Tuesday, May 30, 2006

I Know This Much is True (book review)

A couple weeks ago I picked up this book at the local library's used book sale. The two things that caught my eye about it were the cover art, and the fact that it had an "Oprah's Book Club" sticker on it. I snatched it up thinking I would either read it or resell it or send it off to paperbackswap. As it turned out I read it....and what an awesome book!

I Know This Much is True is the story of twin brothers, one with schizophrenia, the other one telling the story. This book has it all: history, love, tragedy, heartbreak, passion, true friendship, struggle, and the perfect ending.

This book is one that grabbed my attention and kept calling me back. The characters felt very real to me. The honesty of the narrator brother was excellent. Definitely worth reading!

Busy, busy, busy!

We had a fun weekend at home. We got inspired to begin working on some projects with our free bricks, so we worked on making a patio that is looking very cool! All the kids helped and my husband worked like the mighty workhorse he is. We chipped away at the ground to make it level, moved dirt around, and placed the bricks in a nice design. We made a lot of good progress on it!

We also started working on a raised garden bed for a square foot garden, and my 7 and 10 year olds made an outdoor grill area out of the bricks as well. We are all feeling very resourceful!

We have decluttered and organized many things in our home as well. We love to weed out the stuff we no longer need!

I have also had a ton of new possibilities coming at me for my business. I recently joined a fabulous egroup called The Mom Pack that has given me so many ideas, opportunities, and new sales leads that my head has been spinning. I have had so many things to work my way through and consider that it has been very exciting but also overwhelming. I am trying to figure things out, plan, set goals, and prioritize. It is harder than I expected, because I keep finding out about more stuff to factor into everything! My great hope is to be able to use my ideas and abilities to create a decent supplemental income for my family this year. I always feel like I have great ideas, but with the needs of my family, I rarely have the time to get my ideas into action. With all six kids being in school come August, I will have a little more time to get moving. I am trying to get my head together and learn all I can between now and then so that when the iron is hot...I can strike! :)

The kids are enjoying their break from school. They have been playing outside, having fun with our homemade slip-n-slide, making things, and so forth. Good times!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Many Hands Make Light Work

We've been wanting bricks for several back yard projects, and recently my husband found a huge amount of bricks that we could have for FREE! The following day we loaded up all the kids plus two of their friends and went to load up these free bricks, bring them back to our house, and unload them. The kids were totally into it--cheering each other on and begging to go back for more loads of bricks. It was really fun. Now we have more than enough bricks to build a patio, an outdoor grill or over of some sort, plus make pathways and garden borders!

I finally caved--All My Kids Have Cell Phones Now

This morning I woke up to a bunch of kids that had created their very own cell phones out of construction paper (the boys have Razor phones and my daughter has a Motorola, LOL), plus they had written two plays that they performed for me while I ate my breakfast. I love the imaginations of my children!


So the other day moe left this comment:

First, let me say I am impressed. I can't figure out how you manage to do what you do. I don't mean having 6 kids, I have 5. Homeschooling, and keeping your kids organized and doing chores, that is what I dream of. Can I ask how old your daughter is? (the one doing the bathrooms) I would love to hear your whole kids chore plan. I'd use it as evidence for my kids. See other people get their kids to clean bathrooms too!

Well, moe, let me tell ya, I think it probably sounds lot more impressive than it is in real life. Nevertheless, I shall indulge and answer your question about the chores.

We started having our kids do chores in earnest 6 years ago when we moved to this house. My oldest kiddo was 7, the second child was 4. I assigned each of them an area of the house that was their responsibility to clean up every day. They kept the same area for many months which helped them to learn to really do a good job on their area, and kept it simple for me. "Go clean your areas!" is simplest if the areas are known to all.

Eventually we added in the third child with an area, and now we are trying to teach the three youngest ones to do a chore area as well. (the children are now 13, 10, almost 8, 6, almost 5, and 3)

The chore areas for the oldest three kids have been (until recently):

Upstairs floor (which includes kitchen, living room, and hallway, sometimes bathroom): The person that does this area is responsible for picking up all the rubble that accumulates on the floor each day, plus vacuuming or sweeping as needed. My third child had this area during the school year so that I could supervise him and teach him easily since I am usually in the kitchen. Before this year he didn't have very good chore skills and tended to be lazy. This year he has become a very good cleaner and has a great work ethic. This child now begs to mow the grass and weed whip! He has come a long way.

Stairs and downstairs hall: This is a small area and was my daughter's during the school year because she was gone to school and had homework every day. Basically it's just to pick up and put away stuff in your area that doesn't belong there, plus vacuum the area when needed. (which we normally only had her do on Saturdays since she was busy with school during the week)

Family room: The person doing this area is supposed to pick up the items on the floor plus vacuum, but also straighten up their entire room including all surfaces. Our oldest child had this area during the school year since he is old enough to have a little more responsibility.

Now that I have added three more kids to the mix, I have changed up the areas plus added some new ones. Now I have my 10 year old daughter handling 2 bathrooms (one is also the laundry room), and have added someone to do more kitchen work. I am still working out the kinks in my new system so can't really claim any success on it yet.

The way our chores areas have worked best was when we homeschooled the whole crew. Everyone ate breakfast together, and then spent about 15 minutes or so cleaning their areas. (If you do it every day, that's all it takes) After that they spent 15 minutes straightening up their bedrooms, and they got dressed. Then we started school, and the house looked good in case anyone dropped by. It was fairly easy to do this routine.

Now that some of my kids have been in school it's been a little more hit-and-miss. I am actually toying with the idea of getting the kids up a little early for school next year so that everyone can do their 15 minute chore areas before they leave for the day. Realistically, I hate to get up early, so I don't know if we can pull it off. Still, the idea of having the house spiffy before the day starts is quite appealing to me.

Some people would do better with the chores getting done at night before bed. I think it's a lot nicer to wake up in the morning to a clean house. However, evenings have always been the worst for us and it was not workable for us to handle cranky babies and toddlers, plus get everyone doing their chores at bedtime or whatever. So, we wake up to a messy house and conquer it quickly. We just do better that way.

One thing I am considering is increasing the amount of chores my older three kids do. 15 minutes isn't very much, and there is still plenty to do around here. I haven't decided what all to have them do extra, but am planning on teaching them all to do their own laundry, and getting them helping in the kitchen more. For a short time I used to have a night of the week when one of the older kids planned and prepared dinner. That kind of fizzled out but is still a good idea.

So there you go. Does that help, moe?

Friday, May 19, 2006

I. Am. So. Tired!

So today, first day of summer break, has already been successful and productive. And exhausting!

Since this was the first time for on-the-job-training for the new chore areas, that took a lot of time and patience. My daughter is fairly well devastated that she has been reassigned to clean both bathrooms. She feels that since there are 5 messy-in-the-bathroom boys here that one of THEM should have to clean up with own puddles and drips. I can understand her unhappiness, but we all have to learn to do the job, and she's the one getting that opportunity right now. Luckily for her, I did devise a plan to give her some relief: she only has to do the bathroom job while her older brother is here. He has been given one of my usual chore areas: the kitchen. However, he will be gone for a week in June and for most of the month of July. So she will get to do kitchen duty when he is out of town and I will take over bathrooms. Somehow, this plan didn't make her feel any happier this morning.

My 3 year old surprised me today but begging for a reading lesson. He has been watching me work with his 7 year old brother all year long, and now he has decided it's time for him to learn to read as well. I started out with the Leap Frog toy, but he told me NO, he doesn't want to play with the frog! he wants the reading book! :) Out came the 100 Easy Lessons book, and we did the first lesson. Then Doodles came along and also did the first lesson, and then Izzy Man did the same. jake the great followed up with his lesson, which is far, far past lesson one, thankfully! The boys were all really adorable and loved the time to do something like that. I will try to continue with it if they continue to be interested in it. Since each lesson only takes about 5 minutes or so, it's pretty doable.

My daughter got into a decoupage project, and I decided to pull everything out of the pantry, clean it out, and reorganize. It really needed it.

Since I was then on a roll I decided to also clean out the refrigerator, since it was badly needed. Tomorrow is grocery shopping day, so this is the perfect day for cleaning the fridge and pantry since we're at our low point for supplies.

Now it's only 3:30 and I'm *tired*! But I'm glad we've had a good day so far.

Miles to go before I sleep.......

Thursday, May 18, 2006

So when August comes don't act like I didn't earn it....

My children are officially on Summer Break now. Today was their last day of school. Although I know it is popular to act like this is a horrible turn of events, I will swim against the flow as I love to do and tell you that I am looking forward to this break.

Not only will I no longer have to arise at 6am, but I have great things planned. We will be doing summer reading programs, I will be working on reading and phonics with 2 or 3 of the kids, the two oldest kids are going to camp for a week each, we have a trip planned, and I am going to be teaching the three youngest kids how to do chores. Soon I will have six good workers to delegate household jobs to, which is a very good thing. The younger ones love to be with me and help with almost anything so I know they are ripe for some responsibilities. The trickiest part of making this happen is....me! Teaching them chores means that I will have to stop what I am doing and take the time to go over and over and over the tasks that they need to learn. Sometimes this is really hard, but I know from having 3 other kids that help around the house that it is going to be worth it. My goal is that by the end of the summer all 3 of the little boys will be able to clean their chore areas responsibly. Almost all of the kids are going to learn to do their own laundry this summer as well.

I have some ideas jotted down for setting up an actual schedule for our summer break days, because without one I tend to forget what to get the kids busy with, certain things are never gotten to, and I spend too much time on my own pursuits. With a schedule you can be more sure that you will get to do all of the things that you wanted to do. We will not get to the end of the summer and say, "Oh no! We hardly ever played any games together!" or "We forgot to have campfires and make smores!" Although some people have schedules that become a burden to them, most of the time I have found that a schedule can be a really helpful tool for creating a routine and rhythm for our days. Managers of Their Homes is the best resource I know of for learning the whys and hows of creating a schedule for your life.

We have already been having fun working on our summer reading goals and playing with a Leap Frog item that we were able to borrow from the school for the summer. Although some of those Leap Frog things can really be annoying, this one seems like it will be valuable for my younger guys.

Izzy Man is reading many basic sight words, and is showing a lot of aptitude for sounding out words. I hope to work through Teach Your Child To Read in 100 Easy Lessons this summer. (Jake the Great has almost completed the book)

Our little tiny garden is doing it's thing, and I've already had a nice amount of spinach from it. What I am looking forward to more than anything are the red and orange sweet peppers. I love them more than the green peppers but hate to pay the crazy prices for them at the store. I hope to get things in order this year so that I can have a bigger garden next year.

So those are just a few of the things we've got planned for our summer. Since my kids are out sooner than most, they will also be back to school sooner than most. Just remember that I'll have had my kids home just as long as you, missie! Hopefully we'll both have had a lot of fun with our kids. :)

You know, I was thinking about the surprise party on Tuesday night, and how most of the people from church were able to attend. I was realizing that a lot of people would not have that response. In today's go-go-go world, most people seem to have every night of their week taken up with some sort of place to go and thing to do.

Two of the things about our church that we really value are:

1. That there is a strong emphasis on families not getting into the crazy grind of running all the time. We only have Sunday morning church because we do not want people's entire lives taken up with running....even to church!

2. There is a strong emphasis on relationships. Not just "Good morning, how are you? nice to see you!" church foyer relationships, but actual getting to know people and caring about them.

I realized that our church friends were able to come because their schedules weren't clogged up, and they took the time to add something to their schedule because they care about us.

That rocks!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Throwing a last-minute surprise party

Yesterday was my husband's birthday. He was working at the fire station, just as he had been Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. Poor guy! On Monday I was deciding about going to visit him on Tuesday, which would be an obvious OF COURSE if it weren't for the fact that gas is so expensive, we drive a big vehicle, and it's 30 minutes away.

And then I had a brain storm. I could set up a little surprise party for him at work!

After a few minutes of thinking it through, I put my plan into action starting at about 9pm on Monday.

I emailed some friends from church to invite them to stop in for the happenin's. On Tuesday morning I got ingredients to make his favorite pie, plus ordered a cake, and bought drinks, cups, and plates.

During the day I called the firemen on duty to let them know what was going on. I made the pies. And I picked up the cake and balloons. I cleared out the back of our Burb and used a fire truck blanket as a tablecloth back there.

We went to one of the fire stations that he was not at and set up a little tailgate party. The firemen helped us a bit. We wrapped the balloons around the side view mirror. Then people started to arrive and we had one of the firemen call to the other station to ask my husband to come down there for something.

By the time he arrived he had a nice group in the parking lot waiting to surprise him!

Lots of people from church showed up and so we had a really nice turn out. My husband was really surprised and it gave him a much-needed lift. It was really easy to put together so I will not hesitate to try more surprise parties in the future.

You, too, and put together a surprise party in less than 24 hours! :)

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

I just read a beautiful post that I wanted to share with you. The author writes about the importance of doing what we do, even if it is insignificant. I think we all need to be reminded of that from time to time.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Laugh Therapy

Found this hilarious Mother's Day memory today and it made me screech with laughter.
Could you use a laugh too? Check it out.

Stand Up for Yourself!

Many times parents tell their kids to stand up to bullies at school or whatever. We have even gone so far as to teach our oldest child how to effectively defend himself in a variety of ways. However, this post by a high school guidance teacher seemed to me an important additional piece of information for my son, my husband, and myself.

Basically, he says that times have changed, and schoolyard fights aren't anything like they were back when we were growing up. Kids are much more violent now, and the fights are a whole lot more dangerous. Telling our kids to fight back might not be the best advice any more....

Check it out. He's seeing this stuff every day.

Alright, Eve--you dragged it outta me

Eve wants to know how I made the Chili Lime Chips, so I shall indulge her. :)

The thing about a lot of my raw crackers and treats is that it requires a little foresight. At first I found this really difficult because it was tricky to get the timing right. I mean, newbies aren't so good at planning 3 days in advance for some chip-type-things, you know?

Happily, by now I've gotten a good idea of what I like and what needs to happen, so I can keep things going without too much angst.

The first ingredient needed in this recipe is sprouted buckwheat. For that I take raw buckwheat hulls and soak them for most of a day. Then I drain them, rinse them well, and let them live in a couple of colanders for 2 days. I rinse them in the morning and at night, and keep them covered with a towel through the day. (try to spread the buckwheat out thinly in the colander, not all lumped up and deep in the middle)

Since sprouted buckwheat is a pretty common item in a lot of my raw recipes, I do this pretty regularly even if I don't know what I'm going to do with it. By the time the sprouts have grown for two days, I have usually gotten it figured out. If not, the drained sprouts can go into a ziploc bag in the fridge for several days, or they can be dehydrated and used for one of our favorite cookie bar treats: Buckwheatie Bars. (I'll tell you about those some other time)

For this recipe you need:

5 cups of sprouted buckwheat

3 cups of fresh veggies (I used 3 tomatoes this time, but you can use zucchini or anything else you've got around)

2 cups of soaked sunflower seeds (cover the seeds in water for a day, then drain. yet another thinking ahead step, but it's easy. If I'm not using them right away I freeze them.) You could use pine nuts or other nuts/seeds if they are more convenient for you.

1 cup of flax meal (raw flax seeds ground up in a coffee grinder)

2 tsp. sea salt

1 tsp. chili powder

2 tablespoons cumin

2 tablespoons honey

juice of 2 limes

2 pinches cayenne pepper

3/4 tsp. garlic powder

2 tablespoons olive oil

half cup pumpkin seeds (it's good to soak these ahead of time too, but not mandatory)

2 tablespoons sesame seeds

The nice thing about this recipe is that it's not going to fly or fail based on exact measurements or if you have ever single thing. You can really "cook from the hip" with this one, adding or deleting items to your liking.

You just whiz all of this up on your food processor (probably in batches since it's more than most food processors can handle), then mix it all up in a big bowl.

Spread it thinly onto teflex sheets on dehydrator trays. I do it thick enough to not have bare spaces. It thins out some once it's dehydrated too.

This recipe fills over 3 of my dehydrator trays. (they are each 1 foot square)

Once I get the batter spread onto the trays I take my pizza cutter and cut through it to score it. I go straight across for the first series of cuts, then diagonal for the second. That makes the chips turn out diamond-shaped which seems right for the flavorful flair that these chips have. :)

Dehydrate for several hours until it holds together well enough to flip it onto a dehydrator tray without the teflex sheet. (The teflex sheets keep liquid on the tray, but what you really want is for the majority of thr drying time to be on the mesh dehydrator trays) It takes about 24 hours of drying for these to be done.

I save them in a large Tupperware container and this batch lasts us a few weeks, so it's worth it to me to bother to make it.

Other than the planning ahead, these are really easy to make. It probably took me 20 minutes to throw this together today, and now I'll be set with snack chips for the rest of the month, at least.

You can use these chips for dipping, although sometimes mine come out a little too thin to sustain much weight. I normally eat them instead of popcorn or some other salty or crunchy snack, plus I take them in the car if I know I'm going to be hungry and won't want to eat something junky instead.

This recipe comes from my favorite raw food recipe book by Serene Allison. it is called Rejuvenate Your Life and you can purchase the book from the resources at Above Rubies. We have many successful favorite healthy foods in our family thanks to her recipes, and things I have adapted from them.

There you go, Eve! Let me know if you try it!

These are the Chili Lime Chips. They are thin and crispy and delicious--and raw! I'll spare you the recipe, though, as it will sound very complicated to most of you. :) Posted by Picasa

My mom sent the three littlest boys these matching outfits. Two of the other kids decided to get in on the act by also wearing orange. It was an easy way to keep track of everybody at church. :) Thanks Mom! Posted by Picasa

Fabulous Fruit Leathers Too!

So yesterday I decided to be a Fun Mother and serve healthy ice cream for breakfast. Jake the Great woke Sullen saying, "Sullen, wake up! This is like, the most exciting day of our life! Mom is serving ice cream for breakfast!" and he was totally serious.

Unfortunately (or not) my children are not used to a very sweet breakfast fare, so although they all liked the idea of having ice cream, and even liked the taste of it, they were not able to eat as much of it as I thought they would.

So what's a woman to do with so much leftover breakfast ice cream?

I could have put it into containers in the fridge and called it pudding later. I could have made popsicles. But instead, I decided to try something else, and I spread the stuff on teflex sheets on my dehydrator trays, and started it up. By afternoon we had delicious, nutritious, chewy, fabulous chocolate fruit leathers! If you roll it up it makes a nice chewy treat, and I can see that it could make a very acceptable alternative to chocolate candy.

I have an Excalibur dehydrator and when I use it, I only dehydrate things at about 100 degrees or less. This is high enough to dry the stuff, but low enough that it doesn't kill off any enzymes, so the health benefits are the same as fresh ingredients. It just allows me to have some more flexibility on raw things to eat.

Today I will be making some Chili Lime Chips that are a much better alternative (in taste, texture, and nutrition) to tortilla chips. We love them and they are very easy to make. I'll have a picture for you later. :)

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Awesome Ice Cream

As I continue on my journey of healthy eating and raw foods, I keep trying new things. The other day I came upon something that has been a true hit at my house: Ice Cream!

Here's how you make it:

take some ripe bananas (when the skins have the brown speckles on them). Peel and chop up, then freeze. (When you see bargain bananas marked down at the store, buy them up and freeze them! Very cheap!)

Once frozen, stick your chopped bananas into your food processor, blender, or whatever you've got.

Add in a tablespoon or so of honey, and some coconut milk (maybe 2-3 Tablespoons. I didn't measure).

Whir it all up in your processor til it looks like soft serve ice cream.

Now you can eat it that way or make it into some other flavor.

If you want it more vanilla-ish, add some vanilla extract.

For chocolate, which is what we did, I added carob powder. I just kept adding it and mixing a tablespoon or so at a time until it was satisfyingly chocolately. I read a suggestion to add a little mint extract for a chocolate-mint ice cream which sounded yummy as well. If you don't care about going all-raw you could add natural peanut butter in!

Other suggestions would be to add nuts, granola, frozen or fresh berries or other fruit, etc. You can really use your imagination!

For us, the chocolate ice cream was DELICIOUS! MY 13 year old even said so, which is quite an accomplishment seeing as how he treats most healthy items with great skepticism.

I also discovered, by accident, that this can make a yummy pudding as well. You can make this up and then put it into containers in the fridge until you want to eat it. I had some leftover ice cream last night that I stuck in the fridge. This morning it was still good and I am thinking it would be a thrillin breakfast item for my children. They will be extremely delighted to know that we are having chocolate pudding for breakfast!

I think this could also make excellent frozen popsicles as well.

This is very filling so it doesn't take much to satisfy you. Try it!

Amazing Grace

I was just reading my daily Elisabeth Elliot devotional and found this gem. She is writing about when her daughter was a little girl:

One evening I overheard Valerie singing to her kitten:

"Amazing grace, how sweet the sound

That saved a wretch like you."

I have been getting these devotionals for awhile now and I really enjoy them. They are not very long, and she has a very down-to-earth style of communicating. You can read the entire message and sign up to get these devotionals in your inbox each day by going here.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

A Knight's Tale

Last night we watched A Knight's Tale, which I love love love. SUCH a fun, clever movie with it's mix of old and new, basic and funky. Hottie Heath Ledger does a great job as the gutsy and lovable William Thatcher/Sir Ulrich von Lichtenstein of Gelderland. One of my favorite parts, a song sung in a bar:

He's blond, he's pissed, he'll see you in the lists, Lichtenstein! He's blond, he's tanned, he comes from Gelderland, he comes from Gelderland! Gelderland, Gelderland, Gelderland... Gelderland, Gelderland, Gelderland...

If you haven't seen it yet, you must! Get it on your list.

I remembered the other good thing!

The OTHER good thing that happened on Tuesday is this:

My Dell Axim had fallen on Saturday and the screen was cracked. I called Dell and got a replacement on the way. (Thankfully I had gotten an extended warranty!) The screen cracks made it impossible to get any information beamed off of my Axim and onto my husband's Axim, and our charging dock had been broken for a long time so I hadn't been backing up any of my info. I was very concerned about losing all my data. Not only do I have my addresses and phone numbers on there, but our schedule, alarms for various things, and tons of things I've written down--even all my notes about my book ideas!

Well, the replacement arrived Tuesday along with a new charging dock, and I got all of my stuff safely off of the broken Axim and onto my new one. I was VERY happy that my info was saved. What's better is that I now understand how to properly back up all of my stuff so this shouldn't be an issue again.

Another fun thing about this is that I learned about Avant Go which is a free service where I can get news and other stuff downloaded into my Axim automatically every time I dock it. It is really cool! I have things like USA Today, a devotional, book reviews, and lots more. I am having a rebirth of my love affair with my axim. :)

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Ups, downs, salads, and a book.

So, hello again. It's been quite a week so far....and it's only Wednesday.

Monday brought a low as I found out that I've been assigned a "friendship downgrade" by someone I thought I was going to be good friends with forever. Unfortunately, this blog won't be the place I get to share about that. Let it suffice to say that it was a very low low.

Tuesday brought two good things to prove to me that God hasn't stopped caring about me: One, I got a free jogging stroller, which I had been praying for. Two, something else but I can't remember it right now. Shoot....what was that?

Today marks day 5 of me eating 100% all raw food. Although I do not really care to be this extreme, I felt like extreme measures were needed since I had put on weight from my previous part-time raw thing. When I thought through what I had been eating that wasn't raw at that time, I saw several possible choices that could account for an overall gain. I had gotten to the point where my clothes were uncomfortable, and by crackie I am not buying bigger clothes! So, desperate times call for desperate measures. Salads, veggie juice, morning smoothies, and healthy treats only sparingly are my food life now. Hopefully I will see some serious weight loss for my efforts this time around. (HOPEFULLY! If this doesn't work I am going to be very extremely upset...)

My garden is giving me lots of nice green spinach leaves now so it is right on time for salad mania....

Today I finished reading Crunchy Cons: How Birkenstocked Burkeans, Gun-Loving Organic Gardeners, Evangelical Free-Range Farmers, Hip Homeschooling Mamas, Right-Wing Nature Lovers, and Their Diverse Tribe of Countercultural Conservatives Plan to Save America (by Rod Dreher). When I first read about this book the title is what really interested me. I was brought up in a family of Republicans, but now don't feel any attachment to a political party, per se. I have found that many of my choices in life are ones that mainstream people don't "get," but often some of the most liberal people do get.

For instance....homebirth! Or health food! Or, caring about the environment! Or homeschooling. For the most part, people that do these things are either very conservative or very liberal. It's as if the continuum from conservative to liberal is actually a circle instead of a straight line, and that two extremes meet on many lifestyle choices.

Crunchy Cons is both a pleasant read and an irritating one. The pleasant parts include the way the author weaves in stories of people that have decided to live their lives in a sacramental way, putting their values of family, home, resourcefulness, and so forth into action. People that have decided not to run the rat race life of working a lot so they can buy a lot of stuff which they never have time to enjoy because they are never home.

The irritating parts are where Rod overdoes it with his own thrilling takes of eating fancy-shmancy foods and wine, and goes overboard with his far-above-average vocabulary. I have a better-than-average command of the English language, and this book still managed to make me feel like a dunce more than once. There was a lot of "What on earth is this guy talking about?" moments. So, maybe a personal weakness. If so, I can live with that.

I think that the author got a little carried away with his grandiose title. I saw little in this book to make me think that "crunchy cons" are going to save America or the Republican party. I think it's a book that will confirm for many earthy types like myself that their life choices are basically conservative, and that this is a good, noble, and productive path. For others it may encourage them to think more about the way they are living, and see if the values they actually choose are ones that will do them any good in the long run.

So that's the news til now. See you next time.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Proving that I'm on the right track...

My mom, who posts comments as Mimley, mentioned that I could do as she did with her kids, dragging them to things like Woodsmen's Festivals, apple festivals, and so forth. She has shown the light on the roots of why it is that I can go to anything and manage to have fun, even if only by making fun of it.

My parents took us to all sorts of stuff like that. The Woodsmen's Festival was probably one of the most memorable because they had things like men climbing tall poles with their bare hands. Actually, if my memory is correct, the poles may have been greased. They also had men that could carve things like squirrels out of large pieces of trees, using a chain saw. There were also a zillion tents and tables and displays set up by various chain saw distributors and so forth. My dad did a lot of tree work so this stuff was right up his alley.

Proving that even as a teenager I could have fun no matter what, my sibs and I retreated to the van when all the woodland fun became too much for us. We proceeded to have hours of fun while waiting for our parents. We took wierd pictures of each other that I have to this day. (I will have to see if I can find some to share)

Yes, mom, you have shown me the way. take your kids to a wide variety of places and let their natural coping skills kick in. (or something like that)

I've Got It

In order to help my children get into the habit of blooming where they're planted, I could start taking them to all sorts of varied situations, teaching them how to enjoy themselves and relax again and again. And I wouldn't quit until they figured out how to behave nicely and with a good attitude. Maybe we should start a list of places I could take them:

performance art
museums of all kinds
more doctor's waiting rooms!
boring shopping trips
long car trips

Feel free to add on.

Another idea I had was this: I have told you about how our church teaches on a virtue a month. Well, in the summer we take a break from that somewhat. What if I filled in with some virtues that we need to work on? I thought of Initiative, Cheerfulness, and Contentment. What do you think?

Yes, I'm serious.

It's been a long time since I bored you with a boogeyman post!

But here I am at 2am sitting at the computer--a luxury I only get when the hubby is away and I hear things go bump in the night.

I was thinking about my past two posts. I wanted to add about the one with my children's character that although it was frustrating to me that some of them grumbled and complained, they did do a good job of staying together and behaving in socially acceptable ways. and the younger ones stayed with their buddies. :) I have not totally failed, just have a ways to go.

On the preschool graduation, I decided that maybe my declaration of the celebration of mediocrity was overly harsh, or else it isn't unique to today. I realized that I can even remember my own preschool graduation. I think that at my elementary school we also had kindergarten and 6th grade graduations as well. Also, I think one year the homeschool group did some end of the year event that they called a graduation, and everybody got to walk no matter what grade they were in. So, I guess this is not anything new. But I still think it's kind of dumb. I can understand an end of the year *assembly* of some sort. That would make more sense to me.

Despite my tough talk, it was actually kind of hard for me to go through with skipping the event. It's funny how tied in we are to expectations and fears of somehow messing up our kids. I also started wondering if the teacher might ask me why we didn't come, and if I'd make her feel unappreciated if I admitted why we didn't attend. I would hate to add any stress to the teachers that do such a good job with my kids!

Alas, the time has come and gone and we managed just fine without it. Of course, once I was up investigating the weird noise I heard I discovered that Doodles got up and peed on his floor instead of making it to the bathroom. See? See?! I have scarred him for life by not believing that his preschool graduation was important! What have I done?

Now I have yet another pee pee puddle to contend with tomorrow (today). It's been a big week for bathroom-related cleanups.....

Since I was getting annoyed by every little sound I brought a fan into my room and turned it on. I can never decide if it's better to have the fan and not hear the noises, or to hear the noises in case for once it really is something that needs to be investigated. Pick your poison, I say...

My husband is away for 4 days in a row due to regular work, over time, and special training. Although I've gotten used to him being gone overnight, four days is a bit much sometimes. Especially on a weekend. I better get used to it, though. The part time second job that he took on in November has really not worked out to be regular enough to help us out, so he is back to trying to get a job with EMS. If he can, he would go full time with them, which would mean that he would work a 24 hour shift at the fire dept, and then go across the street for a 24 hour shift with EMS. When we talked about it the other day he was willing to do it, but looked very grim-faced about it. I think that for him a schedule like that is extremely daunting. I guess it would be for anybody.

It really drives me nuts when I see people writing so smugly about how anybody can live on one income if they are only willing to tighten their belts a little bit. I am a champion belt-tightener, and I can tell you that it is mighty hard to do! Even with a lower-than-average house payment, no credit card debt, only one car, spending less on food than most people I know, and doing almost no going out or entertainment stuff, it is a struggle all the time. Obviously the struggle is getting pretty bad if we are now looking at a full time EMS position!

I am so glad that I have a husband that's willing to work. So many families don't have that. However, it seems so sad to me that he'd be working so much so that the rest of us can be home. He'll be missing most of it! It seems pretty out of balance, really, but we don't see any other options. Summer break is coming right up so there is no way I could get some outside job that would work out to be profitable while paying for childcare for 6. I have considered taking on day care kids, but my husband wants me to save what sanity I have left for dealing with our own kids. (he's right) When the school year comes I will still have my youngest at home for half the school day 4 days a week plus all day on Friday. That schedule will be in effect for 2 years. And after that my daughter will be going into 6th grade and I have my doubts about sending her to middle school, so the good ship Homeschooling may be calling my name again by then....

I do what I can from home, running my teeny weeny business, plus now writing ebooks. I ebay every now and then which is helpful in short bursts. There's only so many ways I can slice the pie that is my life..... I try to make a difference but mostly the things I do have unrealized potential. :/

A home is like a ship--it needs a rudder. Especially when children live there! If I am not here to do what I do, I cannot imagine the shape my family would be in. (dahsed upon the rocky shore, I say!) I think it would be stressful for all of us. (Not that having a husband gone for 2 out of every 3 days isn't.)

There don't seem to be any easy answers. We have to pay our bills. Therefore we need more money. Somehow that's going to happen, and that'll take work. I think that if he could do the EMS job for a year we could pay off our car, get caught up on our bills, and buy another used car debt-free. It is pretty tricky for us to only have one car. My husband carpools to work most days, and if that doesn't work out then he either takes the car and I have nothing, or we get to drop off and pick up to his job which is a half hour away. Fortunately we don't run a lot and I am perfectly happy to stay at home, so many times I can do without the car just fine. However, it is not convenient and many times I wonder if it is even reasonable or safe. If one of my kids gets hurt and needs to go to the doctor or hospital I would have no way to get them there other than imposing on a neighbor or using an ambulance (which last time I checked does not include transporting 7 people in addition to the EMTs).

My advice to those starting out in life is to work all you can and save all you can so that you can be as debt-free as possible. If you can manage to not have student loans, car loans, or a mortgage, your life will be a lot nicer. You could work and enjoy your life, rather than have to work simply to live. I teach my kids this all the time. I am trying to get through to them that they have an opportunity to set their life up better than we did. I wish somebody had taught me about this when I was a teenager. I had jobs and worked hard and wasted a lot of that money. (a lot of it went to college too, though) So did my husband.

OK,the long and winding road of this post is now coming to an abrupt stop. Aren't you glad I don't write many of these any more?

Friday, May 05, 2006

There are good days, and then there are other ones.

In my recent post about my daughter being generous to a friend I said that I felt like we were on the right track with raising our kids. And in moments like those, I do.

and then there are days like today.....

A local politician that we are supporting was hosting a fish fry thingamajig in our area tonite. The food was free, it's at a park, and there was live music scheduled. I thought it sounded like fun and a nice diversion from just staying home like we always do. We planned to go, and then my husband had to work overtime, so I considered whether or not to attend on my own with the kids.

About an hour before it was time to go and I could see that the weather was going to continue to be gorgeous, and I knew I had enough energy to trek out sans hubby, I told the kids about the event and asked them if they wanted to go. The results were mixed. The little ones wanted to go (they like to go anywhere). The oldest one wanted to stay home and play on the computer. The two other ones were in favor of going only because they thought there was a chance of there being cake. yes, cake. My children are bought so easily.

So off we go to this thing, and before we even park the car my oldest is muttering to me, "How long do we have to stay at this thing? Can we just eat and leave?"

The food wasn't being served yet so I watched the kids while they played on the playground. Sullen was in my ear griping about how if we didn't get over there we would have to wait too long in line, etc. etc.

The kids were supposed to be functioning on the buddy system, which is basically a thing where I pair up one older kid with one younger one and the person they are supposed to keep track of at all times. I, of course, try to keep track of everybody. But it helps if I know that an older is sticking near a younger, particularly when there are a bunch of people, and kids are darting in and out of tunnels and slides and ladders and such. My poor eyeballs can't keep up so well.

Well, Sullen was a reluctant buddy, so I not only had to keep watching over Doodles (Sullen's match up), but kept having to remind Sullen to stick with Doodles. ugh. It's always refreshing when the oldest kid is the worst behaved and the biggest baby.

Eventually we made it over to the line and inched our way to the food along with hundreds of other people. Outwardly the kids look good, and I get a lot of compliments about them from people in situations like that. Quietly, though, I am hearing whispered questions of, "How long do we have to stay? what is this food? Do we have to eat this? I do not like this music. When can we go?" and on and on.

Once we got our food they looked miserably at their plates of fried fish, hush puppies, and french fries. (no cake, alas!) True, we don't serve a lot of fried stuff around here, but I thought they could be a little more flexible than that. They ate the fries and turned up their noses at everything else. They complained about the music (too loud, too Kentucky) even thought it was really pretty good and fun.

Once we were done NOT eating, we went back to the playground. By now Sullen had sauntered off on his own, and the younger ones were playing. My daughter preferred to stand off to the side and complain about wanting to leave and how she wished she'd brought their Nintendo DS.

Give. Me. A. Break! It was a gorgeous day--not too hot, not too cold, and we had a nice playground to enjoy. There were trees and people and fun music....and she's being sour.

To top it all off, Squiggy Magoo did something that never happens to him--he pooped his pants. What a grand finale! Luckily I still carry baby wipes in the car, and Walmart bags are never far away. I cleaned him up and chucked his undies and we headed home. Thankfully Sullen rounded the corner just in time.

Other than the poopy pants, their antics make me feel concerned about their character development. Why don't my kids just enjoy a situation rather than acting annoyed that it isn't their ideal situation? Why do they have a mother that can have fun anyplace, and they seem to want to be exactly the opposite?

What can I do about the attitudes that prompt endless questions about leaving early? What do you do about sourness in general? How do you teach children to be thankful and to have a happy attitude? They say more is caught than taught, but in this case it seems just the opposite. If ever there was something that should have been caught around here, it would be being able to have fun in most situations, and being thankful even when things aren't ideal. (like, our entire life)

Part of me wonders if we'd be better off with no computer games, no movies, no outings to friend's houses. Instead they could stay home and learn how to have a good time with the people in their family.

Over time it might turn out to be a good plan, but the process would probably send me to the looney bin.

Simply talking to children about this kind of thing isn't going to fix it, I don't think. What do you think?

Thursday, May 04, 2006

If it makes me a bad mother, so be it.

There is a strange phenomenon in schools today. Perhaps you could call it Celebration of Mediocrity. I don't know if it's all the sinister, but it's annoying as all get out. (however annoying that is)

Last fall a big deal was made about my daughter getting some sort of whoop-dee-doo recognition for some reading thing. We went to it and gave her a lot of praise, not even knowing what the thing was about. Later when I met with her teacher I found out that my daughter had been most improved on a reading evaluation in the first marking period. That would normally be great EXCEPT for the fact that the test that was given is a speed reading test. Basically each child sits down with the teacher and reads a story out loud and they are scored based on how many words of the story they can read in a given amount of time. The trick is that for some reason the teachers aren't allowed to tell the kids that speed is the point of the test. So, when my little girl sat down to read she was very precise and slow, taking time to be sure of her words and to use good expression during the story. Needless to say, she didn't read very fast. AFTER the test the teacher was allowed to tell the kids that the point was to hurry and not to worry about mistakes and expression. Well, duh! she was a lot faster the next time she took the test.

....and that is what she was recognized for! instead of an actual achievment. ugh.

What are they thinking?!

The other thing that drives me batty are graduation ceremonies for preschoolers, kindergarteners, and so forth. What on earth are we doing this for?! Tell me why a 4 or 5 year old needs to sit through a program and get a fake "diploma." I figure it's probably fueled by parents that want an excuse to dress their kid up and take pictures.

All of these mock graduations seem to me like they take away from a REAL graduation later on in life where a student has actually struggled to achieve something. I'm sorry, but my kid doesn't need a pat on the back for making it through two years of preschool!

Tomorrow is Doodle's "preschool graduation." They don't even have school on Fridays, so this means that all the parents and kids need to shlepp into school for this special event, to watch the children scream out their "ABC Rock" song (I have seen it twice already), and to do cute and awkward things while they walk up to get their rolled up paper made to look like a diploma, and then to eat cake and drink soda at 9:30am.

As I was thinking about the logistics of going to this event I had a sudden revelation: We don't have to go!

And then I had to ask myself, If we skip out on this does it make me a bad mother?

My kid hates stuff like this. He's the child that slouches in his seat with his arms crossed in front of him, the one that will only reluctantly walk up to grab the diploma while rolling his eyes, the one who will not sing a single word of ABC Rock. This is not his kind of thing.

So why put him through it? Why put any of us through it? It's fine with me if other people want to dress their kid up and act like getting out of preschool is an accomplishment. Really! It just doesn't seem worth the hassle to me.

So, there it is, for the whole world to see--we're skipping out on the graduation. I'm letting the chips fall where they may.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

More I Am From

I Am From
by my daughter, age 10

I am from kiddie pools, from rollerblades and gymnastics class.

I am from my warm, cozy room that is purple.

I am from the creek across the street where I like to play, and the big apple trees I climb on in my back yard.

I am from pancake breakfasts, and burgers and fries, from my artistic Dad and my mom that plays Dutch Blitz with me, and my five active brothers.

I am from movie watching, game playing, and birthday parties and swimming in the pool.

From clean-your-room and get-up-or-you’re-going-to-miss-the-bus!

I am from a very different, fun church, a jumping, worshipping family. We like to praise the Lord! We love God and He’s our only Lord.

I'm from a homebirth in a trailer in Kentucky, from tater tots and spaghetti.

From the time that we drove to grandma and grandpa’s for Christmas when I was really little. (I got a sleeping bag.), From the time I went under the water in the kiddie pool.

I am from Chinese dresses that I got from China, from birthday pictures and Big Sister shirts that I drew on when I was two (I still wear it sometimes).

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

I am from

I found out about a really great writing assignment the other day and decided to use it with my son. Instead, I ended up doing the assignment with 4 sons today, and I plan to work on one for myself later on. The original assignment is here which includes a format to make it come together easier.

Here are our results:

I Am From
by Sullen, age 13

I am from video games, Halo 2, and Runescape.

I am from the only house with a gravel driveway, and a chicken coop that never gets used.

I am from the creek across the road, and the big back yard that you can ride bikes down.

I am from breakfast smoothies, and never finishing home improvement projects, from Mom and Dad and 4 brothers and one sister.

I am from sitting together for meals and long car trips to visit grandparents,

From your-room-looks-like-it-hasn't-been-cleaned-in-a-year to have-you-brushed-your-hair-today?

I am from a baptism in a stock tank and a non-denominational church.

I am from a small, quiet town full of political signs in yards and on street corners, from hash brown casserole and peanut butter sandwiches.

From sledding down the stairs in sleeping bags and plastic boxes, from catching crayfish with minnow traps, and flooding basement emergencies.

I am from family portraits taken by insane photographers, and many memories to come.

I Am From
by Jake the Great, age 7 (with a little help from mom)

I am from trees and GI Joes.

I am from the big backyard with the hill to ride Big Wheels down.

I am from the tree fort that's fun to play army men in, and going to the creek.

I am from sausage and eggs cooked by Dad, and bread made by mom, from Dollymama and Firecrapper and 4 brothers and one sister.

I am from playing outside and listening to music.

From I-love-you and let's-ride-bikes.

I am from KidStuf and Jesus-loves-me.

I'm from Germany, Ireland, New York, Michigan, and Kentucky,
from pizza and chicken noodle soup.

From visits with the Taylors and grandparents far away.

I am from a nice house with lots of pictures of us, a room I share with Izzy, tree climbing, grass mowing, and kisses goodnight.

I Am From
by Doodles, aged 4.5 (with a lot of help from mom)

I am from Legos and UNO cards, from Lincoln Logs.

I am from a house that we pick up.

I am from the apple trees and green grass.

I am from playing GI Joes and playing tough guys with Dad,
from card games and swimming.

I am from Good Morning! and Good night!

From let's-go-play and time-to-eat!

I am from KidStuf and The Park.

I'm from a waterbirth in my sister's room, from pizza and birthday cake.

From the time I got my leg cut open and long trips to grandparents.

I am from pictures on the wall and in books.

I Am From
by Squiggy Magoo, aged 3 (with lots of help from mom)

I am from drums and paint and playdough.

I am from a big house with a big table.

I am from a zip line, a tree fort, and a swing set.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Mega Families via Adoption

For quite some time now I've been fascinated by families that grow super big via adoption, or often a combination of adopted and bio kids. I think it started with the VanWingerden family of Colorado Springs. They have 22 children, 12 adopted and 10 bio. WOW! 22 kids! Amazing!

For my whole adult life I knew I wanted a lot of kids. 4 was a minimum idea, and I think that after growing up seeing the Cosby family and the Waltons with their big broods of kids it seemed fun and doable. Now that I have 6 it doesn't really seem all that big, yet for now I feel like I'm at the limit of what I can do.

But that doesn't change the fact that when I see ads looking for foster and adoptive homes for kids that I don't cry and wonder if there is any way I can possibly help.

The dangerous thing is, my husband is the exact same kind of sucker for this kind of stuff that I am.

So, it's always in the back of my mind that one day we are going to get to the point where we will not feel spread so thin, and more kids may join our family without all the stretch marks and midnight potty runs.

I guess all of that sort of explains why I can't stop being amazed about the people that do this sort of thing.

For awhile now I've enjoyed the lovely blog Owlhaven. Happy mom Mary has 8 kids, several through adoption.

Today I read the blog book of a woman who has adopted 10 kids in less than a decade. I read it to the point of distraction....

The other day I came upon Team Bettendorf. They have 12 kids ages 10 and under---many of them adopted.

Then there's Amanda from one of my egroups. She and her husband have adopted and adopted and adopted kids in the past several years, until now their tribe is up to 17!

And if all that ain't impressive enough....I found the Big Mamma of them all! The Bodie Bunch. Want to take a guess at how many kids they have?

Go ahead and think for a minute....

OK. You dragged it out of me.
They have THIRTY-NINE CHILDREN ranging in age from 3 to 32.

I. Am. In. Awe.