Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Three and a Half Solos

At the violin studio, today was recital day. Three of my kids played, and Bean was a "good audience member" and sat still only because I bribed him with a Rice Krispy Treat afterward. He can't wait until he's big enough to play too.

A big part of a Suzuki recital is supporting the other players by being polite and quiet, and clapping really loudly at the end of each piece!

Later that evening, we treated the kids to frozen yogurt to tell them how proud we were! Everyone loved picking out flavors and toppings.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Stuff this week

Since I've stepped up my homeschooling with Mister, life has seemed busier, but in a good way. A lot of the depression I suffered last fall has dissipated. I'm not sure if it's due to spiritual healing, better medication, my new diet and exercise, or a combination of the above, but I am THRILLED to be feeling better. As Curly succinctly put it the other day to dinner guests: "Mommy is less grouchy, finally." *grin*

The diet I've been doing is called "The Metabolism Miracle," and I found it on some diabetic message boards, because I was looking for a diet that would not make the hypoglycemia worse. The diet begins with low carbs and progresses to a lifestyle of healthy eating. I've been really pleased with it as I've lost eleven pounds, and I feel more energetic than I have in years! It's been fun and challenging coming up with yummy, low-carb recipes.

Our Doofus Dog returned from exile where he lived with my cousin and then my sister all year. Abi has been cool toward him, but she hasn't shown any of the terror she showed last year. I have high hopes she'll learn to like him. Meanwhile, the rest of us are delighted to have him back!

I made injera and shiro wat for my girlie tonight. She loved the comfort food and had thirds. (This is the kid we have trouble getting to finish her food.) 

Bean is still VERY CUTE and FAIRLY NAUGHTY. Taz still fits. But man, I love him to pieces. He just has so much personality! :)

My wonderful Mother's Helper/Babysitter/Driver, Alyssa, has been doing fun craft projects with the kids while I work on more podcasts. It makes these dreary late winter days a lot more fun.

Curly's doing great in school. She brought home a report card with all "excellent" grades, and more pink slips for talking or being silly. Typical. For next year, we're looking at going back to homeschool for her, and also starting Abi in Kindergaten using the online K12 curriculum that I'm using with Mister. That way the State will provide all of the accessible materials she needs, but I can still teach her at home. I talked to the SpEd director on Friday, and although they have never had a (nearly) totally blind student, she was positive and enthusiastic, to my great relief!

Mister has been having some eye pain and problems doing his school work. For this reason, we scheduled him an appointment with the local eye doctor to see if his glasses need updating. I figured I'd talk to the doctor while we were at it about not being able to wear my glasses. Since I've tried for twenty years to find a solution: glasses, contacts, surgery, or whatever, I'm pretty okay with being legally blind, rather than having those horrible headaches. Still, a diagnosis would be handy since I need some specialized stuff to be comfortable reading etc. We'll see what he says; keep your fingers crossed for me. I'm not really sure what to expect, but I'm worried that he'll dismiss me again, like so many eye doctors have in the past, insisting that my glasses will do the trick. I really don't want to hear that again! I hope Mister and I can both find some satisfactory solutions.

There's sort of a brain dump blog post. Good for friends and family trying to keep up with what is going on with our family. Not so great for someone looking for brilliant literary content. Ah, well, c'est la vie.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The "Cheese Movie" and a Wonderful Parenting Article

Bean found Spongebob on the Netflix home screen. He started asking for the "Cheese Movie," and I could not for the life of me figure out what he was talking about! (Recall that I can't see the screen hardly at all in the first place, which makes getting the kids' selections uncertain at best!)

Finally, after repeated requests, we went through the lineup of characters one by one. Elmo? No. Shaun the Sheep? No. Leapfrog? No. Thomas? No. (Didn't think so, but you never know!) Spongebob? YES!! The guy that looks like a cheese, Mommy!


Well, I guess he sort of does.

Then, today, I read this fantastic article on parenting young children (not being sarcastic here. I really do think it's the best one I've read for a while). I figured it belonged in the same blog post with the guy that looks like a cheese, partly because I doubt Mr. Reformissionary lets his kids watch Spongebob, so it would be humorously ironic, and partly because I want to combine any advice on parenting with the notion that it's not going to kill or corrupt kids to watch TV shows involving strange sea creatures that appear in every merchandising item in Wal-Mart. Lighten up, people.

So the article is good.

Spongebob is good too.

Monday, February 18, 2013

President's Day

As Hubby wrote on Facebook, "Holidays with a bunch of kids often turn out to be rude interruptions in the routine that keeps them happy rather than special breaks. Saturday and Sunday activities are often all that we can bear. And so, for this President's day holiday, I took my oldest and left the house at the usual time as if we were going to work and school like usual. (We are at the coffee shop reading and doing homework) Erin is doing the usual morning homeschool routine. We'll see how it goes. You can do anything you want on a holiday, right? :)"

Then, this afternoon, it was my turn for a break. While Hubby and the Littles napped, Curly, Mister and I walked downtown through the icy wind. I got some lunch at a Teriyaki bar, and of course coffee at Bucer's. We spent several hours shopping at the local backpacking supply store, and the toy store. I love supporting local businesses, and it was fun dreaming of summer and hiking and fishing.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

On Work

My Hubby wrote an interesting commentary on the observation that we made while in Addis Ababa that "work" as such was treated very differently there than our compartmentalized and rigidly defined manner in the west. I highly recommend reading his post here on the subject.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Snapshot: Big Brother

Bean LOVES to be allowed to join his big brother in "doing school."

(Doesn't the plumber's crack just make you laugh off your chair? It does for me!)

Monday, February 11, 2013

Sweet Reminders

Every time I put my children to bed, whether night or nap, I press play on the little CD player in their room, and this CD begins its sweet melodies. For the last nine years, Sleep Sound in Jesus has accompanied my children to sleep, coming with us on the iPod on trips and filling their rooms with peace each night.

For me, though, the little CD has more meaning than the sweet bedtime lullabies that it has provided all of my children. It's connected to a dear friend, one who now lives in Heaven herself.

Nine years ago, I lived in a tiny trailer, pregnant with my first child. As the internet became popular, and tired from working, I started spending my spare time in various Christian chat rooms, talking with people all over the world who also came online to chat. We all went by "handles," so real names, jobs, etc. were less important, although we generally shared approximate ages and locations just for fun. Because it is so easy to lie about even these, we joked that these friends were not as "real" as flesh-and-blood people we saw in town. After months of chatting, however, a small circle of friends gradually became closer. We'd seek one another out and share deeper things about life, about family, about our hopes and dreams.

One of these ladies went by the nickname Lowroad, and she always chatted using dark green, my favorite color. At first, we shared light banter and witticisms  but gradually we became closer and learned more about one another. She lived in Scotland, which had been the source for her nickname, and which seemed to be distant and exotic. If I had any doubts as to the authenticity of this claim, they were put to rest when we chatted on the telephone the first time, and her lilting brogue filled my ears.

I learned much later that her real name was Lesley, and that she was a single mum with a ten-year-old daughter, Breeze. They lived simply, and one of our best moments was when Breeze longed to learn the flute, and I sent a refurbished eBay find across the pond for Breeze to learn on.

Lesley it was who told me about Sleep Sound in Jesus. She had played it for her daughter, and the idea delighted me. I decided that when my baby came I would play this CD for her also.

Lesley and I didn't lose touch through the long years of her failing health and ultimately her battle with cancer. She prayed for each of my children as they were born or joined our family, except the last one, although I know she would have been delighted with Abi too. I could always count on her for a chuckle, a word of encouragement or a well-timed prayer; she was just that sort of a friend.

Today, I pressed the play button on the CD player again, and I thought of her. I still miss her, although we never met in person. I know her daughter is a lovely young woman now, and I still pray for her. I'm glad to be reminded of my friend today.

A Way To Play

As the winter wanders into February, cabin fever sets in. As a high fever rotated through our family members for the last few weeks, cabin fever sets in. As the days are short and dark, cabin fever sets in.

We used the weekend to try to get out. A nearby mall with a play area offers one of only three our four options in our small town, so we try to make the most of it. Last night, a simple game of throwing a stuffed animal and climbing on steps, ramps and railings offered some laughter and exercise, as well as just low-key time together.

We ended the evening with some ice cream, which we picked out at the nearby supermarket. The people in line ahead of us looked at our kids, commenting how many there were! Having just chatted with mom friends who have five, seven and twelve kids, I had been thinking that four seemed like a modest amount. To each his own, I guess. :)

Friday, February 8, 2013

Fevers, Weather and Other Fun Problems

Sometimes, my life feels like a never ending series of logistical challenges. Take last night, for example. My friend and I wanted to get together for our bi-weekly Bible study and chat. We had already canceled the week before due to Curly getting sick, and this week I'd promised to come out to her place, about ten miles through the countryside and past the next small town.

I'd planned to have Hubby drive me. Because it was evening, I hired Alyssa to stay and put the Littles to bed. Also, I didn't want to inflict their busy-ness on my friend and her family. So, the plan was to take the Bigs and let them play, and leave the Littles with Alyssa to go to bed.

Then Hubby got a fever and spent the day in the guest bed in the basement.

We switched to Alyssa driving, and Hubby putting the Littles to bed, after which he could sleep too. Ha!

The roads were clear when Alyssa drove us out to my friend's place, but a wet snow had begun to fall. By 8:30 when we were ready to leave, several inches of wet, fluffy, slick snow had accumulated on their rural gravel driveway.

In trying to back the van around, Alyssa tried hard not to get it stuck, but the front tires refused to cooperate, and created their own special icy patch, spinning merrily. We had to ask my friend's hubby and his boys to push us out and up their hill.

The drive home through the snowy darkness on slick roads was scary! We passed a car blinking its tail lights in the deep ditch beside the road. Alyssa drove tensely. I remembered being eighteen and sympathized with her deeply, as well as being worried for myself and our kids, and our van that desperately needed an engine belt repair. Would it break? Would we slide off the road?

We didn't, thankfully, and made it home, where Hubby had not succeeded in putting the Littles to bed until almost 9, and hour and a half late. Alyssa and I were both exhausted, but in spite of my fatigue, I dreamed all night about getting lost or stuck in various awkward places.

With my usual stubborn optimism, I told myself, that everything worked out, we did our Bible study and all got home safely. Still, this morning, I'd prefer to hide in my house and never go anywhere again, particularly with my kids. I even had a hard time letting Curly go to school this morning, possibly because her ride fell through on Tuesday without me knowing, and she got left at school for an hour. I still feel upset about it, and it's been hard to send her off every day this week, when I want to just be a mother hen and keep her close at home.

But, like a good Mom, I sent her off with a hug and a cheerful smile this morning. Hubby, despite his still-aching sick self, is taking the van into the dealership to have the belt replaced, and I am trying to calm my jangled nerves by burying myself in the routine of Mister's school and breakfast for the Littles. Keep calm, and carry on!

Monday, February 4, 2013


I'm guessing that every family gives silly nicknames to their kids, but it seems to be especially prevalent with us. In fact, I remember our social worker expressing concern at one of the adoption interviews that we use so many nicknames, our babies would never figure out what their actual names are.

My take is, as long as they're loving, what's the harm? I had a friend who called her son Monster all the time. I used to wonder if that might turn out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy! Then I realized that I call my kids far weirder things.

For posterity's sake, to reminisce when our kids are old and too sophisticated for goofy nicknames, I wanted to write down a few of the current ones. As far as the origin of some of them, well, maybe it's better not to ask.

Curly Miss
The Noo

Little Mister
The Fer
Mister Fer
Mystified by da Mister Fer
Absentminded Professor

Princess Abi
Chocolate Bon-Bon girl

Code red
Baron Von Brown Butt
Dar Bean
Codiferous Maximus
Little Bean, little Bean (in the cinnamon tree)
Cute Stuff

Are They Twins?

The woman sitting on a vinyl bench at the Tree Slide asked me conversationally if Bean and Abi were twins. She's not the first.

Okay, they are the same height. And they are starting to act like twins in that sort of way that they have a secret that none of the rest of us can understand.

So, if twins can be eighteen months apart, born on separate continents, and have different races in their genetic makeup, then yeah, they're twins.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Braille Measuring Set

Today is my day for making stuff, I guess!

This is a set of measuring tools that I added puff paint to make them tactile. I used high-contrast color-coded cups and spoons, and on the liquid measure I put the puffy paint on the inside, so the line can be felt and compared to the level of the liquid.

The turkey baster will be used to add small amounts of liquid to get the measurement up to the line.

I think I'll let Abi play with these in the bath tub for a while to get the hang of pouring and measuring, and then we'll wash them well and try baking something!

Lengthened Skirt

Curly's school requires a uniform skirt to be a certain length, but Curly is such a string bean that a skirt that fits her waist is much too short to pass regulation.

Lat week I went back to Old Navy and found another skirt on the clearance rack for $1 and decided to re-design the two into a layered ruffle skirt that will be long enough for her to wear for the rest of the spring.

In case any other crafty moms want to try the same thing, I took pictures of the process to create a little tutorial.

The skirt on the right is a size 8. The waist fits, but the skirt length is much too short. The one on the left is a size 10 and will be sewn onto the other to lengthen it.

To make the lower ruffle, take the larger skirt (mine is the size 10) and cut off the waist band.

Remove the waist band and the inner "shorts" portion and discard.

Pin the pockets flat and sew shut along the existing seams.

Turn inside out and trim the excess bulk of the pocket away.

Still inside out, zigzag the trimmed pocket edge to prevent fraying.

Zigzag or serge the top cut edge of the ruffle where the waist band used to be.

Right side out again, use a seam ripper to remove several inches of the pleat in the front.

Line up the front seam of the ruffle with the front seam of the smaller skirt.

Insert the ruffle into the skirt, between the outer skirt and the shorts.

The top edge of the ruffle should just touch the pocket where it meets the side seams on the inside.

Be sure the inside bulk of the pocket is away from where you plan to sew, so the pocket does not get sewn closed.

Match up the front seam and then the front pleats, pinning the ruffle in place.

With your hand, ease the ruffle around the back so that it hangs evenly and will sew flat into the skirt. If necessary, measure from the waist band of the skirt to the top of the ruffle to keep the distance even. 

Pin the ruffle to the skirt all the way around.

From either the top side or the under side, sew the ruffle to the skirt all the way around, about 1/2 inch below the zigzagged cut edge of the ruffle.

Remove the pins and check that the front seam, side seams and pleats match up.

That's it! Quick and easy longer skirt!