his family. We are not afraid of making changes or trying new things. We know if it really stinks we can always go somewhere else. The schools rank 6 (out of 10) on the great schools chart. We would have to change a bit of our lifestyle, like get a second crappy car.

Honestly, if the kids just went to a regular school we would jump in in a heartbeat. But, the kids don't go to a regular school. They have this great opportunity to go to this amazing and free charter school that is right across the street. The school is small and the philosophy and parent community is exactly what we are looking for. And the education is exceptional. I can't see taking my two kindergartners who are reading on the 4th grade level, doing multiplication and division, can label the continents and oceans on a world map, and half of the states on a US map etc. etc (and this is NOT b/c they are exceptionally bright, it is just the way the school is.) and put them into a mediocre, small town, public school. Though I am not afraid of homeschooling them and think we could do some really cool stuff, I don't think I could do as good of a job as they are doing at their school and would hate for them to miss out on what they would get from their education where they are now.

But, Chowder would most likely be much happier in his work. In a small town there is a greater opportunity to get involved in a meaningful way to better the community. So, do we stay here until all of the kids go through 6th grade? That's 12 more years! At what point do we make a change? We do not NEED to find a new position right now. And I wasn't feeling an overwhelming pull there. I told Chowder that this will really have to be his call because I am perfectly happy where I am now. I could also be perfectly happy somewhere else. We worry about trying to sell our house right now, but the only thing really holding us here is the school. How much of weight should we give it?

I am trying to just hand this one over to the Big Guy and figure if it's the place he wants us, then he'll beat over the head with it and provide the solutions to our obstacles. But, you know how I'm a planner.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The one about the read alouds

In my last post about reading aloud to children I was telling you about the transition from sitting in your lap and looking at pictures while you read to them, to lying in bed listening and following along in their imagination as you read to them. A child needs a little practice developing his focus and attention to stay with you. One of the things we found helpful in this transition is poetry. I suggest A. A. Milne's lovely books, When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six. Both are filled with sweet, funny poems that the kids love. Don't try to rush through them. Read 3 or 4 over a few times for them to enjoy the rhythm and the play on language. Caroline Kennedy put together one of my favorite anthologies with poems by Robert Louis Stevenson, e. e. cummings, Robert Frost, Maya Angelou and many others. really great stuff. and if you have a poetry phobia, put it aside for a little while. Children really "get" poetry.

Anthologies are another great way to build attention. We read from Grimm's Fairy Tales (yes the original ones), Greek Myths (Usborne puts out a really nice collection), Aesop's Fables, a collection of Oscar Wilde's children's stories, a book of American Tall Tales, The Just So stories, collections by Thorton Burgess (great animal stories that tell a bit about the animal, very sweet.) and we read selections from a book of Saints (because that's how we roll.) We tried the Wind in the Willows when the kids were 4 and 5 and we chose to put it down for a little while. The stories are wonderful but the language is a bit advanced. We'll probably go back again this summer. Most of these short story readings can be done in an evening's reading time but some of the longer ones are best divided in half to help the child learn to carry over a plot to the next day. Before you start the second half, you might want to ask the child questions about what they remember and fill in any fuzzy spots.

When we were ready to jump into chapter books, we started with beginning reader chapter books. The plots were simple and the language not particularly challenging. The kids enjoyed reading a few of the Magic Tree House books, and Usborne put out some simplified versions of classic books that we read. (I debated doing this. I wanted my kids to hear the real version of the Wizard of Oz, but after reading about classical education and the way a subject is revisited every four years to a higher degree of understanding, I thought these would be the perfect getting your feet wet into some of the more complicated classics. and Usborme does a nice job with it.)

Some of the chapter books that we have loved

  • My Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett
  • The Waterhorse by Dick King Smith
  • A Mouse Called Wolf by Dick King-Smith
  • Stuart Little by E.B. White
  • Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
  • The Henry books by Beverly Cleary
  • All things Kate DiCamillo (We LOVE her.)
  • The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary
  • Nim's Island by Wendy Orr
I know there are others I can't think of at the moment. I'll start a list on the sidebar. But, this list should give you a lot to chew on. Please list any of your favorites in the comments. We are always looking for new books!

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Finally feeling myself.

I finally admit to having had the flu. It was my first time ever. and it sucked. until yesterday.

Two things happened.
1.) Spring popped its head out again.

2.) ummmmm....

ok. just the one thing. But, being able to throw the windows open and blow all the stale sick air out the back door was an amazingly cathartic thing. I even got most of the downstairs back in order. Everything except my buffet. I don't know exactly when it happened but my buffet has become my dumping ground. It's just my mess. All mine. I can't blame anyone for it or believe I would. I think I need to set up some sort of a desk for myself and my schoolwork.

Ladybug and Jellybean are kicking the tailend of it right now and then I think we're done. Chowder and Sweeting seemed to have escaped unscathed.

Tomorrow I will give you my kids favorite read alouds.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

I'm feeling better today

but I've lost my voice. I have had to resort to clapping, snapping, and throwing things at the children to get their attention from my perch on the couch.

and still, they ignore me.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

How I wish I was feeling....

Found this over on Jenni's blog and had to play, too!


It's either my super hero alter ego, Special K, or my kick ass guardian angel.
I'd like to think it's the latter.

And here is my trusty sidekick, Chowder Man



Go make your own super hero! It's fun!

Monday, March 02, 2009

sick.

When is it terrible to have lots of kids? When they are all sick and you are too. I was up most of the night with one sick kiddo or another, or up hacking up a lung myself. This is a very bad cold that has us in its grips. Sweeting will only sleep on my chest, so of course I wake her up every time I cough. If she feels half as bad as I do the poor darling is miserable. sore throat, chills, congestion. ugh. Hopefully we will be up and running again soon.

uh oh. just heard Chowder coughing...another one bites the dust.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

My new favorite thing


I have been using a crappy plastic 3 qt mixer since I went away to college the first time. I guess it can't be too crappy since it lasted 20 years. But it was definitely time for a new one. One batch of cookie dough could overload it. And one batch of cookie dough may last one day in my house. I had been wanting to buy a larger capacity one for years. One I can double or even triple the dough in. Well, I finally did it. I bought a KitchenAid 600 series 6 qt professional mixer. And I'll tell you what finally made me do it.

Two weeks ago my awesome KitchenAid food processor met a tragic end. I was mixing my second batch of foccacia dough in it that day and the motor got so hot (I assume) that the dough blade became fused to the metal shaft. It would not come off for anything. I called their customer service number and she gave me a couple of things to try. They didn't work so she simply said, "Ok. We'll get a new one out in the mail tomorrow and just send the old one back in the same box." And just like that a new one came. And so just like that I became a loyal customer. And the owner of a new kick butt mixer.

Don't you just love my still life! It just so happened that Ladybug dumped those grapes there right before I took the picture. I didn't even notice until I was editing the picture!

Monday, February 23, 2009

the one about the birthday gifts...

Another reason we love the kids' school is the parents. We have a great group of laid back, fun, noncompetitive, intelligent folks. The children reflect that. As do their birthday parties. My kids do not buy birthday presents for each other, much less for friends. We make our gifts and the recipients always love them. For example, one of their friends was having a party at a park that has a big fountain. My kids made a whole fleet of paper boats to sail in the fountain and paper admiral hats to go with them. The kids all had a blast with them. There are your standard homemade playdoh and bottles of bubbles which are fun. We have done cookie/muffin mixes in a jar which are actually a huge hit with kids and parents. As are "experience" gifts. Arranging with the parent ahead of time a date you can take the birthday child to the pool with you or a favorite of my kids' friends has been coming over to bake and decorate cookies. Or do a kid friendly cooking class. Be creative! Think about what kids like to do. Then take pictures and afterward make a little photobook and give that to the child. The computer is our friend. We print off fun labels for the bottles and jars. Some other favorites...

  • check out this website for really cool templates to make lots of cool stuff.
  • Custom cds- Each child makes a mix cd of their favorite songs. They design album covers and cd stickers. We package them all in a decorative envelope.
  • Library bags. You can buy some blank canvas bags quite cheaply at the craft store. Scan a picture your child drew into the computer. Add some text ie Suzy could spend all day with a good book and print it out on an iron on transfer. Iron it on to the bag. You can use a template to make a library card holder envelope from another piece of child's artwork. You could also make beach bags.
  • Customized Word Magnets. In a Word document, make a list of the names of the birthday child and her family members, your child's name and list nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, articles etc. Using simple present tense makes it simpler. ie Suzy happily dances with the singing hippopotamus. Skip a line between each line of text with 3 spaces between words. Then you can either print the sheets off and attach them to adhesive backed magnet sheets (cheaper) or you use printer friendly magnet sheets. We put them in a decorated tin.
  • Book Plates. Scan a piece of your child's artwork into a Word document. Format it for large shipping labels. Add text ie This book belongs to Suzy Smith. and duplicate it for each label. Print them out and separate them into a nice stack and tie with a ribbon. We usually include a gently read favorite book with a label already in it.
  • Stationary. Have your kids fill a piece of paper with a pattern. Like rows of hearts or rainbow stripes. scan it into your computer and fade the colors out. Fill a whole page with the design and add text ie From the desk of Suzy Smith at the top. You can also do this in landscape so you can actually have two sheets per page after you cut it in half. Print off ten sheets and tie with a ribbon. Then you can use a envelope template to make envelopes from colored copy paper or from other sheets printed with their design on it. You can use card stock and add some little note cards or thank you notes. You can also make smiley face sealing stickers from price dots.
I'm going to try to upload some images of these things so you can get a better picture of them. I don't have them on my new computer so I'm going to have grab them off the old one.

My point is simply that birthdays don't have to be filled with cheap junk and your homemade gifts don't have to be quaint. You can design some pretty cool stuff with your kids and the computer. I'm looking forward to figuring out what we can do with Photobooth!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Fun with Photo Booth

I got a new MacBook on Friday for me to do my schoolwork on. We have an old Mac G5 that had iLife 04 or something like that. Well now I have iLife 09 and iWork 09. I am very excited about this. I have always wanted the Photo Booth program. As you can see, we had a great time with it today. But, it also has iWeb where I can design my own website. I am chomping at the bit to to this, but I am making myself wait until I'm done with this semester...we'll see how long that lasts.