Showing posts from May, 2013

Arsenic and Old Lace

I have a nice little post running around the inside my head about the idea of experts, but it's running too fast and I can't quite catch it yet. So, I'll take the easy way out and post pictures from yesterday's full dress rehearsal. Here are some of the shots of B. playing Jonathon. A. has been helping backstage and reported that he was really scary. (We won't be taking G. and L. to see the show. They wouldn't understand it and it would be far too traumatic to see their much adored B. being scary. It was traumatic enough that he dyed his hair. G. took a little bit to decide he was her same big brother when she saw it.) You can find more pictures on the Thin Ice website.

One month post-op

OK, I think the swelling has gone down enough that I am comfortable starting to post some pictures again. But be warned... there is still quite a bit of swelling. The only way I can really tell how much swelling is still in her cheek is to look at her eye. We're so used to seeing that side of her face slightly larger that it is very difficult for us to read it as swelling instead of excess tissue. Also, the places where her sutures were are still healing so they are raised and still pretty red. I just didn't want to get anyone's expectations up as to what they are about to see. First I'll show the a picture I took previous to her surgery.

And now I'll show you a picture I took yesterday.

Most importantly, H. is liking the result. She keeps referring to her cheek as 'so little'. We have a long way to go, but there is definite improvement.

Here is a close up of the left side of her face. You can see more clearly just how swollen everything is and how much hea…

Appointments, appointments

There are very few downsides (in my opinion) to having a large family, but keeping up with and taking children to various doctor's appointments is definitely one of them. I am usually a little bit behind with keeping up with what everyone needs. This has been mentioned to me more than once in the past few months, especially in regards to eye appointments.

We do not have the best genes where vision is concerned. Many of us are very near-sighted and some of us are so near-sighted that we have additional issues that go along with it. Plus, it's just no fun to not be able to see clearly... as quite a few of my children have kept reminding me. I had been hesitant to pick-up the phone to make the appointments, though, because dollar signs times at least 5 started to float through my head. Refraction fees and the cost of eye glasses and contacts add up. So, I kept putting them off by saying we needed to wait for the tax refund to come.

And it came, so I needed to call.

A half an hour…

Can you stand a little more about technology?

I realized that I was about to miss out on a great opportunity to combine one of my long-standing hobby horses with one of my new ones. How can I let writing about the intersection of family meals and technology slip by?

As you know, our family has been having a sort of internet fast. (Well, at least for the family computer. J. and M. are still using theirs during the day. That whole work-thing and all.) And it's been relaxing and pleasant and helping me to get up in the mornings. I don't plan on going back anytime soon. I also mentioned that our already comparatively limited use of technology has made the transition much easier. No computer use on Sundays has been a rather recent rule, but a very long-standing rule has been related to our use of any technology during dinner.

And when I say 'use' I really mean disuse. When we eat dinner together, and that would be every night, we do not invite technology to join us. Early on, that meant no television and no getting up …

Oldest and youngest

One of the absolutely best things about having a large family is having such a large age range of children. Not only do I have older ones who are interesting and fun and great company, but I have younger ones that are just a joy to have around. And I get them all at the same time!

Yesterday afternoon, J. took 5 of the middles out for a bike ride (joined by some of the H-S family). It was quite an event getting everyone's bikes ready to go and every on their bikes and so on. Here's the line up as they were ready to head out.

That would be 9 children and two fathers that you are seeing in that picture. Once they left, B. and A. headed back to church for youth group which left me with just my oldest (M.) and youngest (G. and L.) children at home. This combination by themselves rarely happens. It was fun.

Do you remember those stumps that B. pulled out a couple of weeks ago, and my wish that someone would do something with them? Well, M. spotted one of them and decided that it was…

Oatmeal, here I come

It's bulk order pick-up day! Hooray! Hooray! It is most inconvenient to start running out of things you need a week or so before the pick-up. I mean, who wants to buy things when you know in a week five pound cans and fifty pound bags of those same items will appear in your kitchen. It's been a lot of making up and doing without for a week or so.

And "appear" makes it sound as though it does the Star Trek-thing and after some sparkly lines appear, my bulk order does to. If only. No, in a few minutes I need to get ready to make the two hour trek outside of the city (because it takes about that long to really leave the city behind) to the farm where we pick-up the bulk order.

Don't feel too badly for me. Two other friends are going as well and we make a morning of it. We have child-free visiting time in the car and then after we pick up our pounds and pounds of stuff we have lunch together. It's rather a nice morning. Except for the leaving really early part. W…


It has been over a week since we have instituted our new computer policy around here. Pretty much it involves me getting up early (yes, I have been pretty good about doing this), using the computer until 8 or 8:30 am, then turning it off for the day. No, I do not have a smart phone, so that really means that from 8 am on, we have no internet access live in our house. It feels a little radical, which is crazy because up until about ten years ago, this is how just about how everyone lived all the time.

So how is it working? I actually love it. Really. And it hasn't been as difficult as I expected it to be. What I have discovered is that when the computer is on, my tendency is to take a "quick" look at it throughout the day. Well, I don't know about you, but sometimes those "quick" looks aren't all that quick. But it was important to see if I had any email that needed answering, right? Don't we all tell ourselves that? I know I did.

Guess what I discov…

When it's hard to not take it personally

I received a comment on Tuesday's post about taking things personally that I wanted to respond to. Well, I actually tried to respond in the comments, but evidently Blogger has a character limit for comments. Who knew? Figures that I, who prefer to say something in 20 words that can be said 5 would find that out. So what follows is what I tried to post in the comments.
Dear Reader,
I agree, it's terribly difficult to not take things personally, especially when the words are so toxic. I wish I could say I always manage to do it, but sometimes I just don't succeed.
I do find there are a couple of different things going on. First, if it is a child who is just being rude, then I need to clarify that we are responsible with our words and we must use them respectfully. In this case, a loss of privileges if they can't meet my request for respect is forthcoming. Anytime I hand out a loss of privileges it is always so much better if I can do so matter-of-factly and not with dra…

Nobody mentions the mess

Some of my favorite books and plays when I was growing up were about large, crazy families with lots of people doing lots of interesting things. I couldn't get enough of them. (I, one of two children, also fantasized about living in a large family, but that's another post all together.) Think You Can't Take it With You. Even as an adult I am still drawn to the same genre. One of my favorite books to read aloud is Surviving the Applewhites. I love reading about a family (albeit a slightly dysfunctional one) where everyone has special interests and pursues them with abandon. It's very similar in fact to You Can't Take it With You, except that everyone is competent in their pursuits. (And it also has the "let's put a play on in the barn" theme. Someday I'm going to have a get a barn so my older children and their friends can put on a play.) I'm pretty sure that all of this reading has strongly influenced my parenting.

I do love to see my children…

You can't take it personally

One reason it is good to have friends and mentors who are ahead of you in their parenting journey is that you can reap some of their wisdom. The title of this post is my good friend's favorite tip for surviving parenthood, especially as children get older. It is also great advice for parenting adopted, trauma-injured children. You just can't take what they do personally.

Because 99.9% of the time what your children do or say or how they act really has nothing to do with you and everything to do with what is going on inside their head at any given moment. When we take personal offense at whatever rudeness or misbehavior or upset we are seeing, we have put ourselves in the center of something where we don't belong. Usually the upset child was not even thinking about the parent, but was thinking about something else. The parent comes along and BAM! receives the unpleasantness because they are convenient and safe.

But each of us lives in our own little world inside our own hea…

Woefully lacking in pictures

I think it's been a week or two since I posted a single picture. Since my mother may start getting complaints from her friends, I need to remedy that.

Here is a big reason why there have been so few picture.

This is L. She does not like to have her picture taken at the moment. (If she is true to form, like other children in the family, this could last for the next 10 years or so.) I was trying to get a picture of G. and L. together in their new dresses that a friend gave them. Instead I got this.

G. is quite cooperative, though. A little too cooperative perhaps, because she has entered the 'fake smile stage' where the child tried to smile on purpose and ends up grimacing. Like this. (Click on it to see it bigger.)

This one is a little better because A. was making her laugh. Don't you think the two of them would have been cute standing together in their matching dresses?

I had mentioned that we have been doing a little gardening over here. I wanted to show you some resu…

How Pictures Work

I wanted to share with you a little about the book, How Pictures Work by Molly Bang. It was one of many I checked out of the library when we began reading about writing books. I hadn't heard of it before, but it was in the right section, looked vaguely interesting, so on the stack it went.

A few days later, after having read the more straight-forward of the books, I decided to look at this one. I will admit that at first, I wasn't really sure about it. There were a lot of pages at the beginning about shape and color, which was vaguely interesting, but not really compelling. And then we got to the fairy tale. The author then takes some of the concepts she outlined at the beginning of the book and uses them to tell Little Red Riding Hood... using just shapes and colors. So Red Riding Hood was a triangle and her mother was an oval, for example. You have to trust me that it works. (I really wasn't quite sure myself when we started on that section.) What became fascinating to m…

Checking in

Things are fine here, but I know that some people start to worry if I go more than a day without posting. For a variety of reasons, we are completely revamping when the computer is turned on and I haven't quite figured out how to fit blogging into the new routine. Ultimately this will be a good thing for everyone, and a secure way to keep everyone safe as well, but it makes me realize how un-purposeful I have been about my own computer time. It also makes me realize how much of life... communicating with people, doing volunteer work, organizing people's activities, etc... takes place online. Long story short, if you want to reach me in a timely manner for the foreseeable future, use the phone. (And that would be my land line, not my cell phone which I rarely have charge and have a pay-per-minute plan.) Old-fashioned, I know, but there it is.

So, not to fear, life is fine, but it will take me a few days to work out the kinks in my plan. In the meantime, I'm kind of enjoying…

A little compulsive gardening

I might have mentioned that I am just a wee bit single-minded about projects when I gen an idea in my head. I don't think compulsive would be an over-statement. Often these projects involve things around the house. And when I do get a bee in my bonnet about something I want to do it RIGHT NOW. This is where you need to start pitying my husband, because these fits of mine are unpredictable. There has been more than a couple times when arrives home to major changes that weren't there when he left in the morning. Often when he left, there was no indication that these major changes were going to occur. For instance, there was the time that I decided that I absolutely could not live with the carpet which was in our front hall a minute longer, so I ripped it out. J. was a little surprised to arrive home to bare wood in the entryway and piles of hideous carpet decorating the edges.

Well, I mentioned yesterday that we are going to do something about the way our front yard looks and to…

Plant your garden

The front yard of the Big Ugly House has never been, um, beautiful. In fact, it fits under the 'big and ugly' category rather nicely. There are some things about it that I have detested for the 12+ years we've lived here, yet we still haven't done anything about them. Well, this is the year that we start to work on it.

There are a couple of reasons for this. One is that there are no new babies or children in the house this summer. I can actually think about it and have the energy to help. Next is that we had a little money left over from our tax refund (after spending the rest of it on glamorous things such as insurance and eye appointments and more insurance) and we decided that investing in our yard would be a good use of this money. (I am finding out that gardening is a very expensive hobby. I'm still suffering a bit from sticker shock.) Finally, I didn't want another 12 years to go by and still not have done anything.

This is a little silly, really, because…

Story telling

One of the ideas that spurred my thinking the most when I read The Boy Who Would be a Helicopter came out of the section where Ms. Paly discusses the use of fairy tales. Here is one of the quotes I copied,

"Perhaps these issues [relating to fairy tales] appear so urgent because they are substitutes for the real thing. The fairy tales, in one way or another, hit squarely at the single most important issue for any child: will I be abandoned? Will it happen to me as it does to the pigs [as in the Three Little Pigs, when there mother sends them off to build their own houses]? How will I recognize when it's about to occur? What can I do to forestall the inevitable?"

Does this strike you as powerfully as it did me? You see, I am the parent to children for whom the worst thing that could happen to them already has. And for one at least, it has happened not once, not twice, but three times. Three times he has experienced the thing that frightens children the most. The questions …

All sorts of things

This is going to be a fairly random post, partially because I'm writing it in between steps in the canning process, and partially because I just don't have a whole lot to say on any one thing.

First, I have had quite a few people ask about how H. is doing. I am happy to report that she is recovering very, very well. I was able to stop giving pain medication less than a week after surgery. She just didn't need it. The swelling is still fairly significant, though her eye can open a little bit now. But her face is still so swollen that I don't want to put her glasses on her yet. It means that her eyesight is still not terrific. When we are ready to use the glasses again, I will have to take her in and have them refitted because her profile will have changed so much.

We were back at the plastic surgeon's on Friday. Everyone is thrilled with how she is healing and in another week, she will be considered sufficiently healed that she can start being more active again. Tha…

Frugal large family meals: Beef and cabbage turnovers

I used to make these all the time, but at some point I guess it started to seem like too much effort, so I stopped. As I was planning our dinners last week, I decided to pull out the recipe again and give it another try. It wasn't as much work as I imagined, though it is a little fussy to feel each turnover. They were pretty popular, though. And for the most party, they are pretty inexpensive, so I decided to share the recipe with you.

I'm giving you the reasonable sized recipe. I realize that not everyone needs to make 30 turnovers, nor does everyone have the giant frying pan needed to cook the doubled filling in. (I doubled the filling and multiplied my biscuit recipe by 2 1/2.)

Beef and Cabbage Turnovers (If I made 30+ turnovers with the doubled amounts, I bet this would fill at least 15 turnovers.)

1 lb ground beef
1/2 head of green cabbage, shredded
1/2 onion, chopped

Brown the ground beef. As it is cooking add the onion to cook it also. When the meat is cooked and the oni…

The grumpy cure

I think one of the best life skills a mother can have (well, anyone really) is the ability to get out of the grumps. We all know that when a mother in unhappy, the chances are certainly better than winning the lottery that the rest of the household will be unhappy as well. A grumpy mother is not a fun person to be and not a nice person to be around. The trouble is, at least in my experience, that the longer one is in a grumpy mood, the more difficult it is to get out of it. This is partly because our fallen human nature has a slight quirk to it. We tend to like to stay in the negative place that we are in. You've felt it haven't you? That feeling of wallowing a bit in your own discomfort? As if it shouldn't be up to us to be responsible for our own mood and we should wait until the world is sufficiently punished and has made it up to us before we begin to change. That somehow taking measures to improve our mental state is somehow like giving up something we deserve.


More is easier

By now I'm sure that most of you have heard about or seen the recent survey results which were published about how having three children seems to create the most stress in parents. I think what is surprising to the majority of people is that the parents with four or more children reported the least levels of stress compared with parents of smaller amounts of children.

I don't know about the exact number '3', but I do know that my experience has been that more is certainly easier. As you add more children to your family, there are certain things that you learn, most of which go a long way to reducing parental stress. I think there is a lot more to it than the repeated reasoning of having learned zone defense once you are outnumbered.

I tell people all the time that having 7 or 9 or 10 is easier than my experience with 2 or 3. No one believes me, but I tell them anyway. It does make me wonder if I secretly enjoy being looked at as if I had three heads, though. This impre…

Just doing a little bragging

Since I have yet to share what B.'s plans are for the fall, I guess the novelty has worn off of having my homeschooled-all-along children be accepted into college. It's certainly not because I'm any less proud of him. The second heading to college does seem a little less earth-shattering, mainly because having sent one to college already (where she's doing very well), had gone a long way to convincing me that we hadn't ruined our children with our crazy lifestyle choices.

But B. is quickly coming to the end of his high school career, so I guess I should brag about that a little bit, huh? He was accepted into the same college that M. has been attending, complete with academic scholarship. He had been taking classes there this year and had enjoyed it (M. enjoyed it, too) and decided that it was where he wanted to go. The benefit is that having become friends with quite a few people already, he is set up with a roommate and feels quite comfortable there. I think he is…

Why I should be America's (real life) test kitchen

I've the decided the problem with the idea behind America's Test Kitchen is that it is solely populated with adults. Sure, you can do amazing things and try out 59 ways to cook the same dish to discover which is better without any distractions. But I bet what mothers really want to know is what items can be prepared while being distracted with any number of things, including small children. I'm sure you've all discovered recipes that do not follow through on their claims, either for amount or time or how good it is supposed to taste. The real question is not which is the best way to prepare something, but can it be prepared in less than ideal circumstances, be served at a reasonable time, and be edible.

So why should I be the test kitchen? Well, first, I have a really workable kitchen. Lots of counters, big stove, double-ovens. All the stuff that a test kitchen would need. But even better, I have distractions galore. It's not every test kitchen that also has three …

The beginning of canning season...

is not actually starting today, but sometime this week, I hope. Two summers ago I was very diligent about preserving food. I ended up with quarts and quarts of canned fruit and pickles and jam and applesauce. I also had plenty of frozen fruit in my freezer that we had picked. It felt good and I didn't buy any canned fruit or jam or applesauce or pickles at all the next year. That felt really, really good. 
Last summer? Well, not much canning happened. Actually the only preserving that went on was to freeze the flat of cherries I bought at the farmer's market and can the case of pears I bought at the grocery store when they were less than 30 cents a pound. It was meager effort. In my defense there were mitigating circumstances. First, we had just brought home H. and I was completely unprepared for exactly how taxing, both mentally and physically, that would be. I had very little energy left over to do much of anything, much less can. The other factor that didn't help was th…