Friday, September 28, 2012

Our 8 Blessings

Good-bye, UncleTom

Last night I had a mother left a phone message saying that one of my great-uncle's passed away.

Now, that should not have BEEN a shock. He was 94 years old! His heart was failing! But he had been so strong and so healthy that I was shocked. He lived near us and I regret not making it over to see him more often. Life has been super busy with a new baby.

He had a delightful house with many treasures, but I used to chuckle inwardly thinking about the havoc our kids would make in it if I let them out of my sight. The house was full of glass and other delicate objects. It was about as “non kid proofed” a house as you can get.

My great-uncle grew up on a farm in Michigan. What changes he has seen! As a child, his home didn’t have electricity. They had a windmill that pumped water into tanks for their animals. That old house still stands on the family farm. He and his family raised chickens and a few other animals, along with many crops. He wrote a fascinating book about his life on that farm and I treasure it.

My great-uncle was a career military man and he fought in World War II. He has written memoirs of his war experiences, which I will pull out and read again.

Good-bye, Uncle Tom.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Big boy

  Daniel had his 4 month checkup yesterday.

  He weighs 15 lb, 4 oz.
  He is 25 and a quarter inches long.

  He really is getting to be a big boy!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Lydia's kitten

  We have a new kitten!  He is a long haired orange cat named Sunny.

 There is a story here.

  Our 2 eldest children, Naomi and Lydia, both love animals.

 Last week, we visited some friends who have 2 kittens.  We have a number of outdoor cats who are loved and treasured, but Lydia wanted a kitten.

  I told her that I didn't want a new kitten. We have a baby. We're busy.  No kitten!

  Lydia came back later and said again that she wanted a kitten.

  Ok, I said, why don't you pray for a kitten?

  Now, why did I say that?  To get her off my back?  Yes.  Because praying is the right thing to do if you long for something?  Yes.  Because it was a good way to learn that God sometimes says no? 

  Yep, that's what I was thinking.  We weren't getting a kitten, but Lydia could pray for a kitten and she could learn that sometimes God says no.

 The NEXT DAY, Kevin told me that a lady at work asked him if anyone wanted a kitten. This little guy in the picture was roaming the neighborhood and obviously didn't have a home. There was someone who was sort of taking care of it (feeding it), BUT this same someone had once "adopted" another kitten and then stopped caring for it when it grew up to be an adult.  I find that reprehensible but some people are like that.

 Clearly, this is a kitten that needs a home.  Given that I told Lydia to pray, and this kitten needs a home, I bowed to the inevitable and we agreed that we should adopt the kitten.

 Lydia is through the moon excited about the kitten, of course. And Naomi and the other children like him a lot too!

  This does involve some work and expense as we need to get him neutered and all that jazz. But I'm willing to be part of an answer to prayer :-).

  Welcome, Sunny, to our happy family.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Give De Ants De Air

In a previous post, I detailed my exciting experience when I tried to open the top of our ant farm.  Several ants escaped and I had to squash them.  It was mildly traumatic.

That was a couple of weeks ago. The ant farm instructions said to open it briefly every week to give them fresh air.  My friend Sarah suggested putting the ant farm in the refrigerator to make the ants sluggish.  That is a great idea, but the remaining living ants kept hanging out RIGHT at the top of the ant farm and even if they were sluggish, I was afraid they might escape.

A few days ago, Kevin started cracking me up by intoning solemnly and repeatedly, "You got what you want.  Give de ants de air." which is a parody of a quote from the movie Total Recall when some bad guys cut off air from one section of the Martian Colony.  Kevin does a pretty good job of copying Arnold Schwarzenneger's Austrian accent.

It made me laugh, but it also made me feel vaguely guilty. I was afraid to open the top, but were they suffocating?  Poor ants!

So 2 days ago, I was peering at the farm dubiously and noticed that the ants were congregated at one end of the top.  Could I crack open the other end and let some air in?

No.  The whole top came off.

BUT, amazingly, the ants were so startled (or were too busy enjoying the oxygen) to do anything crazy. I got the top back on quickly and no ants escaped or were squashed.  Oh joy!

So for now, we have happy ants and a happy Laraba.  By next week they may all be dead as they are dying off.  Ants don't live that long.

As a total aside, I do NOT recommend the movie Total Recall.  I had seen it a couple of times 20 years ago and remembered it with fondness.  We acquired it recently and sat down to watch it together and wow, I gave up after about 45 minutes! It is VIOLENT.  The language is BAD.  UGH!  It is a movie with an interesting premise but it is over the top in a couple of areas.

I'm much more careful about what movies and TV I watch and have been for more than a decade, and my spirit is much more sensitive. I think that is a good thing. I don't want to get used to excessive violence or rotten language.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Our 2 Littles

  Here are our 2 littles.  Aren't they cute?

  I usually dress my babies in sleepers in cool weather, but today I went all out and put Daniel in some little jeans and a little shirt.  I have to laugh at the jeans as they come complete with tiny, real pockets.  What would a baby need pockets for?

  As Isaac said, because they look GOOD.

Math Scale

  A long time ago, at a homeschool convention, I bought this math scale.

  The idea is charmingly simple.  We hang weights on one side of the scale, usually just 2, on 2 numbers (or 2 on the same number).  The child learning addition puts the correct weight on the other side so that the scale balances.  So if there is a weight on 6 and on 2 on the left side, then the child puts a weight on 8 on the right side, and the scale balances.  If the child puts the weight on the wrong number, one side or the other dips down and the other side goes up. 

  I can also do subtraction facts by putting a bigger number on one side and a smaller number on the other side, and he has to figure out the subtraction problem by putting the correct number on the smaller number side. Does that make sense? Not sure.

 The balancing is a nice "self check" and it is a big help for a child who is hands on and learns well by physically doing something.

  I will confess that more than once, I considered tossing the math scale in the trash.  It is big and bulky and therefore vaguely annoying.

  SOMEDAY,  I plan to write a long blog post on decision making about keeping and throwing away things.  It isn't easy to make those decisions.

 Anyway, let me say I am glad I held onto this thing!  Joseph is not a natural mathie and he is doing well with the math scale.  He is starting to "know" addition and subtraction facts without having to think about them long.  By that, I mean that if I say, "What is 2 + 3?"  he can spout out "5" without having to think about it and add those numbers in his head.

 But more importantly, he is truly absorbing the concepts of addition and subtraction. The visual references of the numbers are helpful as he moves weights around.  Now, addition and subtraction are pretty basic but he is what he is.  He is NOT a natural math kid and I realize I need to meet him where he is at.

  The above picture is from something Miriam was doing.  She is at the other end, she is a total and complete mathie.  Just as one short example of that, this kid memorized the entire times tables (through 12's) in 2 short weeks.  Yes, our 6 year old daughter knows the times tables cold at this point. (I'm guessing she'll need a refresher at some point, and then I'll have her play Timez Attack again.)

  She also enjoys the math scale.  She wanted to know what 1+2+3+4+5+6+7+8+9+10 were.  As you can see, she put those on one side of the scale, and discovered that 55 is the answer (there are 5 weights on the 10 spot.)

  So, nice math scale.

To Rima

I LOVE it when people read my blog.  Welcome!

I know my blog is a rather "no frills" and I admit sometimes I forget to check for comments to approve, so if you leave a comment and it doesn't show up immediately, I promise I'll get to it within a week.

God bless, Laraba

What Are Those Ants DOING?

I'll be honest.  The ants have been a bit boring lately. At first they were SO fun to watch, as they vigorously tunneled through their blue goo to make tunnels.

Then we had the Great Ant Escape (see earlier post).  That was not fun, but it was exciting.

But since then, they've settled into a less exciting routine. They scurry through existing tunnels. They eat, presumably. They die. (Yes, many are dead. That is normal as they don't have a long life span.)

A few days ago, I went in to check on them and found...a ball.

 You can see it on the right side of the ant farm.

 It is HUGE, compared to an ant.  It definitely wasn't there before, so they made it!

I admit to being perplexed, bemused, and amazed! 

There must be a purpose for it, but what is it?

Joseph pointed out that it blocked off the exit (or entrance) to a couple of tunnels.  Maybe they made the ball for that purpose, to block off a tunnel?

 Anyway, it is interesting.

  (Here is a larger picture of it.  You can see the tunnels below it that are blocked off now.)

Poulty Visitors

Ok, this is FUNNY!

Our neighbors acquired some baby guinea fowl a couple of months ago.  I think I mentioned them before as they all escaped and we were helping round them up.

Well, there seem to be 4 guinea fowl and one chicken now.  Or maybe the chicken died because while we saw her a few weeks ago, we've not seen her since.

Anyway, the guinea fowl have grown fast, which is the way of poultry.

And now they are REGULAR visitors to our humble homestead.

Why?  It might be in the enchantment of our old garden, which is a veritable thicket of weeds.

It might be the joys of sneaking into our barn, hopping onto the big van, and hanging out in the rafters.  (Yep, happened last Sunday.)

But my best guess is that our chickens are the main attraction. On more than one occasion, our chickens and the neighbors' guinea fowl have faced off across the chicken wire.  I don't know if they are exchanging convivial conversation, or threatening each other.  But there is definitely interest and curiosity on both sides.


One lovely evening, I spent some precious minutes out on the front porch enjoying the fall temperatures and delighting in a gorgeous sunset.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Lots of Rain

  It has been a dry summer.  After Hurricane Isaac hit the Gulf, we expected to get quite a bit of rain from the leftovers of Isaac.  And we didn't!  We had a rain gauge out and we only got about 2/10 of an inch.

  But a few days ago it rained all day, and we got a lot.  The rain gauge showed more than 2 inches.  We needed it so are happy.

Last Day of Swimming

With the nights getting longer and cooler, the pool temperature is plummeting.  We had our last day of swimming on Saturday. It was 68 degrees outside, 78 degrees in the pool.  The children and Kevin enjoyed it in spite of the water being a tad chilly.  I was a happy, wimpy, lifeguard...I had no desire to swim in that water!

Kevin worked on the pool in a first step towards closing it for the winter.  He spends a lot of time cleaning it, throwing in the proper chemicals, and keeping the pumps running.  Thank you, Kevin!

Ironically, the pool looks gorgeous right now!  We are in a constant battle against algae growing, but with the cooler temps the algae is discouraged.  I suspect the water temperature is close to 70 right now so...we're done.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Family picture

  A sweet friend who is a professional photographer came out and took pictures of our clan.  This is the only picture I have so far.  Don't we look cute?  (And if you need a great photographer, let me know and I'll give you her name!)

Sunday, September 2, 2012

A Few Thoughts on Nursing

  If I wanted a little mental stimulation, I could figure out how many months and years I've been breastfeeding a baby. Quite a few, given that we have 8 children and I've nursed them all.

  Breastfeeding is truly one of God's miraculous gifts to mankind.  God has created breastmilk with an amazing array of components to bless a little baby.  Breastfeeding also helps a new mother by stimulating uterine contractions, reducing the risk of breast cancer, and helping her get back to pre-pregnancy weight.

 Both Kevin and I fully expected that I would breastfeed all our children.  We never really considered bottle feeding from birth. I am guessing that both of us were influenced by our mothers, who breastfed us as infants. That fact may not seem like a big deal but I am 42 and Kevin is 41, and when we were born in 1969/1970, breastfeeding wasn't NEARLY as in vogue as it is today.

 My mother-in-law tells me that she was isolated in a special room at the hospital because she chose to nurse her children, and the hospital personnel didn't want to freak out the "normal" mothers, who bottle fed.

My mother tells me that the nursery staff where I was born did not support breastfeeding, and did crazy things like feeding me bottles in the nursery and refusing to bring me to my mother when I was hungry.  It's a surprising that my mom was able to establish nursing given those circumstances!

With all this enthusiasm about breastfeeding, it may come as a surprise for me to say that I have some ambivalence about the whole experience.


Because breastfeeding can be hard.

When Naomi, our first, was born, I had taken a breastfeeding class but of course it was completely new to me.  She was SO TINY.  She was born full term but was only 5 lb, 15 oz.  When she tried to latch on, it was difficult for her.  I also had a physical problem that made latching difficult, and didn't know enough to check for it. If I had, I could have worked on the problem.  With later pregnancies, I prepared before birth so the baby would have a better chance of latching on.

 We really didn't have nursing established when I left the hospital.  It was winter and she was tiny and I was hormonal and it took a good week or 2 before she was nursing well. I think if I hadn't been so out of it, I might have given up and turned to formula because she wasn't gaining weight well. But I was determined that we were going to breastfeed and could not wrap my mind around the idea of quitting, and eventually things smoothed out.  She really was fine, and of course I am glad I breastfed her!  Actually, newborns often don't gain weight well and that is OK!  But I think if I'd really thought through her slow weight gain it would have scared me more than it did.

I nursed Naomi for close to 11 months, though the last couple of months she was getting some formula occasionally.  When I weaned her, I was 2 months pregnant with Lydia.

That pattern repeated itself pretty well through our 4th child.  I would nurse exclusively for at least  4 to 6 months, then add solids, and wean at some point.  Our 3rd child went a full year and as usual, I was pregnant with the next baby when I weaned him.

Joseph, our 4th child, was our first C-section, and I was pregnant with him when I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes.  After delivery, my body did not return to normal and I had to accept that I was diabetic.  That meant a fairly dramatic dietary change.

I don't know if my dietary changes or age were factors, but starting with Joseph I had milk supply problems. I had to wean the next 4 children at 7  months, 6 months, 10 months, and 9 months, respectively.  I would just dry up between 6 and 10 months, though I tried to drink plenty of fluids. Sarah, our 7th baby, was "happily starving" from 6 to 9 months. I took her to a well child checkup at 9 months and discovered she had gained only a little more than a pound in 3 months.  She was sleeping well at night and seemed happy, so I just didn't know.  But when I started supplementing with formula, she ate like crazy. Poor little lady...

So now I have a 3 month old son who is a big eater.  I am mentally preparing myself that I probably won't be able to nurse him past 6 months. In fact, I've started supplementing one afternoon nursing session with formula because I can tell he just isn't getting that much.  When he has enough milk, he sucks, then swallows, sucks, then swallows.  Some afternoons he sucks and sucks and sucks and finally swallows.  I just don't have much milk at that time of the day.

All this is quite frustrating. I've had other friends with milk supply problems, and they were frustrated too. And then I've had precious friends who had an abundance of milk.  One sweet friend tells me she had SO much milk that in addition to nursing her baby exclusively, she pumped a bunch and filled a freezer. Can I just say, WOW!!

 Why am I bringing all this up?  Well, I am a big believer in acknowledging truth.  And the truth is that nursing can be easy, and it can be hard.  Nor do I think that breastfeeding is the "be all and end all" of being a good mother to a baby. Yes, it is REALLY good for the baby. If you can breastfeed, please do. But sometimes life intervenes. Sometimes there are health issues that result in the mother not having enough milk.  Sometimes the baby just cannot get the hang of it. Sometimes nursing is agony for the mother for some reason.   

  I have had ardent proponents of breastfeeding get upset with my attitude about nursing. I think their fear is that if someone is ambivalent about breastfeeding, they will probably give up. And there MAY be some truth to that.  But I don't think we should beat ourselves up if it just doesn't work out as well as we'd like.  I wish I had more milk.  After 4 times in a row of not making it close to the baby's first birthday, I'm realizing I won't be able to nurse Daniel to a year.  It's just not going to happen. I'm going to rejoice in still being able to feed him almost exclusively, I'm going to drink a lot, I'm going to rest when I can, I'm going to pray, and I'm going to go to 100% formula when the time is right.


My friend Sarah has a great idea...put the ant farm in the refrigerator for a few minutes before I try opening it again. They get sluggish when cold.

I would never have thought of that.

Thanks, Sarah!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

3 months old, and very cute.

Homemade Silly Putty

We have a science kit which includes the recipe for making homemade silly putty. It also has some powder that will make the putty glow in the dark.

I made some with Joseph. Not surprisingly, it was a big hit and the younger girls wanted silly putty as well.

I was busy so asked Naomi to work with them. Well, she came through in spades!

Angela enjoyed watching.

She even added food coloring to make it in different colors.

We DID have a brief talk about the science.  A borax and water mixture is added to a white glue and corn starch mixture. The borax causes polymerization of the glue/corn starch.