Sunday, December 28, 2008

Surviving the Holidays

We survived the holidays. For a few moments I wondered if we would all make it through with no tears and our senses of humor intact. As of today I think it's safe to declare a tear free/ injury free holiday! Hooray! We made it!

Santa was very nice to our boys (and their parents) and each kid received one cool toy (and no more). Chris got a little stable with two Breyer Stablemates horses. Sam received a Batman motorcycle and Batman action figure. Jake received a Spiderman car and Spiderman action figure.

Grandma bought each boy a digital camera (quite a hit) and we gave them all pajamas (two pairs), Christmas sweaters (red), shirts (2 each), and towers of treats ($3.75 at Marshalls for the lovely decorated towers of goodies that usually sell for $25). Sam got a Sansa MP3 player. Jake got a cute puppy that has clothes and accessories. Chris got an electric kettle and a set of 6 espresso cups and saucers (perfect size for tea when you're 7).

Our family and friends all gave us goodies and now I can't cook in the kitchen because there's no counter space. I think most of the stuff is headed for the freezer today. All in all it was a very pleasant holiday. We forgot to bake the cake for Christmas Eve dinner. I did make 4 pies, but somehow at the end of the baking I forgot all about making birthday cake. Chris told me all about it that evening and then decided that we could eat ice cream after Christmas dinner (store bought tamales) and that would make a fine birthday celebration. I do think he's got a firm grasp on the idea that Christmas is really a time when we celebrate Jesus's birthday.

This isn't a terribly exciting post but I felt like I should write something since my blog hasn't been updated in ages. We're all tired and basking in the glow of the Scentsy while recovering from the consumption of way too much sugar. I hope everyone else had a wonderful and uneventful holiday as well!

Monday, December 15, 2008

To Satisfy Amy's Curiousity

Here are the completed projects I've been working on lately. Yes, it seems there are very few of them. Just a reminder to anyone who may have forgotten- I have a 7 year old, 4 year old, and a barely 3 year old. They are sooooo helpful when it comes to my crafting projects too. You would not believe the assistance they offer in organizing my fabrics, keeping track of my applique templates, and re-arranging my quilt block layouts.

The first quilt is one that Amy pieced and didn't ever finish. She kindly shipped it to me (I still owe her $4.80 for shipping) and I backed it with green micro-cordouroy and then stippled it. She even included the fabric to bind the quilt! It makes a beautiful baby gift for a friend of mine (if I ever get over to see her). Thanks for sharing your unused quilt top Amy!

The second quilt is Sophie's Christmas present (I'm working on James' quilt today). It a very simple strippy quilt that I backed with some fairy covered flanned I bought when we found out Katie was pregnant with a girl (yes, it's actually taken me that long to make a project for Sophie). It is randomly stippled with variegated pink thread. I hope she doesn't mind the very linear look of the strippy quilt. They're not my favorite but time is of the essence so I opted for simple piecing and actual quilting (instead of tying).

The cute little tote bag is a present for someone (somewhere). I found the applique pattern at Anna Maria Horner's website and it looks like a Lab to me, so everyone is getting a puppy for Christmas this year (especially those who really don't want a live dog)! It's done in Christmas fabrics and I think it looks very festive. These little lined bags are so easy and so fun I could make new ones every day.

Now I just need to finish James's quilt, a few more tote bags, some Christmas ornaments, two table runners, and a wall hanging. There are 10 days left- I'm sure some of the projects will get done!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Motivation by Fear

We've recently come to unschooling as a learning method. It's a very counter-intuitive way of teaching. Learning is "delight driven" and children are surrounded with a rich environment and opportunities for exploring. Direct teaching and lessons are avoided although curriculum is still present and accessible.

My first thought when I heard about this method of education was to question if children would spend the whole day watching cartoons and learning how to play video games. Years ago I read the Tao and occasionally a lesson from the Tao pops up in the course of my day. Leading from behind is a central concept of the Tao. It's a hard discipline to master, but the value of encouraging your "troops" to move out ahead of you is immeasurable. In the course of a day I couldn't even begin to plot out the lessons we've been learning since we threw out the lesson plans and started unschooling. I have learned that my son can be organized, disciplined, motivated, and goal oriented. He just wants to set and achieve his goals, not mine. There's nothing wrong with that. In fact there's a lot right with him directing his education.

He retains more information, studies for longer periods of time, has better comprehension, and more original thought about a subject when he chooses what to study. Education's purpose is to prepare us to learn what we need to survive and find employment when we're adults. In the course of a year without lessons my son will still learn math, science, reading, social studies, and spelling. He may not learn them the same way a child in a brick and mortar school learns them- but he will learn them.

If you're interested in flags of the world and pursue that course of study you will learn geography. While learning geography you will learn a bit about foriegn cultures. The study of foriegn culture will lead to trying out international cuisine and cooking. Cooking will lead to the study of math and chemistry. Math and chemistry in the kitchen will lead to science experiments and nature observation. Nature observation will lead to climate studies. Climate studies will lead to statistics. Before you know it your school year is over and no lessons were planned, no lessons were taught, a few worksheets were filled out while the child was bored in the waiting room waiting for the doctor, no busy work was completed, and your child now speaks rudimentary German and plans to enter a Lego engineering contest.

We tend to believe traditional school is the way to go- because most students graduate able to survive and find employment. It's easy to follow the traditional path because it works for most and until you've tried something else there is always a fear of failure. What if I do something different and find out that the only way to learn to read is through phonics and worksheets? What if I try something different and find out that the only way my son can manage to complete his work once he's an adult is if I make him sit up straight in his chair and do two hours of homework every night when he's seven? What if I allow my child to be a child... and he's still a child when he's 47?

Fear is great motivation for keeping the status quo. What if we allow two men to say they're married and then my children think it's ok to marry men (keep in mind my kids are all boys)? What if the state recognizes same sex couples as having equal legal rights as hetero couples? What if my sons see gay people who are recognized as a couple without condemnation and then they don't grow up to marry nice women and give me grandchildren (I am counting down the years... it's the only way I'll ever have female descendants)? What if?

What if we each live our own beliefs (non violent beliefs) and teach our children the values important to us? What if we trust our sons to grow up strong, moral men even if they see others who are different than they are? What if we allow true delight driven motivation to guide us?

I know some who read this will argue that man is programmed for pleasure and will seek the evils of the world if left unguided. What if we trust in the Spirit to guide our path? What if we relax a little and take the time to reflect about what truly brings us pleasure? Is it the sinful, evil things of the world that pleasure you? If you're like me (and I bet you're more like me than you'd like to admit) the images that come to mind when you think of pleasure may be:

the feel of a baby snuggled into your neck,

smelling fresh grass and sunshine warmed earth,

laughter shared with loved ones,

loose, tired muscles achieved through hard physical work,

hearing your children learning to reason and use logic,

the first butterfly flutter you feel the first time you're pregnant,

the smell of fresh baked treats and the excitement on the faces of your family when the treats are served.

Most of us left to a "delight driven" existence would not choose the evil and unwholesome. We would still make good choices. I don't choose to love my family and care for their needs because it is commanded or legislated. I care for my family because it brings me pleasure to serve them and through serving them serve God.

My good choices don't come about because of fear, but some of my bad choices do. I sent my son to school for three years and ran him around to therapy and worked hard to ensure he was "normal." In my heart I knew he would be better off growing up more slowly and maturing slowly into the man he'll become. Fear made me push him with an exhausting schedule. I made him spend 6-8 hours a day either in school or working on homework when he was a kindergardener. The busy work (neatly completed) was not worth the toll that particular action took on the heart of my little boy. He had the best homework completion rate in his class... because we spent several hours a day on homework and school concepts... and I sent him to school. He achieved in school... but he's achieved out of school too and with less damage to his heart and mind.

When we stop and think about what really, truly pleases us it is the good and wholesome that wins out 99% of the time. If we lead "delight driven" lives... truly delight driven, not rebellious or counter culture just to be different, we'll probably make better lives for ourselves and our children.

Nature vs. Nurture

A few years back we had a buck (male rabbit type buck) that just wasn't interested in breeding... the does. One of our friends had a ram ... not interested in ewes. One of my best friends from college... tried dating women. He tried being attracted to women. He went through Hell on Earth because his faith told him that it was morally wrong to be attracted to men... even though God himself designed the whole being that was my friend... even the part of him that could not find women attractive.

Think about this for a minute- if you're a woman imagine being attracted to another woman (if you're a man imagine being attracted to a man). I don't know about you but once I think about dating women I suddenly feel much closer to gay men. Really, would you want to date a woman? Ooh Ick!!! The hormones, the hair, the icky drippy female stuff... none of that is something I want to see going on with someone I date (and eventually marry).

What if society told me I had to date women? What if it was actually considered sinful for me to lust after (and act upon) an attraction to men? What if I found my soul mate (my husband) and couldn't marry him? What if all the wonder of having and cherishing a spouse was forbidden to me unless I married a woman? What if the only value society placed on me was whether or not I conformed to what was normal?

Heterosexuality is natural. It's also normal. Humans would eventually cease to exist (or become exceedingly rare) if heterosexuality was not the norm. Homosexuality is also natural. It occurs in many species in nature (hence the designation natural). It is not normal (or there would be a lot fewer of us).

Accepting homosexuality without placing a value judgement (either positive or negative) on it does not threaten hetero relationships and values. I grew up with more than a few gay role models in my life. Somehow, despite the horrid influence of these (wonderful) people I grew up to desire men (Shameful, I know). I also grew up surrounded by examples of many different types of relationships and values. It wasn't the gay couples that I knew who cheated on their spouses, broke apart their families, got divorced, or generally exhibited poor behaviour towards their partner.

God made me as I am. Thank God I like men. Life is so much easier for me because I found my wonderful husband, had three terrific (sometimes terrible) children, and am free to build my family based on the morals and values I believe in. It's a lot easier for me to do that since my morals and values tend to be (usually) what "normal" society approves of.

Only one biologic function of mine ever brings about debate regarding morals and values... my ability to procreate. Some are for it, some against it ("Oh my goodness, haven't you heard about population control? Three kids is one more than it takes to replace yourself and your husband. The Earth is going to blow up if people have more than 1.3 children per couple. Do you know what it costs to raise a child today? How will you ever pay for college for 3 children?" and the other side, "You thwart God's will by using contraception. Each child is a gift from God. It's a sin to interfere in God's plan by purposefully limiting the number of children you carry...").

Is marriage really about creating and raising children? My marriage certainly is. That doesn't mean that God's plan for marriage only includes people capable of having children together. If there are seven sacred covenants and marriage is one of them... did God purposely withhold that covenant from a large segment of the population by creating them either sterile or homosexual?

Most "Christians" who decry homosexuality use biblical references from the Old Testement to back up their beliefs. The Old Testement also tells us it is forbidden for women to go outside without hats and for men to pray while wearing hats. It tells us that eating the meat of cloven hoofed animals is verboten (mmm....bacon). One of the Ten Commandments (yep, the big 10) tells us it is forbidden to "covet your neighbor's house, wife, manservant, maidservant, ox, donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor" (Ex 20:17). No where in "The Giving of the Law" section do I see anything about falling in love with someone of the same sex. In Leviticus there is reference to (Lev. 18:22) to God's decree not to have sex with a man as you would a woman. The same chapter also tells you not to have sex with relatives, animals,... or during a woman's unclean time of the month (Drat! I'm going to hell!).

Leviticus 19:18 tells us, "Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. Do not mate different kinds of animals. Do not plant your field with two kinds of seeds. Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material." I am so going to hell. My favorite sweater- wool, silk blend. My favorite sheets- polyester, cotton blend. I am damned.


The New Testement, Mark 16:15

"He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved."

We can't earn our way into heaven or else Jesus wouldn't have come to die for our sins. The coming of Christ reset the parameters. If that's not true for all the laws of the Old Testement then we all are lost. Who among us can truthfully say they've followed all the mandates and strictures of Old Testement law? Please, if you're using the church and Bible as an arguement against same sex marriage read Exodus and Leviticus. Even if you've already read those chapters- return and read them again. Do you measure up? Can you condemn another person for falling away from Lev. 18:22 when you probably aren't in compliance with Lev. 19:18?

(Horrible heretic thought) Is it possible that portions of the Bible reflect the atmosphere of that historic time period at least as much as they convey God's wishes and demands? Could the document have survived this long without some "corrections" and "revisions" affecting (and effecting) the minutia of the message while preserving the overall truth of the message? Why would God create someoneone way and then damn them for that anomaly of being?

Friday, December 05, 2008

Party Season

Our 4-H Christmas party was last night. For some reason it was decided we would meet to sing carols at the Nampa Care Center at 5:30. Meeting this early meant I had to take the little kids with us (darn it!). Most families with little kids skipped the caroling and just went to the party. We weren't that cowardly. We went caroling.

I got lost trying to find the Care Center. In fact we drove most of the way to the lake before I turned around (purely because I realized the NAMPA Care Center would not be found in Caldwell- which is where we were heading). Arriving 15 minutes late was awkward enough. When we entered the room where the rest of the kids were singing an elderly lady saw my small children and shouted, "I want some of that!" There's nothing like making an entrance.

Our club is very large (around 70 members) so it was suprising that there were only about 15 people singing last night. Of those 15 about 5 were grown-ups. My children were by far the youngest there. Of course this did make it much easier to keep track of them- since the teen girls really like to pair up with small boys. One of the mom's brought great big jingle bells and offered the boys each a bell. They walked up and down the halls with the carolers singing (caterwauling) and shaking those bells. If you have any friends or relatives at the Nampa Care Center I offer my sincere apologies.

For the first time ever we were the first people to arrive at the school for our 4-H meeting. It should be recorded somewhere in the history books because it will not likely occur again. I'm not sure how we made it there so quickly- except that we did live by the Care Center once upon a time and perhaps we were aware of a more direct route to the school (although that kinda makes getting lost earlier in the evening even more embarrasing).

There was a brief business meeting before we get to the true business of the evening (namely opening presents and ingesting large quantities of cookies and milk). During the meeting I had to take the balls Sam and Jake were playing with because they kept running around throwing them. It wouldn't have been so bad except the gym floor has a nice hollow sound and the room echoes. It really helped the noise level when I regained custody of the balls and Jake started shouting, "My ball! My Ball!" I gently (and quietly) told him it was too noisy and he'd have to wait until after the meeting to get it back. He understood and quit trying to take the ball back or explain why it was his. Instead he sat between the other Cloverbud leader and me repeating (for at least 3 minutes), "I can't win. I just can't win. I can't win. I can't win. I just can't win..." He kept going until K'Anne finally looked at him and said, "I know just how you feel, some days I can't win either."

After our last cake decorating meeting I sent cake home with one family on some of our kitchen plates. That mom very nicely brought the clean plates to the meeting for me to bring home. While Jake and I were dealing with the ball situation Sam decided he should put his cookie on a plate. Of course the lovely Correlle plate shattered when it hit the gym floor. And of course it shattered while Tass was right in the middle of her gift exchange story (whenever the story says "left" pass left, "right" pass right).

People wonder why we're always squeaking in the door just as the meeting begins. This morning they've probably figured out it's because I don't mind being late if just Chris and I can go to the meeting. Alone.

On a bright note- there were extra gifts available for the gift exchange- so Claudia made sure my little ones got to participate. All (yes, every one) of my children managed somehow to end up with big (stockings full) bags of candy. We are blessed. Next year I'm going to finagle it so that someone else's small child goes home with a bag full of chocolate. Oh yes I am. Because it's the season for giving.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Life Is Good

I just haven't really had anything to blog about lately. It feels as if I should write something... just to keep in practice... but I usually like to write about whatever is bugging me or whatever very, very deep, random thought crossed my mind while baking bread or doing laundry... the well is dry. I have no random deep thoughts or rants today. Sorry to disappoint. Life Is Good.

This Thursday is our 4-H club Christmas party. We're meeting early at a care center here in Nampa to sing carols and then we'll all proceed to the school for our annual Christmas party and gift exchange. We're still debating what to take for Chris's $5 value gift. He's leaning towards beef jerky. I'm leaning towards making another little softie toy. The only thing really holding me back from the softie is that I keep imagining one of the teen boys getting it. It could be funny. Probably wouldn't be that fun for the boy though.

Perhaps if I could find an old tampon box or something to wrap it in the present could be even more fun. If only I knew someone who needed such things.... I think my last box was purchased sometime in 2000.... maybe earlier.... it came from Costco... the box is not in any shape to act as a present keeper. Life seems so normal now that I forget how many (many, many, many) months of my married life I spent pregnant or nursing. I haven't done the math lately but I bet the pregnant and nursing months still outnumber the non-pregnant, non-nursing months. What in the world will happen to my marriage when all the kids leave home? We've never had a time period in our life together that wasn't about raising our family (well, there were those three months when we were recovering from the wedding and moving...).

Sam's been taking puppies to visit his class each week. The kids like to see the puppies and it's fun to ask them how big they think the dogs will get. Last week I took Jazzmine into the school. She loved the attention but the kids flat out did not believe the puppies would be as big (or bigger) than Jazz. One of the teachers keeps looking longingly at the puppies. She almost took one of our last litter so I'm not sure whether to be hopeful she'll fall for one this time. At this point I'm not holding back a puppy for ANYONE unless money has already changed hands. There are still 9 puppies out there and it is time for them to move in with their new families. The first left yesterday, the second will leave tomorrow. Tomorrow I will place the ad to sell our babies. Jake was almost inconsolable last night when the puppy left. "No, no sell Zowie's puppies!!! Get Zowie's puppy back!!! No sell Zowie's puppies......" I'm not sure how sympathetic I can be. We can not (will not) keep 13 Labrador Retrievers. Do you know how much poop is produced by 13 Labrador Retrievers? (If you want the answer, email me... I can provide solid proof)

My goal for the new year is to learn how to do the link thing. I'd like to tell you to visit "Corporate Free Christmas" and you'd be able to click on the name and it would take you there. Instead I'll tell you to check out my blog list and find it on the left hand side of the page. Go visit. I think it's a lovely idea to make the holiday exclusively about the handmade, recycled, repurposed, and well thought out gifts. There will be no Wii's, no gadgets, no "most popular" toys in our home this season. The truth is... we're poor. The economy is not kind to construction businesses at this point in time. The truth also is that in tightening our belts we'll have to revisit the true meaning of the season and find ways to serve others rather than just spending some cash on them. Perhaps God's gift to us this season is an opportunity to grow in his love and reflect on the true gifts of the season without being blinded by the flash and glitter of fancy doo-dads we didn't even know we wanted until the ads came out.

So to sum up our week thus far: Life is Good.

I hope your life is Good as well! Happy Holidays!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

It was ugly...

It was very ugly. Somehow I always overestimate the time it will take the turkey to cook. This year I used a newer (mid 1990's version) Betty Crocker Christmas Cookbook to look up the roasting time for a seventeen pound turkey. In the past I've used one of our Better Homes and Gardens Cookbooks (copyrights in 1953 and 1962). Since appliances have changed a bit in the last fifty or sixty years I thought that new technology might explain why the turkey was always done waaaaayyyy before I was ready for it.

Apparently that's not the case. This year I used the old roaster (probably circa 1950) and paired it with the roasting time listed in a more modern cookbook (and yes, I did take care to look up roasting times for unstuffed, empty birds). I was late getting the bird in the roaster. Planned time was 12:00. Actual beginning of roasting time was 12:40. The bird was frozen in the middle and I had to fight to get the guts out. It also took forever to preheat the roaster. When I peeked in the handy little glass window on top of the roaster at 3:30 this is what I found.

Thank goodness we don't worry about the bird's appearance since we don't carve at the table. Luckily we always roast the turkey breast down, which does not create a beautiful browned breast, but it does make the turkey super moist and delicious. If only parts and pieces of the bird are going to leave the kitchen and head to the table I'd rather they be moist, delicious pieces. Why is the orientation (breast up or breast down) important? Why, it's because the internal temperature of the thickest meat on that bird was 220 degrees at 3:45. And the bird is done at 180 degrees. Thank goodness we had the breast and legs down where all the backfat basted the meat and kept it moist. That bird sure was ugly and it was way overcooked.

It looked beautiful sliced on a platter and it tasted terrific. Only I (and now you) know how close it was to being a disaster (especially since dinner was served at 5).

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

It's a.... what the heck is it?

Oh my goodness!!! It's a skunk dog!!!

We had our house painted last month. Jazzmine helped. She painted both sides of herself from shoulder to hip. What the pictures don't show very well is that the edges of both ears and the tip of her tail are painted as well. Too bad we didn't have a freshly painted white board for her to run under and stripe the top of her back.

This is Claire the Super Puppy vs. Optimus Prime. I think Claire probably won that battle.

I love wine

I do. I really, really love wine. I haven't drunk much of it since I had children (something in my metabolism changed and now it makes me very, very hot when I drink) but I do like it. When I was in college I could drink 2 or 3 glasses in an evening with no ill effect, not even intoxication (unless I chugged them all in a row). I am now a half glass girl. Any more than that and I am loopy as can be... loopy doesn't work when you have kids to care for.

Wine has always been part of my family's celebrations. When I was very young Grandpa had just retired from the military where alcohol features at all social events and most evenings at home were not complete without a tipple. By the time I was in junior high my favorite uncle had bought into a small local winery. Many afternoons were spent visiting the tasting rooms and vineyards of the local wineries. Southwest Idaho now has it's own geographical designation like the Champagne region in France. Wineries are plentiful and the cultivation of the vines and chemistry of fermentation have always fascinated me.

In college I was blessed with roommates who didn't drink. It was a treat to be able to order a drink at dinner or have a beer at a party and know (really know, not just think) that I had a sober ride home. The funniest roommate/drinking incident that ever happened involved my Mormon roommate- Angela. She was always taking my open bottles of wine out of the fridge whenever I left for the weekend. Apparently she was worried one of her friends from church would come over and think the wine was hers. This was a little bit annoying, but not nearly as annoying as the weekend I came home and found out that she'd used up all of my tequila and rum making margaritas and daiquiris for the guys hanging out at our neighbor's apartment.

I think she was a little bit interested in our male friends. One of them was a devout Catholic. The other one was Mormon. On the surface the Mormon (Jack Mormon that he was) may have seemed like a likely conquest for a good Mormon girl. She maybe should have payed more attention when we called him "my sexually suspect friend." To make a long story short... I don't think either man was likely to convert and become a good prospect for her.

Shoot, my kids have found me and now I must go fix them something to eat. This post has absolutely no deep meaning hidden in it except... I am thankful for the freedom to eat and drink what I wish and enjoy the holiday with family and friends. I am also thankful for Uncle George- bringer of the "good" wine, since my budget tops out at $9.00 a bottle.!

Monday, November 24, 2008


It never pays to think you've outwitted fate. Never. My whole family caught colds a couple weeks ago. Not me. I didn't get sick when they did. They all started feeling (and looking) better and I congratulated myself on avoiding the nasty little germs. Until late last week. This cold has kicked my rear. I look in briefly on my blog day after day thinking that I really need to write something... but the only thought going through my head is: Gahhh (whimpering softly). Today I feel much more human (although I kind of feel sloth-like too).

We went to a birthday party on Saturday. I volunteered to bake and decorate the cake so we had to go. The birthday family was counting on the cake. My children were counting on getting to attend a party. I was hoping there would be nap time at the party and babysitting service.

Good news. The cake was edible and the decorating, while not top shelf, was passable. There was no nap time or babysitter available but my children behaved themselves and blended seamlessly into the brood of wild Indians running about the house and yard. The lamb was fresh (butchered that morning). The food was interesting and edible (featuring Uzbek culinary delights). The party attendees were varied in age and interest. No one's coats/shoes/valued possessions disappeared, never to be seen again, during the course of the event. All in all it was a success.

Sunday I slept. Dave took the kids to dinner at his parents' house and I got to stay home all by myself (with Grandma). It's been years since I've been left home alone (literally). Maybe since I was a good girl and didn't get into any trouble my husband will leave me home alone again sometime (soon, I hope!).

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Still here

I am still here. It may not seem like it since I haven't updated my blog since last week, but I am still here, still reading other people's blogs, still chasing children and cleaning up after puppies. If I could find my camera I'd post a picture of either the children or the puppies, but alas... I think Sam played with it... somewhere.... hopefully somewhere safe and dry.

The puppies turned six weeks old yesterday so I will begin advertising them next week. My goal is to find them all homes between 8 and 12 weeks of age. This week I need to vaccinate everybody and buy MORE food. I cannot believe how darn much food those little dogs go through. It was just last week (I think) that I purchased 60 pounds of puppy food. Tonight it is all gone. Tonight I need to go shopping.

We have a new cloverbud member in our 4-H club. He's going to be taking a rabbit project. This brings our total up to 4 kids with rabbits (confirmed- there may be 3 or 4 others who haven't committed for sure yet). Of those 4 kids, 3 are boys. This is unusual. Most of the time girls in 4-H outnumber boys about 3:1. Girls in the rabbit project usually outnumber boys about 20:1. It also looks as if all three boys may be on the Autism Spectrum. None of us knew each other before the year began. These are random boys who've found their way into our club and into our project. And now 75% of my members are males who most likely have Asperger's Syndrome or something very similar.

It's a very strange world and that small world is still supporting my suspicion that AS may not truly be a disorder or disability. I think that odd parents raise odd children and we should just accept that and stop trying to make everybody "normal." It's not as if the normal's are all that wonderful most of the time anyway. Possibly the scientist's and engineers among us are truly wired differently neurologically and we should respect the difference and quit trying to make them into social butterflies. It's important to have enough social skills to get through a job interview and not offend your neighbors (unless it's necessary to offend the neighbors... some neighbors could use a good offense). It's not really all that important that you can chit chat with strangers who you may never see again.

We all have our strengths and we should play to them. Our weaknesses should not define us or our children. If you have horrible handwriting you probably shouldn't be looking for a job doing calligraphy. If greeting the public is hard for you then a career in customer service probably isn't in your future. However, if as you vacuum the carpet you begin speculating about the volume and mass of dust a career in nuclear science may be in your future. There are always tradeoffs.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Elmer Canfield was my maternal grandfather. I remember him as the kind, gentle, loving man who wasn't quite sure what to do with a little girl... so he taught me to prepare specimens for examination under a microscope. By the time I came along he was a college professor specializing in fungi and forest pathology. Much of our time together involved hiking and being outdoors, gardening, raising hay (literally), irrigating, identifying weeds, riding horses, and looking up to see the airplanes flying overhead.

One of my final memories of him occured on the day he was being sent home from the hospital- to die. He asked us to watch out for Grandma and make sure she was taken care of. He told us, with tears not quite falling from his eyes, that he always believed it was wrong for his bride to have to take out her own garbage. Death wasn't something he feared, but leaving his bride alone was. At the time of his death they had been married for just over 60 years.

Grandma thought his concern for her well being over his own was a little bit silly since there were times even while they were married that she had, for all intents and purposes, been alone. One of the most troubled periods of time was while he was a P.O.W. in Germany. All these years she has kept the telegrams she recieved over the course of the year he was in a prisoner of war camp.

Reading these telegrams reminds me that the veterans we celebrate today are real people. It's easy to take for granted the freedoms we enjoy. Some here may complain of racism, or sexism, or other -isms but in reality we are very lucky to live in the United States. As a parent I hope that none of my children ever have to go to war. I hope that the world is all sunshine and roses and world peace occurs. But we all know that world peace isn't going to happen. There will continue to be times of conflict. Backing down from conflict by compromising whenever other countries don't approve of us is a surefire way to lose the freedoms my grandfather and so many others fought and even died for.

It's our duty to act as stewards of freedom for the next generation. War is ugly. We certainly shouldn't go out looking for a fight, but we can't turn the other cheek when the fight comes looking for us. Too many lives were lost, families scattered, when soldiers fought first to free us from English rule and later to preserve the Union. WWII was not fought on American soil, but our presence there was important in preserving our own freedom none the less. Genocide and tyranny are not small issues to be overlooked in an effort to preserve the peace. Peace gained through pacifism, surrending our freedoms in an effort to avoid a fight, is not peace. It's an invitation for tyranny to come live in our land.

Today remember what was sacrificed.

Remember the men and women who gave up everything to fight for us.

Remember that today you can safely walk into the religious institution of your choice whether it's a church, synagogue, mosque, or fairy circle. Remember that I can write (and so can you) in criticism of our government without fear of reprisal. Remember that we can own firearms to use for procurement of food as well as protection of life and property. Remember that you can choose how to educate your children, how to discipline your children, and how many children you will welcome into your family. Remember that all people are equal in the eyes of God and should be equal under the law as well.

Remember that our veterans are people just like us, with families like ours. They are people who loved as deeply we do, cared as much for their children as we do.

Remember that the men and women who sacrificed for us think our freedom is not just worth fighting for, it is worth sacrificing everything for.


Sunday, November 09, 2008

Is this information relevant?

Last Monday I took Chris to see a pediatric developmental specialist, one of three people in the valley reputed to be accurate at diagnosing autism spectrum disorders. Before the appointment we received several different questionnaires to fill out and return. Chris's school (where he still goes for speech therapy) sent in their own battery of tests and assessments. Everything had to be back to the office at least one week before the appointment. Since we scheduled back in June to take the first available appointment (yes, it was November 3) there weren't many problems completing our paperwork in time.

The doctor spent about 15 minutes interviewing Chris and me and then he looked at his little computer, cleared his throat and said, "Well it looks like Asperger's, although it could be a Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified. Asperger's by definition is not diagnosed when language delay is present..." To which I said, "Speech and language are different things and Chris has never had issues processing language, just forming sounds."

It was all very civil. After making his pronouncement the doctor asked if I had any questions. Of course I did (shocking, no?). I asked about homeschool versus public school. He said it was a personal choice and he didn't have an opinion. I asked about social interaction. He told me that usually he recommended that school was a good place to learn social skills but he understood we were from Nampa... and some schools are better than others when it comes to dealing with developmental disorders.

Hmmm. Isn't it interesting that even the medical community in Boise has heard that Nampa schools are not the greatest? I sit here laughing because I can not count the number of times I've said something to the effect of, "I'd keep Chris in school if we lived in Meridian or Kuna..." It's not that I don't have a great appreciation for the teachers and therapists Chris and Sam have worked with in the Nampa School District. I love them all. To a person they have been kind, caring, compassionate, well educated, and hemmed in by the quirky policies of the Nampa School District.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could just do away with the entire district hierarchy, leaving only the principals and school faculty and staff in place? If that ever came to pass I'd seriously consider re-enrolling Chris in the elemenary school. His IEP team last year recommended that we pursue the option of dual enrollment. He could learn the academic subjects at home where he's less distracted and better able to focus. He could go to school for the part of the day "specials" are taught and do his speech therapy, p.e. (always important, don't you think?), art, music, library, and computer lab. It sounded like the best of both worlds. He'd still get the social interaction (which is only so very important if you have a social disorder) and he'd get to experience some subjects on a scale that I'm really not able to reproduce at home (my form of p.e. is to put in the YogaKids video).

Then the school year started. His therapist reluctantly told me that the district has changed it's policies for this year. Chris would qualify for speech therapy if we used a service plan and said he was enrolled in private school (which homeschool is). Chris could also have dual enrollment and attend specials. He could not be dual enrolled and keep his speech therapy. Does that make any sense to anybody?

The therapist has been working on finding a compromise ever since. On Wed. the psycologist who was on our IEP team recommended I call the district office and start asking questions (I've been pretty passive since I really feed off the energy generated by confrontation... it's a bit addictive so I try to avoid it all together). I called. The lady in charge of special education told me that we'd need to form a 504 team and that if that team determined speech therapy was needed they could write it into the 504 plan (a 504 simply outlines any special accomodations that need to be made within the classroom for the time a student is present in class). Interesting, no? So I called our SLP and passed the info I recieved onto her. She said that is not what the district's been telling her and if they're willing to bend this far she'll confirm as soon as possible and try to get Chris dual enrolled as soon as possible.

So, back to my initial question. Is the diagnosis we recieved on Monday relevant information? I expected that once we had (or did not have) a diagnosis everything would change. And it didn't. The doctor did give me some ideas for curriculum to try and websites to visit to purchase curriculum well suited to children with Asperger's. He told us that Chris seemed to be doing well and to continue with what we're doing and check in again in six months.

It took a long time for me to be willing to go through the testing and get a diagnosis. I was so worried that my child would be labeled and people (especially teachers) would look at him differently. Now that we're homeschooling that doesn't seem to be much of an issue. It also took this long for me to realize the most important consideration when it came to diagnosing my son... a diagnosis doesn't change who his is. He wasn't broken before we had a name to call his quirky traits. He isn't broken now that we do have a name for those silly tendencies like fascination with smells and rabbits.

In essence, nothing has changed since last Monday. There are not a slew of new ideas or people running to show us how to "deal" with this unique child. He's doing well. I guess we'll keep doing what we've been doing... which is loving him and praising him and cherishing him for all the things that make him unique and special. Wouldn't everybody love to have someone in their house with a map of their surrounding permanently imprinted on their brain? Shouldn't we all take time to really smell the flowers (and rain, and wood shavings, and kitchen spices, and crayons, and...)?

Friday, November 07, 2008

We're so racist

Ok, I admit it. We are racist. Color matters to us. No one wants to eat off the pink plate. The yellow puppies get ignored because everyone who visits wants to play with the black puppies. The poor yellow toys and craft supplies get tossed aside in favor of green or red.

In the course of raising our three boys I've always tried to celebrate diversity and emphasize the value of all colors. Despite my best efforts the segregation and downright discrimination continue. It has reached the point that the yellow birthday balloon was popped... on purpose. The green and red balloons were mutilated by cutting their strings off so that other brothers couldn't play with them. Even the favored colors suffer when racism runs rampant.

I don't know what to do about it. My room is a collage of lavendar, purple, green, red, blue, orange, and yes... even yellow. My wardrobe is similiarly diverse (although it leans heavily towards the orange/red/pink end of the spectrum). Never have my children heard me express the opinion that one color is better than the other colors. Never have I rejected an object based on color (and you should have seen some of our early couches!). Yet, the racism persists. I can't even blame it on the horrid public school children (you know, since we homeschool).

Pink plates, cups, mugs, saucers, elephants of the world unite! This favoritsm towards other colors must end! The kitchen cupboard is the first place to begin uniting the color spectrum. Please think of the children.... buy brownish gray sludge colored dishes... they combine the best (and worst) of all the colors!

Seriously, if I have to listen to any more whining about the pink plate I will paint the dishes brown.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The Dawn of a New Age

Yikes! It's official. The Democrats pretty much won the entire election. This scares me a bit, not because the President is a Democrat, but because when one party controls the White House and both branches of the Congress it also means they are not far away from gaining control of the judicial branch of our government as well. I would be just as concerned if it were the Republicans in power. It's just not healthy for one political party to wield that much power.

Historically speaking it would have been a major upset if the Republicans had retained control of the presidency. Never in the history of democracy has the current party remained in power when a recession occurred during their term of office. Not just in the United States, but in every democratic country in the world history shows us that the people punish the people in power and move to change everything when election time rolls around. In a time of economic prosperity they reward the people in office and elect them to another term. This holds true whether political policy is shown to impact the economy or not.

Interestingly, we can chart the economy and predict when the next upswing or recession will occur... it doesn't matter who's in office or what the rest of the world is doing... the economy follows the same cycle over and over again. It may vary by a couple years but for the most part we know there will be recessions and there will be times of prosperity. The important lesson we need to take from that knowledge is that the times of abundance will end and the times of trial will end as well. We just need to ride it out, be personally responsible with our finances, and expect the boom and bust trends to continue. Our economy is never static. It's always waning and waxing. Citizens tend to make decisions based on the situation of the moment, not looking ahead to better (or worse) times that are sure to come.

Those who don't understand history are doomed to repeat it.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Happy November!

My eldest child turned 7 on Saturday. It doesn't seem possible that the perfect little being I grew inside me is now over 4 feet tall, weighs close to 70 pounds, knows at least 25 breeds of rabbits by sight, can fix breakfast for the whole family by himself, can diagram a female reproductive tract (don't ask), is conversant on the techniques necessary to revive breech birth puppies and goats that aren't breathing at parturition, builds awesome Lego houses, and can tell highly detailed stories about Mr. Ferret and all his friends.

Both Dave and I had friends who were having fertility problems and so when we got married we decided that it might be best if we started trying to have children soon... just in case we couldn't... then we'd still be young enough to adopt if we needed to. Interestingly, we didn't have fertility problems (except possibly an overabundance of fertility) and the first month we tried the little stick developed two hot pink lines before I even got the cap all the way back on the "absorbent tip."

Our anniversary is November 4th. Chris' birthday is November 1st. When we started trying to have a baby I read that the average couple takes about six months to get pregnant. I figured that six months would give me time to: 1) lose weight; 2) finish writing thank you notes for wedding gifts; 3) unpack all the junk in boxes left over from combining two lives; 4) spend a bit of time alone together as a married couple before starting our family. We started trying in January.

On March 6th, 2001 I was somewhere like day 43 of my cycle. If you haven't recieved a thank you note yet for a lovely present you gave us at our wedding... please accept my sincere apologies for being late and know that we love and cherish the towels/crock pot/bakeware/salt and pepper shakers/blanket/placemats/magnetic letters you thoughtfully gave us as we started our life together. My memory and attention span took a hard hit as soon as I got pregnant and I still haven't found the list of presents and thank you cards. To this day it bothers me because I know some people did not get properly thanked. Thank you.

Chris joined our family a couple weeks early (thank God!). Our lives haven't been the same since. His sincere questions, creative mind and hands, sunny smile, and love of books bring joy to our home every day of the year. I can't even imagine how we'd find anything if I didn't have such a competent navigator giving advice and providing directions to local stores, schools, friend's houses, and churches. The Lego horses are also truly awesome. Happy seventh birthday to my oldest son!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Halloween Table Runner

Here is the table runner I started in August and finally pushed myself to finish just in time to enjoy for 5 days before Halloween. This was a stash project where I used only fabric I already owned without going shopping. The orange with the big bats would not be my first choice for a background fabric. At least it's bright and colorful and the kids like it! Plus I spent money only on the thread for the project!

Friday, October 24, 2008


We lost our kitten this morning. The sensors on our garage door are set too high for kittens and the last person to close the door didn't even know anything was wrong. This morning I went looking for her when she didn't run up as I was letting the dogs out. It was a suprise even to the dogs.

As I sit here typing it amazes me that I really didn't want this kitten. She came at an inconvenient time and our road is so busy it's not a good place for cats. We loved her. We loved her from the very first day. She and Jazz bonded after Zowie had her puppies. From out of nowhere she would attack Jazzmine. Jazzmine would gently play with her and always I was amazed since the kitten was smaller than Jazz's head.

Sam was in total kitten love. He carried that kitten everywhere with his little arms wrapped around her middle and her front and rear ends dangling. And she let him. She even sought him out. Her cute little white and seal nose would twitch and suddenly she'd start attacking the drawstring on Sam's pants or chasing dust glimmers in the air. He didn't even hear me the first time I told him she was gone. Afterwards he went out looking for her and we had to tell him again. I could see when he understood and it makes my heart hurt more than losing the kitten did.

Chris is wandering around muttering, "but she never got to grow up." I have to agree and join in saying that it isn't fair. It's absolutely not fair. He loved to cuddle the kitten while doing his reading work and just this week he set up a study area in his room that has toys for Kitten to play with. Chris never did agree to the name Goofball for the cat. To him she has always been Kitten.

Jake is worried about our other two cats. I think Dave just took him out to the shop to check on them. Tigger and Wolfie came to us when their owner was allergic to them and it was either us or the shelter. We haven't spent as much time with them since they were full grown when they got here and they live in the shop out back. Dave never wanted a cat in the house and has campaigned pretty actively to keep them away from the house and yard, relegating them to the shop and pasture.

Gosh, I miss that kitten. She fit in so well with our family. I'm not convinced there are any other kittens in the world who would trust my children and our big dogs the way this kitten trusted us. She was special. Someone didn't want her and dumped her here. I didn't think we wanted her either... for about an hour. Today I wish more than anything that we could have had her forever. My heart HURTS and even knowing our life was richer for knowing Goofball doesn't make it hurt less.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

New Addition to the Family

This afternoon I whipped together a new addition to our little family. Originally I planned to give her away as a baby shower present but I've been informed by my oldest son that he thinks she will miss Leslie (his small stuffed rabbit) and the stress of the afternoon has caused New Green Bunny to take to her bed. I actually had to grab this rabbit and run in order to take a picture.

Next time I make one I think the ears should not curve outward. A nice teardrop shape would work better. It's hard to see her mouth in the pictures, but next time I'll remember to embroider the mouth before I stuff the silly creature and most likely a darker thread would show up better. Chris really does like her mouth pink though, he says that real rabbit lips and noses are pink.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Pay it Forward

How do you recognize religious truth? Is it true if you hear it from a member of the clergy? Is it true if you read it in the Bible? Is it true if it comes into your conscience while praying? Is it true if a ranking church official tells you it's true? How do you recognize religious truth?

I was taught always to question. Always questioning makes it hard to subscribe to any one religion. It does make it easier to listen to other people's religious truths and keep an open mind- after all, they may have true revelations to share. Do you suppose there is any one church that knows all the answers?

I always pictured God's truth as a pie (probably an apple pie). That pie has to feed many people, and it is a continually replenished dish. Any religion you can think of has at least a small piece of that pie. None of the religions have a monopoly on pie. Where religious issues get sticky is that each church adds some of their own toppings to the pie. After all, apple pie surely should be served a'la mode. But then again, some people prefer their apple pie with sharp cheddar cheese. Some like the pie hot, others cold. Once in a while you find enterprising gourmets who drizzle fresh caramel sauce over the apple pie and ice cream. Delicious, wonderful enhancements. But how do we separate the enhanced toppings from the simple goodness of the apple pie God gave us in the beginning?

The extra ingredients get all tumbled together. The dessert may be palatable in any form, but we tend to begin thinking that apple pie a'la mode is the only good pie. After a while we forget that in the beginning there was just pie. God didn't serve it with ice cream, we added that ourselves. When we forget who added the ice cream we begin to condemn those people who eat their pie with cheddar. They aren't as apple pie-ish as we are. Their truth isn't our truth. What we really forget is that God already gave us the truth and we chose to add to it to make it more palatable to us.

I have great respect for people of faith who live their convictions. I have no respect at all for people who profess their convictions but don't live them. In the thirty-three years I have lived on this Earth I've met many people who wanted to "save me." There were people who preached their faith to me. There were people who sent missionaries to preach for them. There were people who "invited" me to their churches. There were people who educated me about the consequences for my eternal soul if I didn't believe the way they did.

And then there was Genaura. She wasn't the only person I met who helped shape my faith (in a good way), but she is the one who stands out most in my memory. Genaura had a deep and abiding faith. I did not know that because she said, "I have a deep and abiding faith." I knew that because she woke me up at 5:00 in the morning to secretly plant pansies for the old lady who lived on the corner. I know of Genaura's faith because I once tried to pay her back for a ride back home from school and she instructed me to do the same for someone else when I had the opportunity. She never used the words "pay it forward. " She lived her life "paying it forward."

As a college freshman I was a much more negative person than I am today. My outlook was pessimistic. I didn't particularly like other people, especially women. I analyzed the worth and quality of everything (material and philosophical). Always, I was searching for the flaw, the impurity. I could not see without judging.

Eventually there came a time when I couldn't sleep at night because my mind just would not turn off. All night long I lay in bed weighing the events of the day. One evening I went into Genaura's room to visit. She was writing in her journal. I asked her about it, if it helped her sort out her day or did she just chronicle her day? Her answer changed my life. Her answer changed the way I saw the world, and God, and my place here.

Gratitude. She journaled gratitude. It was the last thing she did before going to bed. Genaura kept a gratitude journal. When I thought about my day, I chronicled all that went wrong- all that I could have done better. When Genaura went to bed she chronicled all that was good in her day. She never mentioned the bad. Her end of day routine was all about remembering to be thankful and showing gratitude to God for the amazing day she'd gotten to experience.

We lived together. Some of classes had the same professors. We shared some friends. Our days were not that different. The way we saw our days was absolutely different. I saw trials and injuries. She saw wonder and light and opportunity. In the end, I saw God working through her.

I've met many "Christians" who believe in good works. They believe good works are required, commanded by God. Genaura believed that Jesus died for us, no strings attached. If you accept the gift YOU ARE SAVED. In gratitude you pay it forward and help others while expecting nothing in return. You are saved. Pay it forward.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Normal? What's normal?

Normal is a relative term. I think we (my family and me) are fairly normal people. I think most (but not all) of our friends are fairly normal people. And then there are days like today. There are days when you have to mind your tongue, not because you're afraid of offending, but because you will literally freak somebody out if you respond in your usual fashion. Not only do you have to mind your tongue, you have to change your vocabulary, just to help others feel comfortable. And... I'm not good at it.

This afternoon one of my new 4-H members brought his rabbits over for me to look at. He just enrolled at our last meeting and is totally new to the whole 4-H thing. He's had rabbits for a little while but really doesn't know much about them. Most of the resources you find that aren't published by the American Rabbit Breeders Association (A.R.B.A.) or through a university press are not worth the paper they're printed on. There is a tremendous amount of garbage being advocated by "pet" rabbit people who have neither the experience or education to back up their recommendations. Unfortunately, my willing young 4-Her did not find information from the good reference sources.

He's had a very educational year. His doe died this summer due to heat stroke. She had three week old babies at the time. The boy and his family bottle fed them. They did have a friend who knew enough to sex the babies and they got the doe in the litter seperated from the bucks. Then they left the buck in the same cage. Bucks are territorial. They fight once they reach maturity. One day the boy went out and found a testicle laying on the cage wire. When they examined all the bucks they had very swollen testicles (sorry about the graphic nature of the post, but the 1 reader I have probably skipped back to the puppy pictures by now anyway).

They took the rabbits to the vet. He diagnosed vent disease (without really examining them or running any cultures). The vet prescribed three doses of penicillin one week apart. This is a good way of eradicating vent disease. If your rabbits have vent disease and didn't just castrate each other. The same vet has been charging the family around eighty dollars a month to clip teeth on one of the bucks. His angle of bite is incorrect and rabbit teeth grow forever. A rabbit with malocclusion will die of malnutrition if the teeth aren't trimmed regularly. It takes about two weeks for the teeth to be overgrown after you clip them off at the gumline. It's not a condition that's really compatible with good quality of life for the rabbit.

The mom asked me for advice. I'm afraid that my first response (inside my head) was... kill them. Oops, I mean cull them (which means... kill them). At that point, just as I was opening my mouth, it occured to me that maybe this family (with four kids) needed a more tactful approach than an out and out recommendation to do away with their rabbits. So, I told them I'd do some research and get back to them.

And here is where I begin to really understand that to some people I may seem a little weird (Amy, don't even think about it). I spent a couple hours the next Saturday morning on the phone to my mother and another rabbit breeder/microbiologist in Moscow. I'd already done some research on my own. Really, I wanted them to confirm that we should cull the rabbits before I told the family. I truly, truly enjoyed the conversation I had with the Moscow rabbit breeder. We spent over an hour and a half debating whether treponema cuniculi could survive in a wood cage over a period of months. It's anaerobic so I would guess that if it dries out and doesn't have a host it can't survive in the environment. Then we discussed that if there were a disease organism present it was most likely to be pasturella multocida. You can treat and cure an infection caused by treponema cuniculi but pasturella multocida always comes back when an animal is stressed. Both are highly contagious. Pasturella multocida is the big bad of bacterial infections in rabbits. I can cause everything from a respiratory infection that easily turns into pnemonia, to abscesses, to hemorrhagic septicimia, to genital infections. It's nasty, has 98% morbidity and isn't truly curable (although you can send it into remission). Of course it's also endemic (meaning you could pick it up anywhere and many, many rabbits without symptoms are carriers.

The gist of my thought is... I had a pleasurable time researching and talking diseases and bacteria with my friends while putting off the time I needed to tell this poor boy he should really see about introducing his bunnies to their place in the food chain.

Today, they brought the bunnies to see me. I very tactfully asked the boy (after noting the malocclusion problem) how much money he made every month (he's eleven). Then I asked him if he wanted to learn how to clip rabbit teeth using wire cutters. Then I suggested that maybe the rabbits quality of life wasn't so very good that he shouldn't join the food chain (think Birds of Prey Raptor Breeding Program in Kuna, ID). Wasn't that tactful of me? I thought it was quite good considering my skills in tactfullness compare to a bulls gracefullness while trampling through a china shop.

While examining his other bucks I found that the one who was missing some of his dangly bits had some serious nasty stuff going on with his other male parts. His life was never going to be the same (I'm not sure how he could pee). The last of the bucks looked pretty good until I noticed he had drool marks under his chin. It doesn't seem like much, but drool's the first sign that a molar (in the back where human eyes can't see) has broken. The mom told me she noticed the drool shortly after she separted the bucks (after the castration incident). A broken molar usually occurs after someone drops a rabbit on the cement or they bang themselves around in their cage (usually during a thunderstorm or dog attack). So... Dave had to "cull" all three bucks.

Now I'm wondering how long I need to wait before I can bring out the skulls with malocclusion at a 4-H meeting. Really, how could I pass up the opportunity to use these wonderful specimens as educational aids? I'm just not sure if an eleven year old boy would think they were cool... or if his little heart would hurt. Knowing that my own son would think it's cool to see the teeth and the structure of the jaw reminds me that "normal is a relative term."

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Puppy Update

There don't seem to be many controversial words in my head lately (haven't been paying attention to politics) so I've fallen behind on my blogging. The major event still occuring in our household is puppies. Yes, puppies qualify as an event. Especially when there are 11 of them. They are still healthy, active, and beautiful. Our neighbors (whose dog we borrowed) are going to keep a boy (thank goodness, since there are 9 (!!!) boys in the litter). They also think the police department may want to buy one of them as a drug detection dog. A few of their friends are also interested in hunting dogs. It leaves me wondering, if they find homes for half the litter (not an inconsiderable feat) do I give them a finder's fee? Do I buy them dinner? Do I just say "thank you" and run with the money? What would you do if it were your neighbors and your puppies?

Christine finally found my blog (but didn't comment). She later told me that I need more recent pictures. So I am going to fill the rest of my blog this evening with current family pictures. Sorry, there aren't any of me that don't show a horrendous double chin (obviously the camera added something there) and my husband makes himself scarce when the camera's out so you'll have to be happy with pictures of the boys and dogs.

It is really hard to take a picture of big dogs when they keep following you.

Pay no attention to the chocolate smeared all over Sam's face. Please. These are pictures from birth day.

Good thing we have a large pool for the puppies. Notice the classy plastic lawn furniture arranged around the pool for viewing convenience.

Finally, here are the puppies today. Sorry I didn't get any kids in the picture so it's hard to see how much they've grown. By this time next week everyone should have their eyes open and they'll be well on their way to becoming holy terrors (just like the rest of the family). Enjoy them while they're small and sweet and have no teeth.

Monday, October 13, 2008

I don't know if it's the years or the miles...

Today my youngest child turned three. I remembered his birthday sometime Friday evening. Somehow I think the "Mommy of the Year" is going to bypass me again this year. It's not so much that I forgot his birthday, it just snuck (sneaked?) up on me. One day it was October 9th, a few days later it was the 11th... the time in between is a bit blurry (and no, I wasn't drinking... this month). We threw together a dinner party in his honor, invited the family (although only grandparents could attend on such short notice), made cake, served ice cream, and a good time was had by all.

If we only had one child it would be so much different. I remember Chris's first birthday. It was amazingly organized. I set the party date a couple months in advance. The invitations were designed on the computer using MS Publisher. It was a dinosaur theme. I decorated the cake myself. It was homemade carrot cake baked in a dinosaur shaped pan. The cake was delicious and it was a work of art. You should have seen it. The color scheme for the evening was green and orange (to go with the dinosaur theme... being a 4-H Program Coordinator involves some event planning, don't ya know). The dinosaur was green with orange spikes. He was some of my best cake work ever. I made treat bags for all the kids we invited to the party.
We used the good china. I think we may even have used the silver (the real silver silverware, not the stainless steel silver colored silverware). I served homemade raspberry lemonade in an antique glass pitcher. Secretly I marveled over how simple it was planning and throwing kid's parties. I wondered why some moms just gave in and served food from the freezer section (value added product) and glopped store bought frosting on a cake mix cake. I mean really, how hard is it to just put together a simple homemade party?
Fast forward seven years. Can you believe I didn't even think about setting a date for the birthday event until 2 (!!!) days before the kid's birthday? Not only that, I didn't even decorate. There was no party theme, no decorations (unless you count the chair where I piled presents as grandparents arrived), no color scheme, no good china, no silver, no antique pitchers (although I did serve pop out of a plastic bottle). The cake started it's life in a box on the grocery store shelf. Jake came out while I was cleaning the puppy pool and crumbled one edge (about 8") of the cake into a bowl to eat while he was waiting for me to return to the kitchen. I just put extra frosting on that side.
One question that keeps returning to my mind is: Are people with multiple children different than people with no children or only one child? I think they are, which leads to another question: Were these parents different before they had more children? Or did having more children change the parents? I think the children changed us. If Chris were my only child I would not be the woman I am today. If Chris and Sam were my only children I would not be the woman I am today. If I have three more children I will not remain the woman I am today (and really... heaven help us all!). Life's experiences shape us. Things I believed to be vitally important seven years ago (like color schemes for birthday parties) don't even register on my radar for importance today.
Some stuff I thought might be nice (like visiting one on one with grandparents) I now find incredibly, amazingly essential. Keeping a set schedule, providing party favors, decorating the cake with a set pattern (you know, so you can tell that white blob of whipped cream is a puppy instead of an inkblot)... it doesn't really matter. Having our family with us to celebrate Jake's birthday, that's much more essential. Relaxing and enjoying the day instead of stressing over whether the invitations were mailed with the best looking stamp... much more important to my children.
P.S. That pink cake is a Raspberry Cake. All Jake wanted for his birthday was Raspberry Cake. We've never eaten or made a raspberry cake before (at least not that I can remember) but it was his main request. This recipe has raspberry jello powder as well as a package of frozen raspberries baked in the batter. It is more violently pink on the inside than it is on the outside. The frosting is whipped cream mixed with a package of frozen raspberries. The whipped cream really tones down the color. Just in case you were wondering it was delicious :-)

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Ezekiel Bread

I was looking through our latest Taste Of Home magazine when I came across a recipe for Ezekiel bread. Most of the bread eaten in our house is homemade. New recipes are frequently examined in an attempt to find the best bread recipes ever. This recipe was prefaced by a note from the person who submitted it:
"If your Bible's handy, read Ezekiel 4:9 to find the inspiration for this recipe and its title. This tender, chewy, mulitgrain bread has a hint of sweetness."

I looked up Ezekiel 4:9.

"Take wheat and barley, beans and lentils, millet and spelt; put them in a storage jar and use them to make bread for yourself. You are to eat it during the 390 days you lie on your side."

Ok, that doesn't sound bad. Of course this particular recipe only calls for wheat flour, wheat germ, and bread flour. That might seem multigrained to some people. It is however a far cry from the multigrain loaf described in Ezekiel 4:9.

But wait! It gets better. I believe that if you're looking for scriptural inspiration you really need to read the whole passage to get a feel for the meaning of the verse. So, let's take a look at Ezekiel 4:9-13.

'Take wheat and barley, beans and lentils, millet and spelt; put them in a storage jar and use them to make bread for yourself. You are to eat it during the 390 days you lie on your side. Weigh out twenty shekels of food to eat each day and eat it at set times. Also measure out a sixth of a hin of water and drink it at set times. Eat the food as you would a barley cake; bake it in the sight of the people, using human excrement for fuel. The LORD said, "In this way the people of Israel will eat defiled food among the nations where I will drive them."'

Mmmm. Boy that sounds good. I think I'll go bake some bread and eat it in rememberance of Ezekiel 4:9. Or maybe not.

Friday, October 10, 2008

How did we get so old?

It finally happened. And I was suprised. Last night was our first meeting in the new 4-H year. We've been with this club long enough (going on 3 years) that we're comfortable there. Chris and I have made friends in our group (not hard to do when there are 70+ members). Most meetings are uneventful and predictable. But last night was the first meeting of the new year.

The first meeting is the meeting when all of the leaders put out their project sign up sheets (I'm leading rabbits, cavies, six easy bites, and cake decorating... yes, I have gone crazy... years ago). The extension office sends prospective new members our way. The new members attend this meeting and frequently it's the first time we've ever seen them.

Last night as I was manning my little section of the table, I heard my name. K'Anne (the cloverbud leader) was telling a new mom that I'd be helping her with the project this year (darn it, K'Anne! I'm just not good with the littlest kids... especially when they're mine). I turned to greet the new member and her mom. The mom looked a little familiar (but I'm not particulary good with faces... I could have seen her as I entered the room and then later thought she looked familiar). I studied her for a split second and then she smiled and said, "I thought those eyes looked familiar! I know Janet!" And I looked at her a moment longer. Oh. My. God. I am so old. It was bound to happen. After all we're in 4-H... which means my child is old enough for the program.

It wasn't so bad (once the initial shock wore off). Brenda's always been friendly (a little too put together for me to be totally comfortable with, but nice). She's intelligent, good with children, creative (and hey, her mom owns a quilt store... that can only be a good thing), and someone I used to show horses with, judge horses with, do horsebowl with, attend teen conference with... you get the idea. Anyway, it wasn't so bad until she said..."Wow! It's been, like, 20 years!" And she didn't have to round up much to estimate 20. Twenty. And now we have kids taking the same project, in the same club.

I'm really quite excited (did I mention her mom owns a quilt shop? and that she's good with kids, creative. Did I mention her mom owns a quilt shop). What I'm really thinking this morning is... she would make a way better co-leader for the cloverbud project than I would. Isn't that exciting to all potential cloverbud members in our club? (Have I mentioned that the littlest kids aren't really my cup of tea?). However, 20 years still seems like an amazingly long time to me. How did we get so old? I've been an adult for 15 years now. My contemporaries have children doing things with my children that we used to do. Parenthood is a wild ride, and it's only getting crazier the older my kids are.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Motherhood is for the dogs

This afternoon Sam's preschool class is going on a field trip to the park. His teacher asked if I'd come along as a parent volunteer and of course I jumped at the opportunity to work with my middle child and get to know his friends from school a little better. Chris and Jake made arrangements to go visit Grandma and Grandpa Anderson and there was talk of pop drinking and candy eating. It was going to be a glorious day!

About 11:10 we started getting ready to go. The kids found their shoes. They put on their brand new socks (purchased yesterday). I kept hearing whining. The kids were in the living room fixing their shoes... nope.... none of them looked unhappy. I started looking for Goofball (the new kitten). Nope... she and Jazz (Sam's black dog) were not at loggerheads. Then I heard it again.

Wouldn't you know it!?! There she was... on my bedroom carpet... whelping puppies! We've been watching since last Tuesday (when she a had a bit of false labor) wondering when the puppies would make an appearance. Everything I've read tells you that your bitch will go off her feed before she whelps. Zowie ate everything in sight this morning, and yet... there she was... in all her glory... on my bedroom carpet.

Chris and I got the 4 puppies we found in my room moved to their pool in the shop. Zowie eagerly followed us out. I called Sam's grandparents and school to let them know we would not be there today. Then we waited. In the shop my children have a setup that looks like a pool party going on. The swimming pool (where Zowie whelps and we keep the puppies the first two weeks) is in the center of the floor. There's a door behind her and shelves to one side. Ranged around the rest of the pool are lawn chairs, blankets, water bottles, a huge bowl of dogfood, 5 or 6 rawhide retriever rolls, newspapers, old beach towels, and a large mug of tea.

Sam brought the tea. He very assuredly tells me that, "Mommies need tea," At this point Chris and Jake returned to the house to watch cartoons (Yea! No school! Mom's busy! Quick, get the potato chips before she comes to check on us!!!). Sam spent all afternoon in the shop, sitting in the pool, patting Zowie's head, saying, "It's ok Zo, good Zo, look at your puppies Zo," He calmly places clean towels over the cold, wet towels. He helps struggling puppies find teats. He watches to make sure each puppy born gets cleaned and dried. When Zo starts pushing and I'm not there he calls out to let me know she's having more babies. What an amazing 4 year old Sam is! I absolutely love that he would rather stay with his whelping dog than watch cartoons! It's amazing that he calmly, gently, quietly supports the dog (when others might run around making noise and stealing puppies). No day at school would have taught him more. No teacher or classmate would have presented him with an opportunity to really care for a living creature today! Life's lessons frequently are not learned in a classroom and we are so blessed that today we had the option to choose which environment we'd spend our school day in. It is a glorious day!
**10 puppies and counting.
**11 puppies at 3:45pm

Thursday, October 02, 2008

I have way too much help typing

We have a new kitten. She was across the street from our house last Friday evening crying as if her whole world had come to an end. I didn't know what to do with her. We're expecting a litter of puppies any day now and certainly don't need to add another animal to the mix at this point. I tried everybody I could think of on Friday night... to no avail. No one would shelter a poor, innocent kitten until a new home could be found for her. I knew... even as I chose not to throw the poor, yowling kitten back outside where she would certainly be run over on our busy street... I knew... a kitten who spends the night in a house full of young boys would not be finding a new home. Now I have way more help than I need whenever I try to use the computer.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

I wasn't sad

I always thought depression was about feeling hopeless and sad. It was about crying at the drop of the hat for no apparent reason. Depression was a deep black hole with no visible exit sign. I was not depressed. I loved my life. I loved my children. I loved my husband. I could see a rosy future in front of all of us.

I also could barely stand to bathe my 2 month old baby by myself. It was so easy to see all the calamities that could befall us. I could slip in water he splashed on the floor. Then I might hit my head. I could be knocked unconscious. My baby, despite my best efforts, could die because of some freak accident. Some car might cartwheel through our yard hitting the bathroom. We could all be crushed when the walls collapsed. Oh my goodness, we won't even go into the scenarios where random acts of violence could be perpetrated against my poor, small, innocent children. But I wasn't sad. I was just a little bit anxious.

I watched other mothers, some with way more children than I had, do a tremendous amount of work in a day. I worked hard all day and yet there were still piles of laundry to fold, dishes to wash, carpets to vacuum, and meals to cook. It seemed like no matter what I did I just was not good at being a housewife. Working with 2 kids in tow felt like trying to run in chest deep mud. My body was slow and heavy. I was lazy, and apparently a poor housekeeper. But I wasn't sad.

When Sam was 9 weeks old my grandmother had cataract surgery. She needed someone to come stay with her the first couple of nights. Since we're all comfortable at Grandma's house I volunteered to bring my little family to visit until she could see well enough to get around. Dave came home early that night and stopped by Grandma's (where I was with the kids). He still needed to go home and pack a bag and I needed to go buy some milk and salad ingredients. Chris was almost 3 and he wanted to stay with Grandma. Since my mom lives just up the road from Grandma and she was on her way home, I called and she offered to stop by and stay with Grandma and Chris. I took Sam, since he was nursing every hour and a half or so, and Dave and took Dave home to pack a bag.

It made sense that while Dave was packing I'd go do the small amount of grocery shopping we needed. Usually when Dave was home I'd leave the kids with him when I went to the store. That day he was in a hurry and didn't want to deal with Sam too. We had a conversation about it and I said I'd take Sam grocery shopping with me. Sometime between our house and the store I forgot that Sam was with me. You hear about mothers "forgetting" their kids in the car and I always assumed that they must have some horrible character fault that enabled them to absentmindedly forget a child.

That's not at all what happened. I walked across that parking lot and into the grocery store thinking about my family, thinking about my baby. I hurried because I didn't want Dave to feed Sam a bottle (I HATE pumping!!).

I saw babies in the store and thought about how Sam compared with their size and weight. It wasn't until I returned to my car that I had even an inkling that Sam was still there. It was as if all the thoughts in my brain were on separate pieces of paper and somehow the page that knew Sam was with me was stuck behind the sheet that had me planning to leave Sam with his dad while I went shopping. I was forgetful, and apparently a horrid mother, but I wasn't sad.

Thinking about it later, I realized that there were several occasions I left the house and forgot where I was going by the time I got to the stop sign on the corner. Usually I just went to the grocery store at that point because I was guaranteed to find something we needed. I also had a hard time reading and getting into the story before I was needed elsewhere. I would rather give up breathing than not read, but I certainly wasn't reading at the rate I did before the baby was born. Before I had Sam I had a photographic memory and as for focus and concentration... well, let's just say I earned the money for my first car working as a labratory technician. I definately didn't have trouble with memory or concentration. After Sam it was different, but I was just distracted and overwhelmed by my inability to be a good housekeeper as well as a mother. I wasn't sad.

I went to see my doctor after THE INCIDENT. From the time Sam was born until after that doctor's visit I had one huge, long, horrible migraine. I assumed that the hormones were to blame (and they were) and so I didn't seek medical attention. After all, it takes a while for everything to get back to normal after you have a baby. After finally seeking help and telling my doctor about THE INCIDENT he prescribed beta blockers to stop vascular spasm (since they're safe while nursing but migraine meds aren't). The migraine stopped 3 days later. I still felt like I was working in deep mud, but at least the pain in my head had stopped.

Dr. Martin also told me not to beat myself up over THE INCIDENT. He told me that the only difference between me and every other mother is that I had a more dramatic occurance when my memory failed. I didn't really believe him, after all I FORGOT MY BABY IN THE CAR!!! How could that be a common occurance? How do you forgot you have a child with you? Dr. Martin suggested that I was suffering from post-partum depression and I didn't believe him. I was worried and sure that my children would have been better off being raised by wolves, but I wasn't sad.

I did a lot of research about sleep deprivation and that did offer me some comfort and explanation for how the memory lapse could occur. It didn't help me sleep better at night or become a better housekeeper, but it did offer some great solutions to make sure nothing similiar ever happened again (now I never put my purse anywhere other than between the smallest child and the door of the car, then I can't get my purse without seeing my child).

I was incredibly tired, my mind obviously wasn't functioning at it's normal capacity. Although I loved my children I kept wondering if they wouldn't be better off in daycare because at least then I'd be bringing money into the family. My skills as a wife, mother, and home maker were not on par with the skills of those around me. Never in my life had I experienced the feeling that I couldn't be the absolute best at anything I chose to do. But I wasn't sad.

One morning I woke up and realized that the laundry was caught up, the dishes were washed, the floors were vacuumed, my children were fed, and we were all playing and laughing together just like all those other families I saw. It seemed to have happened almost overnight. That day I realized that even though I wasn't sad I had been depressed.

About 8 weeks later I commented to my best friend that I'd only had one period since Sam was born. I knew that nursing makes such things irregular but still, I wondered if I should be concerned. Amy suggested (while laughing really hard) that perhaps I should buy a pregnancy test. Of course, she was right and I was pregnant. In fact, I was 8 weeks pregnant. My whole life changed when Jake implanted and the hormones shifted. The depression was gone. I'm positive that Jake was a gift from God, sent just when he was most needed. If Jake hadn't surprised us I would never have chosen to give birth again because I just wasn't as good a mother as others I saw. If I couldn't hold everything together with two children how much worse would it be with three? Thank GOD for Jake.

Jake's 15 1/2 months younger than Sam. My house isn't always spotless. Okay, it's rarely spotless. The laundry isn't always folded, but it is clean. We eat nutritious home-cooked meals and we play together as a family. I go through life towing 3 small children behind me and it doesn't feel like I'm moving in deep mud, it feels like I'm walking with my family.

Before Jake I might not have said this, but I believed it none the less. Depression affects people with weak minds. If you just try a little harder, work a little more, it will go away. It's not true. I have a good mind. At times I even believe I have a great mind. The lesson I learned is that it's not infallible. I was so ashamed of most every aspect of my life that was touched by the depression that I would never talk about it. It's still hard to share my story, but it's made easier because now I realize that even though I wasn't sad I was depressed. If anyone who reads my story sees even a few things that sound like what they're living with now... know that you're not alone. It's hard to talk about depression and so most of us who've experienced it are silent. Every woman should know, depression is not what you think it is. Sometimes it's forgetfulness, sometimes it's a rage that's so tangible you can almost feel it moving underneath your skin seeking a target to aim for, sometimes it's the inability to move without feeling like you're carrying a 100 pound weight with you. Help is out there. Even nursing moms can take some of the depression medications. Life does get better.

Jake camping in the living room

Jake camping in the living room