Monday, November 30, 2009

I'm Just Not Ready

My pumpkins still gleam. I love the yellows and oranges. I'm not ready to let go of fall and embrace winter....Christmas. Plus, I really need to deep clean my house before I cover all the muck with tree and tinsel. I'm not a humbug. I do love Christmas. I love anticipating it. I start shopping in September, sometimes August...if I see the perfect thing.

We have traditions that I embrace. We make sugar cookies, gingerbread houses, we gift the boys a new ornament every year, we go to Storybook Land, listen to Christmas music in the van, read Christmas books, play with the nativity set, open one gift each night (3-5 nights before Christmas), look at lights at night....

I never do an artificial tree. I always want the real thing. We all hop on the tractor and rumble though the woods looking for our perfect one.

I know once I bring down the boxes of decor, dive in, go to a Christmas party...I'll be fully in the mood. But maybe I'm dragging my feet because I want to hold on to Thanksgiving and fall just a bit longer. I really hope I'm not growing old and getting too practical.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


My boys have out grown their toys. Their tubs odds and ends mainly clutter the floor or sit as forgotten individuals in their assigned toy cupboard. I love the fact that they aren't being drug all over my house, but I miss them being a source of mental engagement.

My oldest is interested in games and activities. He wants to do things together as a family. He loves spending time with me on the couch, working on mazes together. He loves it when I do "school" with him.

That is why I'm very excited about testing out a new toy from CSN Stores. I'm going to be checking my mail for our much anticipated package: The Young Scientist Club Adventure Science Series: Volcano Madness.

Oh, yes, volcanoes. CSN Stores has over 36 thematic science kits to chose from. Here is a bit from their site about this line:

Started in 1999 by Esther Novis, a mother of five and a Harvard graduate with degrees in biology, The Young Scientists Club began as a summer science camp for her 5-year-old son. Friends from other parts of the country told Novis they felt cheated that their kids couldn’t go, so she packaged the experiments and sent them off. The idea for a science subscription service was born!

My husband and I had a little fight over which one to get. He teaches science and was excited about getting some curriculum help. There are kits about the human body, crystals and fossils, and germs. Actually, maybe I should get the one about germs since someone in my family has been sick for over a month now.

Right now they are running a special from 11/23-12/1. They are offering 20% off any items from this line, and it is not limited to one per order.

The code to be used when going through the checkout for these online toys is YSC20.

This line has won several recognitions:

2009 Creative Child Award
Recognition from the Parents' Choice Foundation and National Parenting Center
Museum Store Association Buyer's Choice

I can't wait to let you all know how it goes once my kit arrives. I'm planning on some pretty good pictures. Plus, I'm part of a preschool co-op, so maybe it'll be something I can use when it is my turn to do an educational activity.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Oh, But, But, I.....

I know I should do a thankful post. I should make a top ten. I think I might still, but what's actually been on my mind of late is how much I miss summer. I'm just trying to trick myself into liking late fall and winter. I trick myself/distract myself with a few strategically placed holidays, but really....I like the warm. I desire the sun. I want my favorite three months back: June, July, and August. Those are the good guys. My faithful friends of good times and easy pleasure.

Easy pleasure is sitting in the backyard. Easy pleasure is watching my boys in the sandbox. Easy pleasure is not needing a coat, socks, shoes.....(Any other mom dread the routine at the back door?)

Easy pleasure includes not worrying about Swine Flu.

Today was a sunny one, and I was glad. My middle son noticed and asked why?

"Well, no clouds."


"But its still cold."

"Its still winter."

Yep, it still is. The nights are long. The darkness crashes in on our fun. Our toys are drab. We all have colds. My oldest keeps running a fever.

None of this would have happened in July....I just know it.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Quaker Silence?

My world is strangely silent. We are all speaking is whispers. There is a creepy lull; I'm even a bit down...this forced monastery atmosphere is dampening my verbal processing spirit! I have lost my voice.

My sons hate it. "Why are you whispering?" "I can't hear you." "Can you please talk normal." "I don't like you this way."

On day one of no voice they mimicked me and responded in whispers. They did it without really thinking about it, and they didn't seem to notice I was forced to speak this way. It was like some fun game we were all playing together. It wasn't until evening that all their frustration came out. I was frustrated too. Still am.

Each night I go to sleep thinking that tomorrow will be the day that I wake up and my voice has returned to me. I can't help but panic a bit; what if this is the new normal? Freaky.

I need to invest in a white board or post-it notes. My mom and I do charades. Random people will say hello, like the garbage man, and I just smile. Getting gas was tricky. I'm having empathy for the mute. I feel cut off from the world.

My mother-in-law is here this weekend. I have lots of questions and things I'd love to tell her. Nope. I sit in silence. I am thinking I need to invest in an overly talkative friend right now. Someone who will just talk my ear off and visit with me even though all I can do is nod and shake my head.

I asked my husband if he missed my voice. He said, "Oh, this is actually nice!" Ha, ha! He thought it was so very funny. I did not.

I think I might need to have a game night soon where all we do is charades. Anyone?

(Note: On Sunday morning my voice began to regain strength. Now I have smoker's voice.)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

No Martha Stewart!

Martha Stewart would find me a complete disgrace. I did get her magazine, ages ago....before kids. I got it because it looked so---nice. Those cakes on the cover, so delicious. But I soon canceled after I attempted to make a few of her creations and wasn't even sure where to find many of the ingredients in the grocery store. Perhaps they didn't even carry those specialty items in the grocery store I frequented.

I would never make it on her staff. My ideas would be snubbed and guffawed at. But, still, I have a few good ideas, and so welcome to my version of Home and Garden/Real Simple.

Here is to little tables and art spaces for kids! My mom found this for me last summer at a garage sale for three dollars; it came with three chairs. It has saved our dinning table. Before, I was always having to clean off all their projects to make way for meal times, and then after I got meals all cleaned up....again appeared the creative messes. Also, children love to have a space just their size. Since we embraced this space, my oldest has really gotten in to coloring and drawing and writing. It also makes a perfect spot for their Lego projects. I stole the idea of a ribbon for hanging their art work on, but it is a good one!

I am so glad I gave up on trying to get their crayons back in the crayon boxes. I tried all sorts of other containers, but nothing seemed to stick until I came across this large, glass jar! It is perfect. I highly recommend it.

I am not one of those moms who created a Pottery Barn theme for my kids' rooms. I did get a bit inspired for my son's nursery....we did a simple star theme, but when we moved to our new home I was so overwhelmed by all the other rooms I needed to decorate that the boys' rooms got the shaft. However, this has actually worked in my favor.

My oldest is just now starting to care about his space and how he decorates his room. I'm so glad I didn't go all out with a Cars theme or baseball only to discover that was a passing fancy.

The catalyst for this room ownership seemed to be the shelf pictured above. What I love about this shelf is that it is fastened into the wall and is one less piece of furniture they can move around and launch themselves from. This shelf, nestled next to his bed, made him feel a sense of ownership. The first night he slept next to it he said, "Oh, I just love my shelf. It is perfect." Then he requested a ribbon for hanging art. We put it next to his bed, so he could look at it at night. Then he got inspired and requested a chalkboard. (Pictures coming later. I did a chalkboard that you paint onto the wall.) The best part is he now wants to keep his room clean, spotless! Love it! I never have to ask him to clean his room. The other day we went to the hardware store, and he picked out colors--two different tones of blue. We will work on that next month.

He started receiving posters for each birthday and Christmas. This reflects his changing likes and interests and is way more cost effective than deciding that his whole room is a theme like ships or cars or frogs. His theme: things he likes!

To add a bit of splash and color I let the boys hang these birthday table cloths. They love them; they hang above their beds. Cheap and fun. Also, easy to remove when they no longer like Spiderman or Cars.

My youngest loves cars. He also does not like to sleep in total darkness, so this race car light my mom got him for his birthday is perfect.

It gives off the right amount of light, enough to comfort, but also doesn't keep him awake.

Lastly, the thing that will not only horrify Martha but most of sock drawer.

I hate finding matching socks. I find the whole thing to be rather frustrating. So, when I see a sock I just throw it into this drawer next to my dryer. Then when I can't close it anymore, I know it is time to sort....surely I'll find a few pairs.

Think what you works for me.

Freezing Pirates!

"Shiver me timbers!" the two pirates shouted from atop their ship. OK, so really our play fort. My boys are really getting into imaginative play together, which I hear shows intelligence in problem-solving. (There are plenty of problems to solve!)

Our package came. I love getting packages. There it sits by the backdoor waiting for eager hands and eyes. We were all giddy. I opened it up and announced, "Oh boys, our new stuff for the play fort came!" Luckily it was not raining and was just a chilly, windy fall day. Daddy was home, so it was perfect. They all tromped off to the shop to get the correct tools and then to the fort to rig it up.

We got these products from CNS stores. The boys picked out the telescope and steering wheel. My question was, "Will new play fort items motivate my kids to get out and play even though it is getting colder outside?"

The answer: yes, but not for long. And that is OK. It is easy to get them to go outside now. They are eager to get bundled up. But my boys really do not like being cold, so after about 30 minutes they are ready to come back in. (Compared to summer when they stay outside for most of the day.) I think 30 minutes of outdoor play in November is pretty good. I even think that if and when we get a spontaneous snow day, they'll think the play fort is even cooler with their two new accessories.

I am pleased with the quality and durability of the products, and I thought the pricing was fare. The Scotch in me probably would have made my husband pull a stirring wheel from a junkyard, but I have to admit it is nice to have a new, clean product that will not begin to wear due to the weather.

You'll also notice that the packaging was almost as much fun as the two new toys.

I think these types of play accessories are a great option for Christmas presents, and the best part is that they aren't cluttering our toy room! :)

And that is my very honest product review. (It is a bit of a bummer that the telescope didn't have any type of magnifying in it, but the boys didn't seem to notice.)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Not exactly the kind of book you read by the pool while sipping your martini or even between piles of laundry, but a book worth the effort and time spent reading it. That seemed to be the consensus of those who have read Davita’s Harp.

Davita’s Harp is told through the eyes of a young, lonely child living during the 30’s and 40’s on the Eastern Seaboard. She is the daughter of two intellectuals; this is a major understatement. Her mother and father have both rejected the religions of their childhoods by replacing their old beliefs with communism and atheism.

However, Davita is intrigued by the Bible stories her Christian aunt tells her, her father’s sister, and she is drawn to the community of Jewish believers who surround her and represent her mother’s past.

This book tackles many themes. The author seems to be expressing that even though institutions are flawed, we all desire something to believe in and a sense of belonging. Within each of us is a soul that needs to be fed.

Chaim Potok is an author that observes and writes about Truth. On a personal note, I found the book very challenging and encouraging to me. When I see a dear friend who has rejected her childhood faith in God, for many of the same reasons that Davita’s mother did, I am reminded that sometimes we have to allow people to return to God in their own space and time. God is earnestly seeking renewed relationships just as much as he is seeking new relationships with his creation. Even though I desire to rush this process, just like Davita’s mom, it can not be rushed. She had to experience a “Centralia” to bring her back to Judaism.

Davita’s Harp discusses life-changing moments that alter our paths and choices. AKA: Your own personal “Centralia.”

I have only touched lightly on all the themes one could discuss from reading this great book. Chaim Potok is one of my all-time favorite writers. If you’ve never read anything by him, I would suggest starting with: My Name is Asher Lev, The Promise, or The Chosen, which seem to be easier reads.

But, don’t miss out on what Davita’s Harp has to say. You won’t regret it.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Oh For Some Good Books

I get it. I know it is hard. A children's writer must please both parent and child, reader and listener. And still I'm disappointed and annoyed when I get a book from the library only to find that I want to hide it between the couch cushions and never read it again.

On our last trip I did find three winners, one tolerable read, and two to be avoided.

I'll start with the bummers:

Surprise Soup by Amary Ann Rodman and Runaway Dinner by Allan Ahlberg. They were great ideas for books! Great titles! Great covers! That is why they tricked me into checking them out. They even had the right amount of words on a page, something I always check for. But, half way through I started making up my own story lines. They weren't good books to read aloud. There was nothing fun about hearing my own voice prance along the sentences. Runaway Dinner had a sarcastic tone. The pictures were pretty good, and the ending was clever. My oldest smiled. I'm still hiding it in the couch.

Surprise Soup also had promise. My kids liked looking at the pictures of the family preparing the soup, cutting up the potatoes, opening the cans of beans....but the whole time the oldest brother bear was teasing and making fun of the younger brother bear. And it was told in present tense....says daddy, I raise my hand, I ask....and for some reason this makes it a tough oral read.

The Two Sillies gets moderate ratings. I won't hide it under the couch, but I won't check it out again. What helped is that is was written in rhyme, which I seem to like. It was also silly, ha, and funny. It held the attention of both my 3 and 4-year-old. The pictures were interactive and complemented the story well. My boys were able to make good predictions from the visuals.

Ok, so I did find three excellent books!

Dark Night
by Dorthee de Monfried was strangely absurd and great all at the same time! Cause and effect were a bit random, but completely plausible for young readers. Felix just happens to be walking in the woods, at night, in his pajamas when he is suddenly scared by a wolf, then a tiger, and then a crocodile. He hides in a tree. In the tree he discovers a doorknob which leads him to the home of a rabbit. The rabbit and him dress up as a monster and are able to scare the wolf, tiger, and crocodile, so that Felix can go back home. The two victors enjoy hot chocolate together. OK, so random, but good and works! Worth a checkout!

Next is Two Bad Ants by Chris Van Allsburg. I love his art. This book would not work for my middle boy, but my oldest was able to be fully engaged with its plot. It was a good one for bedtime--when he's calm and sleepy and able to sit still and listen better.

Finally, my favorite, Thunder Boomer by Shutta Crum and illustrated by Carol Thompson. The setting is a farm family in the Midwest. It is a hot summer day. It has been hot for many days now. Time for a thunder boomer. Sure enough, the wind picks up. The family moves into action. They rush to get their clothes off the line, the dad races his tractor back into the barn, chases the chickens into the coop...the family is safe in the house. Then they notice that Maizey, their pet chicken, is caught in the storm. The dad rushes out again.

The story is quite poetic: "Gusting rain pelts the roof. The maple's branches brush and wump against he walls. Then something white goes whipping past the window--through the air. Dad's underwear!"

The crops are not ruined by this storm. The family emerges from their house and discover a kitten that the storm brought in. They decide to name it Thunder-Boomer. The last stanza is the best:

"Now the air smells sweet as butter...everything's washed clean. The puddles have dried up. The clouds have traveled on. And all I hear are the quiet evening sounds---the call of owls beyond the pond, the chuff of toads in Mothers' garden, and the low and sleepy rumble of a tired Thunder-Boomer.

I'm eager to read this book again. It is a must!

Sunday, November 8, 2009


I make running lists of the ways I am outnumbered. I have thoughts, "Wow, this is only happening because I have all boys." I mostly love it. I've always liked feeling special. And I do. Each boy does his part. They all think I'm beautiful. They love my hugs. They depend on my consistency. They yearn for my approval and praise. My oldest told me he wanted to buy me a pretty pink hat, a nice pink shirt, and yellow pajamas. I'm very excited to open my Christmas presents this year.

So, here are some of my random noticings about my current situation:

1. I'm the only one who consistently sits on the potty.
2. I'm the only one who will ever buy a bra, to wear, along with all those other womanly things.
3. I'm the only one in my family who will ever give birth.
4. When I drove my son to him first day of preschool, I had to remind him that he couldn't pee outside. He needed to go inside and use the bathroom.
5. I get to hear my children play and shout, "I'm going to smash your guts!"
6. Potty humor. Just stick poop, pee, bottom, fart, etc. at the end of anything and you've got funny.
7. Boxes routinely become rocket ships.
8. Famous Imaginary Play Duos are: Spiderman and Batman, Chip and Dale, Optimus Prime and Magatron, Darth Vader and Darth Mal.

9. When motivating my boys to clean up the toy room we all became Transformers. I have to be in character the whole time, and am impressed with my Transformer knowledge and verbal skills.
10. I'm the only one not thrilled when Daddy brings home new critters.

11. I don't think decorating with animal heads is decorating.

12. I'm the only one who can't make cool sound effects.
13. If I don't take part in nightly WWF, I miss out on quality touch and affection.

The list continues.....and will morph and change through the developmental stages. And I love it.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Our Adolescent Teenagers

My sister finally came to visit the chickens. My niece commented that they were no longer babies, but were teenagers like herself....developing and blossoming. And it is true. The yellow fluff is being replaced by white feathers. Their necks are getting longer and they are looking a bit awkward, like the classic awkward middle schooler.

My boys and I sit on the hay bail in the chicken house and watch. The males are starting to strut and fight. We think they are potential roosters. It is quite exciting when they fly to roost.

I'm loving the book I recommended a few weeks ago: Your Chickens by Gail Damerow. I keep renewing it at the library, so I think I need to find it and order it--used.

Here are some of my favorite facts:

The skeleton of a chicken looks like the skeleton of a dinosaur.
A spent chicken is a chicken who no longer lays eggs.

The chickens we bought, White Rocks, are endangered. Many dual-purpose breeds are on the endangered list.

A chicken might attack you if your pants flap in the breeze.

Avoid feeding your birds strong-tasting foods like onions, garlic, or fish, which can make their eggs and meat taste funny. Yuck!

One way to tell if you have a good laying hen, is if you can press two or three fingers between the public bone, and three fingers between the keel and the pubic bone. And they have moist vents. Anyone want to test this out? I've never liked the word moist.

A laying hen can have as many as 4,000 eggs in her body! Woe!

Cockerels learn to crow at 6-8 weeks.

God-Sighting 5,792.....and Counting

My 97-year-old Grandfather passed away this last week. It marks the end of an era, a passing of a generation. My parents are now the "old" ones.

It is good though. I have cried tears of joy, relief, praise, and nostalgia, but never sadness or regret. He went the way we all wish to his sleep after a full, long, blessed life.

His life wasn't perfect. His life didn't go always as he planned, but he lived in the fullness of knowing he was loved by God. He experienced God's grace and sovereignty for 97 earth years, and he passed it on to us.

If you know the stories, and we all do since he was a master storyteller, you'll see numerous God-sightings. Two great tragedies in his life were contracting polio as a young man and losing his only son long before expected. He could have chosen to be bitter, he could have chosen to cut off a relationship with God....stopped trusting, but he didn't.

He modeled this for us, his children and grandchildren. It was very typical to end a visit with him in prayer. He was an old-time Quaker, so when he prayed the thee's and thou's came out, but it was with such personal love it didn't seem overly reverent, but a mark of intimacy with his savior.

He also modeled committed love to his wife of 73 years. In the last few years the dementia won out in my grandmother's mind. She wasn't the person he married, but he didn't see that. He still saw the wife he pursued and loved.

He even requested a double bed for their health center room. He just didn't feel close to her and he wanted to hold her and snuggle her and rub her back. (The nurses could never fulfill this wish. His desire was so sweet.)

He lived these last few years motivated by a need to take care of his wife, his loving duty. He made sure she got to meals, got dressed, got back into bed when she wandered in the middle of the night... He told her she was beautiful after she'd get her hair cut and washed. Visitors might only see an aging woman, he saw his life partner. To me this is a huge God-sighting.

We weren't always sure she knew he was dying. (Not totally sure she knows now.) About a month ago he started to show obvious signs of making a turn toward heaven. One evening a night nurse walked in their unit and saw her near him, holding his hand and saying, "You're going to leave me soon, aren't you."

He was really only bad this last week. He mostly slept on Sunday and Monday. On Tuesday he gave it one more look around. He left his room, ate two he was checking it all out and realizing he was really done living here.

He'd wake up and say, "I was sure I was in heaven. Am I really still here?"

What a good thing, to know heaven for sure....having total confidence in your passing. I had wanted to ask my grandparents if heaven seemed more real as you got older, and I think I now know that it does....not when you get older, but when you get closer.

He died in his sleep with his daughter, her husband, and his wife singing hymns together. He left this life with singing, and I'm positive he entered the next hearing a magnificent choir....rejoicing that he was finally made perfect and finally home.

As the hours and days pass I keep thinking, "Wow, he's been there now 48 hours. Or, it has been four days now." It actually seems more real to me now too. Maybe that is how it works. Heaven seems more real, the more people you know who are there waiting for you.

This is with my youngest who was born in Feb. of 2009. He was eager to see and hold all his great grandchildren. When I saw him recently with just my growing baby, my grandpa laughed and played with his toes, said that was all he needed to see to get better. I can still hear the happy in his voice.

This is a picture of our middle boy. My grandpa actually drove over to our house; this was when we lived in the same town as them.

This is when I was only outnumbered by two little boys. We always had a Christmas with them. My grandpa always made the boys something in his wood shop. One year he bought them NASCAR cars. He always wanted to give them things to remember him by. He would even try to play catch with them when we'd visit. When we went up the day after he died, my oldest asked where Great Grandpa Richey was. (I had already explained to him that he'd died.) I showed him the empty bed and the empty chair. I hope my oldest has a few memories of his great grandpa. I have one faint one of my great grandma who was close to 100.