Showing posts from May, 2011

Babysitting rules for parents

I have three children who are old enough to babysit and it's been interesting to be on this end of it... the parent of a babysitter, that is.  Some of my children babysit a lot.  M. in particular has several families (both friends and relations) whom she enjoys babysitting for and with whom the whole thing works out well.  (I just want to assure those families, the ones my children sit for repeatedly, that this is not about them.)  But, there are others.  Families who were given M.'s name by someone else, whom she has sat for once, and whom, she has announced will not sit for again.  There are various reasons for this, and you might be surprised to know that is often has very little to do with the children, and nearly all to do with the behavior of the parents.

So you have found a babysitter that you really like and who your children really like and would love to keep that babysitter returning, here are some guidelines to make that possible.

Do not fight with your spouse in fro…

And then there were 12

For the next week we are a family of 12, along with one dog.  A young friend of ours (we'll call her EM) and her dog, Will, are staying for the week while her parents are away.  Everyone is most excited.  K. is especially excited because he loves Will-the-dog and every time K. sees him, he invites Will to come over and play.  Having Will stay the week is his wildest dream come true.

So, now I will return to our crazy-busy Memorial Day.  It's all fun stuff... especially the part where P19 returns home from Uganda... but there's just a lot of fun stuff all on the same day.

I hope you all have an enjoyable Memorial Day, and I offer a huge thank you to all the service people and their families who sacrifice so much for all of us.


(Raising Homemakers readers.  I had horrible trouble with the Linky and have sent you to the wrong page... Here is Rules for Babysitters.  Sorry for the inconvencience!)
G. and L. saw P. playing with her American Girl dolls the other day and were just a little bit fascinated.  Understandably, P. did not want them to play, so A. found some large baby dolls for them.  The little girls played happily for much of the morning taking care of their babies... hugging them, changing them, reading to them...
Here's L.:

And G.:

And reading to the babies... you'll notice that L. is looking a little bare.  I'll be glad when this phase is over.

Grown-up game night

You know I'm all for families doing things together and we enjoy playing games, but sometimes it's fun to get together with other adults and have fun without the company of our many children.  (And since the combined child total is 23 between us and the two other families we often do things with, that's a lot of company.)  Tonight is one of those evenings.  We start at a slightly later time to make it easier to have dinner and help get small people off to bed and meet at whichever house is easiest. 

The games have varied... we've played many different board and card games... but it's always fun.  It's a great way to visit, relax, and laugh.  (Sometimes the resident children complain that we are a little too loud.)  And it really is grown-ups only.  We don't really want small people hanging around the edges.  I see it as another way that we are making growing up look appealing.  As adults we do get to do things that children don't... and they are fun an…

Kon Tiki unit study

First let's get a little business out of the way.  The winner of the giveaway is Amber.  Amber, I've sent you an email... if you send me your address, I'll send out your prize.  Congratulations!

Now, on to the topic of the day.  As, J. keeps telling me, what is obvious to one person is not necessarily obvious to another.  Sometimes I don't write about things because it seems a bit silly to write about something everyone knows, but I have to remember that not everyone has access to the inside of my head (thank goodness!).  With this in mind, it occurs to me that some of you might have been intrigued about the study we did related to the book, Kon-Tiki, and might want to do something similar, but don't know where to begin and perhaps a list of activities would be useful.

It is a rough list, in no particular order, and we didn't even do everything on the list.  (If we did everything I thought up for every unit study we did, we would never be able to move on to an…

Rejoicing texts

(For the Sew, Mama, Sew! giveaway, go here.)

"The -- what?"  The Rev. Paul Ford's eyes left the leaf and gazed wonderingly into Pollyanna's merry little face.

"Well that's what father used to call 'em,"  she laughed.  "Of course the Bible didn't name 'em that.  But it's all those that began 'Be glad in the Lord,' or 'Rejoice greatly,' or 'Shout for joy,' and all that, you know -- such a lot of 'em.  Once, when father felt specially bad, he counted 'em.  There were eight hundred of 'em."

"Eight hundred!"

"Yes -- that told you to rejoice and be glad, you know; that's why father named 'em the 'rejoicing texts.'"

"And so your father--liked those 'rejoicing texts,'" he murmured.

"Oh, yes," nodded Pollyanna, emphatically.  "He said he felt better right away, that first day he thought to count 'em.  He said if God took th…

Silly girls... or maybe it's more accurately silly outfit

(For the Sew, Mama, Sew! giveaway post, go here.)
We are often blessed with hand-me-downs from friends.  In this last batch was a little cheerleader's outfit.  Now, if you know me in real life, you know I'm not the cheerleader type or the sports associated with cheerleaders, so I find it a little amusing that I'm sharing these pictures.
G. and L. happened to see the outfit and were immediately entranced and had to put it on.  L. has become a clothes-remover extraordinaire (with G. not far behind) and can completely remove her garments in a matter of seconds.  (They do this over and over and over throughout the day.)  So when I say they "had" to put it on, I mean I turned my head and they were down to their diapers.  (These are also the girls who hold up clothes and announce, "Pretty!  Pretty!" or "Cute!  Cute!", so I shouldn't be surprised.)  Only one cheerleader outfit, so they had to take turns.
Here's G. (And I apologize for the pictur…

Making bias tape... otherwise known as the Sew, Mama, Sew! Giveaway

(Sorry, the contest is now closed.... though you're welcome to leave a comment if you like.)
It's Sew, Mama, Sew Giveaway time again. 
I love bias tape.  It is so useful and so easy to use... finishing edges... finishing seams...  And while the pre-packaged stuff has it's place and I use it often, I really like to have patterned bias tape as well.  Enter one of my favorite little tools: the bias tape maker.  This one make 3/4 inch bias tape and I will be giving one away at the end of this post. 

But first, I thought some of you might like to see what it does if you've never used one before. I don't have a rotary cutter, nice cutting mats, or even a proper cutting table (I cut-out things on my floor), so if I can do this, so can you.  Here is my admittedly quirky method.

Step 1:  Lay out the fabric and fold a corner over to find the bias.  The woven threads should be at right angles to the part you turned up.

Step 2:  Using a ruler and some sort of marking instrument…


I just don't get it.  When did having a large family and enjoying raising children become morally suspect?  At least that the way it seems sometimes, especially when we are questioned by people in charge of things as to why we want to adopt again... really.  And because we are seemingly bizarre enough to enjoy children, all of our responses seem suspect.  It becomes somewhat trying to answer the same questions over again because our first answers were deemed unacceptable.  I'm sorry if we don't live down to some people's expectations, and that the reality is we are actually functioning, well-adjusted people.

At least we are currently well-adjusted.  As we go through this process of trying to bring H. home, outside pressures seem to be conspiring to change that.  I realize this may not be entirely clear to some of my readers, but I'm afraid to be more explicit on a public blog.  The ways of politics in our state cause me to be very cautious about what I say until ou…

Fun food

To my children's way of thinking, fun food is anything where they get to choose toppings/flavors or where they get to eat with their fingers or (even better) both.  Perhaps this is why a new dinner I fixed the other night was such a surprise hit.  I wasn't sure about it myself.  It was a new recipe and I wasn't sure that anyone would like it or that it would be filling enough to count as dinner.  But it turned out to be such a hit that I will share it with you.

This is my take on a recipe from the MOMYS cookbook (that's not a misspelling -- it's the acronym for a Yahoo group:  Mothers of Many Young Siblings) and for the most part, it's just cooked black beans.  But it was good (and fun), so here's the recipe:

Black Beans with Tortilla Chips

(I doubled this and it fed my family)

1 bag (1 LB) dried black beans
1 onion, chopped
1 can diced green chilies
2 C grated cheddar cheese
Sour cream
Sliced black olives
Tortilla chips

Start early in the afternoon.  Fill …

What do I see when I look out my window?

Falling shingles, from all the men on my roof with what look like pitchforks digging away.  Yes, we are having our roof redone.  It has four (yes, you read that right) layers of shingles on it, so they have to tear it off before they can begin to put the new shingles on.  I'm sure the neighborhood is breathing a collective sigh of relief that we are finally doing something about the state of the exterior of our house.  It is step one in a long process of making some hard decisions about this house.  Since a house with a leaking 4-layer roof is a liability, it is being fixed first.

While the boys are finding it somewhat interesting to watch from the inside, as the weather gets nicer (as they promise it will), I see many trips to the park since no one can play outside while they are working.  It could be a long two to three weeks.  But I'm glad it is getting repaired... and it will be done early in the summer... and then we can work on fixing the water damage inside...

Book help

I know I am the one always recommending book to you, but this time I need you to suggest books to me.  I have been a bit undecided about what we were going to study next and have been taking the time to do some catch-up on regular school work.  But I think I have a plan.  It makes sense to continue with our geography theme and move from the Pacific Ocean and islands on across to Australia.  We've never really studied that continent before and I see a whole host of opportunities, but I need a book or books.  It works really well for us to base our studies off of what we are reading, either fiction or non-fiction, but I need titles!

So, what books do you know of that are 1) appropriate for many ages, 2) have to do with Australia (either past or present) and 3) are good reads?  That's not too tall an order is it?  I know I have quite a few Australian readers of this blog... what would you recommend?  What parts of Australia do you think are important to learn about?  In my experi…


We live in a world where we have to make choices all the time.  There are the small ones such as which brand of pasta to buy all the way up to the big, life-changing choices.  And it is a fact of life that seems to be growing instead of retreating.  Take children's activities, for instance.  Over the course of my 18 years of parenting, it seems every year there are more and more options of classes and activities for which to sign children up.   On the face of it, this doesn't seem to be a bad thing.  Many of the opportunities available to our children are really good things.  It's just that there are so many of them and it is so easy to start to think that because the option exists, that one is a bad parent for not giving our children every learning experience possible.  The plethora of options quickly becomes a burden and creates a lifestyle in which very few people feel good about the choices they have made.

If you choose to participate in as many classes as possible, fa…

A bunch of blurry pictures

I have no idea why these first two pictures came out so blurry (and I didn't take the third one), but these were my best effort to get pictures of G. and L. in the dresses I made them.  A long time ago, I resigned myself to never winning an award for "Best Photography" on the blog. 
I tried to get them to stand next to each other, but they would have none of it.
G. One of the weekend activities for A. and P. was a hike with some friends through an area forest preserve.  This was a particularly swampy, wet trail and both girls came home soaked to above their knees.  They loved it!  I am particularly amused by this picture. If you click on it you will be able to see the expressions on everyone's faces... the water was cold.

P. in the pink stripes and A. in the green stripes
___________ And I think I have figured out my sewing problem that I whined wrote about on Saturday, so if you're bored to tears by my constant blathering about sewing, I give you permission to move…


I am something of a perfectionist.  And while it is certainly a character flaw that I am continually working against, it also makes for some odd learning patterns.  You see, I don't really like to practice things.  I like to learn about them, think about them, do everything I can except the actual task until I feel I can do it sufficiently well.  I didn't talk until I was three, but then spoke in complete sentences.  I don't think I said a word in my freshman French class because I wasn't quite sure how to pronounce things or how they fit together, but went on and did well in French through all four years of college.  Starting out as a piano major in college doesn't really fit that pattern, because all it is is practice, but then I didn't stay a performance major because of my dislike of practicing.  It has been an issue all of my life.

Consequently, when something I'm doing doesn't work out well the first time, well... let's just say it's diffi…

Homeschool planning

With the ICHE convention coming up in less than a month, I've been doing some tentative planning as to what we will be working on next school year so I have an idea of what to look for in the vendor hall.  There is a huge emphasis here on the word tentative.  Other than covering the basics (math, English, and writing), what we focus on in a school year is often dictated by the whim of the moment.  I realize that doesn't sound overly academic, does it?  But we do end up covering a wide variety of subjects and in the course of learning about them, we manage to hit science, geography, history, art, and music.  As my children get older, I have them be a bit more focused, but they still have enough freedom in their schedule to follow their interests.

With that as an introduction, here is what I'm thinking about:

For everyone, our history co-op will be up and running again next fall.  After our year's break, all the mothers involved are feeling ready to go back to Ancient Eg…

Be careful what you ask for

(Depending on your view of the reality of the spiritual realm, you may want to skip this post and come back later when I go back to posting cute little girl pictures.)

So, remember when I mentioned that I wanted to cultivate the traits of fearlessness and serenity?  Well, as I mentioned before, the trouble with wanting to develop new character traits is that they need to be practiced.  And, silly me, when I thought of the word 'fearless', I thought about it in terms of caring what other people thought about me.  But, I forgot that "we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places." (Eph 6:12, ESV)  When confronted with this, the mere opinions of others seems like a somewhat frivolous concern.  I guess that's step 1, isn't it?

You know the aphorism that tells you to "Be the kind of woman that when her…

The Glad Game

If you've ever read the book, Pollyanna, you will know immediately what this post is about.  We have been reading this book as our lunchtime read aloud, and I think I have mentioned before how much I love it.  I know some people think it a bit saccharine which I think is due to the above mentioned Glad Game.  I don't think I will spoil the story by sharing with you what the game is about.  Pollyanna grew up with her missionary preacher father in the western states at the turn of the century.  They were very poor and depended heavily on missionary barrels for much of what they had.  The Glad Game began when Pollyanna was once hoping that a doll would arrive in the barrel, but instead found a pair of crutches.  Her father suggested that they play a game where they would think of a reason to be glad about the crutches.  Pollyanna couldn't think why she should be glad she had crutches instead of a doll, so her father suggested she could be glad that she didn't need the cru…

Busy, busy, terribly busy

Whenever I hear the word 'busy' I immediately have the words to the Veggie Tales song in my head:

Archibald (Mayor): I'm busy, busy, dreadfully busy
You've no idea what I have to do.
Busy, busy, shockingly busy
Much, much too busy for you.
Larry: Oh, I see.

Archibald and Doctor: We're busy, busy, dreadfully busy
You've no idea what we have to do.
Busy, busy, shockingly busy
Much, much too busy for you.

'Cause we're busy, busy, frightfully busy
More than a bumblebee, more than an ant.
Busy, busy, horribly busy
We'd love to help, but we can't!

This is on my mind because of something that happens all the time.  Whenever someone hears I have nine children or already knows and is just making small talk, one comment is inevitably, "Oh you must be so busy!"  The speaker is always surprised when I reply, that no, I'm not really that busy.  The comment doesn't annoy me (bemused would be more accurate), but it has got me to thinking.


Little girls' Mother's Day dresses

Here's what I've been busy finishing up today:

Twirly dresses for G. and L. to wear tomorrow.  I'm pretty pleased with how they turned out.  My mom sent me the pattern and I was able to use fabric out of my stash for most of them.  The blue knit fabric is left over from a project M. made in her first sewing class, the floral print is from a huge piece of fabric I found at a thrift store, and that just left the little bit of green knit that I had to purchase.  Only having to buy a 1/2 yard of fabric makes for some inexpensive dresses.

I thought the bodices would look a bit plain, so I decided to try out my new skills with my embroidery unit for my machine.  (I recently had a lesson which helped answer a lot of questions I had.)  I had a file for these flowers already on my computer and used thread to match.  If you look closely, you'll notice that I even flipped the image so the dresses are mirror images of each other.  Just because I can.

The only thing I have left to d…

Adoption non-update

The trouble with blogging about an adoption in the paperchasing phase is that there is nothing to write about.  It involves periods of insane business as I try to collect all the necessary paperwork as quickly as possible followed by incredibly long periods where nothing happens and over which I have no control.  I am kept so busy most of the time that I have not been spending inordinate amounts of time worrying about it, but it is always in the back of my mind.

Well, I've decided that we need some forward movement.  Would you all please join in praying with me for these specific things:

1.  That our home study be finished and that our agency approves it.
2.  That the woman in charge of approving home studies for DCFS is compelled to approve it quickly.
3.  That the INS moves quickly in granting us our immigration approval.

These are the three steps which have to happen before the dossier can be submitted and over which I have no control.  I will be starting to collect the rest of…

Back to the knee surgeon

A while back M. had knee surgery to remove some loose cartilage which had been scraped off the back of her knee that was floating around.  While the surgery was successful in removing the cartilage and that M. could walk around again without randomly occurring pain, the knee has never been quite right.  So, this morning we went to see another knee specialist.

Her knee issues turn out to be a two-part problem... well, maybe three.  The first is that she probably tore the very thin ligament which stabilizes the knee cap when she had the initial injury.  Second, she has very loose kneecaps, which causes more instability.  (I am now obsessed with kneecap mobility and am going around to the various family members and wiggling their kneecaps.  According to the surgeon, most people can only move the kneecap about a centimeter, but so far M., B. and I (meaning me, E... not some new family member named I. that you don't know about) can all move our kneecaps much more than that.)  And third…


You may have noticed that last night we had fried okra as part of our dinner.  This is a dish I grew up with and love.  (My paternal grandmother was from Louisiana and so my father grew up with it and my mother continued to fix it for him after they were married.)  J. calls it an acquired taste, but has also grown to appreciate it... especially since I continue to put it on the menu.  (You know, one of the perks of being the one who makes the weekly menus is that I choose the things I like.  This can be disappointing for some members of my family because the likelihood of having anything with mushrooms is very slim.  The rejoicing is great when I do buy a box of them.)  Our children have mixed opinions on okra.  M. loves it and will eat it in any form, even raw.  Most of the rest enjoy it the way I prepare it.  And A. will make a valiant attempt to get herself invited to someone else's house for dinner when she sees it on the menu.  (M. and A. are flip…

Kon-Tiki rafts

Yesterday we made models of the Kon-Tiki raft used by Thor Heyerdahl to float across the Pacific.  This turned out to be one of those homeschool craft projects that ends up working really well.  Everyone enjoyed it; everyone was thoroughly engrossed and worked diligently for a good portion of the afternoon; and everyone came up with unique, well planned out projects. 
To begin, I gave each person one long stick of balsa wood ("Balsa wood?!  Real balsa wood?  Is this just what they used on the raft?  This is so cool!"), a thin, flat piece of balsa wood, yarn, felt, and construction paper.  I then left them to construct their rafts, with the usual admonitions of "they will all look different", "there is no right way to do this", "it's not a competition", and "it will not turn out perfectly", of course.
The crafters at work:

P.'s raft:

TM's raft:

Those of drawing of palm branches on the roof of the cabin.

If you look carefully in…

From the Pacific to turn of the (last) century Vermont

"Pollyanna cried out in dismay.

'Oh, but Aunt Polly, Aunt Polly, you haven't left me any time at all just to -- to live.'

'To live, child!  What do you mean? As if you weren't living all the time!'

'Oh, of course I'd be breathing all the time I was doing those things, Aunt Polly, but I wouldn't be living.  You breathe all the time you're asleep, but you aren't living.  I mean living -- doing the things you want to do:  playing outdoors, reading (to myself, of course), climbing hills, talking to Mr. Tom in the garden, and Nancy, and finding out all about the houses and the people and everything everywhere all through the perfectly lovely streets I came through yesterday.  That's what I call living, Aunt Polly.  Just breathing isn't living!'"

From Pollyanna by Eleanor Porter... our newest lunchtime read aloud.  A book which, in my opinion, gets an undeserved bad rap.