Saturday, April 30, 2011

Work 5 days and rest for 2? Thoughts about the weekend and the Sabbath

I've been thinking about my expectations about the "weekend" for a while now.  It actually stems out of thinking about what the Sabbath is and how we observe it in our family.  (Ideas that have evolved over time... I've been working on this since M. and B. were little.)  And I've come to the conclusion that we get weekend and Sabbath a little mixed-up.

At least I had.  There is such an aura that surrounds our thinking about the weekend.  It's as if there is this expectation that it is two days of play, involving no work, and what we spend our week looking forward to.  The implication of this is that there is little good or enjoyable about the days of Monday through Friday, but that they are a necessary evil to get through in order to enjoy our weekend.

By buying into this (even if unconsciously), the weekend, instead of being the whirlwind of fun we expect, more often becomes two days of disappointment and short-tempers.  When expectations are too high, it is too easy to fall short of them.  And it is too easy to overbook ourselves as well, adding exhaustion into the mix.  I have found that to enjoy these two days, I had to change what my assumptions were about them.

First off, my thinking was wrong when I believed that Saturday should be a day of rest as well.  Households do not function well if there are two days off.  There is just too much that needs to be done on a daily basis to take two days off from it.  And I have found, the more behind I feel, the less satisfying I find life in general. 

Once I dismissed the idea of resting on Saturday,  it turned my whole way of thinking around.  Instead of being dissatisfied that I was missing out on something if I was laboring, I instead began to view Saturday as a day to do bigger projects that I don't have time for on a regular weekday.  It is also the day when we clean our house so that we start the new week neat and orderly. Everyone pitches in and does their own job and by the end of the day the house is relatively clean.  Of course, since everyone is cleaning, it means that J. and I are also doing supervising and being sure that the jobs have been done well.  Sometimes we do have to send a child back to redo a job.

Which brings me to Sunday.  Over the years we have been working on what observing a Sabbath rest looks like.  As of right now, this involves worship, forgoing usual household tasks (mainly this means laundry and cleaning... though we still fix food, load the dishwasher, and things of that sort), spending time together as a family, and doing things we enjoy doing.  We also try to keep computers turned off... though sometimes something will come up and we will need to turn one on briefly.  I have found this last item to be both the most challenging and the most beneficial.  It makes me realize how much I use the computer during the day and I find leaving it off to be refreshing.  There also have been seasons where we try to invite people over for Sunday dinner.  This has been more or less successful depending on many factors and probably worthy of a post of its own.

I realize that as I think about these things that changing our ideas about work and rest are at the root.  Too often we don't see the pleasure in working (thus our ambivalence about the work week) and don't see the necessity of working at resting (it can take some effort to really allow ourselves to rest from our labors). 

So, I will now go back to my labors in order to be free to rest tomorrow.  I am always curious about how other families observe the Sabbath.  What do you do?

Friday, April 29, 2011

Therapeutic sewing

I spent a good chunk of yesterday doing some therapeutic sewing.  What is that you ask?  It's when I retreat to my room and spend time doing something that I find enjoyable and relaxing and gives me some quiet time to pray while I work as well.  There are just some days when the world seems so not right.  I have friends who are facing personal health concerns, friends who are facing serious health concerns for their children, and my heart is heavy for those who lost everything in the tornadoes.  Plus we still don't have a completed home study and I get depressed when I think about all the hoops that set of papers has to go through before we can even submit our dossier to China and begin that waiting.  And since yesterday it was cold, cloudy, and rainy for the millionth day in a row (OK, not the millionth, it just felt like it), it all adds up to a disheartening day.

So I forgot about working in the kitchen and headed upstairs to sew instead.  And while sewing is usually relaxing, yesterday it wasn't.  It was probably because the the project I chose to work on.  I'm drafting a pattern for a wrap shirt that I want to turn into a wrap dress.  It had been so long since I last worked on it that I had forgotten everything I had done and had to spend a lot of time refiguring things out.  The refiguring involved a lot of seam ripping as well.  Ugh.

But, one of the reasons I like sewing is that with enough work, I can usually get something to a point where I'm happy with it.  (And it will stay like that.  I won't have to go back and redo it.  Again.  And again.)  By the time I was done, I wasn't even sure what size it was going to turn out to be.  (My pattern drafting is more guesswork than science at this point... I truly don't know what I'm doing half the time.)  Turns out it's a 2T.  Very convenient since that's what size the girls are.  Here is the finished product:

If you click on the picture you can see a bigger version.  The print is all sorts of different desserts.  Plus I made my bias tape to edge it.  (I'm getting a lot of use out of that thrifted tablecloth... one apron, two ties, and now several yards of bias tape.)  I'm pretty happy with how it turned out.  The trouble is, I only had enough of the fabric to make one shirt.  So, into the shop it goes.

I just realized that I never linked here to the last three articles I had published on the wonderful web.  Here they are:

Grade School:  10 Things Your Kids Can and Should Do
Middle School:  10 Things Your Kids Can and Should Do
High School: 10 Things Your Kids Can and Should Do

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Twin things

Decorating eggs -- G.


I've been meaning to write about this for a few days.  Watching G. and L. grow and develop is so interesting because of the added relationship between the two girls.  I don't ever get tired of watching them interact.  Plus we now have the added entertainment of them both acquiring language.  G.  has been talking up a storm for a while now, but L. has started to get in on the game as well.  I find it particularly cute that they now say each other's name. 

Of course, this also adds some complications.  G. has become very concerned with what things belong to which girl.  (L. does not seem to share her concern... perhaps because it seems that L. thinks of everything as hers.)  If we give G. the wrong cup or shoes, she will shout, "No! L.!" over and over.  It took us a few times of this to realize that she was complaining that we were giving her something that belonged to L. and not her own.  When this happened with shoes, I at first mistook G. to mean that L.'s shoes were, 'eww'.  But, really it meant that G. can't pronounce the 'sh' on the beginning of 'shoe' and that she was saying, "L.'s shoes".

Having them look quite a bit a like is also interesting.  All of us will still mistake one for the other occasionally, depending on what they are wearing and how fast we look at them.  (This doesn't happen very often, though.)  The thing I find most interesting is that they don't seem to know they look similar.  Each of them will correctly identify the other if asked who the other is.  G. will say L.'s name and L. will say G.'s name.  But we discovered, if they are looking in a mirror and are asked who is in the mirror, they will never say their own name, but the other's. I'm wondering at what point this will stop and they will start to recognize their reflection as them self.

They are such sweet, funny girls; I enjoy them immensely.  And it's a good thing they have become such good sleepers, because when they are awake they are busy, busy, busy.  Opening drawers, helping themselves, trying to do many things for themselves.  And what one doesn't think-up, the other does.  Someone always needs to be on G. and L. duty to keep an eye on what they're up to. 

But we are so, so blessed to have them.  And now they can blow kisses.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Family togetherness

The All-in-a-Day Moms are discussing family togetherness today, so I thought I'd join in.  The topic is a bit ironic, though, since it happens to be one of those days where I feel as though a little less family togetherness might not be a bad thing.  The past 24 hours have been rife with less than wonderful behavior (and I am certainly including myself in there) and I feel despair trying to creep in.  Some days it feels as though not only will we never make progress, but we are going backwards. 

But that's all a part of it, this family-togetherness-thing, isn't it?  Getting along with other people when you only see them for bits at a time is easy compared to getting along with family members with whom you spend the bulk of your day, every day.  If we can learn to treat our family members with kindness and patience and grace then we can probably treat just about anyone that way.

What is it about sibling relationships that they can be so tricky?  I want my children to be good friends.  I want them to have relationships now that enable them to be good friends when they are adults.  J. and I are both blessed to have good relationships with all of our brothers and sisters, but I have friends who cannot say the same.  Hurts inflicted in childhood do affect adult relationships.

That is why we try to be vigilant with how are children treat and act toward one another.  We do not want any of our children to feel bullied by another; we do not want one child to feel the scapegoat for everyone else; we do not want a child to always feel odd-man out.  For the most part I think we are successful.  But there are days, which for one reason or another, I wonder if we are even coming close to getting it right.

When I get to a point like this, where I am focusing on the negatives, I become like Frances when her new baby sister is born and start to think, "Things aren't very good around her anymore."  Once you start looking for the bad stuff, that is all you begin to see.  I need to shift my focus.

Because, in general, family togetherness if wonderful.  We have fun together, we enjoy each other's company, we care for each other, and we love each other.  We're just not perfect... and my perfectionist nature doesn't always accept that.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Spring break recap

We're back to our regular schedule today with the official end of our spring break.  (I included Easter Monday in our vacation... because I can.)  Out of curiosity, I kept a running list of all the things I noticed my children doing throughout the week while we weren't doing our regular schoolwork.  I found it interesting and thought you might as well. 

In no particular order (and with no identification of the child or children involved... it was spread pretty evenly across the group), here are the things I noticed my children doing:

--Watched Finding Nemo in French
--Wrote a pen pal letter
--Did Rosetta Stone Vietnamese
--Attended painting class
--Painted (both watercolor and acrylic)
--Played Battleship
--Read The Hiding Place
--Attended theater class and memorized lines
--Learned how to cut-out a sewing pattern
--Sewed two fabric pouches
--Discussed perspective
--Made geo-boards with scrap wood and nails
--Made a book about different auto makers using magazines to cut-out pictures
--Read many books (independent reading)
--Made a comic strip
--Talked about different artists and their painting style based on an illustration in a picture book
--Listened to chapter books
--Practiced harp
--Played with the Leap Pad
--Listened to Adventures in Odyssey
--Wrote a mystery
--Made cookies (making cut-outs independently for the first time)
--Learned about the Library of Congress
--Learned about the origin of the word 'drone'
--Journal writing
--Watched B. open his hive and saw drones, a queen, and workers
--Had bike races
--Made bread
--Made Monkey Bread
--Read book on D-Day
--Attended Good Friday Workshop and worship service
--Played Mille Bournes
--Played Mysterious Island
--Learned to play Dutch Blitz
--Made a school bus out of egg cartons
--Drew chalk pictures
--went to the library
--spent an entire day reading new library books

I was actually a little surprised at the length of the list and know I either forgot or didn't notice things.  I guess when I say we are going to start school again, what that really means is that we are going back to doing math and grammar out of a textbook, along with some other stuff.  But learning never really stops happening, does it?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter 2011

He is risen!

Breakfast table

TM and D. in the new ties I made them.

Looking inside baskets

He is risen indeed!



P. in her new dress.

He is risen!

G. (she was better about keeping the hat on)

G. and A. hunting eggs.


He is risen indeed!


B. helping L.


He is risen!


G. (on left) and L.

The empty tomb ornament on our Lenten tree.  (Really, it is.)

He is risen indeed!


Saturday, April 23, 2011

Preparing for Easter

Busy doings around here today.  There's bread baking...

and cleaning...

or not...

and tie finishing...

and linen ironing...

as well as egg boiling and decorating.  Plus it's a beautiful day and we're trying to enjoy being outside as much as possible.  B. decided today was a good day to open up the hive and see how the bees are doing.

Smoking the hive

B. the beekeeper

The upper super with the top off.

One of the frames... if you look on the left you can see a bit of comb started.

Another frame with some bees.

More frames inside the hive.  B. found the queen on the one you can see in the picture.

Everything looks good.  Lots of bees and comb and capped cells.  I'm so impressed with B. for taking this project on and all the work he has done on it.

As an aside, I also wanted to share a household tip with you.  If you have any linens to iron (napkins or tablecloths), the easiest way to do it is to wash the linens in hot water and send them through an extra spin.  Then take them out and iron them immediately while they are still damp.  The very hot iron dries the linens and irons them all at the same time.  I also do the same with my high thread count cotton tablecloths (including using the very hot iron).  Oh... and while I inherited some of my linen, much of it I bought at rummage sales for very little money.  Keep your eyes open if you have always wanted some.  Linen napkins have a lovely, dressy feel and are really very durable and easy to take care of.

While we do all of these preparations to get ready for Easter, it is merely because they help to make the day special and stand-out from other days in the year.  They are not the purpose of the celebration, but merely window-dressing to the real celebration of the empty tomb and the end of death.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday

Thank you for the cross Lord

Thank you for the price You paid

Bearing all my sin and shame

In love You came

And gave amazing grace

Thank you for this love Lord

Thank you for your nail pierced hands

Washed me in Your cleansing flow

Now all I know

Your forgiveness and embrace

Worthy is the Lamb

Seated on the throne

Crown You now with many crowns

You reign victorious

High and lifted up

Jesus Son of God

Darling of Heaven crucified

Worthy is the Lamb

Worthy is the Lamb


Homemaker's binder

I've been working on this for a while, and think I have something that works.  Of course, now everywhere I look, I see posts about different people's homemaking binders and my reactionary-ness almost made me not write about it.  But, perhaps someone will read this who hasn't read the same type of thing in a dozen different places and it may be useful.

So that incredibly inspiring photograph up there is my binder.  It's the 7x9 size, so half the size of a regular binder and easier to carry around.  This has been the other key way I've been able to keep my desk clean for two weeks now.  The binder is now the place I write down all the little things I didn't want to forget that I had scrawled on scraps of paper and strew across my desk.

Inside the binder I have lined paper, divider tabs and clear pockets.  I also have a small calendar I keep open and tucked in a pocket inside the back flap.  I use the divider tabs and clear pockets to divide the notebook into sections.  The first thing I see when I open it is the day's schedule.  (I'll explain each section in detail later.)  I then have my general morning check-list, followed by a list of current, general to-do items, and my evening check-list.  The next sections are as following:  homeschooling, books, hospitality, adoption, Monday-laundry, Tuesday-sewing, Wednesday-desk, Thursday-kitchen, and Friday-shopping.

I made these sections because these are the areas which I find myself making the most mental notes about.  I just can't keep it all in my head any longer.  (Actually, I couldn't keep it all in my head before and ended up forgetting a lot of things.)  I love having a place to write everything down where I know I'll find it again.  The whole thing makes me more relaxed.

So, a brief outline of what I do with each section:

Current day's schedule:  The night before I look at the calendar and my to-do lists and create the next day's schedule.  This helps me to remember what is coming up and what I need to get done.

Morning schedule:  This is in a plastic sleeve since it doesn't change (the plastic sleeves are for things that remain constant that I use as reference).  I don't look at it everyday, but it does help to have it written down.

General to-do list:  Things that don't require immediate action, but will need to be done.  It is the page I look at when I know there is something I could/should be doing, but can't think what it is.

Evening schedule:  Same as for the morning schedule.

Homeschooling:  I keep lists of what everyone is currently working on, plans for future projects, supplies/books we need, etc.  Really it's anything I need to remember having to do with school.

Books:  Library card numbers and passwords are listed and live in a plastic sleeve.  Then there is a place to write down all the books I hope to read someday.  Now, when someone gives me the name of a book, I have somewhere to write it so I can find it again.  This is especially helpful when I'm at the library and suddenly can't think of the name of a single book.

Hospitality:  Lists of people we would like to invite over, ideas for parties, food ideas, etc.

Adoption:  I'm still gathering a dossier together.  'Nuff said.

Monday-laundry:  Since I focus on one area each day of the week, it helps to remember from week to week what needs to be done next.  With the laundry, it's really just a matter of which special project I was hoping to get to... such as washing a comforter or working on getting a stain out of something or cleaning the laundry room.

Tuesday-sewing:  Lists of projects I want to make, supplies I need, bits of information I want to remember.

Wednesday-desk:  There always seems to be paperwork and this was often making up the bulk of any to-do lists.  This way I spend one day a week working on it.  I have a general list of what I need to do (filing, balancing checkbook, updating calendars, etc.) and I keep a running to-do list as well.  Need to write a thank you?  I put it on the list.  Copy and send in papers?  On the list.  Write our sponsored children?  On the list.  This one single area has been so helpful to get in hand.

Thursday-kitchen:  Lists of things that need to be done in the kitchen (or things I notice that need some cleaning).  For instance, if I notice I'm starting to run out of ground flour, I'll make a note to grind more flour on Thursday.

Friday-shopping:  Surprisingly, I don't keep my weekly grocery list here.  That system was worked out long ago and it's working so I don't want to mess with it.  I do keep a running list of all the things we need that are not available at the grocery store.  That way when I'm out, I can see exactly what we need and not have to guess.

I still have room to add other sections if I find I need them.  For instance, I think I'm going to make another section on the house... projects we need to do, things that need to be fixed, etc.  So far I'm happy with how it's working out.  I wish I could make it a bit smaller, but I finally gave up on finding a small enough binder which would allow me enough room to put in everything I wanted.  And really, I don't go that many places where I have to have it.  (I just don't go that many places, actually.  But don't worry, I'm OK with that.)

I may have to check back in six months from now and let you know if it's still working and what I would change, but for the moment I'm liking it.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Stopping to be thankful

Some days it's good just to stop and be thankful.  This is especially true when it feels as though there has been a whole string of things that could be the cause of a very bad week.  So...
  • Instead of being disappointed that several people have been under the weather during our spring break (and a little too full of goo), I will be thankful that we have easy access to medicine for the girl who has moved into ear infection territory.
  • Instead of being annoyed that the dryer quit working for a day, I will be thankful that J. was able to fix it cost free.
  • Instead of being worried and anxious about the paperwork to bring H. home, I will be (super) thankful that I have received several pictures of her enjoying a BBQ in the woods and dying Easter eggs.
  • Instead of being upset with the weather (snow in April?!), I will be thankful that today is a much better day and boys with too much energy can be outside.
  • Instead of being tired of the endless diapers, I will be thankful that I have the children that cause the need of them.
  • Instead of being angry at the high cost of gas, I will be thankful that I have a van which can carry us all.
  • Instead of becoming stressed about all that needs to be done for my family to celebrate Easter, I will be eternally thankful that we have a savior who conquered death and gives us a reason to celebrate.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Sewing patterns

You would think that makers of commercial sewing patterns would like to make the instructions as clear as possible so that the people who buy them have success and are more likely to buy more patterns.  Instead, I have come across more than a couple of patterns for the which instructions are written so poorly that I have trouble understanding what they want me to do... and I've been sewing for a while.

Take Butterick B5230, for instance.  A. is making M. a largish pillow as a belated birthday present and I was helping her figure out the pattern.  I sat reading the instructions and looking at the picture for a long time before I finally figured out what was going on.  With a couple more lines of explanation, the whole process would have been made clearer.  But it truly felt as if the person writing the instructions didn't really care whether the sewer has any success.  This is besides the fact that there were blatant errors in the written instructions as well.  This is not a complicated item to make (or explain how to make), but the instructions made it look like rocket science.

Do pattern companies really want to go out of business because of poor products?  Sometimes it certainly seems that way.

But there are some bright spots as well.  First there is a great site called Sewing Pattern Review.  If you want to look up a pattern before attempting it, you can read reviews of people who have actually sewn it.  The reviews say if a pattern fits true to stated size, whether the instructions were understandable, and a whole lot of other information.  It's kind of fun to browse around.

Second, some patterns are written well and go together easily... I don't want it to seem as though I'm bashing the entire industry.  Currently I'm making a new dress for P. for Easter using Simplicity 5234.  This is a pattern that I can whole heartedly recommend.  The instructions are pretty clear and it's going together easily.  Plus, it has no zipper or buttons, so for someone new, it removes those two tricky areas.  (And for those of us who can do zippers and buttons, it goes together super-fast.)

Really what I want to say is that if you have had a bad experience with a pattern and have decided as a result that there is something wrong with you and your abilities... I think you need to rethink that assumption.  Sometimes it's really just a bad pattern.  Try again.  You might discover sewing is something you can do. 

Because it's not that difficult.  Really.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Learning new things

When J. and I were first married, we were at a restaurant and noticed an older couple across the room.  As our dinner progressed, I became more and more distracted by these two people.  You see, for the entire duration of their dinner, neither of them said a word to each other.  They sat and ate and ate and sat.  It made me profoundly sad.  Had they been together for so long that they had nothing more to say to each other?  J. and I never seemed to run out of things to talk about; would this happen to us one day?  It's truly amazing the things I can find to worry about.

Well, I have crossed that worry off my list.  (Quite some time ago, actually.)  I don't think J. and I are in any danger of running out of conversation.  First, we have too many children for that to ever happen.  While we do talk about many things other than our children, they do take up a significant portion of our conversational topics.  But what about when all of our children are grown and out of the house?  What then?

I still don't think we will become the silent couple we saw in the restaurant all those years ago.  You see, both J. and I love to learn new things... and consequently read dozens of books in learning those new things.  We find plenty to talk about just sharing the new things we have learned or read about; often things that the other of us wouldn't have been drawn to.

Learning new things just makes life more interesting.  Sometimes when we are in the years of mothering young children, it can be easy to just do the 'have-to's' because it is both physically and emotionally demanding to parent this age.  But it is perhaps even more important to continue learning during this stage.  I've heard too many women complain that they feel they have lost their brains; maybe what society says is true:  that mothering is not terribly difficult and not a worthwhile way to spend one's time.  These women expressed the fear that being home with their children was making them brain dead.

It doesn't have to be this way!  Perhaps the baby and toddler years are not the best time for choosing to brush-up on ancient Greek literature; that would require more sustained reading time than mothers of young children generally have, but there are certainly a host of other things that can be learned.  During those early years of parenting I remember delving heavily into educational theory, literary theory of children's literature, and a whole host of memoirs about people who went to live off the grid in the woods.  I think this last category came about because my life suddenly seemed fairly easy in comparison.

The point is, it's good to keep learning things.  It keeps your brain active (and if the bulk of your reading recently has been celebrity magazines, it may take a little effort to make that brain work again) and it makes you a more interesting person... both to others and yourself.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Weekend pictures...

(Raising Homemakers readers -- the link on the link-up is bad and should have sent you here.  Sorry.)

or any excuse for a new dress.  Since it was Palm Sunday yesterday and the children in our church march in a palm processional, I thought it seemed like a good reason to make them (my little girls, not the palms) new dresses.  Here they are in their new togs (L. in purple trim, G. in red):

L. showing off the matching bloomers.  She also liked her bit of palm frond.

And because it's a bit difficult to see what the dresses actually look like on two moving children.  Here is a picture of just the dresses:

The print is of a vintage drawing of children painting eggs.

The other thing I did yesterday was to create a pattern block of a pair of pants to fit M.  Well, I hope they fit M.; I've never done this before.  Being a strong believer in the theory that if I read how to do something in a book, I should be able to do it myself, I dove in following the pretty detailed directions in Design-it-Yourself Clothes: Patternmaking Simplified.   This is our spring break and I have great sewing plans, fussing with this pattern being one of them.  (If you're wondering why I'm doing this, it's because M. has very long legs and it is extremely difficult to find pants which fit her correctly.  Part of it has to do with desperation!)

(Boy, I didn't look at this photo before I uploaded it.  The pattern is upside down.)

And in my continuing quest to prove to everyone that life around here is not perfect, I present the handiwork of someone, we're are not sure who.  When we asked G., she immediately said her sister's name, and when we asked L., she did a magnificent shrug as if to say, "Markers?  I don't know what they are... I've never seen them before."  Thankfully, whoever it was focused on the face and missed the dress and the marker washed off (somewhat) easily.

I keep getting asked questions about bees, which I have no idea how to answer, so have to ask B.  The most recent question was:  "How do bees make the wax?"  The answer is that they have wax-making glands and that they secrete it.

I have an article about homeschooling high school up at The Homeschool Village.  And, for anyone who's interested, I posted links to my other writing in my sidebar.  For some of the those articles, the more clicks they get, the closer I come to earning some extra money... so click away.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

An open letter to President Obama

Dear Mr. President,

At a recent town hall meeting, you discovered that a man had 10 children.  Since this obviously came as a shock to you, I feel it is time to let the cat out of the bag.  You see, he is not the only one.  All over this country are hundreds, if not thousands, of families with 8, 9, or 10 children. Some even have more.  I'm sorry to have to break the news to you so abruptly, but it's time to come clean about this.

It is understandable that you (and many others) didn't know, because those of us with larger families have been working diligently to keep the information under wraps.  We have done our best to blend in with the rest of society.  If you saw one of us walking down the street (without our children, of course), you would never guess how many little ones we have at home.  We look like everyone else.  We have jobs, we own homes, and some of us have managed to collect a variety of degrees from colleges and universities.  The females among us even go so far as to wear shoes!  (We figured that the whole barefoot-thing would be too much of a tip off.)

And yes, we drive vehicles.  But this is where our covert operations got stuck.  There is just no way to fit all of our children into a small hybrid car.  What were we to do?  If we were the only ones driving over-sized vehicles that took a week's worth of grocery money to fill, everyone would find out our secret.  We came up with a plan.  Somehow (and I'm not at liberty to divulge our methods), we have convinced the American people that driving over-sized, gas guzzlers is a sign of economic prosperity and makes one look important.  With so many SUV's on the roads, who is going to pay attention to second hand 15-passenger vans?  It is all our fault and we are so sorry.

So there you have it... the whole truth about the large family conspiracy.  I suppose it is time for us to try to find a way to stop hiding and begin to integrate our large families into society.  It may be difficult for everyone at first.  Many people are not used to being around children and do not appreciate them.  We will try to be patient as everyone acclimates.


PS--Looking forward to that hybrid van you promised!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Salt dough and little girls

(First an apology to all the G. and L. fans out there that I did not take a picture of what I am about to describe.  I'll try to do better next time.)

I got a lot of work done in the kitchen yesterday all due to a little bit of salt dough.  Earlier in the afternoon, K. had been playing with some dough and it was still on the table when G. and L. arose from their nap.  L. climbed up into K.'s booster seat and looked interested, so I helped her to the table and got some dough out for her.  She proceeded to cry.  I thought if I just let her get used to it a bit, she might decide it was fun.  In the meantime, G. trotted around to the other side of the table to see what was up, so I put her in her chair and got another bit of dough out for her.  She started to cry. 

Thinking that like me, they might not be so keen on getting their fingers messy, I got out some take-out chopsticks that had been stuck in a drawer, broke them apart and stuck each pair into each mound of dough.  The crying had stopped momentarily because of curiosity, but began again immediately after the chopsticks went in the dough.  I tried to go back to the pie crusts I was making, all the while being serenaded by very sad little girls.  It was so pathetically funny, I called J. at work so he could hear the poor children being forced to play with play dough.

He suggested that perhaps they weren't sad about the dough, but that they were disappointed at having been sat at the table and not given actual food to eat.  So I gave G. and L. some snacks.  This did make them happy, though L. continued to glare at the offending dough.  While they were content with their snacks, I went back to my dough.  After a while I noticed that G. had begun to poke her play dough and L. discovered it was fun to take her chopstick and gauge out bits of hers.

The investigations continued and after two hours of continuous play (some of which involved sticking the snacks into the dough... much to the disgust of their brothers and sisters), the kitchen floor was fairly well covered in blue and green dough, as were the girls.  But they were happy and busy for the those two hours, never even trying to get down from the table once.  The 15 minutes of sweeping was a small price to pay for two hours of two happy and contented toddlers.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A clean desk is...

certainly not a sign of a sick mind.  For me it is a sign that I have a handle on life.  One of my goals this spring has been to get the systems I use to keep our home running smoothly back to a maintenance level.  When one is pregnant or taking care of a baby (or babies), some things by necessity need to slide because people always take precedence over to do lists.  Now that G. and L. are a little older and don't need 100% of my attention (and since they have become champion sleepers), I feel that I can once again take some time to focus on other things.  A lot of jobs have piled up in the past two years, and it's taking a while to whittle them back down.  I've tried to work on them in order of importance.  My other motivation is that I know bringing home an older child can be as intensive as caring for an infant.  I really want to create some better habits in myself before we bring H. home.  Having our home under control will make it easier (both emotionally and time-wise) to really focus on her.

Laundry was first on the list.  It is something that needs to happen everyday and is also something that never ends regardless of what is going on with the family.  Except on Monday, where we are catching-up from not doing laundry on Sunday, it is back to a very manageable level of about one load a day.  And since my portion of the job takes me only about 20 minutes, it is very motivating to keep it going. 

Second on my list was my desk and the piles of paperwork that was strewn across it.  This has been an on-going problem for a while and I wish I could blame it on having twins, but really it is the result of bad habits.  It was time to take it in hand.  Two weeks ago I did a complete desk cleaning.  My paper problem seemed to be caused by two things.  The first was that I was just too lazy to put the bills and receipts in the correct place.  They had a place, but it was easier just to throw them on the pile.  The second was that there were many papers which were important, but not immediately so, and I needed to keep them, but they had no designated place.  My solution?  I bought a file folder rack with two baskets underneath and some pretty file folders that I enjoy looking at.  As I went through all the homeless papers, I created a file folder for each category and put that homeless papers in their new home.  These files are really transient homes, since after the paperwork is finally dealt with, it has a more permanent home to go to.  Some of the categories included:  papers to be filed, credit card receipts, paperwork in progress, and things to store in the children's baby boxes.  I still have some empty file folders for the times when I come across another category.  It seems to be working well.  The file folders are easily accessibly and I'm not tempted to throw it on my desk when it is just as easy to throw it in the file folder.

Having a desk cleaned of cluttering papers is also an encouragement for me to put away the papers that always had a home.  It really doesn't take that much longer.  When the desk was already messy, there was little motivation to put other things away.  But now that it is clean, I really want it to stay that way!  Mess begets mess, you know, and I find this is true for just about any area of the house.

Because my desk was nice and tidy, I was motivated yesterday (my designated desk work day), to actually do paperwork.  Boy it felt good to check-off some long-standing to-do items.  The other key to controlling the paper has been to start a home management binder.  It is really just a glorified calendar, but has quite a few additions.  It is still a work in progress and I am working out the kinks, so I will hold off on telling you about it quite yet.

As I work to get our home back under control, I can feel the stress dropping away.  There is less and less for me to worry about because less and less is out-of-control.  This is particularly true with paperwork.  I feel significantly less anxiety about losing or forgetting some important paper.

Just ignore the windowsill above the desk.  I haven't quite worked my way up there yet.  It seems to be the catch-all spot for anything that needs to be repaired and we had to move the router downstairs and I'm not pleased with its current home.

And if you're wondering what the baskets are for, I am using them to keep papers that belong to J. or that he needs to do something with.  They were also piling up on my desk.  (He does have a desk... and a whole office.  It just happens to be in a room which turned out to be uninhabitable during most of the year because of lack of insulation.  It has now become the place where we stash something we don't know what to do with.  The stuff doesn't seem to care that it's 40 degrees inside.)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Learning colors thanks to Pixar

Since we have been working on preschool level skills with K., we have been working on colors.  I have done all sorts of fun learning activities to do this... we've played beautiful German wooden games, sorted buttons, worked with the color preschool box I made, colored, made crayons, and read dozens of books about color. All to no avail, unless you count the fact that after all this, K. at least knew the names of the colors so he could randomly guess using the correct names.  I am not patient by nature, and this certainly was an exercise in patience.  The only bright spot was that he could correctly match colors every time, just couldn't dig the name of the colors out of his little brain.

But through all this, I forgot two important axioms about learning:  1.  A person can only learn something new if they can relate the new information to something they already know.  2.  Interest plays an enormous role in learning and remembering.  I forgot, but J. didn't.  In a moment of inspiration, he hit upon a method of helping K. learn his colors... he tied it to the thing K. loves most in the world, the movie, Cars.

Each car in this movie is a different color (helpfully).  It was as if a light bulb went off in K.'s head the moment J. helped him figure out that Red the Firetruck was the color red.  And since Lightning McQueen and Red are the same color, Lightning McQueen is red!  Suddenly colors took on a whole new importance.  (Because being able to talk about any aspect of the characters is important.)  This morning K. came in looked at a color and announced it was blue, just like The King.  And he was right.

I do hope that he eventually grows out of needing to tie everything to his favorite movie.  (Which I feel I must add, he's seen a total of four times in the past three years... it's not as though he watches it every day, or every week.)  But for now, I'll be grateful for having found the key to helping him learn his colors.  And I do wish, just a bit, that I was the one who thought of it.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Bible Sunday

Every year our church presents the second graders with a Bible.  The Bibles are presented in the worship service and afterward there is a celebration with treats and activities.  It is a great way to demonstrate the importance of this event and also help the new Bible owners get to know their Bibles a bit.

This year TM and D. were due for their Bibles.  This has been a source of great excitement for several months now... and for some, anything that is exciting also causes a significant amount of stress, but I digress.  This excitement was in part due to having four older brother and sisters who already had their own Bibles.  TM and D. have been wanting their own Bibles for a while now, especially since they can both read.  J. and I certainly could have bought them a Bible earlier this year, but we waited for the church presentation Bible.

There are a few reasons we did this.  The first being that delayed gratification is a good skill to practice.  We live in an instant society where we rarely have to wait for anything.  An inability to wait for some thing one wants contributes to all sorts of social ills, being captive to huge amounts of debt being one of them.  It is good to practice waiting.  Also, by waiting and anticipating something, it makes actually receiving the desired object that much sweeter.  And especially with a Bible, this is a feeling we want to inculcate.  Lastly, for our family, receiving a Bible is one of the markers of childhood; a marker that shows a child they are growing up.

Our society does a pretty poor job of creating markers to show a child they are maturing.  The biggest one is hitting the age of 16 and being able to obtain a driver's license.  But children need more than that and they need some ceremony to go along with those markers.  Instead of making children wait and anticipate things they are finally old enough to do, we tend to push our children ahead. 

There are all sorts of ways we can create markers of maturity for our children.  It can be as small as having a child wait until they are 13 to get her ears pierced and use that as one of the markers of young adulthood or it can be bigger... a family ceremony acknowledging an adult level of responsibility in a child about to go off on their own.

Anyway all this to say, getting a Bible is a pretty big deal around here... as receiving The Book which contains the words of life should be.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Little girls in summer weather

We had the most beautiful weather yesterday.  I'm never going to complain about low 80's in April even if we are back down to more normal temperatures today.  The little girls loved being able to play outside and I loved seeing them in summer dresses.  I particularly loved that fact that their cups matched their dresses.  G. is in stripes and L. is in flowers.

I couldn't get a good shot of L. without the cup in her mouth.

Is there anything cuter than little chubby toddler legs, ruffly socks, and Mary Janes?

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Evidently it's disturbing when it looks as though the world ends

Dinner is going to be late tonight because we all took a family walk in the late afternoon.  The weather has been changing and there was an odd fog rolling in and J. thought it would be fun to go and see what it looked like by the lake.  So, we piled the little girls into the stroller and took off toward the lake.  Evidently we weren't the only ones with the same idea as we ran into quite a few people we knew.

The lake looked interesting.  Well, the beach near the lake was interesting, you couldn't see the water at all unless you were right up to the water's edge.  It was as if someone had taken a giant eraser and rubbed out everything that wasn't in front of you.  It wasn't as eerie away from the water because you could still make out enough to see where the horizon was.  Buildings and trees helped to anchor you in space.  But on the beach, without those things, it was if the world just ended... or faded away.  It distressed G. and L. and they started to cry.  Once we moved off the beach, they were happy once again.

It was a pleasant walk.  The sun even made an appearance at the end and we could even feel its warmth a little bit.  Everyone pitched in to get dinner made and its now baking in the oven.  It will be a late dinner, even for us who tend to eat late.  But I have to remind myself that sharing time together and creating family memories and just enjoying each other are often more important than sticking to my self-imposed schedule.  Especially when I'm the only one disturbed by the lateness of a meal.  So, instead of getting all worked up over what I didn't do, I will take a lesson from my family and spend some time relaxing while dinner cooks.  A far better way to prepare for the Lord's Day, don't you think?

Friday, April 08, 2011

Homeschooling blahs

This has been one of my less inspiring homeschooling weeks.  I'm sure the weather has played a huge part.  We all want spring, yet it stubbornly remains below 50 degrees.  Plus, I was a bit consumed with completing home study paperwork which left little brain space for other things.  And then when you add in more than a couple emotionally draining events... well, that leaves you with a pile of workbooks without a lot of creativity.  Bleh.

I know all too well that if I am not feeling excited about what my children are learning, then it's guaranteed that my children are not going to be excited.  Now that I have several things finished up that have been hanging over my head, it's time to go back to focusing on learning.  My typical pattern of doing anything is to throw myself whole heartedly into one project and work on that project in a slightly obsessive way until I become sated and immediately lose all interest.  (Yeah, I know... it's a little pathological.  I do try to work on discipline and moderation.  Really I do.)  I am afraid that I go about teaching my children in the same way and why the unit study approach works so well for us.  It allows us to focus on all aspects of one topic for a concentrated amount of time and then leave it to do something completely different.  In the end we end up learning a whole lot about a lot of different things.  What I find most interesting is how completely disparate things end up relating and informing one another.  I love connecting all our learning together.

All that to say, I think we need to finish up with the South Pacific.  I'm starting to feel a familiar ennui whenever I start to contemplate it.  Plus, we are nearly done reading Kon Tiki.  (I have found is fascinating and highly recommend it.  Did you know there is also a DVD available of actual film footage shot by Thor Heyerdahl from the raft trip?  It was so cool to see the actual things we read about.)  So I think next week we will focus on finishing projects so we can move on to something new.  That means we will be finishing up all our little books and I've wanted to do an art related project as well.  If I'm industrious perhaps I can find some hula music to listen to as we work on our projects.  There, I'm becoming re-energized even as I type this.

But it is the new that draws me.  I love thinking up new projects and learning new things.  I'm just not sure what that is going to be.  We're all consumed with the new bee hive at the moment, perhaps we will do apian studies.
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