Sunday, February 28, 2010

Chuc mung nam moi!

Which, for those of you not connected with the Vietnamese community, is Happy New Year! I know Tet was actually two weeks ago, but our Families with Children from Vietnam group had their new year's party last night. By having it later we can enjoy the local Vietnamese lion dancers and folk dancing group.
Here are some of us coloring some pages of tigers. (2010 is the year of the tiger.) There were also games with prizes, lots of good food, a slide show, firecrackers (bubble wrap in red paper), li xi envelopes with chocolate coins, and a sale of Vietnamese goods to benefit the Catalyst Foundation.

There was also this adorable cardboard lion mask that the children could play with. K. was quite taken with it and really hoped to take it home. We took a lot of pictures because it seems like something that could make ourselves. But I think it needs a bit more "fluff" to make it look like the real thing:

Saturday, February 27, 2010

I'm famous...or is it infamous?

I happened to be at our main branch library this afternoon checking out some books. The employee (whom I'm sure I've never met) looked at my card and asked if I was E. Curry of the Curry family. I said yes, and she proceeded to talk to me about our branch library. The branch libraries have been given a 6 month reprieve from closing in order to try to raise the needed funds to keep them open. (Confused about the whole situation yet? I am.) The library employee wanted to make sure I knew that the branch would only be open Tuesdays through Saturdays now, in case I needed to adjust our schedule. I laughed and said my children pretty much go to the library whenever it's open and the library worker agreed. So, do the librarians all get together and talk about us? Just makes me wonder. The first half of my life was spent feeling as though people don't remember me, consequently, I find it a slightly jarring experience when people not only remember me, but people who don't even know me, know me.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Small annoyances

I know, I already posted today, but this was too good to pass up. It seems today has been designated as the official 'Day of Small Annoyances', starting with my phone drama in the previous post. Later today I attempted to take a reader panel survey for a popular family magazine. The first question asked how many children under 18 lived in my home. I typed in '9' and hit enter. Instead of being taken to the next question, a pop-up window opened and informed me that my answer was "outside acceptable parameters". I always suspected my family was outside acceptable parameters, but now I know for sure.

(I did email the research company in charge of the survey...but have yet to hear back from them.)

Where, oh where has my mail delivery gone?

If Dante could have waited a few centuries to pen his magnum opus, the modern world would have provided him with limitless possibilities for further rings in the inferno. Businesses which (ab)use voice mail definitely deserve a ring all their own, especially businesses which have a monopoly on certain services. The US postal service for instance. This morning, when I should have been doing laundry or educating my children or some such useful endeavor, I instead found myself talking to a computer. Since the phone at my desk is not touch tone, at least I can choose options with the voice activated system. But, if you've ever tried to do this with children in the room, you will know that too much background noise causes the computer confusion. "I'm sorry, I didn't get that. Can you repeat it?" told to you by a computer (over and over) is more than aggravating.

My problem was that we had not received mail two times last week and two times this week. I know that it's not possible that there just wasn't any mail for us; the bills are due and I didn't have them in hand. I told this to the first live person I talked with this morning. Since it sounded as though I had interrupted her solitaire game, I didn't have much hope for the whole exchange and I was proved correct. Right after she said, "Hold on just a minute, I need to look something up." the phone clicked and I hear a dial tone. So, I have to go through the whole process again. It is somewhat shortened this time since I know all the answers and the computer doesn't care if you interrupt it. (It also doesn't care if sound highly annoyed. And while one doesn't have to feel guilty about being less than pleasant to a real person, it is not very satisfying either.) I make it back to another human being. I've learned before that the trick is to quickly give all the information I can before allowing myself to be put on hold, so I quickly explain that whole problem and add that this is my second attempt since I was hung-up on the first time. To the USPS's credit, this man was very helpful...and apologetic. He took all my information and promised to work on it. In the meantime, he gave me the number for my local post office. (It's a novel concept, I guess; calling the place that is actually providing service.)

Armed with a phone number that is possibly more difficult to get than a celebrity's, I made another phone call. Miracle of miracles, there was no voice mail, just an operator (who must also have been playing solitaire). I guess it's because they don't expect the public to have their phone number. I was transferred to another live person who looked into my problem. He straightened it out and also apologized. Our rather large collection of mail was delivered an hour later.

On the whole it was a positive encounter with the post office... one problem solved and two apologies. You can bet, though, I'm keeping that phone number.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Writing on the wall

We have a white board in our upstairs hallway on which I write things that I come across that I want my children to take to heart. All of my children who can read are compulsive readers. If they see words, they will read them, over and over, no matter what they are...cracker ingredients, store receipts, get the idea. So I try to make use of it when I can.

I know I've mentioned how much we're enjoying reading Little Britches at lunch time. This was in the chapter which we read today and I will be writing on the white board this afternoon:

"There are only two kinds of men in this world: Honest men and dishonest men. There are black men and white men and yellow men and red men, but nothing counts except whether they're honest men or dishonest men.

Some men work almost entirely with their brains; some almost entirely with their hands; though most of us have to use both. But we all fall into one of the two classes -- honest and dishonest.

Any man who says the world owes him a living is dishonest. The same God that made you and me made this earth. And He planned it so that it would yield every single thing that the people on it need. But He was careful to plan it so that it would only yield its wealth in exchange for the labor of man. Any man who tries to share in that wealth without contributing the work of his brain or his hands is dishonest."

Monday, February 22, 2010

Father and daughters

A friend of our is in charge of the Father-Daughter dance at her church. This is the second year J. and his girls have attended and it is great fun. (So I'm told.) M. couldn't make it this year since she was on a youth group retreat. But, P. and A. went and enjoyed dancing (with dance cards), games, party favors, and a chocolate fountain. B. and I scrounged some chocolate at home and enjoyed that with a movie after we got the littles put to bed. Kind of a mother-son movie night. The photo is of A. and P. with J. right before they left. You know it was a big deal since not only did P. allow me to do something special with her hair, but I was also allowed to add bows.

And because it's been several days since I posted pictures of the babies, here's some from yesterday. L. is in the picture on top and G. in the one below. G. was having a lot of fun with the fabric scraps I had left on the floor.
This morning the babies had their baby portraits taken. A photographer friend came to our home to take them. It was so much easier than with past babies when I took them to the photographer. I think they're going to turn out very well. If you go to her website, you might recognize the babies in the basket. They were so little!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Family Lenten devotional

I've had a request for our list of readings that we do for our Lenten devotions, so here it is. As I said before, I used the idea I found in No Ordinary Home (though it's now out of print). I did change it a little. The author of the book found small objects to illustrate each passage, but I found it easier to make them out of Sculpy. In my previous post I placed the ornaments in order, so you should be able to match my description of the ornament with what I made. (Yes, I know sometimes they are difficult to figure out.) We actually do 47 readings, though technically, Lent does not include the Sundays, making it 40 days. So, without further ado...

Day 1: Faith - Matthew 17:20 Set-up branch (I use pussy willow branches, but it could be anything. If you decide to force forsythia branches, know that you will have to untie and retie all the ornaments when the pretty yellow flowers dry up and start to fall off, looking not quite so pretty.)
Day 2: Creation - Gen. 1 Globe
Day 3: The fall - Gen. 3 Apple
Day 4: Noah - Gen. 6-9 (In some of the longer passages, we will often read excerpts if the audience is having difficulty sitting still) Ark
Day 5: Tower of Babel - Gen. 11:1-8 Ziggerat (sort of)
Day 6: Abraham and Sarah - Gen. 12 Tree (Oak at Shechem)
Day 7: Abraham and Isaac - Gen. 22 Ram
Day 8: Jacob and Esau - Gen. 27 Twins
Day 9: Jacob's ladder - Gen. 28 Ladder
Day 10: Joseph - Gen. 37 Coat of many colors
Day 11: Joseph reunited with his brothers - Gen. 43:9 - Gen. 45:15 Silver cup
Day 12: Moses - Ex. 3 Burning bush (Yes, go ahead and laugh at my attempt, my children do, it's part of the tradition)
Day 13: Passover - Ex. 12 Door frame with blood
Day 14: Ten Commandments - Ex. 20 Tablets
Day 15: Joshua and Jericho - Joshua 5:13 - 6:27 Trumpet
Day 16: Israel desires a king - 1 Sam. 8 Crown
Day 17: Samuel anoints David - 1 Sam. 16 Ram's horn
Day 18: David and Goliath - 1 Sam. 17 Slingshot
Day 19: David as Musician - Psalm 8 Harp
Day 20: Solomon - 1 Kings 7 - 9 Temple
Day 21: Jonah - Jonah Whale
Day 22: Enslavement - 2 Kings 25 Chain
Day 23: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego - Daniel 3 Fiery furnace
Day 24: Daniel and the lions - Daniel 6 Lion
Day 25: Rebuilding the wall - Neh. 2 wall
Day 26: 400 years of silence - period between testaments scroll with lock
Day 27: Annunciation - Luke 1 Angel
Day 28: Birth of Jesus - Luke 2 Manger
Day 29: Boyhood in Egypt - Matt. 2/Luke 2 Pyramid
Day 30: Baptism - Luke 3 Dove
Day 31: Temptation - Luke 4 Snake
Day 32: First miracle - John 2 Wine barrel
Day 33: Sermon on the mount - Matt. 5-7 Candle
Day 34: Do not worry - Matt. 6:26-34 Lily
Day 35: Feeding the 5000 - Matt. 14:13-21 Basket with loaves and fish
Day 36: Walking on water - Matt. 14:22-36 Waves
Day 37: Rich young ruler - Matt. 19:13-30 Needle
Day 38: Woman at the well - John 4 Well
Day 39: Raising of Lazarus - John 11 figure wrapped in cloth
Day 40: Palm Sunday - Matt. 21 Palm branch (Note that I made a date palm frond and not a fan palm branch.)
Day 41: Cleansing the Temple - Mark 11 Whip
Day 42: Jesus anointed - John 12 Perfume jar
Day 43: Judas plots - Matt. 26 Money bag
Day 44: Last supper - Luke 22 Loaf and cup
Day 45: Crucifixion - Luke 23 Cross
Day 46: Mystery Saturday - 1 Peter 3: 18-22 No ornament
Day 47: Easter - Mark 16 Empty Tomb

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Blessed, blessed sleep

One baby was up once last night. I think I can go on with life. Starting Saturday night (the first night J. was gone, of course) the babies started in on a non-sleeping stint. By the time J. arrived home on Monday I think I had had 5 hours of sleep. The next two nights were only slightly better. I was running a huge sleep deficit and only able to do the necessities. Plus, I was not the most patient person in the world. But now with over 7 hours of sleep in one night, I feel like a new person and am able to function (and blog) again. Ahhhhh...

So what's been going on the past few days? Well, my bloggy friend, Ann, and I had our first long-distance book club meeting. It was great to talk in real life and we had a good discussion about the book we read, The Map of Love. Next up is The Help.

Since yesterday was Ash Wednesday, today we are officially into Lent. In our home, that means we bring out the Lenten devotional we do every year as a family. First, I needed to find some pussy willow branches:

These are beautiful...and huge! I'm not quite sure where I'm going to end up setting them. They need to be at eye level, but high enough to keep little curious fingers away because each day we hang one of these ornaments on them:

There is one ornament for each day of Lent. At dinner each night we read a Bible passage and then hang the ornament that corresponds to what we read. By the time we reach Easter, we have covered, in a cursory fashion, much of the Bible. I made these years ago, basing my ideas on the Lenten devotional I found in the book, No Ordinary Home. When we began, none of the children knew how to read, and now we have children who can take turns reading the Bible passages. It has become a wonderful family tradition.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Works in Progress

J. was gone with B. all weekend on a Boy Scout camp out, so the rest of us here had a quiet weekend at home. I took the opportunity to do some sewing and start some projects that I wanted to work on.

When I came across this pattern for knitted log cabin washcloths, I was consumed with the need to make them. Here is the first one, with the colors I will be using; the blue will be the outer rectangles. Evidently I have difficulties with things that are supposed to be easy. These washcloths are all done in garter stitch, meaning that it is all knitting, no purling needed. Well, yesterday, I was happily knitting away, when I stop and really look at what I've done. I guess I have made too many items in stockinette stitch because without realizing it, that's what I started doing halfway through. I had to stop and unknit (ugh!) back to the garter stitching.

I also worked on some more hats. Here G. is modelling the hat I made to be sure the pattern still fit the babies' heads. I love how this turned out. I guess I will put it away for now. I have fantasies of someday opening an Etsy store. It would be nice to earn a little extra money doing something I enjoy.


These two pictures are of L. 'modelling' her hat. It's not quite done because I need to make and add some ties onto it. Pulling hats off her head has become a wonderful game.


G. makes a better model since she will leave the hat on her head, but I tend to end up with blurry pictures because she moves around so much. Here is her lining and bow; L. has a yellow lining and bow.
I also have some projects that I want to start. A. and P. really want sunhats of their own. But, before I can make them I have to fool around with the pattern and enlarge it to fit them. Then there are the slippers I found in Weekend Sewing that I want to make for them as well since they have outgrown their old slippers. And then there is this small teacup quilt (if you go to the link, scroll down the sidebar) that I want to make. I have become obsessed with the idea of quilting and want to teach myself how.

These girls are a couple of my favorite works in progress. They turn 8 months old today and I have a feeling that they will be crawling before I announce their 9 month birthday. Here they are enjoying their valentines that their Grammy sent them.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Congratulations to the newest star scout

Last night B. advanced to star scout at his troop's court of honor. We're very proud of him. (Just ignore the duct taped shoes, OK?) It does make for some sewing for me. I tend to put-off sewing on scout patches (both boy and girl) until the last minute. Which is why yesterday found me sewing many patches on both shirt and merit badge sash. The merit badges are fine; they'll stay where they are. But because B. has advanced far enough, he is entitled to wear a dark green scout shirt now. (It's how his troop designates the boys in leadership positions.) This means all those patches I sewed on for the court of honor will now need to be taken off and sewn on his new green shirt. I think it's time for B. to learn to do a bit of sewing.

B.'s troop also celebrated it's 95th birthday last night, making it one of the oldest troops in the country. (Boy Scouts is celebrating it's 100th birthday in the US this year.) It was fun to look at the slides of what our town looked like 95 years ago. Our ties to this city (and surrounding area) run deep. My grandmother along with her parents lived here at about the same time the troop was formed and J.'s great-grandparents were in the process of moving from Chicago to an area farther north. It's neat to see our son be a part of the continuation of this long history.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Hard tack for lunch, anyone?

Today we were reading about the life of the troops who fought in the Civil War. And since one can hardly learn about troop life without also learning about Hard Tack, we decided to make some for ourselves.

A. mixing up the flour and water. Do you like her new glasses? Thanks to our anonymous gift-giver at Christmas, we were able to get A. some much needed new glasses. I like them, but they make her look a lot more grown-up than her last pair did.

Taking (scraping, more like) the Hard Tack off the pan.



The babies wanted to be a part of things, too, and happily waved their Hard Tack around, though didn't try to taste it. Here's M. and L.


And in case anyone was concerned that all these poor children had for lunch was tooth breaking Hard Tack, never fear, a regular lunch was consumed by all. This could be one of my last posts on the Civil War. We have 6 lessons left before I call it done. And for the curious, M. and B., my high schoolers, have not been studying the Civil War with us. They have both been focusing on the Enlightenment for history since they are responsible for teaching four lessons each in our history co-op. (M. taught about Thomas Paine last week and B. teaches about Daniel Defoe tomorrow.) Since M. has been studying American history on her own and B. has a natural interest in the Civil War (and probably knows more than any of us right now), the three of us (M., B., and myself) have been working our way through the Ken Burns series on the Civil War. This is one of the things I love about homeschooling...the education I'm giving myself as well as my children. I am learning far more about the Civil War than I ever learned before...and finding it more interesting than I initially thought it would be.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Scripts for life

I don't know about you, but I often find that my children need coaching in using appropriate language in their interactions with others...especially other family members. More than a few times in a day I discover that I am performing monologues for my children to feed them the correct response. For instance, when I ask P. to empty the dishwasher for me, sometimes her response is a perturbed sigh. To which I respond, "Oh, you mean, 'Of course, Mother dear. I'd be happy to help. Is there anything else I could do for you?' " I rarely get the 'Mother dear' part repeated, though.

This morning, TM accidentally ran the laundry basket into D., which provoked tears and an angry accusation of, "Owwwww! TM hit me really hard!" TM immediately reacted with, "No I didn't!" Having been on the scene for this particular altercation, I knew it was an accident, so was able to give them each their new script. D., you mean, "TM, that really hurt when you ran the basket into me." And TM, you mean, "I'm sorry, D. It was an accident; I didn't mean to hurt you. Are you OK?"

I also find I do this with some of my children who are not so adept at expressing their feelings and desires. A couple of weeks ago, B. came up to me while I was sewing and asked where M. was. I said she was with a friend and then they were going to youth group. B.'s response was, "Oh" with a rather hang-dog expression. But I have become practiced in reading his non-existent super-titles, so I asked, "You mean, gee, I kind of wanted to go to youth group, too?"

B. -- "Yeah, what time is it?" with a continuing hang-dog expression.

Me -- "You mean, since it's already begun, maybe you could drive me?

B. -- "Yeah." And we hopped in the car and I took him to youth group, though I couldn't help but add the question of, "Wouldn't that have been easier if you had just asked if you could go to youth group and could I give you a ride?"

Since so many of my children excel at memorizing great numbers of words for plays, seemingly with very little effort, I have thought of making my own family script book for them. You know, each page would have a subject, such as, 'Words for when someone hurts your feelings' or 'What to say when asked to help' Think of the time I would save when I could just refer them to a page number. B., go read page 7 on asking for assistance and get back to me. Of course this only works for the reading members of the family. Until such time, I guess I will just continue my lonely monologues of polite, kind, and caring speech.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Cute babies are better than taxes

I've spent the day (finally) sorting through piles of papers, making lists, and doing everything that has to be done before we can start filling out tax forms. And because no one enjoys doing tax stuff, much less reading about someone else doing taxes, I have more baby pictures for you.

L. is in blue and G. is in pink. These are little dresses that my mom cross-stitched for M. when she was a baby. I'm quite sure she had no idea she was creating coordinating twin outfits as she was working on them.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Choosing joy

Boy, I've been quite the happy camper over the past week or two, haven't I? It is so easy to fall into the habit of complaining and worrying. I'm particularly prone to worry. If I were Anne Shirley, I would most likely call it my besetting sin. It's as if I believe somewhere deep down, that if I worry about something enough, I can stop it from happening...that to not worry shows distinct irresponsibility. The rational part of my brain knows this is ridiculous, but it is often shouted down by my more irrational side.

But, worrying is really merely symptom of a much larger problem. I believe it shows a fundamental lack of faith. If I say I believe God will take care of me, but continue to worry, do I really believe that God will do as He says? Of course, the other side to this is will I like how God chooses to take care of me? I know I do not always know what is best for me, but am I going to like what is best, at least in the short-term? Recently I have been feeling like a small child, alternately pouting and raging at my Father trying to get what I want. And the ridiculous part is that I'm not even sure what it is I want. I know I want us to be out from under these grinding taxes. But I'm not sure I really want that bad enough to give up this house. But often the house itself is a huge source of worry....leaking roof, bad plaster because of leaking roof, bathroom which needs to be reconnected to the water source, two third floor rooms which are completely uninhabitable, the list could go on and on. Do we really want to spend all our extra income on a house? I go back and forth. One day I'm ready to call the realtor. The next day I think there must be some way to come up with the extra money because I can't imagine living somewhere else. But the day after that, I'm thinking perhaps moving to another part of the country might be exciting. Sometimes this process happens hour by hour instead of day by day. Let's just say I'm not doing a very good job of waiting patiently for the Lord. I know that at some point He will incline to me and hear my cry, but we're evidently still in the waiting patiently part of the verse.

Since whining, pouting, and worrying have not been overly successful, I guess I will have to move on to a more Scriptural way to deal with my anxiety and worry. I have a friend who uses a great line when faced with less than desirable situations. She will announce, "I'm going to choose joy." I'm learning that like love, joy is more than just how one feels. It is a conscious choice to act and behave in a certain way. So, I will take a page from her book and I'm going to choose joy and thankfulness. I am going to try and focus on all the things I have to be joyful and thankful about every time the panic I have about the future threatens. At the beginning, this could be a fairly constant process.

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made know to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-7

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Tell me again why we live here...

I have just returned from our branch library because I had to renew my library card. As I mentioned before, there had been a large movement to save the branch libraries from the budget chopping block. We had all been breathing a sigh of relief, because from all indications, the city council was willing to finance them for one more year while alternate funding was secured. Imagine my surprise when the librarian informs me that last night the city council did a complete reverse face and voted to close the branches. By the end of the month they will both be gone.

As my city services dwindle and my tax bill grows, I am starting to wonder why it is we live here. Well, there's the lake...that's nice in the summer. Though to enjoy the beaches I must buy $20 per person beach tokens. The schools are good, but that doesn't really affect us. It's very diverse, if you count overall population, but so are the areas to west and south of us. It just makes me wonder if putting our house on the market would truly be the worst thing in the world. (I'm pretty sure having a house on the market with 9 children would rank right up there, though.) I don't even have the satisfaction of voting against my alderman in protest, since mine was one of three that voted to keep the libraries open.

And it's February. And it's snowing. Bah, humbug!

Monday, February 01, 2010

God's provision

I am always a little hesitant to share with everyone how God provides for us. It always feels a bit as though I'm bragging...which is exactly opposite of how I feel, which is completely humbled. I never feel deserving of the riches showered on us. But, I know I am encouraged by other's stories of provision, so with that in mind I'll share our most recent ones.

We are planning a trip to drive to Arizona to visit my parents this spring. It has been four years since we were last there and we're quickly getting to a point that we can't be sure our older children will be able to join us on long family trips. (Sniff.) And while in the great scheme of vacations a driving trip to stay with one's parents isn't hugely expensive, there are still hotels, gas, and meals to pay for along the way. It was adding to my worry about money in general. But yesterday, one of TM and D's Sunday school teachers offered us her hotel points. Thanks to her, we have hotels for at least one direction paid for. It's a huge relief.

Then this morning, M.'s uncle called and offered her his frequent flyer miles to pay for her round trip ticket to Orlando. It is (of course) perfect timing because we should be buying her plane ticket very soon.

I wish I had some terrific story about how our property taxes have been miraculously paid for, but they are still a source of a certain amount of panic for me. The issue of the taxes has really been on the top of my prayer list. I am taking it as a hopeful sign that the Scripture text for yesterday's service started out with the line, "Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due;" (Romans 13:7). I almost laughed out loud. If God wants us to pay our taxes, surely He must help us find a way to do so.

On a completely unrelated note...I finished the dresses I was working on for the babies. And none too soon; I'm not sure they will fit them in another week. But since the fabric cost me a whopping 50 cents at a garage sale, I'm not going to get too upset. L. is in the polka dots and G. is in the solid.

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