Sunday, February 26, 2006

Not much to say today, but wanted to direct you to a beautiful post by a son about his father over at An Audience of One. That guy is a very good writer and so often shares really powerful, valuable stuff with his readers. This post is a good example of that.

Friday, February 24, 2006

The Hope of a Garden

I know I'm not unique in thinking about a garden at this time of year. The seed catalogs have been rolling in for weeks, and here in central KY spring seems to be a definite probability for the near future.

Back when we had 1 and 2 and 3 children we did a garden every summer. I did a lot of canning and mostly we ended up with big, ugly weed jungles full of buzzing beetles by July or August.

Then we had three more babies in three years, and canning, gardening, and other homey arts have fallen by the wayside with a scornful 'BAH!' from my lips. Survival mode doesn't leave room for tomato plants.

But this year......we're thinking of putting in a garden. The hubby and I made a list, and went walking through the yard discussing where to put things, whether or not to do a big traditional row garden, or to try our hand at Square Foot Gardening this time around. I've even been so optimistic as to suggest that we put some garden beds into the yard in a way that actually beautifies the place, rather than being purely functional.

Tomorrow we're supposed to spend a few hours getting some areas ready for planting. I'm excited. Not really because I want a garden so badly. It's just that knowing that I can even entertain the mere thought of a garden this year reminds me that we're making progress, that things aren't so hard as they were a couple years ago, and that there's hope for the future.

Even if we don't end up doing a garden, or doing the size we're thinking of. Even if it ends up weedy and beetled. The hope of a garden feels like a good thing to me.

God's Word to Women

I've found a very interesting web site tonite, God's Word To Women. I haven't gotten to read everything there yet, but am finding that it scratches an itch that I've had.

The itch is one having to do with how women are regarded within popular Christian doctrine, practice, and culture.

For many years I have noticed that the very popular books for Christian women (particularly for wives) feature heavy-handed negative messages and are very harsh in their teaching that women are basically nothing, deserve nothing, and exist mainly to carry out their husband's wishes. It amazes me how fast women will line up to buy these books, and how quick they are to accept that everything within them that they have to fight in order to accept these teaching and live them out is completely wrong and sinful.

It's not just my female sensibilities that are bruised when I read these anti-woman messages. It's my follower-of-Jesus-Christ sensibilities that cannot reconcile them with anything I know of Him.

I've not recently been at a place in life where I've had loads of time to delve into the Bible to try to sort out all of these ideas and feelings. I've just carried a little belief in me that the way we hear it is not really all that there is to it. This web site looks like it might have some answers for me, or at least some direction to continue on with.

I hope that Razorbackmama will have some time to check into the site. She did such a good job with her very thorough and sound critique of Created to Be His Help Meet (gag, wretch) that I would love to see what she comes up with about this. What do you say, Kirstin?

Why Healthy Eating is Not Expensive

Since our most recent bout of illness here, I've been reinspired to get back to healthy eating. Seven years ago I got fed up with my family being sick, and we switched from our standard American diet to a whole foods, vegan, proper food combining diet. Our first meal on the new diet was homemade hummus on whole wheat bread with broccoli sprouts. Sullen took one look at it and said What. on. earth. is. this? and from that day forward hummus has been known in this family as 'mucous' thanks to his charming description...

Due to a variety of circumstances we fell off the ultra-health wagon after about a year, and since then it's been kind of hit-or-miss around here as to how healthy I can keep things. I've also grown and changed a bit in my opinions of what would be healthy eating. While I'd say our diet is probably considered quite healthy by others, it's nowhere near what I consider truly healthy, and it's obviously not healthy enough to keep me and my family from being sick every time we turn around.

It takes a lot of energy to do the super-healthy thing. I can definitely do it if I put it on the front burner. I've got most of the right equipment, and most of the knowledge needed to make a variety of good-tasting healthy foods. The main problem is that I have about two front burners in my brain, and typically have 10-20 items that could potentially be on one or the other of those. I can do the healthy, but something else won't be getting very much attention.

Right now health feels very important to me, and I've decided to take some "baby steps" during this pay period toward getting us eating healthier.

Today I went to a little Amish store near here that sells bulk foods and got stocked up on nuts and seeds and honey and so forth that I need for lots of our healthy recipes. Since I've returned home I've made some wonderful healthy treats (they are so good that you would not think they are healthy) and have some items going in the dehydrator and soaking on the counter. I may only be able to keep healthy eating on the burner for a day or two or three, but it's better than nothing.

While at the Amish store I bought a small package of whole wheat raspberry cookies. They are sort of like fig newtons, but a little bigger. And healthier.

In the car I handed out a cookie to each child that I had along with me. They ate them without comment.

Just a few moments ago I went into the kitchen to check on my three youngest boys. I noticed that I had 3 of these healthy cookies left in the bag.

ME: Who wants a cookie?!

THEM: ME!!!!!!!!!
(they come running over)

I then put forth one cookie and they all freeze in their tracks and look at it with mild skepticism.

THEM: What's that?

Me: A cookie?

Them: No thanks.

See? See?? Healthy eating can be cheap!!! A bargain! And no mess! No fuss! It's revolutionary!

Book and Movie Review Roundup

I'm way behind on sharing reviews of my recently read books and movies I've watched. Let me not be delayed any longer!

Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious thoughts on Christian Spirituality by Donald Miller was a wonderful read that I thoroughly enjoyed. This atypical book dares to mention big questions that many Christians like to pretend don't exist and don't matter. Miller shares his journey to becoming a follower of Jesus Christ in a way that is personal, convincing, and never preachy. He's funny, vulnerable, and not afraid to let us know that he's a real guy, that he's not perfect, and that he's not a Republican.

One of my favorite parts of this book is when he tells about how he once had this idea that Christianity had a lot of broken parts that didn't make sense, and that Sunday school teachers or pastors would try to hide all of these broken parts behind their back, while telling their listeners something else to try to distract them from wondering about that hidden mess. Such honesty!

This book had a lot of stuff in it that I could strongly identify with and that I haven't heard spoken by anybody else. Ever. It had the effect of making me say, "Ah! So I'm not crazy to have thought that!"

I think it's a book that would be appreciated by anyone that is a thinker and is open to hearing about other people's genuine thoughts and experiences. You don't have to be a Christian to enjoy this book, and I think it's a book I would enjoy discussing with non-Christians to get their "take" on it's message.

Anne Lamott's wonderful book Bird by Bird: Some Instructions in Writing and Life has been a joy to read, study, and digest over the past few weeks. I discovered Anne Lamott's work a few months ago when Sooz recommended Plan B and I'm happy to say that I think I've found one of my very favorite authors. She's now right up there in my heart with Iris Krasnow and Anna Quindlen and SARK. Next thing you know I'll be a bleeding heart liberal like my father always ranted and raved about!

In Bird by Bird Anne shares with the reader her insights into getting the business of writing done, and let's us peek into her private world of angst and anxiety and jealousy and fear to let us know that we're not alone. She's side-splittingly funny so often, and also manages to inspire and direct in a wise and caring way. This book has given me more of a nudge, more of a hug, more of a desire to write than anything else I can think of ever coming across.

For any of you that want to write, or if like me you feel that you need to write, if you're already writing but need some ideas or support, make sure you take a look at this book. I LOVED it.

Hey Nostradamus! is the first Douglas Coupland book I've ever read, thanks to a friend of mine recommending him and me finding this little gem on Paperback Swap. It's a novel about a young couple with a big secret, a school shooting, family dysfunction, and faith. It was a quick read, I loved the characters and the way Coupland helps the reader get to know them and care for them. The ending was a little bit....unsatisfying, but I wouldn't say that it wasn't the right ending for the story.

I enjoyed my introduction to Coupland's work and plan to read more of his work in the future.

Just Like Heaven is the cute new Reese Witherspoon movie, and I just love that sweet gal, so of course I had to check it out. I purposely didn't read much about it ahead of time because I hate to have my surprises ruined! (I've gotten so much like this that now I don't even read book jackets before starting the book.)

I'm not going to spoil anything for you here, so will just say that it's a cute, sweet romantic chick flick and we enjoyed it. (My husband will even admit to liking chick flicks!) It wasn't entirely predictable, which was a plus for us. Mark Ruffalo makes an excellent male lead in the story. Check it out!

I'm currently reading Anne Lamott's Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith which is of course just as wonderful as all the rest of her books. She has such an interesting life to talk about, I'll be amazed it she ever runs out of material.

One of the next two books I plan to read is Keri Smith's Living out Loud.
I discovered Keri from her blog, Wish Jar Journal, which has been on my blog roll from almost the start. She's very talented and I love her work and am looking forward to taking some time to work through the creativity ideas in this adorable book.

After that I plan to read another one of my paperback swap finds: Real Boys. It's supposed to be sort for boys what Reviving Ophelia is for girls. I loved Reviving Ophelia so am looking forward to seeing what this book has to say, seeing as how I have 5 sons.

What's on your bookshelf and in the DVD player?

Movie Review for the Most Worthless Movie I've Ever Seen

So last night my husband and I watched a movie. And what I can tell you about it is this:

-Never before have I watched a movie that leaves it's characters so utterly one-dimensional and makes the viewer care so little for any of them. Who do you know in real life that is simply their name and occupation?

-Never before have I watched a movie that was so utterly contrived, tossing unlikely characters together in a completely unconvincing way and giving the viewer no reason to believe that it was plausible.

-It's a movie that wants the viewer to "Fight AIDS" but apparently doesn't want anybody to have to change any of their behaviors that helped them get AIDS in the first place.

-It's a musical and other than two songs that were somewhat good, the songs were the type that made us groan and scream in agony as to the stupidity and low quality.

-The best part of this movie was when we finally, mercifully saw the credits roll at the end.

What movie is this? None other than the movie version of the smash Broadway hit RENT!

How on earth could this show have been popular for all these years? It was the worst movie I've ever seen. We hated it. Wholeheartedly.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The Unthinkable Has Happened

I lived in New York state for the first 20 years of my life. Since then I've lived in Kentucky for nearly 15 years. I guess it was inevitable.....

What is it? What has happened? Well, I'll tell ya. I've got a twang.

Yes, a twang. Whereas I was brought up to speak properly, the native dialect and accent seem to have caught up with me. In recent days I've caught myself saying things like, "Hi honey. Is your momma there?" and "-n- such" and "we'll be prayin' on it" -- and all with a moderate-but-unmistakable Kentucky twang.

What next? I start to cook cornbread in grease and grow tobacco on my spare acreage? Gain 35 pounds and wear terry cloth shorts to next summer's county fair? I declare, things are gettin' dicey around here....

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Norman Bates works for my accountant

Today I went to sign and pick up my taxes from our accountant. When I arrived the secretary was busy helping someone else, so a man that works there came forward and offered to assist me.

First he asks my name, pulls a file, looks over it at me and asks what my phone number is. I thought this was a little odd since I just told him both my husband's and my name. How many people could there be with our names that get their taxes done there??

So, I tell him, and he looks skeptically at the file. The secretary peers over his shoulder and says, "No, that's not right." and he gets a different file and asks me my phone number again.

It's interesting that a phone number is the magic information needed for completing this transaction, eh? I was never asked for identification, and lots of people know my phone number.

Uh huh.

So all I'm supposed to do is sign the tax returns, and yet he says, "come on back to my office with me."

First off, let me tell you that I could have signed papers where I stood. Secondly, this guy had both a look about him and a demeanor that reminded me of a Norman Bates type person. Mild mannered accountant by murderer by night......

Bravely, I follow him into his office and immediately notice his desk is completely clear, and the thing I think of is "If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, what's an empty desk a sign of?" and had to stifle a smirk. Instead I try to be humorous and say, "Ah! A clean and clear desk! Your mother must be proud!"

To which he replies, evenly and with dourness, "Yes, she is, if she can make it in. Which she cannot."

And then he stares at me.


I suppose my job was to then ask about his mother but frankly I just didn't want to interact with old Norman any more so I just smiled vaguely while he flipped pages to show me where to sign, and got myself out of there.

Still, the question remains: what happened to Norman's mother?!

Monday, February 20, 2006

I think this is so interesting.....

I cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The
phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde
Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the
olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit
pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a
porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by
istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.
??Amzanig huh? yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt!??

Friday, February 17, 2006

School Sick Policies

Alana made the interesting comment that I should run for a position on my local school board and then make an alternate absentee policy to propose. I never thought of that. I'm not sure if I have the time to actually be a board member, but crafting a new attendance policy is interesting to me.

I would be very interested in knowing what kind of attendance policies you folks have at your children's schools, and what your perception is of how well it works, or any pitfalls of it.

To be humbly honest, I will share that yesterday when my husband took two of our school age kids to the doc, we found out that they have strep! Nobody has complained of a sore throat at all, and so that was not a suspicion that I had. I'm sure that eventually I would have decided to go to the doctor without the attendance policy breathing down my neck, but I am glad to know that strep is the thing that is kicking our rears here in dollymamaville (so that we can get fixing it).

But that doesn't change my frustration with the policy.....

Thursday, February 16, 2006

The Night Shift

So between my own aches and pains, the fact that we went to bed by 8:30pm, and the heat generated by two little boys smooshed up against me in my bed, I couldn't sleep any more by 1am. So far I've gone to the bathroom multiple times, gotten medicine for little sicklings, refilled water, played solitaire on my pocket PC, and now am here to share some of the illness-induced comments from yesterday!

When they're half out of their mind with fever, kids say even more of the darndest things than usual. Since I know that fever is the body's way of trying to incinerate bad germs, I don't automatically give my kids Tylenol when they have one. Usually I reserve it for times when they are particularly miserable. Yesterday I decided to give a round of Tylenol to all the kids around 3pm just to give them a break from their misery, and in the hopes that they might feel good enough to eat something for dinner.

I hand Jake the Great 4 chewable Tylenol.

Jake: Do I swallow this?

Me: You can chew it up, honey.

Jake (looking miserable and perplexed): Chew? ........ What is chew?

Me: What is chew?? With your teeth, honey. Pretend it's smarties candy or something and just chew it up.

Jake (still looking confused): I don't get it. How do I chew?

Sullen (chiming in since he can't resist such an opportunity): This is Body Functions 101, Jake. Cheeeeeeeeew it. With your teeth. (does dramatic interpretation of chewing)

Jake: Shut up.

Later I was in the kitchen trying to fill dinner order...weak little requests for "some yogurt--the pink kind" or "a little bit of applesauce." Sullen was just finishing up making perogies, so had dumped the potful into a colander, and a lot of steam was rising from the sink. Sullen loaded the food onto his plate and took off for his room. Squiggy Magoo (almost three) starts saying, "I want some of that!" pointing to the steam.

Me: Sweetie, there's nothing there. Sullen took that food. I will make you something else.

SM: No! I want THAT!

Me: You want what? Steam?

SM: YES! Steam! I want that steam!

Me: No, sweetie, steam is not to eat.

SM (getting more irrational and upset by the second): I told you I want that STEAM!!!!

So I picked him up to see into the sink, and then he decided that steam wasn't going to be his favorite meal after all.....

Thankfully my husband's work for tomorrow was cancelled so I will not have to suffer through all the logistics around here myself. Maybe I will even get to kick all the kids out of my bed and sleep without interferance....

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

I could start a new blog!

It could be called Sick and Tired! It would be the world's most boring blog, chronicling my life cycles of not getting enough sleep, my illnesses, and the illnesses of my family members.

This week: All. Five. Boys. are sick with a fever and cough. The good part about this illness is that they are very quiet and subdued and it makes no messes. The bad part is that mainly they want to lay down and watch movies, and both our DVD player AND the PS2 are acting up and not playing anything without a million skips and then saying that it can't read the discs. Can you say BAD TIMING??

Today the creeping crud is catching up with me, which I suppose is not surprising since I've been the lone ranger here taking care of all the coughers and hackers for the past 3 days. If mommy falls..who will be there to catch us? The Firecrapper has worked 24-hour shifts yesterday and today, plus is supposed to work til evening the next two days. This could be tricky.

To make matters worse, there's the school attendance policy. This policy allows for 6 "unexcused" absenses per year. Basically, any absense without a doctor's note is unexcused. My doc told me that by law she has to see the kids to give an absentee note, even if everyone involved knows darn well that there is nothing that the doc can do to help. In fact, she told me with frustration, even if the kid has a temp and throws up all over the school nurse and gets sent home, they aren't officially excused until the doc sees them.

Is that STUPID, or what?

I've been a mother long enough to know that most things resolve without a doctor. I have also used a lot of natural remedies and so forth through the years, and it is very rare that my children are even sick enough to need to see the doc. This attendance policy really sticks in my craw, since

1. Even if I tell the school that my child is too sick to attend, I am considered a liar without a doctor to confirm this.

2. The fact that I am able to determine whether or not my child is well, and that I am also able to, 90% of the time, help their body get back to healthy with the resources I have at home that do not include a doctor, is not respected.

3. The practicality of taking my kids to the doctor for this type of thing does not exist. Take yesterday and today for example:

My husband is at work. I have 5 sick children at home. So if I want to prove that my children are too sick for school attendance, I have to drag all of them in to find out that my doctor agrees, all the while dealing with their coughing all over the waiting room, while they breathe in all the germs from all the other people there, spend the money, spend many hours of my day with sick kids languishing in the waiting room while we practice being PATIENT PATIENTS! Does this make any sense? They will get sicker from missing their rest and being exposed to the doc office germs. And yet, here I am. Izzy Man has now exceeded his 6 days and so I guess I am going to have to break down and take him to the doc. I have no idea how I am going to fanagle it. How much do you suppose babysitters charge if they know they are walking into a sick zone?

I am seriously thinking of trying to come up with some alternative to propose to the board of education. I can appreciate that they do not want people keeping their kids home for no good reason. However, I think most parents have work to do and so forth and don't just keep their kids home for kicks. For people like me, I think that my experience and method of dealing with illness should be given the same respect as if I were a parent that only chooses to go to the doctor for even the simplest health issue. I should not have to spend money and time and energy and risk my children's health in order to prove that I am not a liar.

Perhaps a nurse that would drive around the county making house calls just to determine that Johnny has a bad cough or a fever or has been vomiting. We could collect vomit samples to prove to her that we are not lying! We could pay her $10 to make us official, and she could move on down the road to the next sick kid. That would be progress....

Large Family Logistics: Chores and Household Management

With a household of 8 people, it is helpful to have some systems in place that teach the children responsibility, plus for the parents to delegate chores. A lot of parents, especially those that are perfectionists, may prefer to do the work themselves so that it can be done "just so" but in the long run everybody is shortchanged. Mothers are frazzled by all the work and are easily tricked into thinking that the way their house looks is more important than the people who live there, and children get the mistaken notion that things never get cleaned and need no maintenance.

When we're bringing up children, part of the goal is to help prepare them for adulthood. If they do not learn to cook, to clean, to do what needs to be done, and to work as a team, how are they going to go on to their first home successfully?

We've had the same chore system going for at least 6 years, and it still works well, although in sitting down to write this I realize that this summer I should probably plan to spend time training my youngest 3 children into jobs because they are definitely old enough now. (by summer they will be 6, 5, and 3)

Six years ago I had 2 kids that were old enough to do chores, so I picked out two areas of the house to assign to them to be in charge of cleaning. Eventually we added in child #3. I have each child to the same area for probably 3-9 months at a time. The change-up occurs when they beg for different jobs or when I see a need for it. I don't have the memory capacity to keep track of rotating chores, nor do I want to listen to endless "Which area is mine today?" questions. I want to say, "Go do your areas!" and have everybody know what to do and how to do it. They get very good at it from repetition.

Our current chore areas are:
1. upstairs floors (kitchen, LR, hallway): The child who cleans this area is supposed to pick up everything off these floors and put them where they go (NOT pile them on the couch or end tables!) and then vacuum as needed.

2. Family Room: The person who cleans this area does the floors just like the other person, but is also supposed to pick up any other stuff in the area, fix couch cushions, etc. It's a smaller area so that's why there's more to do.

3. Stairway and downstairs hall, down bath garbage: The person in charge of this area picks up all the stuff on the stairs and downstairs hall, vacuums it, and takes out the downstairs bathroom garbage when needed.

Now that I will be adding three more children to the rotation I will be able to start training the older children on bathrooms (something I wasn't willing to delegate to them when they were younger) and maybe some other things, in order to give the simpler jobs that are easier for me to supervise to the little ones.

The way I decide who gets what area is based on time and ability. This year, of my three worker bee kids, my daughter is the only one in school. She has homework and after school activities, so therefore less time for chores. So for this entire school year her job is the stairs/hall area. It doesn't even need to be done every day, and it's fairly quick to complete. Also, she has very good job skills already and is quick to help with supervising younger sibs and things like that, so it seems fair to me for her to have this smaller area.

My third child has the upstairs floor job because I can supervise him best here. He's still learning the job, plus tends to be a little lazy. He needs to be watched and given direction a lot.

My oldest child gets that family room since he can do the job without supervision and I don't go in the FR that often.

Basically, at some point in the morning I tell the boys to "do your areas" and they get it done. If you do it first thing in the morning then the house isn't embarrassing if somebody stops by. Sometimes if they house gets pretty messy through the day I will call for people to do their areas again. And if a big project made a big mess in one area, I have everybody work together to clean it up.

We keep toys for the younger kids in cabinets and a closet, so they can't just drag a million things around the house. In fact, I think that every year we have fewer toys than the previous one. I have found that my kids prefer to play outside more than anything, and they like riding toys. There are very few indoor toys that they are even willing to do anything with. So when gift-giving occasions come around we typically ask for outdoor riding toys, or things that are non-messy for indoors. For instance, this Christmas my mom got the three youngest boys a nice Radio Flyer bouncy horse, and with money from my grandmother we bought the fabulous Needak rebounder. Both have been great for blowing off energy in the winter months, and neither makes a mess. Nothing to strew about the house! Nothing to pick up! Most of what we have on our floors is stuff like papers, books, shoes and clothing items, and so forth.

Right now I do all the chores related to kitchen cooking and cleaning, laundry, and bathrooms. And everything else. ;)

For bathroom cleaning the best thing I have ever done to keep up on them is to have all the equipment I need right in there. For instance, in our main bathroom I have toilet cleaner, a toilet brush, spray cleaner for the mirror, and baking soda which I use for the sink and tub. If I'm in there and notice the toilet is looking yukk I just clean it. It only takes 20 seconds so why not? I also recently bought Clorox wipes which I really like for when one of the potty bandits here has sprayed all over the seat. (5 boys in this house--you do the math on how safe the toilet seats are to sit on)

When I'm supervising kids in the bath I usually do the mirrors or whatever more in-depth cleaning needs to be done. Cleaning this bathroom is very easy for me now just because I know that most of it can be done in less than a minute and all the stuff is right there.

I am still working on getting to this level with the other bathroom. I have Clorox wipes down there, and put in one of those 3000 flushes things into the toilet tank to try to keep things somewhat fresh. I do have another toilet brush and cleaner there, but get to it less often. (it gets used less often too so that's usually ok)

For bedrooms, the idea around here is that if you spend 15 minutes a day on your room, it should stay decent. We used to be better at enforcing this but have fallen out of the routine a little bit. Nevertheless, the main way the day goes is "do you area" and then "pick up your room." Most of the time both are done within a half hour or so and the house runs better.

I have 5 sick boys right now, so this post has been written with a lot of distractions. Hopefully you can get some good ideas from it!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Manly Valentines

For those of you for whom the cheesy, mushy, cartoony valentines are just not right, Tiny Kingdom offers a new and improved option. Too funny. They're gonna be rich!

Monday, February 13, 2006

Tis the Season to File Taxes

Thanks to my mucho expensive car repair, I have gotten just the kick in the keister that I needed to pull together our tax info to take to our accountant. We normally get the taxes filed in February, so we're right on time. (Getting a large, life-saving refund each year helps to motivate me!) Of course this year I had to get all of my business information in there as well so that took some more time. Mainly because I'm not a very conscientious paper person.

Now, my friend Sooz keeps on top of her paperwork like a star executive secretary. Papers come in, she reads them all, attached them to any papers that go with it, makes phone calls when she has questions and makes notes on the appropriate piece of paper about the results of the call. Then she files it all away ever-so-nicely such that even years later if you were to ask her, "How much money did you spend in 2001 on music lessons or groceries or whatever?" she would be able to tell you within 5 minutes. Amazing!

Me? I get audited by the IRS and discover that I can't even find 3 of my kid's birth certificates, so just go ahead and order new ones. Uh huh. Awesome!

So, I've made it through this year's tax-info-gathering process, although I'll admit that I've made some estimations for the things that I couldn't actually document. I've still got files piled up all over my bedroom from last month's IRS audit paperchase. The thing I'm now wondering is, now that these two urgent paper needs are behind me, am I going to dedicate some time to filing, or just ignore it and hope for the best when next year rolls around?? Lay your bets down, people!

Ah, Winter, How I Hate Thee

I grew up in Central NY where wintery weather is a fact of life for almost half the year. I can remember that during my growing up years I would feel desperate for spring to arrive, and for the dreary, dirty mounds of snow in every parking lot and roadside to finally melt away. Usually by mid to late April my wishes would come true.

Thankfully, I grew up and moved to Central KY where we only get winter for approximately 2 or 3 months, often with springlike weather sprinkled all throughout it in a naturally scizophrenic sort of way. We barely get any snow here, but when we get even a dusting everybody gets hysterical and cancels schools and church services and people go crazy at the groceries, stocking up as if they are likely to be stranded in their homes for weeks.

This weekend we've had several inches of snow and today the kids even got a day off from school because of it. Three days in a row of snowy weather is enough to make me thank my lucky stars that we don't live someplace more north of here.

Snowy weather in a house full of children means:

-the floors leading from the back door are sloppy, wet, slippery, and dirty. I could mop, but it would only get bad again within hours.

-spending lots of time trying to find boots, mittens, hats, coats, and dry changes of clothes. Depite the fact that we do have all of these supplies for each and every child, it never fails that we are missing some crucial element, and someone is by the back door whining and waiting for their lost boot to show up.

-It takes longer to dress the children in their winter gear than most of them spend outside. I am seriously considering just sending the youngest ones out in their regular clothes and some slippers. They'd turn around just as fast and be right back inside before any damage could be done. Think of all the time and frustration I'd spare myself!

-Sledding is a fun part of snow, but when my child takes a pitch off the side of a sled and ends up in the ER with a possible broken collarbone, it sure takes the shine off. (Thankfully his collar bone wasn't actually broken.)

Some of my children have decided that it is not possible for them to recover from playing outside in the cold without me making some homemade hot chocolate. For those of you that think hot cocoa is something you make from hot water and some stuff in a packet, read and learn.

Homemade hot chocolate is very simple and delicious. Here is the recipe I use:

In a saucepan combine:
3 cups milk (or 1 cup dry milk plus 3 cups water)
1 cup hot water
1/3 cup sugar
3 Tablespoons unsweeted cocoa
a dash of salt

Mix with a whisk and heat on medium high until it's as warm as you want it. Enjoy! (don't overheat or you can burn it which isn't very yummy at all!)

Thursday, February 09, 2006

So Much for Hoping that the Repair Would Be Inexpensive

$1100 poorer, I have returned home. Ouch, I say to thee.

Other than that, I had a lovely time getting to visit with Sooz and her children. Her baby boy is just sweet and adorable and delicious as newborns always are. Her older kids managed to inspire me with their good humored banter, and also with the ways that they remind me of their parents.

At the home front here I rediscovered that it seems no matter the generation, men seem to have the idea that when their wife is home with the kids, she should be able to manage all the chores, money, projects, cooking, plus child care. And when the men are the ones at home on their own with the kids their only job is: playing with the kids. So, you can imagine the backlog that I came home to......charming! But, frankly, I needed a break and I got one so I'm not even going to complain.

Today I watched the Bode Miller movie Flying Downhill. As I mentioned in a previous post, my brother did the music production for the movie, and 14 of his songs are used in the soundtrack. Over a year ago I got to watch a rough cut of the film and put in my two cents worth on the music they were using and what I thought should be different or was good. It was really fun to see the finished project and to see that many of the ideas I had were used. (I don't know that my suggestions had anything to do with it. Probably somebody else just thought the same things I did.)

Bode really does have an interesting history and family, and his story is exciting and dramatic. It is a well-done documentary with cool music and lots of awesome skiing, including impressive wipe outs. For any of you looking to get revved up for the Olympics, you will probably love this movie. Get a copy!

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

No Car Go

Hi all,
Greetings from Sooz's house! Her hubby had to go out of town and so I came on Monday night to help out with some things since she's very busy with her new little baby and all that goes along with it.

Her baby boy is just adorable and snuggly and wonderful. It's been very nice to get to talk to her and love on this little boy for a couple of days.

Unfortunately the Big Blue Burb doesn't want to start, and so now it's being towed to a repair place to hopefully get fixed at a not-very-high price.

Ah, emergency funds--as soon as we build up some money in one, we have an emergency to drain it down to zero again! ugh....

So, send up all your best car repair prayers, please. Thanks!

Monday, February 06, 2006

And now the Super Bowl, from a 13 year old perspective...

check out my son's hilarious post on TV deprivation and the Super Bowl. He cracks me up.

Super Bowl Half-Time, from a 9 year old's perspective

Me: So how did you like watching the Super Bowl?

Her: Well, it was pretty boring.

Me: Yeah, well, I find football to be pretty boring too.

Her: And then during half time we had to watch this old man sing a song! And he was not. very. good.

Me: (snickering because I know she's talking about Mick Jagger) Yeah? Not too good, huh? What did he look like?

Her: Ugh! (makes horrified face) He was horrible and wore clothes that looked like a girl's. And his belly button showed! Yukk.

People of America, I ask you: Which was more offensive? Janet Jackson's boob, or a geriatric Mick Jagger trying to perform and also showing his belly button?

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Check Out the Pharmacy of Self Esteem

As some of you may remember, my brother is a musician with an independent CD recently released. It's his third CD and I just received a copy from him the other day. It has been really fun to hear his new music and to enjoy the development of his talent and the ideas he shares in his songs. Also, his previous work was a solo project and now he is teamed up with his wife-type-person, DJ Swan. (Thankfully not her real name)

He has one song that is absolutely brilliant and hilarious and I love it so much that I've been making a nuisance of myself listening to it over and over at home and in the car. I even took it to small group last night (and all the women said, "Your brother is HOT!!"). Now I have to share it here. Here are the lyrics (from memory, so it may not be perfect):

The Pharmacy of Self Esteem

I used to gobble pharmaceuticals

to wake up and to fall asleep

I used to gobble pharmaceuticals

to fall down, to stand up straight

blue ones for too much love,

red red red ones for too much hate,

and if they ever make 'em

be sure that I will take 'em

green ones to cure my spite
checkerboard ones to overcome fate

Daddy didn't love me,

and momma didn't breastfeed

now I dream of nursemaids, Swedish if you please

Daddy didn't spank me,
and momma didn't breastfeed

now I dream of breastmilk-cappucino freeze

Then one day I realized,

one day I realized I am,

one day I realized I am,

I'm the best thing that's ever happened to me.

I'm a pharmacy of self esteem!

If you're feeling low and you really, really, really want to grow
check out the pharmacy of self esteem
If you're feeling low and you really, really, really want to glow
check out the pharmacy of self esteem

You can listen to this and his other songs here. Sad Slow Drink is a really soothing instrumental pieces that I love as well. And hey--you can download his music at itunes as well!

A lot of people ask me what genre of music my brother plays, and I don't know what to call it. I think perhaps it would go in some sort of electronica/techno/funk category. Really, it's in a class by itself. It's very different, and a lot of it I don't understand. Pharmacy of Self Esteem is probably the one song he's got that is likely to appeal to a very wide audience. Aside from the fact that I love the sound of this song, I love it that I actually understand what he's saying and appreciate the humor in it.

He is getting air time on several radio stations. In some cases he is getting as much time as Madonna's latest song! It'll be fun to be able to say "I knew him when" after he's a big star. You can catch his performances in Massachusetts.

Another exciting thing is that my brother was the music producer for the cool new Bode Miller movie, Flying Downhill. Music from 14 of my brother's songs are used in the movie! I saw a rough cut of the movie over a year ago (and got to put in my two cents worth on what kind of sounds worked and didn't--that was fun!) and I really enjoyed it. Bode's story is an interesting and exciting one, and with the Olympics coming up, that guy is one to watch!

Friday, February 03, 2006

Walk the Line and Ladder 49

The hubby and I went to see Walk the Line a couple weeks ago and I don't recall mentioning it here. My main interest in going is that I am a big Reese Witherspoon fan, plus I was curious to see how she and Joaquin (how on earth do you pronounce that?) Phoenix did with the music since they did all their own vocals and instruments for the movie. I've never known anything about Johnny Cash, and couldn't have told you even one of his song titles.

I loved the music part of the movie. Reese and Joaquin did a fabulous job and I was really impressed. I even found that I like Johnny Cash music! (Well, some of it) However, the story line was, to me, just like every other famous musician story I've ever heard. Whether it be Elvis, Ray Charles, or Frank Sinatra, the story is always the same. Nice young guy finds nice young girl, they get married, start a family, the guy gets some lucky breaks and gets a music career. Then he's gone from home all the time while his wife and kids miss him, he starts to make a lot of money, and moves his family into a big house. Then he gets into drug, alcohol, or other trouble, starts sleeping around, his family falls apart, and he ends up with someone else. Some of them eventually get cleaned up.

So, I guess you could say that I am not sure why anybody felt that this story needed to be told, since it doesn't seem that compelling or original to me. It was fun to watch because of the music, but that's all I got out of it.

Last night my husband brought home Ladder 49. Believe it or not, I had not yet seen it. As most of you may remember, my husband is a professional fire fighter. I guess that naturally creates a love-hate situation when it comes to firefighter movies. My husband told me that the guys he works with all liked Ladder 49 more than any other fireman movie because it's more realistic. So, we watched....

Again--Joaquin Phoenix in the starring role. He did a great job. I tried to watch the movie through the technical lens, asking my husband, "Does that really happen?" and "how realisic is this?" but eventually the questions beg to be asked, "Are you ever in situations like this?" and "Are there any buildings in your city this dangerous?" The answers aren't always comforting.

Watching the movie and talking to my husband reminded me of this post that I wrote in Oct. '04, and my sentiments that the government people that are first in line at funerals, are so often the last in line to provide firemen with equipment and safety standards that will keep them from being killed in the first place. Watching a movie like Ladder 49, or reading a book like 3000 Degrees reminds me that someday it might be me on the front row of a funeral, and wondering if it will be because somebody screwed up. The movies usually show noble deaths that couldn't have been prevented. The ones we know about in real life are so often more about things like the local government would not supply PASS devices to every firefighter, or other equipment budget issues. If only the powers that be would realize that proper safety equipment is cheaper than a fancy died-in-the-line-of-duty funeral. (or a law suit)

I don't worry a lot about his job, partially because I'm used to it, partially because I've already asked myself all the questions and come up with answers too. (What would I do? Where would we go? How would we live?) But every now and then when it's late at night and I know he's been called out to a serious fire, I get these little images of having to buy 5 boy's suits, or of figuring out how to raise kids without a dad. Or of sitting by a hospital bed with a seriously burned and injured husband in it. The possibilities aren't pretty.....

So, did I enjoy Ladder 49? Not in the traditional sense. But I think it does a good job of honoring the people that fight fire and put their lives in jeopardy for the sake of others.

Thursday, February 02, 2006


OK people. I want to know how I got over 400 hits here yesterday. Wassup with that??

A New Way To Tell Bedtime Stories

For years we struggled with a chaotic (at best) bedtime situation here, but over the last year or two I have worked to get a bedtime routine established that has finally helped me not hate the end of each day! One of my children (my kindergartener) loves for me to sing Old MacDonald Had a Farm with him while tucking him in. It helps that I do pretty good animal noises. I always leave it up to the child to fill in the blank of what animal we are singing about, and sometimes they even come up with non-animal things like cars, tractors, drinks, and so forth. Standard favorites include Old Mac had a MOM, and MOM gives a kiss-kiss here and a kiss-kiss there. We also use their names and I tickled them and sing that they giggle-giggle here, giggle-giggle there. My last verse is usually that Old Mac had a bed, with a (snore sound) here and a (sigh sound) there, while laying my head over onto my hands like a pillow. They love it.

Now my 4 year old has started asking for a story after we sing, but he wants me to make up a story, not read one. I have started doing a story that includes his input and he really loves it so I thought I would share about it here to help spark other ideas. What I do is pause at certain parts and let him tell the next bit, and build on whatever he throws in. Here's how last night's story went:

Me: Once upon a time there was a person named....

Doodles: Mom!

Me: And she had a child named....

Doodles: Doodle!

Me: And he had beautiful smiley eyes and loved to cuddle. One day they went to a.....

Doodles: Grocery store!

Me: So that they could....

Doodles: Buy groceries!

Me: So first Mom asked Doodles, "Would you like to sit in the cart or walk next to me?" and he said.....

Doodles: Sit in the cart!

Me: So he sat in the cart right up close to his mom.

And it just kind of continues like that, a really dull little story about us going through the store, what we got, and ends with us going through the check out and buying some M&Ms for him to eat on the way home (which he was so thrilled about that you would have thought it really happened!). His off-the-wall answers give the stories a real Mad Libs feel. I always end the story with a storybookish "The End" because he seems to really like that.

I have never thought of myself as very good at making up stories, but this technique has been very fun for both me and my little guy. Try it!

Proving that I don't totally stink as a mother

Today started with me coming up with a special slogan:

Homeschooling: Doing what I hate, for those who hate what I do.

It was just one of those mornings.

However, once I started to work with Jake the Great things improved. We've been going through Dolch sight word flash cards since phonics doesn't click with him that great, and I discovered awhile back that he had forgotten most of the sight words he should have known since kindergarten. I made up decks of cards, a different color for each word list (pre-primer, primer, and so on). We've been going through the pre-primers and primers for a week or two now, and today he got all the pre-primer words correct, which was very thrilling for all involved.

I got inspired to create a word wall.

I went into our hallway with the flash cards and some sticky tack (poster putty) and started sticking the words to the wall. I grouped them loosely according to parts of speech and useage. Now we can not only see the words more often and have more opportunities to learn the words, but we can also move them around to create sentences,

thus proving to Jake that he actually *can* read.

This is a great idea even for anyone with young children, even if you don't homeschool. Izzy Man goes to school and he is learning the same words that Jake is reviewing. I have had some word lists up around the house and have already discovered that Izzy knew many of them. I have 2 younger kiddos as well who will benefit from seeing these words more often.

Another resource we've recently discovered to help with reading is the PBS show Between the Lions. We've been borrowing them from Netflix and all of my younger kids love it. After one day of watching some episodes I saw a marked improvement in Jake's reading ability. The DVDs are also available at Barnes and Noble, and the BTL web site has plenty of reading games to play.

Homeschooling can really be tough. It's a good thing that there are those bright moments when you feel like you're making a difference and getting through to your kids.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Big Family Dynamics

Chris and Carmen got the great idea to start a weekly series of post about how they manage their large families, and now other large family folks are also joining in. This week's topic is organization. I don't have time for an entire post on this, but I thought that for those interested I would direct you to some of my past posts on the topic. These even have photos!

What about the stray socks?
No more dressers part 1
No more dressers part 2
Bathroom closet
Bathroom closet door
Kitchen cabinet organization

Is there any other aspect of organization at my house that you're interested in?

(I didn't think so)

Wearing my Nurse Cap and Carrying the Janitor Mop

It seems that we here in Dollymamaville are under attack of a stomach bug. So far the tally is:

2 Saturdays ago Doodles barfed twice
This past Saturday Izzy barfed
Sunday Izzy barfed
Monday Izzy stayed home from school
Tuesday Izzy stayed home from school but seemed to be getting better
Wednesday Jake the Great started barfing in the early hours of the day and has continued right up to this moment (his head is hanging into the pot and I am sympathetically supporting him from around the corner at the computer)
Wednesday (mind you, it's not even 7:30 am!) has also included Jake the Great AND Izzy Man having diarrhea, so Izzy is home AGAIN today.
AND Izzy Man and Squiggy BOTH have coughs....

I guess this means I'm not going to get to go to book group today!

The Firecrapper is working a ton this week so I will be working all shifts in the dual roles of nurse and janitor, as well as all the usual ones. Wish me luck!