Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Agents of DONUT

Our children are so creative.

A few years ago, they created a (very amateur) video series called "Agent X".  It starred our son Isaac, with the other siblings as costars.  Naomi and Lydia, our eldest girls, wrote the scripts. Agent X was a spy/action hero type who battled against the evil Naki (Naomi) and her minions.  The scripts involve a lot of running around inside and outside the house, and amusing banter between the good guys and the bad guys.

After a season or so, there were creative differences between the star and the writers and Agent X was, sadly, eaten by alligators (off screen.)

So then the show became "Agents of DONUT". Donut stands for Do Gooding Organizational Nutcase Upsidedown Team.

The bad guys are COBRA:  Cooperative Organization of Blasting Rude Attackers.

This week, a new set of Agents of DONUT scenes have been filmed.

These are some of the good guys.  They have to be shrouded in blankets because the same siblings are minions of the bad guys and it would look silly if we could see their faces as good guys.

Miriam, in the midst of creative moment on screen.

Naomi -- with green hair and terrifying make-up. Yes, she is the evil Naki, leader of COBRA.  (You can't see the green hair really well here.) 

As I've said before, I love how creative our kids are.  I also appreciate how hard the big girls work to write amusing scripts and keep the middle kids entertained through things like this.

And kudos to ME, as the MOM, keeping the littles out of scenes.  That ain't easy.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Pool Days

Our pool has been a struggle this year due to a lot of rain.  First, some days we can't swim because of the frequent thunderstorms. Second, all this rain means more struggle with maintaining Ph and killing algae. So the last week has been a battle against the algae.  As of this morning, the pool looks pristine and we hope to keep it that way.

Until a few days ago, the only kids who swam regularly were our 6 big ones, all of whom are very competent swimmers.  When one of our big girls is out there, we are comfortable with having some combo of big kids swimming without a parent present.

But 3 days ago, Kevin took Sarah (age 4) and Daniel (age 3) swimming.  Last year, Sarah was afraid of the water and didn't want to go in. Daniel was nuts and, I think, I rarely took him down by the pool though occasionally Daddy took him in.

Daniel has stayed brave (and crazy), but this year, for the first time, we've found a combination of floatie swimsuit and water wings which help him keep his head and face above water.  The same is true for Sarah. And both, 2 days ago, decided they LOVE the water.

Kevin and I are both engineering, detail oriented, cautious types, so we are very very careful with the littles in the pool.  The rule is they may not be down at the pool without a parent present. Our big girls are very responsible, but we know how quickly disaster can strike.  So it has to be me or Kevin watching Sarah and Daniel all the time, EVEN with floaties.  I have read enough sad stories to know that a child in a floatie can get in trouble in the blink of an eye.

The "problem" is that right now, Sarah and Daniel are semi-obsessed about swimming. Daniel's first question this morning was, "Where is Daddy?"  I thought that was charming, that he loves his daddy so much (and he does love Daddy!) but the immediate follow up question was, "Can we go swimming?"  Well no, little guy, there is that inconvenient issue of WORK.  Not that he understands that :-).

For all that the pool is hard work and expensive, we are thankful for it.  Our older 6 kids are strong swimmers, because we have a pool and can work with them.  And they love swimming.

An added bonus is Daniel gets totally worn out by swimming. This is him, post swim, looking nearly comatose :-).

(Certain pictures in this post were replaced by my amazing daughter, Naomi, due to the fact that one of the previous pictures appeared to show Isaac drowned, Joseph with a disembodied hand and Miriam grimacing madly.)

Sunday, July 19, 2015

A Controversial Post About Working Mothers

I usually keep my blog posts quite light but I have something on my heart. And yes, I might step on some toes.

The topic is... Working Mothers.  So, you are prewarned and don't need to read further if you don't want to (of course!)

Lydia and I were at physical therapy this week so she could have her stitches out and do some PT for her finger.

The PT who worked with Lydia is a pleasant lady who is probably in her 50's. Her kids are grown. She mentioned that she was 7th of 8 children, so she was obviously from a large family.  I asked her if any of the 8 children had really large families and she said, "No, the most any of us had was 4 kids."  Well, 4 is a pretty large family for this day and age.  This PT had 2 kids.

But this is what she said that really made me think...she said, "I think our parents raised us to be independent people so none of us (siblings) wanted to stay home" (with their children.)  She also said, in what seemed to me a disparaging way, that her own mother didn't work outside the home until the youngest children were in high school.

That remark rubbed me the wrong way though from the tone, I don't think that she was in any way trying to be insulting.  AND...it really isn't fair to guess at all her views on motherhood and working based on a few sentences.  It may be that if we talked at length, her views would be more in line with mine.

But let me analyze her statement at face value, because I've heard and read similar sentiments.

 "None of us (siblings) wanted to stay home." (with our children.)

That bothers me.

Because I don't think a parent's decision to work or not to work outside the home should be based on "what I want."  It should ALL be about what is best for the FAMILY.

I am not saying it is wrong for both parents to work. There are times when both parents SHOULD work. There are times when finances require it, or both parents feel it is best for the family for a variety of reasons.  Sometimes the father has major health problems and the mother needs to work to support the family. Sometimes a mom has special gifts and is called to serve a larger community (a physician in an emergency scenario comes to mind!)

And of course, many mothers are single mothers due to widowhood, abandonment, divorce, or separation.  Working may be necessary in those instances.

  But just plain old "I don't feel like staying home with my children" doesn't really cut it for me.

As I've shared before, I work outside the home around 5 hours a week. Obviously, that is not much.  The job is a dream job on many levels in that it pays well and is very flexible. I know many women don't have any kind of option like I do.

I also know my job isn't nearly as stressful as a full time job. Everyone knows that I'm not around much so I don't have lots of responsibility.

Having said all that, work is way easier than home in some ways. I talk to adults, there are no messes on the floor or diapers to be changed, and I can engage in adult conversation.

To be totally clear... I don't want to work full time. I am extremely thankful I don't NEED to work full time.  I love our kids. I adore our kids. I am honored to spend time with them, and know that I am providing a real service to them by being available, by keeping the house running smoothly, by cooking for them, for helping them grow and learn.

I know I also serve Kevin by caring well for our children and taking care of a myriad of daily tasks.

But my major point is this.  Kevin and I decided I should stay home because we felt it was best for our family life.  That's the major issue.  If I would rather work outside the home full time -- so what?  Life is not all about "following my dreams" and being "personally fulfilled."  Being married and having children means willingly sacrificing.  As I said, I am (usually) very content at home but that doesn't mean it is always easy here.  It is not.

And on the other side of things, Kevin has sacrificed by working full time at a job that isn't always 100% fulfilling.  There are many voices in this culture saying that a working man should be fulfilled and enjoy his job.  There are times when Kevin enjoys his job, and other times when he does not.  He went through a patch in the last year that was not enjoyable at all.

But to Kevin's very great credit, his motive for working isn't personal fulfillment, it is serving me and the children.  He makes a good salary and we have great health insurance and he isn't required to travel every week and he doesn't need to work tons of overtime.  All those are very good things for a husband and father.

To reiterate, I don't know all of this PT's views on marriage and motherhood and working.  I know I don't.  I'm just addressing what I think is a cultural fallacy -- that doing what "I want" is the major goal of life.  It should not be.

Friday, July 17, 2015

45 Minute Clean Up of Family Room (with plenty of interruptions from littles)

When I got up this morning, the family room was like this:

5 or 10 minutes into cleaning

30 minutes into cleaning

A quick sweep and...

voila, much better!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Dining Room

              I thought this might be vaguely interesting.  But maybe only vaguely. I'm part of a decluttering group on Facebook and we had a brief discussion about decorating recently.

               Decorating is not my forte, mostly because I don't care much.  We have off white walls and while we do have pictures and other items on the walls, mostly those are my wonderful husband's doing. 

                I don't know if I'd be this way if we weren't blessed with our large family.  If we had 3 children and they were 15, 14, and 12 -- well, I wouldn't be worrying about messes as much and I might devote more time to decorating.  As it is, a small part of my brain is constantly assessing items for mess or breakage potential.  Usually, given a choice, I'd rather not have any decorative items because we are constantly battling clutter and decorative items are usually more clutter.

               Having said all that, we have some crosses and pictures hanging in this dining room.

              We also have the cabinet in the dining room, which is now locked.  It holds cereal and candy.  Our toddler son simultaneously outraged and amused me last week when I got up early, let him out of his room (first mistake) and then tried to keep him out of trouble while I fed Rose. Rose got fed, but Daniel got into the cereal cabinet, found a large bag of cereal, took off the clip, turned it over, and dumped it all over the floor. We had a veritable mound of Cocoa Puffs on the floor. I know what you are thinking. Cocoa Puffs are so evilly unhealthy that they are better off the floor. Maybe you are right, but oh what a mess, and the kids were disappointed.

It's the Little Things...

  A new grocery store opened up recently nearby, called Fresh Thyme.

 It's sort of an upscale, trendy, healthy food type of place.  We'll see how well it does in an urban area with a wide range of grocery stores already entrenched.

  We've gone several times and will likely come back because they carry THIS:


  Yes, unsweetened coconut milk yogurt.  Ah, the joy.  The delight.  The ecstasy.

   I used to love to eat normal milk yogurt and indeed, for several years I made yogurt regularly. But then I fell victim to a fairly common malady -- dairy stopped agreeing with me. Or I stopped agreeing with it.  Anyway, I avoid all dairy quite determinedly now because it is not work the intestinal upheaval.

  Our local Kroger carries sweetened coconut yogurt (at rather vast expense) but not unsweetened. And sweetened is way too high in carbs for me to eat safely.

  So ... this stuff is the best.  I can throw in a little stevia and some frozen blueberries and voila, a snack fit for a queen.

  My diet is fairly limited thanks to diabetes and dairy issues, so I'm always happy to find something I can eat without compunction.  

Lydia Update

     Obviously, Lydia has moved from a full hand bandage and splint to a splint on the specific finger that was surgically corrected.

  She is off the powerful pain meds and is doing hourly stretches.

 I won't show you the picture of the finger without the splint. It doesn't bother me but some people might find it hard to look at.  There are still stitches and significant swelling.

  Tomorrow I take her to a hand therapist and they will REMOVE the stitches, and do some more exercises with her.

  So we are making steady progress. The finger is definitely WAY straighter than it was pre-surgery, which is great.

  Life continues to be extra challenging without Lydia at full strength.  I'm doing all the pots and pans, which she usually does. I don't leave her alone with all the kids, which means when I leave, Naomi has to be here (or Kevin, of course.)  Kevin's mom graciously took Naomi to get her allergy shot today as I couldn't make it work to take Naomi there myself.

  But Lydia is progressing and should be close to normal in a few weeks, though it'll be months before  she is 100% well.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Busy Week

  It feels like it has been a very busy week. Lydia is doing pretty well. She needs to stay up on her pain meds, but with elevation and ice and pain meds, she usually feels Ok.

 The rest of us are definitely feeling a "Lydia gap".  She usually does a lot of work around here, but of course this week she just needs to take it easily.  She is also a favorite of the young ones, who can't understand why there is this weird THING on Lydia's hand and also wonder why she can't pick them up and swing them around and dance with them.

  She sees the surgeon tomorrow, and we'll talk about the next steps for Lydia -- including hand therapy.


     As so often happens, the kids have rampaged off into a new and creative endeavor while my back was turned (metaphorically speaking.)

 Earlier this week, most of the kids watched all or part of The Great Escape, a movie made decades ago.  The movie is based on the real life escape of 70+ British POW's from Stalag Luft III, a POW camp in Germany during WWII.  They got out using a tunnel.

 It is a GREAT movie, with humor and fascinating history, but with a sad (and true) ending.  Hitler was furious when the escape was reported, and he ordered 50 of the recaptured POW's executed. This was contrary to the dictates of the Geneva Convention, which both Germany and Britain had signed and which specifically state how POW's were supposed to be treated.  Execution for escape was not permitted, but of course Hitler was far from rational.

  Anyway, 50 did die, 3 escaped back to Britain, and the others were returned to a prison camp.

  The children mostly liked the movie (not all watched the sad ending) and then "Great Escape Comic Fever" hit.  4 or 5 kids have  spent much time the last 2 days making comics of prisoners and Nazi guards and tunnels. They are meant to be funny, not serious.  They are quite creative but I find myself once again thinking, "Where did these children get their artistic passion?"  Not from me :-).


    Last but not least, our youngest son has decided that books are actually cool.  He is now 3 and previous to this, books were either just plain boring, OR they were fun only to rip apart (that, unfortunately, is the stage Rose is in -- books are fun to rip apart.)

   But the last couple of weeks, Daniel has frequently requested that I read books to him. Which is delightful.

  A LITTLE less delightful is that he almost always wants ONE BOOK.  Corduroy.  Corduroy is about a stuffed bear in the toy department of a big store who wants to be purchased by a child.

  It is a great book but oh, I'm tired of it.

   But I know it is normal for a little person to get attached to a particular book, so I grimly read on.  With a smile.  He doesn't know I'm really really really tired of it :-).

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Lydia's surgery

Lydia's surgery was yesterday.  It went well.  She had a plate and screws put in and the surgeon believes the finger will be mostly corrected after she heals.

She is, obviously, bandaged and splinted.  They used a nerve block and it didn't wear off for more than 12 hours, so yesterday was weird.  She said it felt like she had a block of wood attached to her left shoulder :-).

Now she can feel her arm and the pain is here, though she is on good (read, powerful) pain meds.

So all is well in our household, though we are definitely out of routine.  Naomi and I will need to run things and take care of Lydia, and Lydia usually is the helper, not the helped.

Rose has been super cranky, I think partially out of indignation that Lydia isn't picking her up.

Lydia will go back to the surgeon on Friday and the splint will be removed.  We then need to talk about physical therapy.

So all this is good but a tad strenuous. But good.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Gas Experiment: Contraction of Heated Air as It Cools

Here was another fun experiment.

Same glass bottle.  Similar balloon.

I filled the glass bottle with boiling water and swirled the water around so the air in the bottle was thoroughly heated.  I then poured out the hot water and quickly placed the balloon over the neck.

Over the next hour, the air in the bottle cooled down and contracted.  Normally, new air would be pulled into the bottle but since the balloon was blocking air from outside coming in...

This happened...

Coolness, huh?

Gas Experiment: yeast, sugar, and water

Considering I have a PHD in engineering, I don't do enough experiments with the children.

I'm trying to change that.

I did a really fun experiment recently.  Very simply, I poured yeast, sugar, and water into a glass bottle with a narrow neck. I then placed a large balloon over the neck.  The yeast, sugar, and water began to react and the yeast started generating carbon dioxide.

And voila...over the course of 24 hours, we observed the following:

I confess I was surprised how long the yeast reaction continued, and how much the balloon blew up!

Lots of fun.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Lydia is 14

14 years old

5 foot 6 inches tall

Our precious second born is growing up!

Chiggers and Baths

I am mind bogglingly tired so this won't be an amazing post.

Let me talk chiggers.

They are very tiny bugs, for those who don't know.

They are evil bugs.  I hope they aren't in Heaven.  But if they are in Heaven, presumably they won't bite. And if they bite, I won't mind.  We are wandering into strange theological waters here, so let me get back to the main point of this blog post.

Chiggers are so small you can't see them, but they live in the grass and get on people. They then creep to some area where the skin is thin, and start doing nasty things to the skin so they can eat.


They only show up in summer when the weather is hot.  So while I like summer, I don't like THAT ASPECT of summer.

Interestingly, it is an old wives' tale that they actually burrow UNDER the skin. They don't.  They attach, but a vigorous scrubbing every 24 hours will remove them before they can do damage.

 I am horribly allergic to chigger bites. They swell up and itch OH SO MUCH.  For like, days.   I hate chigger bites.

Thankfully, I have figured out the shower trick.  I've only gotten 2 bites so far this year, and the second one isn't too bad (I have it now.)

I suppose it is no surprise that my precious kids also tend to have trouble with chigger bites.  They definitely get that from me.  Kevin can get bitten dozens of times and they don't really itch.  Lucky.

All this means that as part of my daily routine, I need to give our 3 little ones baths if there is any chance they came in contact with chiggers. I don't want them getting bitten and itching horribly.

Let me talk baths.

Baths are a blessing. I am very thankful for hot water and soap and nice shampoo and bath toys.  They are all nice.

But...they are tiring. Oh so tiring.  Daniel and Sarah love baths and resist getting out.  Rose likes them Ok except when I put her in with Daniel and Sarah and she gets splashed too much.

I have been giving baths to small people for 15+ years now.

Does any other mother get tired of them?

Thankfully my big girls can help bathe Daniel and Sarah, which helps a lot.

I do love my littles and I love this stage of life.

But I'll enjoy it when everyone can bathe him or herself.

And I'll enjoy colder weather when the chiggers stop biting.