Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Singing liturgy

Last Sunday Jonathan realized that he could sing quite a few parts of the liturgy with me. I wish you could have seen the look of pleasure/joy/wonder/pride/self-consciousness on his face. It was perfect.

It is so hard, so often, to keep the kids quiet in church, to try, over and over and over, to focus their attention. There are so many times when I throw up my hands in frustration or take them home in tears (me, not them!)

And then there are days like September 26th, 2010, when I remember that it is all worth it.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Reason number 683 why I love my backyard...

It is such a great place for summer water play! I don't even worry about wasting water, because it is giving my grass and garden a nice long soak (one sorely needed in this heat!)

Jonathan and Thomas are playing "Fireman Sam" here - it made me smile because they were forced to work together in order to play (holding their fire hose together was a two person job) and they did without fighting!

Sunday evening it was so hot that I lost my head entirely. We went to the store and bought ice cream and cones, and that was what we ate for dinner. (Well, not me, because I'm still not eating sugar. I made a smoothie.) The boys were sure I'd gone crazy, but they definitely enjoyed it!

Friday, September 24, 2010


Jonathan: Mommy, I love you. Even when you do bad things.

Emily: Thank you...when do I do bad things?

Jonathan: Well, we're born sinners.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

There is corn syrup in EVERYTHING!!!

My bottle of so-called "100% pure vanilla extract", is NOT. Turn the bottle around and check the ingredients...corn syrup.

You can't trust anything.

A den of baby bears

We also made this fun project - a bear that eats "berries"! The base is made of an empty square kleenex box.

Project credit: Your Big Backyard magazine
(Speaking of which, this is a great Christmas gift for kids. We gave YBB and Ranger Rick to our kids last Christmas, and they LOVE getting one each month.)


You know you've found an effective consequence when your child begs "oh please could I just have a spanking instead??"

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Kitchen remodel, finished

I've been very remiss in posting these photos. The kitchen has been finished for about a month. Still, better late than never? (That seems to have been our contractor's theory, certainly, perhaps it rubbed off on me!)

Speaking of our contractor, I highly suggest that you avoid Higher Quality Construction, JS Construction, and/or Carl Bailey. (They do not have a website - they get work through home shows such as this one.) These people were a disaster to work with. When they showed up, they generally did pretty good work, but weeks went by between the days they were working. Once I was told that they couldn't come because someone couldn't find a babysitter. Seriously.

Also, there were major cash flow problems. Even though we paid in advance for our supplies, we were told multiple times that they couldn't finish our kitchen because someone else hadn't paid them yet. Carl put a lot of pressure on me to pay him the final "completion" payment ahead of time so they could "speed up the process". Thankfully by that point we'd learned something, and told him "no" in no uncertain terms! For some weeks towards the end, we were afraid we'd end up needing to take them to court to try to get our money back.

The last day the crew was here, they had forgotten a couple of pieces of wood and couldn't finish the last few things (a panel here, a build out there - small, but needed). The two men who were working here (Carl's sons) talked each missing piece over with me and agreed to come back the next week to finish it up. I was supposed to call them if I found anything else amiss.

I didn't find anything else, so I didn't call them. Only to discover that the sons hadn't told Carl what we'd discussed, so he hadn't gotten the supplies...and he had the gall to yell at me for not telling him.

We told him not to come back. We'd reserved a small portion of his fee, to be paid on final completion of those last parts (gosh, and did he ever hate that!) and so did not pay him that last amount. We'll use it to finish on our own.

So here is our kitchen. I'm glad it is done, but if we ever have to do this again, we'll save until we can afford the non-discount contractor. Lesson learned.

But isn't it pretty??!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Bye, Namy-namy

My parents, known to the kids as Grandmommy and Granddad, spent the day with us today. This evening during prayer time, Josiah asked to pray for "Namy-namy" who went "bye".

How do you like your new name, Grandmommy?

We tried to get him to say "Granddad" but apparently that one is harder. It came out "Namy-namy-daddy". :)

We miss you already!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


Josiah knows the letter "B"! Which feels a bit surreal, since he only just learned to say it. :) But he knows it, all right - he recognized it in a book, reading with his therapist this morning, and he just pointed it out while watching Boz the Bear.

I think it is so cool what little minds can do when they're surrounded by letters and words and books!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Jonathan's photography 3



This morning Josiah got down from the table, took his unfinished oatmeal to the refrigerator, and his empty cup to the sink. Without being asked!

There really are some aspects of parenting and teaching that get easier with more children, because the younger ones are copying the kids you've been training. Yay Josiah! And yay Jonathan and Thomas, who are consistently clearing their places!

Monday, September 13, 2010

High cesarean rates linked with for-profit hospitals

Nathanael Johnson at California Watch just broke this story, and it is a disturbing read. Cesarean rates are dependent on a wide variety of factors, and most people know that individual practitioners have different comfort levels with vaginal birth. But these statistics go far beyond individual practitioners. Not only the doctor you choose but also the hospital where you deliver will significantly affect your ability to birth non-surgically.

Los Angeles Community Hospital comes in at the top with a whopping 47% cesarean rate for LOW RISK women. Compare to Riverside County Regional, which has a rate of only 9% (within the acceptable limit as stated by the World Health Organization*). It is worth asking questions about this disparity.

And for those who are pregnant or want to get pregnant: choose your doctor and your hospital with care. In depth statistics are available.

* World Health Organization, UNFPA, UNICEF, and AMDD. Monitoring Emergency Obstetric Care: A Handbook. Geneva: World Health Organization, 2009. (Thanks to Gina for the reference.)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Business names - feedback wanted!

I'm working on coming up with a name for my doula business. My husband's first suggestion was "Crowning Achievement" which left us both laughing. :) Our best serious idea so far is "Emerging Peace Doula Services". I want to specialize in VBAC births, and I like the double meaning of the name in that context. So many women do achieve peace about their previous cesareans after a successful, peaceful VBAC.

So without starting an argument about whether or not a woman needs to find peace after a cesarean, ;) I'd love some feedback about the name. What connotations does it have for you? What images come immediately to mind? Does it have any religious implications (of any sort)? Etc.?

Thank you!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Art study: Vincent van Gogh

Part of our schooling this fall includes a Charlotte Mason style approach to art. We pick an artist, and then study one of his paintings every week or two. Art study day is really exciting - we make a big deal out of it! First we sit on the couch and look at our picture (no one gets to look at it until then - it is a big secret). I encourage the boys to tell me what they see, asking questions to prompt them if they run out of ideas. After awhile, we turn the picture over and I ask them to describe it in as much detail as they can, from memory. I find it very interesting to see what sticks in their memory, as it is usually different from what sticks in mine!

And after all that, we get out our paints and copy it!

Here is what resulted today:

I found it fascinating that Jonathan was so deliberate about the night sky with stars (you can't see the details well in the picture, but there are stars in those upper middle splashes of blue) and the green tree, and the orangey-brown terrace, and the blue post on the left and the chairs and table in the bottom middle, but used very little yellow/orange. I asked him about it and he said "well, that's enough." Whereas when I look at the picture, my eye sees nothing but yellow/orange until I really pay attention.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Good-for-you hot chocolate

It has been unusually chilly and overcast this past week. Starbucks has rolled out their fall ad campaign, and even though I know that I don't really want a mocha or hot chocolate...I still think that I do. It is wrapped up with my idea of warm and comforting and snuggly. Darn advertisers.

So I found an alternative. :) The original recipe came from Meghan Telpner's blog, Making Love in the Kitchen. I've made quite a few changes, because frankly, I am nowhere close to her level of health food finesse and enjoyment. Here's what I came up with, and trust me, you'll want to try it. Chocolaty goodness, comforting as a warm blanket and a good book!

Good-for-you hot chocolate

3 T. cocoa powder (if you have it, use raw cacao powder instead)
1-2 T. chia seed "glop" (what you get when you mix chia seeds with water, 9:1, and let sit overnight)
1 T. coconut oil
1-2 T. evaporated cane juice
1/4 t. maca root powder
1/4 t. vanilla
nutmeg or cinnamon if desired
handful baby spinach
1 and 1/2 c. milk or almond milk

Put it all in a blender and blend until smooth and frothy. If you're using a vitamix, 5 minutes on high will give you hot chocolate! If using a typical blender, you'll just need to heat it later. The original recipe recommends pouring it through a strainer before drinking, but I think that with my recipe it is just fine without straining. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Another "little thing" that really helps!

Another kitchen tip. I have no idea why it took me so very long to try this; maybe just because no one does it! I bought a bathroom towel rod and installed it in the kitchen. This is the wall just to the right of our sink and dishwasher.

Now I always know where my towel is. It isn't falling on the floor because someone opened the drawer that was holding it up. And my dishcloths don't go sour! Love that!

Josiah was helping me get ready for this blog post. He's being especially adorable today. :)

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

At least I'm in good company...

Apparently Danielle Bean freaks out about homeschooling too. Only she does it so eloquently!
There is something about the broad responsibility of homeschooling that makes me feel like, no matter what, I must be doing it wrong. Or not enough. Or I am using the wrong books, or I shouldn’t be using books, or my kids aren’t getting out enough, or they are getting out too much, or I have too rigid a schedule, or I have too loose a schedule, or I am doing too much housework at the expense of the kids’ educations, or I am educating the children at the expense of basic sanitation, or I am paying too much attention to the little kids and not enough to the big kids, or I am paying too much attention to the big kids and not enough to the little kids, or …

Well, maybe you get the idea.

This is just the funny part - the rest is definitely worth reading and pondering.

First day of school!

Jonathan was so excited about his first day of Kindergarten.

We decorated and filled his very own school box - pencils, paintbrushes, tape, glue, scissors, etc.

He chose to start out by learning our weekly folk song: A Tisket, A Tasket, and then illustrating it. Then a page of handwriting. So far he's done three or four pages of math-u-see - I've lost track, because he took them with him during quiet time and periodically hands me another one, "all done!" What else...oh, we read a BOB book, too.

The littles colored and then added stickers to their artwork. After that, they were very entertained by the puffballs! Thomas is getting better at sorting by color, and Siah just likes throwing them up in the air. :)

Quiet time just ended. Jonathan came running out and asked "can we do some more school now?"

I'd call that a pretty good start. :)

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Short story

Thomas: Once upon a time, there were three chickens and a cow.


Mommy: I want to hear the rest of the story.

Thomas: Well, it is a very short story.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

A couple of good deals this week...

Just in case you want to go shopping, here are a couple of good deals that I'll be picking up this week. This is likely the last good week for back to school deals. I've been stocking up both for our family and for the school supply drives that are going on at area churches.


Buy 5 Staples Filler Paper 8″x10.5″ 120 sheets 9¢ each
Buy 2 Staples Photo Supreme Paper 8.5″x11″ 50 pack $14.99-$14.74 Easy Rebate = 25¢
Buy2 HP 8.5″x11: Multi-Purpose Paper 500 sheets $5.99 – $4.99 Easy Rebate = $1ea
Buy 1 Staples Tiger Paper Clips 100 pack $0.25ea
Buy 1 Command White Poster Strips 12 pack $1ea
Buy 5 Staples Fashion Notebooks and Composition books $1ea
Buy 2 Ticonderoga #2 Pencils 12 pack $1ea

Total: $50.66
- $10/$50 office depot coupon (Staples honors this as a competitor coupon)
- $0.75 Command product coupon (8/8 SS)
= $39.91
Receive $39.46 in rebates
OOP = $0.45 + tax (Awesome, yes?)

(This deal is my own, but thanks go to Collin for the original list of prices!)

And if you're in need of diapers, CVS is the place to be this week. Here's what I plan to purchase:

1 box Huggies snug and dry $20
2 Johnson's baby lotion $5

Use $4/$20 purchase coupon (the magic coupon machine has been giving me these every week - see if you get one, too!)
Use 2 $1/1 Johnson's lotion coupons from the 8/15 RP
Use $3/1 box Huggies coupon here

Pay $16 + tax, and receive $10 back in ecbs. Net cost of $6+tax for a box of diapers AND baby lotion! :)

Little things that make a big difference

Running the dishwasher every night. Yes, this means I'm sometimes running it when it isn't technically quite full. And guilt over that is what kept me from doing it for the past few years! But the fact is that if I run it every night and we put the clean dishes away every morning, it is just part of our routine. And an easy part, at that! Now I never have to wonder "are they clean, or are they dirty?" and I'm not trying to fit in an "extra" chore at odd times of the day. Also, because it is now part of the morning routine, the kids do (most of) it for me. :)

Which brings me to another little thing:

Morning chores. Every morning, after breakfast and before anyone does anything else, we do our morning chores. Everyone gets dressed, the house get picked up (each child generally has his own section for this), a load of laundry is started, and the dishwasher is emptied. It is such a helpful way to start the morning! And the kids are so good at it, now, that it isn't all that difficult.

Hurray for routines!

Photo from Getty Images

Friday, September 03, 2010

Peachy Waffles

Mmm, dinner was good last night!

I love making food that tastes amazing and is really good for you! So many people think that "eating healthy" means you can't have anything delicious, which is so sad! They should come eat at my house for awhile. :)

Here are the recipes, for your future dining pleasure:

Peach syrup

5 cups of cut up peaches (not too small!)
1/2 t. lemon juice
1/4 c. evaporated cane juice
1-2 t. corn starch

Stir together in saucepan and simmer until thickened!

(adjusted from a recipe in Joy of Cooking, and doubled)

5 eggs
1/4 c. butter (this can be further reduced or eliminated, if desired and if you have a really well seasoned waffle iron)
1/4 c. coconut oil
3 c. milk
1 t. salt
3 and 1/2 c. whole wheat pastry flour, mixed with 2 T. baking powder

I mix this in my VitaMix, adding ingredients in the order they're written here, which makes it go incredibly quickly. It is just barely the right amount (almost too much!) so you have to baby it along just a tad, but I love doing it this way. I can pour directly onto the waffle iron and clean-up is a breeze!

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Why we're homeschooling this year

I've blogged about our schooling decision, and before that, a long post about my thought process. I believe that we are doing the right thing. But I'm anxious and afraid, and it is sometimes hard to remember all the reasons why I am making this choice. So. A reminder for myself.

Why I think homeschooling is important this year:

Jonathan needs two quiet times each day. Even when I think he doesn’t, or shouldn’t, or could get away without them…he needs them. Without that structured time of being calm and still, he gets overwhelmed and falls apart so much more easily.

Kids are mean. This will always be true, but when he’s older he’ll have learned and matured to a better ability to process and handle it. Why throw him into a situation that is guaranteed to cause tears?

Getting everyone out the door in the early morning would not be exactly easy!

Fewer issues of “he has; I want” (hopefully!)

More time for us to work on instilling character qualities.

I can educate him at his pace. He already understands far more of the basics of reading than most kids entering kindergarten. And if he’s bored, he’s more likely to act up.

He can remain part of the fabric of daily life. I think it is as important to learn to empty the dishwasher and sort socks, as it is to learn subtraction. (Note: I do not say more important than subtraction, just that they are both important.)

No wasted time – he can learn about policemen through conversation rather than “social studies”.

Lots of time to play. Because he's only five.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

It is quiet time...

and I'm listening to my oldest child sing along to Saint-Saëns' Carnival of the Animals. Oh, it warms my heart to hear him internalizing and enjoying good music!

We purchased a fantastic cd of Tchaikovsky's Peter and the Wolf, as well as Saint-Saëns Carnival of the Animals, and Britten's Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra, all narrated by Leonard Bernstein. The boys have been listening to it almost exclusively for the past three weeks during quiet time. They love it. Because of their interest, I followed that up with a purchase of this book, which I'd had my eye on after seeing it at Jessica's house. Now the boys fight over who gets the book to look at while they listen. :)

Does anyone have recommendations for other music/book combinations that have similar kid appeal? I'd love ideas!