Saturday, June 6, 2015

Happy Heritage: Pork Shoulder Butt

Stuck. It didn't stop his explorations though.
Over the next couple days he got stuck again
underneath the end table's shelf, on the
shelf, and on the top of the table.
My older daughters watched me prepare a pork shoulder butt for our dinner. "That's not pork, that's a lamb leg!" No, I explained, it was pork, it just was nearly the same shape as the lamb we had eaten recently. I pointed out the label "proving" my point. "Pork Butt!!" Actually, it's from the shoulder. I don't know why it's called the butt. "Phew! Who'd ever want to eat a pig's butt??" I then explained where ham is taken from. Surprised, my daughters immediately declared their willingness to eat a pig's rear end any day, at any opportunity.
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Maria declared that she wishes we had a summer house in Europe. Or a winter house. Or any house. So I asked where in Europe. First she chose France, then London, England. Reese's eyes lit up and she eagerly asked where the candy shops are located in Europe. "Switzerland." I told her. So that's where she wants her extra house to be located.
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I've learned the best way to teach children how to spell: 1. Bring a toddler into the home. 2. Since the toddler will quickly learn to understand the word "candy", tell the older children that they will not be allowed a sweet treat after meals if they use said word too early. They will therefore have to spell it out, "C-A-N-D-Y" when requesting their after-dinner treat. 3. Wait up to a month (depending on the age of the toddler) for the younger child to realize that those letters mean the same things as "candy". 4. Tell children they will have to spell "D-E-S-S-E-R-T" so the toddler will not stop her meal as soon as she hears them spell out the earlier, easier word. 4. Repeat steps 3 and 4, increasing the difficult of the words spelled. Suggestions for those more challenging words: confectionery, sweet treat,
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I was recently nominated the castle gardener. "Because queens don't weed strawberry patches and we are princesses, so..." Grade school logic: They are princesses and princesses live in castles, and the gardens of those castles are cared for by official gardeners. If I am tending the garden, then I am obviously not eligible to be their mother, the queen; I must be the gardener.
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My slider phone spontaneously decided to stop working. I can receive calls but the keypads don't work properly so I cannot make any phone calls, read any text messages, look up any phone numbers, or shut off my morning alarm. Neither my husband nor I was surprised at my phone's death, though it was sudden. We knew it was coming. We had already decided that when it occurred, we would upgrade me to a "smart" phone, but would continue using the slider until it truly died. The biggest advantage I am hoping for from my new phone is the ability to take pictures with it. The last two years I have been at a clear disadvantage, not having my camera always handy and finding it inconvenient to physically attach the camera to a computer in order to do anything with the pictures I take. Hopefully the change will be a positive one for our family's annual photo album and for this blog, since it should be easier to take more photos and to upload them more quickly when and where I choose to.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Happy Heritage: Taking my pets for a walk

The toddler was screaming a bit too much this afternoon so I called the troops together for a walk. One daughter decided to ride a scooter and carry an umbrella, but couldn't find the scooter at first and then found the two items difficult to juggle. Another daughter decided to ignore my instructions to wear tennis shoes and put on flip flops instead. As she struggled in vain to bring her bike out of the back yard, her foot slipped out of the sandal into a mud puddle. I then nixed the bike/scooter/umbrella plan and sent her for clean socks, clean pants, and actual shoes. The garage needed to be closed from inside after pushing the oversized stroller out and the front door locked; I commissioned my 8yr old to do that while the 6yr old insisted that she could not ever fit her shoes on and would therefore never, ever be able to go on a walk.
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A lady walking her dog appeared to be laughing at us.
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I corralled the 1yr olds into the stroller (both; today the baby turned 1 and the toddler has another 2 weeks before turning 2). I helped the 6yr old put her shoes on. I had turned the front door lock myself so I knew that when the 8yr old closed the door then we would be all set.
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Our walk was less than a mile. Toward the end we caught up with that same dog-walking lady and she let my pets children play with her pet.
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Yes, she had been laughing at us.
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When we got home, the front door was not properly closed after all, so anyone could have waltzed right in. I'm not the least bit shocked at that lady for laughing at us since I sometimes feel like we are indeed a comical three-ring circus or a vaudeville show. But we don't charge money for tickets.

Monday, April 6, 2015

One Ordinary Day

My husband put together a generic weekly schedule for himself, inspiring me to write down what I do in one day. This is from the day after hosting back-to-back parties, our annual family Seder on Saturday and our first hosting of Easter for both our immediate families.
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4am. The 10 month old still won't sleep after an hour fussing and crying. This isn't the first time tonight, by far. So I take him downstairs to rock him and watch him while he plays a bit. I pray and read part of my Scripture, knowing that I probably will not get my normal prayer time in later on. More than an hour later I finally get to take him back to bed.
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6:15. The baby wakes up just before the alarm goes off. My husband and I say a prayer for each other, then he takes him downstairs to join him in his morning routine and I fall back asleep.
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7ish. Time to get up. Shower, dress, get the toddler up and changed.
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8ish. Breakfast. The toddler doesn't last more than halfway through the meal and is returned to her bed for a nap. Family Scripture memorization, devotional, prayer for each child and my sister who lives with us.
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8:30. Remind the older girls to clear off the table (as if they didn't know that they should...). Clean up the baby, change his diaper, carry him downstairs with the laptop to begin sorting laundry. Since I didn't take time to sort laundry last week, there's a lot to be done today. I begin a podcast and start working. Of course the girls need to be set back on track, the baby spends some time with his aunt, the toddler wakes up, the baby goes down for a nap, I worry that husband will leave without his lunch, some towels manage to be put away by me. I clean a bathroom sink and toilet bowl: the bathroom needs more cleaning, but I want to make sure the laundry gets done today. The toddler wants to play with Easter eggs, eternally optimistic that the one she's opening will have some candy in it. She wants to play with them in the sunroom, with me watching. Aha! there's a box that I can unpack, coming in and out of the sunroom as I put each item away, so she'll feel like I'm in the room with her but I'm still accomplishing something. Ohhhhh....she found an egg with candy in it. In fact, she found her sister's still-full Easter basket and has opened at least 3 eggs. (Un-?)fortunately(?), her response to Peeps this year has been to take one bite, then leave the rest for someone else to finish. So she's only had 3-4 bites of candy...the most expedient way to get rid of the rest (and hide the missing candy from the sister!!!) is to eat them. I've eaten plenty for today. Baby is learning how to climb stairs and falls off the bottom step, thankfully onto the carpeted basement floor. A friend calls with a question about rice flour. I'm not the only one in our circle who eats exclusively gluten free, but I am the one who has eaten this way the longest so I am consulted by someone or other a few times each year. Girls found at least 3 Easter eggs still hidden and I found 2 more. 2 teenagers yesterday decided they were too old for Easter egg hunts (although those in their 20s decided to go for it) and sabotaged anyone who entered the basement, so I suspect there are a few more down there still to be discovered. In between activities I look up some parlour games, something I realized yesterday that we could have done but I wasn't prepared to bring out; I want to be ready by our next big group party.
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11:30. Oldest daughter is told to get lunch ready for herself and siblings and 2nd oldest to set the table. Toddler doesn't want to come upstairs so I have to carry her to the table, screaming all the way.
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noon. Kids eat lunch while I read aloud Caddie Woodlawn
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1:00. Older girls are having their quiet time, littles are playing together, I am eating a bit. When I stand up to put some dishes in the dishwasher I discover the littles have found a big sister's basket...toddler is opening a chocolate peanut butter cup and baby is almost done with a Peep. While I move the baskets again to where maybe she can't reach them, the toddler finds the jar of yellow paint which Grandma brought over for an Easter project. I'm so glad she didn't manage to open it before I had a chance to rescue it from her. While I'm putting that out of her reach, she starts chewing on a nerf arrow. Screaming, I carry her up to her nap.
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1:10. Maybe I can finish lunch now. Or maybe not finish, per se, but at least eat a little more...
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1:30. Baby is ready for his nap. I have an hour or so now to introvert, a time I cherish dearly.
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3pm. Everyone except the toddler is up again. I rope the older girls into helping me reload the dishwasher with all it can hold. If the rest of the day goes well I might get them to unload it a second time and reload it before bedtime. Otherwise, we're still making forward progress in our cleanup from the weekend festivities. The handwash dishes are all on me though. Maybe I'll get the wine glasses done before the toddler wakes up. I remind my oldest to practice a couple songs for the musical she is participating in. I look up a few recipes for remaking the leftovers into new dishes. Mental reminder: I need to write down how I cooked the lamb on Saturday so I can repeat it next year. It turned out my best yet! Supervised the older girls painting the art project (the one the toddler wanted to spill) before the toddler got up and made a mess trying to participate. I think I changed 6 diapers so far (husband changed at least 1). Made a smoothie for snack followed at dinnertime by "snacky dinner" (aka, serve yourself whichever leftovers you prefer). The baby was sitting in his highchair without his tray when I sent the toddler to her highchair. On her way past she decided to help put on his tray; she's going to be a FANTASTIC babysitter someday. It helped make up for the wet wipe container she brought down to the baby's level so the two of them could empty it out.
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6pm. Older girls are playing on the computer. They're a little jealous of a friend who gets 30 minutes computer time a day and accumulates her time if she misses a day; my kids get 10 minutes and have to work to earn any extra time. They don't seem to mind too much yet though and the shorter time definitely improves their attitude. Where did the toddler get that strip of aluminum? Change a diaper, feed a bottle, resign myself to waiting until kids are in bed before preparing my own dinner. Only an hour to go... Begin the week's shopping list, but I get only one item written down when the toddler asks to go outside. Her socks, of course, are up in her crib. I put them on her this morning knowing she would go outside today but she took them off during her first (breakfast) nap. Once she is bundled up properly for the weather I let her out into the backyard by herself. The neighbor's dog barks at her through the fence and she barks back. I contemplate that there's a certain similarity between "letting the dog out" and "letting the toddler out". The dog gets called back inside almost immediately for barking at my daughter. I'm not sure why the baby suddenly starts crying. Maybe he just needs the cuddles he gets for his cries to reassure him that I'm available to him? I send the older girls out to join their sister. I begin preparing my own dinner. Peering out the kitchen window I see the older girls climbing over the side of the deck and the toddler watching them carefully. I can almost hear the wheels turning in her head, storing away their activities to try herself at a later date.
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6:45. Baby insists that he is too tired to stay up and I put him to bed. I hope he will stay asleep all night but it is probably that this is really a nap and he will be up again in a couple hours. Girls outside are building a fairy garden.
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7pm. Girls come inside and I send them up to get ready for bed. My second daughter wants to know how much more she has to grow before she can sit in the front passenger seat of cars. My third daughter doesn't know what she wants and cries over everything. My firstborn wants to wear regular clothes instead of pajamas to bed yet I know from experience that if I allow this then she will "not have any shirts to wear" during the daytime in another day or two. I also know that she has more than enough of both pajamas and shirts, she just wants something different.
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7:30. Girls are in bed. The toddler's screams woke up the baby, so he's not in bed but he's too tired and grumpy to let me leave the room or even move about the room and I'm too tired to carry him everywhere. I grab a snack to supplement my lack of dinner and sit down with him next to me.
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9pm. The baby finally fell asleep again. Next step will be transitioning him back to his crib without waking him. The girls are also seemingly asleep (no noise) and I hope they will stay asleep all night. What have I done over the past 1.5 hours? Nothing productive except take care of the baby and eat a little. My brain is too fried to do more. Time for bed, if I can successfully carry the baby up to his crib. If not.. well,..
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So much of my day didn't make it onto this list. Little things like closing cupboards or putting items into their correct place as I passed through a room. Important things like kisses and playing games. Background like music and a kids' science podcast while we did other things. Forgotten things because too much happened in between the activity and the open moments to write down my day. I'm tired now. My husband will return home to find me watching tv because I'm too zoned out to do anything more productive. I might wish I was in bed and I might find myself unable to go to bed because the baby is awake. I rarely have his nighttime bottle prepared before my husband comes home. If the baby cooperates I will turn in between 9 and 9:30 to read and work a pencil puzzle until I fall asleep. If he doesn't cooperate, it might be an hour or two later.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Essay: Sneezing, Coughing, Wiggling

Reese
Brainstorm things that make you cough or sneeze. It is polite to cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze.
Dust makes you sneeze. Cold makes you cough. Feet make you sneeze because they have lots of dust.

(THE END. GOOD BYE)


Maria

Today I am talking about things that wiggle. Here is a list of things that wiggle: Worms. Centipedes. Babies. Beatles. Butterflies. Ants. (And bugs.) Worms: I do not like worms. Because they can frighten me very very very very very very very much. Ants: I do not like ants. Because they get in my food.

THE END.
GOOD BYE.
Notice; not for children under 5.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Lent 2015

Any calendar would work. But this is the one we
use each year during Lent.
There are two general approaches to Lent from people who earnestly want to celebrate the season well: To give up very little in order to focus more intently on prayer and avoid overwhelmingly strong temptations to sin because of trying to do it all, and To give up a great deal in order to rely more completely on God and discover a level of sweetness in the Easter celebration which is only found following a period of intense fasting. I have certainly done the former and made vague swipes at the latter (too weak to carry it through) and I have also done the bare minimum, hardly taking notice of Lent at all. This year as I see the various "how to celebrate Lent" articles, I feel the guilt of imagining that I should give up thisthatandtheother but having absolutely no desire to do so. I know that the feast is sweeter following a true fast, but I wonder how sweet my attitude would be midway through a difficult day without the items that I would have given up or with the knowledge that I ought to complete whatever extra devotion I've committed to before I relax that day.
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Lent is really an opportunity to examine our lives, to pray and consider what invitations the Lord has offered to us which we have not been accepting. Has He been asking you to depend upon Him rather than chocolate? Give up the chocolate cold turkey for 40 days. Has He been inviting you to spend time with Him every day? Make a commitment to do exactly that for __ minutes every day. Has He been encouraging you to speak more lovingly? Lent is a great time to choose to speak 3 words of affirmation for every 1 critical word. There are innumerable suggestions online for ways we can use the season to become more faithful servants of the Most High according to whatever our particular spiritual needs are. It only becomes counterproductive when we choose the means of celebration based on someone else's spiritual needs or we know and commit to a particular path but give up when that path becomes difficult rather than turning to the Lord for the strength to carry on.
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Our Lenten felt calendar is up and paper hearts are cut out. Each of the 40 days we will each write down something we plan to do that day to love Jesus. For my toddler this will be her first introduction to the idea of celebrating Lent, as she scribbles on her heart each day and tucks the paper in that day's pocket. The heart itself will be her "sacrifice", her gift to Jesus. Her 8yr old and 6yr old sisters will probably repeat a lot of the same sacrifices, but won't be bound to a full 40 day commitment. I find that the visual calendar decorating our family room, the accountability from my family expecting me to tuck a heart in each pocket, and the actual routine reminding me to consider each and every day how I can demonstrate my love for the Lord are incredibly helpful in setting apart the season as a time to grow closer to the Lord.
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So easy to love and so difficult to love
at the same time.
My actual sacrifices this year won't be spectacular. I won't be giving up everything imaginable. I won't be adding in a new level of intensity in my daily devotions. In fact, it will mean less Bible study than I planned on at the beginning of the year, since I found it too complicated trying to figure out which readings I was supposed to do each day (not always using the same Bible) and changed my daily readings to just the next chapter of the Bible. Mostly, I'll be staying the course, working on the same things spiritually and personally that I was working on last week. There won't be any big changes in my day that outsiders could point to and identify as Lent. I might throw in a few activities with my kids and I will keep the Catholic rules of abstinence and fasting, but nothing drastic. (Well, the temptation cookies might be considered drastic...) But as I've been examining my life, praying and considering what the Lord asks of me, mostly He has been answering "Take just one step." Not, "Add a great deal of stress to your life". Not, "Give it all up". Rather, His answer is more along the lives of staying the course, moving forward, doing the best I can today in loving Him and loving my family. Like my Bible readings, I am just trying to read the next chapter after the one I read yesterday, or adding a little more love into my children's banks to what I contributed there yesterday.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Essay: I want

Maria
One day I found an ad in a newspaper for a doll. This is it.


COME ONE.
COME ALL.
COME BUY.
THIS DOLL!

And I went to the store and bought about 2 or 3 hundred dolls!


(this is not true)(do not believe it)
(do not make it popular)
(Really)
(do not read it more than once)
(believe me this is not true)
GOOD BYE


Reese
You saw an ad in the paper for a china doll. You want to add it to your collection, but you can not find the doll! Boo hoo.

(SEE YA LATER! GOOD BYE.)

Wasted Time

I recently wasted an entire week of my life. For a whole seven days I didn't clean or cook or supervise my daughters' schoolwork. Laundry was washed but the clean clothing was dumped in a mountain on my bedroom floor. Not a single box was unpacked. We fell behind on the dishes (even dishwashers need someone to load and unload them). The kids and I stayed home. In fact, I spent most of the week sitting on our couch watching tv or amusing myself online.
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I wasted an entire week of my life because my children got the flu one after another and then gave it to me. I wasn't really lazing about; I was too busy emptying basins, changing sheets, catching vomit, cuddling feverish babies, replenishing water bottles, etc., etc., etc. It was a week in which I accomplished absolutely nothing...and that was the most important accomplishment I could have spent my time on. Sometimes life is not about doing but simply about loving. It was far more important for me to spend my week cuddling and caring for my children than any other activity I could have filled my time with.