Showing posts from July, 2011

Sleepless in Iowa

Yesterday I returned from a quick trip to central Iowa.  We (me, B., P., G. and L.) left on Thursday morning and arrived at our destination at 4pm.  Spent some time visiting my parents (who do not live in Iowa) and family friends.  Woke up, drove to the meat locker to pick-up our side of beef and a side of beef for friends (the whole point of this trip) and came home, arriving at home at 4pm.

The trip went very smoothly, though I have had better nights.  G. and L. are good travellers, but tend not to sleep in the car.  They do babble at us, though.  Consequently they were very tired by Thursday evening and fell asleep with the lights on while the rest of us were still getting ready for bed.  They slept quite well until about 2:45am, when evidently a pinch fairy came through the room and attacked both girls.  Why do I think this?  Because both woke up screaming at exactly the same time for no apparent reason.  (What is it about hotel rooms and screaming babies?)  I stagger out of bed a…


I'm sure that there must be introverted twins out there, but mine certainly don't make the cut.  I don't know if it is just a personality-thing, or if it is the result of being numbers 8 and 9, or being twins, but these two girls like people.  They like meeting people.  Talking with people.  Going places.  Doing things.  If we combine all these things, they are quite content.  (Though content sounds like a much too contemplative description of them.)

I've discovered as well that they are so used to having people stop and either look at them or talk to them, that they are surprised when someone just walks by without a glance.  We were out today and an elderly gentleman walked by.  G. saw him and I saw her gear up to flash a big smile and her trademark, "Hi!", but he walked by without noticing her.  I watched her face and she appeared to be a bit baffled.  The smile disappeared and her eyebrows furrowed a bit as she looked after him.  I suppose they have to lea…

Funny story

You know we've had some problems with raccoons in the past.  With the new roof and extensive hole patching, we are hopeful we have finally solved the problem.  (I almost hate to write that, for fear it might not come true.)  We haven't heard any unwelcome noises for a while now, but are still just a little bit jumpy about noises overhead.  Which goes a long way in explaining this morning.

Many of the children have been at our church's VBS this week and I have been home with just P. and the two little girls.  P. has been helping me sort out the third floor, so we set the pen up in the room with us and G. and L. have been coloring (or throwing the crayons out of the pen, depending on their mood) while we work.  At one point this morning, I went downstairs to go to the bathroom.  After I shut the door, I start hearing noises above me.  This is so. not. good.  It is the same place where we had been hearing raccoons and I was not pleased to be hearing noises again.  The noises …

A little light summer reading

Our vacation last week was wonderful for several reasons, one of them being the fact that I was able to do a lot of reading.  It's an interesting group of books that I'm working my way through (or finished entirely) and not altogether related.  But one of my favorite things is to read a group of disparate books and discover ways that they comment on one another.  Here is my reading list:
Surviving the Applewhites (It was our recorded book for the drive and we all are now consumed with the idea of needing a barn to renovate into a theater.)Outliers: The Story of SuccessReclaiming Childhood: Letting Children be Children in our Achievement Oriented SocietyBuy, Buy Baby: How Consumer Culture Manipulates Parents and Harms Young MindsI'm still working my way through some of them and I'm sure thinking through it all will be the basis of at least a post or two.  But in the meantime, think about this quote from Buy, Buy Baby:

"Constant distractions are known to impair child…

Stuff, conclusion - The hard part

The biggest question I have about all this stuff is, "Where did it come from?!"  I want to believe that at night, stuff just accumulates all by itself.  And truly, it often seems as though that's what happens.  But we all know it doesn't, right?  We have to either bring it in ourselves or let it in.  Part of dealing with this stuff is facing up to the fact that we are the ones who put it there (or let it stay there) in the first place.

And this is where it gets hard, because it is at this point that it ceases to be just stuff and takes on such emotional weight that it seems as though we are all Jacob Marley walking around in our (invisible) chains.  Take all those children's clothes I had stored in the basement.  I began keeping them for a good reason... to save so that I didn't have to buy each child a new wardrobe each season.  But good intentions can go wrong and this one certainly did.  There came to be so many boxes of clothes in my basement that I could…

Vacation pictures.... warning, there's a lot of them!

Can you guess where we were last week?
There was a lot of playing on the beach:

K. wasn't too sure about the water, but eventually became braver.

Drip castles
And we found this very cool park (the majority of the playgrounds around us have gone to the metal and plastic variety... this was a nice change):

L. was very adventurous on the slides.
We were the only ones there... but still filled up all the swings.
We had fresh corn on the cob:

And there was time to play on the deck:

And we all enjoyed the beautiful outdoors which God created (pictures by A.):

Thank you Aunt Ginny and Uncle Will!  We had a wonderful time.

(We spent time up on the Michigan side of Lake Michigan, for those who were wondering.)

Stuff, part 3: That's entropy, man

I have mentioned the British singing duo, Flanders and Swann, here before.  They are a family favorite and you should really look for their albums At the Drop of a Hat and At the Drop of Another Hat (my favorite) if you are unfamiliar with them.  But I bring them up because a line in the song, The Second Law of Thermodynamics (click the link and look for the link on the page to hear the song... go ahead and listen, I'll wait), which always makes me think of my house:  "That's entropy, man!"

Why?  Because without vigilance, that is what happens... it moves toward chaos.  And the more people who live in the house, the faster chaos wins.  For us homeschoolers, keeping chaos at bay is even trickier because there is never a time when the majority of the household is out of the house.  It is much easier to keep your house looking like a catalogue picture if no one is ever home.

This is why, even though for the most part I don't collect a lot of stuff (children's cl…

Stuff, part 2: Lessons from the too-small house

Oh stop.  I'm not referring to our current house, I'm instead referring to the house we lived in before this one.  That would be the rather small, two bedroom Victorian (which is usually code for very small rooms) in which we squeezed four children.  It was also the house that caused me to read every home organizing book in existence and is probably the moving force behind my intense organizing skills.

I'm sorry to say that upon moving the the Big Ugly House, I became lazy about some of the good habits I had developed in the small house.  Having declared my war on stuff, I'm going back and revisiting some of my earlier practices.  This time not because we have too little room, but because they made for better living.

What were these habits?  First, I purged toys more regularly.  There was only so much room in the little house, and we had to be careful about what we let in.  This caused us to be pretty discriminating.  But then we moved to the overly large house with a

Stuff, part 1: Lessons from the playpen

Recently, I have been engaged in a battle with all the stuff in our house.  The great purge for our yard sale a couple of weeks ago was just the beginning.  It felt so good to move that stuff out of the house, that I'm looking for more things to jettison.  I've also been doing a lot of thinking about stuff in general and how it affects everyday life.  And because this is what I'm focusing on, it's also what I'm going to be writing about for the next few days.

You know, we just don't need all the stuff that accumulates.  I also think it has the opposite affect of the one we think it does.  Instead of making our lives richer and more enjoyable, having too many things in our lives cause distraction.  My basis for this assertion?  Watching G. and L. in their playpen.  While they enjoy being free range and having access to all the toys which litter live in our kitchen., I don't observe them ever actually playing.  Unless that is, you consider playing to mean emp…

Hide and seek

Hide and Seek (and its cousin, Sardines) has been a perennial favorite with the children in my house.  Lately it has been one of the games of choice, mainly due to the fact that B. has agreed to play and any time the older children join in, something is immediately more fun for the younger children.  M. has also been playing a lot of the game since she is nannying this summer and her young charge enjoys it as well.

All this hiding and seeking has led to some interesting discussions between me and M.  Who knew that a side benefit of growing up in a large family was the development of really good Hide and Seek skills?  I was also unaware of the level of seriousness with which my oldest children now take the game when they play.  M. made a passing comment about how she has learned to breathe silently when hiding because when B. is seeking, he will enter a room and just stand a listen for a while.  Listen for breathing and movement, that is.  With the youngest and middles, this can be an …

The benefits of boredom

Setting:  Beautiful summer afternoon in July.  Temperature in the upper 70's, sky is sunny.
Heard in background... a low perpetual whine:  "I don't know what to do."  "Can we watch a movie?"  "I want to go somewhere."  "What should I do?", etc.
Mother (to older child):  Please go upstairs and find that book on forts.
Older child:  Why?
Mother:  Because when I lock everyone outside to play, they might need some ideas about what to do.
While I didn't actually resort to locking the door, the masses clearly heard the seriousness in my voice and skedaddled outside, fort book in hand.  They all spent the better part of the afternoon outside, and here is what they created:
TM's fort.  I like the pathway leading up to it.
P.'s fort which she claims is roomier than it looks.
And D.'s fort.  He was clearly going for the camouflage look.
Here he is inside.
So many parents today seem to be adverse to their children being bored.  They work so h…

Adoption day

I suppose it says a lot about how far TM and I have come that the anniversary of his adoption (July 3) passed without my notice.  (I feel I need to add here that unlike many adoptive families, we do not celebrate our children's adoption days.  That was the day that in TM's mind his world ended and it has been a slow and painful process to put his world back together again.  Hardly a day to celebrate.)  In the past, I was slightly obsessed with keeping track of how long TM had been our son.  Each passing month and year was one more month and year that we had all survived.  It was a way to look back and measure how far, if at all, we had come.

But somewhere in the past couple of years, the need to mark whatever progress there was, even if it was just time served, disappeared.  Somewhere in the past couple of years TM ceased to be my son whom we adopted and were working on attaching to, and instead became just my son.

Now, admittedly, my son, as all my other children, has some qu…


J. arrived home last night after having been gone for a week.  He is starting a doctoral program and it requires students to be on campus for a week each summer for classes.  We are all thrilled to have him home again.  The week went well while he was gone, though probably his absence was a contributing factor to my less-than-wonderful day last week. 
So, while we enjoy time as a family today, I leave you with some funny pictures of G. and L.  Their newest love is to wear swim goggles... just because.  I should really put their hair into Cindy Lu Who pigtails because it would add to the insect look.  G. is in the pink shirt and L. is in the yellow.

And I have a self-serving request... click on over to my article on family road trips.  The more clicks it gets, the more likely it will end up in the print edition of the magazine and the more likely the editors will want to hire me to write more stories for them.  Pretty please?

All grown up

M. got a haircut yesterday and it's really cute... but it makes her look significantly older to my eye.  I think it's just right for starting college.  (I will add that M. does not like these pictures and is only allowing me to put them up under duress... she knows her grandparents want to see the new 'do.)

And I have an addition to yesterday's bubble post.  The children experimented with a new bubble solution and it works really well.  The boys were able to hold their fingers in a circle and blow bubbles through them, it worked so well.  Plus, it gives you a use for the corn syrup that is lurking in the back of your pantry that you aren't sure what to do with! 

Bubble recipe (This is from the book, The Ultimate Book of Kid Concoctions which you should really find because it has some great activities and recipes in it.)

2 1/2 qts water
1/2 C light corn syrup
1 C liquid dish washing soap

Mix the water and corn syrup together until completely blended.  Gently stir i…

Giant bubbles, plus a brief tutorial

Summer starting to drag?  Need some new activities to keep people busy?  What you need is my daughter A. to come up with new things to do.  But, since I am rather fond of her and not willing to share, I'll give you the next best thing:  instructions for how to do this cool thing yourself.
We went to a street fair a few weeks ago and one of the entertainers was making enormous bubbles in a park.  A. evidently paid very close attention to how it was done (far better attention than me) and was able to recreate the technique at home yesterday.
It's actually very simple to make these very large bubbles:

This is G.,  and how cool is this picture?
To do this yourself, you need two dowels (or some type of long stick), some yarn or string, and a small carabiner (I'm pretty sure some metal washers would work as well).  Cut the yarn into two lengths.  The shorter one (perhaps about a yard long) and tie each end to the dowels.  The longer one (perhaps 2 to 3 times as long as the first...…