Monday, January 31, 2011

What's Coming?

One thing I've learned about living in Oklahoma is that the weather forecast is never accurate. I like to look at the 10-day forecast to get an idea of what's coming and it's hilarious to watch the forecast for a particular day change dramatically as that day grows closer. And even the day of you have no guarantee. I remember one day I pulled up the forecast on the computer and it said 10% chance of rain and I looked out my window and it was raining.

Another funny thing about Oklahoma is that any time the weather is going to be even slightly winter-y, they put out this huge red flag warning: ALERT, PEOPLE: it's going to actually seem like January for a few days! Having grown up in Minnesota, these warnings make me giggle. The first time it happened I saw what was predicted to be a big winter storm and very cold temperatures turn into a slight dusting of snow and a couple days of moderate cold.

A few days ago I saw a red flag on my weather app. It said cold air was coming and maybe snow, but they didn't know. I watched the predicted arrival of the cold air mass change quite a bit over the weekend and I thought "oh, this will probably turn out to be not much."

But when I checked the forecast just now it says that tonight it's going to start precipitating and that our part of Oklahoma is forecast to get more than 6 inches of snow!

I'm not going to tell the kids. I don't want them to get their hopes up. This is Oklahoma and there's still a lot of time for the forecast to change.

I figure we'll either get an inch or three feet. If you don't hear from me for a few days just know I'm digging myself out.

Bean Advances

Bean's Cub Scout pack had their pack meeting Friday night and he received his Bear rank. I was not able to attend because of Mr. Tenacious Virus, which kept me in bed all weekend (it's been a real hum-dinger). But apparently it was a really fun pack meeting and now I finally have a strong motivation to get out my sewing machine (which I've been meaning to do all month) so I can sew on all his patches. His uniform is really filling up, which is really fun.

Here he is pinning the parent pin on the Badger, who was enjoying a brief break between Round 1 and Round 2 of the virus (like I said, hum-dinger.)



Hooray for Cub Scouts! Hooray for Bean!
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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Life is So Good!

As you may remember, I had several health concerns at the end of my last pregnancy. One of these was my thyroid. I won't bore you with all the details, but early last November they did an ultrasound of the growth on my thyroid and determined that a biopsy would be a good idea.

Biopsy is not really a favorite word of mine. Biopsies are for old people, not young moms of five kids. When I first heard it I kind of freaked out a bit. You know, the word "biopsy" goes hand in hand with the word "cancer."

When they called to schedule the biopsy I was surprised when they said "how about the middle of January?" Great! So now I get to worry about it for the next two months! I had a million questions and it seemed only the endocrinologist could really answer them and I wasn't going to be able to ask her until January. I hate having unanswered questions. In the era of the internet, it's just seems so wrong.

But what could I do? I could fret and stew and cry and worry and have my whole Christmas season be ruined. Or I could just let go. I decided that with a life as busy and hectic as mine letting go was the only possible option. I just decided that I wasn't going to worry about it and when January came what happened would happen.

I did think about it quite a bit though. Not worrying, just asking myself "what will I do if the worst case happens? How will I get through that?" I decided two things: first, that even if I did have cancer I would be at peace about it because I know God is in charge of my life and it would turn out for my best good somehow and second, that in the mean time I was going to savor ever second of life because it was possible that it was going to take a very uncomfortable turn in January.

It was really great enjoying my Christmas season with heightened sensitivity like that-- choosing to be so happy about everything. I highly recommend it.

The fateful day finally arrived last week and I had my biopsy. I have to say that having a needle stuck repeatedly in my neck wouldn't rate high on my list of treasured experiences, but it wasn't that bad either. I felt so relieved when it was over.

And then a few days later I got the wonderful call: the mass on my thyroid is benign.

I can't tell you how grateful I am that I am not currently dealing with what would be going on right now if the growth was cancerous!

In fact, the last few days have been some of the happiest of my entire life. I am just so thrilled to be alive, to be who I am and where I am and to be doing what I'm doing.

I am aware in a way I never have been before of all the problems I don't have and all the bad things that could be happening in my life that aren't.

My life is certainly not perfect. It is full of challenges and struggles (for starters I've caught my kids' cold), but right now these seem totally insignificant. That's why I am so happy right now-- I haven't won the lottery or bought my dream car or really even had anything unusually good happen, but I just feel absolutely wonderful.

I look at my kids and I just can't believe how beautiful and sweet they are (notice I did not say perfect.)

I pick up my baby and I just feel so lucky to have such a darling little baby that I can hardly stand it.

I look at my husband and I am absolutely thrilled to have the love of such an amazing man.

Every night when I kneel by my bed to pray and think back on another normal day-- laundry, dishes, picking up messes, homeschooling, no time for much else-- I'm just so grateful that it was a mundane day and not a traumatic one.

I've understood the principle of a positive attitude for years and I've tried to think positive, but this is the first time I've really felt it deeply. What a feeling!

My goal is to keep this going. I don't want to lose this perspective. Life is so, so sweet right now, not because of what my circumstances are but because of how I see them. This is exactly how I want to live the rest of my life, no matter what happens.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Big Sisters

Peanut, you have two wonderful older sisters. They love you.
And they'll be there to hold your hand all along your road.


I have a feeling that the three of you can do anything.
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Monday, January 24, 2011

Sick Day

A charming little virus has made a stop at my home and my kids were pretty listless today. I didn't want to bag school entirely, but I knew if I tried to do our normal routine I'd have emotional meltdowns from the boys. So I tried some different things and I'm very pleased with the way things turned out. Our sick day ended up being a learning day after all.

First I made them do some math drills with our Learning Wrap-ups, which we really don't use often enough. Then I made them watch a DVD I have on basic math concepts. I spent about two seconds wishing I owned more educational DVDs until I thought "duh-- YouTube!" and so we spent the rest of the morning watching educational video clips on YouTube about things the kids are currently interested in.

It was great! We watched Leonard Bernstein conduct "Ode to Joy" (Bean is a huge Beethoven junkie just like his mother.) We learned about the history of both chess and soccer. We watched some clips of immortal moments in gymnastics such as Kerri Strug's famous vault at the 1996 Olympics. And then we watched a bunch of old Secret City episodes.

Fish spent all afternoon working on drawing his secret city.

It was a great day!

What a wonderful world we live in!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Thank You, Kind Friends!


This weekend two of my friends sent me the Versatile Blogger Award. Thank you so much, Rachel and Diane! I feel loved.

So what I am supposed to do is this:

1. Thank the person who gave you the award and link back to them in your post
2. Tell 7 things about yourself
3. Award 5 recently discovered new bloggers,
Contact them
and let them know they've received the award :)


I don't know if I have time to get through the last part right now because it's getting late, but I can certainly tell 7 things about myself.

1. I like to wear crazy socks. My sock drawer is full of socks with all sorts of fun pictures on them. I have very few pairs of plain socks. I believe in having fun with the simple things in life.

2. I love to sing, especially in choirs. I sing 2nd soprano.

3. In my quest to become a healthy eater I've gotten pretty good at enjoying vegetables, but there is one food that I still absolutely hate: beets. I know they are phenomenally good for you, but I can't even swallow them.

4. I can solve a Rubik's Cube in about five minutes. This is nothing compared to the hard-cores that can crank it out in less than a minute one-handed, but hey, I can solve the dang thing.

5. I am ambidextrous. I began life as a lefty but had to learn the ways of the right when I had a cast on my left arm in second grade.

6. None of my kids are left handed. I keep hoping.

7. I really really really love cheese. Most kinds. Swiss is a big favorite, as well as extra-sharp cheddar. I never did post about the cheese party our family had this Christmas, did I? I should do that. It was funny.

Okay, now I am supposed to pass on the award. However, Peanut has started fussing and I really need to change her diaper and feed her. So, I will work on that part later! Goodnight!

Hooray for Gymnastics!

Last winter in Utah we had the boys and Roo in gymnastics and I could write a book on all the good it did them. I was particularly impressed by the upper body strength my boys gained. The Badger and I agreed that after we got settled here we'd figure out how to get them back into gymnastics. It took until now, but we finally did it. It was quite an adventure finding a gym that wasn't too obscenely far from our house and that wasn't too expensive, but we finally found one and what's more, their class schedule is such that all four of my kids who are old enough for gymnastics can be in class at the same time. It's absolutely awesome. And they are all loving it.



Gymnastics is so perfect for active boys. I love watching them as they bounce and tumble and push themselves to try new things and get completely tired out. It's a big sacrifice to fit it into our budget, but the Badger and I feel strongly about doing everything we possibly can for our children to have all the experiences we can give them to develop themselves in every way, especially since we are homeschooling. I'm so grateful we can do this for them right now. It is so much fun!
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My Little Gymnasts

After all the time we spent during the fall going to soccer and football events, it is really nice to have an activity for the girls now. Our gym has a really fun area for preschool gymnastics:


Roo is eating it up. She is gaining skill quite rapidly-- I think the experience she had last year has helped.


And the Rabbit-- oh, my! I wasn't sure whether it was really worth the money to put her in at this age, but then the first gym we tried out had a trial class for her and once she'd had a taste of having her own class I knew there was no way we could keep her out of it. She loves it so incredibly much and she feels like such a big girl being able to do what her older brothers and sister are doing. And I am surprised at the big list of skills she is learning, most of which aren't even gymnastics skills: how to sit and listen to a teacher's verbal instructions, how to interact with other children as she waits for her turn on the equipment, etc. She still needs quite a bit of help with many of the actual gymnastics skills,


but there are a lot of things she is doing quite well by herself:


and she is handling the structure and the atmosphere of the class really well. It's pushing her, but she's equal to the challenge. I think once she gets comfortable with the routine of the class she is going to gain gymnastics skills quite rapidly and that's going to be so fun to watch.
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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Even More Excitement for Fish

Shortly after arriving at his pinewood derby, Fish finally lost one of his top front teeth. They've been loose for weeks and just this morning I noticed that they were looking rather ummm.... dead. We were both exceedingly glad to see that big gap and we hope the other one comes out very soon!

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Pinewood Happiness

Fish had his Cub Scout Pinewood derby this morning. I was a little nervous since Bean's car came in dead last at his derby last spring, but I also knew that that was because I had put his car together. And my Badger has many, many talents, including the making of respectable pinewood derby cars. He and Fish worked together and created a very fine car.

We got to the derby a little late and took our seats just in time to see Fish's car come zooming down the track and take second place. Then we sat there for the next hour and did not see his car race again. Having arrived late we really didn't know what was going on, but eventually someone told me that every car was raced three times, so we must have just missed Fish's first two times. And then they started setting up the winner's table and there was Fish's car! (Far right in photo.) You should have seen his face light up when he saw his car on the winner's table. I just live to see Fish really happy-- it's kind of rare.



So, turns out his car won second place for the Tiger den. Here he is getting his medal from the Cubmaster.




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Thursday, January 20, 2011

One More Peanut Picture for Today

Love those eyes!

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Switching Again

I just switched back to cloth diapers again. I was only planning on using disposables for a couple weeks as a post-partum convenience (along with chicken nuggets and cold cereal) but when I hurt my hip I decided to stretch that out a bit. Now the disposables are about gone, so I got out the bucket of cloth.

I've never used cloth on a baby this young (the Rabbit was four months old when I switched) so I am having to do quite a bit of experimenting to figure out what works well without being too bulky. It's kind of fun to try out different things. I've accumulated a great variety over the last 2 1/2 years. In recent months with the Rabbit I was exclusively using one-size pocket diapers but those aren't really the easiest thing to use with Peanut at this point, so we are playing around with this and that.



Side note: I can't believe how Peanut is putting on weight! At this point you'd never know that she was my smallest baby. Roo did the opposite: started out at nearly 10 1/2 pounds and then hardly gained anything at all for several weeks in order to even things out. Peanut now looks quite a bit like Roo at this age. She also looks a lot like Fish (which is odd since Roo and Fish really don't look alike to me.) I'll try to find some pictures for comparison soon.
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Bean's Walking Bean

Here is Bean with his latest Engino creation: a working oil well (you turn the crank and it goes up and down just like it should.)


These critters are a common sight in Oklahoma and in our family they are referred to as "walking beans." When I was a little kid I asked what they were called and my mom told me they were called "walking beams" (which is actually the name of the big long piece on top that goes up and down) and I mis-heard her. I've always thought they were sort of cute so when I found instructions for this on the Engino website I asked Bean to make it for me. He did a great job!
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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

An Elusive Smile

Peanut has started smiling at us a lot, and whenever she does the whole world just lights up. There's just nothing more joyful than a baby smile. There's also just nothing about as hard to catch on camera. I had forgotten how quickly those grins come and go. She smiles most for the Badger, so when he was holding her at one point today I got out the camera and tried to catch her smile. I took a lot of pictures and most of them are blurry messes. There was not one clear picture of her smile to be had. I thought this non-smile picture was cute though. She sure loves her Daddy (and she sure looks like him!)

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Another Immortal Family Classic

I discovered this in my bed this afternoon:


(I'm having a real hard time keeping Peanut's binkies out of the Rabbit's mouth. It was only last summer we finally took her binkies away and boy, does she remember them!)
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Sunday, January 16, 2011

What I Love

Recently the Badger finished fifteen straight days of working the day shift. This was extremely hard on both of us because he was gone pretty much all day every day. He would leave right around the time we were all getting up and getting going and then he would come home when we were all dropping with exhaustion and ready to hit the hay. I was pretty much on my own with the kids during that two weeks plus. I had absolutely no time to myself and anywhere I had to go I had five little satellites. It was a huge challenge, especially with a young baby. It really stretched me and I think I improved a bit on being patient and calm. But it was exhausting and I was so looking forward to when it ended and the Badger had a few days off.

A funny thing happened though. The first day the Badger was off I had my 6-week postpartum visit with the midwife. I left him with the four older children, packed up Peanut, and drove off in our little blue car.

It was so quiet!

I was excited. Just me and the baby and nothing going on after the midwife visit. We could do anything or go anywhere! I could go buy myself a tasty lunch somewhere or go shopping at the mall. The world was at my fingertips and I was freeeeeeee!

And then the midwife visit was over and it was time for me to decide which of all the beckoning activities I was going to pursue. First of all, lunch!

But suddenly it didn't sound so fun. Okay, I'd buy a tasty lunch. Then I'd sit in the restaurant and look at the wall and chew. Boring! Why waste the money? I had the stuff for tasty sandwiches at home and I could eat them with my kids.

Well, how about shopping then? What do I need to buy? Nothing. Why go waste my time looking at a bunch of stuff that I don't need when I could be at home with my kids who need and love me? Suddenly shopping sounded odious.

So I just drove home. I realized that more than anything, I wanted to be with my family. I pulled up in our driveway and they all came spilling out of the house yelling "MOMMY!!!" It was wonderful to see them again!

I LOVE being a mom. I love having lots of kids. I love being able to teach them and feed them and listen to them and wash their clothes and wipe up their crumbs. I am so thrilled that I get to do this!

I feel so blessed to have the life I have. Being a homeschooling mother of five is extremely challenging, but I can't think of another challenge I would rather have. No other difficulty has so many attendant blessings.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Vindication

This last week I took the boys to the eye doctor just to have a checkup. Turns out, both of them see just fine for kids their age, don't need glasses, and don't have any eye problems. I felt vindicated.

You see, I had a bad experience with an eye doctor a couple of years ago in Kansas. I won't go into all the details, but the gist of it is this: I took Bean to see him because I was wondering if the problems Bean was having with reading might possibly be vision-related. They told me he needed both glasses and eye therapy, but it just didn't sit right. I felt like they were just trying to sell me their product (eye therapy was their big specialty) and that because I had gone in there with a concern (Bean's reading issues) I was an easy target. I walked out of there feeling like I was walking away from a shady used car lot.

One of the things that bothered me about their diagnoses was that I didn't feel that Bean had given them accurate feedback-- he was only seven years old, he had never been to the eye doctor, and it didn't seem to me he had really understood everything they were asking him to do. I decided to wait awhile and then take Bean to another eye doctor for a second opinion. As the weeks went by I saw enough improvement in Bean's reading that I decided vision wasn't his concern, so that's why I waited clear until now to take him in again.

I didn't tell this doctor I had any concerns, because I don't at this point and I wanted her exam to be totally unbiased. I didn't tell her what happened before. I just watched her do a thorough exam and then tell me that his very slight far-sightedness was normal for this age and that his eyes worked just fine.

I'm just glad my boys don't need glasses at this point. Young boys and glasses sound to me like a really tricky combination, especially since we just read Little Britches by Ralph Moody aloud and there's a scene in there where he goes into the outhouse wearing glasses and comes out without them....

How to Catch a Cat

This week the Badger has spent quite a bit of time trying to catch Little Miss White Socks, as he calls her. She's the cat that ran away from us right after we got her at the shelter. Lately she's been coming around to eat out of our cats' dish on the back porch and she seems like she's been making friends with our cats.

First the Badger told the boys he'd give them five bucks if they caught her for him. They tried valiantly, but she is one seriously fast cat.

Then the Badger made a really clever cat trap out of scrap board in his workshop. Despite several adjustments and improvements, that cat could get out of there before the door slammed shut. Faster than gravity, she is.



So then they went out and bought a raccoon trap, much to Bean's delight. And it worked!


The Badger brought her inside, along with Peter and a bowl of food, and shut her in the downstairs bathroom. A few minutes later he peeked in and saw them curled up together like this. They are definitely friends!


Well, THEN she escaped again when the Badger was transferring her to the shed. Maybe we should name her Blink. You blink and she's gone.

However, during that short time we had her again she developed a rapport with the Badger and now when she comes around our house she won't run away from him and will even let him pet her and hold her. He actually caught her in the trap again but decided this time to just let her go because she's coming around to us on her own pretty well.

I think that she is tired of living near starvation with the wild cats and she misses the companionship of humans. I'm glad she's finally inching toward being a member of our family.

And now the boys are dreaming and scheming about what else they can catch in those traps. I do hope there's not a blog post about tomato juice in my future!
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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Pirate Fever

My kids' latest obsession is The Pirates of Penzance. At any given moment in my house you can hear a little voice somewhere singing "WITH CAT-LIKE TREAD" (usually Bean) or "Poor wandering one" (one of the girls) or "O false one! You have deceived me" (Fish) or "I AM A PIRATE KING!!!" (definitely Bean.) Mealtime discussions now revolve around the virtues of the various actors and comparisons of the stage version to the movie version (they like the stage version better!) Dollhouse dolls are now named Frederick, Mabel, and Ruth. I get asked constant questions like "Mom, what's a major general?" and "Mom, can we pleeeeeeeease watch Pirates of Penzance again?"

I love it!

This started last fall when I had a hankering to watch Pirates again. I hadn't seen it in probably ten years or more. So I called my sister Pineapple, who is the world's biggest Gilbert and Sullivan fan, and asked her if I could borrow her copy. She told me that the movie version, with Kevin Kline, Angela Lansbury, and Linda Ronstadt, hadn't been released yet and that all she had was a DVD of the stage version, which she said was poorly-filmed. I asked if I could borrow it anyway, and so that was my kids' first introduction to Pirates. I wasn't sure if they would sit through it, but they did and they LOVED it. As bad as the picture quality was, the music is absolutely infectious and they were drawn right in.

So I got on Amazon to find out if I could get the soundtrack on CD and I made a very happy discovery-- they had JUST released the movie version on DVD!

My boys went wild and pooled all their money to buy it. They practiced the piano like fiends to earn the last few dollars.

It has been delightful to have the music of Gilbert and Sullivan bouncing through the house-- why did I wait so long to introduce it to them? After the tremendous success of Pirates, I bought a CD of HMS Pinafore and we've been listening to that in the car. They like some of the songs on it a lot, though some parts do drag a bit.

It's such fun music, it's added a lot of flavor to an other-wise bland part of the year. Hurrah for the Pirate King!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Don't Blink, You'll Miss It

There was snow on the forecast for today and the kids were sooooooooo excited. I kept telling them not to get their hopes up since the forecast also said less than one inch. But that didn't stop them from talking about snowmen and snow ice cream and sledding. Poor things.

This morning shortly after we started school it started to come down. I told them they had to finish their assignments for the day and then they could go out. It was so hard to keep them on track!

Finally they finished. Then we made a huge mess on the floor as we dug through the box of winter gear looking for mittens and boots and such that would fit four little bodies. They insisted on snowpants too. At times like these I'm grateful it only snows here a couple times each winter!

At last everyone was out the door to enjoy this very lovely and very light skiff of snow:




Which is already melting.
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Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Forklift

I'm very pleased with this Engino construction set we bought for Bean for Christmas. I love it when my kids play with toys that make them learn while they play but that are so fun and cool that they don't realize that they are good for them. This one turned out to perfectly fit that category. Here's Bean's latest creation:


Bean spent hours putting this forklift together. It has lots of moving parts, including a crank that you turn to make the lift go up and down. He did a great job with it, and all by himself too! It's only been the last few months that he has had the focus and maturity to be able to work through an instruction book to build something like this, so it is very satisfying for me to see him completing these projects on his own.
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Saturday, January 8, 2011

Tolkienesque

Fish did this drawing of a temple the other day and I thought it was rather extraordinary. I don't know that he has ever seen much of JRR Tolkien's artwork, but stylistically that's what this picture strongly reminds me of. (In the interest of privacy I had to put that big yellow dot to cover up some personal information.)

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Sunsets A Go-Go

Seems like every night I look outside and say, "Wow, holy cow, yet ANOTHER gorgeous sunset! What is it with this?"



And then it finally dawned on me that this is the first time probably ever that we've lived in a place that not only has an unobstructed west vista but has one that contains lovely trees. Our eastern view is the same, actually, and we enjoy the sunrises as well.

This living in the country thing is GREAT.
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Friday, January 7, 2011

Plumping Up

Peanut is getting plump very fast. Those are still size newborn clothes she's wearing, but she's getting nice and round and squishy. On the other hand, she's not as bean-baggy anymore when you pick her up. She holds herself quite stiff now and you can haul her around under your arm like a doll.


And she's definitely studying the world around her!

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Friends


Flinch and Peter are finally good friends.
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