Thursday, March 28, 2013

Link love

Are your photos being hijacked by another site? Here's how to find out.

I found some of this helpful in relating to my boys...

Managing the iphone (or any smart phone!) - who doesn't need this?

The calendar says it's spring, but when the thermometer says otherwise, these ideas might help.

And a few for the homeschoolers:
The Introverted Homeschooler - this came at just the right time for me!

If you are a homeschooler (and maybe even if you're not), it's a good idea to figure out how to make it all work together.

So your homeschooled child isn't right on grade level? Don't sweat it...

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

It's finished!

It's been something of a long project - nearly 3 months - but I'm happy to say my Effortless cardigan is complete!
The night before I finished it, I dreamt that I'd cast off, put it on, and found that it reached all the way to my ankles. It's long, especially after blocking, but fortunately not that long.
It's also warm, comfy, soft, matchy-matchy, and able to wrap any kid that fits into my lap. A winner all around.
Yarn, pattern, etc on my ravelry page.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The End of an Era

Our dog, Thor, hadn't been doing well for a while. He's been having trouble with his hips, struggling to stand or go up and down stairs. Occasionally his functions would fail him, leaving messes to clean up. He was sleeping more and more and the vet had mentioned a while back that he had a large mass in his abdomen.
We decided to call it a day for old Thor.

It wasn't an easy decision, and one that we'd been discussing for months. We finally decided that it was the right time, making his final appointment with the vet. I was nervous about this part - would they make me feel bad (worse), suggesting expensive treatments to prolong his life? I needn't have worried. The receptionist was very kind and thoughtful - even though I don't do this everyday, it can't be unusual for her.
Toby was the one to do this appointment. While I was glad I took Zoe to her last appointment, I didn't want to do it again if I had a choice. It was good to stay home with sorrowing children, talking about what was going to happen and all the fun memories we had of Thor. The kids were sad, but understand that this is the right choice. They don't want to see him suffer needlessly, either. Talking about all the stories and adventures he's had helped all of us - how many other dogs get to travel internationally?
It's funny to think about it all, really - seeing him for the first time, cowering in the back of a kennel at the rescue center, falling in love with him just to hear that another family snapped him up before us, going home sad but thankful that at least he had a family now, only to be called by the rescue center an hour later to be told that the other family wasn't suitable and would we still like to bring him home? Taking him for long walks where he either pulled your arm out of its socket or helped you develop a cast iron grip, especially if there was water anywhere nearby. Seeing what happens when a bearded dog eats flour, drinks water and repeats a dozen times. Enjoying him swimming after water toys for the pure joy of it, as long as someone would still throw them. Watching a dozens of kids climb on, poke, pull, bend and generally abuse him, and never would he lose his temper - then seeing him morph into crazy psycho dog if another dog came near. He was a dog that could change the minds non-dog lovers.
Now, we are pet-free. I don't think that's a permanent thing (he wasn't even gone before the kids were inquiring after a new pet, cold-hearted beasts), but for now, we will enjoy our pet-free status. I'm glad to take a break from puddles of hair on the floor, racing to grab dropped food before he gets it, stepping in the poop in the yard that we somehow missed, and Dan sneaking into the laundry room to eat dog food (for real).
Nevertheless, it's the end of an era for our family. It's the first time since we got married more than fifteen years ago that we have not had a pet. I'm sure there will be more creatures we will one day call family, but for now, we'll miss this one, even while we sweep up the last of the hair.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Right now

  • Dan seems to be winning the battle that is potty training! He uses the toilet now, rather than the potty, and often takes himself without prompting. He hasn't yet gotten the hang of "number 2" in the toilet, but the vast benefit of not changing his diapers every hour throughout the morning is well worth putting up with a little mess. He'll get it eventually!
  • Caleb is teething. Oy. One bottom tooth has cut through, but I think there are more on the way, gauging by his fussiness. He's still delightfully cute, though.
  • I'm fighting disease and contagion, in the form of a sore throat (which makes for quite a manly voice) and headache. I'm determined to win, though! After all, "ain't nobody got time" to be sick...
  • Thor isn't doing too well. He's been on the downhill slide for a while, and it's getting worse. His hips hurt and his back legs regularly fail him, he often needs to be carried up or down the stairs, several times a week he relieves himself in the house (often right next to someone), and now he's started throwing up. In my room. At 3am.  It's not looking good - I foresee a vet visit soon...
  • I've been noticing a couple of habits in my kids that need to see some change. Right now, there's been the morning chores - rarely do they get done without me, at some point, bellowing like a bull moose about how they all need to get done before playtime. The thought eventually came to me (I'm a little slow) that I'm training Dan to use the toilet with positive reinforcement (m&ms, in this case), so why not the others? So, the deal is, they have 30 minutes (a timer is set) to complete all their chores without me reminding them. If they get them all done without my nagging, they can have a couple of m&ms. It's early days, but it went well today. My kids are pretty short-term thinkers, so I know that yummy food that they don't normally get would speak to them. I'd love to do something longer term, like if they do it for a week or month, we'd do something special, but we'll start small and see how we go.
  • There are some other areas we're working on, namely acting selfishly and stirring up division. There is prayer and discussion going on, but practical measures are still so new and unsure that the jury is still out on their effectiveness. Time will surely tell!
  • Noah is learning how to cut wood. Amazingly, there have been no stitches or severed fingers...yet.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Glassified Roughage...

...otherwise known as "salad in a jar".

Have you tried this yet? If you haven't, you really ought to. I've seen the ideas in a couple of place on Pinterest, but since I'm not on there for Lent (and I haven't been!), I was able to remember this clever blog, aptly named Salad in a Jar. Her recommendations are great starting off points, though I've been able to make this thing work even without a vacuum sealer. I'd certainly suggest checking Pinterest for other people's genius, but I think the general principle is as follows:
  • a couple of tablespoons of dressing on the bottom
  • toppings that can stand up to dressing, like bacon, nuts, carrots or mushrooms
  • any other veggies you like until the jar is half full
  • fill the rest of the jar with as much lettuce as you can pack in.
It seems to me that the less air there is in the jar, the longer the lettuce keeps, which is why the vacuum sealer is so effective. I've found, though, that stuffing it in nice and tight does pretty much the same thing. Just make sure that the lettuce and dressing don't touch one another, or the lettuce will turn slimy.

In the jars above, we have ranch dressing on the bottom, followed by almonds, bacon, cous cous, cucumber, tomato and the lettuce. I've found they last for about a week, if they're not eaten before. Toby's been stealing them for his lunch, which works out really well - it's so much easier (and just as filling) to grab a prepared bit of green on a busy morning.

And I can assure you, every morning in this house is busy.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Some reading

So, I'm working on my booklist for the year. Here's what I think of my reading material:

Gift from the Sea - A friend gifted this to me a few years ago, and I'd tried to get into it a few times, but inevitably put it down for other things. This time, I was determined.
It's a gentle, rather lyrical attempt at one woman's introspection and priority evaluation during a vacation at her sea-side home. It's nice, it's poetic, it has something to say knowing wisely caring for yourself, but I just wasn't getting into it. I found the author's writing style rather distracting, like I was sifting through the words to understand what she was saying. There are other books that cover "mother-care" and knowing why it is we do what we do from a godly perspective that nourished my soul much more.

The Wingfeather Saga: Volumes 1 & 2 - I'd read about these books on a couple of blogs - they came with glowing recommendations, so I was really excited to find that I could get two of the three books out at the library. The first in the series, On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness: Adventure Peril, Lost Jewels, and the Fearsome Toothy Cows of Skree, introduces the reader to the Igiby family, living in the fictional town of Glipwood under the tyrannical rule of Gnag the Nameless and terrorized by his minions, the Fangs. Written primarily for older kids/young adults (think Harry Potter), it still has enough to grab me, and I know my kids will love it - there's humor, suspense, intrigue, fantastical creatures, daring escapes and heroic rescues. And a snotwax candle. The second book, North! Or Be Eaten: Wild escapes. A desperate journey. And the ghastly Fangs of Dang, is just as exciting. What's going to happen to these ordinary kids who find themselves in amazing circumstances? The author does a great job of drawing you into the story, and I'm looking forward on getting started on Volume 3, The Monster in the Hollows. I would definitely recommend them for older kids, adults or as a family read aloud.

At Home - This was the first book I read this year, and while I wouldn't call it easy reading, it was pretty good. If you're at all familiar with Bill Bryson's writing, you'll know it's funny, though not as much so as some others. He basically takes the reader on a tour through the house, discussing the various histories of the rooms themselves and the impact they had on society. In the bathroom, for instance, you learn not just about the first flush toilet, but on the beginning of the organized sewage system and general hygiene in the 1800s. It doesn't sound very interesting, and if you're not a history fan, you may well want to move on by, but I really enjoyed reading about the gardener-architect that designed London's original Crystal Palace, some of the amazing dynamics that occurred between hired help and "the masters", and how little things like quality cement affected American trade and expansion. Most of all, it made me grateful to live in the time period I do.

I'm currently working on Give Them Grace and 7. Give Them Grace is going to take some time and require some brain power and note-taking, but I think I (and the kids) will benefit from a careful going-over. I'm nearly done with 7 - it's due back at the library soon! - and I'm pretty sure I'll have some good takeaways from it, as well.

Read anything good lately?

Friday, March 15, 2013

Calling the shots

I was in Panera a little while ago, sitting quietly with my thoughts and a latte. Within five minutes of sitting down, I notice two different families with toddlers/two-year olds, and these little kids were totally owning their parents.
One little girl was wandering all over the joint (with mom trailing behind), pulling out coffee stirrers and playing in the cutlery holders, and the other was protesting the notion of leaving, while her parents were trying to convince her of the plethora of joys that exist at home. What caught my attention was not the kids so much as it was their parents - they weren't parenting, they were negotiating.
I was grabbed by the scenarios that were playing out before me, mainly because I am realizing that I am often guilty of the same "parenting" style, which isn't really parenting at all. Cleaning up their messes is needful (kids are super messy, at least mine are) and I am all about trying to leave a public place without them totally losing their rag, but the more children I have and the older they get, the more I see that this isn't enough.  I daily face the temptation to reason with an unreasonable child, or simply fix what they've wrecked because it's easier than teaching and correcting and dealing with the fallout. In some ways, it can just be easier to let our kids call the shots and adapt. But here's what I'm learning:
  1. God has made us the parents, and given us the job of raising and training them. If they have a problem with that (and at times, they will), their beef is with God, not us.
  2. We don't (or shouldn't) train and correct them to make our own lives easier - that's a happy consequence of a well-trained child. We (should) train them to know and love God and to serve Him joyfully. It's about His glory, not ours.
  3. One day, Lord willing, our children will no longer be little ones under our direction and care, but adults that need to interact with the world around them. Are we preparing them for that day, or just trying to survive with our nerves intact until bedtime? Are we creating a culture where they are used to getting their own way? If so, they're going to be in for a terrible shock when they realize the rest of the world is not geared for their preference, nor impressed by their tantrums.
  4. We are all, newborn to centenarian, made to worship. We will worship something. Our actions, words and attitudes reveal what we worship, and when our children make a career out of getting their own way and our career is to stay out of that way, we are only confirming what is already in their hearts - that the cult of "Self" is worthy of worship. As parents, it is our God-ordained responsibility to redirect our children's hearts to the only One worthy of our worship. We do that by reminding them of the Word, by teaching compassion and consideration of others, and insisting on obedience as God Himself does (Eph 6:1).
We are not parenting for ourselves, but for our Lord.  We need not apologize for the boundaries we must place around our children, but explain them. We don't insist on obedience because we're something special, but because God's promises are worth it. So, parents, let's not apologize for calling the shots, but stand firm in the Lord and hang onto His promises

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Make Your Own

I like convenience cooking, I admit it. It's not so much that I don't like chopping and whisking - quite the contrary - but sometimes I'm tired, hungry and out of time (actually, I'd say that's probably accurate most of the time). I do not, however, like to pay money for substandard ingredients, especially when I can make my own (insert food here) cheaper and better than the store's version.
So, for any other convenience-but-conscience-stricken cooks out there, here are a few suggestions for some good make-your-own box mixes:
In each case, it's pretty much a matter of mixing up the dry ingredients, sticking them in a labelled Ziploc bag with the wet ingredients you'll need written on the front, and storing them in the freezer until you need them (freezer storage keeps longer and protects from critters).
I've even managed to have my girls make some goodies by handing them the bag and having them follow the instructions. I'm all about making it easy for my kids to cook!
Once you try these, I dare you to look around your kitchen and see what you can do some advance prep for - I wouldn't have even thought about the pudding mix except for the fact that I was in the middle of making the Amish Friendship Bread and didn't have the boxed stuff to hand.
"Necessity is the mother of Invention", right?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Right now...

  • My girls are making cookies. All by themselves.  They look great.
  • Daniel is on day one of potty training. So far, he's peed a few times on the potty, twice on the floor and once down the vent in his bedroom. Lord, help me...
  • I'm reading a book that's making me want to get rid of most of my clothes and eat better. Kind of.
  • Toby preached on Sunday, and of course, did an excellent job. One of the nicest things I can say about my husband's preaching is that I enjoy sitting under it. How often does a wife say that?! If you want to hear, visit here - he preached on "Jesus, the Great High Priest".
  • Dan had a great birthday last week. We had dinner at Chick-Fil-A and the kids played in the play place, then we came home for cake. He was so cute - he got so excited about his "3" cake! I didn't tell him how easy it was - bundt cake cut roughly in half and "arranged", iced and covered in m&ms - because he wouldn't have cared.
  • Speaking of cake, Toby made this one a couple times recently. It is so good, you must try it. Besides, there's something exciting about making a cake in a cast iron skillet.
  • I'm going to my very first ever book club this evening. I'm very excited, which makes me sound kind of geeky, but I don't care - if "geeky" means hanging out with cool people talking about books and eating baked goods, then that's a label I'm happy to wear.

Friday, March 8, 2013

I am Motivated

Everyone has their own way of planning their day, scheduling their responsibilities and basically just getting stuff done.  Some methods work better than others - when I was in high school and college, I could do my laundry and reorganize my room at 2am, if the fancy grabbed me.  Now? Not so much. When you have a family to care for, the work load increases, your capacity to receive help (should) increase, but the head space to keep on top of everything tends to decrease.  Call it age, call it baby-brain or whatever you will, the mom-brain could do with a little help.
While coffee is a dear friend, the Motivated Moms app has been a great tool for keeping the house in order, the kids directed and my blood pressure normal.  This is essentially an all year-round household chores list.  It's got almost all of the normal chores you'd need to do pre-programmed and breaks it down into easy, daily chunks. It's customizable as well, so you can add on your own, unique jobs. MoMo allows you to categorize the jobs by room or by the person responsible for getting it done, and even has a built-in daily Bible reading feature.
We've been using this app for a couple months now, and it's been great.  The kids like checking off their jobs as they complete them, Irregular jobs are getting done more regularly, and I rarely feel overwhelmed by all there is to do because it'll get done eventually and there's no worry I'll forget. I've even cleaned our A/C filter!
As an app, the cost is more than I would usually pay, but it's been so worth it.  They've got a great 2-week free trial - a "try before you buy", if you will - that definitely hooked me.
If one of your resolutions for the new year was to get organized or you wanted to give up disorder and chaos for Lent, the MoMo app might help. It won't keep you kids from climbing the wall, though - if anyone finds that app, please let me know!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


How is is possible that in 3 short years, this...


...has grown into this?
My son, the one I call "full time". He's marvelous and funny and infuriating and fast and messy and loud and affectionate and I can't imagine life without him.
Happy Birthday, Dan-Dan.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

For the boys

A new car seat cover, in decidedly masculine colors... in the shop.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Baby photos...

 ...because I haven't posted photos in a while, and because he's beautiful and I love him.