Thursday, May 24, 2012

taking stock

  • I took the kids strawberry picking last week. We filled two 5 quart buckets of strawberries so fast that the kids started picking berries for some of the other berry pickers in the field. That was fun.
  • I made this cake at the weekend with some of the berries, though I substituted sour cream for the yogurt. So. Good. You must try it.
  • We have a robin's nest in our yard again. Last week it had 5 eggs in it. Now there are none. I suspect the black snake in the shed had something to do with it.
  • Toby's company picnic was last weekend. Our children ate about a dozen snow cones between them and almost as much cotton candy. They bounced on the bouncy castle until there was no air left, rode ponies until the ponies gave up and ate until there was no more food. We were the very last people there - standard Gayner procedure.
  • The buttons I'd ordered for some baby sweaters have finally arrived - the very first thing I bought from etsy! Expect to see more finished projects next week...
  • I found this tutorial for making friendship bracelets. I made three looms for the two big girls and myself. Now we're bracelet-making fools! It's so addictive - the girls have plans for all the people they'll make them for and have a go a making necklaces, as well, while I have plans on making sturdier looms out of plastic material and making up sets to give as gifts.
  • Today finishes up pretty much all of our school work for the year. Yay! We can now close the book on grades 4, 3 and K. I'll be sharing my grand plans for summer school (fun summer school) in a couple weeks.
  • Tomorrow morning we head west for a week. First a few days of catching up with some of our very favorite people, then cabin-camping at Deep Creek. I'm giddy.
Have a great week!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Make your own...laundry detergent?

I've been making my laundry detergent off and on for a couple years now. I like how cheap it is, how well it cleans our clothes (and believe me, we put it through its paces!) and how little we need to throw away. Those big plastic jugs take up some room!
For a long time, I've been using SouleMama's detergent recipe and been very content. It's simple, inexpensive, the ingredients are easy to find and does what it's supposed to. I wanted to have a go at a liquid detergent, however - I generally prefer how it dissolves in the machine. So, off to handy dandy Pinterest to see if some clever soul out there has figured out how to do it. I was not disappointed.

This is the first recipe I found and liked - after all, I had half the ingredients already. It looked pretty straight forward. I also stumbled upon this recipe, which included oxyclean. I've never used oxyclean before, but it sounded pretty good, though the detergent was a powder. So, when it came time to make my detergent one quiet Saturday morning, I decided to try for the best of both worlds and make the liquid with the addition of oxyclean. Now if you're a chemical person (which I am not, but my husband is), you can probably guess what happened. I melted the soap - fine. Added the powders - no problem. Brought the mixture to a boil - and that's when it happened. Evidently, one of the things oxyclean does is fizz. A lot. As the mixture began to boil over, I lifted the pot, hoping that the absence of heat would allow it to stop bubbling all over the place. No such luck. This stuff went everywhere - all over the stove, into the oven, over the counter. In trying to get it to the sink to try to control the mess, it made it's way to the floor and splattered all over several cabinets. It took longer to clean up the mess than to make the stuff to begin with (isn't that always the way?).
Once my chemistry lab/kitchen was cleaned up and under control, I was able to contain and use the detergent, and you know what? I like it. It was worth the mess and fuss to reuse the plastic containers with something that works well without costing loads. I definitely plan on using it again when we run out.
One suggestion, though: Follow the ingredients carefully and don't get clever trying to mix and match recipes on your first try. Not unless you like cleaning splatters on your kitchen cabinets for the week to come. That's not really my idea of a party, but hey - whatever floats your boat, right?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Baby Knitting - Pine Forest Blanket

For the non-knitters among you, Elizabeth Zimmerman was a marvellous and gifted knitter-teacher, with several knitting books to her credit and (I believe) this particular stitch - the Gull Lace Stitch. In homage to the late and great lady, there are many patterns out there that boast of her stitch creation, from sweaters, cardigans and hats to this: baby blankets.
 It's a great start on lace work, a skill I am only just beginning to look into. It's not a long process, as the yarn is worsted weight, meaning it is not like knitting with thread and you have a hope of finishing it in a sensible amount of time. Of course, when you knit with Malabrigo in a beautiful colorway like Sunset, each moment working with it is joy. Honestly.

Monday, May 21, 2012


Every spring and summer, I am reminded why we originally decided to title this blog "Wildlife and Home". For a typical suburban area (with almost half a dozen kids in the yard, no less), we have a surprising amount of critters in our yard. I consider it God's kindness to allow us an up-close and personal look at His creation.
In previous years, we've had monstrous wolf spiders and mice in the shed, a box turtle that inexplicably made it's way through the fence for a week before disappearing again, frogs in the flower pots (and the house), robins' and wrens' nests, and fearless little hummingbirds. This year, we've discovered something new:

 This would be our newest shed tenant, a black snake. Photos aren't great, but my point is made: a snake lives in our shed! I can confidently say he/she lives there because he/she's been evicted twice, and twice has he/she made his/her return. I don't mind this new tenant - it's pretty harmless unless you're smaller that it and Toby's convinced it'll keep the mice down. Last year, he was convinced the mice kept the spiders down. Perhaps each year we'll have a progressively larger visitor that eats last year's visitors. That would make next year either a bird of prey or a mongoose. I'd rather not think about that.

Clearly, we still have spider issues...

I'd love to have some name recommendations for "our" snake - referring to "it" or "shim" is getting tiresome. We have taken to calling the spider "Shelob", for what it's worth...:)

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Baby Knitting - In Threes

 More Malabrigo YarnApplewood this time.

I really like the flexibility of a short-sleeved babycardigan – great for layering as well as showing off those gorgeous baby arms! Good in spring and winter…I’m loving this pattern! I had planned to make another one for my babe, but I’m not sure about how it would be on a boy. Thankfully, the pattern sizes up enough to make one for a bigger girl. J

I hope she gets good use out of it!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Mommy Daughter Tea

The ladies at our church take their table decorating for events seriously - very seriously. For the first time, I decided to wade into the fray and decorate a table of my own for the Mother & Daughter Tea. It was lovely, with food made my many generous women, beautiful music and an amazing dance by one of my favorite families ever. The Gayner girls were so grateful to be there.

 I was grateful that they gave me a reason to be there, and the chance to be their Mom. Love these girls.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Baby Knitting - Stroller Blanket

There are several new babies being born/due to be born in our church (plus my own!), so there’s been a lot of baby knitting going on around here.

I found this pattern for a simple, small stroller blanket, so named because it’s just the right size to fit on a baby in a stroller without being so long that it hangs down the sides and gets wrapped up in the wheels. That’s pretty annoying, I can tell you.

I love Malabrigo Yarn. It’s soft, sturdy, beautiful and a joy to work with. The color is Pigeon.
This project was just right to get me back into my knitting mojo, and makes a great gift - I hope the new mama agrees!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

This one-room schoolhouse

It seems that spring is the time not only for birds to nest and bees to get busy, but for the planning and purchasing of homeschool curriculum. If you're a homeschooler, more than likely you've been to or are planning on attending a curriculum fair or convention (or two, or more), making plans for next year and maybe even some purchases. Some of us find this part fun (that would be me), some, not so much.
Jamie over at Simple Homeschool has sent an invitation: share your plans for next year's homeschool. It still surprises me how helpful it can be to hear what others are doing and why, and so without further ado:
The Gayner Family Homeschool 2012-2013

I'm guessing that many homeschooling families have some things that change each year - some areas you have yet to find something you are truly happy with and are willing to commit to for the long haul. For us, those areas include Bible and History. There was even a time when Toby considered writing his own curriculum that tied the two together, but we would both agree that now is not the best time for that endeavor. :) So, after trying out TruthQuest History, followed by Mystery of History, we are giving Veritas Press a shot.
Because of the grades of our students, we'll be following the Explorers to 1815 stream next year. I'm really looking forward to this, as we fairly strongly identify with the classical method, I'm a big believer in the benefit of memorization, and I have yet to hear a bad word about it. I'm also seriously digging the tailored lesson plans, which will be a big help next year when I'm homeschooling 3 children, plus 2 preschoolers and a newborn.
Veritas Press is also providing us with Bible, Literature for 4th and 5th grades and Spelling (though they call it Linguistics). Noah is using their first grade curriculum, including their Geography (which looks so cute). We had a good going over of all the materials when we went to their annual Open House in Lancaster, which was so helpful - being able to see the books (I actually do seem to look with my hands, as well as my eyes :), figure out what we really needed and ask questions. Well worth the drive, it was.
Math is one of those areas which are, thankfully, steady. We found what we like early on and have been happy to stick with it.
Math U See has been great for our family because it's affordable, plain (are my kids the only ones that get distracted by bright colors and pretty pictures?!), follows a systematic pattern of teaching, and allows my kinestetic learners to physically see the concepts worked out, making an abstract idea into a concrete, observable thing. The lessons initially being taught on the DVD is a big help, too, as both student and teacher are learning the same ideas and tricks in the same way. It then doesn't matter if math isn't really your thing (it sure isn't mine!) - you can come at it again from a fresh perspective.
Grammar is another area where we are sticking with the known.

Last year we discovered Easy Grammar. Without loads of teacher involvement, it still seems to do a great job of getting the tools of good grammar in kids' heads. It's a worktext, which turns some off, but it's not loads of pages per day, very understandable, and requires the memorization of a preposition list before beginning. Loving the memorization, folks.
For Noah, we're going back to something we did when Abi and Anna were in first and second grade (which feels like it was two weeks ago) - First Language Lessons for the Well Trained Mind.
All the other things we tried (and there have been a few) have been a distant second in comparison to the foundation that the girls received through this book. I know some of the reviews have indicated it's "boring" and "repetitive", but I know for me and my kids, it's just what we needed. I'm not interested in a bunch of bells and whistles - in fact, I tend to run from such things - I want my kids to learn well. This has done that job. So has this:
The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading is just about the best thing since sliced bread. It costs less than $30, and without complication or needless gumph gives kids a solid foundation in phonetics and reading. It's totally idiot-proof, too, which speaks to me. Abi and Anna are both excellent readers, having gone through this book, and Noah is well on his way. One suggestion: as it's a paperback, take your copy to your local printing/copy store and have them cut the binding off and spiral bind it (not comb binding!). There'll be no looking back for you after that!
We haven't made a decision yet on language, though Rosetta Stone Spanish is being considered. As for science, we've finally decided to join our church's homeschool co-op, which has a science course available, so I can (to some extent) offload that particular job. I'm thinking I'll just do what they tell me...
I think that about covers it. I'm looking forward to hearing about everyone else's plans for next year, so won't you share with the class in the comments, or join the conversation over at Simple Homeschool? We'd all be so grateful. :)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Thoughts on Psalm 107

I was reading Psalm 107 a couple weeks ago and wanted to make a note of what I felt God was speaking to me through it.

There seems to be a rhythm here, a cyclical pattern of thanking God for His goodness, man sinning and being humbled, God redeeming. Interestingly, the pattern begins with acknowledging His goodness. One would think that normally this would come after He saves His wayward people from disaster, but it doesn’t. It should impress upon the heart that the cycle starts with His goodness – He is good throughout, not because He simply hears our plight and restores us, but because He sees our sin and our need and will bring us low, to a place of humility in order to show us our need.  Whoever went looking for help unless they knew they needed it?

Verses 14 & 16 He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death and burst their bonds apart…for he shatters the doors of bronze and cuts in two the bars of iron.

No matter the difficulty, no matter the series of events that bring us to where we feel trapped, bound or imprisoned, He is enough – strong enough, patient enough, loving enough – enough – to bring us out of prison and bondage.

When we are waiting for release, we must call out to Him and He will deliver us - maybe not the way or in the timing we would like, but deliverance will come. We must remember who He is and praise Him. When we can look back at what He has rescued us from, we can acknowledge His kindnesses – not only for rescuing us, but also for bringing us to the place where we can call upon Him. He is good!

Monday, May 14, 2012

For the Mama-to-Be

If you are currently pregnant or might be in the near future, this post is for you.
I think it was during my fourth pregnancy that I heard about the BellyBra. I can't remember who might have mentioned it to me, but I'm ever so thankful they did! Essentially, we're talking about a cross between a bra and a camisole, with the very important addition of wide, supportive elastic that fits underneath your growing belly.
I don't know that it'd do much for people who are suffering serious back pain, but I've found it so very helpful as it gives just enough of a lift to that extra distance I'm carrying out front to avoid extra strain and pulling. You know that sense, especially toward the end, of wanting to just set your bump down for  a minute or two? Well, for me, the BellyBra kind of does that.
I know own two or three and I've learned that fitting is rather important. One definitely fits better than the other - the smaller one can sometimes have the tendency to "pull" too much, especially near my C-section scar. The larger one is much more comfortable, even near the scar. It can take some getting used to getting it on - Toby had to come to my rescue once or twice because I'd gotten it halfway over my head and couldn't seem to get it the rest of the way off. Being claustrophobic, there was some freaking out on my part, but at least as much laughter from him, so all was not lost. And it's been a long time since that's happened. Really.
It is designed to be worn with or without a bra, whatever is most comfortable. I've noticed it's not terribly uncomfortable in the summer, and this is coming from a woman who can't stand being overheated. I'm sure I'll be putting this comment to the test this summer, as I'll probably be wearing this thing until September.
So, for all the "must haves" out there for new moms, this one is definitely worth considering, unlike the PeePee TeePee and a wipes warmer. I would be interested, though, in hearing what other clever items are out there to make the mama-to-be/new-mama life a little easier. There are enough pregnant ladies out there at the moment, so I'm sure they'd love to hear some good ideas, too!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Books on the nightstand

I may not have been typing much (in fact, for about a month, I hardly even looked at my knitting - gasp!), but I have been reading. Mostly, I've been working through the fiction on my list, since it hasn't demanded much brain-engagement. Here's a quick look at what's made it's way across my nightstand:
Entwined - Very much like a grown-up's version of the Twelve Dancing Princesses. It was fine, passing the time, but not much more. Might keep you entertained poolside for a couple days this summer.
The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society - A story partially told through letters that wasn't annoying - how clever! Really engaging story centering around the Nazi occupation of Guernsey and a storyteller who falls in love with the island and it's people. Good, good book.
In the Company of Others - If you've read any of the Mitford series, you'll know Father Tim & company. Set in Ireland, many of the usual characters are missing, and there is quite a bit more intrigue than in some of the other books. If you know and like the series, then you'll enjoy this one, too, though it wasn't my favorite.
Peace Like a River - An act of one son's foolishness sets a family on a trip across the country, with the errant young man leading the way, the FBI chasing behind and seeing miracles all around. Interesting and well-written.
Romancing Miss Bronte - This was one of my favorites. Knowing very little about the Bronte family, this novel offered some engaging history as well as a great story. It's considered fiction because there is so much to the story that can't be qualified, but the author had clearly done her homework and put more than flesh (perhaps a lovely Victorian gown?) on the skeleton of known facts of the Brontes. If you are limited in reading time, this is one to make time for.
The Forgotten Garden - The granddaughter of a foundling on an Australia-bound ship decides to find out what her grandmother never could - who she was and why she was abandoned. Sounds complicated? The author does a pretty good job of laying it all out and allowing the reader to follow the twists and turns without a headache. Another good, undemanding vacation read.
Room - This was hard to read. Not difficult - it's written from the point of view of a five year old. Hard - said five year old's mother had been abducted and imprisoned for 7 years in one room. As he was born in this room, this little boy knows no other reality. It was interesting and thoughtful, but hard - I'm still not sure how I feel about it.
Left Neglected - I just finished this one last week, and it was another I really enjoyed. It examines a condition known as Left Neglect - literally where the patient has no awareness of their "left half" - from the perspective of high-powered career exec who suffers this trauma following a car accident. Without making moral judgements of the main character, it leads you down the road she must take through recovery - and what "recovery" actually means. Another book to add to your list.
At the moment, I'm working on Awakening the Quieter Virtues. I've only finished the first chapter, but it's looking really good - I have high hopes. :)

Friday, May 11, 2012

Pinning Away!

At the beginning of the year, I had this great idea of trying to do/make/cook at least one thing each week from one of my Pinterest boards. Of course, soon after that my morning sickness/tiredness struck, and all good plans were put on hold. Now that I've been making up for lost time, here are a few of the pins I've tried:
Mega-yum. Everyone loved this dish, which fed us two dinners with some leftovers besides. Great for a crowd.
These are actually for dinner tonight. I made them for the kids for the first time when Toby and I were going out to dinner. We each had a bite and briefly considered changing our plans! They're fun, easy and score some "Cool Mom" points. I could always use a couple of those.
I made these for Ellie for some of her Littlest Pet Shop toys. They get played with sometimes, but not as much as I thought. And not in the way I thought. Whatever, they're still cute.
The tutorial I used talked about these as "time out" bottles. We don't do time outs, but they still looked like fun. Going with plastic bottles is the best way - I used old Snapple bottles because it's what we had, but I'm always super nervous when they're played with away from a carpeted floor. Everyone likes them, though - I made one each for Ellie and Dan, but they are not the only kids around here who like spending time with them...

Any other good Pins out there that I'm missing? Or massive disasters that would best be avoided?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Our home

It kind of feels like it's all going on at the moment. I'm sure you know what that feels like, but allow me to unpack that a bit, won't you?
Monday had Abi back to the orthodontist. Since starting her on a course of care to deal with a massive overbite and overcrowding (odd how both can exist in the same mouth) back in March, she knew the day was coming to receive external headgear that she would have to wear 14 hours a day. She didn't like the idea, but had made her peace with it. Well, Monday was supposed to be the day it happened. She was ready, we had prayed, all was a go. As it turns out, however, they were having trouble fitting the anchors in - it seems her teeth have rotated somewhat (I didn't know they could do that!), making it difficult to fit. So, she'll be receiving her headgear in a couple of months when another appliance comes out of her mouth. In the meantime, she was actually pleased to get some braces on her top teeth instead. I think the opportunity to choose different colored bands each month helps alot. :)
Tuesday was my monthly trip to the chiropractor. Toby tends to use the term "vodoo" when mentioning it, but I've noticed it really does help, especially now that my center of gravity is changing on an almost daily basis. The place that I go to I'm quite happy with, in part because they have a room with toys and a TV for the kids to play in so I don't worry about them playing with a TENS unit or snapping themselves with an exercise band. Yesterday, there was a candy machine in the room, one of those old-fashioned gumball machines filled with Mike&Ikes. Unfortunately, this machine didn't require money. Do you understand what that means?! It means that when I stuck my head in the door to check on them, four little faces were looking at me with cheeks so puffed that you'd think they were storing nuts for the winter, plus one somewhat smug face letting me know that they had restrained themselves and had nothing to do with the gluttony of the others. Clearly, my children can't be left alone in a room with an almost unlimited supply of candy at their disposal. To be fair, though, I'm not sure that I could, either.
Wednesday is swim day. That means four hours door to door with travel, three separate swim lessons, and an hour's practice session. Add in any errands to run (like returning 30+ books to the library), and it's a full afternoon. Usually Dan will nap during part of it, and it's always a dance to try to keep him asleep as long as possible, plus finishing any schoolwork that didn't get finished at home. It's worth it, though - my kids are swimming. They swim well. I won't say they're fearless in the water, and I'm kind of thankful for that. I've seen them thinking they're more able than they really are at different points, and this is not an area I want to play around with false bravado.
Thursday is my OB appt. I'm thinking this will be the appt where they give me the details about my glucose test. Man, I can't stand that stupid test. Never having had one in the UK spoiled me. With the last two babies, though, I go for the one hour test, fail it, and have to go back for the three hour test. Ugh. That syrup they make you drink is nasty. And after a fast, too? Awful. I am very thankful I've never failed the three hour test. I am also thankful for the reading, knitting and podcasts that make the long wait much more bearable.
Thursday is also Eleanor's 4th birthday. She's so excited - she's been counting down for a couple weeks, now. We won't be doing anything too special on Thursday because of what we're doing on Friday...
...which involves Toby taking the day off from work, driving up to Lancaster, spending some time at the Veritas Press Open House to do some curriculum shopping, and doing something really fun to celebrate Ellie's big day. I'm looking forward to it, mainly by spending lots of time going over the curriculum we're interested in with a fine tooth comb and trying to see how we can afford it. :)
And Saturday. Our church's Mother & Daughter Tea. I'm looking forward to it, but not as much as my girls, I think. I may have been slightly stupid, but I've signed up to decorate a table, make some food, and lead some of the games. Actually, the games thing was kind of requested of me - it's not the sort of thing I'd really volunteer for. I'm most squirrely about the table decorating, though - I don't have enough cups and saucers (I need 8) and buying new ones is expensive. So if you're local and have some to loan, be a pal and help me out? Thanks...
I know I'm not the only one to have weeks like these, and honestly, it's fine. I like having life going on around me and being involved in all these things. With all of it happening almost at once, though, is making me really look forward to my Sunday. Which is as it should be.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Still here

Well, now - it's been a while, hasn't it? A 10-week blog break wasn't exactly part of my plan, but it has been kind of nice, in a way. My brain couldn't seem to cope with more than the bare minimun for a while there (and sometimes even the minimum was stretching it), so it was good to take a breath, narrow my focus and keep this family in clean clothes. Most of the time.
As for now, I've been feeling great, pregnancy-wise (and otherwise). The whole second trimester is such a pleasure - more energy, sleeping and waking at normal times, looking pregnant rather than just fat...good stuff. I think I may have started my nesting phase early, as I've gotten so much organizing and decluttering done the last couple months. It's as if I've been making up for the first couple months when I couldn't sit down without falling asleep. Now, the kids know not to sit still for too long if they don't want to end up in a labeled box...
For the curious, I am currently 23 weeks/almost 6 months pregnant (had to check my handy "What to Expect" app on my phone to remember this), and last month we discovered that we are having another little boy! I was truly shocked, as I was getting a major girl-vibe. Everyone was really excited to hear the news - Noah really wanted another boy, Ellie wanted a girl but had already declared that she knew it was going to be a boy, and Abigail couldn't make up her mind which she preferred, so wondered if there was a chance that it could be twins - one of each. How very diplomatic of her. :)