Monday, May 28, 2012

Doofus Dog Finds A Home

It all came together so quickly, I almost forgot to blog about it.

After Doofus Dog came back from (not) eating the baby goats, I figured he was here for good.  About a month ago, I was telling my best friend the whole story over the phone, and she suggested that I look for a foster home for him until things settle down.

The idea percolated for a couple of weeks, while the guilt resumed that I wasn't spending enough time with him or taking for walks.  Finally, it occurred to me to ask my aunt to take him for a while as she loves black labs.  She said she wasn't able to do so, but would ask around for me.

Last night, my cousin called and offered to take him for me, and today Alyssa took him down to the Valley as she was going anyway.  It all worked out so quickly and smoothly that I can't quite realize it actually happened. And wow, what a blessing! I just got off the phone with Cousin Rob, and it sounds like Doofus Dog is doing fine.  Hopefully he behaves himself, as training is one of the things I never had time to get to...

So Ye Olde Black Lab is sitting pretty, hobnobbing with Cousin Rob's dog, and Abi now has her back yard Woosha-free.  I told her this afternoon that Shadow was gone, and she said hopefully, "Shadow all gone?"  I assured her that yes, he was, but I don't think she believed me.

I miss the big guy, and yet again, that weight of guilt lifting feels so good.

I wonder how long it will be until my dog-loving gene goes crazy and I simply can't live without a dog any more.  At that point, I'll probably show up at Cousin Rob's house.  

This Is What We Do Before Bed

You thought you were getting a sweet, angelic picture of a story and bedtime prayers, didn't you? Bwahahahaha! Silly you... you ought to know better by now.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Third Week of May

In general I try to have some sort of coherence within a blog post.  One subject or one story makes a post much more interesting to read, I've found.  Unfortunately, to be accurate with my life right now, coherence has to go out the window.

So instead, I loaded a bunch of pictures from this week, and I'm going to tell you about them.

Abi. My gorgeous princess. She is making strides every day.  Her English is migrating into sentences, and she goes into turtle-mode less and less often.  Her eye healed well, although we still have not noticed any sight in it.  Just to see her happy and playful makes me feel better.

Bean. Little turkey...he scared off another babysitter this week.  He really is a handful!  Yet, he is so adorable, so cute, so serious about everything he does.  He so wants to keep up with the big kids.  Here, he is playing with the "dings."

Abi couldn't decide if she liked the "dings" or if they were too loud for her taste.

Bean has been learning his colors. Curly quizzes him constantly.  "Is this blue?" "YES!" "No, it's not, it's red!" "Oh, RED!" while I am hiding in the kitchen cracking up.

Abi gave the "dings" all to Bean, and decided to go back to her beloved "Sestamee Steet."

He's constantly on the move. I'm thinking gymnastics.  As soon as he turns three.

Curly and Mister decided to plant the garden this year.  They planted a potato I had in the kitchen that had sprouted, and some pumpkin seeds they got at the grocery store.  For their sake, I really, really hope something grows.

For three days, I have been braiding yarn braids into Abi's hair.  I went hunting around on the web for how to do them, and found a great little tutorial video, so I went for it.  It takes FOREVER but she has been surprisingly patient as I braid and braid and braid.  She asks anxiously after every braid, "Abi's hair pretty now?" We all tell her YES! She is so girly, and it always makes me smile.

Curly lost another tooth.  This one was sharp around the edges and really was hurting her.  She came to me requesting an extraction.  I happily obliged, as pulling teeth is one of those weird things that I love to do. 

A side note: Curly loves to dress all in black.  I think it makes her feel like a poet or an artist or something.

Hubby's working on his sermon for Sunday, and I'm still doing podcasts for work, and watching Downton Abbey.  Life seems pretty normal, and after the last few months, normal feels great!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


Working from home certainly has its perks. I love having something non-laundry-related to do; it keeps my toe in the working world; it soothes my need for accomplishment.

Sometimes, though, like today, it creates conflict and I wonder if it is worth it.

During nap-time, I had planned to record the introduction to another podcast. As you can imagine, getting a professional-sounding recording in my house can be really difficult as I have to work around noisy kids, barking dogs, traffic, sirens, phone calls... Sometimes it seems like getting a clean "take" is impossible.

Today, with the Littles napping and the house relatively quiet, I was ready to give it a go. I informed Curly and Mister that I needed them to be extra quiet and not bother me for a few minutes because I was recording.

I might as well have asked Mister in Amharic, for I had no sooner started recording, than he came wandering into the room wanting to "show me something," a request which he makes constantly all day every day.

My recording, humorously, breaks off in the middle with "SETH, I am going to..." and ends as I grouchily shooed him away. Later, after I edited out the clean take and all was well, I went to look at the thing I was to be shown earlier.

And then I felt bad. What could be more important than this?


At the Science Center again. Bean was off helping Daddy get lunch.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Learning Open String Blues

These two can't wait to practice every night like their big sister! They are doing so well, they may get to cameo at her upcoming Book 2 recital! Wouldn't that be fun? :)

This one was cut short by my battery dying. :(

And one more quick little video of Abi learning Twinkle Variation A

An Evening in Ten Thousand Words

Snapshot: Knightly Treasure

Sure, we sort coins and roll them while wearing a knight's costume. Just a typical homeschool day.

Sunday, May 20, 2012


This weekend, I went to the Women's Retreat put on by our church. It was small this year, only about 18 women, but it was relaxed and friendly, and just what I needed to have a mental and emotional break.

Hubby did great with the kids, primarily because he's a stud. When I came home, they greeted me with smiles and hugs, and even Abi was happy to have me back. When we came home tonight from a trip to Shari's for dinner, Abi commented, "Mommy, dis is home I love."

Happy sigh. :)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Another Unschooly Adventure

The city bus comes past our house at 10:15.  Although I had a bit of tummy upset today and really didn't feel like doing anything, the kids pestered me to go somewhere, so I gave in because we hadn't really gone anywhere all week. I know that learning occurs at home as well as out and about, but frankly, I think we were all tired of watching Kipper the Dog.

Looking for somewhere new, I herded the Goombas off the bus at a new stop, and headed onto the University campus, recently emptied of students.  We first tried the playground by the Education building, but just as we got there, the preschool there poured forth and suddenly 40 five-year-olds wanted to use the playground.  Their teacher asked me if we wouldn't mind leaving, as she was worried that her kids would injure my little ones.

We agreed, just to be nice, and headed instead to the Arboretum, which is where I'd planned to go anyway.  Watching the classroom children made me SO glad that I homeschool my kids.  The tiny playground, about 10 feet per side, had only one slide and a set of hand-over-hand bars, but was being shared by swarms of kids, most of whom spent the entire playtime waiting in line.  So that is school "socialization" is it?

The Old Arboretum is a patch of pine woods that divides the Recreation and Dance building from the New Greek Row. We entered the coolness of the trees, and pretended we were entering Narnia.  Abi, agitated by the horde of noisy kids back on the playground, began to relax and join her siblings hunting for sticks and leaves.  We finally decided we needed to build a fort, which we did in the shape of a teepee, and happily planned the kind of big fort we'd build once we took a trip to the cabin.

The five-year-olds on the playground were all herded onto waiting school busses, and the tiny play area once again beckoned us to play, which we did.  Then, we decided we were hungry, so we borrowed a $20 from Daddy, who works in one of the nearby buildings, and headed into the bagel shop for lunch.

The lady in the bagel shop eyed my four youngsters askance, so we opted to sit nearby in the Rotunda to eat.  The girls shared a grilled cheese bagel, and the boys had a PBJ. I found that they had low-cal diet bagel thins, and was excited to only enter 270 calories on my tracker app.

Little Mister and I posed for a picture, and then I wiped the peanut butter off his mouth! Later, I realized I should have done that the other way around, but oh well. He looked cute anyway. Curly helped me tremendously by collecting chairs and helping the Littles while I waited for our food to be done. For only being seven, she offers me a tremendous amount of support on trips like this.  Remembering my own experience with my own little sister, I know she is practicing for the days when she has her own family, or is a teacher or in some other way works with communicating and serving others.  The willingness to jump in and do what needs to be done goes a long way toward success in just about any workplace.

Later, waiting in the bus stop, Abi began tapping her cane on the ground, telling me it was making "musica." I started a syncopated clapping, and together we drummed and clapped until we both collapsed into giggles.

The other three amused themselves climbing the tree near the bus stop.  Once the bus came and we all got settled, Curly and Mister took turns solving mental math problems, giggling at the "hard" ones like 93+82, or the "easy" ones like 17x10.  We made it home with tired Littles, ready to take a nap.

Today was one of those days when it surprises me how much I like teaching my kids in this manner. It still amazes me how easily they learn something that seemed so difficult when I taught school.  Getting a whole class of 3rd graders to grasp 93+82 or clapping along with a beat seemed like a nightmare when I taught public school, yet here are my 4- and 5-year-olds doing those things easily and without complaint just because it is their idea, and because it is a fun game out in the "real world."  On top of that, they had plenty of time free to climb trees, build forts, get exercise on the playground, practice manners in a "real, grownup restaurant," and the only line they had to wait in was the one at the bagel shop.

I'm not down on schools at all; after all I went to them, taught in them, support them.  Many of my friends use them, and I have absolutely no problem with that. But my paradigms for efficient and effective education have been changing as we explore a different method than the schools are traditionally able to use.  I'm so blessed that our family has the ability and freedom to explore education like this.  It's just so much fun!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Why Wilderness?

Coming from a family of farmers, I have never been much of a tree-hugger.  Although I love the outdoors, particularly the woods and wildland, I never paid much attention to politics or save-the-earth campaigns.  I figured that since most people enjoy camping in some fashion, that there would always be some sort of national park nearby to enjoy.  I've taken for granted the forests and wildernesses right here in my back yard.

Over the years, as I have grown into adulthood, I've seen things change. The river where our family's cabin sits in North Idaho has become overrun with RV's and people floating in inner tubes with coolers of beer floating alongside.  Trails have become torn by motorcycles, and in the winter, snowmobiles.  My friend Eric calls this "old Idaho" but it seems to me to have increased in recent times.

When I take my kids hiking at Kamiak, people are everywhere, along with the inevitable trash and damage. The trail has been made wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs.  While I am all about accessibility, it seems odd to see a road leading up the Butte.

I write all of this to lead up to what I really wanted to say. I'm beginning to see the value in preserving wilderness, both physically and politically.  For my job, I maintain a web site and make podcasts about the history of one of the most pristine wildernesses in the Lower 48, the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness.

The podcast I made this week dealt with several different people commenting on what they perceived to be a threat to the future of "wilderness" as a construct.  One answer in particular moved me, because I found his words to be so true:

I think that positive experiences in wilderness are the only thing, the only way that it’s going to happen, and getting kids engaged in their natural areas around their homes, you know, the creek behind their house, building forts, snowball fights. Little things like that. Getting kids outside. That’s the single greatest thing, is kids now are more focused on getting home, and getting the next level on their video game than they are about going in riding their bike, and jumping off of something, and breaking their arm, and you know? What happened to the playgrounds with pea gravel where’d you get scrapes, and you have rocks embedded in your shoulder. It’s become easier now; there’s foam mats because parents get mad, because the kids came home with scraped knees and it’s the school’s fault because they have pea gravel. And, like, we as a society have gotten soft. We really have, and wilderness will never get soft. It’s always hard. It’s always going to be difficult, and we need that. We have to have that because it’s where we came from, and it gives us a chance to go back to that.
You can listen to the podcast in its entirety here.

As my kids grow, I find this to be true more and more. We have lost our pioneer spirit; the sense of adventure that brought us to this country in the first place has been replaced by safety rails and obsessive warning labels.  Civilization has inserted its cell phone towers into every corner of the globe, and there is almost nowhere now where you can truly find nature untouched in its raw beauty and unreachable serenity.

To be able to find such a place, where you can actually experience quiet unpunctuated by motors or technology, to find a respite from schedules and phones and fast food, to go somewhere without predictable, straight lines in the architecture, and where the modern illusion of safety and security gives way to a more primitive survivalist living; this is something worth saving.  It's something worth introducing to my children.  It's worth asking people to learn about responsible recreation practices so they don't ruin it for others. It's worth having a place to remember where we came from, and what our ancestors faced to come here.  It's worth it to save a slice of God's creation as He made it, and to enjoy the unmatchable artistry of His handiwork.

Dribble, Trickle, Splash

It's the middle of May. The sun is warm, and I promised that if the temperature topped 75F, I'd get the little plastic pool out and let the kids play in it. Rather than mess with changing clothes and swim diapers and blue lips, I told them just to sit beside it and play in the water. So far, it's worked great!

Monday, May 14, 2012


Children are, on the whole, quite mysterious little creatures. For example, when Bean goes around proclaiming "see-pol" in quite a loud voice, who knows what he is talking about?

Today, Curly tied her shirt to her chair during lunch, but offered no explanation for doing so. Was she a dragon held captive? Might she fly away at any moment if not tied down?

Little Mister, I am quite certain, is going to grow up to be some sort of academic or laboratory scientist. He'll sit all day making brilliant experiments, but will be incapable of finding or wearing clean underwear, or remembering to untuck the legs of his pants from his socks when he puts them on.

Princess Abi, with her limited English presents even greater mysteries. How can she be a bright, happy, brilliant little girl one day, and the next (today) spend and entire morning snuggled on my chest like a newborn? What little synapses are forming inside her brain as she listens to my heartbeat for hours on end?

Some of these mysteries get solved. We finally figured out that "see-pol" means SWIMMING POOL, and Mister joyfully reported that today, he remembered to untuck his socks without even being reminded! Score one for the absent-minded professor!

Some mysteries may never be solved. Abi may always have a need to retreat into the safety of her turtle shell at times when life just gets to be too much. It's okay. Sometimes a morning of snuggles can be just what a Mommy needs too.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

A Bit of a Rocky Mother's Day

I couldn't resist the pun in the title, even though Hubby will roll his eyes at me when he reads it.  Actually this has been the BEST Mother's Day I've ever had! For the first time, our family feels complete.  Hubby served my first ever breakfast in bed and I started crying (what a softie I'm becoming!).  Curly made me a cute mug at church, and our family went out to a nice brunch.  Tonight we have plans for an evening hike on Kamiak Butte. The day couldn't be any better!

But the reason for the title of this post, is that this afternoon while the Littles slept, Hubby and I finished rebuilding our rock wall!  I am beyond thrilled to have this project done.


As you can sort of see in this picture of the kids on the trampoline, a section of the back wall had been pushed out by roots and was lying in large, scattered chunks on the ground.  More was falling all the time, which made that part of the yard dangerous for the kids, as it was possible a rock could hit someone if they got too close or climbed on them.

Last week, then, Hubby, who was dreading the project, tore out all the rocks along a large chunk of the wall.  He leveled the ground, built a solid sill, and then began rebuilding the wall.  Neither of us had ever done anything of the kind before, so his first try had to be torn out, and he was frustrated.

Yesterday, he had two rows done, barely above the dirt, and he welcomed help on the project.  So yesterday and today we worked together, me on the puzzle aspect and him on the brute force, as I could barely lift the smallest of the chunks into place.  But dry-fitting rocks is a mental puzzle as well, and I really enjoyed helping with that part, finding just the right shape to lock in the next piece, and keeping everything at the right angle to lean into the hillside, but not steep enough to be pushed out by the weight above.

We both wanted to get it done, so working during nap-time, holiday though it was, seemed the best time to do it.  Both of us felt a lot of satisfaction when we called it done. Hubby, because he rarely gets to do physical labor as a computer programmer, and it simply feels good, and me because the wall is now safe, and I got to help accomplish something.

People advised us to buy pre-fitted masonry, but we both really loved the look of our higgledy-piggledy stone wall, as if it came from somewhere in the old country.  So as usual, we took the hard way, and rebuilt the existing wall, and we love it!  We also feel empowered as adults and homeowners, that we could actually fix something like this ourselves. Yay for the wall.

Friday, May 11, 2012


Abi started out the day in a bit of a grumpy mood, a leftover from yesterday, I think.  Today we put some sunglasses on her, which had a marked effect on improving her mood.  A quick call to Dr. W confirmed that her healing eye is likely quite light-sensitive.

The computer works just as well this way as the other. Note: Using a computer while "inna car"* is a great way to multitask. Especially for blind drivers.

As the morning went along, her grumpy mood evaporated, and my sunny, playful girl was back.  Happy Mommy. :)

*Quick Note on the phrase "inna car." Because the word "inna" means "and" in Amharic, Abi uses "inna car" to mean either "and another car" or "in a car" depending on the need.  Kind of handy, really, to have a word that does double duty so nicely. This is just one of the many grammar nuances of Amhanglish, a new and exciting modern language being developed right here in our house.


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Christmas Lunch

To spice up an otherwise ordinary Thursday lunch of leftovers, I added a touch of whimsy, and called it "Christmas Lunch." The kids laughed that we could do anything Christmassy in May, but they happily played along, finding all of the things that looked like Christmas about their lunch.

We added Christmas sprinkles to our applesauce.

Hot chocolate with marshmallows accompanied red and green plates and cups.

On the stereo, I played Christmas music, an album called "Living Voices: Little Drummer Boy" that takes me back to my childhood when Mom would play the LP.  Abi, who has never heard American Christmas music, commented, "Mommy, dis musica beyooootiful!"

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


During last night's quick shopping trip, ostensibly to get new shoes for Curly, who had pushed through the toes of her old ones, each child got to pick a new summer shirt.  Of course, this morning, each one had to model his or her shirt for the camera; Bean also showed off his new summer haircut. I love kids this age! They are so easy to please.  In a few years, it's going to take a new car to cause this level of happiness.

Side note: Abi was being a grump this morning, so she couldn't decide if she was ready to forsake turtle-mode even to be pleased about her new outfit that she was so thrilled about last night. So she opted for posing for the camera but refusing to smile. The conundrums of being four. Same problem when she wanted to go upstairs to be by herself, but while she was there, Bean got to help me get the mail.  When she realized what she was missing, back downstairs she came.