Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Most Feared Word in the English Language: TEENAGER

That's right, as of today, a teenager lives in my house. Even weirder, I gave birth to her. Our oldest daughter, Kora, in turning 13 today! What a bittersweet milestone. The title notwithstanding, Kora is actually a wonderful daughter and a joy to have in the house.

Kora is very musically talented, and loves horses. In some ways she's still a little girl, but other days I get glimpses of the woman she will become. When I think that she has only a few more years in our household, it scares me to death. There's so much I want to teach her, and I can't imagine the house without her.

But most of all, what I want to know is who gave her permission to go from this:
and this:
to this:
or this:
and this?!?
Happy birthday, Kora! Thank you for making me a mommy.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Sometimes you can't escape THOSE conversations even when you only have 2 of your kids with you...

I had to take Ashlynn and Brynna to our family doctor today for check-ups. I left the others at home with our oldest, who is now old enough to watch them for a little while.

A gentleman walked in after we had been there for a few minutes, checked in, then sat on the other side of Ashlynn from me. He was smiling at her and talking to her. Then he looks at me, then at Brynna who was sitting on the other side of me from Ashlynn, and asked me, "So how'd you manage that? A red head and a blonde?"

Me: Well, I've got a couple of brunettes at home, too.

Him: You mean you have FOUR kids?

Me: No, I have 6. I also have another red head and another blonde at home too.

Him (with his eyes bugging out of his head): You have SIX kids? You need to teach your husband what a television is!

I didn't dare reply to that one.

Him: You really have 6 kids? You don't look old enough to have six. How old are you, anyway?

Me: Older than I look, evidently. [No joke, I actually get this a lot.] My oldest is 13 and this (pointing to Ashlynn) is the baby.

Him: Six, hmm. (Silence for a couple of minutes.) Are any of them adopted?

Me, laughing: No.

Him: Did your husband have some already when you married?

Me, figuring this guy isn't going to give it up: No. I had all of them. I'm 36 and had my first when I was 23.

Him: You're 36?!? No way you look 36! (Turns to the 3 other people in the waiting room) Do you think she looks 36? I just turned 60! (Not sure what this had to do with anything.)

Silence for a minute.

Him: So, you had all of them yourself? Thirty-six and already have 6 kids. Are you trying to set some sort of record?

Me: No. We just like kids.

Brynna pipes up here: Especially girls!

Me, laughing: Yeah, they're all girls.

Him: ALL GIRLS? I can't even imagine having 6 kids, let alone 6 girls.

He went on to tell me a funny story he had heard from a Christian comedian about dating. I also notice that the tattoo on his arm says something about God on it. Then he continued.

Him: I like kids, too. I drive a school bus and it's the best job I've had in my whole life. You know what the Bible calls children, right?

Me: Yes, I do.

Him: It calls them blessings. And you've been blessed a lot.

Me: Yes, I have.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Moving On

We had a bit of a sad day today. Kora's been taking piano lessons from Ms. Penny for about two and a half years, and today was her last lesson with Ms. Penny. Ms. Penny is "handing her off" to the teacher in the conservatory that teaches the more difficult literature. In other words, Ms. Penny gets 'em young and gets 'em ready. We are so pleased Kora's progress during these last few years. Kora cried today, hugging her teacher 'bye, though she'll still see her often. But Ms. Penny will always have a special place in Kora's heart - and mine. :-)

This picture was taken after the spring recital in May.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Potluck Survival Guide

PhotobucketPotluck Survival Guide by Cherie Kimmons

Price: $18.96, regularly $24.95

I was really looking forward to getting a look at this cookbook. This is no ordinary cookbook; this book was written just for bringing dishes to feed a crowd. We have a small church and we eat together at least twice a month. This is not counting the get-togethers with other groups or with other families. Needless to say, I'm constantly looking for new things to bring.

The author, Cherie Kimmons, did a great job bringing this collection together. After years of bringing dishes to feed her kids' sports teams and other activities, she put together what is really MORE than a cookbook. She has guidelines for what to feed kids before a game and what to give them after, ideas for buffet meals (like a potato bar or waffle bar), a great chart for multiplying quantities of everything from meat and pasta to muffins for a crowd. She includes decorating ideas and even help if you are the one in charge of planning the entire menu for an event, not just bringing a dish or two. There are instructions on cooking up large quantities of the staples, such as boiling chicken or cooking pasta. She also has helpful hints on making dishes kid-pleasing. She emphasizes dishes that are relatively inexpensive and easy to make, though there is a lot of latitude in that. For instance her seafood dishes would obviously cost more, where as the macaroni and cheese would not.

The bulk of the book is spent on recipes. I was very pleasantly surprised that the recipes were not all casseroles. In fact, not all of them are main dishes. She has a great variety of side dishes (which is something I struggle with coming up with for a potluck), desserts, breakfast items, etc. One of my favorite features of the book is that nearly every recipe has notes on the side with ways to make variations of the dishes so that it can be made multiple ways. Some have alternate meat ideas, or different vegetable to add, a different sauce, etc.

Last week, I was able to make a couple of the dishes from the book for our church's potluck lunch, including one of the "Hall of Fame Recipes" which are select recipes from the book that are her never-fail-people-always-beg-me-for-the-recipe dishes. Both turned out very well. My husband particularly liked the Spicy Baked Beans.

The only downside to the book, and it is a small one, is that I wished it had more hints or directions on cooking for events when you can't cook it at home and then immediately serve it. For instance, at church, we make the dishes at home and then have to either keep them warm in a crockpot or in an oven. But we are all used to that, and it wasn't that hard to adjust the recipes I made for that.

I am looking forward to making more of the recipes in this book. I received this book free to review, but I would definitely have paid money for it if I had seen it in the store! If you cook a lot for groups, you really ought to look into it!

This is a Mama Buzz review. The product was provided by Five Star Publications for this review.

Monday, December 14, 2009


Money Saving Mom, one of my favorite blogs, is having a 24 hour giveaway. She has 5 $100 gift cards to the merchant of your choice to giveaway. So head over here if you are interested in entering.

If you're not already a reader, be sure to stick around and read her blog!

Saturday, December 12, 2009


Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees all others.

Winston Churchill

Friday, December 11, 2009

What's for Supper - revised

I had to revise this 'cause I'm a total dork and forgot to add in the cheese.
Two XL pizzas, one pepperoni, one BBQ chicken.

$1 for the pepperoni (half a package)
$1 for the chicken (BBQ thighs from HEB I grilled then chopped up into 4 helpings and froze)
less than $0.20 for a couple slices of bacon
about $0.05 for chopped onion
about $0.20 for pizza sauce (maybe, maybe more like 10)
a few pennies' worth of BBQ sauce
a few pennies for the ingredients for the pizza dough (which took all of 3 minutes to make)
$1.60 for mozzarella cheese (bought in bulk at Sam's)

Total: Less than $5 for two XL, very yummy pizzas. It's virtually impossible to make ourselves order pizza delivered anymore, especially when the kids PREFER homemade pizza any day of the week!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


We got a check in the mail yesterday.

That doesn't sound like such an earth-shattering event, and it certainly wasn't a large amount, but the source is what has surprised me.

We've all heard about these "billions" of dollars of unclaimed money that the state comptrollers are holding, right? A few weeks back, I saw a link to this site. It lists the links to all 50 states' lists of unclaimed or abandoned property. Even though we have always been very careful with our money and I thought there was no way that we could have money we had forgotten about (how does one forget about money?), I clicked on Texas and started searching for Kelly's name first. After all, he's more forgetful than I am (ducking for cover now...).

I couldn't believe my eyes when his name was on the list! And it was from the medical clinic that I worked for in San Angelo for the last year of college and right before he went active duty. I also saw a couple of the doctors there, especially when I got pregnant with Kora about 6 months before we left town. Since it wasn't in my name, like it would if they had owed me money from my paycheck, I have to assume we over paid a medical co-pay. But really, that's just a guess.

I then checked my name in Texas, his name in Oklahoma (we lived there for 3 years) and my name in Oklahoma. Nothing else showed up, but it was still money we didn't have before, right? Then I looked at the paper work you had to submit to claim it. Then I wasn't sure we would be able to get it because I could find nothing that had the address there in San Angelo on it, to proved we had lived there. Because we were college students, we filed income taxes from his parents' home, since it was listed as our permanent residence. And we had no utility bills, pay stubs or anything left from 13 years ago. Even his orders to enter the military just listed "Texas" as our address.

Finally, I looked at our college transcripts. Fortunately, his had our San Angelo address on it - and his Social Security number which they needed as well. But I still wasn't sure that was sufficient to prove to the Texas state that he was who he said he was. Evidently it was, though, and we received it yesterday.

The moral is, even if you are positively sure it is a waste of time, go here and search anyway. You might be surprised.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Jack Frost Nipping at Your Nose

We are experiencing something resembling a real winter here in South Texas. A couple nights ago, we even had a hard freeze - down to 24 for several hours. This might not sound like a big deal, but if you've ever spent a year here in San Antonio, you know we can go an entire winter without reaching the low 30s, even at night. I think our average high in the winter is in the mid-60s. Yeah, I know, it's sickening.

But over the last week or so we've had more than one freeze, including the hard one Friday night/Saturday morning. Right now it drizzly and in the low 50s. I love the colder weather, but it certainly isn't what we're used to around here!

Funny story about all this:

Saturday morning, as I said, we had a hard freeze overnight. It was 24 degrees when we got up Saturday morning and I took a look outside. My almost 13 year old, Kora, observed, "The grass looks funny and there's this silvery kinda stuff on all the cars. Why does it look like that?"

So I introduced her to "frost." Yes, she's seen things like snow and frost before, but not in several years. So she had to call all her little sisters over to the windows to observe the frostiness. Kelly and I just laughed. Man we've got to take these kids up north sometime and let them see what real winter really is!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Conversations with a 5 year old

Lauryn and Hailey were watching an old Blues Clues video this afternoon. Steve, the host, sings the theme song, which ends like this:

'Cause when we use our minds and take a step at a time,
We can do any THING... that we wanna do!

Then Lauryn talks back to the TV:

"No we can't, we have PARENTS!"

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Talent Show

While we were up at the farm, the kids put on a talent show. I'm not sure who's idea it was, but it was one of Kelly's cousins' brainstorms. They must be "fun moms" cause I would have never thought of it. They came up with several categories and the kids chose to be in a few each. It was quite entertaining. I'm glad I wasn't one of the judges!

We started with singing. Aubrey volunteered to sing but then didn't think of anything until she got up there. So she sang "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star."Then her cousin Madison got up there and sang a country song I didn't recognize (which means it came out after 1999). She sounded good - definitely got that country twang!Next came a funny face competition. Aubrey had just eaten a lollipop and dazzled the judges with her scary smurf imitation.However, the winner was little cousin Ian. Not sure what he's supposed to be.
Then came a drawing contest,
a musical instrument contest (Lauryn wanted to play something so this is a little harp like thing that hangs by the front door)

and a "fashion show."

Then came a crazy hair contest. Brynna won this one. I died laughing when I saw her because, as I told her, she looked just like my pictures from my sophomore year in high school! Minus the red hair of course.
Next came the eating contest. the fastest person to eat a roll and drink a glass of water wins.
I don't know what Lauryn was thinking but this was the category she wanted to be in the most. This is the girl who takes twice as long as any of us to eat a meal. We've been known to wipe off the table around her! Needless to say, her cousin Tucker beat her by a landslide.
Then we went outside to see who could hold their breathe under water the longest. Fortunately it wasn't that cold. I still wouldn't have done it, but several did, including several of my girls.

Then we had a contest to see who could throw the ball the farthest.

To my complete shock, Kora won this, much to the dismay of 8 year old Tucker, the oldest male cousin at the farm.

If we had had a cutest baby contest, Amy's baby Kodah would have won. Isn't he adorable?
They had such a good time, and the adults had aching sides when it was over. Too funny!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Lauryn is 5!

While we were gone on our Thanksgiving trip, Lauryn celebrated a birthday. She's 5 now!

Aubrey celebrated a birthday just before we left for our trip and we actually did two candles and both girls opened presents then. This way Daddy wouldn't miss the big event.
But we still had to have cake and ice cream on her real birthday, of course. We have a tradition of allowing the birthday girl to plan the menu on her birthday (within reason of course, fortunately no one has asked for steamed lobster or anything!). Lauryn wanted cinnamon rolls and orange danish rolls for breakfast, pigs-in-a-blanket for lunch and Lady's Chicken Noodle Soup for supper. Oh and when asked what kind of ice cream she wanted, she said, "you know, that white kind."
(Yes, I know that the candle says "1" but it was the only candle in my parents' house. We gave her the choice, but she decided a 1 candle was better than no candle at all.)

Lauryn is my little pixie. Though she's tall, she's tiny and just seems to flit through life. She's a bit mischievous but she always makes us laugh. She's also got a sharp little brain hiding behind the blond hair and blue eyes.

I have to tell another story about her that made me laugh. The day of her birthday, we had to go to the grocery store to get a couple of things, including the "white ice cream." When we got to the store I put Ashlynn in the cart. Lauryn asked to get in the cart too, but this cart only had room for one child. Plus she's getting too big for me to pick up and her legs are too long to get into a toddler seat in the shopping cart. So I told her she was too big.

A few minutes later she told me:

L: Mama, if was still 4, I would want in that cart.

Me: But now that you are 5, you don't want in it anymore?

L: (sigh) No, I still want in it!
Happy birthday, Lauryn (who is very into mermaids right now)!

Sunday, November 29, 2009


Whew! What a week! We have traveled what seems like the entire state of Texas in the last week, which is no small feat. But we are now home and in the process of celebrating Advent!

Last Friday the girls and I left San Antonio and drove to Odessa, where my parents live and where my grandmother is now living in a nursing home. The home is only about 2 minutes away from my parents' house, so it was very convenient to go and visit with Grandmama. She was very ill back in February and March and is no longer able to live by herself. So once she was well enough to leave the hospital in her home town of Abilene, she moved to the nursing home in Odessa so she could be close to my mom.

We had a great visit with my parents and grandmother. We even celebrated a birthday while we were there, though I'll save the details for a later post. I didn't get to post much while I was gone but that's because I was too busy spending time with family. My mom and I baked and cooked a birthday dinner, went to visit my grandmother, and even did a little shopping. The girls played and watched movies.

On Wednesday morning we said goodbye to my family and loaded up the suburban for another trip, this time up into the panhandle to a farm outside the little town of Dickens, Texas. Kelly's grandparents have farmed there for decades and his aunt, uncle and cousins live there as well.

Kelly stayed home in San Antonio the first part of this trip to work on Monday and Tuesday. Then he caught a flight to Dallas early Wednesday morning. His dad picked him up at the airport and then the two of them drove to meet us at the farm. When we were planning this trip the tricky part was how to get Kelly to the farm. Kelly's dad had already planned on spending Thanksgiving at the farm, so we found a cheap ticket to Dallas - cheaper than gas would have been for him to drive. His dad was thrilled to have a driving companion at least one way. So it worked out quite nicely.

The kids had a blast on the farm! There is so much room to run around out there and there were tons of cousins to play with. Technically I think they are either third cousins or second cousins-twice-removed, but who can keep up with that? They were Kelly's cousins' kids, and they all had a ball. As usual, my allergies and asthma went haywire, and I had to use my nebulizer quite a bit, but fortunately I can play dominoes one handed. Kelly's allergies acted up too, and now he's fighting what seems to be a sinus infection, but it was still a good trip.

Saturday we finally made it home (squeezing a 5.5 hour trip into 6.5 hours) and are settling in for the Christmas season. I hope all of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Wright on Time - a review

Lisa Cottrell-Bentley kept looking for book for her home schooled kids to read that had home schooled kids as characters. She never could find any, so she decided to write some herself. Wright on Time, Book 1: Arizona is the first of a series of books which features the Wright family. The Wrights are your typical home school family - that is if your typical family has a dad who is fluent in several languages and writes magazine articles, a mom who is a software engineer, and the whole family sells their home to buy an RV in which they travel the country. During their travels, they plan on learning about history and science as they visit each state in the country, though I read that the RV will not be making it to Hawaii.

In Arizona, the family rents a cave for the day. The daughter, Nadia, is a bit of a science nut and can't wait to mine out some minerals. The younger son, Aidan, just wants to find bats. Lots and lots of bats. Bats are "freaky cool" - unlike the stale-egg-mites his sister keeps talking about. But the Wright family's adventure is a learning experience for all four members, especially when they find a mysterious object embedded in the cave wall.

Wright on Time, Book 1 was a fun, light-hearted book with fun science facts thrown in, much in the same vein as the Magic Tree house books. My 8 year old enjoyed the book and is already wondering what the family will be doing in Utah, the setting for book 2. It's well-written, and it is fun to have books with home schoolers as the lead characters. Another thing I appreciated is that the parents are important characters in the lives of the kids. The author is also looking for ideas for the series. If you check out the website you can suggest places for the Wright family to visit when they arrive in your state!

The age recommendation for this book is 5-12, but I think it should be more like 5-10.

We are looking forward to further installments in the Wright on Time series!

This was a review for Mama Buzz. I received a free copy of this book, valued at $12.99, from the publisher, Do Life Right, in exchange for writing this review.

Friday, November 20, 2009

the Ultimate Cloth - Chemical Free Cleaning

This is a Mama Buzz review. The product was provided by Ultimate Cloth America for this review."

Product/Book Name: The Ultimate Cloth



The Ultimate cloth surprised me in some ways. It really has a different feel from most fabric I've ever felt. It claims an "exclusive MiraFiber technology that cleans with just water." The company says the cloths will save you money on chemical cleaners, paper towels, and Swiffer refills, cut your cleaning time in half, and of course reduce the amount of chemicals used in your home.

So I was very interested in giving the Ultimate Cloth a try. And in many ways I was very pleasantly surprised. The cloth does retain water very well and I was able to clean several surfaces with it before needing to rinse or wash it. It did a great job on the mirrors and windows as well as my counter tops and facets. I didn't try it on my Swiffer for the floors, but from my experience with it on other surfaces, I think it would do a great job for that as well.

Now, the down side.

Though I LOVE reusable, non-disposable cleaning products, there were some things I was wary about using the Ultimate Cloth on. The company claims that it will pull up germs and bacteria into it, but even so I did not use it to clean my toilet. The instructions say to wash it in bleach after cleaning a bathroom or kitchen area but I just don't wash many things in bleach at all. Most everything I have is not bleach-able. After using it on ordinary surfaces you can just machine wash it with detergent, but it needs bleach to disinfect it. Most things in my house that are already white are towels and other cleaning rags, but the instructions also say to only wash with lint-free laundry. And it has to be air dried - no dryer. And no fabric softener. So the care instructions are a little high maintenance for me.

And, call me a product of my era, but without some sort of lab test, I was not willing to trust that it was soaking up all the germs from really icky surfaces. This was another reason I wouldn't use it on my toilets. I wanted to KNOW that the toilet was clean. Spraying something on it, even if it is just vinegar and water, does that for me. I did try it on the metal in my shower, and it does not get the water spots off that, though it did great on the glass on the shower, though it was pretty clean to start with.

The other thing is that in my larger-than-normal house with my larger-than-normal family, I would need many, MANY of these cloths to be able to replace all paper towels and cleaning rags. I have not yet decided if that's an investment I'm willing to make yet. At the time I received my free sample, 2 of the standard size are $10 but if you buy 15, it is $45.

Don't get me wrong, I think they are quite good at what they do. I think they would be a great investment for you if:
  • you refuse to use chemicals or want to use as few as possible.
  • you are addicted to Lysol cleaning wipes - this would be a much cheaper alternative.
  • you use a wet Swiffer - these would make great washable alternatives to the disposable cloths.
  • want to keep one in each bathroom for quick touch-up cleaning or for young children to use.
  • you have granite or other specialty surfaces with limit what you can use on them.

Media Blurb:

The Ultimate Cloth is eco-friendly solution for homes as well as a money and time saver. The Ultimate Cloth is a brand new technology – in fact, it is the only cloth to receive a new patent in the last 25 years. The Ultimate Cloth is a simple, green and effective one-step cleaning process. The Ultimate Cloth cleans any hard surface – glass, wood, granite, stainless steel and many more – with just water! No longer do you have to use harsh chemicals in your home, nor do you need spend hundreds of dollars per year buying them. The Ultimate Cloth has been lab tested to remove 96% of bacteria, without the use of chemicals. And, can cut 50% off your cleaning time. The Ultimate Cloth is truly the ultimate in green cleaning.

All of my readers can receive a FREE Ultimate Cloth!

All you need to do is follow Ultimate Cloth America on Twitter or become a fan on facebook:

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Happy Birthday, Aubrey!

I can't believe my little Aubrey is 11 today. I may have told this before but here's a funny story about her birth:

I had a nurse practitioner/midwife deliver Aubrey in a civilian hospital in Oklahoma City when Kelly was stationed there. Like all of our babies, we did not find out via ultrasound the gender of the baby, so when she was born we were, of course, looking forward to finding out if Kora had a sister or a brother.

But the first thing I noticed after she was born and lain on my stomach was her HAIR. "It's got red hair!" I declared in that euphoric, rather stupid post-birth haze.

"She sure does," Ann, my midwife, agreed.

"So it's a girl?" Don't ask me to be grammatically correct after just delivering a 9 pound baby.

Ann split the legs like a chicken wishbone. "Yep!"

And so our second daughter, and first of two redheads, was born. And we have been thanking the Lord ever since. She's funny, got a very sharp wit, is great at math, and loves horses. She's also very mature for her age, I think. She's very responsible about getting her school work and chores done and has been a tremendous help to me in the last few months. She's the only one who hasn't been constantly sick or have a bum leg around here. She also makes us laugh at her wit and wonderful one liners.
Love you, Aubrey!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Conversations with a Four Year Old - The Last Installment

Lauryn asked me today, "Mama, do you have a boyfriend?"


Lauryn told me about a dream she had the other day:

I had a dream and you were in it but you weren't my mom. You know who was my mom? That lady who at the first was the Queen of Genovia, she was my mom and we lived in Genovia (which she pronounces Genobia) and I was the princess. And you know who was my dad? Daddy! And he was at work.

[Note: She's referring to the Princess Diaries movies, which means in her dream, Daddy was married to Julie Andrews!]


Aubrey was playing Christmas carols the other day, and asked Lauryn which one she would like to hear.

Lauryn: I want you to play "What is That Child."

["What Child is This" - man, I hope that she doesn't grow out of this now that she's about to turn 5!

Saturday, November 14, 2009


I have decided that heaven on earth is homemade bread. The smell, the taste ... yum! I've made bread for years, but usually in a bread machine. I've gone through three different machines in my married life. Eventually I just used it as a dough machine and would bake the loaves in the oven so that they would have a proper shape. But of course, with 6 kids, this was a rather inefficient use of my time.

Then my husband developed some health issues which could be helped by homemade bread, which I could custom make to what he needed. But I still usually bought bread from the outlet bakery for the rest of us.

Finally in the last several months, I've let go of the bread machine and started baking all our bread. I don't do it all "by hand" but use my 1000-watt motor Viking mixer to help with the mixing and kneading. But now I bake 3-5 loaves at a time, slicing and freezing what we won't use in the next couple of days. I've been combining and tweaking some basic recipes to find some that we like.
Now that I'm comfortable doing this, I'm ready to experiment. I've been reading about soaking the grains first, different grains to use, and all sorts of good stuff. I even went to a mini-seminar on bread baking today hosted by some friends cause I just love learning new tips on it. I think it's fascinating all different ways to make bread and how healthy it can be while being yummy at the same time. Since I have several in my family with baaaaad allergies and there's my husband's digestive conditions, I am interested to see if some of these things could help them.

Contrary to what I always thought, bread making isn't hard, even without the bread machine! It's actually quite satisfying. And of course, now that my family is used to it, if we eat store bought bread now we all think "yuck!"

Too bad we don't have smell-o-blogs. This stuff smells so good!

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Hits Just Keep on Coming

Sick kids. Again.

I don't know what the reason is, but this fall seems to be the sickest we have ever had. Every week, one or more of the kids gets sick. More than that, it seems as if it is the same bug with the same symptoms. I've had it at least once, and Kelly seems to be constantly fighting it off as well. Sore throat, low grade fever, runny nose, typical cold stuff. But over and over again? Come on, give a poor mom a break.

And it's not like I haven't been cleaning. I know theoretically you aren't supposed to catch the exact same virus again. If that's so, then our house seems to be a virus mutating ground.

Somebody make it stop!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

I hate it when that happens!

Have you ever been watching a show, and one of the actors looks so familiar, but you just can't place him? This happens to me a lot. I'm much better at faces than I am names. (This is not a great attribute for someone getting a history degree, as I did in my pre-children days. History is stocked with many, many more names than it has faces to go with them.)

This used to drive me crazy. What had I seen her in before? It would haunt me for days, like something left undone on my to-do list. Clean the bathroom: check! Go grocery shopping: check! Figure out who that gal was on the movie we rented the other night: ARG!

But a few years ago I discovered this site: The Internet Movie Database. The name is misleading, because they also have television shows and actors on there as well. In this database, movies (or shows) and actors, producers, directors, etc. are cross-referenced. This has saved me from the perpetual state of what-have-I-seen-him-in-before-ness.

Let's say you've seen the guy in the latest Star Trek movie before but can't place him (I haven't seen this movie yet, but am trying to figure out when I can before I leave town for Thanksgiving!). You can look up "Star Trek" on the imdb site, and click on the 2009 movie. This will take you to the page for that movie. If you scroll down to the characters, you can find the list of actors and the characters they portrayed. Click on the actor you are trying to place and you'll see the list of everything he's been in. The guy that plays the young James T. Kirk? His name is Chris Pine, and he starred in... Princess Diaries 2! Aha!

Don't you just love the internet? Anything that helps relieve my mental anguish over puzzles I can't solve is tops in my book. So next time you are stumped, you know where to look.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Reformation Day

Last Saturday we gathered with our church family to celebrate Reformation Day. We do it on the 31st of October every year to celebrate the anniversary of Martin Luther's nailing of the 95 Theses on the door of Wittenberg church in Germany. Each year we study and discuss a particular reformer from the period of the Reformation and his life as well as the impact he had on church history. We also cook food from the country the reformer hailed from.

This year being the 500th anniversary of the birth of John Calvin, we of course had to read about Calvin. Since Calvin was French and later moved to Geneva, Switzerland, we had French and Swiss foods. Yum!

I found a recipe for a French apple tart that was, even if I did make it, was goooood. It took a while to slice up all the apples, especially since I made two of them, but I laid them on a pastry crust:
The diagonal pattern made them pretty. That's butter dabbed on top.
Just before they were to come out of the oven, I heated up a combination of apricot jelly (all I had was preserves, so I stuck them in the blender for a couple of pulses) and rum. Double yum. After that heated up and reduced, I spread the mixture on top of the apples. Pastry, granny smith apples, and a rum apricot sauce. Triple yum.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Big Thoughts for Little People by Kenneth Taylor

Mama Buzz, and reviewers, were provided with a complimentary copy of this book for blog tour purposes*

: Photobucket

Big Thoughts for Little People by Kenneth N. Taylor

Ages 3-7

Hardcover retails for $14.99

Big Thoughts for Little People is a charming little book. It is part devotional book, part story book, part character lesson book, part picture study book. Each two-page spread covers one letter in the alphabet, which begins a word the lesson is about.

For example, the letter C starts a page about crying:

C is for crying.
It hurts when you fall,
But please do not cry
About nothing at all.

Each page then goes into a paragraph to discuss the subject of the page. On the C page the author discusses how crying is OK when a child is hurt, but how we shouldn't cry we aren't really hurt. (I think, with a house full of girls, this was my favorite page. My life, it seems, is all about crying for nothing at all.) Then there are questions for the child. (Why is the girl crying?) Some ask questions about the subject. Others ask the child to examine the illustration. (On the H page: Which children are being helpful?) And hidden in every illustration is a ladybug to search for. The page ends with a Bible verse.

The age recommended for the book is 3-7, but I think age 3-5 would be best. My biggest gripe about the book is that the Bible verses at the bottom of each page are in The Living Bible translation. I'm sure it's done to put the verse in a language more easily understood by young children, but I would prefer a literal translation instead of a paraphrase. I want even my young kids learning Bible verses that we would read in family devotions and church services, so that she can connect what she hears in books like this to what is happening in the rest of her life. It could also be used as a memory verse. I won't have my kids memorize paraphrased verses. Of course, the parent could just read the suggested verse out of a Bible instead of reading the one at the bottom of the page.

While the book is charming, I think the best use of the book would be as a daily reading activity with a pre-schooler, rather than a devotional. I think it's a little shallow for a devotional book, even for pre-schoolers. But it would be a fun activity to do with a pre-schooler while my older kids are doing school work. My favorite part is the illustrations that Lauryn enjoyed. She liked to point out the parts of the pictures that went with the subject of the page.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Good Help is Hard to Find

The girls do so many of the chores around here that you'd think they'd be used to it. But sometimes they rope some of the other girls into helping them. I guess chopping up broccoli is too hard for one girl to do it, so she has to get the toddler to help her.

Look at this child labor. "Here, Ashlynn, take the broccoli.""Put it in the steamer."
"Yuck, get it off, Kora."
OK, so Ashlynn didn't say that. But she would if she could, I'm sure.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Conversations with a Four Year Old

The other morning I was combing Lauryn's hair, which was extremely tangly. So I told her:

me: Lauryn, you need to stop letting those tangles get in your hair at night.

Lauryn: What?

me: You tell that pillow of yours to stop letting the tangles sneak into your hair at night.

Lauryn (laughing): Mama, that won't do!

At breakfast another morning, one of the older girls said something that I mis-heard. When I repeated what I thought she'd said all the girls laughed at me.

Lauryn says (with her eyes cast to the ceiling with a long-suffering sigh): Mama, you need to go to the 'sylum.

Me: Excuse me?

Lauryn: You know, the 'sylum. To get new ears.

[We've been reading the Anne of Green Gables series aloud, and not too long ago the book spoke about a lady going to an asylum. I wonder if she has any idea what one really is?]


One school day, Lauryn was in our "school room" playing on the floor rather loudly with a play telephone. The rule is that she can play in there while the older kids are doing school work if she plays quietly. If she wants to make noise she needs to go into the living room.

Me: Lauryn, if you're going to be loud, you need to go in the other room.

Lauryn (putting the telephone down to her chest as if to cover up the microphone): Shhhh, mama, I'm trying to write down an email!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Of foot and leg

Last week, Kora and I both went in for follow-up appointments with our prospective orthopedists. Kora's leg is coming along nicely. He gave her a new brace with hinges, so she can now sit much more comfortably. This also means she doesn't need a stool to prop her foot up on when she sits, which is really nice. We even had to bring a stool along to piano lessons, as she couldn't sit comfortably for any length of time without one. She's also putting more and more weight on it, and only using one crutch. All of this is according to doctor's orders. He even told her to start getting on our elliptical this week to strengthen her thigh muscle back up. We go back the middle of November, when I expect that she'll be told to stop using a brace and crutch altogether.

She will need to be followed up with x-rays of the leg for 6-12 months after her injury because evidently it is not unheard of for kids' legs to start growing in funny ways after a break. Even though he's fairly certain her growth plate was unaffected by the break, in unusual cases, one side of the bone can start growing at a different rate than the other after a break like this. He doesn't really think this will happen to her, but as a precaution, they will follow up with her even after she's out of the brace.

Two days after Kora's appointment, I had my 6 week follow up. Evidently the pain in my foot is normal pain recovering for 2 months of atrophy. It is getting better, but it can still really hurt by the end of the day. But the doctor said I'm stable - for now. He will follow up with me every three months for a while. He seems to think that eventually the tendon will give way and surgery will be needed, but he thinks I can probably go on as I am now for at least a couple of years.

He really wants to put it off as long as possible, especially since it is a long, hard recovery and my youngest is still so little. For the family's sake he'd like to wait until she's a little more self-sufficient. My hope and prayer is that with the orthotic support, I won't need the surgery at all. Ever. I can't imagine going through a recovery like that with the kids at home and needing a mother. But I also can't imagine living in the kind of pain I was in over the summer. Hopefully, it won't get that bad again!

Now I just need to get a few more shoes I can wear with these inserts. ;-)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Blue Umbrella by Mike Mason

The Blue Umbrella is the first venture into fiction from a non-fiction author, Mike Mason. It's an intriguing combination of sci-fi and fantasy and obviously the work of someone with a wonderfully active imagination. My almost 11 year old and I both read it and we both enjoyed it. Aubrey thought it was very well written. "I never could guess what was going to happen until the end." I agree with her. Often children's literature can have somewhat of a predictable plot. The Blue Umbrella kept me guessing as well.

The Blue Umbrella tells the story of a boy named Zachery Sparks who is suddenly orphaned when his mother is killed by a lightning strike. Two mysterious aunts show up to claim him and take him home with them. That's when the mystery begins.

Who are these aunties he's never heard of before? Why did they bring him home to live with them only to be cruel? Why is the town of Five Corners, his new home, bewitched? Why is he so fascinated by Sky Porter, the owner of the store across the street from the aunties' house? What are the mysterious lights coming from the second story of the store at night? And why does Mr. Porter always carry that umbrella with him? Why does Dada, the aunts' father, want it more than anything else in the world? In fact Dada wants it so much, he orders Zac to steal it from Mr. Porter who has become a friend. What should Zac do?

The Blue Umbrella combines intrigue, mystery, sinister characters, loneliness, trust, betrayal, grace, redemption, family dysfunctions, and weather phenomena into a captivating yarn. The author states in the "after words" that his intention was not allegorical or to make any kind of statement, but just to tell a good story. There are, however, spiritual parallels that can be drawn from the story. It will also captivate your child's imagination. My daughter is looking forward to a second book in the series.

*This book was given as a complimentary copy to Mama Buzz Reviewers by David C. Cook and Mike Mason, for blog tour and promotion purposes.

The Blue Umbrella: retails for $14.99

Ages 9-12

Enjoy a free excerpt of this book at Mike Mason's website.

The Blue Umbrella, by Mike Mason from David C. Cook on Vimeo.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Splish Splash

Lauryn (4 yo) to me yesterday: Mama, I wish I could be a mermaid.

Me: Really? What would you do if you were a mermaid?

Lauryn: I'd have fins.

Me: Yes, I know. But what would you do?

Lauryn: You know, mermaid things.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The deal I wish I had never gotten

I love clearance racks. My eye is immediately drawn to them; my heart skips a beat when I see rows of them in the back of a store.

OK, maybe a bit of an exaggeration, but I have saved bookoos of money over the years shopping from them. I especially love to shop in January for the next year's winter clothing, or vice versa by buying summer clothes in August. But I digress.

A few months ago my four year old needed new underwear. She has stayed so tiny for so long that her old ones were falling apart from wearing them so long. I was in Walmart one night and saw and end cap full of clearance underwear. Great! Just what I needed.

I located a couple of different bags in her size. One had seven pairs for $5. That about seventy-one cents plus tax per pair. Sounds good to me! Right?

What I didn't realize was that each pair of these quite cute little panties had a day of the week embroidered on them! And my 4 year old can't read! And of course, wearing Wednesday panties on Saturday just can't be done. I don't know how much time I have spent hunting in the drawer for the right pair of panties! If I had it to do over again, I would have spent more money to buy underwear that would be suitable for every day of the week.

Of course, it is a little comical when she comes out of her room after a bath in the evening stark naked, asking, "What day is tomorrow going to be?" I guess that's worth something, right?

The moral of this story is: if you are going to buy underwear that is labeled with the day of the week, make sure you are buying them for a child who can read, or at least one who shares a room with an older sibling who can.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Tale of Two Seasons of Motherhood

Ten or eleven years ago, we lived in an 1100 square foot Air Force base house in Oklahoma City. When Kelly would get home from work between 4:30 and 5 pm, I would meet him at the door and start talking his ear off. I'd stand there by the entry closet as he hung up a jacket or put away his briefcase. Then I'd follow him down the hall to our bedroom (admittedly it was a short walk) and talk to him the whole time he was changing out of his BDU's (the camo uniforms) and then I'd follow him into our office and still be talking to him while he got onto the internet to check email (I'd even talk louder over the sound of the modem connecting via the phone line - remember that sound?). With a toddler and a baby at home with me, I would be desperate for someone to talk to. I'm sure Kelly was ready to put in the ear plugs by the time he got his boots off.

The last few years, by the time I get through with dinner, I think that if I have to talk to just one more person (especially if I have to look down to talk to them) I might run away. Now my problem isn't the lack of anyone to talk to, but the fact that my vocal cords are threatening to strike by dinner time. Between teaching, directing chores, talking to the toddler, answering questions, instructing my sous chef with dinner prep, I am worn out! I never, EVER thought I'd feel this way ten years ago.

I'm sure in a few years I'll miss it. But right now I'm going to get off the computer and enjoy an hour of quiet. :-)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Normal, almost

It has been so nice to spend a "normal" weekend at home. No going out of town, no half-day rehearsals for musicals. Just household chores, honey-dos, cleaning, errand running, and cooking. Best of all it will be so nice to be back at church and eating lunch with our church family. Between being sick and being out of town 2-3 weekends out of four each month, we've been pretty hit-or-miss at church since late July. AND we haven't been to a Sunday lunch since the girls' baptism feast in June! Our girls are so excited that we'll get to each lunch at church tomorrow; it's their favoratist. :-)

The only thing keeping it from being completely normal is our resident cripple. Not me, but Kora. It should be illegal for the oldest daughter of a large family to break a leg and not be able to pull her weight around here. LOL We've had to spread her chores around, though Aubrey and I have been doing the brunt of them. She makes up for it by sitting and doing all of the laundry folding instead.

When I was running errands today, I was amazed again at how almost all the things I needed for Kora's fall wardrobe I found either on clearance or at the second hand store. I'm also thankful that due to several clearance purchases at the end of last season and some clothes we've been given, she didn't need as much as she normally does. I need these small reminders that God takes care of our every need.

I also bought another large purchase of ground beef. See this post for what I mean. For several months I've been splitting the case with other families, but I decided to keep all of this one. The price is lower than it's been in months. And going into the holidays and with the possibility of surgery still looming over me, I decided to go ahead and keep the whole thing. It will be so nice to have 80 pounds of ground beef in the deep freezer either cooked up, simplifying meal prep, or in smaller portions raw, ready for meatloaves and such. So between this and all the good deals on chicken lately, my freezer will be well stocked!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

There will be days like this, Mama said.

A few weeks ago, I looked around and realized it was very quiet in my house. It was mid-morning on a school day, and it was eerily quiet. Crickets chirping, almost. When I realized the primary reason it was so quiet I had to take a picture.
Now, I post this, NOT to make you think this is how school always is at my house, just like any public or private school is not always going to be quiet. But because it was such an unusual occurrence, I had to commemorate it on film, er uh, digital images. It just so happened that the older four were all working quietly on their math. If they were wearing matching jumpers, this could be the cover shot of a home school magazine. However, usually, this is the scene:

  • Kora's in the kitchen doing a science experiment that involves vinegar, pipe cleaners, a comb, and a 1L plastic bottle. Oh, and a nine volt battery.
  • Aubrey's upstairs on the computer watching her math lesson on cd, and taking notes.
  • Brynna is sitting at the table working away, but erasing every other letter because she spelled incorrectly or wasn't paying attention. She's also probably getting in trouble for tickling someone whose love language is NOT physical touch.
  • Hailey's sitting with me on the sofa, doing great on the new sounds she's learning in phonics, but completely forgetting all the short vowels she ever learned.
  • Lauryn is trying to convince me that everything toy related downstairs is "boring" and that the only interesting toys are all upstairs (where she is not allowed to go during school time on the theory that toddlers and pre-schoolers are easier to keep track of if they are on the same floor as I am).
  • And they all need my help at the same time.
And Ashlynn? If she's not stealing papers or pencils off the school table, climbing into one of her sisters lap to "help" them with their math, or climbing on top of the kitchen table she's usually doing this:
I'm seriously thinking about changing my Facebook wall photo to this picture.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Finally, the kids' play

On October 3, the kids from our church performed "Psalty's Camping Adventure," a musical play in which the big blue singing hymnal "Psalty" takes a bunch of kids camping and they all learn a valuable lesson in trusting God. All five of my kids had at at least a couple of lines and a couple had solos.

Ever wondered what a walking, talking, big blue hymnal looks like? Here he is.Here's Kora and Aubrey dancing and singing during one of the songs.
Meanwhile, here's Lauryn off to the side with the other 4-5 year olds. They had their own special parts in the play - mainly for humor and a cuteness factor.
In fact they had their own song - here's Lauryn and a little boy singing.
Hailey's character gets into the poison ivy, so here, she's just told Psalty that she wants to go home because she's "itchy, itchy, itchy!"
More singing.
The kids' favorite pose at the end of one of the songs.
Taking a bow.
Nana giving the girls roses.
This picture was taken approximately 12 minutes before Kora broke her leg.