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Showing posts from January, 2011

Not so wonderful

It seems it is time to once again disabuse my readers as to my perceived wonderfulness.  Because it's just not true and I don't like to feel a fraud.  Also, I would hate to feel I was the cause of someone feeling badly about themselves because they were coming up short in the comparison game.  In the blog world, the reader will nearly always come up short because the truth is, the contest is rigged.  You only see what I choose to show you.  Everyone has a desire to put themselves in the best light possible and I am no different. 

When I post a photo, I don't choose the one that shows the pile of dirty dishes in the sink, or the counter that still contains remnants from Christmas, or the floor that has every single toy we own strewn across it.  Since blogs don't come with soundtracks, you can't hear the children bickering, or the child who is whining because he doesn't want to pick-up, or the mother shouting because once again she has lost all patience.  (Oh, h…

Real Cooking

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I know I write about cooking a lot.  While I really would rather be upstairs sewing (wait 'til you see what I'm currently working on), I have a houseful of people who need to be fed.  Since it's something that has to be done, I might as well make it interesting... and yummy.

One of my Christmas presents last month was the book, The Lost Art of Real Cooking by Ken Albala and Rosanna Nafziger.  I love this book.  I mean, how can you not love a cookbook with this paragraph in the introduction?

"The premise of this book is a simple one.  For the past half century, Americans have been convinced that cooking is drudgery, an odious task to be avoided at any cost, so that time might be freed up to do other more Important things.  We were enticed with a constant stream of ingenious gadgets meant to make our lives easier, as well as products cheerfully advertised as being Quick, Convenient, and Simple to prepare.  For the sake of saving labor, these new products were highly pro…

Need a break from the intensity

I can't keep up this level of intensity, so I'm doing a fun and frivolous post.  And what's more fun and frivolous than cookies?  These are the cookies we've been eating here for the past couple of days.  A. and TM decided they really needed to bake cookies on Tuesday and these are the ones they made.  I don't know what their official name is, but we call them Doreen Cabianca's Sugar Cookies around here.  She was the mother of one of my best friends in grade school.  I believe the story goes that I had them at my friend's house and raved so much about them that my mother asked for the recipe.  Oh, and one important note if you're going to make them.  DO NOT think that you can substitute all butter instead of the butter and shortening combination.  Because if you do, you will not have cookies. Instead, you will end up with a baking sheet of flour-y melted butter that you have to throw out.  Trust me, I know.

Doreen Cabianca's Sugar Cookies

1/2 C butte…

Overwhelmed and humbled

That pretty much sums up how we've been feeling the past 24 hours.  We have heard from person after person who has been praying for our new little girl and from many other people who have spent time at Shepherd's Field and met and loved her as well.  It is no small thing to discover you are the answer to so many people's prayers, especially when that was never your purpose... we merely fell in love with a little girl.

The shock of it all is beginning to wear off and the stacks of paperwork on my desk (as well as my regular day-to-day responsibilities) are beginning to make themselves known.  I don't enjoy being knee-deep in paperwork, but I keep reminding myself that it is all worth it.  There are so many things we have yet to work out and decide... the whole money piece, travel logistics, bedroom logistics, medical care, etc.  It is a huge list and I become overwhelmed by it at times.  Once again, through the process of adopting, I'm sure I will find myself growin…

To God be the Glory, Great Things He Hath Done

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My life seems to mirror the hymn I teach my choir each year.  The year we waited and waited to bring K. home it was On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand.  The year I was pregnant with the twins?   Who knows, that year is a great big blank.  Last year, when I had two new darling babies it was Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.  This year we are doing the hymn in the post title and it couldn't be more true than today.

You see there is a little girl living in China whose picture I came across last month.  I wasn't really looking at lists of waiting children, especially waiting children in China.  We don't qualify because of family size and income.  But I couldn't get this little girl, who wanted  "mommy and daddy to love her and sing to her and cook her good food", out of my head.  No matter what I did, she wouldn't leave.  So J. and I decided to take the next step and when that next step was successful, we took the next one.  Which led to us submitting a Letter…

History Co-ops

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I had a couple people express interest in our history co-op so I'm afraid the rest of you are stuck with it as well.  As I have said, we have met with our history co-op for 12 years, meeting once a week for an hour and a half.  We have a six year cycle that moves us through the eras in history in chronological order, spending one year on each one:  Ancient Egypt; Ancient Greece; Ancient Rome; the Middle Ages; the Renaissance; and the Enlightenment.  We end the Enlightenment just after the American and French revolutions and then we head back to Egypt.  As families we each cover US history and the history of the 19th and 20th centuries on our own.

The Nuts and Bolts

We have always limited the group to five or six families.  This keeps the numbers at a manageable level but has enough parents (mothers in our case) so the teaching is not overwhelming.  When we first began, we had fewer and smaller children so we all met together as a group.  While the details have changed over time, ou…

Just some pictures

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Here is what I get to see all the time.  Isn't it sweet?  Even K. has Knuffle Bunny memorized now.  L. is sitting next to B and G. is on his lap.


And A. has been taking advantage of the little bit of hair G. and L. have on their head.  She has discovered if she uses rubber bands made for braces, she can get two little pony tails on G. and L.'s heads.  Here's G.:


And what happens not very long after her hair is done:


And here is L.:


Cooking with children

As my children grow older, I find more and more reasons to involve them in the activities of the kitchen.  The obvious reasons are that by doing so you are teaching them life skills which they will have for their entire lives; you are actually teaching nutrition as well as teaching cooking, and many studies have shown that children who help prepare food are more likely to be adventurous eaters.  And these are good and valuable reasons.  The added perk is that by teaching your children to cook, you can wake up on a Saturday morning when your husband has to be at work and your ten year old daughter can make pancakes for breakfast without any assistance what so ever, freeing you up to get small people dressed.  I must add that this was a first for P. on Saturday morning.  While she had helped A. make pancakes before, she had never done it solo.  A. was at a sleepover, so P. was on her own.  She did a great job.

But it is the unexpected reason that I found myself focusing on today and tha…

Day of oranges

If we had a day of apples in the fall, it seems only fair that we have a day of oranges in the winter.  B. and I are spending the afternoon today making marmelade... a first for us.  My parents sent us a 40# box of oranges last week, and though everyone has been eating the oranges to their heart's content, we still have a lot left.  B. has been wanting to make marmelade for a while, so that's the plan.  Perhaps I'll have pictures for you on Monday if we're successful.

Looking forward to the weekend...

Because I have nothing planned and I can catch-up on all the things that didn't get done this week.  It was one of those nutty weeks that start out normally enough, but then spiral out of control when all sorts of last minute things which need attention RIGHT NOW (yes, they scream) come up.  I got it all done, but feel as though I just managed to get everyone fed and that's it.  For instance, right now, A. is borrowing some of my clothes because of the dire laundry situation.

One of the things I thought of writing about this week was the long-running history co-op we've been in for the past 12 years.  Obviously, I didn't get around to it, but then that led me to wondering if other people would find it interesting and/or helpful.  So, because, it seems at this moment I currently have nothing to say and am just rambling, I ask you, my readers, would any of you be interested in reading about this?  Or should I just move onto other topics, like more cute baby toddler pictu…

Thursday Homeschool Resource Day - Link Up - Big Book of Books

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We've been spending a lot of time working on our lap books about planets.  Consequently, we've been spending time making many little books to go in the lap books and I've been spending a lot of time perusing Dinah Zike's Big Book of Books.  I always forget how much is in this book and I'm always inspired after looking through it.  It is filled with ideas for making little books and stands and manipulatives for learning.  See the mobile in the picture at the top?  It's difficult to see, but it is a mobile of the solar system that A. decided to make after flipping through the Dinah Zike's book.  (She has started a Great Courses DVD series on astronomy and so this project also fits in with that.)  It's not written specifically for lap books, but it contains great ideas which are easily transferable to lap books... or not if lap booking is not your thing. 

One of the things I've always loved in it are the directions for making a miniature bookcase fill…

Sometimes you just need a new family picture which includes everyone

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And my trick for getting everyone's cooperation?  Fix their favorite dinner, then before serving insist we take the picture with threats of no yummy dinner hanging in the air.  It seems they'll do anything... even look at the camera and smile... if it means they get to eat sausage gravy and biscuits.

Oh, and Happy Birthday to my brother!

Boys who build

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My parents gave TM and D. a pair of really cool building sets for Christmas.  They are a little trickier to build with than Legos, but as a result the item which is built is quite a bit more stable.  (Raise your hand if a child has come running to you to show you his or her newest creation only to have it break apart before you got to see it.)  TM in particular has really taken to building with this new toy.  Not only has he been able to build things for which he has instructions, but he has also been able to look at pictures on the box (for which there are no instructions... why?) and build those as well.  This crane falls in the second category:  built only with a picture to look at.  D. helped out by holding and following TM's directions.
Here it is with the hook down:

And up:


The boys both say, "Thank you Grammy and Grandpa!"

Adoption

I know this isn't November any longer and that it isn't National Adoption Month, either.  But I realized that I never posted the article about adoption I wrote for our church's newsletter.  (I know it was in some other church's newsletters around the country as well.)  Plus, it's a really easy post for me since it was already written.

November is National Adoption Month. In observance, I would like to share a story about some friends in Michigan. Kim and Ben are a couple in love with Jesus. They are so overwhelmed by Jesus’ love for them that they can’t help but share that love with other people. They have big hearts. It is the only explanation that can be offered for what I’m about to share with you. Kim and Ben have 10 children. All ten children are adopted (Korea, Liberia, China, and domestic), and some of them come from very hard places. This alone would make Kim and Ben fairly remarkable. But there is more to their story. This past July, they became aware of a …

Stuffed spinach pizza

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For the first time in a long time I made stuffed spinach pizza for dinner.  Why had it been so long?  Well, because I had only one 14 inch deep dish pizza pan and one pizza, even really rich and filling pizza, doesn't serve 11 people.  In order to facilitate the homemade pizza making, J. found another pizza pan for me.  With two pans I can go back to stuffed pizza making.  I love this because these two pizzas filled everyone up at dinner and had enough left over to fill everyone up at lunch.  Did I mention it was rich and filling?

Would you like the recipe?  You will need a 14 inch deep dish pizza pan to make it.  And make no mistake, this is not deep dish pizza, it's real stuffed pizza with two crusts filled with lots of cheese and covered with tomato sauce.  I started with the recipe that came with my first pizza pan and kept experimenting and changing it until I came as close as I could to our favorite take-out stuffed pizza.

Stuffed Spinach Pizza - makes on 14" pizza…

A little story about a little owl

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When I was a very little girl, I had been out doing errands with my mother and in the course of these errands, she bought me a little ceramic owl.  I don't remember it being bought, but I remember coming home with it... it was so cute and I was so happy to have it.  Happy to have it that is until I accidentally dropped it and part of its head broke.  I was understandably upset and my mother carefully picked up the pieces and glued his little head back together.  The problem was that some pieces had shattered and so he was left with a small hole in the back of his head.  Gluing the pieces back didn't cut it for me.  I didn't think he was as cute anymore and I didn't want him unless he was like he was before, and I told my mother so.  In a moment of parenting brilliance, my mother told me it was too bad I couldn't love something that wasn't perfect, and said she would take the owl for herself.  And she did, taking it from my hands and carefully putting it on the …

Thursday Homeschool Resource Day - Link up - Babybug

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First off, both my commenters on yesterday's post were correct and can claim bragging rights.  "Wumpy flappy" is from Knuffle Bunny by Mo Willems.  "Wumpy flappy" is what Trixie says to her father when she discovers that her rabbit, Knuffle Bunny, is lost.  (She follows it up wuth "snurp" if your curious where that came from.)  Anyway "wumpy flappy" is now our family's code for I'm upset and no one is understanding me.  Plus it's just fun to say.

Now on to this week's resource, this time for the youngest children.  Are you familiar with the Cricket Magazine Group?  They have many different magazines for all ages which are well-done and advertising free.  We have subscribed to many of them over the years, but today I want to focus on Babybug magazine.  This came to mind as I was reading an issue to G. and L.  They love these magazines.  They are on heavy cardstock so they can withstand some pretty heavy use and are beautifull…

Wumpy flappy... or reading together

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(Bragging rights to a superior knowledge of children's pictures books goes to the first person who can correctly identify the quote in the title.  I'll tell you what it is tomorrow... oh, and my children are excluded, just so they know.)

If you're already convinced about the necessity and benefits of reading to your children, even after they can read themselves, then you can either skip this post, or read it and nod knowingly.  You already know that reading books together is good not only for your children but for the whole family.  Each family has its own distinct culture, a culture comprised of shared memories, traditions (or lack of), habits, beliefs, and language.  The more shared memories and traditions, the richer the culture and the richer the family life.

Reading books and stories together is a way to create shared memories and language.  Our family has a host of phrases which we have picked-up from various books we have read together.  All it takes is for someone …

More mask making

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M. enjoyed making the masks for the front yard theatricals so much that I thought I would give her some supplies and how-to books as a Christmas gift.  So over Christmas break P. volunteered to be her first model.  This required her having her face covered in Vaseline and then wrapped in plaster tape to make the base for the mask.  Here is the result:

And from the side:

Not bad for a first try, huh?

My new sewing area

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See what J. built for me?  It's a new sewing table.  My old one was just a small folding sewing table that didn't really have enough room for all my machines and it was always a bit of a puzzle to figure out how to move them around so I could use both of them.  But now any longer.  Now I have a sewing table that both machines fit on and I can get the embroidery unit on and off my sewing machine without having to move the serger.  Plus, there are shelves underneath to keep the things I use all the time close at hand.  Bliss.  (Just pretend you don't notice the peeling, curling wallpaper in background, OK?

And not only do I have a new sewing table, I also have new shelves to store my extra sewing supplies so I don't have to have stuff piled on the sewing table.  That basket on the floor is my mending which I am working my way through.  It had kind of piled-up from when the babies were smaller.


Here's a picture of the entire corner.  I spent Saturday afternoon organiz…

Twin pics

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G. and L. actually did some posing for pictures.  You have to be fast, though, because they stand very briefly and then they run toward you to see the picture of themselves on the camera.  G. with the orange lid and L. with the blue.



Reading list

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I've seen a lot of people posting on their blogs about what books they plan on reading in the coming year and I realize I've never done a list like that.  I don't even wonder at the reasons why... I know all too well why I don't.  You see the minute I make a list of books I "need" to read, even if they are books I am interested in, all desire to read them suddenly goes out the window.  Those become the books I precisely do not want to read and I'll go in search of something else.  Nutty, I know.  It's also why I always worked so much more diligently in college on the classes I was auditing than the ones I was taking for credit.  The other reason I don't make a yearly reading list is that it wouldn't really be a yearly list, but more like a couple of months reading list.  This isn't meant to brag, but I read very quickly and I read a lot.  It's just how I am.  I cannot conceive of trying to make a list that would last me the entire year…

Back in the saddle

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Thanks for everyone's kind comments on my last post.  I'm feeling a bit better.  Fatigue makes it difficult to sustain the energy needed to constantly go against the flow of life.

Now, on to my real post, which I planned on titling:  User Error, part 1 in a series

As I've grown older and raised children to functioning young adulthood, I have become more and more opinionated about various parenting choices.  And I've come to the conclusion that some choices are just wrong.  This is a very unpopular statement these days.  We are so open-minded and accommodating and willing to accept everyone's personal choices that we are uncomfortable coming out and saying that there are some things that are just wrong.  But they are.  And this is what this series, as I get around to writing each segment, is to be about. 

My first example has to do with who is ultimately in control of a household, the parents or the children, because the adults in the house have abdicated their …

Tilting at windmills

We all have different social circles where we function, consisting of different groups of friends and different focuses and different viewpoints.  I realize there are very few of my social circles where I am not the odd one... whether for our family size, educational choices, views on parenting, you name it.  Usually, I am OK with my perceived weirdness and it wouldn't be a stretch to say that in many ways I both embrace and cultivate it.  But, sometimes it gets tiring.  It gets tiring to be the lone voice for a particular viewpoint.  It gets tiring to always have one's differences pointed out.  It gets tiring to advocate for making choices that are out of the mainstream when no one even perceives there are choices to be made.  It gets tiring to be the freak.

In case you haven't figured out my trick to keeping up a blog with so many children at home, I do it by writing posts ahead of time.  So, while you're reading this on the 5th, I am actually writing it the night be…

Inefficiency

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Recently I keep coming across references to the inefficiency of life.  First it was in Keeping House: The Litany of Everyday Life by Margaret Kim Peterson and most recently it was in The Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto.  Disparate books to be sure, but both making the same point in their own way.  And that point is that life is inherently inefficient, even though we devote much of our lives to trying to make it efficient, and are often disappointed in the results.

As much as life is inefficient, raising children, making a home for them, and educating them is even more so.  I believe that much of the frustration of parenting stems from this one simple fact.  We expect to be able to order our lives in an efficient manner and that often extends to our children as well.  And there is nothing so frustrating as when things don't meet with our expectations.  A perfect example of this is trying to get anywhere with a toddler.  The key to sanity is to allow e…

Showing off more new dresses

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Before Christmas I came across directions for turning a woman's turtleneck sweater into a cowl-neck baby dress.  Because I was sewing pajamas during the entire month of December I didn't get a chance to try it until this past week.  But I made up for lost time, not only did I make two dresses, but I turned some extra sweater bits into matching hats and embroidered snowflakes on them as well.  (There is also a small purse, also with an embroidered snowflake that I'm going to finish and put in the shop, but it's not done yet.)  I should have taken pictures of the sweaters before I cut them up, but let's just say they are in a much nicer form now.  G. and L. wore them to church yesterday and when we came back home I tried to get some pictures of the girls wearing them.  No mean feat, let me tell you.  G. is in red and L. is in black.  And I should have rolled L.'s sleeves back down, but didn't notice it until I was uploading these pictures.  L.'s sleeves u…