Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Travel Day

The Road Goes Ever On

From the Hobbit:

Roads go ever ever on,
Over rock and under tree,
By caves where never sun has shone,
By streams that never find the sea;
Over snow by winter sown,
And through the merry flowers of June,
Over grass and over stone,
And under mountains of the moon.

Roads go ever ever on
Under cloud and under star,
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar.
Eyes that fire and sword have seen
And horror in the halls of stone
Look at last on meadows green
And trees and hills they long have known.


From the LotR:

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

The Road goes ever on and on
Out from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
Let others follow it who can!
Let them a journey new begin,
But I at last with weary feet
Will turn towards the lighted inn,
My evening-rest and sleep to meet.

-- J R R Tolkien



Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Repetition #458... and counting

Call me weird but I LOVE the Suzuki violin CD, book 1. I have heard it hundreds of times in the last two years and I still love it. Someone told me when I started this whole Suzuki fiasco that I would grow to hate the CD. You're supposed to play it every day. Or more. And we have certainly played it a lot, although I would not go so far as to say we have played it every day, or even close.

It is playing right now. I got it out while the kids were coloring and stuck it in the stereo that sits on top of our refrigerator, just at the top of my reach. Unless I get a chair, putting a disc in the 3-disc changer and choosing the correct disc number is an exercise in random guessing, but I got it eventually.

I am not sure why the simple songs, a single line of violin with piano accompaniment are so pleasing but they are in a way. My daughter hums along while she colors.

Somehow this familiar sound seems wonderfully homey and comforting. I know and anticipate every note. But still I never get tired of it. There is this little part of me, the antithesis of the restless, creative side, that likes familiar, comforting repetition. The side that likes routine and sitting in the same chair in the same room. I think if I was Episcopalian I would like picking a favorite prayer and praying it every day.

So I sit here listening to Go Tell Aunt Rhody and singing the words in my head for the multi-hundredth time. The kids sit at the table coloring pictures and playing with Playdough, humming to the songs they know so well: Bach's Minuet and Lightly Row.

Cat Chasing Laser Pointer

Monday, December 29, 2008

Revisiting Homeschool

For a long time I have dug in my heels at the idea of homeschooling my eldest child. Now Little Mister would be no problem to homeschool but Curly Miss and I clash so often and she is such a perfectionist I could not imagine being stuck in the house with her all day every day and surviving.

Last summer I had no choice. At the beginning of the summer we had a LOT of trouble. She got bored quickly and got into trouble to entertain herself. I thought I would end up either strangling her (kidding, kidding) or ending up in a loony bin (not so much kidding). But by the end of the summer we had adjusted to the pace, the schedule and to each other. We found activities to occupy us and spent lots of time with friends. Suddenly it seemed more possible to stay at home and do school.

This fall, then, I have been testing the waters. From time to time I print out Pre-K letter or number worksheets from this site and lett her work on them. She has been playing educational games on the PBS.com website. As a family we have been reading Little House in the Big Woods together. Last week, I wrote a few pages of letter blends for phonics reading practice and Curly had a great time chanting the lines of letters.

Although she is still in Preschool, I have tried doing some of this stuff on the off days. This week especially when there is no school I dumped a bunch of "schoolwork" on her to keep her active little brain busy and happy. It worked like a charm! She did several pages of math worksheets and took most of the morning coloring and writing.



I decided to dive one step further. I built some counting blocks out of Play Dough. As soon as they are good and dry, I plan to begin playing some addition and subtraction games with her. Little Mister can work on counting right along with us.

There is still more than a year before we have to pick a Kindergarten. So I still have lots of time to mess around and try to decide what I want to do. I have read a lot of blogs and boards about homeschooling and there are as many styles of teaching as there are families doing it. Some are so scheduled and rigid that there is a whole mapped-out school year down to the half-hour. Some on the other end of the spectrum do unschooling, let the kids choose the subject matter and method and don't use any schedule or structure at all. It seems to me that the enthusiasm of the teacher makes the most difference, no matter the method.

So I began thinking about methods I might like to use. When I examined a curriculum last summer, all neatly mapped out with lists of materials to use it made me want to cry. But when I think about global subjects and get my own creative juices flowing, starting from scratch with no pattern, no guide, no set of rules or lists of materials, I find myself lighting up inside. Perhaps the more relaxed style would work well for us. Although Curly thrives on schedule, and we can set one up, I can be spontaneous with activities and make my own curriculum up as I go, tailored to each child.

The idea of trying to stick to a schedule sounds like a recipe for instant disaster, but having the flexibility to do whatever I want sounds fun. After all, I am a certified school teacher. I have educational theories, strategies, philosophies and experience under my belt. It would not be too much of a stretch to teach reading, math, science, history, music or languages to an eager little mind, especially if I can make many of the lessons like a game or a hands-on activity.

As I do more and more lesson-like activities with Curly and we have more and more success, I keep thinking this might be a good way to go. Several of my friends are homeschooling and would be glad to get together for social time. Best of all we would save the money we normally would have paid in tuition to use for things like travel. How much better would it be to go to Gettysburg than just reading about it? How much more interesting to visit an aquarium rather than learn about the ocean from a book? Why not rebuild a car engine in grade school instead of building models out of toothpicks and marshmallows?

As Curly gets older, she is maturing into a person much nicer to be around. Granted there are still days I want to go crawl in a knothole, but the more independent she is, the less she demands of me. For example, the fact that she can now work the DVD player all by herself means she happily puts in the movie she desires without my intervention at all and I am free to continue whatever meaningless computer reading I happen to be doing at the time.

Still, the thought of sending her off to a classroom full of little people her own age where she can sit at her own desk and learn in a class has enormous appeal. It is entirely possible we'll end up headed that way after all. We're lucky to have a couple of excellent private schools in the area. Time will tell.

Happies

Three things brought happiness yesterday. Of course there were more, but for the purpose of this post there were three.


1. Sewing. I absolutely love to sew. If there is such a thing as a sewing junkie, I am definitely one. It's weird too because very few people sew nowadays and of those even fewer really like it, so there aren't many people to "talk shop" with. But I don't care. I like to design my own patterns too. Yesterday I designed an apron to wear when I'm cooking or baking. Aprons, which were out of vogue for so long, are making a comeback, especially cute color-coordinated ones.



The denim, normally $9.99 a yard was down to $2 on clearance! It totally made my day.



Then, too, a couple of quickie projects got done that I have been wanting to do for a while.



The only hat I could find was this old gray knitted one that looked as though it had seen better days. I wore it around feeling a little less than cute and wanted a new fleece one. Finally I got around to it.



When my daughter pinched her hand in the door today I decided to use a trick I learned at my friend's house. I sewed some soft fleece covers for ice packs to keep in the freezer at all times. Now for minor injuries that Magic Kisses can't fix, we have some nice, soft ice packs.




2. Finding this in the corner:



My son cracks me up. He loves to put little things inside of something else. At GG's 80th birthday party, he was occupied for hours filling a Playmobil bucket up with confetti. Now he has filled his train car with needles that our dry tree shed. For some unknown reason he calls them "hots" and spends quite a bit of time filling train cars with them and hauling them around the house.



This train, Diesel, is a favorite.



When he's not hauling passenger coaches, he's hauling pine needles.



For some reason, finding the cute little piles of pine needles that my son has collected gives me unusual happiness. It brings a smile, that small thing. It's sort of like stopping to smell the roses.




3. Lastly, this:

my living room, beautifully decorated with Christmas stuff

Sunday, December 28, 2008

A New Endeavor



He did it! Little Mister sat on the potty chair today and went potty for the first time! Oh the wonders of motherhood when urination brings such awe, such showers of praise and M&M's and joyful blogging.

Curly Miss was a nightmare to potty train. Granted I started too young with her... 18 months in fact. Then too, she is stubborn and a perfectionist and she did not actually "get it" until just before her third birthday. It was a long, drawn-out, frustrating process for us both and I vowed not to repeat the problems with Little Mister.

For one thing I determined to be patient and wait until he was ready. I have always heard that boys are much harder to potty train than girls. Those statements make me cringe, for if Curly was so immensely hard, then what was I in for this time? Perhaps if he was older it would go more smoothly.

I actually had decided to wait until next summer to even begin. But the last two weeks he has been keeping his bed dry at night as opposed to the daily swamp I had usually encountered when getting him up in the morning. This alerted me to the fact that he is gaining a little control. Then the other day when going through baby clothes I unearthed not only the potty chair but also the little male shield attachment, amazingly still in existence after four moves.

So I brought it up and Hubby cleaned it off, ready to use. I figured we could just start him getting used to the idea, but instead he did just what he was supposed to do today, the second time he had ever sat on the thing! There is a distinct possibility that my son, who somehow manages to always come through for me will potty train as easily as he does everything else except sleep. Maybe. I still plan to keep it low-pressure and just accustom him to the idea for now. Next summer when the weather is warm enough to run around naked we'll try to potty train in earnest and really get the job done.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Blah

Today is that First Day Back Home, Day-after-the-day-after Christmas when we suddenly all realize that life goes on, even after trips to Grandma's house. Nobody's spoiling us any more. But life still goes on. I think.

Hubby and I realized that we're buried under a mountain of Christmas presents that currently have no home other than our dining room table. The plight of the homeless was never more keenly felt before today when all of these homeless presents sat screaming at me from the table to put them away and I had to turn my back and go drink another cup of coffee.

Another issue in our lives is the snow. So far today it has snowed approximately 498 feet which means that when Hubby shovels our walk it is immediately covered up again with white stuff. Every available extra space in roads or alleys is filled with piles of gravel-filled snow meaning we have had enormous trouble finding a place to park the new minivan. Last night, Hubby parked it temporarily in the neighbor's driveway since it looked as though she was out of town for the holidays. Instead, we got a very irate phone call this morning from our neighbor who was very, very much at home.

Add to this the fact that the house needs its usual tending, especially the floors where snowboots walk around leaving muddy tracks and where the dried-out Christmas tree is shedding all of its needles into green drifting piles. And I am depressed that new snow tires for the minivan cost almost $500 that we didn't really have.

Curly watching a movie

The kids are still engrossed in the magic of New Toys so I think the blahs haven't hit them yet. In fact Curly at this very moment is watching Horton Hears a Who on the new car-DVD-player in the dining room. But since I got a computerized picture frame as my only toy I have long since exhausted its possibilities and I'm bored. Yes, with all of the unpacking (yuck) and cleaning (yikes) and finding homes for the homeless new presents (eeek) I'm painfully, terribly, unutterably bored. I want to go back to my mom's house and continue being spoiled.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Unexpected

This afternoon while we were still in L-town, we decided to take advantage of the kids sleeping where two doting grandparents existed to watch them and we went shopping.

The first things we got was a car DVD player using all of the pooled "Grandma Money". The dual 8" screens should help our children remain sane on the long car trips in their future, beginning with next week.

The next thing we got will help with long car trips too.

We got a minivan!!!!

Yes! I am so thrilled! We got a navy blue 2007 Dodge Grand Caravan with only 30K miles on it. We got a great deal at a showroom in L-town and even managed to talk the dealer down from the sale price a little bit. It's in super condition and we're totally excited about it. Even Curly Miss was beside herself with joy at the sight of our new minivan.



Tomorrow Hubby is in pursuit of studded snow tires for it and we'll most likely spend the day unpacking from our trip to Grandma's house. The roads home tonight were thankfully fairly bare and Hubby had no trouble getting the new car home.

Hubby and I laughed at each other and ourselves. It was not long ago that we vowed we'd never get a minivan, ever. We did not ever want something so prosaic and practical. The fact that I have completely changed my tune does not embarrass me one bit. The thought of little Baby Bear buckled snugly in her car seat and the other two kids playing in the back more than makes up for the fact that we have joined the boring world of minivan people.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Morning

stocking with a nutcracker on it

It is a tradition in our family to open gifts on Christmas Day, all together. The only thing to be opened earlier is your stocking. Accordingly, when Curly woke up at 7:30 she danced into the living room to gawk at the enormous pile of presents under the tree and the brightly-wrapped gifts peeking out of her stocking.

We sat together on the couch and dived into her stocking. Small gifts and candy poured forth and soon she was done and we were waiting for Little Mister to get up. Of course he slept until almost 9:00 so Curly played with her cars and was surprisingly patient.

Curly with my sister opening presents

Mister with his shape-sorting cube

Mister at last awoke and we all assembled to tackle the pile under the tree. Little backpacks for the kids were a favorite gift and soon were full of new toys. Mister got a shape-sorting cube and forthwith carried it around alternately dumping it out and refilling it over and over with whoever he could get to help him.

Sister with Mister opening gifts

Mom and Hubby on the couch with boxes

The family received Apples to Apples, a card game we played together after brunch. My sister won and rubbed it in just a little. Hubby got some nice shirts and an electric blanket.

Curly with a little camera

After we opened all the presents, Curly and I were once again sitting on the couch talking it over.

"Those were sure nice presents," she commented contentedly.

"Yeah. Do you know why we give each other presents on Christmas?" I queried.

"No, why?" She looked genuinely curious, as if it had never occurred to her that there would be a why.

"Because it's Jesus' birthday."

"Aaahhh. It's Jesus' birthday? You know He was born in Bethlehem in a stable." She shared her own knowledge with me.

"Yep, a long time ago. And today is when we celebrate His birthday."

"Happy Birthday Jesus."

Yes, Happy Birthday, Jesus!

Giving Secretly

Matthew 6:2. "So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 3. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4. so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.


It is interesting this holiday season how much I see about giving to the needy. More than any other time of year, the Salvation Army bell ringers remind us as we trek into stores loaded with shopping lists that we ought to remember those less fortunate.

bell ringer in front of a store

To me this is obvious that we ought to remember the needy, not only now during Christmas, but all year long. Jesus told us to do so, for one thing. Plus we all know it's the right thing to do.

It seems that liberals especially publicly push a civic awareness agenda that makes it seem as if they have much more compassion for the needy than do conservatives who don't have much to say about it. As a fairly ardent conservative myself, I was a little concerned about this until I read this article in the New York Times the other day. Apparently conservatives are just as concerned about the poor and needy as the liberals are and are willing to actually give out of their own funds for relief rather than looking to others to help out. Since the liberal media doesn't acknowledge this fact much, I was pretty impressed with the author for making the information public rather than dropping the project as soon as he realized his conclusions didn't match his hypotheses.

Here's part of the article:

Bleeding Heart Tightwads
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
Published: December 20, 2008

This holiday season is a time to examine who’s been naughty and who’s been nice, but I’m unhappy with my findings. The problem is this: We liberals are personally stingy.

Liberals show tremendous compassion in pushing for generous government spending to help the neediest people at home and abroad. Yet when it comes to individual contributions to charitable causes, liberals are cheapskates.

Arthur Brooks, the author of a book on donors to charity, “Who Really Cares,” cites data that households headed by conservatives give 30 percent more to charity than households headed by liberals. A study by Google found an even greater disproportion: average annual contributions reported by conservatives were almost double those of liberals.

Other research has reached similar conclusions. The “generosity index” from the Catalogue for Philanthropy typically finds that red states are the most likely to give to nonprofits, while Northeastern states are least likely to do so.

The upshot is that Democrats, who speak passionately about the hungry and homeless, personally fork over less money to charity than Republicans — the ones who try to cut health insurance for children. [Nice little dig there, by the way. Of course if you're against government-funded health insurance then you automatically care nothing for underprivileged children's health needs. Excuse me while I go barf.]

“When I started doing research on charity,” Mr. Brooks wrote, “I expected to find that political liberals — who, I believed, genuinely cared more about others than conservatives did — would turn out to be the most privately charitable people. So when my early findings led me to the opposite conclusion, I assumed I had made some sort of technical error. I re-ran analyses. I got new data. Nothing worked. In the end, I had no option but to change my views.”


It made me feel better. To know that there really is an army of quiet givers out there all helping in secret, all doing what Jesus told us to do (not necessarily assuming all conservatives are Christians or vice versa, but rather realizing that those of us who are less noisy about it do in fact seem to give as we ought) gives me great joy. Together we do make a difference even if it is never made public. Truly, it is blessed to give.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Over the River and Through the Fields

My darling Hubby rescued me. He set it up for us to go to my folks' house a day early ending our cabin fever and beginning Christmas. The drive down yesterday was about as expected; the road had packed snow and was full of cars either driving 20 mph or 55 and passing them blowing clouds of snow in everyone's windshield.

Today we're gleefully hanging out at Grandma's house. The kids have a huge toy bin to explore and a shelf full of videos. Hubby and I have plans to go to the movie theater this afternoon during nap-time. Maybe tonight we can visit the Railroad Park downtown where the community has set up as wonderland of Christmas lights.

Curly Miss is so excited for Christmas I wonder if she'll even sleep tonight. She has finagled a promise from my mom to open one present tonight and she is counting the minutes until tomorrow morning when she can open her stocking.

I have to say, I am living vicariously because I am more excited than I have been since I was a little kid. Watching them open the last Advent Calendar this morning was priceless as they dumped M&M's all over the floor and found their clue to the last big gift: a domino set. The excited giggles and the glowing eyes made me feel as if I was a little kid again.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Definite Cabin Fever

Christmas is almost here but waiting for it is akin in a very small way to waiting to give birth. The time slows to a crawl and misery sets in. It doesn't help that the snow is deepening every minute making us feel like we will never get out of our house.

With no Preschool, no Playgroup and no activities my kids (and I) are beginning to go absolutely crazy! Curly always resorts to pushing my buttons when she is starved for attention. I honestly cannot do enough for her; she needs a crowd of screaming four-year-olds. So instead she pesters me, asking senseless questions, demanding food and drink and help with her toys, something new every five minutes. I get her something and barely get sat back down before she wants something else, asking fifty times in a row for it. She picks fights with her brother just to get a rise out of him. In short she makes herself and the rest of us miserable.

Little Mister is normally better but by this stage of Cabin fever after being sick last week, he too is grouchy, whiny and throwing little stamping fits for the smallest reasons. I think we're all ready for a change.

Tomorrow, Christmas Eve, we are headed down to L-town to my parents' house to celebrate the holiday. I can't wait.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Sun on Icicles

Building Snowbots



Although Hubby had to work today he decided (per my request) to use his lunch hour to come play in the snow with the kids. Curly Miss had been begging to go play in the snow, so he gave in to her request and took the kids out to the front yard to build snowmen.



The snow turned out to be too dry and powdery to pack well into snowballs so he went and got the big, green recycle bins, loaded them with snow, packed them down well and began building tall, square snowmen. He and Curly decided that they were snow robots which of course morphed into Snowbots.



Little Mister, after begging to go outside with the others, stood in the snow, his little nose running, and whined. I guess I can't blame him. The snow was almost up to his waist, rendering him somewhat immobile.



When cleaning out the garage yesterday, Hubby and I had found some black fittings for the sewer pipe Dad used to plumb in our washer and dryer. Out they came today and instead of the traditional carrot nose and top hat, our snowbots have sewer pipe fittings for their features.



Curly Miss lost a glove in the process. Since her hands get painfully cold in approximately 2.8 seconds, she wasn't thrilled about the fact that one hand was gloveless. We took pity on her right after this picture was taken and put her glove back on.



Hubby put the finishing touches on the left-hand snowbot which included the snow shovel. I'll bet he wished THIS Frosty would come to life because Hubby has done his fair share of shoveling this week so having a robot to take over the job sounds pretty nice.



The right-hand snowbot apparently has no other function than to stand there and look cute. That's probably the snowbot that represents me.



While they were out there the mailman paid us his daily visit, toiling through the deep snowdrifts.



Although they had fun outside, I think the deep snow was a little more than my kids had bargained for. Curly spent most of her time swimming rather than walking and she seemed to delight most in eating the soft, fluffy, cold snow. She informed us coolly that it was not a good idea to eat brown or yellow snow, only white. Another nugget of wisdom from the ever-correct Teacher M at Preschool.

After playing in the snow, everyone came trooping in to the back porch, stripped of their snow clothes and sat down to a lunch of hot potato-cheddar soup. What a wonderful Eve-of-the-eve-of-Christmas Eve!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Christmas Flutes

Playing flute duets for Christmas sounds so poetic, doesn't it? And it is, it really is.

And here is what it looks like from the musician's side of the performance.

Tuesday I dragged my poor, neglected flute out from the bowels of our basement where it had been unmolested in hibernation for untold months while I was not playing it. Get the picture? Like I haven't played the thing for a LOOOONG time. Every little muscle in my embouchure (mouth) is flabby like my biceps and abs and other muscles in my out-of-shape body. But that is for another post.

Anyway, we were scheduled to rehearse Tuesday at 6:30 PM. As luck would have it, I looked at my calendar Tuesday and discovered that Curly's Preschool Christmas program was Tuesday night at 6:00. Oh, for crying out loud, why did I have to wait until now to notice this? And where was my phone? Hubby had used it and conveniently left it who-knows-where so I could not even call G and reschedule.

I got onto the chat with Hubby at work, whereupon he called G's wife who got on the chat on her end with G. With this precarious chain of communication I asked Hubby who asked G's wife who asked G if we could reschedule our rehearsal. We could and moved it to 5:30. I would have just enough time (with no dinner) to practice then dash to the Christmas program.

We picked four hymns and played through them each once. G decided on an order and we were set. That was it. Then I dashed off. Later he emailed me the four hymns so I could "practice". Yeah, as if!

Fast forward to Sunday. I had to get up at the crack of dawn; when the alarm clock went off at 6:50 I swear it was still the middle of the night. Ok, call me a pansy, but my internal clock is used to sleeping until 8:30. Hey, it is a direct by-product of being married to a night-owl and never going to bed until the clock turns from PM into AM.

The alarm clock rang and I buried my head, ostrich-like in my covers. "Maybe they don't need a flute duet," I moaned to Hubby. He playfully punched my shoulder. I succumbed and emerged from electric blanket snuggliness into the frigid temperatures of our bedroom. I dressed, I brushed, I gulped coffee, I grabbed my flute and drove three miles through the snowdrifts to church where the worship team was assembling and G was ready to practice.

We went through our pieces again and my years of drilling scales and sight reading skills stood me in good stead. It's not like Christmas hymns are that hard.

By the time First Service started at 8:30 my foggy brain was beginning to wake up and admit that it really might possibly be morning. We played our opening set and I went and sat down. I nearly dozed off. Heading back to the kitchen I gulped more coffee.

Midway through the service we played again then I was a free agent until the beginning of Second Service. Yes, at our church you don't just play, you play twice. It's kind of like being on tour. "Now appearing..." It's actually kind of nice because if you really screw up and bite it and fall flat on your face, you just laugh and say, "Well, there's always Second Service." It's a running joke that First Service is the dress rehearsal. Not that I would ever screw up. Nope, never. I'm a professional. Haha! Remember how long the flute has hibernated here! So between services I drove home through the thickly falling snow to get Hubby and the kids who were halfway ready. We clothed them and fed them and bundled them into coats and buckled their car seats. I refilled my coffee cup. Actually Hubby made me a latte, for which I am forever grateful. I think I might write it on his epitaph that he was nice enough to make a latte for me on this particular day.

Back at church (on time!) I grabbed my flute, tuned with G and got ready to play our first set. Again. I ignored my protesting muscles unused to playing and concentrated on playing in tune. It went fine and I sat next to Hubby and Curly until the second set was due. In spite of my daughter climbing on and off of my lap, I managed to sing the songs along with the congregation and head back up again for our second (or fourth? or sixth? definitely last) set.

Sitting through the sermon was torture. I think it was on Ephesians. Or maybe it was Genesis. I am positive it was very biblical. And convicting. Hubby thumb-wrestled me to keep me awake.

Walking through the hallway downstairs after the service, I was accosted with compliments. "Beautiful!" "Poetic" and "So effortless." Yeah. Effortless. Didn't take any work at all. Glad you enjoyed it.

I love being a musician.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Garage Project

Hubby and I are quite opposite in personality when it comes to organizing. Many times before we have encountered this phenomenon but we have learned to work together combining our strengths in quite amazing ways. Today we tackled the garage with this team-effort approach.

I wish I had pictures because our garage was in quite a frightening state before we set to work today. The small detached building had been used as a storage shed and was full of random piles of just about everything you can imagine from garden fertilizer to bicycles to window air conditioners to all of the detachable screens which in the spring will get replaced with the glass storm windows from every window in our house. There was no room to walk let alone pull in a car. The corners were drifted with junk the previous owners had left behind and wood stacked randomly against the walls contributed to the haphazard maze-like effect.

Hubby with his usual pessimism declared the entire project an impossibility and had resigned himself to sweeping snow off the car for the remainder of the winter. I, on the other hand, was convinced that with some clever organization and good use of space we could have a usable garage. But I did not have the physical strength to tackle such a project. We agreed that I would navigate and Hubby would pilot all of the awkward items around and see if indeed it was possible to get it cleaned up.

First we shuffled everything away from one of the side wall and began pounding nails to hang the screens up out of the way. With a wall full of neatly hung screens we cleared out the back corner and made a stack of summer tires. Next a shelf on the back wall was raised up and all of the garden tools and fertilizer was stored underneath. The other back corner being cleared out, three ancient doors and the wheelbarrow fit nicely. An old crib mattress and some pet crates we stuffed up onto the rafters as well as some ducts, some dowels, a bed frame and a longbow. We discovered a pair of old roller-blades in one corner and decided they would go to Goodwill as we already have two nice pairs. The rest of the screens were stacked and then we worked on setting all of the shovels, rakes and hoes against the other side wall.

While we worked, the temperature dropped steadily until it got dark and the thermometer read 2F. Since we both wore insulated snow pants and heavy coats and boots we survived but our toes got a bit chilly. I made a mental note to tackle future outdoor projects in a more amiable season of the year.

At last Hubby took himself off to the hardware store for bicycle hooks to hang the bikes, trikes and jogging strollers from the rafters. With the sleds hung on nails and the barbecue stuffed into the corner next to the wheelbarrow, we were ready. Hubby swept the dirt floor to eliminate nails and the garage was totally car-ready. We were both surprised at how well everything fit. Now our garage serves as a storage shed and a one-car garage both.

Without Hubby's boundless energy and strong back it would never have gotten done. But conversely without my optimism and spacial reasoning I doubt that it would have happened either. We were a good team today.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Sorting Baby Clothes

Trying to get tips on organization, I read some websites about baby clothes. One site recommended not keeping all of your old baby clothes in hopes of re-using them as they are too much hassle to sort and possibly to move.

Oops.

I have bags and bins and tubs and more and more outgrown baby clothes. And boy, have we moved them! Some of the stuff from when Curly was a baby has gotten moved three times. Ack! I always determined I would not be a pack rat, but it turns out my attempt at frugality has outweighed my anti-pack-rat sentiments.

Today I used the large play room in the basement to get out all of the bags and bins and begin sorting all those clothes. Our basement looks like a consignment shop! I cannot believe how many clothes these kids have. Not to mention shoes. I have even given three loads of hand-me-downs away that formerly belonged to Curly and there are still mountains of clothes.

After an hour and a half, I had most of the bags emptied and sorted into piles of similar sizes. That's when I gave up. It looks like this is going to end up being a weekend-long project. Still, I'm thrilled to find out that I have everything I could possibly need to clothe quintuplets if I needed to. I think our baby will be just fine and any new things we get will be icing on the cake.

A few times while sorting I was brought close to tears as I found nostalgic items and remembered my sweet, soft babies wearing them. It was a lot of fun to take a walk down memory lane with little sleepers, little socks, little hats. It also fills me with anticipation to have another darling angel to dress up in those cute outfits.

My biggest problem with baby clothes is keeping them stored away but still accessible so I remember to go check when I need the next size. So often I forget to look in my stash and I miss things I had been saving; finding them long after they are outgrown and unusable. I found many such items today: little pink boots still brand new with the tags on them that someone had given as a gift and that had never gotten worn.

For now I'm trying to decide what is the best method for labeling and storing all of the clothes. There are so many different categories: girl 0-3 months, boy 0-3 months, girl 3-6 months.... it goes on and on! But so far all I can think of is sticking everything back into trash bags and writing the sizes on with marker. Good as long as the bag I want isn't completely buried in the back of the storage room!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Approved!

We got a call from our social worker tonight. After answering a few more questions, we were told that our homestudy was approved and would forthwith be sent to the agencies who give it to the birthmothers to choose.

So we're in the final and longest stage of waiting. I hope and pray it goes quickly and that they exact right baby will join our family at the exact right time. And that I can be patient until then!

I'm Running Out Of Stuff To Blog About

This is the third day we've been snuggled at home in our jammies. Outside the sky is still dumping white stuff. It looks beautiful. I want to go out and play in it. If the kids were not keeping us up at night with their coughing, sniffling and fussing we would be out playing in it.

snowy street

It's beginning to get monotonous. Oh sure, there are still things happening. With two kids, a cat, a dog, two birds, a fish and a Mom, things are sure to happen.

Curly drawing a robot on her MagnaDoodle

Robots are being drawn. Curly Miss as an artist is highly influenced by her Daddy in subject matter and by Picasso in style. Perhaps with a little bit of Walt Disney thrown in.



Cinnamon, bless her heart, is eating the Christmas tree.





She is really going for it, isn't she?



Last night I went for the most delightful walk downtown through the snow and Christmas lights. It was lovely to get some fresh air and exercise. Since I was down there, I had to pick up some DVD's to watch today. Curly Miss doesn't handle cabin fever very well.

pile of laundry

And of course there is always this.

Silly me. There's LOTS going on!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Colds

For the first time, I kept Curly home from Preschool due to her cold. She's been sniffling and coughing all night for several nights. Instead of improving it has been getting worse and worse. Little Mister, too, is coughing and hoarse. He spent the better part of last night moaning, poor guy. Since I have a sore throat I made an executive decision not to try to bundle everyone up and go out but to let everyone sleep in and have another day at home.

A little concerned for my sanity, I asked Hubby for good ideas before he left this morning. He suggested giving them each an early Christmas present. Brilliant! So this morning found me raiding my basement stash and coming up with Gordon and Percy trains to give to little people. It worked and they have played happily and peacefully all morning. Whew!

Gordon, Percy and Henry from the show Thomas the Tank Engine

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Theatrical Version

This speaks for itself: Hubby reads "Where the Wild Things Are" with a little input from Curly Miss.

Welcome, Jack Frost!

window with frost

A cold snap. I think that is the official, unofficial term for temperatures where the days stay in the single digits and the nights drop well into the negatives, the crispy, squeaky snow and the cars that growl in protest instead of starting as they are supposed to.

Most of our windows have storm glass on the outside. The three that do not (fire escapes) received a visit from Jack Frost who came and drew lovely lacy, feathery patterns all over the glass.



We are staying home in our pajamas today and keeping warm. I hung a quilt over the big dining room window and we noticed an immediate effect.

closeup of fire

pot of water boiling

Between the cold and the fire, the air is uncomfortably dry. So I have been boiling water to attempt to put some more moisture back into the air.



I finally broke down the other day and bought myself an electric blanket. Last night I slept better than I have for weeks. I should have done that a LONG time ago!



When Grandma Doh was here over Thanksgiving, she was appalled that I let my kids run around barefoot in the middle of winter. She would be pleased to see that Little Mister has nice warm slippers on today.



He looks festive in a new, red Christmas sweater. He lost out on Pajama Day when he got oatmeal all over his shirt.



The kids set up their trains on the rug in front of the fire. I put on some Christmas music and made myself a cup of hot coffee. I feel like I'm living in the Old West, in "Little House in the Big Woods" as we contentedly enjoy each other's company and the warmth of a crackling wood fire.

A Suzuki Christmas



Monday, December 15, 2008

Four-year-olds in Christmas Programs

All around the world, churches are hosting Christmas Programs. And all around the world mothers are photographing their four-year olds then blogging about them.



Everywhere Preschoolers in pillowcases, bedsheets, snow boots and tinsel stand on stage while older children attempt to follow the directions of well-meaning adults and tell the timeless story of Christmas.



The four-year-olds, however, have a different job. Of course there is the angelic cuteness factor. The fact that they are only three feet tall somehow causes every female in the audience over the age of 45 to sigh dramatically and say, "Awwwwww".



There there is the comedic timing. That knack four-year-olds have in their unselfconscious bliss of completely forgetting that they are supposed to be performing a set role. Their complete lack of focus and ability to cause the most hilarious mishaps.

Like this little clown falling off the stage just as her mother was snapping her picture.

This was not my child. But it sure could have been.



Mine was standing on the end of the row of angels staring off into space apparently solving complex algorithmic equations in her head. Or something like that. (Sorry for the blurry picture.)


For more four-year-old fun, head on over to Confessions of a Pioneer Woman to hear about her son and his violent attack on the stuffed sheep, the nosepicking and general punk-ness in their Christmas Program.