Friday, December 02, 2011

Tess, who can't say "r" very well.

(maybe because of the overbite from sucking those fingers...)

Tess- I wanna have pears.

Me- We don't have any pears. Would you like an apple?

Tess- No, I wanna have pears.

Me- Ok, but we don't have any pears. We have apples, and bananas, and oranges, but no pears. Do you want a banana?

Tess- No! No, I wanna pears!

(she wanders away for a bit, then comes back carefully carrying all the candles from the Advent wreath. She comes over and carefully hands me each one and says, "Pears! I wanna have these pears!"

Me- Tess, we don't have any pears! (Then a light bulb finally goes on) Oh! You want to have PRAYERS?!

Tess- Yes! Yes, I wanna have these pears!

So, we did. Even though it wasn't prayer time. Because she worked so hard for it. :)

Monday, November 07, 2011

a contest with myself

Kain returned two hours ago from a five day long visit with my parents. I haven't yelled at anyone in five whole days. People comment on my frazzled nerves, and I promise them, my nerves are frazzled because of one child. One out of five isn't bad I guess. :) But still. I don't like that it takes Kain leaving for five days to reign in my temper. I'm in a contest (with myself) to see how long I can go without losing my temper with him. So far I have weathered an argument in which he demanded tools and nails and a curtain rod so that he can build a clubhouse RIGHT NOW. Actually, first he asked if he could build a clubhouse, and then I said sure, and then he asked in which tree, and I said no, not a treehouse, a clubhouse on the ground (our trees are not suitable for treehousing), and he was ticked about that, and he came back with a new plan to build a clubhouse on the ground, and I said sure, and he gave me a list of things he needs, and I told him to talk to Uncle John about which tools he could use, and he had a cow because he wants to do it RIGHT NOW. How's that for a run-on sentence? And I did not yell. I may have adapted an exasperated tone. But I did not yell. Stay posted. I can see him from the window by the computer gathering scrap wood. I don't think this is over. :)

Jack said....

waiting impatiently for breakfast one morning..."Am I among the poor?"

Me- "No dear. Why?'

Jack- "Because I have nothing to eat!"

Monday, October 31, 2011

an announcement!

Many of you know this already, those I know "elsewhere", and I've been meaning to post it here...we are expecting a new baby probably sometime in late May. I haven't been keeping up with my dates very well, shame on me. But my best guess puts me around 11 weeks along. We're all excited. This is the first pregnancy that Jack seems "old" enough to follow along. He's very sweet, talks about the baby often and kisses my belly. Tess may have some issues. Any time I mention the baby she yells "NO!" haha!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Is he slow?

John was asked this about Jack a couple of weeks ago. I guess we'll be hearing those kinds of questions more and more as Jack gets older. When he was a younger boy, he just seemed shy, or that he's bigger, the gap between Jack and other 7year old boys is widening. He is slower. Slower to respond to his name, slower to move, slower to answer a question. He still performs on grade level,,,but slowly. I don't think he would be able to perform on grade level in a regular classroom just because he wouldn't be able to keep up with the pace and the level of distraction. But here, at home, we slow down with him, for him. We ask him a question, and we wait. Repeat, if necessary. We repeat instructions, we slow down our expectations,,,,Jack slows us all down. We sit with math, and the calendar, and I ask him, "What month is it?" and I know he knows the answer, so I wait. And when he stares over my shoulder, I ask again. And when he says, "A clarinet is a member of the woodwind family." I pull his chin to me and say, very sweetly and patiently because if he thinks you are mad he will cry, "Jack, what month is it?" and wait for his gaze to clear and for him to smile and answer, "It's October! It's October 24th, and Halloween is October 31st, and my birthday is October 7th, and your birthday is October 16th, and you are 37 years old now!" And after having exhausted all he knows about October, we move on. Slowly but surely.

Monday, September 05, 2011

grocery shopping with Kain

I haven't taken Kain on a real grocery shopping trip in a long, long time. And even then, I think there was just the once. He doesn't handle the store well. And usually, Maria and I go after her dance class. John is usually off that day and he watches the rest of the clan. But this Friday was pay day. John was working. We were desperately in need of many things. Maria was leaving the next day to visit her grandparents for five days, so she wasn't going to be around for regular Tuesday trip anyway. So I decided to take Kain and Henry and left Maria home to babysit Tess and Jack (she was thrilled).

You should know that grocery shopping for seven people is huge. And also that I shop once every two weeks. So. It's really huge. And food for seven people for two weeks is just about all my house can hold, so when the two weeks are up, we are pretty much out of everything. I decided to take Kain because, 1., he had been kind of a butt lately and I didn't think he'd behave for Maria, and 2., he complains that I never take him to the store, and 3., some help loading and such is nice to have for such a long day.

So, we started our trip at Aldi. And it was really funny. Even though Kain usually helps unload the groceries when we've been home, I guess he had no idea how much of each thing I actually buy. I went first thing back to the milk case and loaded 10 gallons of milk into the cart. Then I loaded 10 dozen eggs in as well. His jaw hit the floor. I blew through the pantry goods and piled in 6 boxes of cereal, 4 boxes of granola bars, 2 bags of pretzels, 4 bags of tortilla chips, cans of beans, bags of rice, a few dozen fruit cups, and several boxes of various pasta, among other things. We hit the cold case for 4 bags of frozen chicken thighs, four pounds of ground turkey, some fish, some chicken nuggets, 6 cans of frozen juice, three pounds of lunch meat, bacon, sausage, and four pounds of butter. We hit the produce section for salad greens, cucumbers, tomatoes, a watermelon, a dozen nectarines, dozen plums, 2 bags of apples, a bag of potatoes, a bag of onions, mushrooms, peppers, carrots, and 2 bags of bananas. Kain kept expressing alarm and mumbling that he hoped I knew what I was doing. We checked out with our overflowing cart....$254.00.
Kain gasped loudly. "Oh no, that's too much Aunt Mel!" I laughed. "Relax kid. We are just getting started."

After a run through a drive through for a quick lunch while Henry napped, we hit walmart. First stop was for non-food stuffs...diapers (I use cloth mostly, but use disposables at night), wipes, cat food, cat litter, dishwasher soap, some supplies for my co-op class, dog food, a big pack of toilet paper, paper towels, and some various toiletries. The cart already nearly full, we headed to the food section to squeeze in yogurt, 3 packs of american cheese, a big block of cheddar, some mozzarella, pepperoni. We hit the meat section for a pound of round steak that I couldn't' find at aldi, then picked up some dregs like 2 huge jars of pickles, peanut butter, coffee, frozen fruit, frozen vegetables, brown rice, and salad dressing, and four boxes of frozen ice creams, among other things. Then we hit the bread section last, piling in 2 packs of hamburger buns, goldfish crackers, and 6 loaves of bread. Usually I get bread at the bakery thrift store, but it's in the same town as Maria's dance class and was too far out of the way to make a trip there just for the bread. One last stop by the deli to get Maria some popcorn shrimp and potato wedges...her bribe for babysitting...and we checked out....$165.00.

All in all, not a bad trip. We were out of everything, food wise, but I didn't have anything too out of the ordinary to buy so it worked out. Kain was whiny and tired, but he handled it pretty well overall. I don't think he'll ask to go shopping anytime soon though. I don't think he had any idea how much work it is!

Sunday, September 04, 2011

This isn't working very well

We just can't get off the ground very well this year. Sigh. Staying up late...I gave that up. Neither Tess nor Henry would go to sleep and stay that way. They were up too late and up too early and just cross and fussy all the next day. No good. I tried laying down in Tess's room with her, but she took quite a while to go to sleep and I realized it wouldn't work too many nights anyway. John is very often still at work at bedtime, or newly home and not wanting to chase Henry around. So, I'm back to going to bed insanely early and then getting up early. It's still not working so great. The kids have an uncanny ability to know when I'm out of bed. Usually within 15 minutes of heading downstairs, I have company.

On other fronts...Kain is already as belligerent about his schoolwork as ever. I'm already threatening public school, and it's not even Labor Day yet! haha! Jack is doing quite well with his schoolwork, but his behavior overall is an issue. He's having lots of tantrums and anxiety...not related to school, just for all kinds of reasons. It's all been rather exhausting to handle these two. I'd appreciate some sanity prayers.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Monday, August 15, 2011

Picking up the pace

Sigh. I miss summer already. This past weekend Maria had Life Teen activities at church, and the boys had something for scouts. Our co-op started last week. Dance starts this week. Vacation is over, folks.

School is a little....limpy. We are working, but we aren't on schedule very well and I find myself spending a lot of time putting out fires. I'm having a hard time finding a groove. Ok. I'm lazy. There, I said it. I feel lazy. In order for the days to really flow smoothly, I need to either...
a. stay up later than the children and get some things done, or
b. get up earlier than the children and get some things done.

Neither has been happening. I mean, I've been up, both early and late, but I'm not actually *working*...I need to be doing some housework, folding laundry, grading and prepping school work. Instead I either...
a. stay up later than the children, eat fourth meal, and watch reruns of Everybody Loves Raymond, or
b. get up earlier than the children and sit on the couch watching the news and drinking coffee.

I've got to kick myself in the can. But first I need to decide which way to go, up early or up late? Last year I was getting up early. I'm just too darned tired to actually work on laundry and cleaning and such at the end of the day. And the littles go to sleep (and stay asleep) better if I just lay down with them. But I don't seem to be able to kick it into gear very well this year. Which works best for you? Getting up early? Staying up late?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

banana bread

I am seriously addicted to it right now. Here's my favorite recipe.

1 cup of butter, softened
2 cups of sugar
4 eggs
3 cups of all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons of baking soda
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
3 bananas
1 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup chopped walnuts, if you have them

Cream the butter, sugar, and eggs. Mix dry ingredients separately, then add to butter mixture. Add sour cream, vanilla, and bananas. Stir in nuts. Pour into two greased loaf pans and bake at 350 for 1 hour.

Now, ignore all that. Because! It has way too much fat and sugar! Yikes! It's yummy, believe me, but wow...I feel like I might as well give the kids a snicker bar for breakfast. Here's my tweaked version...not as sweet, but still very, very good and something that I can feed my kids without a guilt complex. Henry loves it!

1/2 cup of butter
1 cup of sugar
4 eggs
3 cups of whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
3 bananas
1/2 cup of applesauce
1 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup chopped walnuts, if you have them

Add applesauce with the bananas. I rarely use all whole wheat flour when baking. It comes out like a doorstop. But it actually works really well in this recipe. The kids had no idea it was whole wheat. I tried it accidentally when I was in the middle of baking some and found out I was out of white flour.

You did know that you can freeze bananas whole, right in their skins, right? I buy them in those paper bags at 25 cents a pound. We eat up what we can, then I toss the rest right in the freezer as is. When you are ready to use them, you just defrost them, then cut the stem end off with kitchen scissors and goosh the banana right into the bowl. They turn really dark but are still just fine for baking. And if you have any little boys around, they will love to make the bananas "poop". Yes...we are easily entertained.

Monday, August 08, 2011

I forgot

I know I said I was going to post everyday for a while,,,but the truth of the matter is that I keep forgetting to post when I'm at the computer! Ah well. Anyway, today is our first day of school...sort of. I'm still waiting for some of our books to get here. A car repair, and air conditioning repair, and that trip to St. Louis put off my book ordering a bit. The rest are ordered but not in my hands yet. But we are starting today anyway with what we can do. I have most of what I need for Kain. I still need quite a bit for Maria, and some things for Jack. Maria will be starting slow anyway. She is taking two classes, grammar and religion, online this year, and so she has to follow their schedule...they don't start until September.

Hopefully I'll have some first day pictures soon. Our schedule looks very different this year than last year. Tess is starting preschool, officially, which mostly means some Montessori activities and a slow progression through Little Saints. Jack is starting first grade. Gosh, he's made so much progress over the last year. Kain is starting fifth grade. And Maria is starting HIGH SCHOOL! Gasp! I KNOW! We are enrolled in Mother of Divine Grace for the first time this year, so now I am officially accountable to another human being, something that I'm sure will stretch my organizational abilities to their screaming limits.

Monday, August 01, 2011

a change of pace

We were supposed to go to a family reunion this past weekend. Then, on Wednesday night, Jack got sick. Vomiting, chills, 104 fever sick. So John went with the two biggest kids and I stayed home with the little kids. I fully expected Tess and/or Henry to get sick, but they did not. So by Friday, Jack was much better (but still not well enough for mixed company) and I was alone until Sunday night with the three littlest ones. It was such a change of pace. Just as busy...but slower, if that makes sense. I concentrated on just the basics because that's all I could do...and remarkably, they got done. We made a huge batch of hot pink, vanilla scented playdough. We took long bubble baths until toes were pruny and water was cool. We blew bubbles for the dog to chase. We broke out checkers that no one was old enough to play and lined and stacked them up on the board. Meals were very simple, wake up times were ignored. It was rather lovely, really. But quiet in a way. There was no one to *talk* to, and it made me realize how much conversation actually happens between the biggest kids and I.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

back in the saddle

I think what's happened is that I'm out of the *habit* of writing. Time starts widening between posts, and the longer between posts the harder it is to just sit down and WRITE. So, I'm going to try to write every day for a while. Just something. it hot enough for ya? (badumdum)

I read on a yankee blog that they haven't gone outside because the heat index is above 85. 85? Really? Because our heat index is above 85 all summer long. And half of fall. We go outside pretty much every day. My kids just *need* that. We go out early in the morning when it's this hot. And usually in the late afternoon we will go out again. But the late afternoon time involves *water*. Always. That's the trick. Every day. A couple of times a week we go to the city pool. The other days, we hit the back yard. I keep our bathing suits and pool towels in a pile by the back door, and I strip folks right there and suit them up. The very littlest usually just go out in a diaper...if that much. My bathing suit is there too, and I also get wet. We don't necessarily *play* in the water every day...the sprinkler is on, watering various areas, and we might or might not fill the wading pool. But we do *get wet*, thereby making the heat bearable for a while and keeping the mosquitoes at bay. And,,,you wanna know my little white trash secret? I also stash a bottle of tear free shampoo by the back door. I've been known to lather some heads and run them through the sprinkler. Because doesn't it seem silly to bring folks in from playing in water and then put them in the bathtub?

Makes for an easy evening too, when the littles are already washed up. I can just call everyone in when evening comes and throw some pajamas on them, feed them, and they're ready for bed. Worried about the neighbors? Tell them you are conserving water...being ecologically minded to make up for that carbon footprint your big ole family is stamping all over the planet. It's amazing how thin a line there is between "redneck" and "green". Me, I don't worry about the neighbors. We have a six feet high privacy fence.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Alphabet Path meets Little Saints

Little Saints, if you aren't familiar, is a popular Montessori-based Catholic preschool curriculum. But it was a bust for Jack. I just couldn't engage him. It's not the fault of this lovely work. Jack has lots of attention issues and I have a really difficult time engaging him in..well, almost anything. He doesn't like crafts, and he didn't get hand rhymes and sort of thing, and in the end it just didn't feel like it was worth battling over. I saved my energy for kindergarten. The Alphabet Path was a smidge more successful because I was able to customize it for him, but still, he wasn't really very interested in most of it and it just kind of fizzled. It wasn't enjoyable for him, and since it wasn't essential, I just let it drop.

Well, now Tess is 3 years old, and she loves to "do school". She loves crafts, loves read alouds and hand rhymes and all that fun preschool-y stuff. And ironically, the more she is interested in doing such things, the more I find Jack wanting to join in. And let's not forget Henry! He is one year old now, and while he is much too young for crafts and such, he does already love songs and read alouds and that sort of thing.

So, what I've done is I've turned the Little Saint's curriculum into our own little Alphabet Path. This will be primarily for Tess, but I plan to have Henry join us for the parts he will enjoy and Jack will always be invited to join in as well. This will be our Alphabet Path for the next two years because we will continue to do one stop on the path each month (four weeks, really). That is just what is realistic for us. Jack will still be doing MODG's first grade curriculum, remember, and I do still have two other big kids to work with too! I offer my notes here of how I've broken this down. Maybe it will help someone who already has Little Saints and would like to use it this way, or maybe it will help someone looking for more Alphabet Path ideas. I am listing our themes by month because some of these themes are seasonal or based on the liturgical year. Sometimes the title Little Saints gives the theme matches the letter of the alphabet for that month, but many times I had to tweak it to make it match. When the latter occurs, I will put my name for this theme first, and the corresponding Little Saints theme in parentheses.

August- A - Angels (from Colors, day 1) and Alphabet Fun
September- B - By Sea and Sky
Late Sept/Oct.-C - Colors (days 2 and 3) and Cool Fall Weather (Fall Is Here)
Late Oct/Nov- D - Dentists, Doctors, and other Friends (Good Health Friends)
Late Nov/Dec- E - Emmanuel (some activities from the Christmas unit appropriate for
Late Dec/Jan- F - Felis Navidad (anything we didn't do in the Christmas Unit, plus the Epiphany unit) and Feathered Friends
Late Jan/Feb- G- Gardens (Plant Life) and Grocery Stores (At the Supermarket)
Feb- H - Home (My Home and Neighborhood) and Hibernation (Forest Animals)
March-I - Insects, Ireland (a one day unit in LS on St. Patrick), and Italy (a one day unit on St. Joseph, the patron of Italy)
April- J - Joyful Easter (Easter Time) and Jump Into Spring (Spring has Sprung)
May- K - Keeping Safe (Safety Friends)
June- L - Long Days of Summer (Summer Fun), Life in a City
July- M - My Family
August- N -Number Fun, Nursery Rhymes
September- O On the Farm (In the Country)
Late Sept/Oct-P Pond and Sea, Pets and Pals
Late Oct/Nov- Q Queens and Kings (Fairy Tales)
Late Nov/Dec- R Restaurants (Eating Out)
Late Dec/Jan- S Snow (Winter Fun) and Storytime (Fables and Folktales)
Late Jan/Feb- T Triangles and other Shapes (Shapes), and Time (It's About Time)
Feb- U Up In Space, United States (My America)
March- V loVing Your Neighbor
April- W What's the Weather, World of Friends (Children Around the World)
May- X
(Little Christians)
June- Y All About You (I Belong to God, My Five Senses)
July- Z Zoo Animals

So that's it...maybe this will help someone out there with their planning. At the very least it will be here for me when Henry is 3! I plan to take Tess down Elizabeth Foss's Alphabet Path again when she is done with this Little Saint's version.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

selective discrimination

Maria- Mom, hypothetically speaking, would you care if I married a black man?

Me- Would he be a good Catholic? Hypothetically speaking?

Maria- Yes.

Me- Go for it.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Boys vs girls

I spent the day grocery shopping.

John fed the baby chili for dinner. It's very weird to pick up your baby and have him smell like chili.

Tess got wrist deep into a jar of peanut butter, and when I got home, I witnessed John leading the dog over to her and letting him "clean her up".

I found Jack playing with John's hacksaw. He said he was "making sawdust". I said, "Jack, you aren't allowed to play with Daddy's saw!" He said, "I'm not playing. I'm working."

There is a light saber on top of the garage roof. Kain threw it up there after he found Jack playing with it. For some reason, this makes sense to him in a way that I cannot grasp.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

family tv night?

This sounds great.

A real family movie night!

I so glad to read that the commercials are family friendly too. We quit watching America's Funniest Home videos, one of our last tv hold outs, a couple of years ago because I didn't want to explain to my then-8yo what "erectile dysfunction" was or what that KY "his and hers" commercial was about. Sheesh. Does no one that makes these TV production decisions actually have a child? Even accounting for a wide variety of "what is appropriate" opinions, does anyone really think the Victoria's Secret models posturing with their push-up bras and angel wings appropriate for family TV?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Jack recites poetry

Dumb computer turned this video sideways. Sigh. I spent almost an hour yesterday trying to figure out how to fix it. It isn't sideways on my camera! Anyway. Tilt your head, ha!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Merry, um...Christmas

On this weekend feast of the Solemnity of St. Joseph, I would like to celebrate with....

...our Christmas portrait.

Well, you know, I'd been having computer and camera issues, and still can't really get my photo editing software to work like it did...nothing is the same, NOTHING, WAAH! But, I did finally get my HUNDREDS of pictures off my camera and onto my computer. Better late than never. And in that frame of mind, I will ramble on and share a bunch of pictures from the last several months whilst I talk about liturgical year stuff.

(our back of our biggest snow falls EVER this year!)

(Henry with our Christmas tree...there are bikes under that blanket behind him.)

We've been doing a lot of liturgical year stuff this time around. It's been so much fun. It feels like a fine line though, between "having fun" and "OCD". Do you ever read other people's blogs about fixing "Fruits of the Holy Spirit" fruit salad or little snacks to go with every Jesse tree ornament and think "who ARE these people"

Yeah. Me too. Or, you know, I used to. I still do, to some extent. Here's my thoughts...

(Adam's apple. For our first Jesse Tree ornament)
First, this kind of thing is for people who love to cook and craft with their kids. If you love it, do it, and if you don't, please don't even waste a moment worrying about not doing it.

There are many things we don't do with our kids because it's just not our thing. We aren't musical. We've done very little sports. We're not terribly outdoors-y. I like to cook, I like to do crafts, and I find those things very do-able with our mixed age group. My kids like doing them too. So it's what we do.

Second, if you think you would like to do it but find it all overwhelming because there is *so much* out there, I hear you. We don't do it all, we really don't. Some years (pregnancy years) I do very, very little, trying to muster up the gumption to bring the basics for the big four together (Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter). Other years I am more motivated and looking for new ideas to add to our favorites.

Many of the things I make require very little effort on my part at all, no more than a glance through the church calendar when making my grocery plans for the week. For example, for the Solemnity, we will be having an Italian dinner, which is traditional for this day. But it's nothing fancy, a simple chicken parmesan and some boxed biscotti and ice cream. I have to make dinner anyway. This one required no more effort than any other.

Tess has already contributed her part. She pooed on the dining room chair, then smooshed my little St. Joseph statue in it. Yep. Potty training is going swimmingly...

He's been cleaned with toothpicks and an old toothbrush. A run through the dishwasher to sterilize and I think he'll be ok.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Jack world

Jack is very verbal for an autistic child. We're very grateful for that! But his communication is very dependent on what is called "scripted speech"...little memorized lines and phrases that he uses to communicate. It's kind of like if you were learning French or something, and you went to France to visit, and you had to navigate around using your very limited would be very heavily dependent on using those little phrases you memorized out of your French textbook. That's how Jack seems. He's here for a visit, and he speaks slowly and carefully, pulling out the phrases and words he knows and making them fit. What's more, he often supplies *us* with the appropriate phrases to use too.

For example, last night he came out of bed, walked slowly up to me, put his face a few inches from mine, and screwed it up into his "sad face"...

Me- Hi Jack, what's going on?

Jack- Say, "what's wrong".

Me- Oh, ok. What's wrong?

Jack- I heard a scary noise.

Me- You did?

Jack- Say, "it's ok".

Me- It's ok. (hug)

Jack- smiles and trots back to bed.


Here's another funny Jack moment. Maria has dance class on Monday nights at 6:30. We were going to a nearby park while she was in class, but now of course it's dark at this time. Waiting in the tiny waiting space with four children has proven unsatisfactory. So one evening a couple of weeks ago, I lay down the seats in the back of the van, and Henry, Tess, Jack and I all climbed back there and read stories, did hand rhymes,and sang songs. Jack was only minimally engaged, and so I was trying to pull him in...

Me- Jack, do you want to pick the next song?

Jack- Ok!

Me- What should we sing?

Jack- Can you sing the song from the ghost castle in world 3 of Super Mario Brothers?

Me- Um. Hmm. I don't know that song. Do you know how it goes?

And then Jack, who hardly ever sings "normal" preschool-y songs, starts singing (if you can call it that,,there's no words) this backround music from our wii game. "Bahdum bahdum badum. Bahdum bahdum bahdum. Bahdum bahdum bahdum dum dum dum dum dumdumdumdumdumdumdumdum."

Sunday, February 13, 2011

On bribes. Erm, I mean, prizes.

Just thought I'd share a little school-y tidbit that we've been making use of for several years now. Our prize box. A more organized blogger would have a picture of the box now. But I haven't any pictures. So just try to picture looks like this....

...only red. And it's an older lego box, with a lid that closes tightly, not like these new-fangled lego boxes that are good for nothing much once the legos are taken out.

Anyway, the prize box sits on the top shelf of the school room closet. Maria and Kain each have a sheet with a 10 by 10 grid on it. It's their catechism drill sheet. Our curriculum, you see, has them memorizing catechism questions and answers every year from 1st grade through 8th grade. It can get a little...tedious. So, we drill a set of questions every day, and for every one they can recite they can put a sticker or check mark or whatever on their drill sheet, and for every 10 boxes checked off they can pick a prize out of the box. They both love this. Kain will *beg* me to do religion. You'd think there was gold in that there box. Jack doesn't do catechism drill yet, being only in kindergarten, but he does memorize poetry, and so I give him a check mark for each day he recites poetry for me and he can pick out a prize after four check marks, which comes out to once a week.

What to put in the box...that is always a challenge. The kids often suggest things. My rule is that nothing in the box costs more than a dollar. Frankly, even that can add up quickly. Depending on the question line-up,,,that is, whether the questions for a particular day are learning brand new ones or reviewing old ones,,,they can earn 1-3 prizes a week. Plus, finding prizes that appeal to older kids,,,mostly Maria, but increasingly Kain too...that's trickier.

So, what's in our box? Here's some common findings---

-Dollar Tree finds, obviously. This is especially good for little kids, but I also pick up little bottles of smelly lotions and potions and such that Maria likes.

-Many stores, like Target and Walmart, have a dollar section too. Also look for multipacks of things that might cost more than a dollar, but you can open them up and break them up. Especially look around the holidays. Yesterday I picked up little tubes of bubbles, notebooks, colored pens, plastic slinkies, and stickers in the Valentine's section at Walmart. They were $3 a pack, but had several items in each pack. I've also picked up things like this on clearance after the holiday, like those bath baskets that go on clearance the day after Christmas. Buy them up, cut them open, and you've got several items for your box.

-Also stock up at the beginning of the school year on fun school supplies...markers and cute notebooks and that sort of thing.

-I try not to do candy. But sugarless gum is good. Pick up the multipacks to keep your price down. And many times I have put a few pieces of Halloween dregs in snack bags and thrown them in there. And sometimes I will pick up some cute holiday candy on clearance, just for something different.

-Itunes songs. Not thrilled about this one now that they have raised their price per song. However, Kain is interested in some songs off the Christian music station and I see this as a constructive way to guide his taste in music away from the stuff his dad listens to (yikes).

Even Maria, in her "I'm 14 years old and nothing excites me" stage of life, loves the prize box, even if just on principle...everyone loves a freebie. She helps me look for items when we are shopping, and she will often use her points to get something out of there for Tess or Jack, which is very sweet.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Our Life Plus Dog

I don't think I'm a dog person.

I'm sorry about that.

I don't dislike dogs. I actually really like dogs. Other people's dogs. I think I feel about dogs the way some people feel about kids. If I go over to *your* house and see *your* dog, I will probably love all over him, but I'll be glad to leave him at *your* house when I go.

Dogs are just too high maintenance for me. They are too in-my-space and too hyperactive. I know he's a puppy and these things will get better. But I still don't think I'm a dog person. I like my cats. They are low-maintenance. They are independent. They lie around and look pretty and sometimes seek a warm lap,,,and they are *clean*...that's about my speed, animal-wise.

We have a couple of finches, and they are borderline, for me, maintenance-wise, but I still allow them because they are pretty and chirpy and I really do like birds. I like dogs, but their maintenance level just pushes them over the acceptability line for me.

Oh, there's all the usual puppy stuff. Housebreaking has been really difficult because of the record snowfall. He's not getting enough exercise, again, because of the snowfall, and so he's eaten Maria's sketcher sandals, a pair of my shoes, and numerous toys, Tessie's hat, the cable cord that hooks up to our modem, and a wooden shelf I had propped up against a wall waiting to be hung. He ate my favorite Christmas picture book. Oh, and I almost forgot until just now when he woke up Henry...he loves to climb on top of napping children, causing you to lug him behind the baby gate in the laundry room until naptime is over. And I do mean *lug*. He's no small puppy anymore and must weigh a good 40 pounds already.

All of this would be forgivable and mostly puppy-related stuff if not for one, very disturbing, very stomach-turning issue. He eats pooey diapers. Actually, "eats" is an understatement. He attacks, shreds, and devours dirty diapers. He rips them open and buries his face in there and snorts around like he's a doggie-addict that has discovered someone's doggie-cocaine stash. And when you find (smell) what's going on, and you holler at him in your best no-no-bad-dog voice, and you crawl around on all fours picking up pooey diaper shreds and suppressing your gag reflex, he jumps all over you and then LICKS YOU IN THE FACE WITH HIS POOEY, STINKY MOUTH AND YOU COULD JUST DIE FROM THE GROSSNESS OF IT ALL!

I just don't think I could like an animal like this. I'm a nurse. I am not a squeamish person. I've cleaned up every bodily fluid there is, I've seen terrible, rotting-flesh, bone-deep bedsores that would, I guarantee, nauseate most dog lovers. But even I have my limits. For example, never once, not ever, did one of those bedsores jump up and lick me in the face.

And, you know, before we got the dog, we watched this documentary about dogs, how they had evolved with human beings for so long that they can read human emotion and expressions better even than most people. So how does my retching and gagging and screaming, "NO, NO, FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY, DEAR GOD NO" encourage this animal to come love all over me?

And also, how can an animal with a digestive system so delicate that they get horrifying diarrhea when you change their brand of dog food eat actual human excrement with no ill effect whatsoever?

Don't worry, the dog isn't going anywhere. My husband loves him. The little kids adore him, especially Tess. He and Tess are best buds, which shouldn't be surprising since they are both toddlers. I think the big kids still love him, although they've had to clean up enough of his messes that the bloom is definitely off the rose. Spring is coming, and he will spend more (much more) time outdoors, and we will all learn to throw dirty diapers away IMMEDIATELY and to keep our shoes out of his way. And our toys. And our books. And our furniture, rugs, and decorative items. I guess I'll just hang everything from the ceiling.

Anyway. I know my post is a controversial one, and I'm sure I'll hear back from you dog-lovers. I might even get a nasty e-mail flame or two. I realize that this is just how dogs are, that he is not trying to be a bad dog, but is just in fact being a DOG, but that's my point, really. I don't think I'm a dog person.

Monday, February 07, 2011

It's not tumor after all.

A smell awoke me early this morning. Pungent and oily, couldn't quite put my finger on it. A cross between lemon oil and paint stripper. It was so faint from upstairs in my bedroom that I couldn't be sure I wasn't dreaming it. When I came downstairs, the smell grew much stronger, almost unbearably so, but I couldn't quite pin down the location. It seemed to be coming from the kitchen/laundry room area. I now had some vague memory of hearing a crash down here when John was getting ready for work. He must have knocked something down and now the bottle was leaking. Some kind of bottle of leaking cleaner? Some kind of crafting material? A quick look around revealed no evidence of any smelly puddles of stuff.

After I got coffee and laundry going, I poked around under the kitchen sink and on the laundry room shelves but could find no evidence of anything leaking there either. I felt like I was crazy. Maybe I had a brain tumor after all. I often smell things that no one else in the house seems to smell, sniffing around the house until I finally locate a sippy cup of milk stashed in an odd cabinet, or a ziploc bag with a rotting bird's nest (true story). Sometimes I can't pinpoint what I'm smelling, and we joke that it must be my brain tumor.

This was not a joke. The smell was so strong it was making me nauseous. And the crashing sound...there must be evidence of something! I found a few blue shop towels near the top the trash and picked them up to sniff, but they had been soaked with the coffee grounds I'd just dumped in there. Between that and the very overpowering smell of...of whatever this mystery smell was...I couldn't gain any insight from the towels.

I looked at the time. It was now nearly 7. John's shift would be just starting. I called his cell phone and the he solved my mystery...tea tree oil! It seems when he opened the fridge this morning, he pulled the med box down to the floor. It's a common occurrence around here. The "med box" is where we keep our daily-used medications...Kain's meds, mostly, and also vitamins, and anything else that someone might currently be using like antibiotics and such. Often when the med box is put away, it isn't put back quite far enough on top of the fridge and then gets pulled down when you open the door. Anyway, apparently there was a bottle of tea tree oil in there that broke open all over the kitchen floor. I have no idea why there was tea tree oil in the med box. I use it to mix up cloth baby wipe stuff, and it's supposed to be on the changing table. Anyway. Smelly stuff mystery solved. It's not a tumor.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Are we hopeful?

The checker plucked the pregnancy test out from between the English muffins and frozen broccoli and held it up in the air. Grinning, she said, "Are we hopeful?"

I stammered, surprised that she'd spoken at all. It was the first acknowledgement that we were even there at her register. I was taken aback by the comment about something as personal as a pregnancy test...would she had made a comment about a tube of KY? A package of Lotrimin? Isn't therer some sort of cas=hier rule about commenting on such purchases? As I struggled to think of something to say, our eyes met and, an obviously exhausted 36-year-old mom with no make-up on and my hair in a knot at the back of my head, rounding out an already too-long day with a massive grocery shopping trip, a teenager in tow and a 9-month-old baby strapped to my chest...she, an obviously exhausted 50-something woman wearing too much too-dark make up and dyed, teased hair, giving off the "I'm single and trying desperately to look younger than I am" vibe. Her smile faltered as she realized that maybe I wasn't hopeful...maybe her question wouldn't be well-received. But it wasn't that...I just really didn't know what to say. I didn't know what I hoped. I really didn't think I was pregnant. I had no symptoms, no reason to think I was, except that Henry was 9 months old and my cycles still hadn't returned, and I was having a glass of wine the other night and thinking, "I should probably just make sure...." On one hand, I didn't really want to be yet, not so soon. On the other hand, if I was pregnant I would certainly get over the initial shock, and I would love and welcome another baby. But these thoughts were certainly too involved to share with a random cashier...though apparently it doesn't bother me to share it with all of you. I finally smiled and touched Henry's head and said in a light tone, "Oh, I guess it depends on when you ask me."

"Do you have others at home?" she asked, looking back at Maria who was busy unloading our second cart while I filled the first back up with sacked food. And thus began That Conversation, the one where I list my children and their ages, and yes, I do have my hands full, and no, we probably aren't done yet, God willing. And I really don't mind having those conversations. I realize we are kinda weird. As long as people aren't nasty about it, I don't mind,,,I don't mind because I've been there, I've had the one, two, three kids that absolutely tapped me out and wondered how people ever managed with more.

"Do you live in a big house?" she asked. I smiled, picturing our 2200 square foot perpetual fixer-upper. "No, not really. It felt huge when we moved in!" I said. "But we only had one child then."

"Your husband must make a lot of money, huh?" she asked. And I wasn't offended. She was just voicing what lots of people wonder, especially people who have such an intimate look at my hefty walmart bill. "Well, um,,,," I faltered...John, a nurse, probably did make a lot of money compared to what a walmart cashier makes, but support all of us, we live simply and pinch every penny until it screams. It was enough, if we were careful, but it sure didn't feel like a must have shown on my face, or maybe I was visibly wincing as the grocery total climbed....

"Are you on WIC for that baby?" I shook my head, really wanting to put an end to this conversation now but unsure how. "Food stamps? Nothin'??" I just shook my head again, not wanting to go into how I felt about such programs, how I had been on them as a single mother putting myself through school and I would sooner live on beans and rice than subject myself to the humiliation of dealing with state social workers again, how I'm glad those programs exist for those who needed them, and I did need them back then, but I didn't need them now. I could make a lot more cuts to our lives before that became necessary, and to prove it to myself I mentally looked back over my purchases and tallied up how much I had spent on things we could have done without...smallish things, but it did add up. I knew how to live thriftily. My single-mom years had taught me that well.

"Well," she sighed as she gave me the total, now looking a little sorry for me,,it was steeper than usual, even for us..."come back through my line next time and let me know how it turns out! You'll be ok, either way." I smiled over Henry's head, knowing I would do no such thing, and said, "Have a good day."

Later, at home, I informed a disappointed Maria that the test was negative. I wasn't disappointed. I am still enjoying Henry and all his babyness, and still struggling too much with five children to really feel ready to handle nine months of pregnancy. But the cashier was right...I would have been ok. Either way. Because we are hopeful. I'm hopeful that we will continue to have the means to provide for more children in God's time, and if we find that we are losing that struggle, I'm hopeful that using Natural Family Planning will help us get through the rest of my fertile years. I'm hopeful that gas prices don't climb as high as they say they will, that I will find the energy to get me through two days of being snowed and iced in with a very wound-up Kain over his birthday tomorrow. I'm hopeful that I can keep a smile on my face and irritation out of my voice, hopeful that my children know that they are all wanted and all meant to be here, no matter how expensive groceries get and even if we do end up having to eat more beans and rice somewhere down the road. I'm hopeful that someday, after my children are raised, John and I will look back on our days of struggling to pay the bills and not regret the sacrifices to bring one more soul into the world. I'm hopeful we will remember the joy of these days filled with laundry piles and coffee filter snowflakes and grammar lessons over grilled cheese sandwiches.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Other Kain conversation

Me- Kain, do you know where the band-aids are?

Kain- They should be in the medicine box on top of the fridge.

Me, holding the medicine box from the top of the fridge- Yes, I know where they are supposed to be. But they aren't here.

Kain- Well, they were there yesterday.

Me- What did you need band-aids for yesterday?

Kain- Because I was making something and couldn't find the tape.

I'm smarter than I look

Me- So did you read Chapter 7?

Kain- Yep, I read it.

Me- Really? That was awfully quick! What was it about?

Kain- Jamestown.

Me- What about Jamestown?

Kain-Um...Jamestown. And Lord Baltimore.

Me, smelling a rat- Ok. What about Jamestown and Lord Baltimore?

Kain- I just told you! It was about Jamestown and Lord Baltimore!

Me- You didn't read the chapter, did you?


Me- Uh huh. So, did you really read the chapter, or did you just look at it and pick out a name or two that you saw so that you could tell me what it was about in case I asked?

Kain....after a long silence and a blank stare- Can you repeat the question?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Tessie- at two and a half

I never did post about Tessie's know, those bags I said she fills up with little goodies she snarfs up from around the house? This is actually her smallest purse, filled to the spilling point with treasures. The others are actually a backpack my mom gave her and a couple of bags that were actually Halloween trick or treating bags.

The contents, in case you can't tell them all...
-A velcro "turnip", from a set of sliceable velcro foods we have
-a plate from her tea set
-a salt shaker from her play kitchen
-some link-a-doos
-a small cardstock square we were using for some craft a while back
-a couple of alcohol wipes...we have tons of these, hazard of being married to a nurse
-one of Henry's spoons
-Henry's wrist rattle
-one of Jack's airplanes
-a velcro strawberry
-a pizza from her play kitchen
-a lacing circle from Jack's occupational therapy session
-a little toy that attaches to Henry's bouncy seat
-a pot holder from her play kitchen
-a couple of napkins leftover from Jack's birthday party (they were clean!)
-a dry erase marker
-a battery (yikes!)
-a stuffed carrot and tomato
-Jack's bulldozer
-a shape from Henry's shape sorter
-red crayon
-a coupon that was attached to some cookie dough Maria bought to make some cookies for our church's cookie walk,,,apparently the cashier didn't take it off

I had a really hard time taking this picture. She caught me halfway through emptying her purse and watched anxiously as I laid out the contents. Then she kept trying to grab her treasures back while I took the picture. As soon as I was done, we had to safely reload her things. (I palmed the battery though)

Tessie...She was such a sweet and easy-going baby! Now, she's the two-est two year old in existance. Oh, don't get me wrong, she's still very, very sweet. But that girl...she keeps me hopping. She dearly loves to fingerpaint, and does, with any substance she can find. Vaseline...jelly...butter...peanut food smooshed up in the water bowl...smooshed up tomatoes she's gotten off the counter...puddles of ookey stuff outside...even the contents of her diaper will do. Blech. All of these have been recent materials of hers. She dearly loves Henry and loves to feed him. Just watch out because she'll feed him anything! She's become absolutely insane to handle during mass and usually ends up in the narthex before it's over. Don't leave the front door open, because there's a little gap between the screen door and the floor, and she loves to see what she can push through there. If anything goes missing, check her little stashes...the other day I found my missing measuring spoons, several baby spoons, the dog leash, and Kain's missing packet of peppermint cocoa in her kitchen stove. She's a booger.

("loving" Henry)
Potty training...must we discuss it? We tried over summer break. We tried again over Christmas break. She knows how to do it, and she can do it. She just doesn't want to do it. I don't know why. Our last potty training day ended when she came up to me and wiped her poop-smeared hands on my pants. I found that she had copped a squat on the dining room table and painted herself, half of the table and Henry's high chair with poo. It took me an hour to get everything, and everyone, clean again. I hung up the potty chair for the rest of vacation. Maybe during Easter break.

(asleep in Henry's swing...she's used it more than he has!)
Oh, but she's awfully sweet. She reminds me so much of Maria at this age. She loves to dance, she loves to sing...she loves to sit on the counter and watch me cook. She loves to snuggle up and read picture books together...she'll even "read" them herself, squatting on the floor with a book and chattering nonsense as she flips the pages, then shouting loudly, "THE END!". She can count, and does, often..."One, two, fee, seven, eight, seven, eight, seven!" She loves to play with her baby dolls and she loves to follow me around and do whatever I'm big "helper", you know. In a typical girly way, she already loves to do "school" and is often sitting at our little preschool table with crayons and markers, drawing large, loopy scribbles on her paper. Her motor skills are already better than Jack's (his being quite delayed), and if you ask her to write some letters she will tighten up her pencil grip, frown in concentration, nd make little tiny chicken scratches on her paper. Her verbal skills are lagging just a bit. She speaks in single words mostly, sometimes short two or three word phrases. But still, in spite of her penchant for making messes, she is easier to handle in many ways than Jack was at this age just because she *does* understand what you want from her when you correct her. Now whether she chooses to do it or not....

(Yep. She still sucks those fingers.)