Sunday, March 30, 2008

Night at the Movies

Ben worked diligently all day today to prepare the basement for the evening's family entertainment. He was planning a viewing of our latest Netflix pick, Enchanted. He made tickets for everyone (which were perforated), set up the sofas in a theater configuration (littles had to sit on a sleeping bag down in front), popped popcorn and found enough cups with lids to serve soda to everyone. Then he decorated the basement with a Fairy Tale theme - lots of castley type things around. Once the theater doors were "open" he stood at the foot of the basement steps collecting tickets which he then placed in the cars of his younger brothers' electric Thomas trains. As soon as everyone was seated, he started the train which chugged the tickets along the track and disappeared into the door of a small castle. It reminded me of my years with Mr. Rogers and his Neighborhood of Make Believe. Once the train was safely parked in the bowels of the castle, Ben made the popcorn appear through the hole under a coffee table. He served up individual servings in paper cones he'd made just for the occasion.

We were allowing the viewing of the movie to happen sight unseen which was a bit unusual for us. Generally, Tad and I like to preview even G-rated movies before we show them to the littles but this had gotten enough thumbs up reviews from reputable sources that we made an allowance for Ben's evening of fun. We did all enjoy the movie. It was heavy on the various Fairy Tale themes which we have never over-emphasized with our children so some of the humor may have been lost on them. JT was disheartened that there were kissing scenes (how can you have a Fairy Tale movie without the obligatory kiss of true love?!). Ben paused the movie about halfway through to run the train down the track again, this time carrying coins that each of the children found in the bottom of their paper popcorn cones, and distribute seconds on the snacks. The littlest ones were frightened by the rather dramatic witch scenes which is one element of Fairy Tales we have always tried to avoid but this witch definitely made evil look like evil and she was vanquished in the end by the triumph of Love.

It was a wonderfully inventive evening and Ben made a very gracious host. It was fun to be the beneficiary of his imaginative energies!

Letters from the betrothed...

I love you, Grace. When we get married we'll have the cake and pie that I am making in my food store. Grace, I'm sorry David broke your necklace. I love you I love you I love you. Grace, I'm going to have pineapples in my food store.
John Michael

John Michael,
I like pineapple. Do you have strawberries in your food store?
I really do love pineapple, and I like grapes too. Strawberries are my favorite fruit. Do you have carrots,cauliflower and broccoli in your food store. I like those.
I liked your email. Why did David break the necklace? I asked my mom if someday we could visit you. I really want to visit you because first I have to meet you.

I'm going to have cookies in my food store and cake, pie, apple pie, blueberry pie and ice cream and pasta, macaroni and cheese and bananas and Cheerios and tomatoes.
Good bye,
This is from John Michael

John Michael,
I like all the foods you are having in your store. Will you have broccoli and cauliflower in the store? I love those!
Yesterday was Olivia's birthday party. Here is a picture of Olivia and me with our cousin Giovanni. My aunt got us beach chairs.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Great Lent

Well, as most of you are walking through the last days of Holy Week, the Orthodox are only in the second week of Great Lent. Since we are just catechumens and not yet full-blown Orthodox we've decided to wade into the fasting thing slowly. The Orthodox fast every Wednesday and Friday of the year (with a few exceptions) as well as a few longer fasts throughout the liturgical year, including Great Lent. Fasting to the Orthodox means no meat, fish, eggs, dairy, olive oil or wine - basically a vegan diet. We have way too many protein issues in our household to be able to sustain a completely vegan diet without living off of nuts and tofu daily so we have gone no meat, fish, olive oil or wine for the main days of the fast and on Wednesdays and Fridays we are removing dairy from that list as well. We're keeping eggs, though. I just can't get rid of the eggs. Of course, Philip's diet remains unchanged. He's the only carnivore in the family throughout this great Great Lent experiment. We've also cut out the Sunday evening ice cream for dinner mainly because it just seems like too decadent a tradition to sustain throughout Lent.

The no dairy days are really rough. I think as a household we must consume about 3,000 lbs of cheese annually - we're big cheese eaters. But on those no dairy days the kids get up to muffins or dry toast - no cereal with milk. And, with our additional Feingold limitations we also have trouble with the more traditional substitutions. Since we can't do tomatoes, pasta is a tough one. We usually eat it with olive oil and cheese and some spices - but all that is out. Last week I discovered a wonderful substitute that will probably end up a keeper even after Great Lent - cashew butter sauce. Unfortunately I can't find the recipe we used but it went something like this:

big blob of cashew butter
white vinegar
crushed garlic
a little white sugar
Bragg's liquid aminos (Feingold approved soy sauce)
water to thin

We mixed it all together in a sauce pan and heated it up and all thought it was Yum City.

We also tested out our first taste of tofu. I bought 4 lbs of tofu, cubed it, breaded it and fried it (in vegetable oil, not olive oil) and called it Yummy Nuggets. We ate them with honey and some resorted to ketchup and all but Ruth decided they were, indeed, Yummy. I think Miriam ate one pound all by herself.

Besides the dietary restrictions, Great Lent also seems to be about fasting from toilets and showers for us. The toilet in the master bathroom is currently sitting in the shower rendering both objects nonfunctional. It will probably take Tad the duration of Great Lent to repair the flooring under the linoleum and replace the toilet with a new seal. That's ok, I thought, it's just a short hop down the hallway to the girls' bathroom...Which would be true if some unknown member of the family didn't have waste the consistency of Elmer's glue which keeps that toilet perpetually clogged as well. Fortunately, I have a husband who understands well the needs of a pregnant woman and has yet to go to bed without creating an opening in the slog sustainable enough for a flush or two throughout the night. But, well, if I had to travel down the steps at 3:00 be it. This is, afterall, Great Lent

Highway Lions

There's lions in the trees along our highway. Really. Just ask David. Every time we drive the major thoroughfares between our house and the big city he hears them roar. This past week he saw a big daddy lion and JM spotted a baby lion. And we all know that wherever there are baby lions there must be a momma lion. The roaring sounds suspiciously like a 15 passenger van driving over one of these:

Ok, so it is a 15 passenger van driving over one of these:

But please don't tell David. He really thinks there's lions on the highway and we'd hate to disappoint him. JM is beginning to realize it's all a ruse but he's been playing along anyway. Don't shoot me, we are the Santa Claus, Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy kill-joys - we have to have something to lie to the offspring about. So why not lions on the highway?

Monday, March 17, 2008

Snowflake Company Business

The Snowflake Company packed up their first (and probably only) order today and prepared it for shipping. From the dining room factory, it went to the delivery vehicle (Dad's car) where it will be closed up and shipped via UPS. Here all the company employees pose with their first shipment and photo of their customers - JT, Luci and Bryan.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Speaking of Grace...

I got an email from Grace's mom last night:

When I was tucking Grace into bed last night she told me that she has been thinking about John Michael, "you know, that boy from the computer." She has decided to meet him before making a final decision about marrying him. If she meets him & he bites her, the answer will be no! If he doesn't bite her the answer will be yes. She didn't care to share the reason for this decision.

Apparently Grace has been thinking about this necklace as well. When her mom told her JM had a necklace for her, she asked if he had a wedding ring. It might be a good thing that she isn't all that interested in the necklace since David broke it anyway. JM was quite miffed with him for it and wanted a trip to WalMart to replace it. Today Grace hauled out the old Christmas picture for another look at JM's mug.. I have no idea how much therapy all this is going to require in about 15 years. You can back track through this on-going saga by following these links:

The Grace Post that started them all

The Necklace

Common Sense from Grace

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Ok, Then...

John Michael and David decided to repeat their duel this evening...but with a twist. They undressed for their tubby and then donned their armor and took up their weapons. I have pictures of this duel as well but I've been forbidden to post them here...can't imagine why. Then, when Nathan's and Noah's tubby was taking a bit too long they had to think of something to bide their time so they decided to make letters out of their naked and armored bodies. I had my back to them when I heard JM say, "David you have to stand up straight. You be the straight line and I'll be the other part. We're making a 'k'." I was laughing so hard I wanted them to do a repeat performance for their dad but this time David bent over a bit too much which made more of a butt-cheek to butt-cheek 'x' instead of a 'k' for which JM chastised David, "No David stand up straight! We're not making an 'x' we're making a 'k'!" This is one of those moments I just had to record for posterity. I can pull those pictures out and show them to Grace some day....

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Duel

It's not who dies the first...
It's who cries the first!

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Do you Freecycle?

A few years ago I discovered a wonderful subset of people in my county - the Freecycle community. My life has never been the same. I joined Freecycle so that I could start getting rid of some clutter and maybe find a few new treasures along the way. I've found lots of treasures - and many of them in the form of new friendships.

After our house fire almost three years ago (Yikes! Where has the time gone?!) It was the Freecycle community who pretty much single-handedly clothed our family of (then) ten members within about 2 days. The response was immediate and completely overwhelming. The donations piled up on my neighbor's carport (remember Mrs. Scout?!) and we had to call a halt to the generosity lest we get over run with clothing. But they didn't stop at clothing. We also got a replacement for Miriam's most favorite stuffy at the time - a stuffed Dory from the Disney Store, church clothes and shoes, golly the list goes on and on most of which I can no longer even remember because the response was so overwhelming.

A couple of months before Christmas I got an email from one Freecycle friend who said she makes dollhouses and she wanted to provide one for the girls. It was her contribution to the house fire fiasco in order to bring a little sunshine into our lives. About a week before Christmas, she handed off a wonderful little house, complete with furnishings, window boxes, little dishes and miniature food and 3 dolls - one Asian, one Black and one White for the three little girls. They received that as their big Christmas present under the tree in the little rental house the Christmas we were exiled from our home. I couldn't have imagined such a blessing would come from this group! That person has become a dear friend and the continuation of our friendship might be another post...

The other day I picked up a sewing machine which is fast becoming a favorite item of the girls'. That is a gift that will keep on giving over the years, as they hone their skills and keep making new things. Ben once acquired a wonderful mountain bike which served him well for about 6 months before it was stolen. I sure hope the thief is getting lots of use out of it because Ben was sure heart-broken over that.

The Bradley birthing books I got are on their second pregnancy. I'd love to remember where I got those and give the giver a big, fat smoochie. Two simple, outdated books have completely changed my labor method. Somewhere on this blog you can read about Nathan's Bradley birth which was my best labor and delivery yet.

Most recently I responded to a post offering a whole list of books which have been on my Amazon wish list for years. It seemed too good to be true - mostly books about adoption and about parenting kids who come from difficult backgrounds with difficult issues. It was like the list of books was tailor made just for our family. Well, in corresponding with the offerer I found that she also has 10 children - 5 homemade and 5 adopted with special needs! Her children are older - her oldest is a few years older than I - but how neat to connect with someone who has lived a parallel life! I'm hoping I can keep up that friendship and glean lots of wisdom from her experience.

Getting isn't the only way we've benefited from the Freecycle community either. One of my favorite "freecycles" was our old dining room table. The table had been in Tad's family for years, hosting him and his four sibs and their friends and family throughout the years, and when it was time to get a larger one, we decided (after conferring with all Tad's sibs) a well-placed freecycle would be the best home for it. A wonderful young mother came forward and requested the table. She and her husband are a young Catholic couple just getting started on their family and hoping for lots of children. It was a perfect fit. They have since also been the recipients of Tad's breadmaking machine since we've been doing all our breadmaking by hand.

Then there was the woman who came to take some fencing we had. She was going to use it for her goats, it was no longer keeping Pooka from running away. Turns out they are also a homeschooling family, her son is friends with JT and she later put us up in her Chincoteague cottage when Tad and I desperately needed some time away together.

I have a neat friend I made just exchanging small things along the way. The last time I picked up some things from her, we had a wonderful chat and lots of laughs as we exchanged her family anecdotes for my experiences with Extreme Makeover. My sil used to live across the street from her and she is a sweet soul with a great family. I am blessed to have her among my friends.

After we played with it for a couple of years, the atari system we acquired through Freecycle (yes, the ooold one - including Ms. Pacman and Space Invaders!) was passed on to a friend who provided us with the two rocking armchairs Tad and I use in our prayer corner. I'm hoping she'll re-freecycle it once she's had her fun and we can watch it bounce around the county blazing a path of nostalgic joy. The kids said I should have saved it and sold it on ebay for a gazillion bucks but that's just not how Freecycle works. We were blessed by it - it was time to bless someone else.

This doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of the many, many friends I've made and the wonderful exchanges I've had. The moderators for our local group are a very committed group of folks who should be commended for their efforts in bringing a friendlier spirit into the community.

The Freecycle Network can be found nationwide which means there is probably one in your neighborhood too. I've put the link on my link list so check it out and start your own Freecycle adventure.

Friday, March 07, 2008

There's a Sheep in my pantry..

and half a pencil sharpener and the letters G, W and E. There's also one dirty sock...oh, and lots of food but all the bags of pasta are on the floor. I seem to have a pantry elf and I think his name is Nathan but I'll be able to identify him when I see him easily enough - h'll b the pint sizd prson missing a sock and carrying a staff.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Sewing Lesson

I hit the freecycle jackpot today and acquired this sewing machine for the girls. Ever since the movers returned mine after the fire I've been afraid to look at it. Mr. Burly tossed it to his buddy who tossed it off the truck to me and announced, "Here's your bowling ball, lady" and he was serious! At any rate, this machine is a much older model and doesn't have all the fancy electronic programming the newer ones have. It is a perfect learning machine for the girls. They had their first lesson on it tonight. We reviewed the parts of the machine, learned how to thread it and wind the bobbin and then they each tried their hand at sewing a couple of straight lines. It was fun. Our first big project will be sewing curtains for the babies' room for which Adora and I bought the fabric last Summer. We'll just make a bunch of straight forward panels - lots of straight lines to practice. As you can see by the smiles on their faces, they were thrilled with their surprise.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

This Post Dedicated to the Willingham Family

I was just visiting my (Southern) friend Susan's blog where she was exclaiming over their recent snowfall of three collective flakes. Well, Susan, have I got a deal for you! My children have been working all week on snipping and creating this whole bag of snowflakes with the express purpose of selling their work. Name your price and they can be shipped to you in no time!

Five Minutes in the Life of Nathan Lee

I followed Nate around with my camera this morning and thought it would be fun to record just a few minutes of activity. This is about five minutes' worth. If I only had his energy! If I printed these photos out, it would make a great flip book I think. I would do the same with Nehemiah but my shutter speed doesn't go that fast...

He suddenly realized he was being photgraphed:

Exploring the drawer:

Exploring the bottom drawer:
Found the MagnaDoodle:

Announced the presence of a stinky diaper in the room:
Trouble opening the pail:

Found the trains next to the diaper pail:

Drove the trains to David's bed so they could all jump on it:
Discovered his brother across the room in Time Out:
Tortured the brother in Time Out:
Back to jumping on the bed with the trains:

Saturday, March 01, 2008


Ben has joined the ranks of Webelos. He's coming into it a bit late in the game as a 5th grader but is busy making up time and learning the ropes. He is highly motivated by the fact that he's in the same den as his good buddy Dan and Dan's dad is the den leader. (That's Dan there right up front - he's an official part of the family and a sometime resident of our house.) Dan's mom is Mrs. Scout - she knows everything there is to know and I've kept her busy with my millions of mundane questions which she has graciously answered. Last month we attended Ben's very first Blue and Gold banquet which was the first event to require his Dress Uniform. Getting myself in gear to get that together was a bit of a challenge. The shirt is a hand me down from Dan's brother who abandoned scouts a few years ago in lieu of various other pursuits - I am a bit thankful for his loss of interest! I did my best to get the requisite patches and accessories in the right place but some things I was just too woefully inexperienced to manage correctly. If you look closely you will notice that the slider on the neckerchief is upside down (we didn't notice until the end of the banquet) and the whole neckerchief thingy wasn't quite put on there correctly. In the process of ironing on the various patches, I burned the number "8". I might be needing a new one of those...(Mrs. Scout to the rescue?) None of this seemed to faze Benjamin. He was still feeling quite smart in his uniform. The best part had to be Betsy's reaction. We got Ben all put together and standing for inspection when Betsy came bounding into the kitchen. She saw Ben, stopped dead in her tracks and my daughter swooned. "Oh Ben!" she announced, "You are so handsome!" She's definitely going to need to find a man in a uniform to marry...

John Michael was also quite smitten with the whole thing and he managed to weasel himself a seat in the car and a place at the banquet. I think I'm going to have learn this scout thing pretty quickly. JM and David only have a couple more years before they can become Tiger scouts...And if you make JM and David Tiger scouts, they're going to need a Den Mother to go with it.