Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Happy Birthday Nate!

Nate celebrated two years of life today. He's too little to get a party so he had to settle with the traditional family celebration. We had his favorite food - pizza - for dinner which he, of course, complained about bitterly. For some reason he suddenly didn't like pizza on his birthday. He did have a good time singing "Burtday du you!" to himself over and over again quite loudly. We made popsicles out of Coke to go with the pizza. He had chocolate cake with chocolate icing and got to open presents. Miah was seriously wondering why his twin brother was having a birthday and he wasn't - so our twins are six weeks apart, someday he'll understand....maybe... Nate's favorite gift was Miah's which he had picked out himself - a pack of Tonka cars and trucks which he grabbed up in his chocolatey little hands and took to bed.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Conversation at Lunch between David and JM

Mom, what kind of fruit do I get?

Pizza *is* fruit John!

Monday, July 28, 2008

You'll be happy to know...

I cut the hair on 5 heads today with nary a skin nick. Go me!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Hiccups

Sorry the picture is so grainy, not sure what happened. And I'm sure this is long enough that only a mother would want to watch it all the way through (ok, maybe a grandmother)... video

Saturday, July 26, 2008

You Get What you Pay For...

Since I was primarily focused on having a baby this Summer, we haven't spent a lot of time planning extra activities for the kids. Several things have been a life-saver, then, with 10 potentially bored folks occupying my household. The first is Ben. Shortly after Tali was born, Ben took it upon himself to start "the club". The Club meets every evening after evening chores are done. Any household child age 3 and up is eligible for membership and every eligible child, with the exception of JT, has jumped enthusiastically onto the club bandwagon. Club activities have included various crafts, games (group games were a popular choice while Ben was attending scout camp each day), baking cookies and selling them to the neighbors (the second night netted the club $5 and some odd cents which was first tithed and then split among the members) and most recently a play is in the works. The club has cleaned off the stage, recruited the neighbors and been diligently practicing and creating scenery and other effects. I believe it debuts sometime next week.

The other regular activity is the library. Now normally I am banned from library usage due to the incredible amount of fines I tend to collect (and yes, I know I can renew materials on-line). So this Summer I have committed to Thursday library days, the children are only allowed 2 books per child and I have been (mostly) faithful in meeting the commitments. (Meaning only one lost book so far which has been found and I think this past Thursday's library date is going to happen today - so it's Saturday, I'm trying!) The library dates have been boosted by the Barnes and Noble book club program which gives out a free book in exchange for a completed book report form from each child. All but one of the offspring have now completed the form (go figure - the one who reads the most has yet to read enough books to finish the form?!) so we should soon be going on a field trip to the bookstore to select our free books.

The last free entertainment is free movies at the Regal Theater. This has been great for doing individual dates. The movies are on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings. This past week Adora took the 4 littlest ones to see Clifford. Last week was the girls' turn for girlie horse flick Running Free. We also got to see the Veggie Tales Pirate movie which has been out forever but yet to be viewed by our family. This coming week will be Mr. Bean's Holiday (or something like that) which comes highly recommended by Benjamin.

Although not free, Tad and I took advantage of an Adora-enforced date night on Thursday evening. We had dinner with the family then enjoyed ice cream at our favorite local hang-out and headed off for a 9:15 showing of Wall-E. We arrived at the theater just in time for the release of the 7ish showings and a flood of teenagers out of the the theaters and onto the sidewalk. Not up for wading through the flood, Tad and I sat in the car looking at the movie posters and deciding why we didn't want to see any of the other movies. (What, by the way, comes after HellBoy II - HellTeen? HellYoungAdult? HellGetsMiddleAgedandMeetsHellWoman?) Space Chimps looked artistically amateurish, I still haven't ascertained exactly Tad's beef about Journey to the Center of the Earth and the rest of the options touted too much sex or too much violence for our taste, (The Dark Knight looked just that - too dark). As soon as the coast was clear we got out of the car, went to the ticket booth and requested our tickets. The girl at the window looked at Tad sideways and said to him,

"But we no longer have a 9:00 showing of Wall-E."

Well, it's right there on your window sign and it was on the website.

Oh, I am so sorry. We're going to have to fix that. I'll tell you what, pick any other movie and I'll let you in for free.

We sighed and looked at each other knowingly.

Come on, it's free! How about Space Chimps?

Eh...

It's just like Wall-E! Well, except Wall-E is hysterically funny and, well, I've never seen Space Chimps.

I think you just answered your own question there...

Or Dark Knight?

Nah, too dark.

Journey to the Center of the Earth?

I just looked at Tad - didn't know our objection to that.

A line was beginning to form as we contemplated our dilemma so we stepped aside for a while, put our heads together conspiratorially and finally decided on Space Chimps simply because someday the kids may ask if they can see it so we condescended to use our free movie on an offspring pre-viewing.

Ok, we've decided on Space Chimps.

Good choice.

She handed us a hand-written note which read: "Admission for two to Space Chimps. Sorry about Wall-E", a smiley face and her signature.

Now, if anyone asks for your tickets give them this and if they give you grief tell them I will beat them up.

We made it into the theater without the need to make real her threat and found ourselves alone with the screen. It was, as predicted, artistically amateurish. The editing seemed as if one of the main characters of the movie had escaped and monkeyed around with the film footage in the middle of the night. The script had a very few bright moments and the characters were somewhat likeable. It wasn't a total wash - we decided we could let the kids see it if it ever makes it out on DVD. At any rate, it turned out to be a cheap date and, hey, you get what you pay for.

Friday, July 25, 2008

FAUS has been busy

The wonderful volunteers at the Feingold Association have been busy. The Feingold shop just opened today and we need your support to keep it open! They have lots of products touting some fun anti-food additive slogans. My favorite slogan is Petroleum in Food - it's just WRONG!

In case you didn't realize it, those FD&C FDA- approved colors and flavors in our food ingredients lists in this country are petroleum-based. Yep, petrol in our food - appetizing eh? A lot of us have found that not only is it unappetizing but it makes our kids a little nuts. Ever notice the cub scout meeting frenzy when they're all given a bag of Skittles and end the meeting running about like lunatics? Then all the den leaders shake their heads and cluck about a "sugar high". Well, sorry folks - that ain't no sugar high - that's what eating petroleum does to little bodies. If you'd like to get that out of your diet and out of your system, might I suggest looking into the Feingold Association? A volunteer-run organization, Feingold Assoc of America (FAUS) does the research for us. For a reasonable membership fee they will send you a food guide containing the brand and product names of all the products they've researched and found to be additive free. Since our food labeling laws are a farce, their research is necessary to find out what's *really* in the food we feed our family. And, nope, I don't get a cut of anything for telling you about this but I may get your child in a Sunday School class or a homeschool co-op meeting and we'll be much happier if your little wonder is eating naturally.

The medical community in Great Britain has finally gotten a clue and now we're hoping the FDA will follow suit. Unfortunately, the only thing they tend to follow is the money trail and their trail leads right to Big Pharm and Big Food. But, speaking of Big Food, FAUS has also managed to get the attention of McDonald's who is currently soliciting for letters to the Big M telling them we want the artificials OUT of our fast food. Consider writing a letter and giving them a piece of your mind - they are listening! In fact, they've been getting so many responses that they decided to reroute the emails to a person dedicated to the issue which caused many of the messages to bounce back. They've supposedly fixed that glitch and are now ready for business. Here's the text of the letter from Shula (who has some definite opinions on the matter), the FAUS food research guru, on how to contact McDonald's:

McDonald's has been in touch with the CSPI (Center for Science in the Public Interest) and has told them that they really aren't sure that Americans are concerned about the fact that their food contains synthetic dyes. McDonald's has asked their nutrition & labeling manager, Julia Braun, to gather information on whether or not consumers have any interest in this area.

Julia says that McDonald's rarely does anything unless they can document a consumer demand, so she has invited parents to write to her and share their feelings about food dyes, and she has provided information below on how to reach her.

I have not included a prepared letter because I know each of you has a unique story about how the additives have affected your family, and how you deal with that problem - and each of you has a child who would really like to eat the fries at McDonald's if they would just get the TBHQ out of the cooking oil (okay, that is not part of "this issue," but don't hesitate to
mention it if it is important to you).

Just in case you are short on words to describe the food colorings, don't hesitate to use terms like "land mines" and "booby traps" - because that is what they often are to our children, as well as the less lucky kids who don't know about the Feingold Program and don't even know what is bothering them.

Her contact info:

Email: julia.braun@us.mcd.com

Julia Braun, MPH, RD
Nutrition & Labeling Manager
2111 McDonald's Drive
Oak Brook, IL 60523

Remember to sign your email with your name and address at the bottom.

Let's change history, everybody!

Shula Edelkind

So keep that Feingold store open and enjoy their products and, while you're feeling like a bit of an activist, give McDonald's a piece of your mind!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

I'm not picking my nose...

my fingers are doing karate.

John Michael, (almost) age 5

Friday, July 18, 2008

Pop!

I recently filled out a couple of online surveys in my on-going quest to acquire as many MyPoints as I possibly can. I always love it when they give a list of occupational areas and ask me to indicate in which ones I or someone in my household works. I happily checked off education, food service, recreation, transportation, electronics, entertainment, fashion and medicine. I am often hesitant to check off that last one, not wanting to pass myself off as someone with much more education and experience than I actually have, until one of my more latent talents suddenly comes into use.

A few months ago I was in the sporting goods store with JT perusing lacrosse equipment . I was very pregnant (ie pregnant-brained) and I had the then 18 month old Nathan with me. In my quest for the equipment I admit I allowed Nate to wander off a bit out of my range (it was a small private store - we're not talkin' Dick's here). When I tracked him down, I had an armful of something in one hand and a running, giggling Nate who I scooped up with my other hand by one armpit. The instant I did it, I heard a pop and Nathan began to scream. To make a long story short, several hours in the Patient First and an x-ray later he was fully recovered from what was diagnosed as Nursemaid's Elbow. It was a terrible experience, though, as the doctor for some reason made me wait with Nathan screaming in my ear for 2 hours . He diagnosed the problem immediately, the solution took about 10 seconds and I have no idea what the other 1 hour, 59 minutes and 50 seconds were supposed to accomplish except to get me extremely frustrated and leave my poor son wallowing in pain.

So my next trip to the pediatrician, I mentioned it to her. I had Ben along and the dear woman showed me the 10 second procedure to fix the problem. She apologized for our ordeal and said if she had been on call she would have talked me through it on the phone. She warned me that once a nursemaid's elbow, always a nursemaid's elbow and sent me on my way feeling empowered for any elbow owie eventuality.

Sure enough, twice since then Nathan has had this problem. We have learned that when he starts screaming irrationally for longer than a few minutes and refuses to move his left arm we are dealing with a bit more than an age-appropriate temper tantrum. Last night he had a very loud tubby when Adora finally brought him to me wet, naked and wrapped in a towel and said, "I think it's his arm again. He hasn't moved it during his whole tubby." It took me three tries (the first two were admittedly timid attempts) but I finally held, supported and twisted exactly right and heard the tell-tale "pop" sound as the elbow snapped back into alignment. On the one hand, it really creeps me out to have to do this to my son but on the other hand I do believe it makes me unequivocally qualified to check off medical among my many vocational areas.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

White and Nerdy

Tad and I had a fantastically fun weekend. It started out months ago on my annual search for someplace we could go and something we could do together that would give us some time to be together doing what we love most - having experiences and then talking about them. I don't know what it is about us but most of the fun of doing things together for us is when the things we're doing give us fodder for thought and conversation. We had plenty of fertile fodder the past few days.

I found a homeschooling convention in VA, just south of DC, which featured several folks whose focus is in the arts. There was a lot about creative writing but I was interested in the folks with a performance bent. Jim Weiss was there with lots of stories to tell and he gave us some food for thought about how to continue to incorporate story and drama into our homeschooling and family life. The conversations pursuing Jim's presentations drew us back to the idea of a family performance. That idea was in full bloom many months ago and took a back seat to the birth of Tali, the changing of churches and the passing of days. We'll see how those conversations continue to unfold in the days to come.

Traveling to the conference was an opportunity for checking in with each other - something we haven't been able to do for some time between the haze of sleeplessness which characterizes the parents of newborns. We put some Orthodox Liturgical music into the CD player and dove into the ins and outs of the frayed edges of our lives. Somewhere in there, Tad was convinced to start posting on his blog (which he set up some months ago), I was released from some fears and insecurities I've been experiencing as of late, we kicked around some of the kids' current therapeutic issues and how to handle them and we discussed certain tenets of Orthodox theology ad nauseum.

This was the same weekend for which we had gotten Tad tickets to a Weird Al Yankovic concert for his birthday. Not knowing the state of my body or the temperament of our baby at the time, I had set it up as a guy's night out with our neighbor Mark. Mark was gracious enough to bow out when I explained to him that we were hoping our change of plans could make it a big date night instead. So we traveled from DC back to Baltimore (through agonizingly slow traffic much to Tad's chagrin) and arrived with plenty of time to feed the baby, kick back and enjoy the demographics. Most of the audience was white, about our age or a bit older - many with their 5-10 year old children (which I would *not* recommend - there were some raunchy parts of the concert I did not enjoy and am definitely glad my pre-teens did not experience). There was a preponderance of Hawain print shirts, guys with long hair obviously trying to emulate Weird Al and they all looked like they might have a wallet full of autographed science fiction actor head shots which they would be pleased to whip out and show you at a moment's notice. Weird Al's song, White and Nerdy summed up this crowd succinctly. This concert was a dream come true for Tad. He'd been wanting to see Weird Al in concert for going on 25 years now and he wasn't disappointed. The photos I have are lousy since they were taken on my cell phone in the worst of lighting but I wanted to prove we were there. The big, white blob in the center of the stage is Weird Al himself. Tad was holding Tali when the concert finally began. Weird Al came out on stage, there was one big blast on an electric guitar and Tali looked up at her Daddy and gave him the biggest lower lip I have ever seen. She managed to make it through the rest of the concert ok but I think she was a bit shell-shocked at the end of it all.

From the concert, we drove back to DC to a hotel. We arrived there around 1:00 am, I fed Tali and got her down in the porta crib around 2:00am. Then my baby, who hasn't slept for longer than a 2 1/2 hour stretch in the past two weeks, slept for 6 1/2 hours straight! I had to wake her up at 8:00 am because I was afraid *I* was going to pop!

We returned to the conference for Day Two where Tad spent his day tracking down Dr. Keller, the author of RealScience 4 Kids. In his experience, quality homeschool science curriculum is hard to come by and he's been really impressed with this one which he's been using to teach JT and Ben for the past year. After he got over the shock of discovering he is a she, he found a kindred spirit in Dr. Keller's manner of presentation. Much of our subsequent car conversations centered around the brilliant simplicity of her approach to science.

I, on the other hand, spent my day looking forward to Steve Demme's presentation. He is the creator of our math program, Math U See, but he also happens to have a son with Down Syndrome about whom he was scheduled to speak on Saturday afternoon. Tad and I enjoyed hearing him talk about the joys and trials of raising a child with special needs. I found him to be kind, genuine and full of joy and faith. His talk was a refreshing reminder of the blessings of our kids with special needs. He spoke about a Joni and Friends family retreat he went to with other families of children with disabilities. He said the disabilities were varied and quite noticeable the first day or two of the retreat. However, as the week progressed he found that he noticed the outward disabilities less and less and all the folks there became just folks. I carried that thought with me as Tad and I wrapped up our weekend with a last minute excursion to Shore Leave 30, culminating our White and Nerdy weekend.

While we missed the bulk of the convention we made it there in time for the Saturday evening Masquerade - a parade of contestants clad in science fiction themed costumes who compete for convention's best awards. Tad went to this same conference several times throughout his high school years and managed to get me there a couple of times during our college years. The Masquerade had always been a favorite event with tons of contestants showcasing some truly remarkable workmanship. We found, however, that the demographics had changed a bit in the 15 years since our last Shore Leave convention. Funny enough we saw many of the same faces but they appeared quite a bit...older. The conference is still quite popular with sell-out crowds but the emphasis has changed. And, like Steve Demme, I figured if I stayed there long enough I would eventually lose sight of the extreme whiteness and nerdiness of folks and they would eventually become just folks...

After the Masquerade we were entertained by the filk-singing group, Boogie Knights, who, sometime since our last foray into Science Fiction Fandom Excess, managed to rope a few good-lookin' ladies who could actually *sing* into the group. Their performance made a total of two parodies of Miss American Pie in one weekend - what are the chances of that?! (Weird Al's version had dancing Storm Troopers on the stage, creating a Twilight Zone-ish connection to the Shore Leave themes.)

While the demographics of the conference may be aging, I thoroughly enjoyed my Masquerade seat-mate immensely. Her name was Faith and she and her daughter were members of a starship from Connecticutt who had traveled here together. Faith was kind enough to let me take her picture in her Starfleet uniform which led to a sweet conversation with her and her daughter about family, faith and the state of education in our nation. That conversation wrapped up our weekend away together. We said goodbye to our new friends and went in search of a midnight snack before heading home to the zoo.

As Faith and her daughter wandered back into the hotel, Faith turned to us and said, "I'm so glad you two got to get away." Then with a knowing twinkle in her eye she left us with, "That's what's going to keep you sweethearts."

Friday, July 04, 2008

Super Powers

Tad and I have had a running joke for the past I don't know how many kids. We each have a Super Power. I Make Milk and he, well, does this:He can put 'em to sleep anytime, anyplace and really any baby - doesn't even have to be his own! (And sometimes he even Super Powers himself) I like this Super Power in the wee hours of the night!!

Tally Ho

That has to be said with the proper British accent to really get the feel for it....Tally Ho....Last week Robyn insisted on putting Tali up for her first ride. She wasn't quite able to sit up by herself so we used JT to help her out a bit. It's hard to see in the picture but she actually has little itty bitty riding breeches as well - don't know where they came from but, hey, if she's going to ride she may as well be dressed for the occasion!

The same tactic finally worked, by the way, for Nathan this morning. He has been refusing to get anywhere near the saddle when we try to put him up by himself but once we threw him up there in Big Brother JT's capable arms he was happy as a clam and didn't want to get off!

Happy Mother's Day!

Yes, I'm well aware of the fact that I have my holidays a little mixed up. The Fourth of July has been fairly uneventful for us and it has taken me a while to gather all my materials for my Mother's Day post so here it is, the 4th of July, and, yes, I am posting about Mother's Day. Get over it.

Mother's Day was a dream. Tad allowed me to get up early and leave the house to go to Matins while he got the whole crew dressed and ready for Divine Liturgy. It was a little slice of Heaven to be in church without all the wigglers, gigglers and whiners - even if it was just for half an hour or so. Tad managed to get all the children dressed and even had their hair combed and shoes tied. I was impressed. Not only that, I came home after church to a tidy, uncluttered house - the joy of that moment alone could have carried the day.

After Liturgy I was surprised by Ginny and Pani Chris with a little baby shower. Ginny had baked one of her wonderful cakes and there were presents for Tali - a beautiful, soft blanket and some jammies and clothes. The cake was a hoot. It had a topper on it of a pregnant woman with a cape - Super Mom! It was so nice to be treated to a shower after all these babies!

I got to rest and relax all day. The kids had picked out some presents and I began to realize one of the supreme advantages to having girls - they can help Dad pick out gifts for me. Tad had taken Betsy with him on a Mother's Day shopping trip. Then he warned me for several days ahead of time to just smile and say I love it. Thing is, it wasn't an act - I was truly thrilled with the things Betsy had picked out. She insisted on matching mom and baby nightgowns for Tali and me and then she picked out a beautiful bracelet - silver and dotted with little colored gems. It's truly beautiful and I've really enjoyed wearing it. I think Boo is going to be the shopper in the family...

One last Mother's Day bonus was something Ben worked to get for me. A friend had posted on our homeschool group about a Mother's Day essay contest and I made Ben enter it for a school project. The text of his essay follows:

My mom is a very busy person. She is the loving mother of ten children, not only is she mother to us but she homeschools us. Three of us are too young to be schooled and those little guys are busy. There is also another lady who lives with us with her little baby and sometimes my mom takes care of him too. My mom doesn't get away from all of the noise very often and she's kept busy almost all day. The mom job in our family is harder than keeping track of all the kids, because three of my siblings have disabilities and a bunch of us play sports. One of the ten kids I was talking about is not born yet and four of us are adopted. Everybody has a hero. My hero is my mom. Somehow my mom keeps track of us and manages to keep us fed. I am convinced that my mom is the best mom in the whole world. And that's why I think my mom deserves a Cloud Nine Message Getaway. My mom does so much for me I want to do something for her.

Thing is, his essay won me the big prize! I received a free massage and one month of group fitness classes from a local establishment. We had our picture taken for the local paper as well. Since I was still pregnant when I was awarded my prize, I have been saving my time at the club until I feel a bit more healed up from Tali's birth but I'm really looking forward to it! Thanks Ben and good job!!

Voice Recital

Philip and Ruth have worked hard through a six-week vocal workshop directed by their homeschool choir director and arranged just for them. With the assistance of a grant from the ARC, Catherine designed a workshop just for the two of them, targeting their individual talents and needs. Philip was working mostly on diction and articulation with the hopes that his efforts would carry over into his daily speech as well. Ruth was working on developing her pitch which is why Catherine chose some very challenging pieces for her. Both of them have a lot of raw singing talent and it was fun to watch them excel at this. Catherine did a fantastic job (as usual) at directing them and bringing out their best. In fact, we're hoping to be able to repeat this process again during the school year. Last Saturday, the workshop culminated in a mini-recital in our dining room. We had a few guests, Philip and Ruth each presented the three pieces upon which they had been working and then we ended with a little reception. It was great fun and I was so proud of them. Here is Ruth singing Gary, Indiana from Music Man. Catherine chose two of her pieces and allowed Ruth to choose this one:
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Here is Philip singing I Don't Want to Grow Up from Peter Pan. It was the perfect song for him! He was so cute singing it.
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