Saturday, August 31, 2013

Yep, That's a Potty Seat...

on our freezer.

Now a normal person would, of course, ask, "Why is there a potty seat on your upright freezer?"

Because yes, that's odd.

Now maybe we are just super fruity artsy types and this is our idea of creating modern art on a shoestring.

But we're engineers, so that's out.

Maybe Sarah really wanted to use the potty and have a VIEW, so we plopped it, and her, up on the freezer.

But no, I'm a manic safety person and that would be that's out.

Maybe we're donating it and this is a good storage place.

But who would want a used potty seat (blech!) and we have another little man who will need potty training, so that's out too.

But the last is at least a close is a temporary storage place.

Because dear Sarah continues to entertain and exasperate during her potty training journey. She continues to do very well with the actual "using the potty" part.  We decided last week to store away the little potty because she can just put her little seat on the big potty, and that is less messy.

So I took the potty downstairs and stored it away.

And a few days ago, I heard slow climbing up the stairs, and then Sarah staggered into the room with the potty seat in her arms and exclaimed, "Mommy, I found my potty!" 

Thank you, sweetheart!

So I plopped it up on the freezer because she can't get to it.  And now I need to find a place in the basement where I can store the potty AND hide it from Sarah. I haven't gotten around it that yet.

Life is never dull around here.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Traveling is Hard (for Me)

One of my favorite movies is "Red".  Not a movie for kids, and I admit I like it with somewhat guilty pleasure. There is some language, not much in the way of unhealthy romance, and a lot of (rather funny) violence.

Anyhoo, there is one scene at the beginning of the movie when the female lead says, with a deep sigh, "I just want to travel. I'm thinking about Chili."

So that's normal, right?  Most people like to travel.  Most people like to go to exciting places and see new things.  That's natural. 

 So I like new places and people and things, BUT I have to admit that travel is VERY hard for me.

  I thought it would be helpful to share what I'm like, because maybe one of my readers has an odd kid like me...

 So I think it comes down, mostly, to control.  I like to plan ahead, I like to know where everything is, I like to know what is going to happen, I want to know where the bathroom is!

I also loathe packing.  I like to get things done well in advance, but some packing needs to wait 'til just before we leave.  So in my spirit I'm constantly wondering if I'm going to forget something vitally important :-).

  Travel is also inherently full of uncertainties.  And no place to lay my head is quite like my house.  Now sometimes that is a fine thing.  A little change is good. But when I'm somewhere away from home, I'm in a mild state of stress the whole time because my stuff is in the wrong place.  I'm constantly finding that some key item is in the WRONG place :-).

  So when I visited my parents this weekend we had a great fun, but I was also stressed off and on.  Because I needed my baby's diaper, and it was in the wrong room, or my big girls' needed something and it was in the room where the baby was sleeping. 

  I doubt most people can really relate to how I feel, because normal people seem to love traveling.  My parents and my brothers are globe trotters.  My parents went off to work for the Peace Corps back in the late 1960's and my dad's memoirs are amazing.  They'd go somewhere and catch a truck in some random town that was going vaguely in the direction they wanted to go.  They would drive for awhile and hope that there would be food and water to buy somewhere.  They'd end up (occasionally) in a small village in the middle of nowhere at night and would stay up all night.  Ok, readers, I am NOT THAT FLEXIBLE!!!

  So traveling is hard.  I like it, it broadens my horizons, but it is very hard on my level of peace.  So if you have a kid who seems stressed while traveling, maybe she is!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


This is one of those times that having 10 mouths to feed is a very good thing.

That, my friends, is quite a hill of green beans.  Kevin doesn't like them canned so...we're stuck with eating them all in the next few days.  And you know what?  We can do it!  Daniel and I are particularly fond of beans with bacon, but actually, everyone likes them well enough.

50th Anniversary Celebration for My Parents

Yes, on August 23rd, 1963, my parents were married!

They were young things, only 20 years of age at the time.  It is such a pleasure, a delight, an inspiration to see them in love and happy together 50 years later.

Naomi, Lydia, Daniel and I drove north to their home on Saturday morning.  The afternoon was filled with friends from decades ago.  The man who introduced my parents to one another was there.  I remember him from my childhood.  It was a lot of fun seeing him and his wife.  I also ran into some contemporaries of mine from my teen years.  Again, it was tremendous to catch up with them and talk about all that has happened in our lives.  My big claim to fame was, of course, 8 children!!

I have 2 brothers, and both were there.  The younger is an extraordinary balloon artist, a professional. He entertained the children most royally.  The older of my brothers (who is 4 years younger than me) is eagerly awaiting the arrival of his first child in December.  My sister-in-law looked wonderful.  She is 5 months along and amazingly energetic :-).

Here are a few random pictures, in no particular order.

Lydia and Daniel, obviously.  Naomi took all the pictures I have, which means she isn't in any of them. But she did a great job taking pictures.

There goes Daniel, and that's me (in the dress) in hot pursuit.  There is a stream that winds its way behind my parents' property, and Daniel really was excited about falling in.  I didn't let him, and it required quite a bit of focus to make sure he didn't!

Sonic the Hedgehog balloon...

Yep, he's a charmer!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

New Egg Layer(s)?

Our chickens have experienced trauma these last couple of weeks.  The older ones, all 8 of them (reduced to their present number, you may remember, by massacring raccoons) had been calmly minding their own business, secure in their pecking order and satisfied with life.

And then suddenly, 15 new chickens were thrown into the coop.  Wow.  Talk about shock!  Talk about needing to adjust to a new environment. Talk about lots of clucking and indignant pecking.

A few days ago, we started getting weird eggs. 

The one in the middle looks...odd.  Small, dark, with a thick shell.
Maybe from a young chicken?
We've only gotten 5 eggs per day and we have 8 "old" chickens seems odd we're not getting MORE eggs than usual if the young ones are starting to lay.
BUT, the trauma of throwing the chickens together may have resulted in some of the older ones no longer laying.
It is really hard to tell.  So we hope.  We exult.  We dream...of the day when we are getting 16 or 17 eggs a day again.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

More on Potty Training

I've done this potty training thing 7 times now, so you'd think I'd have it down.  Sarah is actually doing great, but I have to chuckle about all that goes IN to potty training.  You would think it is just a case of knowing when to go and then making it to the potty in time to go.

  That is a big part of it, but there is so much more.  If you are Sarah, you are figuring out:

1.  How to get underwear on and off.  Which hole should I use?  Why is it too tight?  What do you mean, I put both legs in the same hole??
2.  The purpose of toilet paper.  It is such FUN to throw it in the toilet.  Oh wait?  Huh?  You are supposed to dab it WHERE?  Um, that's weird.
3.  How to wash my hands.  This is also fun. Very fun.  Water, water, everywhere.  I like water.  I like water everywhere.  It is fun to have water on the floor, on the counter, even some in the sink. I like water.
4.  How to use soap.  Ooooh, soap!!  Soap is even more fun than water.  Soap is fun WITH water.  Oooh, look at the bubbles!  Bubbles, bubbles everywhere!  I like bubbles. I like bubbles on the floor, the counter, even on the sink!

  You get the picture. It is non stop fun around here during Sarah's potty training!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Cave Story Edited

  Cave Story is a weird little computer adventure.  It is a role playing game, I guess and it is, as I said, weird.

  The children were enthralled with it a few years ago, to the point that they memorized most of the dialogue.

 In addition to the story being fun, they discovered that there is an editor which allows users to create new levels and change existing levels.

 The last couple of weeks, we've seen a resurgence of interest in editing Cave Story.  Lydia is messing around with it here.

  It requires diligence and study because there isn't a manual.  Mostly, users just have to look at the code and figure out what code does what thing.  It is complicated.  It is fun.  And yes, it is educational.


Angela's Birthday

  We celebrated Angela's birthday this week.  She is 6!

Her birthday presents included THREE Sonic plushies, including Shadow the Hedgehog.

Since she is 6, she is official school age.  Let me tell you, making time to teach her while teaching her 5 older sibs plus chasing 2 toddlers is NOT easy.

The Lord is gracious, because Angela is very easy to teach. We spend time almost every day working on phonics.  She doesn't read very well yet, but she is improving.  She can blend words with short vowel sounds quite easily.  Her handwriting is excellent for her age. She casually did a Dot to Dot today from 1 to 100. I didn't even know she KNEW the numbers from 1 to 100.  So...I am not too worried about sweet Angela.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Chickens Together

We purchased 16 pullets a couple of months ago. We kept them separate from the old chickens so that the new chickens could eat "grower formula" and the older chickens could eat "layer formula."

 But last night, we put them together.  The new hens should start laying eggs soon so we decided they could start eating the same food.

  Moving them was quite an adventure.  Naomi and Lydia and Kevin handled it with aplomb.  Our children definitely have some SKILLS.  Of course, Kevin does too, but that doesn't surprise me.  He has lots of experience in many areas.  But our big kids?  Wow!  They catch and move chickens like a well oiled machine, like cogs in a wheel, like the dance of the stars on the spiral arms of the Milky Way Galaxy.

  Ok, my metaphors are lousy. I'm really tired.  See previous post.

  We chose to move them at night as all the chickens were (hypothetically) calmer than during the day.  I didn't get a picture, but Naomi nobly climbing INTO this coop and started catching chickens, which she handed to Kevin.

Kevin held them upside down until they calmed down, then Lydia took them and put them on a roost in the chicken coop.
Naomi put the last lady on the roost herself.  They fill up the roosts pretty well now.
Today was interesting.  Chickens naturally develop a pecking order and throwing the 2 flocks together caused much upheaval.  There was clucking and fussing, but it went fine.
We're hoping for many eggs soon.  Right now, we are getting 4 to 6 eggs a day which means (gasp) we have to buy eggs from the store too.  It'll be great when we start getting 20 a day!

Little Sickie

  It is 1:30 a.m. and I am awake.  Our little man is awake. Our little man is sick.  I am NOT sick, but I am tired.

  Poor little guy.  Yesterday morning, he woke up a little early and when I picked him up, I could tell he had quite a high fever.  Ye olde thermometer confirmed it...103 degrees.  He was pretty unhappy, so I did give him meds to bring down his fever.  He went up and down yesterday and today, depending on when he last had meds.  He's had 104 a couple of times.

 I'm not very distressed about a fever.  It actually is good for killing off the viruses.  Daniel also has gunky eyes and impetigo, so I took him into the doctor today and the doc prescribed a couple of topicals so we can knock out these little things.

  Tonight, the poor little man just doesn't want to sleep.  He did have a thoroughly messy diaper around 11 p.m., and that woke him up.  Since then, he's drifted off briefly but then woken up.  And he is NOT content to just quietly lie in his bed.  NO. He kept wailing and screaming.

 Right now, he is awake and downright perky.  He is toddling very happily around the room. MAYBE he has turned a corner and is feeling better?  But why isn't he really tired?

  I admit to being very spoiled as our kids usually sleep incredibly well.  This is Night #2 with inadequate sleep and I'm feeling it. But I will, of course, always love him.

  Even when he won't let me sleep.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Potty Prodigy

  Yep, this little girl is in undies! 

  Potty training is not one of my favorite parental tasks.  Necessary, but not fun.

Sarah was showing all those readiness signs the experts say to look out for. She was telling me when she was wet.  She was telling me when she was messy. She started deliberately peeing in the bathtub after her bath (yes, that's weird.) So I knew she was probably ready.  But oh, potty training!  On top of everything else, it seemed overwhelming.

  I tried once a couple of months ago and it didn't go well. I gave up after one day.

  Earlier this week, I decided to try again.  Sarah made puddle after puddle in the house.  She did use the potty occasionally, but it wasn't coming easily.

  Then 2 days ago, something clicked.  Suddenly the potty became a fun place to be. Suddenly she was running off to use the potty at every necessary time, and sometimes when she didn't need to use it :-).  I was rewarding her with small jelly beans and that was a spur but I think mostly she was just READY.

  This morning, she called me from her crib with the urgent statement "I need to use the potty."  And get this, the kid was DRY.  All night.  Yes, I think we might just have ourselves another potty prodigy.  2 of our older kids were like this, the rest...weren't.

  It is early days, of course, but the signs are good.  I'm happy.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

This Week in Pictures

Our garden is producing well.

I took the children to Krispy Kreme doughnuts yesterday. We hopped up early and got there around 8:20 a.m., only to be told they were done making doughnuts for the day :-(.  The whole point of the trip was to watch the doughnuts being made (oh yeah, and eat doughnuts, but that was the non educational part of the trip.)  The apologetic guy behind the counter said MOST days they make doughnuts 'til 10 a.m., but yesterday they got done early. He did run a batch of plain doughnuts through the glazer for us, and later another batch went through. I asked the children if they'd like to get up with me at 5 a.m. and go to Krispy Kreme and a couple of kids were enthusiastic.  I really could do it but I suspect they'd be less excited about getting up when the time came.

After the Krispy Kreme trip, we headed over to a park.  It has quite a vast number of play structures. The children had a great time.  A friend met us there with 5 or 6 of her kids.  I was kept very busy keeping an eye on Sarah and an eye on Daniel.  I really need to be able to swivel my eyes independently by alas, I can't :-).

They have a walking trail around a little pond with ducks, and on the left side of the trail is this hill.  The older 6 went up it.  I love this shot...reminds me of the final scene of the Sound of Music. I'm glad they didn't just keep hiking into Switzerland, though.

Later yesterday afternoon, Lydia captured this butterfly. One of her little sisters was obviously excited about it (note the open mouth.)  I'm not sure which little sister it was!

We've had a cool July and, thus far, a cool August. But our pool is around 80 degrees and we're swimming quite often. Here Lydia and Isaac are enjoying a swim together. It is nice having big kids who can swim by themselves.  Naomi, like me, much prefers WARM water so she is waiting 'til it gets warmer before jumping in again. IF it gets warmer.  Where is summer?  This feels more like early fall.

This week is our official start of the homeschooling year. I like to ease into it with relatively work the first week, a little more the second week, and so on. I find that actually starting reveals glitches and problems, which I can then work through as I have time.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Busy Weekend

I'm on the laptop and don't have access to pictures, so will just make this a "text" post.

We had a treat last night.  Kevin's sister and her daughter (our niece) came over for a few hours. They live in Texas so we see them rarely.  We had a lovely time together and I know our big girls were very happy to spend time with their only (?) female cousin. I put the question mark in because my brother and his wife are expecting their first child in December and I haven't heard whether the baby is a boy or a girl.

It may or may not be obvious so let me say I am SO excited for my brother and sister-in-law.  Kids are such a blessing and they've really wanted a child for a long time.  Yee haw, a little one is ON THE WAY. 

Our Texas niece is entering her senior year in high school and is looking into college options.  Since I've been thinking a lot about college (see previous post), I find the whole process interesting.  Texas has some good options; for example, Shannon will be earning college credit this year by taking online courses from her high school.

Kevin took the kids out back today and picked more blackberries. And made more blackberry jam. We have a LOT of blackberry jam now.  It is wonderful stuff.

The garden has been producing quite well too.  I froze a bunch of tomatoes today. The green bean bush plants are not bearing as well, but the vining green beans are just starting.  We've had a good year for green beans.  We also have lots of cucumbers and I truly appreciate cucumbers!  A few days ago, Kevin tried making refrigerator pickles.  We'll see how they turn out. 

  We had a bunch of kids with stuffy noses this morning. I THINK it is just allergies, thankfully.  I guess that's good.

Several kids have been attacked by chiggers and mosquitoes.  I loathe both of those insects but especially chiggers.  I am SO allergic to them.  Fortunately, a good scrub at night gets rid of most of them but I do miss them occasionally and get a big, puffy welt where the chigger was. They itch badly for days and I have trouble sleeping at night sometimes EXCEPT that I have a secret weapon ... ice packs.  Turns out that ice packs on the itchy areas numbs the itch right away, or at least so long as the pack is cold.

So that's our weekend.  Busy.  Mostly fun. Got some stuff done. Thankful to the Lord for His blessing of family.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Book Review: Is College Worth It? by William Bennett and David Wilezol

 If you have children who might go to college some day, or you might go to college some day, or you are even vaguely interested in higher education in American, read this book!

  Bennett was Secretary of Education from 1985-1988, so obviously has thought about and studied the topic of education from birth

  This book is impressive, thoughtful, and challenging.  I agreed with most of what he said. 

  Ok, the basic premise is obvious from the title.  Is college worth it?  When my parents and grandparents went to college, it was possible to work (hard) during the summers to pay for most of college.  It wasn't easy, but it was possible.  Not nearly as high a percentage of the population went to college, too.

  Fast forward to now.  These days, college is WAY TOO EXPENSIVE for anyone I know of (except maybe Alaskan crab fisherman) to pay for through summer and part time jobs.  College is incredibly expensive.  Even cheap schools cost a lot.

  In spite of the expense of college, in spite of staggering debt loads, the generic wisdom of the age is that "everyone should go to college".  Our president is quoted as saying he wants everyone to commit to some post secondary education.  "College for all" is a rallying cry for our generation.

  Bennett questions that, and rightly so.  My view is that college is NOT wise or sensible for many people.  Yes, college is a good fit for some people.  For others, trade school or an apprenticeship is a better option. Some young women may choose to focus on homemaking skills instead of spending money on college.

  So that's the basic premise, but the book has SO much more.  He discusses, in detail, the "Bennett hypothesis", which Bennett generated  25 years ago. The hypothesis is that as loan dollars become more readily available for students, the cost of college will increase correspondingly. So instead of college really becoming more "affordable" because of readily available loans, families will be just as stretched  today PLUS students (or parents) will carry tons of loan debt into the future. 

  Bennett has proven quite prescient.  Tuition costs have skyrocketed in the last couple of decades, way faster than is warranted by inflationary forces.  Bennett (and Wilezol, I keep forgetting to mention him but he is the coauthor) detail why college expenses are skyrocketing.  Much of it is due to inefficiency and poor allocation of resources.  I still feel annoyed by the money that the University of Michigan spends on their flowers and landscaping. HONESTLY.  I went to Michigan Tech. for undergrad and liked that the campus was relatively no frills and tuition costs were far lower than U of M.  PLUS, as Bennett points out, many professors focus on research first and teaching is a poor 6th behind many other things.  I certainly observed that at UM.  It was all about research for many profs. 

  We've decided to be countercultural in many ways, what with a large family and choosing to home school. And oh, those 8 kids?  Born in less than 13 years. If they all go to college, that's a LOT of college education in a short period of time. There is no way we can pay $20,000 per year in tuition for each child.  Much less the $50,000 a year charged by schools like Harvard.  I so so so so so SO don't want them graduating with a staggering load of student loan debt, too.  One of the sad parts of Bennett and Wilezol's book is the case studies of students with tons of debt.  It is, if not destroying their lives, at least severely restricting what they can do.

  Kevin and I both have PhD's so we've done the college thing.  College is good, for some. It doesn't make one person better than another person.  If someone wants to expand her mind, she can read a bunch of books, take online courses, etc.  No one needs college to become a well rounded, valuable member of society.  One other valid point from this book is that many college courses have been dumbed down AND increasingly liberal.  I think some courses are probably more liable to ruin a young person's wisdom and discernment than to increase those valuable attributes

  So we'll see about college with our kids. My vague feeling is that many, maybe most, of our children will attend college. But if they do, it'll likely be local. They may well take advantage of online courses and maybe MOOC's (Massive Open Online Courses.)

  The landscape of college is changing. This book, published in 2013, lays out starkly the issues of the day and provides wisdom in determining what is best for young person.

 I highly, highly recommend the book.