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. ;-)