Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Adventures in Being Me

I've never minded driving off by myself for an hour into the middle of nowhere. Normally, I like getting away from civilization. But civilization has its positive points, as I discovered.



Today the kids and I went Day Camping.  I love the woods; we live near the woods... I figured it would be "educational" (read: more fun than sitting at home).  We built a campfire together.  Curly Miss seems to be following in my Pyro footsteps as she stood for most of the afternoon poking the fire with a stick.



Little Mister, in an effort to be helpful, spent his time truckin' around our campsite looking for sticks to throw on the fire.



We brought the bee trap from our yard, because I remembered the bees being terrible last year.  Our preparedness was rewarded, however: we did not see a single bee.



The kids fixed a snack.  Curly, who doesn't like peanut butter, absolutely loves to spread the sticky, gooey stuff for her brother.  It's a good system.  She makes a mess and he eats it.



Baby Bear highly approved of Day Camping.  I gave him a stick to look at, then a rock.  He was in tactile heaven.

cute baby in front of very very flat rear tire on the van

There was something in the background of this photo I didn't notice at the time, but I noticed soon afterward.  Do you see it?



Now do you see it?



What the?!?!?!?  Oh CR@P!!!!!  What am I going to do, stuck up here with three little kids and no cell phone service?!?!?!?



Answer: Roaming.  Yes, miraculously I got one single bar of roaming up on an isolated mountain in Northern Idaho, enough to send a quick plea to my Hubby to come rescue us.  (Have you ever seen those Sprint commercials where some dude is up on some isolated mountain, dancing around and gloating over his multiple bars of Sprint service? All Lies.)



Under threat of dire consequences the Goombas sat and were quiet while Hubby and I figured out how to release the spare tire from the Anti-matter forcefield used by Dodge to hold the spare tire in place under the vehicle.



Yep, it was completely hosed.  But my knight in shining armor came through for us. Not only did Hubby change the tire, he brought us food.  Hallelujah!



Time to get outta the woods and back to Les Schwab.  Little Mister fell asleep on the way home and hardly woke up even when I carried him from the car into his bed. I know exactly how he felt.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Bridges

Any parent who has watched repeated episodes of Thomas the Tank Engine knows that the dramatic pull of the stories often includes the train characters plunging from Broken Bridges into the Swamps Below. Why these grisly details make it into children's films and become the action-packed highlight of the story, I cannot fathom, but my children never fail to be absolutely awe-stricken at the suspense and danger of a train approaching a Broken Bridge.



The other night, the kids talked Hubby into playing trains with them. They had just seen Toy Story 3 and Little Mister in particular, had been impressed with the bombed-out bridge in the opening scenes of that film. I think he would have left the theater completely satisfied with just that opening five minutes of movie since it had a Broken Bridge with a train falling away into oblivion.



Hubby, in a patient evening of engineering skill, replicated the Broken Bridge with an accuracy and precision found only in guitar-playing computer programmers. Correct to the last wooden block, he then allowed his small son to bomb it, causing no end of delight confusion and delay.



Curly Miss helped out the whole process by offering continuous advice, instruction and running commentary. The fact that she has never, ever built such a bridge or even seen one in real life has no bearing whatsoever on her ability to administrate the building of one in her bedroom.



This guy offered moral support while chewing on a building. I'm sure his inner male reveled in the destruction of said bridge with all of the thrill of boys through the ages who build bridges just to knock them down.

And now, I present the Destruction of the Broken Bridge, starring Little Mister. Voiceovers by Daddy and Curly. Directed by Daddy. Filmography by Daddy. ShakyCam courtesy of Daddy. Upload to YouTube by Mommy. Please remember us when it comes time for Oscar Nominations. Thanks.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Sweet Treat

The other night, just for the heck of it, I made chocolate covered strawberries.



Then I shared them with Hubby, who in turn shared them with Baby Bear.

Sweet.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Island of Sodor



This week, with Curly Miss at VBS in the mornings, life has seemed a little strange. We come home and the house sounds eerily quiet. (Please ignore the fact that the bed is not made and my son is in pajamas. Or point at them and laugh your head off, I don't care. I decided that playing trains with my son was a better use of my limited time and energy and I'm totally happy with it!)



Little Mister picked up the stomach bug that was floating around, so yesterday he was on the couch with a barf bowl. (Picture omitted. You can thank me now.)



On the days when he is healthy, he needs to find something to occupy him. Since his sister generally fills that role, he has looked to me for entertainment while she is gone.



So this morning we built the Island of Sodor in his bedroom. We created the standard landmarks like Tidmouth Sheds and the water tower, but Mister added his own features like the Lincoln Log House and the "Old Iron Bridge" which is actually the "Shaky Bridge Made Of Tracks Stacked Precariously On Wooden Blocks."



The kids' bedroom received a renovation yesterday. Since Hubby and I both had colds, we figured it was the perfect time, not to rest and sip chicken soup like normal people, no, we'd rearrange the bedrooms. I guess it's how we roll. If we're miserable we'll pick an activity that makes us MORE miserable.



Now Curly and Mister share a bedroom, while Baby Bear sleeps in the other upstairs room, not in our room. It's looking to be a good change.



Curly, far from resenting having her bedroom turned into the Island of Sodor, has instead spent the afternoon playing trains with Mister. I think he really likes having her back, and to be honest, so do I.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

In One Spot



For now, he still stays where we set him. It's not going to last long. Then you may probably expect a lot fewer blog posts as I will be spending 100% of my time chasing him and hauling him out of the toilet, off the bird cage, back into the house or rescuing him from where he is trapped under the sofa.

It's the little twinkle in his eye that has me worried. It's as if he is saying, "Just wait, Mommy! I'm going to start moving soon and I plan to make the most of it!"

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Lucky

Lucky, blessed, whatever you call it.



Hubby was telling me the other day that he wishes he could do MORE with the kids. More homeschooling, more music practice, teach them more things, read them more stories, spend more time with them. But there aren't enough hours in the day.

Do my kids realize how lucky they are to have a Daddy so involved in their lives? I doubt they do. As children do, they take him blithely for granted.

I think in 30 years they will understand just how lucky they are.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

My Ideal Day

This morning the Goombas played quietly downstairs and I snatched a few extra precious winks while Baby Bear napped. When I got up, they still played in the basement; the house was quiet and I had time to use the potty before someone discovered I was awake and began making requests.

I got the kids an easy lunch of freezer waffles and cheese sticks. They loved it and ate without complaining (rare) then they started a game in which they built a large, complicated Thomas the Train set and videotaped their own made-up train stories with my digital camera.

Baby Bear went down for his afternoon nap with a minimum of fuss and Hubby used his lunch hour to bring me fresh, delicious sushi from the shop downtown as a treat.

Finally, too, we received some reimbursements from four different people who owed us money. I keep the credit card paid off but it was piling up and this morning I paid it off. That felt great!

What did I do to deserve such peace and tranquility today? How do I bottle whatever magic formula happened today and dispense it to my family in measured portions for the next few years?

After weeks of colds, stomach flu, back pain, migraines, fighting kids, cranky baby, tired hubby and never-ending chores, it feels so nice to have a good day!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Donate to Bring Little Sister Home

I have a hard time asking for donations. It goes with my independent personality, I guess. As you can read here, we've had to postpone adopting while we raise money.

The other day we met another family in town who have adopted two Ethiopian children. The four of us sat at a big, wooden table, drinking coffee and sharing our hearts. We were amazed at the way God works in each family. But they said something that has been playing over and over in my head in the weeks following our meeting.

They told me they hadn't wanted to ask for donations or to fund-raise either. But as they went along in the process, they discovered that there are people "out there" who grieve over the plight of the many orphans in Africa, just as we do. There are people who weep over the fact that children have no homes, that they are malnourished and diseased.

Many of these people are not able or equipped to bring an orphan into their own homes or families. But they are still called to help.

If I am describing you, there is a way you can help. You can help us bring an orphan home, give her a mother and father, sister and brothers. A home, a family, food, a bed, medical care, love and a good education. A chance in life. Such a person might, in fact, grow up to change the world. She might go back to Ethiopia someday as a giver, a minister, an open hand. She might stay here in America and raise a family, who are healthy and safe.

The sooner we can raise the money, the sooner we can bring her here, to bring her out of poverty, to complete our family as God has called us to do.

If it's on your heart to help, I put a donation button on the sidebar of my blog. Any amount will help and every cent will go toward the adoption, I promise.

If you are so inclined, you may also help by praying. Pray for Little Sister's health and safety. Pray for us to be able to raise the funds we need as quickly as we can. Pray for the amazing amount of paperwork and red tape we have to negotiate.

Most of all, THANK YOU. Thank you for joining us on our journey!

Love, Erin, Matt, Natalie, Seth and Cody. And Little Sister someday

Edited: August, 2012. Little Sister, also known as Abi, joined our family forever in January! Thanks to the provision of God, her adoption is completely paid for in full, and we owe nothing more. Thanks to all for your prayers and support, and feel free to check the rest of my blog for stories about her future adventures. 

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Flounder

I made this baked white fish dish tonight. I discovered that the baking time on the recipe is much too long... the fish fell apart into a sort of chowder that actually turned out to be quite tasty. I would have preferred a filet however; next time I'll reduce the baking time and perhaps broil the top to a nice, light brown.




BAKED FLOUNDER WITH WINE

2 lb. flounder fillets or other fish
1 1/2 tsp. salt
Dash of pepper
3 tomatoes, sliced
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. flour
2 tbsp. butter
1/2 c. skim milk
1/3 c. dry white wine
1/2 tsp. crushed basil
Chopped parsley

Thaw frozen fillets. Skin fillets. Sprinkle on both sides with salt and pepper. Place fillets in a single layer in a greased baking dish, 12 x 8 x 2 inches. Arrange tomatoes over top of fillets. Sprinkle salt and pepper. Blend flour into butter. Add milk gradually and cook until thick and smooth, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in wine and basil. Pour sauce over top of tomatoes. Bake in oven at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with fork. Sprinkle with parsley. Serves 6. From Cooks.com

As you can see, I served it with cheddar biscuits, pineapple and a fresh, green salad. I've been experimenting with interesting salad toppings in an attempt to pacify Hubby's desire for the gourmet and unexpected. Tonight's salad met with comments of approval!



SNACK-TOPPED GREEN SALAD

Spring Mix salad
2 tbsp Gardettos Original snack mix
1 tbsp candied peanuts
drizzle with Honey French Royale Dressing or dressing of choice. My current favorite is Onion Vidalia Vinaigrette. Yum!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

That's Entertainment!



Curly and Baby Bear have begun to develop a close bond. When he sees her, he wriggles and grins, trying to get her attention. For her part, she loves to make him laugh or give him toys. I find this especially useful when I need to fix a meal. I set him on the floor and she entertains him, mostly by piling toys on him and shouting "bah!" in his face. He never seems to mind, but crows with delight.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Math Jokes



As Curly practices adding and subtracting, some of the math sentences tickle her fancy. The fact that zero leaves a number unchanged makes her laugh and she always rolls her eyes when I ask her to solve an equation with zero in it.



The other day I found this equation on the fridge. If one zero is funny, why not two? Possibly it was Little Mister who was the culprit. He listens to our math sessions and often tells me he is going to do a "little fridge math too."



The zero jokes have expanded during the past week. When I see equations like this one, I know that the kids have been absorbing not only the rote learning of addition and subtraction, but the more important function of numbers. If math is a language, then the ability to use humor shows the greatest understanding and use of the language. My children are well on their way to math fluency.

Edited to Add: I am informed that the jokes I photographed are indeed Little Mister's work, not Curly's. Although I hate to brag, they are pretty impressive for a three-year-old, in my admittedly biased opinion.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Do We Really Have A Choice of Education - Part 2

I wrote Part 1 of this discussion about three years ago. Since then I have homeschooled for eighteen months and thought about the education of my children even more.

Please go back and read Part 1 first so I don't have to repeat the material here.

Basically I concluded that we do not have the economic freedom to send our children to the schools of our choice and that vouchers would be a solution. Not the only solution, but one way of leveling the economic playing field.

I have changed my stance somewhat on that conclusion. Vouchers would entail government control over the funds that they provide. Charter schools demonstrate this oh-so-well. While they do provide alternate educational methods, as soon as public taxpayer money is used for education, the public opinion controls how and where the money is spent, public regulation forces issues like special education, traffic safety, busing, holidays, teacher salary... in short the same insane bureaucratic bloatware that plagues the current public school system.

As I raise my family, I think I have become almost more libertarian. The amount of waste in government systems boggles my mind. Having worked for the public schools and the University I can attest to the fact that unwise spending and useless regulations account for a good portion of the financial problems in public schools.

As a homeschooler, I have discovered that it actually does NOT take $9,000 per year to educate a child. It may take that much to pay for new "safer" playground equipment, new math manipulatives to replace the ones last year that are not as "cool," a teacher to do crowd control at lunch and recess, a state-of-the-art computer lab, etc. but oddly it doesn't cost nearly that much to educate my children at home. While I know that isn't possible for every family (I fully acknowledge that I am blessed to be able to do it, and we do take a financial hit to continue to have me stay at home) I do heartily wish that I could choose to keep the tax dollars that are supposed to be going toward my childrens' educations and actually put them toward my childrens' educations.

Having said that, no, I really don't want to receive public money to buy homeschool supplies. Once the money filters through the machine of public bureaucracy, the price is too high to get it back. The price I would pay is in freedom: the freedom to school when and where and how much I want. The freedom to teach my children without anyone breathing down my neck or micromanaging how I do it. The freedom to use the books I choose and not the ones I don't.

Some would shudder at the lack of accountability. Yet as a certified teacher myself, who's to say I cannot do as excellent of a job teaching my kids as the next certified teacher? Would it not follow that I care more about investing in the future of my own children and would therefor do a better job teaching them than some random hireling? Yes, I think that is the case. (Not that public schoolteachers don't care and try hard. They do. I did. But I also had 45 students in one class. I did my best, but not as well as I do now.)

To answer my own question, then, do I have a choice? Yes, indeed I do. I choose to school my kids at home, scraping to pay for the curriculum I choose to use. I choose NOT to use public money, choosing instead to maintain my autonomy as my forebears did. Can I choose then not to pay for a public education I am not using? Nope, sorry. That's where my freedom ends. In order to exercise my freedom to choose, I must in essence pay twice for each child's education.

I intend this post less as a rant than as a hard look at the idea of economic freedom that we so value in this country. With the health care reform debates going on even now, the issues touch on the same logic. To choose to buy into a governmental health care system means we need to be willing to USE a governmental health care system and if it is as full of bloatware as other current public systems, I'm not sure I want to do that. Stories of European and Canadian health care users who report understaffed public clinics, long waiting lists and exorbitant private care prices make me shudder to think of that coming here. But that would be the price of free care for all. Mediocre care for all.

Fewer choices and even fewer freedoms exist for those of us not quite in the income bracket that gives the many governmental benefits, but not quite in the bracket that doesn't care about paying out the nose for private schools or private health care. We're the ones who pay dearly for those freedoms.

Almost Crawling

In this video, taken on a normal afternoon of a normal day, let me draw your attention to my not-so-normal children. Little Mister, as soon as I turned the camera on, must of course walk right in front of it. Curly, who was supposed to be looking for some shoes, crawled into the coat/shoe box where of course the lid fell *plunk* on her head.

Baby Bear, the star of the show, did not do his usual ham-for-the-camera act but fussed and whined. For all of you asking whether he ever stops smiling, I guess I have proof for you here.



I love my crazy, chaotic children!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Science Center

The rainy spring weather has forced us to find indoor entertainment. One of our most exciting discoveries this year has been the local science center, which I did not know about until our homeschool co-op took us there on a field trip in April.



We loved it so much I splurged and got us season passes. Now whenever we're bored, an afternoon's trip to the science center is enough to cheer us up again. We spent all afternoon there today, in fact.



Baby Bear loves the large, well-fitted infant area. A fun rug, lots of bright toys and room to practice crawling had Baby Bear clapping his hands in delight today.



Little Mister, though open to trying new activities, still has his favorites.  The track he assembles with tunnels and bridges ranks high on the list.



In a corner of the center there sits a large tub of lentils in which are buried dinosaur bones to unearth.  Kids become archaeologists as they dig up the fossils in the tub.



Sometimes the model dinosaurs find their way into the lentil pit as well.  In this case, Curly Miss had been feeding the lentils to the dinosaurs and was proudly showing me that the poor T-Rex had been absolutely stuffed to the brim full of lentils.  Even a T-Rex is no match for the intrepid Curly.



Little Mister, in true boy fashion, did everything he could to spread lentils all over the science center.  When he found that they stuck to his hands, he busied himself brushing off his "dirty" hands into the tub that used to hold the model dinosaurs.  His vigorous shaking sent lentils flying in every direction.



About the middle of the afternoon as the older kids settled down to quieter play involving math shapes, Baby Bear tuckered out.  When even a bottle didn't pacify him, I held him in my arms until he fell asleep, then set him in one of the nearby chairs for a snooze. At that point we had the center to ourselves, which was a nice change.



Curly and Mister roamed the center, enjoying the brainteaser puzzles, reading books and investigating the cages of birds, turtles, snakes and rodents in the zoo area.  We've been to the science center five times now and have not seen all there is to see or tried all the activities.  I have a feeling that many more rainy days will see us heading to the science center where playful, hands-on, investigative learning fills an entire homeschool day with fun.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Preservation



Like my best friend, I have a soft spot for things old and sentimental. When I heard months (years?) ago that she had found a way to rip old cassette tapes to mp3s I was intrigued, but didn't have time to do anything about it.



Lately my kids have been listening to old tapes of mine from when I was a child in the benign 80's. Such memories! But the condition of the tapes, already abysmal, have been worsening when our old tape deck chews them up on a regular basis.



The idea of preserving them digitally, still resting in the back of my brain, took on more urgency and I pursued it this week, now that I am feeling more comfortable on my new computer.



A freeware program called Audacity and a male-male 1/8" phono cable allowed me to take a stereo recording of the old tapes one at a time and save them as an mp3. (With the help of a plug-in for Audacity called Lame.)



It's been a fun project. I hang out in the kitchen, where the stereo lives, and rip old tapes one by one, clean up the audio, remove noise and save them as mp3 files on my computer. With this, I'll have a copy that won't degrade with time and Curly Miss has already mastered iTunes on her computer for easy playback. I love technology!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

My Boys


Click on Photo to Enlarge

Watching Kipper the Dog, probably this episode...

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Daddy Daughter Dance



Our church hosted a Daddy Daughter dance tonight. For fun, Hubby and Curly dressed to the nines. He wore his tux; she wore her fluffy Easter dress and I curled her hair and made a corsage and boutonniere from flowers purchased from the grocery store.

In spite of her usual tomboyish demeanor, Curly was thrilled to dress up and be escorted to a dance. Although she doesn't care about princesses, she seemed to feel very feminine tonight, and she glowed when her Daddy told her how beautiful she looked.

The Flip Side

All week I have adjusting to my new computer, learning over again how to type and reinstalling all of the software I use on a weekly basis. I had no idea there was so much!



Meanwhile our normal life still goes on. The kids still do things like homeschool and I still take pictures of them. Today I got a whole week's worth of pictures loaded onto the new computer off my camera.



I tried out the new PhotoShop CS5 to see if I want to get it.  Although it was a quick run-through with photos, sharpening, adjusting color and resizing, it is pretty nice.  I think I would likey....  :)



Oh, yeah, this story is supposed to be about the kids.  As seen above, Baby Bear loves to sit with the big kids at the table.  See those Puffs?  Roughly 83.5% of them land on the floor, much to the cats' delight.



Little Mister felt pretty proud of himself for finishing a big puzzle.  Never mind that he whined and fussed and made us help him do half of it.



Ok, that's just cute.  I know all moms think their kids are the cutest things on the planet.  It's our job to think that, even when they are covered with mud, blood, vomit or Oreo Cookies.  It's the way we're wired.



A new bookshelf was added this week to the kids' play room.  Little Mister (in jammies as usual) shows it off for the camera.



With Curly Miss, you never know where or how you will find her.  It's not unusual to find her completely upside down somewhere.  Being normal is not really her style.



Speaking of normal, it is fairly normal to find Puffs stuck in random places. Once moistened, Puffs have enormous sticking ability. I should put them in my craft supplies.

So there's our week. A week of rain and headache and a new computer, but also a week of toys and books and Puffs and sitting up, of listening to Bullfrogs and Butterflies on tape and doing school books and going to the Science Center. A week of being together and enjoying one another. And learning to type.